The Penn State team of Michael Abendroth, Mark Joanow, Chris Kalmar, Chris Otteni, and Peggy Schwarz was proud to earn an honorable mention at the Rutgers Biopharmaceutical Case Competition on November 14th, beating top schools like Duke, MIT, and Columbia.

Participants received the case seven days prior to the competition. Our team juggled the rigors of Finance, Risk, and Economics midterms with the challenge of the case: pricing a novel drug to enter a competitive market. We leveraged skills from our medical school training, pharmaceutical industry experience, and finance and risk classes. We researched market trends and medical outcome probabilities and costs from business and medical literature. We used this data to construct a decision tree to estimate the minimum cost that an insurer would be willing to pay for the new drug. We then considered the drug’s competitive advantages and other significant factors to reach a final price recommendation. We completed the slides on Thursday evening and then embarked for Newark, NJ. We got to the hotel at 11 PM, practiced the oral presentation, and then got a few hours of much-needed sleep.

When we checked in on Friday morning, we learned that many of the Midwestern teams had been delayed by the weather. The Rutgers crew successfully rearranged the day’s schedule to accommodate each school. We moved to a practice room that Rutgers graciously provided.

We presented our analysis to a panel of judges from Bayer, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, and other pharmaceutical leaders. They asked challenging and insightful questions. Our backgrounds in medicine and business allowed us to answer well.

After all of the teams had presented, we gathered for the awards ceremony. It was here that we discovered which schools our colleagues represented, as this info was previously hidden to prevent judging bias. There were teams from Duke, Wharton, Kellogg, MIT, Columbia, MIT, Michigan State, Georgia, Rutgers, and McGill. The first, second, and third place winners were Rutgers, Wharton, and Kellogg, respectively. We were proud to earn an honorable mention for Penn State. We thoroughly enjoyed this competition and hope to participate again next year.


snowAs many people told me, it is going to be snowy in State College. Part of me is looking forward to see the snow, and another part just hates it.

In Ireland where I used to live, people have a love/hate relationship with the snow as well. The hate part is mostly due to the immense disruption it causes to the transport infrastructure because unlike North America, Russia, Scandinavia and other places where it snows regularly, they don’t get that much snow and when it does snow they’re not prepared for it. However, that said there are a lot of things people love about the snow.

  • Watching snow fall is beautiful. Nature is best!
  • Snow settled outside looks even more beautiful; it makes the normally mundane looking countryside and lawn look even more pleasing and picturesque when it has a thick white blanket covering it.
  • Growing up as a kid I used to always wish for snow because it meant I could have a lot of fun making snowmen, snow-angels, having snow-fights with friends and toboggan run. Playing outside in the snow is the only time you feel like going outdoors during winter. (Also, most times when snow is heavy enough to affect road traffic, school used to be cancelled, another little perk of snow). So you could say that people develop love for snow since childhood.
  • Winter is always quite depressing with cold weather and early sunsets. If it wasn’t for the festive Christmas season it would have been a lot more depressing. Snow brightens up most people’s mood during these times (until the point where it causes massive disruption).
  • This may be a bit of a weird personal one but I love the crunch you get when you step into snow.

Having been born in Shanghai I can tell you a lot of people there are obsessed with snow. In fact, my relatives always used to ask me for pictures when it used to snow in Ireland. I know for a fact that there is a deep-rooted fascination of snow for people living in tropical territory where it has never snowed and snow is something that is really alien to most people. People have asked me things such as “How does it feel to hold snow?”, “Is it more beautiful in real life”, “Does it feel really cold”.
I guess it is my responsibility to collect show pictures for my friends and relatives in Shanghai this time, although I would rather stay indoors when it is actually snowing!

I hope everyone enjoys the thanksgiving break and the snow!

-Shuyuan Ling, Penn State Smeal MBA ’16


The GOC case competition is part of the Global Operations Conference, organized by the University of Michigan each year. The cases introduce students to the world of operation management, with content ranging from detailed process flow improvement to high level strategic recommendations. This year, the case was a disguised version of a real life project in one of Alcoa’s divisions. The company, facing increased demand for their products, was building a new factory and needed to make sure it had planned effectively. Specifically, we had to examine process flows, calculate if the planned capacity was sufficient, estimate inventory levels, and create rules for workers so the process would remain optimized and in control. Forty-five teams from US and international universities submitted their solution for the first round. From this group, five finalists were selected, including our team. The final round took place during the conference in Ann Arbor, MI and consisted of a 30 minute presentation to a panel judges from Alcoa. The case was data driven and, without complete knowledge of the industry, took us some time to understand the process. Given that Penn State won this case competition last year, we had the extra pressure to defend the title, and the pressure increased when we realized the Alcoa judges were the same form last year and they recognized one of our team members, raising their expectations. Fortunately, we were able to put the pressure aside and present a compelling presentation. The success we had in this case competition made us realize how good the preparation is that we receive in the MBA program, as the judges (one of them actually worked on the real project) were surprised that we did not receive assistance from any faculty members to arrive at our solution. We are happy we were able to represent the Smeal MBA Program and Penn State in this competition. We want to thanks Carrie Marcinkevage, Erik Orient and Sandy Simler for their support in our participation in this event and to the organizers of the conference, who were very supportive of our team during the competition.

-Tatiana Kuzmenko, Penn State Smeal MBA ’15


Case PhotoI never imagined myself in taking part in case competitions. I was fearful in participating for two reasons. Firstly, I had a wrong perception about the judges. I thought they would just grill us in the Q&A section of the case completion. Secondly, I felt I didn’t learn enough to tackle the case competition complex problems. I was wrong in both instances. I took part in two case competitions – National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA) and Howard case competition prepared by LMI consulting. Both were the best experiences I have had and I will look for more case competitions in the spring. The judges were kind, but also wanted to understand the logic flow in our recommendation. They also gave us tough questions to make sure the recommendation was solid and understand some things they didn’t understand. Secondly, I am very confident that the first year courses have prepared students to handle most MBA case competitions. Work experience, research experience, library resources and discussion with case teammates would fill the rest of the gap. Here is my final take on why students should take part in case competitions:

You get to apply the core and elective course materials you have learned in first year. It is exciting to apply all these “fragmented” knowledge into a real world complex problem.

You will develop your communication and problem solving skills. You present a solid recommendation to experts in their field and still defend your recommendation.

It is fun and exciting. You get to spend hours analyzing a big problem and conceptually fight with teammates to come up with a solution. The discussions I had in case competitions were the best I had and I learned a lot from my teammates.

It is always exciting to represent Penn State, especially at big stages. It is a huge responsibility, but it has a huge reward as well.

If you aren’t convinced by the non-monetary incentives so far, go for the monetary incentives.

-Nahom Woldemariam – Penn State Smeal MBA ’15


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As a first year MBA student, the past week has been both very useful and fun-filled. Our first module ended last week giving us the long weekend to enjoy before starting off with the Career Immersion Week. The timing of this week was perfect as it provided us the much needed pause from a whirlwind module of studies to actually reflect back on our internship search.
The Career Services department, Mike Brown and Emily Giacomini, used the inputs from the previous years and customized a short but power packed week that targeted specifically to help us out with our preparation for internship.
The first day included a range of simultaneous sessions including Simulated Interview Processes and personalized career sessions that helped us iron out any creases that we had with our resumes, cover letters, elevator pitches and networking techniques. On the second day we had a networking round robin in which we were divided into small groups. The idea was to leverage the vast network of our colleagues for getting contacts and internship opportunities. Many of us found good contacts in their target companies through other classmates.
We had a very interesting session about story telling on the third day. During this session we learned about effective techniques that we could employ during our interview to tell more impactful stories. This was followed up with an etiquette session. Many earlier doubts that we had about appropriate table behavior were cleared off by this one session. The fourth day was packed with interactions with the second year MBA students who talked about their own internship projects and experience.
To wrap the week up, we had our own Diwali celebration in the Business Building. Many of us participated in Bollywood dancing, singing and sari wrapping activities.

-Varun Tiwari, Penn State Smeal MBA ’16


If you are not in the game, there is no way you are going to win that game.

It is essential to get as many interview invites as one possibly can to get many job offers. All MBA candidates understand this, but only very few execute this to perfection. This is one of the differences between a candidate who has multiple job offers and a candidate who is struggling to get one.

Key is, connecting with the recruiter before they come to the campus for info sessions. Most of the companies have designated recruiters for specific schools and this information could be easily gathered through alumni and candidates from previous classes. It is crucial to connect with the recruiter before they come to the campus for three reasons:

  1. To show the recruiters that you are truly interested in the company.
  2. To get additional face time when they come for  the info session. If they know your name, they will spend additional time to talk to you and answer your questions.
  3. To get introductions to the key people who will make the decisions. Recruiters know who has the final say on who is getting an interview invite. If the recruiters know you are truly interested, more often than not, they will introduce you to these decision makers.

-Ravindar Bose, Penn State Smeal MBA Class of ’15


Make the Most out of Networking Sessions at Smeal

We are extremely fortunate to be a part of the Smeal MBA program that has not only given us the opportunity to hone our business skills with a rich package of courses offered but has also helped us enhance our soft skills that are as critical as developing the more tangible job skills in the industry. Today, most of the industry recruiters and executives are focusing more on attributes such as communication and inter-personal skills. They strongly believe that an MBA graduate needs to blend well with the organizational culture and give high importance to a candidate being a cultural fit more than being skilled at a specific job or a role. Their assessment of a potential hire starts right from the time they come to our campus for an info-session or a networking mixer. Therefore, it becomes extremely important to follow the most effective approach in those very early interactions.

  • We need to really understand what they have in their mindset when they come here. They do not obviously come here just to talk about their company, but they also believe that an info-session / Networking event is a excellent way to get an feel of the students who could be potential interns/full time employees.
  • This has been said time and again which makes it all the more important. Always, I repeat, always be on time!
  • Follow the dress code instructions. This is noteworthy as different companies depending on their culture prefer more casual/less casual attire. For example, Nike would prefer to see you in a Nike t-shirt/ Nike sneakers while Chevron would like to see you in more formal attire.

Note: Being punctual, dressing up appropriately are things that must be kept in mind as companies are looking for a complete package and they need to believe that you would blend into the company’s culture!

  • Ask good questions! Show them that you have researched the company well and that you are excited about the opportunity. Make sure you are aware of the any latest news about the company such as major structural changes, M & A’s etc.

Never ask about stuff that is very easily available on the company website.

  • Always send a Thank You note to the recruiter/Exec that you met or spoke with. Add them to your LinkedIn connections, Follow up with them as your goal should be to build a long-term relationship with them.
  • Treat every interaction with the execs/recruiters as an interview.

You won’t even realize how just in a casual coffee chat or a dinner conversation, they would find out everything they want to know and might develop a liking for you even before you give the real interview.

-Neha Bareja, Penn State Smeal MBA Class of ’15


Despite multiple flight cancellations at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, the Smeal MBA veterans managed to land safely in the “windy city” for the 2014 MBA Veterans Conference. Because of the timing of the event this year, only four Smeal veterans managed to brave “pre-finals week” for the yearly trip to Chicago.

Just as in previous years, over 30 prestigious Fortune 500 companies traveled to the conference in order to recruit top MBA vets from across the country. Having been seasoned in the corporate world through summer internships, all four Smeal veterans were invited to attend private “pre-conference networking sessions” with some of the companies.

Unfortunately, the flight delays caused the vets to miss all of the pre-conference networking events. What to do at 8pm in Chicago then? Find the best wings in the city for the “wing king” Zhen Zhu or course! After identifying “Crisp” as the best restaurant, Zhen consumed 14 chicken wings and proclaimed “these are the best wings I’ve ever had.” It should be noted that he left four wings uneaten.

The conference was in full swing on Friday morning with some guest speakers. Nathan Iglesias, former Army Intelligence Officer and current Google Sourcing Lead was the first to address the veterans. He related his military work with gaining the trust of the Afghanistan population to building trust in the corporate world. He also gave some insight into Nerf gun fights at Google!

The keynote speaker was Courtney Billington, the VP of Janssen Supply Chain within Johnson & Johnson. Mr. Billington served as an Army Officer with the 18th Airborne Corps and is a veteran of Operation Desert Storm. He shared his career path with the group as well as some challenges he faced along the way. Ultimately he left the crowd of over 300 veterans inspired to do great things in the corporate world.

Following the speakers, some of Smeal’s vets had on-site interviews while others attended industry panels. One of the most interesting panels featured five management consultants (all veterans). The consultants addressed topics that ranged from the career progression of a young consultant to which hotels offer the best rewards programs.

The final event was the career fair. The well trained Smeal vets made connections with several different companies and also bumped into some Penn State alums. During the career fair, Ryan McCool was actually pulled aside for an on-camera interview with local media.

Following the conference, it was time for the annual trip to Lou Malnati’s for some Chicago style pizza. Once again, Zhen ordered BBQ wings and once again he left about 33.3 percent of his wings on the table (literally). Zhen may have lost his title as the “wing king,” but all of the veterans were undoubtedly benefited by attending the conference.


 

“Getting a job” probably is the most important mission for our MBA fellas, and attending a career fair is one efficient way access to job opportunities since it enables you to:

 

  • Explore and connect with MBA students in peer schools.
  • Explore the fields and career paths you are interested in.
  • Meet and talk to recruiters to understand their companies.
  • Gain valuable interview experience and job search advice.
  • Find out opportunities and submit your resume to recruiters.
  • Develop your contacts and networks.

 

Here are the 10 tips in order to participate the Career Fair wisely:

 

1. Dress professionally. Business attire is always required.

2. Have a firm handshake and good eye contact.

3. Prepare your own one-minute pitch

4. Prepare informed questions to ask beforehand.

6. Remain open minded to explore various companies.

7. Have a sense of humor and be personable.

8. Bring multiple copies of your resume and enough business cards.

9. Always inquire about the information of company.

10. Take the initiative and ask what is next.

 

-Shuyuan Ling, PSU Smeal MBA ’16


Finals Week for 2nd Year MBAs

It is hard to believe, but the first module of courses for the year will be finished this week. The module will conclude with a three day period designated for final exams. This examination period is quite different for many second year students than students in the first year of the program, however. This is for a few reasons, but mainly because the concentration elective courses that second year MBAs are mainly taking choose alternative examinations than a single final exam.

Most classes in the first year of the program end with a traditional final exam that cover the information and concepts taught in the course over the prior seven weeks. Second year courses are less likely to give these tests. Instead they tend to utilize business case examinations or group projects as the final examination for the module. These evaluations are more interesting than typical tests and force students to work in a team and directly apply the concepts they have learned to find a solution to a business problem. Many times, the cases students are given are problems that real-world companies have encountered in the past. The Business-to-Business Marketing course concludes with a case study such as this. Possibly the most interesting part is when teams present their solutions to the class and everybody can see the variety of perspectives used to solve the problem.

Another alternative evaluation that is common among second year classes is to do a team project (not a case) and present the results of this project to classmates and professor. The Consumer Behavior marketing elective gives students this form of evaluation. Teams of 4-5 students are asked to create a small consumer behavior study to examine beliefs or behaviors that lead to product purchases. Then, these studies are conducted in Smeal’s behavioral lab with undergraduate students. Teams analyze the data that is gathered in these tests and present their findings to the class, along with a recommendation about how findings such as this could be used in marketing strategy. Interesting projects like this are very good at engaging students in the concepts that they have learned throughout the module.

-Scott Robbins, PSU Smeal MBA ’15


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