Personal Investment: A Business Story

“I am still learning.” – Michelangelo

I’ve been told that post-secondary education is all about learning about who you are. One can discover their strengths and weaknesses and improve upon them during the 4-year (5 ½ year for me!), 120 credit journey to the illustrious undergraduate degree. Some days the journey is comparable to tossing your family sedan (shared with your siblings) on cruise control at 55 km/h driving down a 60 km/h posted limit residential street with the seat leaned back and your arm out the window (not that cool in a 1996 forest green Ford Taurus). Other days you’ll find yourself grinding in the basement of a building at 11:30 pm calculating how many hours of sleep you’ll get if you fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow (never works out that way – too jacked up on XL coffees from Cookies by George), so you can be rested for your presentation at 8 am the following morning.

Anyways…on Thursday, March 29th, the University of Alberta Marketing Association (UAMA) with support from the School of Retailing, hosted the annual Marketing Wine & Cheese Mixer. Somehow I ended up being responsible for quarterbacking this event.

From Left to Right: Lindsay Walker (Director of External Relations - UAMA), Ronda Nedelec (Zag Creative Group), Sam Dean (me)

It is important to keep in mind that two of my many weaknesses include lack of organization and ability to long-term plan (I’m a strong supporter of “wingin’ it” and “what’s the worst case scenario?”). However I agreed to take this one on, thinking that I, like the NFL’s Tim Tebow, could get lucky and throw for a touchdown once in awhile.

During the days leading up to Thursday my constant fear was that no one would show up and I’d be horribly embarrassed in front of my Business school peers. This fear motivated me to spend extra time planning and making sure I had invited the right corporates and enough students to fill the room (leveraging a few friendships). Well, after forcing myself to actually sit down and get organized details started to fall into place. I was lucky enough to have significant support from the School of Retailing and a few individuals in the UAMA, which I was able to utilize when I was completely lost/confused/dummied.  The event turned out great – around 100 people showed up (40 corporates and 60 students) and everyone was happy with the keynote speech, wine, and food (heck of a spread). I was able to walk away from the evening knowing I had accomplished something in spite of my weaknesses. Getting involved in student organizations can force you to grow personally and help you out down the road. That being said, I would never make it in this world as a wedding planner.

On a completely unrelated note, I will be attending the Dean’s Welcome Night on Thursday evening. I am looking forward to meeting all of the early-admitted BCom students (hopefully finding someone to carry on the BCom Blogger legacy)… No one enjoys light refreshments and engaging conversations more than me!

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Break from Business

When the weight of the last few weeks of a semester in Business has got you down, what do you do?

Some of my peers will be at Dewey’s taking advantage of Sapporo Thursdays however I’d advise against this. You will only find yourself a few hours later in your pajamas scrolling through the New Releases section of Shaw on Demand on a Friday at 2:30 am (not speaking from experience). So, what should one do to stay in top mental and physical shape during the last haul of the Business grind?

Since research has shown that Business students who participate in Campus Recreation activities three weeks prior to finals achieve on average 24% higher on exams,* I would recommend taking advantage of all that the University of Alberta Campus Recreation has to offer!

The School of Business has a “unit” within the intramural program of Campus Recreation. Some of the activities offered in intramurals are team sports and require registration by an official unit (some do not). Intramurals are broken down into Co-Rec, Men’s and Women’s and the activities range from innertube waterpolo to competitive ice-hockey. The cost of participating in these activities is normally free or relatively inexpensive.** You can usually pick your skill level in each activity, so if you aren’t the world’s greatest triples wallyball player you should still go out and get involved! It is a great way to stay active with a structured event and you won’t get bored like you do with bicep curls/skull crushers…weird how every day is upper body day for males in Business.

In the early months of 2007 I sustained multiple concussions in the same hockey game (comparable to a young Eric Lindros). I can’t really participate in physical activities anymore or get above class average in Managerial Accounting (FIFO; gets ya every time). With all that being said, I still “participate” in Campus Recreation Intramurals. I am the Unit Manager for the BREW (Men’s Intramural Unit). I attend all of the required meetings – usually catered by Domino’s pizza – and show up to all of the activities our unit participates in. Two years ago I nominated myself to be the General Manager, President of Hockey Operations, Head Coach, and backup goaltender for the Brewistocrats, who play in Division 1 Men’s ice-hockey. Last Thursday I had to play goalie. Well, I carried the Brewistocrats to a 10-3 victory over Farmhouse Fury (Agriculture) for my first “W” as a goaltender. I faced about 5 shots and let in 3 goals…it doesn’t take a C+ in Math 113 to figure out how many shots I saved. A win is a win though. Currently up for Unit Manager of the Year!***

My advice for you as a soon to be or current Business student is to take advantage of Campus Rec activities. All Campus Recreation activities are incredibly well organized and are always a lot of fun. You will meet a lot of interesting people outside of the School of Business and it is a great way to stay in shape. Talk to someone from the Business Students Association to find out who the unit manager is for next Fall and then start looking into the Campus Recreation activity guide. It is always important to work a little bit of cardio in!

*Completely fabricated statistic.

** That being said, all full-time students pay a mandatory “Athletics & Rec” fee of $62.66 a semester.

***Completely fabricated story

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Business or not? Summer Jobs

It’s that time of year again: my fellow students are showing up to school first thing in the morning in their slick suits and fancy blouses. Nope, it is not presentation week for final projects, but rather on-campus interviews for summer jobs.  A time of sweating in your fresh-off-the-hanger suit in return for a chance to work the 9-5 desk job. Ahh, the “real world”.

I still like to think of the four-months off as “summer holidays” and to be honest I am a bit averse to the “real world” during the summer. Sure, you are reading this and thinking this kid is just 100% lazy and loves going horizontal (hawr-uh-zon-tl, verb: to laze around and watch re-runs of Two and a half Men) but I do work 40-ish (a bit generous) hours a week during the summer months.

In the summer of 2007 I was hired at the Royal Mayfair Golf Club and have continued to work there every summer since then. It is a running joke among my friends (well to be honest more a joke with just myself) that after my fourth season I received my honorary PhD in hook scrubbing (slang for washing golf clubs). With a few seasons under my belt I have learned that you have about a one-minute window to strike up a conversation in order to be considered for a tip. One-liners about the weather or any sort of over used cliché (“not bad for a hat rack”, “ah, to be young again”, “can’t afford not to”, “staying one step ahead of yesterday”, etc.) usually do the trick. The Royal Mayfair is an incredible employer and I would recommend working there if ever given the opportunity. A lot of people go home and complain about their bosses but I’ve never had the inclination to do so!

My advice for any high school or university student is not to worry all the time about finding a summer job that relates directly to business. PlacePro is a great place to start looking for job opportunities and listings. Also read the emails that various student organizations send out in the next few weeks. Find something in the summer (your time off!) that you enjoy doing and have fun! You will have lots of time to slave away in an office when you grow up.

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In the Business of Marketing

“I really enjoy what I do.” Sam Dean, Student Spotlight, November Issue, Lazy Faire 

I am often asked what exactly it is that I do. I have a shared office and am often seen walking really fast with my head down (makes me look a bit more important).

But why you ask? I am the Vice President of External Relations for the University of Alberta Marketing Association (UAMA). Your next question is probably: what on earth is the UAMA? Well, the UAMA is a not-for-profit, student operated organization that represents the Marketing and School of Retailing students at the Alberta School of Business. Our organization provides members with academic support, networking opportunities, and events with the intention of increasing overall student involvement. It’s free to join! Your textbooks are a valuable resource in Business, but the benefit of networking with the Business community outside of the classroom is an invaluable experience.

So, you are likely scratching your head trying to figure out what role I could possible play in integrating the student body with the Edmonton and Alberta Business community. One of my responsibilities is ensuring that the UAMA has the necessary capital to host and put on the events that our executive team chooses throughout the year. I must find a way to effectively interact with corporates and utilize my existing contacts to have representation from the Marketing field at our functions. Well, to be honest, my volunteer position is made pretty easy because many School of Business alumni are eager to meet current students and give back.

Although the academic school year is nearly over, the UAMA still has a few major events that we host every year!

UAMA Case Competition                                                March 16th & March 17th

Details: Competition is open to all business students, with a preference given to those who have a marketing or retail major/minor. In partnership with Labatt, the competition will be held over two days. Teams will have a chance to learn about the Labatt brand, its products and have a chance to apply their classroom marketing concepts to a real-life case on Labatt in Edmonton. If you win, you can show up to your marketing classes with a bit of a swagger. (usually resembles a bad hip/knee).

Marketing Wine & Cheese Mixer                                    March 29th

Details: Allows University of Alberta Commerce students to interact with corporate participants in various marketing professions. This will be an invaluable learning experience for you as it will test your networking skills and provide opportunities for future development.  This event is my first experience with any sort of event planning… It should be a great evening!

Take the time out of your busy schedule to get involved! If marketing isn’t quite your thing there are many other great student organizations that host fantastic events. Take a minute and walk around the Business Lounge looking at all of the office windows with logos for different organizations. Match your interests to the interests of a student-led Business club!

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Back to the Grind

After a relaxing week off for Reading Week it is time to get back to Business. I spent the week away from Edmonton – in Las Vegas learning about the economics of gambling – which made it very difficult to crack open many textbooks.

 Prior to Reading Week, in my Business 301 – Business Communications class, we were given the assignment of completing a business resume. ImageThinking I had a current professional (professional used very loosely) resume saved on my computer, I decided to leave it until after the break.  Today, I finally opened up my “current” resume. Scanning it over I realized that I was still riding on the coattails of a 2001-2002 “Outstanding Citizenship” Award that I received while in Grade 7 (I peaked way too early). Believing that my resume would get better I continued to read on and found out that my only listed work experience was shoveling senior neighbors’ walks (arguably charging above the market rate at the time…). Needless to say, I had a lot of content and formatting – apparently Matura MT Script Capitals font doesn’t sell in 2012 – to update. The moral of this story about my rookie business mistake is to ensure that you have a current resume at all times (especially if it is part of an assignment due at 8 am on Tuesday morning).

 The Alberta School of Business has a Business Career Services office, which is located in room 2-21 (across the hall from the undergraduate office). Business Career Services offers students and alumni career development and employment opportunities. Current students can make (free!) appointments for resume critiquing to ensure that resumes are polished and ready for business employers. To learn more about Business Career Services visit their website. Please do not book all of the available appointments this week as I need to get in for critiquing.

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Down to Business: Networking Tips

“Forget about meeting as many people as you can, and start focusing on building fewer, more meaningful relationships. Attract people you’d die to know by thinking about what you can give, before you think about what you can get. Most importantly, master the art of listening.” Devon Brooks, Co-Founder, Blo Blow Dry Bar

As students at the Alberta School of Business we are constantly meeting people. Some days we are introduced to one of our Business school peers and on other days we are sitting down beside the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Sure, you will be nervous and somewhat intimidated by another person’s experience and business success, but follow these tips and you will be just fine!

 5 Tips for Young Networkers

1. Do your research. We are living in a world where we can “Google” someone’s name and find out where they last used their debit card. Take the time to learn a little bit about the person you are going to meet. Look at their company’s website and learn a few facts… It will make your conversations much more interesting and might even impress the person you are meeting. If you don’t know who will be at the event, try following OMGFacts on Twitter for some interesting icebreakers… Did you know that there is a place in Austria that is a dry park in the Winter, and a 10m deep lake in the Summer? (it’s at the foot of the Hochshwab Mountains in the Austrian region of Styria, duh). Endless conversations can be generated with fast facts.

2. Put your best face forward. Toss on a crisp collared shirt or your best blouse and leave your grey on grey Champions sweat suit at home. I’d recommend bringing your business cards even if they have an incorrect phone number. Your name is what you want the business leaders to remember (you can always scratch the wrong number out with a single line and write a correct number on the back). In the morning slide on an extra bit of deodorant. There will always be your friend who sets you up for a “high-five” just in order to expose Lake Huron and Lake Eerie under your arms. Leave the resume at home, be yourself, and put out the vibe.

3. Ask open ended questions. I’ve spent my fair share of time looking around a room talking to someone I don’t know saying “yeeeeeeah”, “soooooo…”, and “okaaaaay”. There is nothing more awkward than a conversation that refuses to get going because of questions that can be answered with one-word responses. Try questions that require at least two word answers, such as:

“Colliers, what’s that like?”

“BCom alumni, what’s that like?”

“CA during tax season, what’s that like?”

Note: Avoid saying, “good, you?” after the Chairman of a multinational corporation has already said “good, thanks”.

4. The handshake. Learn it, love it, and live by it. (there will be a link to my old blog about handshakes)…

5. Be yourself. Networking for the first time is awkward like many of the other firsts in life. Introduce yourself and ask questions you are interested in the answers to (that are also appropriate in a professional situation). The business man or women whose net worth is in the tens of millions was once in your shoes; they may even be excited to meet you.

If I can offer you one piece of advice, it would be to treat your Business school peers like the Fortune 500 CEO you just met. One day, that Business school peer might be the CEO of that Fortune 500 Company where you are trying to get hired. You don’t want to be remembered as a sweat suit wearing, awkward conversationalist with a limp and sweaty handshake.

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From Here, From Near, From Far.

Last August I was selected to share my experiences and blog for the Alberta School of Business. As a blogger, writing about my feelings was no longer limited to 160 characters in text messages. I’ve had the chance to divulge my own perspective as a student at the School of Business to my peers and prospective University of Alberta students. Recently, non-Business students have criticized my perspective as being “quite male oriented” and biased in favor of the School of Business. As an aside, I took the “quite male oriented” comment as a compliment because at the time I was wearing jeans tighter than most girls’ jeans and my outfit was completed with a salmon colored fashion scarf (#fashionscarf #trending).

These constructive criticisms of my blog motivated me to talk to three (of the 960) women in the School of Business. I thought in order to get the most diverse perspective of the good, bad, and ugly of the Alberta School of Business, it would be most effective to ask women from here (Edmonton), near (Calgary), and far (Ecuador). To many people’s dismay, this blog has established enough readership that it was possible to find women eager to answer a few questions.

From Here (Edmonton)

Jessica Kruhlak, BCom Student

Marketing MajorImage

Sam: Jessica, you were born and raised in Edmonton. You have been a student at the Alberta School of Business for the last two years. Before your stint in Business what did you dream of being?

Jessica: Growing up I really wanted to be a fashion designer. However, over the years, I quickly found an unusual love for wearing sweatpants. I let go of my fashion dreams and have never once looked back.

Sam: Sadly, you don’t see many models walking the runway in sweats. You could have decided to attend any University you wanted. Why did you choose the Alberta School of Business?

Jessica: Growing up in Edmonton, I was aware of the great reputation that the Alberta School of Business had across the country. As a current student, I am proud to say that the School continues to live up to its outstanding reputation! I was always taught to never settle and pursue the great.  The School of Business has definitely helped me to figure out what I don’t want to do, while highlighting careers that I may be interested in. My classes in Business have been very effective at opening up my eyes to things that I never thought I would be interested in.

Sam: That is very interesting. What do you like about the School of Business? Is there anything you would change?

Jessica: I really like that the School of Business is a small community. I can walk into the Business lounge to complete a crossword (keeps my mind nimble for my classes) and I’ll run into a bunch of my peers. We can openly talk about classes, opportunities, and anything Business related. I really disliked taking MIS 301 (Management Information Systems). Although I can see the value in the course, it just wasn’t my thing. If I could change one thing about the School of Business it would probably have to be the basement washrooms. That place is a crime scene; they need to be fixed.

Sam: The knowledge to develop functional databases will be helpful in the future. Do you have any advice for high school students considering the Alberta School of Business?

Jessica: Avoid being in groups with Sam Dean (jokes, he writes one of the best BCom blogs I’ve ever read). We (Business students), are not as pompous as we look. You don’t need to wear a suit to school everyday or need to carry your books in a shoulder bag.

Sam: I actually own three shoulder bags…

From Near (Calgary)

Justine Snaychuk, BCom StudentImage

Accounting Major

Sam: You were born and raised in Calgary. You attended Sir Winston Churchill High School. I heard that Calgary actually has a University too. How did you end up at the University of Alberta?

Justine: I came to the University of Alberta because I wanted to be far enough away from home and to not have to live with my parents, but close enough that I could easily go home and visit anytime that I wanted to. Moving away from home and attending the U of A is one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made. It has provided me with unique experiences that have made me grow up and learn a lot about myself.

Sam: You are a mature independent young woman. When you were younger you dreamed of being a lawyer because you loved to argue. You started University as a Political Science major in the Arts faculty. How did you end up in Business?

Justine: Once in Political Sciences it felt like I knew significantly less about world events in comparison to my peers. It was definitely not for me! One of my friends told me about the School of Business and advised me to “follow my heart”. I did a little bit of research and discovered all of the doors a Bachelor of Commerce degree could open up for me. A lot of people still associate Business jobs with boring desk jobs, but the opportunities go way beyond that!

Sam: First year Business was quite the grind for me. My social life was put on hold when I struggled to complete the difficult first year courses. You seem to have a “work hard, play hard” mentality. To what do you attribute your ability to maintain a balanced lifestyle and stay actively involved in extracurricular activities?

Justine: I really believe balance is important. With that being said, I am really not sure how I have survived the “grind” with my social life. I am lucky because I live in a great house with great roommates. We all go out together and have a lot of fun in the evenings. The next day we head to the library and put in a solid 12-hour day together. Being around people who study provides constant motivation to do well.

Sam: It sounds like you have established quite a successful support system. What do you like about the School of Business? Would you change anything at the School?

Justine: The Alberta School of Business has a very strong sense of community. I really can appreciate this coming from a different program at the U of A. It might seem insignificant, but walking into the library and having numerous Business classmates wave as I find the nearest cubicle means a lot. The opportunities to get involved are endless in Business. Join one thing and it is a lot easier to become an active member in the School of Business. What do I dislike about the SoB? The washrooms in the basement of the Business building are terrible. Some of the keyboards around the School are filthy and should be replaced. I also really wish that I never had to take ECON 281 (equivalent BUEC 311), this course was very challenging.

Sam: Those washrooms in the basement are like the washrooms at summer camp. Do you have any advice for students considering the Alberta School of Business?

Justine: The School of Business opened up my eyes to so many different career opportunities. I find myself becoming interested in consulting and helping others identify ways to enhance their business’ overall operations. The Alberta School of Business presents you with so many opportunities and opens many doors for a future career!

From Far (Ecuador)

Marlene Vargas Torres, BCom Student

Business Administration MajorImage

Sam: Marlene, I understand that you are an exchange student from Tecnológico de Monterrey, which is one of the most prestigious universities in Mexico. You completed your high school in Ecuador. How did you end up at the Alberta School of Business?

Marlene: I wanted a new experience. I wanted something new even though it meant I had to leave my family, home, and friends behind. After high school, I felt as though there were more opportunities for me outside of Ecuador and at the time Mexico seemed like a good option (it also helped that they offered me a 90% scholarship).  A friend from Ecuador that I met in Mexico came to the U of A one summer because his brother was living in Edmonton. He told me all about the U of A, how its system was completely different from our University in Mexico. I decided to investigate and found out that it was a top University in Canada and in the world and for my exchange I was not just looking for some random University.

Sam: You must be experiencing quite the shock with the Edmonton climate. What were your first impressions of the School of Business?

Marlene: The School of Business is great! I really like it. I especially enjoy the Business Students lounge where you can hang between classes and meet other Business students. The Business professors’ style of teaching is a lot different from the way they teach in Mexico. You are told to read the textbook or cases on your own and then you spend lectures discussing what you read as a class. The professors don’t waste time explaining every detail of the textbook, which makes the in-class experience much more dynamic.

Sam: You are brand new to the Alberta School of Business. Is there anything that you would change in the School?

Marlene: The only thing I would change is the use of VHS to DVD. I have one class where the professor always has problems with the VHS and it never works.  I find it funny that the School is still using VHS. Besides some of the technology, I think the rest is perfect; I’ve really enjoyed it so far!

Sam: Do you have any advice for students thinking about going on a Business exchange?

Marlene: Take the risk. Live a new adventure. I’m sure you won’t regret it. This is the perfect time in life to experience new things and if your parents support your decision to explore the world, then there’s nothing that can stop you!

After interviewing these three women, it is clear that my perspective of the Alberta School of Business is shared. It is reassuring to know that I am not the only student who loves coming to the Alberta School of Business everyday!

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