Back to Business

With my last name, academic probation jokes are popular this time of year (the jokes have nothing to do with my academic standing…, seriously).  Luckily, I figure that since the School of Business does not have a permanent Dean, it is virtually impossible to take a “Dean’s Vacation”. After I came to this realization, I was a little more relaxed over the holidays while waiting for grades to come in. I could let my hair down, and put my feet up for a few weeks without any worries. I enjoyed some much-needed television time. As a result, I have now narrowed down my career aspirations to professional buyer looking to do battle on “Storage Wars” or supernatural being involved in a love triangle in “Mystic Falls”.

At the start of the second semester, I always feel like I’m heading into the second half of the game down a few goals. However, with a couple of good bounces – actually buying the required textbooks, and doing the assigned reading before lectures – and a bit of luck – getting the smart kids assigned to my group in professor-assigned group projects – I hope to tie the game up and come out with a “W” ( for win, not withdraw).

The excitement of a fresh start motivates me to refocus and set new goals. I am always eager to see who is in my lectures and what each professor is like. It gives me a chance to put out the Winter Semester vibe and meet new friends.Please hold all applause when you see me entering your class on the first day; I won’t affect relative grading that much!

Personal Beer Olympics

If you are looking to get involved this semester, the Business Students’ Association has an excellent mix of events and activities planned for “Business Week 2012”. There is something for every Business student planned during the week. If networking with industry leaders at Backstage Pass isn’t quite your thing, there is always the Beer Olympics. Attend a few of these events and meet a few new Business amigos; you will not regret it!

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Put Another Blog on the Fire

Season’s Greetings!

This is my first attempt at a video blog. I hope everyone enjoys it. See you in the New Year!

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Blog Boy’s Alumni Corner

Accountants are typically depicted as being cold, aloof and impersonal in addition to being boring and dry. Many people believe that accountants spend all of their time counting beans in their offices. I had a hard time believing all the stereotypes about accountants so I set out to clear up their reputation.

I met with Ms. Lisa Jennings, a recent Alberta School of Business alumnus. She was cooperative and incredibly enthusiastic (couldn’t have anything to do with her mundane job…) while answering a few questions.

Ms. Lisa Jennings

Sam: When did you graduate from the Alberta School of Business?

Ms. Jennings: In 2008.

Sam: 2008 was a good year. What was your major and minor?

Ms. Jennings: I majored in Accounting. I did not have a minor because I was too busy taking every Accounting class there was. You can’t have too much of a good thing!

Sam: I also have an undeclared minor, but academic reasons were the contributing factor behind this.

Ms. Jennings: You shouldn’t sell yourself short, Sam. My family members are avid readers of your blog. With that being said, we are basically family…

Sam: Down to business. Were you involved in any extracurricular activities in University?

Ms. Jennings: I did not participate in any School of Business activities, as I was involved with Varsity athletics.  However, since graduating, I have had the opportunity to attend several events such as the career energizer, CA Alumni Golf tournament, CESA dinner and many others.  If I went back to University I would definitely get more involved in the School of Business.

Sam: I heard you were quite the Pandas soccer player in your day. How did you find time to juggle a Varsity sport with your Business studies?

Ms. Jennings: Juggle, pun intended? Playing soccer for the Pandas was one of the highlights of my University career.  At times it was challenging as I missed a lot of class. I was the kid who would show up on the mid-term and no one would have seen me before. There were definitely people betting on me to bring down the class average.  Fortunately, I had a friend on the U of A Hockey team and our competitive seasons were at different times of the year and we would help each other out with notes and getting up to speed.  Many of the professors in the faculty would also go out of their way to make sure I was still getting all the materials I missed.  However, on behalf of all student athletes, I want to clarify that writing tests on the road is not an advantage.  It typically occurs either while you are on the plane (a little cramped and time does not stop for turbulence or to get a pop from the flight attendant) or on a hotel bed after a game at 10 or 11pm at night.

Sam: People are always betting on me to bring down the class average and I am not even on a Varsity sports team. What do you currently do now?

Ms. Jennings: I am currently a CA working in financial advisory services.  My main focus is litigation support (quantify damages related to shareholder disputes, personal injury claims, and loss of income from expropriation) and forensic accounting.

Sam: That sounds pretty impressive. Did you know what you wanted to do when you first started at the School of Business?

Ms. Jennings: I had no idea. I think when I applied to Business I had Marketing as my major.

Sam: You said that you were a CA. I have heard that CASB is a battle. How did you focus and get through this cruel mistress?

Ms. Jennings: I went with the approach of going through it as fast as possible so I could put it behind me.  Fortunately, most of my friends were still in University so I didn’t feel as bad studying on the evenings and weekends.  The CASB program is relentless at times but it does a great job in preparing you for the UFE, which makes it all worthwhile in the end.  I definitely credit the CASB program with my success on the UFE.

Sam: Wow, that is quite impressive. I heard that you are now involved in the CASB program? Why go back to something that people have so much trouble with? What do you do?

Ms. Jennings: What is this? 20 questions? I am very involved in the CASB program as it is important to give back to the profession.  After having such as positive experience with CASB, I really looked forward to being part of the program. I am currently an online facilitator, a facilitator mentor, a student mentor and a chat moderator (a bunch of accountants discussing accounting in a chat room for a few hours a week).

Sam: Beautiful words, the profession should be proud to have you. I have heard that you are still studying and writing tests. What are you working on completing now?

Ms. Jennings: I am currently working on a Chartered Business Valuator designation, which is complimentary designation to the CA.  It focuses more on finance and business transaction services.

Sam: I have had enough trouble trying to complete my BCom degree. Why Accounting? I have heard that all accountants are dry and boring. You are full of life.

Ms. Jennings: I chose accounting after I discovered my soccer coach for my club team was a CA and he was always at practice, games and travelling with us so I figured it seemed like a good idea.  Then I discovered during my first year that accounting was pretty easy for me to get great marks in.

Sam: Sounds like a match made in heaven. Any advice for a BCom student?

Ms. Jennings: Get involved, it is a great time to build friendships with like-minded people.

Sam: That could be a title for my first book. Any advice for a young Business student who does not know what they want to be?

Ms. Jennings: Don’t worry if you don’t know what you want to be and don’t expect to get any clarity on what you might want to do after your graduate.  As you get different experiences in the world outside of school, you will realize that the business world is full of diverse career choices and it may take years for you to find the perfect fit. As you get out in the ‘real world’, ask questions and if you see something that might interest you, find someone who is currently working in the area and ask them for a few minutes of their time. People love sharing their experiences and it is a great way of getting direction for your career.  I have yet to be turned down for a coffee yet.

Sam: Sounds like I can stop worrying. I might ask a few land tycoons to sit down for a coffee. Thank you for your time Ms. Jennings! I wish you all the best in your future accounting endeavors.

Is this Lisa? Waiting for confirmation.

There are many negative stereotypes surrounding certain professions in the Business world. I have learned from Lisa Jennings that the accounting stereotypes are not always true. Lisa also inspired my tip of the day:

If you don’t know what you want to be when you “grow up” don’t stress out about it. Find something that makes you happy and stick with it!

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Business Presentation Attire: “Studs & Duds”

It is that time of year again. Not yet final exams, but final presentations. It is the ultimate test of your ability to speak in public and put your “great” ideas out there to be judged by your fellow classmates. You have your cue cards, your finely tuned Powerpoint ready to go, and you have been applying Drysol for the last week in fear of sweating through your suit.

My staple outfit for big presentations.

On the day before your presentation, your professor tells your class that you must “dress up”. For the average Business student this is not really an issue, normally jumping at any chance to “suit-up”.  However, every group has the “dud”. Conversing with the “dud” on the night before the presentation usually goes something like this:

Group Member: Make sure you dress up tomorrow.

Dud: I don’t have a suit.

Group Member: Well, just wear a shirt and a tie.

Dud: I don’t own a shirt or a tie.

Group Member: Haven’t you ever been to a wedding or a funeral?

Dud: Yes, but the dress shirt has a dragon on it with flames and the tie has NHL team logos on it.

Group Member: Well, wear a nice polo shirt with dress pants.

Dud: Can I wear a tuxedo shirt, with my black track pants, and black skateboard shoes?

Group Member: As long as the track pants aren’t tear a-ways.

Having had this experience several times in my University career I thought it would be a good idea to seek help from a professional. I needed advice to dispense to the aforementioned “dud” a few weeks before “game-day”.

I sat down with Colin Clark, Assistant Manager of Store Operations at Henry Singer Fashion Group. With over 14 years of experience, Colin possessed the “fashion cred” required to answer all of my mind-boggling questions. Take notes fellas.

 Sam: Many University students have a limited budget. If they were to invest in ONE suit, what color would you suggest?

Mr. Clark: I would recommend grey or navy. Why you ask?  The sheer versatility of these colors. You can wear virtually any color shirt and you wear brown, black or even oxblood shoes.  Both grey and navy are suitable for weddings, presentations, office Christmas parties, and funerals.  The pants can be worn with a sweater. The jacket can be worn with another dress pant or jeans.  You have the ability to go open collar casual or buttoned up formal.

Sam: Brilliant, just brilliant. I have a big presentation to give to one of my classes next week. My professor has told the class to dress up when we present. What would you suggest I wear? My presentation isn’t all that good, but I am looking to get an “A”.

 Mr. Clark: Call me Colin. We suggest that being interviewed or presenting, you respect the group that you are speaking to.  If your professor has hard and fast rules in place, consider working within his or her parameters.  If no parameters are given, wear a basic black, grey or navy suit, with a solid white or powder blue dress shirt. That together with polished black dress shoes will get you through any meeting.  If it’s a formal presentation, wear a dark tie to match the suit.  The idea is to look professional. Ideally, you want to have your audience remember your message and not your outfit.  You want them to believe in you. Dressing well assures they buy-in to your credibility.

Sam: Colin, do you have any side notes to add?

 Colin: Yes, clothing is a form of self-expression.  If you want to be taken seriously by a new group, you must establish yourself without being considered quirky. If you’ve met with this same group many times and you have a relationship with them, you will have more latitude to express your sartorial flair.

Sam: Riveting, just riveting. I often see my fellow Business students’ buttoning up all different buttons on their suits. What are people in the “real-world” doing?

Colin: If your suit has two buttons, do up the top one or neither. If your suit has three buttons, then you sometimes do up the top one, always the middle one, and never the bottom one (or none at all).

 Sam: Why don’t we do up the bottom one? It keeps me warm in cold classrooms and hides the southwestern chipotle sauce stain from earlier in the day.

Colin: You should try wearing a napkin around your neck at lunch to avoid sauce spills. If you fasten the bottom button, there will be a pull along the hips creating a wrinkle that you want to avoid. Also, having the bottom button unfastened allows the wearer more range of motion to sit, stand and reach into his pant pockets.

 Sam: Life changing, just life changing. I don’t consider myself a hipster or really know what is “trending”, but I subscribe to GQ magazine. A lot of those guys are wearing cardigans. There are a lot of buttons on those things, how on earth do I wear one?

Colin: Ah, the cardigan. Much like the sport coat or suit jacket, I suggest you leave the bottom button unfastened. Although some prefer to keep the top and bottom undone. This is more of a personal preference and may be dependent on the cardigan that you are sporting.

 Sam: Buttons, just buttons, unbelievable. Should my belt match my shoes?

Colin: As a basic rule, I’d say yes.  But remember, unless you are wearing brown or black, you may have difficulty finding that perfect match. And even then, they don’t have to be 100% spot on. Men’s rules for dressing are much simpler than that of a woman’s.  Until you have a vast wardrobe, err to the simpler side of things and endeavor to match up.

 Sam: Shoes and a belt, just so simple. I have a great black suit and great brown shoes. Can this combination be pulled off?

 Colin: Most would say “No!”  However, I say “yes”. If you are wearing a shirt or tie with brown trimmings it can be done.  It’s a step out of the comfort zone for many, but when done correctly, it can look very good.

 Sam: I always see these hip guys in Hollywood wearing running shoes with their suits. Can I suggest to my peers running shoes with a suit?

Colin: Are you Kanye West? Justin Bieber? Justin Timberlake? If not, then no running shoes with suits!

 Sam: Do you have any fashion advice for my fellow Business students?

Colin: I always say “buy quality”.  Moores, Banana Republic, Val Bergs, The Colony, Tip Top all offer quality goods.  Seek out a vendor you feel comfortable dealing with and confident in the quality level of service and product. Buy what you can afford.  Is a $2000 Prada suit a sensible investment?  Not if you are wearing it once or twice a week for the next 3 years.  It’s a luxury item and will not have the same performance as a $1000 Hugo Boss suit. Treat your clothes well so that they last.  Hang them up after each wear.  Dry-clean them once a season (maximum 2 times a year). Don’t buy sale items simply because they are on sale. Buy what will fit into your wardrobe.  Does a lime green cashmere sweater on sale for half price really belong in your wardrobe or could you have spent that money on a basic sweater that would give you far more latitude?

 Sam: More latitude, loving latitude. Any final thoughts?

 Colin: Who does your hair?  Do you see the same hairdresser time and again? How about your dentist? Doctor?  If so, consider establishing a relationship with a clothier.  They will look out for your needs and preferences much better than what you can find online or at a discount shop in Vegas. They will give you better service than an anonymous sales person at any store you visit.

 Sam: That is a lot of rhetorical questions. Thank you for your time and advice, Colin.


Don’t be afraid to politely pass on this information to the “dud” in your group.  Everyone will be happy when your group looks like a bunch of rock stars while presenting to your peers! Dressing appropriately for different situations is a key to success in Business.


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The “Ugly”: The Biz Lib Etiquette

After several weeks of focusing on the “good” and pumping the tires of the Alberta School of Business I thought it was about time to divulge the “bad” and the “ugly”. Prospective students and current students alike deserve to know that not everyday is just peachy at the Alberta School of Business. Pat Benetar was actually pretty close: we are young, and the Library is a battlefield.

Leading into my fifth year of writing final exams I have had to spend a few hours in the library (hard to believe, I know).  With arguably the loudest stomach (documented as sounding like an old rickety garage door opening) in the School of Business, it will not surprise anyone that I’ve had people glare me out of the library. Although I have some sympathy for the students my stomach growls distract, imagine trying to maintain your focus as the guy generating these sounds!

Studying Set-up

With finals quickly approaching, Business students are spending more and more time studying in the Winspear Business Library.  This time leading up to exams can be very stressful for some students. When stress levels are high, people become more irritable (I’m not really a doctor, this is strictly based on my personal experiences).  If people applaud when you leave the Business library, it’s probably a good idea to take the following advice to heart.

Through observing my peers, I have created the following list called “The Unwritten Rules to the Winspear Library.” Who knows, maybe someday after the School of Business recommends that I graduate, these rules will be posted.

1)   No scantily clad celeb backgrounds on laptops:

Before you dive into the books take the picture of Megan Fox or Channing Tatum off your laptop background. Sure, this seems like a pretty “cool” idea at home having scantily clad celebs always looking back at you, but not that appropriate for learning about income tax in Canada (After income tax amounts are calculated, non-refundable tax credits are deducted from the tax payable… duh).

2)   Combination of a Runny Nose and Loud Cough is Strictly Prohibited:

Everyone hates having a nose that won’t stop running on those brisk December mornings. Or maybe you are the student who lost a few hours of sleep because of a loud cough. All part of Edmonton winters, but when a runny nose is combined with a loud cough, stay out of the library. Your stressed out cubicle neighbor in the Winspear will be friendly and smiling early in the day. But, by the second hour, and no promising signs of nasal relief, your cubicle neighbor will lose it.

3)   No Loud… Anything

We all know the kid. The loud typer, loud eater, loud gum chewer, loud mint sucker, loud breather, loud music listener through headphones, and the loud thinker. These students are just loud. Tone it down, or maybe think about finding a spot to study where your loudness is drowned by white noise. I recommend Education basement. The sound of hand bells near Christmas and choir practice in April makes any loud person seem quiet.

4)   Silent Cell Phone Only

If you anticipate your iPhone lighting up like Las Vegas, use the silent mode. Your cell phone vibrating will not only make the guy next to you feel inadequate that the girl from his marketing class hasn’t texted back because his presentation on IMC (integrated marketing communications) sucked, but will also annoy people who can hear it rattling off of the table. Everyone appreciates silent mode, keeps the morale in the Business library up.

5)   No Quiet Discussion

There is no such thing as quiet discussion. Whispers carry across the entire Business library. Unfortunately, we are all guilty of this and are all victimized by quiet discussion over final exam season.

6)   Minimize Loud Sighs

School is hard. Everyone is in the same boat. Do it for the student next to you, sigh quietly.


Tuna is cat food. Tuna has a distinct smell that can throw a kid off of his/her studies for the next few hours. Tuna can make the most diligent students leave the library and procrastinate for the rest of the day at home. Tuna causes kids to fail Finance 301.


If my stomach sounds like the garburator in your kitchen over the upcoming weeks, I will do my part and stay out the Winspear Business Library. Now, you do your part! Let’s pass our finals as a team.

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Before the Business Blog: The Journey

“I wasn’t always a dweeb with a blog, just a dweeb with no blog.” – Sam Dean

Prospective Business students often ask me why I chose to pursue a Commerce degree and why the Alberta School of Business. It is hard to answer this question in one short choppy sentence. I decided it would be appropriate to throw a whole bunch of short choppy sentences together to create a blog post. I hope to motivate and inspire those prospective students who are thinking of applying for Business but may have self-doubts holding them back. I hope to entertain my 10 loyal followers (now 11, my mom just started following), with stories they can relate to in their own post-secondary journey.

I really didn’t know what I wanted to do coming out of high school. Surprisingly, I was never pressured to pursue a University degree from my over achieving family. My parents told me that if I didn’t go to school I had to get a job and pay rent. Thinking that rent payments would be pretty high at an “all-inclusive” home in Crestwood, I quickly made the financially responsible decision to go to school. I started out at Grant MacEwan University in the Arts program. Looking back, it feels like my first few years of school were straight out of a movie script. My mom would drop me off at school on her way to work every morning. Conversations usually consisted of her asking how my classes were going and how my grades were. I always answered honestly, “I don’t know.” It has been my experience that this is generally not a great answer to give to someone who is financing your educational expedition. But I wasn’t lying, I actually didn’t know, because I never actually quite made it to class. After waving goodbye to my mom and being certain that she was out of sight I had to make the quick decision of whether to go to Denny’s across the street for breakfast or head back to bed and wait for the Palace Casino to open up. Learning Black Jack strategy didn’t give me the time to read “The Red Badge of Courage.”

Eventually I met and started to date a girl (hard to believe I know). She was really motivated to become a medical doctor; incredibly bright, really valued post-secondary education and genuinely enjoyed learning. This came as a bit of a wake-up call to me. It became difficult to explain my astronomical amounts of free time and extremely fluctuating cash flows. After many lengthy “chats”, she discovered my academic standing. After even lengthier “chats”, we decided that it was in my best interest to find a way to become self-motivated. This was achieved through setting attainable goals. Ironically, once I started attending class and learning, I actually started enjoying it.

I set a goal. I aspired to be a student at the Alberta School of Business.  The only thing in my way was Calculus… Also known as Math 113: Elementary Calculus. There is in fact nothing “elementary” about Calculus and before I could take a swing at this cruel mistress, I had to upgrade my math grade. At MacEwan they offered a course called Precalculus (Math 0099), which is below a 100-level University credit course.  To this day, I might be the only student to exercise my option to withdraw and take the “W’ in a non-credit course following the midterm.

However, with some enthusiastic support and another kick at the precalc’ cat I managed to pass. With momentum on my side I registered for Calculus at MacEwan. I ended up stumbling a bit on the midterm and somehow posted on the wrong side of the curve. Being a bit deflated, I refocused and decided to take a few other courses. I applied for the Alberta School of Business following that semester without all of the prerequisites (no Math 113). Surprisingly, the admissions at the Alberta School of Business do not accept “wild-cards”. My second option was the Arts program at the University of Alberta. With a change in scenery, Calculus was no problem (my younger, smarter brother was finally in University and helped me out). I thought it would be wise to sign up for the U of A’s version of Precalculus (third time, for anyone who is keeping score at home).

Celebrating passing Calculus with ice cream cake.

Armed with SOH CAH TOA I passed the midterm. With mo’(momentum) on my side I battled on through the course and somehow passed the final. Five math courses later, one successful Math 113 course on the transcript for the kid.

I applied for admission to the Alberta School of Business in the Winter of 2010. I was accepted the following Summer. I’m scheduled to graduate with a Commerce degree this Spring. Not once has anyone in the Business world asked me how good my Calculus skills are (probably a blessing).

I finally attained my goal by persevering through something that seemed impossible to me at the time.  It was all worth it looking back. I truly enjoy going to the Alberta School of Business everyday to learn!

Advice for the day: Set goals. Achieve these goals by surrounding yourself with supportive people who will motivate you to stick to it!

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Dear Diary, Today I met a girl. She talked to me.

There are currently 960 women registered in the undergraduate program at the Alberta School of Business. I thought that it would be interesting to run some statistics on my odds of meeting a girl in Business. Being a prominent (well, self-proclaimed at least) Business student, I considered my odds to be around the “honest” part of the curve. Not falling behind, but not showing off by any means.

Men: 1101

Women: 960

Total BCom Undergrads in 2011 = 2061

Unfortunately, there were too many uncontrolled variables (biological variability, etc.) that could influence the ability to provide a general conclusion with any reliability. However, from the statistics you can see that women are playing a leading role in Business. Jay-Z you were wrong. “I’m not a ‘Business-Man’! I’m a Business…man!” This statement is misleading. At the Alberta School of Business we are Business…men and Business…women in 2011.

Pausing for a laugh.

On a completely un-related note, midterms and life commitments have completely taken over. With a tough stretch of tests over the last two weeks and emceeing my sister’s wedding I have slipped on my blog posting routine. I look forward to getting back to full-blown blogging next week when things slow down a bit!

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