Tuesday, September 27, 2011

And So It Begins...

Term two smacked me in the face with the drone of my alarm at 6:35 AM Monday morning.  After a week of no classes, I was just starting to get used to waking up on my own terms.

6:45 AM: Took the girls (Sadie and Fender) on a potty walk.  Mission accomplished… I’ll spare you the details.

7:00 AM: Shower, change into business casual clothing for networking events.  Clip on my trusty nametag.

7:30 AM: Jeff, Liz and I carpool to Darden, picking up our friend Bridget along the way.

8:00 AM: Financial Accounting class.  I get cold called to present my balance sheet, saying a silent thank you to my awesome learning team for prepping me on the case the night before.

9:25 AM: First Coffee.  This is a misnomer, though.  It’s really Second Coffee (almost every one of us fills up before our 8 AM class).  It could also be called First Bathroom Break (the men's rooms are usually packed during this time- that coffee runs through you!).  As Section E athletics rep, I use this window to plan a flag football practice for the Darden Cup.  As three time defending champs, we take this stuff seriously.

10:00 AM: Our first Global Economies and Markets (GEM) class.  First words out of our professor’s mouth: “This will be one of the hardest classes, if not the hardest, you’ll take at Darden.”  Oy.  Sure enough, the class involves lots of complicated models and arrows and abbreviations.  Fortunately, Professor Li is interesting, engaging and intelligent (like every other professor I’ve had so far at Darden).

11:45 AM: Our first Operations Class.  I get cold called AGAIN.  This time, I’m on the ball and provide some game-changing analysis on why Shouldice Hospital performs the best hernia surgeries in the biz.  I’m beginning to realize, however, that my new seat is right at professor eyelevel.  This is both a good and bad thing.  Not surprisingly, Professor Weiss is outstanding.  He keeps us laughing and learning nonstop for 85 minutes.

1:30 PM: Company briefing with Johnson & Johnson.  We had briefings all last week, but J&J’s is today immediately after class.  Fortunately, they provide some yummy vegetarian wraps.  In the briefing, my initial impression is confirmed: J&J is an awesome company to work for.  It is massively successful, environmentally responsible, and incredibly supportive of its employees. 

3:45 PM: Sneak into a learning team room to finish my Personal Career Plan (PCP) for our Career Development Center.  It was due at 3:00… oops.

4:30 PM: Head back to the house to walk/feed the pups and study some more.

5:00 PM: My learning teammate Vikram calls.  He, like me, is up to his ears in Darden stuff.  He has two critical company briefings and asks me to take the lead on our finance case.  I say absolutely, because Vikram is a rockstar who has already helped me on more occasions than I can count.

6:45 PM: I drive back to Darden.  I’ve rocked finance, but the other two cases (GEM and Accounting) not so much.

7:00 PM: Our LT looks at each other, sighs, and laughs.  We’re all aware that things are about to get intense this term.

7:15 PM: We knock out the cases as a team.  I’ve already said it, and this won’t be the last time, but our learning team ROCKS.

8:45 PM: I hurry to a J&J networking event at Bang, a downtown restaurant.  When J&J says it prides itself in its people, they mean it.  The company’s reps (also Darden alums) are easy to talk to and full of passion.  And, they are so sincere in their efforts to help us rookie first years learn the ropes.  I’m still in awe of the fact that companies like J&J COME HERE to see US.  So humbling.

10:15 PM: I head home, take the pups out one last time, and sit down to read my Decision Analysis case to prepare for a presentation team meeting tomorrow.  I end up writing this blog entry first.

P.S. I’m exhausted.

Darden is no joke.  There wasn't a free minute to be had today.  And yet despite all of the work and the chaos, I’m loving every second of it.  I’ve never felt so empowered, so excited, so satisfied.  They throw the kitchen sink at us because that’s what the real world is like.  Here's the thing: we can’t just cope when pots, pans, dishes and silverware are coming at us- we have to thrive and lead in these times.  I love the challenge of it.

First term is done.  The training wheels are off… and so it begins.

I say bring it on.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My Darden Family

Five weeks ago, I stepped onto Darden’s perfectly manicured campus, walked through the double doors of Saunders Hall, filed into a signup line, and clipped on my name tag: Jeff Tang, MBA Class of 2013.

It was the beginning of my new life journey, and an introduction to a new community.

The concept of the “Darden Family” is a well-constructed one.  And, it is very real.  The school and its faculty are incredibly supportive and wise, just like your parents.  Classmates really are like siblings.  You spend hours at a time together in close confines.  You laugh together, learn together, disagree with each other, and learn to love each other. 

But for me, the words “Darden Family” have a different meaning because my real family is also part of my Darden family.  Ten years ago, I met my best friend Jeff Campbell on the campus of Northwestern University.  To this day, Jeff and I have almost identical interests- we were both television journalists, we play lots of sports, dance like goofballs to country music, have a desire to make everything a competition, and possess a nose for good coffee and red wine.  I’m proud to say that on that fateful day in August 2011, Jeff also clipped on his Darden MBA Class of 2013 name tag.  Jeff’s wife Beth, also a dear friend from my Northwestern days, made the move to Charlottesville too.

It doesn’t end there.  It turns out, Jeff has a younger sister and I have a younger brother.  Liz Campbell met Aaron Tang at me and Jeff’s graduation in 2004.

(Can you guess where this is going?)

On August 6th, 2011, the two younger siblings married in Keystone, Colorado.  One week later, Liz Campbell Tang clipped on her nametag and joined the class of 2013 at Darden as well.

I know.  It’s kind of crazy and more than a little confusing.  That’s why I’ve included a diagram in this blog entry- Liz created it in an effort to explain the family situation to our new classmates.

The point is we’re all together, and happy as can be.  After getting our acceptance calls from Darden, Jeff Campbell noted that the next two years might be the best ones of our lives.

So far, it hasn’t disappointed.

I’m excited to share my thoughts and experiences at Darden with you over the next two years.  And, Liz and Jeff will be posting special guest entries on this blog as well.  On behalf of them, and all of us, welcome to our lives- and welcome to our Darden Family!

Meet Everyone:

Jeff Campbell- Colorado boy…  Former TV news anchorman at the NBC station in Charlotte, NC… all-star intramural sports athlete…  avid Denver Broncos fan...  elected Section C Representative at Darden…

Beth Campbell- Jeff Campbell’s wife… the glue of the family… resident sparkplug and expert chef… political junkie… former TV news reporter for the NBC station in Charlotte… Richmond native…

Liz Campbell Tang- Jeff Campbell’s younger sister… former environmental engineer who always thinks green… graduated from Washington University in St. Louis… softball catcher who shares athletics representative duties for Section D at Darden…
Aaron Tang- Jeff Tang’s younger brother and Liz’s husband… recently graduated from Stanford Law School and is now working for a DC law firm remotely from Charlottesville… Yale graduate… expert at 1990s role playing video games…

Ashlee- Aaron and Liz’s cat… adopted from a shelter in St. Louis… knows how to sit and shake hands/paws (Aaron and Liz wanted a dog but are now enamored with their kitty)

Fender- One of Jeff Tang’s dogs… would try to eat Ashlee if the two ever met… rescued off the streets of Nashville during an Oktoberfest event… Part Samoyed, part collie, part chow, part Shiba-Inu, all mutt…

Sadie- Jeff Tang’s other dog… adopted from the humane society in Louisville, KY… shameless foodie and belly rub mooch… part Australian Shepherd, part American Eskimo Dog, part Akita, all mutt…

Me- former TV news reporter at the CBS station in Nashville, TN… rock climber… singer/songwriter that was part of a rock band in Nashville for four years… shameless promoter of healthy eating habits and environmentally responsible behavior…