Sunday, April 25, 2010

Staying Involved, Even From a Distance


When I got into Kelley, I made a promise to myself - I was going to get involved outside the classroom, build my network, and take full advantage of the fact that I was going to a top 20 business school.




This determination led me to take on the role of president for the Kelley Direct Women in Business group (KDWMBA). Through this group, I have worked closely with KD staff, collaborated with fellow students on new initiatives, and even traveled a bit. I went to Indiana in the fall of 2009 to meet the new first years and talk about my KD experiences, attended an MBA conference in California last October, and participated in the NAWMBA leadership retreat in Utah this past weekend. NAWMBA, a not-for profit dedicated to "empowering women MBAs in order to propel more women into leadership positions in corporate America and to enhance the diversity of the nation's workforce", is KDWMBA’s national affiliation and an organization I am proud to be a part of (bit.ly/NAWMBA).




The retreat last weekend was an incredible experience! I spent three days at a resort & spa surrounded by snow-capped mountain with some truly inspirational MBA students and professional women from around the country (yes, that picture to the left is of the view from my room!). We attended numerous workshops, learned about leadership and how to leverage our strengths, and participated in networking events that allowed us to build strong connections with one another.




I am so happy that I kept that promise to myself, as my experience at Kelley has been so enriched by my involvement with KDWMBA and NAWMBA. Of course, at the time, I didn't know that "being involved" would mean getting a facial at a spa in Utah, but who am I to question the small surprises in life?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Teamwork



Working in teams is an important part of most MBA programs. This is certainly true in the Kelley Direct distance MBA program. One of the things that I have enjoyed most about the Kelley Direct experience so far is the interaction I have had with fellow students and especially the team members I have worked with in each class.




Teamwork starts in the first in-residence on campus where everyone is assigned a team with whom they do all of the class work, presentations, etc. My team at the in-residence (pictured above) was awesome. They are all very intelligent and brought unique perspectives from their diverse professional backgrounds. We worked hard, but we also had a lot of fun together. I learned a lot from each of them.




For students who are new to the Kelley Direct distance MBA program, here are a few suggestions for forming teams:




Networking

Take advantage of every opportunity to network. Get to know as many people in the program as possible. That way you will know who you would want to work with in future classes. The best place to start this is during the in-residences. I made an effort to meet as many people as possible at my first in-residence in Bloomington. Most of the people I have chosen for my teams are people I met at the in-residence.




When I was deciding between MBA programs last year, I sought input from a current Kelley Direct student. He gave me really good insight into the program and great advice on how to be successful. He highlighted the importance of networking at the in-residences:



“As you move forward, you have friends in the program (which is good because there tends to be a lot of group work interaction) who have each others' back and that comes in very important! Through email and Skype calls, cell phones and Facebook pages, I am in constant contact with my classmates. The interaction, support, and camaraderie are wonderful.”


Time Zones

Consider the impact of time zones. Coordinating schedules can be difficult because everyone in the program has a full-time job as well as other responsibilities. Finding a time when everyone is available for a team meeting poses a unique challenge in an online MBA program because the students can reside all over the world.




In my Economics class, I choose teammates who live on the west coast like I do. Since we were all in the Pacific Time Zone, coordinating schedules was a little easier. My Marketing professor put us in teams based on our time zone too. Same-time-zone teams can be helpful for scheduling, but time zone should not be the only criteria in forming a team. Some of the strongest teams I have had were with teammates who live on the other side of the country.




Diversity

Choose teammates with complimentary skills. Some of my most effective groups were with teammates whose strengths complimented my weaknesses or lack of experience. If you have less experience in a particular subject, it can help to have someone on the team whose area of expertise is that subject. My team in my Finance class was very successful, in part because we had someone who worked in the financial industry. The Kelley Direct student body is very diverse, both culturally as well as professionally. Utilize that diversity in your teams.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

MBA for the Family Man/Woman

Many people want to get an MBA but come up with lots of reasons not to go after it. Some say it’s not worth the money; the ROI doesn’t make any sense! Others know they want to get it because they desire the knowledge but find it difficult to justify for that reason alone. The majority those who are nearing 30+ years old find it difficult to tackle because they feel they are on a particular path already and aren’t committed to getting another degree. They are too busy with life and, for many people, the family they have begun to build. I delayed my MBA for all of these reasons. I began by getting a masters in engineering but knew my ultimate goal was to complete my MBA. I finished my MSE and was not very motivated to continue my education from a time perspective. I had a new daughter and didn’t see how I could fit it all into my life. I decided to give it a year or so and see what my thoughts were at that time. As time went on, I realized my original goal of obtaining my MBA was even more important to me. So I decided to apply to Kelley Direct and was accepted. During my 3rd quarter of the program, my 2nd child was born. It was amazing to be able to continue my education while having a new child and really not miss out on any of my schooling. With the flexibility of the classes offered by Kelley Direct, you can manage major life changes while keeping up with your studies. It was not uncommon for me to be awake at random hours of the night taking care of kids or taking care of class work. It may sound like a lot but anyone can accomplish this. For me, there was no better way to continue to enhance my learning and progress my career while balancing life events. Kelley Direct provides an outstanding education from one of the best business schools in the country with the flexibility needed for a family oriented professional.

Monday, April 12, 2010

KD and Financial Aid

What’s up KD? I hope that this message finds you well.

It’s been a month – so I figured I’d drop in, and say hello. Things for me are going okay, just busy. I’m in the middle of looking for a new job, working my old job, being a parent, and being a KD student. So, as you can imagine – I have really appreciated the flexibility of KD this past month.

As for this blog, I figure that I would give you some advice on financial aid – since it’s that time of the year. Right now, I pay for KD with a combination of employee contributions and federal loans. It is a good package – not the best, but I am definitely grateful for all of the support that I get.

I know that if any of you are like me, you wondered how you would be able to pay for an MBA – especially if your company doesn’t pay for it. Here are a couple of things to know that have been helpful for me.


  • Fill out a FAFSA.
I know that some people are nervous about the debt that can come from 2 years of college loans. But, it’s a really good investment. I’m only one year into my program – and I have learned about million things that have made me more marketable for promotions and given me other career options.

To fill out a FAFSA, go to fafsa.gov. They have all the information there. It can be done all online, takes about 20 minutes, and can take a lot of the financial burden of your MBA.


  • Talk to your Human Resources Department.
A lot of people do not talk to Human Resources for a number of reasons – but remember, they are there for you. There may be a number of programs that your company has that will pay for all or a portion of your MBA (or other degree).

The other thing to know is that their contributions to your MBA could be viewed as taxable income. Make sure that you get all the information about the contribution plan before you sign up.


  • Understand your financial award.
You may wind up being award more money per quarter than you actually need for your costs per quarter. This money will come back to you as a refund. I know that for me, I need that refund amount to get my books and other school costs.

If you can afford it, it would suggest that you reduce your award to make it stretch further. Once you run out of loans for the year, you have to pay the rest, which may mean that you are not able to take classes for a quarter.

Well, those are just my tips. I hope that you find them helpful. Until next time, I’ll catch you later KD.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Not Just an Online MBA


When I started the Kelley Direct distance learning MBA program, I had no doubt that I would be getting a high quality education. Kelley is, after all, a top-tier business school. Even so, the KD program has surpassed all my expectations. The classes are very engaging, challenging, require lots of teamwork, and are structured to emphasize real-world application of the material. Add to this the in-residence weeks, and "online MBA" doesn't even come close to describing the experience I've had so far.



There are two in-residences built into the Kelley Direct program, and each is a week-long, 1.5 credit class held on the beautiful IU campus in Bloomington, IN. I recently returned from my second in-residence, the one that marked the start to my final year as an MBA student, provided valuable face-to-face time with fellow classmates, and deepened my connection with Kelley and IU.



My 2nd year in-residence week was packed full of lectures, team projects, and networking events. The days were long and exhausting, but Kelley's "work hard/play hard" culture consistently shined through. Each morning began with a group breakfast followed by a day full of lectures. Now, I realize that eight hours of lectures may not sound even remotely appealing, but each class session was so engaging and entertaining that I had no trouble staying focused. Over the course of the week, we were taught by four professors and every single one had a terrific sense of humor, practical knowledge that made us eager to learn, and a remarkable ability to capture and keep our attention. I can say, without any hesitation, that I absolutely loved the lectures and interactions with my professors and classmates. Eight hours go by quickly when you're laughing (and learning) the whole time.



Teamwork is a big part of the KD program, and the in-residence is no exception. So, after a day of lectures, we typically had a team assignment due by the next morning. However, unlike in the 1st year in-residence, we were now experienced MBA students. We had an entire year of classes under our belts, were equipped with new skills, and were able to tackle assignments confidently and efficiently. Case studies - no problem! It was very rewarding to see how much I had learned since the start of the MBA program and to know that, just one year later, I was so much more effective at completing these difficult assignments.



We also had quite a bit more time to socialize and network than during the 1st year in-residence. After all, we had survived an entire year of classes, and our reward, the chance to explore Bloomington and strengthen relationships with one another, was well-deserved! Our evenings included a dinner at Assembly Hall, a formal dinner with faculty and staff, a social night at Nick's, and multiple team dinners at some of the local restaurants. One day we even had a special guest speaker, Marshall Goldsmith, a former Kelley alumnus who was in town to be honored at the IU Business Conference (bit.ly/99Ouq9). A New York Times best-selling author, Marshall shared some of the lessons he teaches to executives around the world, gave us a copy of two of his books, and even stayed late to do a book signing. This was an added bonus to an already fantastic week!



The in-residence weeks are such an invaluable part of the KD program. Yes, it is hard to take off work and leave family and friends for a solid week of class. Yes, the week is incredibly demanding and exhausting, requiring an intense amount of focus and creativity. The ability to balance personal, professional, and student life is undeniably a challenge. However, it is possible, and it is very much worth it.