miércoles, 9 de mayo de 2012


As I researched MBA programs I came across an article that highlighted the most innovative and original business school courses. In this article I learned about this class at Darden called Leadership and Theatre: Ethics, Innovation & Creativity. Not your typical B-school class, for certain, but it sounded interesting enough for me to remember it when I was choosing second year electives. I was also curious on how exactly I would learn about leadership in a theatre class.

I entered the class armed only with the official description of the course: The purpose of this course is to build leadership skills and ethical analysis skills by reading, discussing, and performing dramatic scenes from great plays.  I had no idea what I was getting into…

The first day of class we discussed what each of us expected of the course. I clearly remember a classmate saying that he wanted to be pushed outside of his comfort zone. The Professor, Ed Freeman, told him he came to the right place.  He wasn’t lying.

Through the next five weeks we did acting and writing exercises, presented short plays (calling them skits is absolutely forbidden in class) which were hilarious, and wrote, rehearsed, produced and performed a full-blown, eleven-act play which culminated with the first ever final dance which was a wild success despite my non-existing dancing abilities; a remarkable experience.

For me the greatest part was feeling the whole team of 18 actors working as a single unit. We really had each other’s backs and pushed each other to do our best. We worked through our collective writer’s block, broken glasses (you don’t want to know) and Q4 fatigue and managed to put on a successful production.

I will remember fondly a lot of things about Darden, and Theatre is certainly an experience that I will take with me for the rest of my life.

PS: Thank you, Ed and Randy.

jueves, 24 de noviembre de 2011

24th Annual Darden Brand Challenge

Every year at Darden there is an event called Brand Challenge sponsored by the Marketing Club and a few selected corporate sponsors. Basically, each team of students gets a brand/product assigned to them and they have to perform a market research project by setting up a booth during the Brand Challenge event and presenting their assigned product while surveying the visitors on the different features of their product, according to their research objectives. At the end of the event, awards are given to the Best Booth Design, Best Survey Design, Most Spirited Team, and Best Overall Team.

For me, as a passive participant, it’s a great opportunity to try new products in an interesting and fun setting and also a chance to win cool prizes such as a Kindle and gift cards to eat at Cville’s hottest spots. You eat, you drink (blueberry beer, don’t knock it till you try it!), you play, you get your picture taken with the Hamburger Helper or other beloved brand character and, heck, you have fun.

But for the participant teams, it goes well beyond this. They have to come up with creative ways to present their products, engage with the corporate sponsors in order to get adequate product samples and establish meaningful objectives for their research, and present the results to the participating companies. A lot of work, isn’t it?

Further, for the corporate sponsors it's a great way to get information on their products in this diverse microcosm that is Darden. And also it’s a good way to get to know our talented aspiring marketers before the recruiting season.

Darden has a way of promoting hands-on learning while making an event that the whole community can enjoy.

The University of Virginia Investing Conference (UVIC)

For me, the Investing Conference is the top event at Darden. Period.

Granted, I’m a finance nerd but the quality of the speakers in this event and the insights that they share with us are invaluable.

The topics covered in its latest edition ranged from cyclical economic crises throughout history (presented by a Pulitzer Prize recipient, no less) to the challenges of investing in the current environment and the outlook for the future presented by top hedge fund managers and financial analysts.

Each speaker was amazing in his/her own way. To mention a few, George Tenet, former CIA Director, has an imposing presence and an impressive knowledge of every geographic region in the world; Kyle Bass was candid and even entertaining while presenting a very gloomy economic outlook and Paul Singer presented like the finance guru that he is, dropping pearls of wisdom.

Although most of the speakers foresee a challenging environment, I left the conference hopeful about the future. It may be naïve, but for me the greatest take-away was that the world won’t come to an end, that the economy is resilient and it will eventually start growing again, and that the following years are going to be hard but there will still be new opportunities ahead.

Like all great events, the UVIC presented cutting edge ideas and out-of-the-box world views but most importantly it also planted seeds in our minds to keep thinking about relevant issues to produce our own, well-informed opinions.

lunes, 31 de octubre de 2011

Executive education

Every week, top executives from a diversity of fields visit Darden to share their experiences. I have found this to be tremendously enriching.

For example, just last month, I had the opportunity to learn from the leadership experiences of the CEOs of top companies such as DuPont and Northrop Grumman, I got to have dinner with Andrei Shleifer, one of the world’s top behavioral economists, and during Jim Gilmore’s keynote speech in the Marketing Forum, I got to learn about the applications of an innovative concept from the person who developed it.

The Student Clubs are another great resource to learn from top practitioners. Just to mention a few of these opportunities, during the last month I got to sit in chats with a Managing Director of the Carlyle Group, a panel of top Private Equity practitioners, an ethics professor from Italy and a consultant at Ideo. Every club makes a great effort to bring a diversity of speakers to Darden both for networking opportunities and to learn from them.

Former students also come back regularly to speak to current students as part of some courses. It never ceases to amaze me that alums who are top executives at Bain, Goldman Sachs or Disney travel to Charlottesville to speak for about an hour. I think about how busy these people must be and how they commit some of their precious free time to give back to Darden. This is definitely a testament to the school’s great faculty. Darden’s teachers go the extra mile for their students and this is why alums don’t hesitate to come back when asked. I like these visits for two reasons: First, we get to hear the story of a Darden student who has “made it” in the post-MBA world. Second, we get to see how class concepts are used in a professional setting which frames them in a different way.

The Economist ranked us as the best educational experience in the world and I believe that the exposure to these top-notch leaders is a big part of what makes the Darden Experience world-class.

An Earthquake, a hurricane and a tornado

At the start of my second year in Darden, Charlottesville experienced an earthquake and a hurricane. During this time, I also experienced a self-inflicted natural disaster: a tornado called my Q1 schedule. Not only did I take six courses in this quarter, but also there have been plenty of activities outside of the classroom. From Darden Cup events to the LASA picnic, from playing soccer to multiple birthday celebrations, these past few weeks have been among the busiest of my MBA experience and at times I’m exhausted. But, you know what? I chose it to be this way and I wouldn’t change it at all. This is the one of the main differences between first year and second year. We get to set our own schedule. For example, I can choose never again to start classes at 8 am (which I did) or to have all my classes on “Early week” (i.e. Monday and Tuesday) and have a five day weekend (which, sadly, I didn’t). In Second Year you create your own experience. Of course, the other big thing about setting your own schedule is tailoring your classes to you professional/personal interests but this issue has been addressed by me fellow bloggers.

In sum, I decided to have a crazy start of the year with a full schedule hoping to have a lighter schedule in Q4 to have more free time to enjoy my last days in Charlottesville.* For us finance enthusiasts this is would be my initial investment to get a big pay-off later on. I’m hoping for a positive NPV :-)

*By the way, I have periodic panic attacks when I think about how fast those last days are approaching. Man! Time flies in Second Year.

domingo, 4 de septiembre de 2011

First Year Revisited

My first year in Darden was… let’s say intense. At first it felt like a relentless cycle of doing cases and going to classes but after a while I got used to it and even began to enjoy it. Now I can say that it was an amazing experience.

These are some of the highlights from my first year experience:

The Case Method

This is one of Darden’s trademarks. It really allows the whole class to learn from each other and leverage our past experiences and our ideas. Furthermore, it allows us to get to know several industries and while we don’t become experts on each of these industries, we do get an idea of how they do business and what is their competitive landscape, an invaluable asset for your summer internship.

Also, after getting used to the case method, lecture-based courses become very boring and slooow.

Section E

I was lucky enough to be part of the best section in Darden, which is of course Section E. This is a group of extremely talented, competitive and totally awesome people who made the learning environment exceedingly rewarding and also fun and supportive. Getting to know them and bonding with them was one of the best experiences of my first year.

And of course, we won the Darden Cup for the third time in a row (a record, by the way)

Black January

In Darden they call November “Black November” because of the amount of coursework and career related activities that happen during this month. For me November wasn’t so bad, especially when comparing it with January. Being an international student, a lot of my summer internship recruiting activities were off-grounds (as opposed to companies interviewing on Darden grounds), this meant traveling to cities like NYC, Boston and Chicago for interviews sometimes twice a week on top of having a full course load. And the winter weather didn’t help. I had to do a mid-term stranded in Charlotte’s airport which was not fun.

It was brutal.

Of course none of this matters when you get your offer for your…

Summer Internship

I spent my summer in D.C. working for a consulting firm focused on development finance in emerging economies. It was a great summer experience; I got to work in projects with teams around the world in different practices such as small-business finance and mobile and branchless banking.

I loved D.C. it has a lot of things to do (I got to see U2!), plenty of good restaurants, cultural stuff and it is an overall great place to live even though for a while we were one of the hottest cities in America. (temperature-wise, sadly). Overall had a great time and learned a lot.


This was one of my favorite experiences in Darden so far. I spent a week in Barcelona, Spain at the IESE School of Business learning about Strategy, Design and Innovation. Of course, the city is amazing and fun and the class was very interesting (the teacher, Jeanne Liedtka, is awesome).

Also, we got the opportunity to get to know people from the MBAE who provided a more experienced, more “executive” point of view which I found extremely enriching.

I highly recommend this course to anyone who is interested.


I’m sure there are other things that happened over the last year that are worth remembering and writing about but I think this is enough for now.

See you next time!