A Lesson in (Time) Management

“I am definitely going to take a course on time management … just as soon as I can work it into my schedule.” – Louis E. Boone

This quote very well captures the essence of being in business school, and the single greatest challenge that we, as business students, face – managing our time. When you choose to allocate your time to one activity, you are also actively choosing to not do other things. While this sounded like a trivial issue to us as new students who were easily excitable and willing to put in 20 hours a day at the onset, we quickly learned an important lesson. When we were exposed to the full heat of academics, recruiting, club work and social life, I learned, as my classmate Emma puts it, that I can do everything, but not at the same time. Here are some of the “nuggets of wisdom” that I’ve learned about time management:

  1. Get a planner. Planning out every day and every hour of your day may seem like a very corporate thing to do, but trust me, it’s indispensable when you’re in business school. The most important part of being successful is showing up to the right place at the right time, and not being completely clueless. So get a planner and make notes, or manage your commitments on the calendar on your phone. Having a sense of control over your time will help you feel a lot less overwhelmed.
  2. Get your priorities straight. Getting a 4.0 GPA, becoming president of the club you always wanted to join, picking up an on-campus employment opportunity, landing your dream job, and finding time to socialize and take trips with your friends – this is all an incredible fantasy. The chances are that things won’t turn out to be as you had hoped, and some things will be harder than you were prepared for. You have to prioritize by choosing what is most vital to you, give it all you have, and celebrate your successes instead of obsessing over the battles you lost. Remember what is important!
  3. The lesser evil – budgeting time.  It is crucial to budget time for different tasks you have to do during the day. It’s easy to spend 2 hours drafting an assignment and then 4 more hours improving it. Be careful about spending too much time making everything flawless, unless you want to spend 30-40 hours each week working on assignments alone! Everything can’t and won’t be perfect. Sometimes you have to decide what is good enough, and move on to the other things on your plate.
  4. Make the most of your weekends.  During my first week in school, I tried to finish all schoolwork during the weekdays, so I’d have time to relax and explore Durham over the weekends. I now know that this was a bad idea. Don’t set unreasonable expectations for yourself. Definitely use weekends to unwind, and have some fun, but it’s also the best time to work ahead. Make sure you celebrate your Friday evenings at Fuqua Friday, but also use at least part of every weekend to prepare for the coming week’s assignments and classes!
  5. Bring together what you have to do with what you want to do.  Avoid being in the MMS team rooms for 10 hours a day. When you can, have team meetings in coffee shops, over dinner, or in libraries around campus. If you can’t find any time to discover the campus or Durham because of the workload, then bring them together. It’s not that hard!

Business school definitely keeps you on your toes, but making it an ordeal is your own doing. Get smart about how you use your time, and when you do find that occasional night off with no urgent work or fires to be put out, seize the moment and enjoy it without feeling guilty. It’s a precious, rare gift – make the most of it!

Ashima Sehgal

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MMS, Class of 2014. Find out more about me...

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Experience, Salary, Vacation, and an Offer.


mms student

Guest Blogger: MMS Student Michael Xie

Jobless in November

As mid-November rolled around, I was not one of the fortunate few who had already landed a job offer, and therefore able to spend winter break in blissful relaxation. After speaking to my career coach about my resume and career goals, we determined that lack of experience was the biggest problem with my resume. Doing a Winternship was the best option for me to remedy that.

Since I was pursuing a career in strategy/consulting, I limited my search to opportunities that either centered on strategy or business planning in order to gain relevant experience. A couple Winternships fit the bill, but a posting for a Strategy Analyst position at Strayer Education caught my eye. Brand name, strategy, salary, two (out of four) weeks working remotely, around the holidays…Bingo. I applied and reached out to our contact there for some more information about the position. I talked briefly with one of their Senior VPs about the company and the project I would be working on, and received an offer for the internship a couple weeks later.

Strategy, Scheduling, and Modeling

headquarters building for Strayer Education

Strayer Education Headquarters in Herndon, VA.

My Winternship lasted four weeks. I spent the first week at the Strayer Education HQ in Herndon, VA, then worked remotely for the next two weeks. The last week I returned to the office to wrap up my project with them. My first day involved being introduced to people around the office, getting a short rundown of Strayer Education, and sitting in on a team meeting with the scheduling team that I would be working alongside in the upcoming weeks. Work started quickly and I was immediately presented with long-term goals and deliverables.

Over a four-week period I was able to work on a fairly big-picture strategic level, gain extensive experience with excel, and work on marketing and implementation as well as strategic design and planning. I was honestly shocked with the level of engagement in the internship and how much of a contribution I was allowed to make. After doing so many cases in classes at Fuqua, it was really rewarding to be able to work on an actual business case, and create and implement a recommendation. I was not only heavily involved in the project, but I was able to see its launch during my time there.

To Spring and Beyond

In reflection, my Winternship met all of my goals going in—and more. I have now worked in a strategy role that gave me not only solid experience to put on my resume, but helped me apply what I learned in class to a real-world environment. and I also confirmed my desire to pursue work in strategy after graduation. The structure of the Winternship, which allowed me to spend two weeks working remotely, gave me the opportunity to gain experience and still spend time at home in California with family and friends during the holidays. One term later, I have already been able to utilize my experience to get interviews and I have also received my first offer. I highly recommend pursuing a Winternship or a pre-Fuqua summer internship to gain some real work experience and boost your resume with relevant background in your chosen industry or role.

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Habitat for Humanity: Building Houses for the Durham Community

MMS students at Habitat for Humanity construction site

MMS students give back to the community by volunteering for Habitat for Humanity.

On an afternoon in November, I found myself traveling to a small neighborhood on Durham-Chapel Hill Road. As I pulled up the driveway with four classmates, I saw three houses under construction that had “Sold to Habitat of Humanity” signs out front. We got out of the car and were immediately called over by the project leader. The introduction was brief, and in no time, we were given gloves, pouches, hammers and nails. I rushed up a ladder and began helping the volunteer professional builders with the installation of the second floor for one of the houses.

The building project was supported in part by Duke’s Office of Durham and Regional Affairs, which supports the local community and service organizations like Habitat for Humanity of Durham. Habitat is a non-profit that helps to build and repair homes for those less fortunate so that they may have a safe and affordable place to call home. The MMS Net Impact Club called for volunteers to help with local Habitat projects. As Vice President of the club, despite not having any experience in building houses, I signed up with an open mind along with a few classmates. I saw it as a perfect opportunity to connect with the Durham community and to give back to the needy. The Club hopes to build on this new partnership with Habitat and to continue to support the organization in the future.

My classmates and I spent a day on the Habitat construction site. Of course, not everyone was balancing on a half-built second floor framing like I was. For those who didn’t fare well with heights, there were a variety of other roles that people took on—like sawing wooden pieces for the framing or painting. There was something for everyone to do. Despite the hard work, I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon. I got to know several other Duke students who were there, and most of all, I got to give back to my new home of Durham!

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Are you a Fuqua Fit?

The final application deadline for Fuqua’s MMS: FOB program, April 1, 2014, is only a couple of weeks away. If you’re still wondering if you fit the bill of the ideal MMS candidate, this post is aimed at breaking the myth that there, in fact, is an “ideal profile” of an MMS student.

The most important pillar of Fuqua’s philosophy is the idea of “Team Fuqua.” It doesn’t matter if you’ve studied mathematics, physics or humanities in your undergrad, or if you’ve worked for three years prior to the program or not. If you can be an effective member of Team Fuqua, you belong here. And to show that there isn’t one perfect candidate for the program, we will be introducing you to some of the students of the MMS Class of 2014. First in this series is Kishin Wadhwani.

Introduction: Kishin Wadhwani, a resident of Mountain View, California, went to University of Virginia for his undergrad, where he majored in Foreign Affairs. He is heavily interested in technology and entrepreneurship. In his junior (third) year of school, he had to write a business plan for one of his classes, and received a bad grade on it. However, the entrepreneurship bug caught his fancy and he launched his own e-commerce venture. He decided to come to the MMS program to sharpen his business skills and plug the knowledge gaps.

Q. How did your undergraduate background affect your decision to come to Fuqua?
A. I chose to major in Foreign Affairs because I was always keenly interested in comparative political systems. However, it was a theoretical discipline, and while fascinating, I felt the need to supplement it with a practical skillset. Together, politics and business fuel the infrastructure and systems of the world, and this was the common thread of interest for me, triggering my decision to get a business education.

Q. Do you find any synergies in your undergraduate major and the MMS courses?
A. Yes – I feel business and foreign affairs are complimentary fields. In addition to the fact that politics and business drive each other in most countries of the world, a study of foreign affairs gives an institutional view of “why people do what they do.” Business gives us the opportunity to explore those decisions at a micro level.

Q. How do you think your undergrad training has impacted your perception of the business world? What are some of the most pressing challenges for our generation?
A. In undergrad, we looked at issues from a compartmentalized mindset. However, graduate business education is interdisciplinary, forcing us to take account of problems and consequences from multiple perspectives, and be more empathetic.

The challenge, in my opinion, is the flight towards commoditization. Whether it is a physical product or a service, the chase to the bottom (to achieve highest cost efficiency) has come at the cost of quality. To say that profit maximization is the sole purpose of business would be a pigeonholed point of view. It is striking the balance between competing incentives that’s a challenge for us to solve.

Q. Which skill from your undergrad, in your opinion, has been the most valuable for you in the MMS program so far?
A. Working with vast amounts of data, synthesizing and analyzing it in a limited amount of time has definitely been the skill that has been the handiest in the MMS program.

Q. What has been the most effective/ memorable aspect of the program for you so far? What would you change?
A. For me, having access to a great network of people – the professors, guest speakers and visitors from the business world – has been the best part of the program. I especially enjoyed the Innovation and Energy panels organized at Fuqua.

Given the volume of work we have with curriculum and recruiting, we have a tendency to limit our community to other Fuqua students. While we have cross-disciplinary networking events, I would like to bring students from all graduate schools at Duke closer together.

Ashima Sehgal

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What I Found Along the Road

In 2013, I set some big goals for myself. Two of those goals ended up becoming my biggest achievements for the year: I was accepted into the MMS: Foundations of Business program and I ran my first half marathon. In some ways, both seem like activities you might do on your own — filling out an application and crossing a finish line — but I found that without a community, I wouldn’t have succeeded.

running sneakers

Decked out for the marathon with my shiny, new Duke blue laces.

Soon after arriving at Duke in July, I signed up for the first half-marathon I could find in Durham, the Bull City Race Fest. I entered with some friends from my undergraduate program. I was pretty new to competitive races and only had a couple 5Ks under my belt, so it made sense to have company. During a tutoring session for a MMS class, I mentioned my training to Michael Moverman, who happened to be one of Duke’s cross country and track athletes. Michael shared some tips with me and offered route suggestions. Every few weeks, we would talk over my training during the short breaks between classes and I continued to receive great, great insights from him.

After weeks of running around the beautiful Duke campus, I mentioned my newest route to a classmate named Kristy McDaniel. I told her about my plans for the half marathon and Kristy enthusiastically signed up for it, too. We started training together and I was so glad to have a partner who had run several half-marathons before. She kept me accountable when I didn’t feel like running. I was more motivated to run with someone else who could also lend an understanding ear when I needed to gripe.

I had been training for weeks and the race was soon after Fall 1 exams. I felt that even though I didn’t follow my training schedule perfectly, I did the best I could while studying for a master’s degree. The day before the race, another MMS track student-athlete, Audrey Huth, handed me a handwritten note with a shoelace bow and wished me luck on my race. I was so touched by her gesture. When I got home, I put my new sparkly Duke blue laces in my running shoes. When the road got rough during the race, I only had to look down to remember there were a bunch of people cheering for me in spirit, even if we were all on Fall Break.

And I did it! I ran the half and I have my first finisher’s medal to prove it. Along the 13.1 miles across downtown, Trinity Park, and even Duke’s own campus, I reflected on my path to Durham and how I made it from term to term. I realized that Team Fuqua is a community full of mentors, peers, and cheerleaders. I know that I wouldn’t have succeeded in MMS or in the marathon without this support network. You may not discover this important lesson as you apply for admission, but you can expect to receive the same support as I did from Team Fuqua once you’re here — regardless of your goal — and its worth its weight in gold.

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Thoughts on Duke and Durham

Duke and Durham are really different from anything I’ve experienced before or expected. As an international student and as a Fuquan, here are some things I’ve experienced and observed since being here that have really struck me:

Entrance to The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University

Panoramic view of the entrance to Fuqua’s Fox Student Center and Keller East and Keller West wings.

Student Life at Duke & Fuqua

  • Duke is HUGE, definitely the biggest campus I’ve ever seen.
  • Fuqua is the most diverse community that I’ve ever been a part of, period!
  • You can always expect to hear a good story when you start a conversation with a random person you meet at Fuqua.
  • GO BLUE DEVILS! I’ve never seen people so proud of their sports team! Duke has not only achieved a great standard in sports, but also created a unifying force that binds all of Duke together. There’s nothing more uniting than for 2 Dukies to share an experience during a game and to root for our home team.
  • “Study hard and play hard” is not just a motto here. It’s actually a way of life that people believe in and follow.
  • Expect 50 new emails in your inbox, per day!
  • Classes are tough. There always seems to be too much work and too little time to finish it, but it’s the challenges that force us to move forward and improve, isn’t it? We love to be challenged here at Fuqua.
  • Once you get used to the idea of wearing business casual clothes to school every day, students from other schools wearing regular clothes may just seem too “hip.”
  • MMS Students reach for the sky.I love the idea of “Team Fuqua,” and people take real pride in being a member of it!
  • Once you are a Fuquan, you are a Fuquan for life!
  • I’ve been here for 7 months, and I still get lost in Fuqua! It’s huge, and very weirdly shaped, haha!
  • You’ll grow to love your team members. You spend most of your time with them, in and out of class.

students enjoy their Starbucks!

Life in Durham

  • Durham is nothing like the traditional “small town” you might picture. It has good brunch places and welcoming neighborhoods, and is surrounded by nature with lots of trees.
  • The weather is awesome! Clear skies, sunny and not dry at all, but the rain storms can get pretty scary.
  • People are nice. I don’t even have to ask for directions. People walking by notice that I look lost and just come up and offer their help.
  • It’s kind of the ideal town to live in. I’ve always loved to be able to stroll down a small street, find a nice café and just sit, relax, and finish a book. Durham is the type of place where you find people sitting outside of restaurants along the street or sipping a nice cup of coffee at a corner café, with blues playing in the background.
  • The cultural offerings are rich. Pop culture including concerts and art shows are here all year-round. Just pick up a brochure at a café or browse online to find a fun event like Triangle Restaurant Week. Duke itself also offers a lot of events like movie week and concerts that will always keep your weekend calendar filled.
  • Just pick any direction, walk for 5 minutes, and you’ll find yourself in the middle of trees!
  • You can get around with public transit, but it’s so much easier with a car.
  • You don’t really get a lot of shopping time, but that also forces you to plan and make the most of it. When you go grocery shopping, you might want to get an entire week of supplies rather than what might last for only a couple days.
  • When you move here, find a way to get furniture as soon as possible. I slept on the floor for 3 weeks and it was quite tough.
  • You need an American driver’s license to buy a car. You have to pass two tests to get the license, and you need several documents to be able to take the tests.
  • The restaurants here are amazing. Being Chinese and a bit of a cook, I’m extremely picky about what I eat, and Durham has not let me down. I think I’m authoritative enough to say that the Chinese restaurants are very authentic. My first go-to restaurant is Happy China, and I also enjoy Hong Kong China for Dim Sum, and Gourmet Kingdom for Sichuan food. The Sichuan Fish from Happy China always helps whenever I’m homesick. I’ve also heard great comments from my friends about the other types of cuisine in the area, including classic American steak and unique Italian lasagna, etc.
  • It only takes about 20 minutes to drive to the airport and flights are relatively cheap, so it’s easy to fly anywhere!
  • Basically, life is good here. You’ll LOVE it!
Zhi "Frank" Li

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MMS, Class of 2014. Find out more about me...

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From the Court to the Classroom: The “Fist” Team Analogy

If you ask me, North Carolina is home to the best college basketball in the world. I grew up on the folklore of Tobacco Road, and for those unfamiliar with North Carolina, Tobacco Road is not so much a geographical location as it is a basketball asylum — the one place in the South where the hardwood sport, basketball, reigns supreme. It is the home of historic programs at Duke, North Carolina, N.C. State, and Wake Forest; of legendary coaches such as Dean Smith, Jim Valvano, and Mike Krzyzewski; of unforgettable players from David Thompson to Christian Laettner to Tim Duncan to Michael Jordan. Basketball is more than just a game in this state. It’s a metaphor for life — how to lead, how to succeed, and how to be a part of a team.

Team Changeover

MMS students participating in the Duke Basketball Experience

MMS students learn valuable principles of teamwork from the Duke basketball coaching staff.

No one personifies the culture of Tobacco Road better than Duke basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski. That is why every year, MMS: FOB students are given an opportunity to participate in a Duke basketball mini-camp as part of the MMS Team Changeover. Students are assigned to teams at the beginning of the MMS program and then are reassigned to new teams at the beginning of Fall Term 2. This “Team Changeover” is bittersweet. Over the course of the first two terms, your teammates become your extended family and it is difficult to say goodbye. At the same time, you gain a new team and section, offering an opportunity to work with 4 – 5 different classmates. Teams are created to complete assignments, study, network, and socialize. It’s a critical component of Team Fuqua.

The Team Changeover not only allows new team members to bond on the court and experience the tradition of Duke basketball, but also teaches valuable principles that can be carried from the basketball court into the classroom and out into the real world. As I left the camp, I reflected little on perfecting my jump shot, but instead on Coach K’s analogy of the “fist” and his 5 principles of teamwork.

The “Fist”

Coach K uses the analogy of a “fist” to explain effective teamwork. Each finger represents a member of the team. To make the greatest impact, each member of the team must come together like a fist, unified in mind and body. If goals are not aligned, teamwork fails and so does the ability to achieve your objective. It’s analogous to extending a single finger as you strike a brick wall. The result is a broken finger and a shot to your ego.

MMS students participating in the Duke Basketball Experience

Teams learn the value of collective responsibility during defense drills at the Duke Basketball Experience.

Coach Krzyzewski emphasizes 5 words for his teams: communication, trust, collective responsibility, care, and pride. The emphasis is on the power of these words and combining them in a manner that creates unity, which in turn creates victory.

  • Communication: Effective leaders are effective communicators. On the court, we communicated with our teammates when we released a pass to alert our teammate to catch the incoming pass.
  • Trust: Trust is a critical component of an effective team. Without trust, teams can fall into the trap of one person micromanaging the entire operation, thus reducing the overall synergy of the group. During basketball shooting drills, we had to trust our teammates and ourselves to make enough shots to meet our goal. Fortunately, my team met the goal and we didn’t have to do pushups.
  • Care: In the classroom, caring means giving your best effort on every assignment to optimize the likelihood of receiving a top mark. On the court, it means taking care of the basketball and minimizing turnovers.
  • Collective Responsibility: Every member of a team is accountable for the desired outcome. Therefore, it is imperative that each member is encouraged and supported to put forth his or her best effort. Just as collective gains should be praised, effective teams support each member’s individual interests and accomplishments. On the court, Coach K emphasizes team defense. During our defensive drills, each team was encouraged to smack the floor and shout “I love defense!” before each set.
  • Pride: Take pride in your team’s successes. Own your MMS: FOB experience. Celebrate both the big and little wins. Always provide an environment of encouragement and support for your teammates.
Tim Patron

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MMS, Class of 2014. Find out more about me...

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To Apply or Not? That’s the Question & Here’s my Answer:

It’s seventh grade, and I’m listening to my teacher, Mrs. Stoltz, speak about our assignments for the day. The flow chart on the wall delineates our projects for the duration of class. As she goes through each item, she re-emphasizes one statement over and over: “Remember kids, be proactive!” Throughout the day, whether it be in history, math, science, or free-time, we are encouraged to take initiative and go beyond the scope of our duties to strive for excellence. At that time in my life, being proactive didn’t mean much besides, “get your work done, and get it done well.” It was simply a way to get us to finish our assignments in an efficient way. Now, however, I realize that it means much, much more than that.

Initiative. Proactiveness. We hear these words in conjunction with excellence, success, and leadership on a regular basis, especially at Fuqua. I’m sure that you’ve heard these words at some point in your life and rolled your eyes. Am I right? Believe me, I’ve been there! It’s much less about the words themselves. It’s the implications of applying them in our day-to-day behaviors that give way for an amazing array of opportunities that can shock and surprise even the most self-assured of people, and create unique and exciting paths for us in this enigma we call life.

Don’t believe me? Well, what if I told you that being proactive means the difference between being good and being amazing? It means striving for the stars rather than being happy on the ground. For me, it meant the difference between staying in California and going to an MBA program or coming to Duke for the MMS: FOB program. And it all began with an email …

I’ve joked with Cathy Johnson, my Fuqua admissions counselor and friend, about this. The reason I am in this program is because of an email. It’s really true. I had just finished applying to some MBA programs last May when I received an email from Duke inviting me to apply to the MMS: FOB program. Before then, I had never even heard of a Masters in Management Studies program, let alone thought of applying to one. My plan had been simple: get a business degree from a reputable university which could provide the basic business tools to work in the social entrepreneurship sector. I studied hard for the GMAT and worked tirelessly on essays and applications, all the while working 3 jobs. I had laid out my plan in advance and scheduled my days to fit in everything; my year consisted of working at a non-profit and our family’s rug manufacturing business, tutoring calculus, and fine-tuning and submitting MBA applications.

So when I randomly checked my uci.edu email address one evening and saw “Duke University” in the subject line, not only was I not too excited (by that time I was drained from the application process), I was also extremely skeptical. Is this really from Duke University? I thought to myself. Or just some imposter? At first, I thought it was some wanna-be college with a similar name to Duke’s (Harvard College, anyone?). A quick glance at the email didn’t convince me otherwise, so I decided to google the program.

What I saw impressed me. A lot. The program, geared towards recent graduates, seemed great: fundamentals of business, preparing you for the job market, and equipping you with tools to succeed. All good. And of course after seeing the MMS website, I realized that the email was definitely legitimate, and so was the program. I did, however, still have doubts. Did the program offer any benefit to people who had work experience, like me? How much would the program prepare me to get a job that I want? And how exactly did the program measure up to MBA programs? Would it carry the same weight with companies, or would I simply be paying for a few extra letters next to my name? All of these questions, many of them doubts, swirled in my mind. I had already applied to all the programs I wanted to go to. I was done. I had no need to look into this MMS program …

Now, this is a situation I like to call a “proactive/passive moment.” In life, there are situations in which one can take action and be proactive, or sit back passively and do nothing. And as we grow older and have more control over our lives, it becomes progressively easier to be passive and take the lazy way out. These moments can be as small as deciding to help a stranger pick themselves up after a fall, or as big as deciding to speak up when a severe injustice is occurring in front of you. One thing is certain; these moments happen multiple times in a day, week, and lifetime, and only we have the power to decide which action (or non-action) to take.

In moments like these, I like to think of my choices and how I might feel about them in the future. Would I regret them, or be happy? I have an innate desire to live life to the fullest. Carpe diem, if you will. So, more often than not (if I am honest with myself), I find that I would regret NOT taking action more than taking an action. This case about MMS was no different. I thought about it and realized something: this could become something big, or it couldn’t. I could either see if the program was right for me and apply, or I could just sit back and wait for the other schools to respond. The latter option would definitely be the easiest, but truly, whether or not I got into the program was irrelevant. For me, the most important thing was being completely content that I had done everything in my power to take this opportunity, even if I ended up going to one of the MBA programs I had already applied to. What mattered most was that I would know that I had given it a chance. No regrets, right? I really had nothing to lose!

Needless to say, I applied to MMS: FOB, got in, and am in Durham writing about it now. The funny thing is that although I busted my butt crafting my application and submitting it in time (I applied very late in the admissions cycle), the only thing going through my mind was: Be proactive. Do your best, so you don’t regret it in the future. I viewed the process as an opportunity to explore, and because of this, I opened myself up to a new experience I couldn’t have imagined before. I’ve found that Fuqua has one of the most amazing resources in the world when it comes to social entrepreneurship, and that all of my innate principles (having an impact, leaving a legacy) are core values that Duke embodies. I realized that this school, and this program, was actually the perfect fit for me, much more than any MBA program I had applied to. So when I got the phone call from Cathy about my admission and scholarship offer, I knew that despite my initial doubts, I had definitely made the right choice. And the rest of those MBA programs? I got rejected from EVERY SINGLE ONE … if that’s not fate, then I don’t know what is.

So life, and my teacher Mrs. Stoltz, have both taught me that being proactive leads to amazing things. Taking initiative clears your mind up for different possibilities, opening up an array of different doors that could not have been opened without that first, seemingly futile, action. If I had ignored that email — that one email — I would not be at Duke. That’s kind of mind-blowing. So next time you are faced with a proactive/passive moment, however insignificant it may seem, stop yourself and think. Think about what kind of person you want to be, and take action based on that desire. Not only will you feel accomplished, but you will also completely and honestly be the person you wish in that moment: the person you truly are. And maybe, just maybe, that action might change your life forever.

Danya Akbar

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Business Case Competition Provides Consulting Experience

Now that most of the MMS: FOB class has gone through the first rush of recruiting season, it seems that one of the popular routes is consulting. I had only vaguely heard of what consulting was before coming to Fuqua, but when given the chance to try it for myself, I signed up for the MMS Accenture Case Competition during the last term. The mock competition provided a chance to tackle a case like a consulting team would for Accenture, with a timeframe of only 48 hours. It was a stressful couple of days, but I think my classmates can agree that we learned a lot. Now we’re looking ahead to some group projects, including one in Strategy class that makes me glad I had the case competition experience. Here’s the play-by-play of how the competition went:


11:17 am: I sit at the table with my teammates Anastasia, Fareed, and Chase in the Kirby Reading Room as other teams find places to sit together. I rushed out of class to learn a bit more about our task ahead. We had enlisted as a group in the MMS Accenture Case Competition.

We listen to Jaclyn, an MMS 2012 alumna, and Ellen, a grad from Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering with a Master’s in Engineering Management. They introduce the Accenture culture, and give us a crash course in decision worksheets and issue trees.

12:47 pm: We receive the case, written by Jaclyn and Ellen in an email. The superintendent of Durham Public Schools (DPS) is considering introducing a supplementary online program for science courses. After an initial reading of the case, we start some internet research, finding anything that seems relevant. Anastasia and I collect data from the DPS website on test scores for analysis. Chase and Fareed look for examples of online schools, supplementary study sites, and public schools that went online.

5:45 pm: We met at NOSH, a nearby restaurant, for a quick bite and start discussing our strategy.

6:25 pm: Arriving at Fuqua, we find people milling about outside to catch some fresh air. My friends already look exhausted. I’m glad we took a break. We settle into an empty classroom since all the team rooms seem like they’ve been lived in for hours.

9:30pm: I have about 10 Excel and browser windows up all over my computer, and I decide there are enough statistics for the initial round of the competition. We each take an area of the case to focus on: technology, budget, strategy, and test scores. Thank goodness for Google Drive — we can all see and make adjustments to the information at the same time.

We start to examine what we have. It’s pretty late and we still haven’t committed to whether or not the science program is a good idea. We set the timer for 45 minutes to regroup.


1:29 am: We are still pouring over the decision worksheet, issue tree, and our presentation slides. There’s class in a few hours and some homework due! It’s important that everything is clear, but I’m not sure how much sense I’m making right now …

2:55 am: Chase drives me home. As we leave, we notice that some of our friends competing on other teams are still in the team rooms, packed with snacks and caffeinated drinks of all sorts.

7:45 am: I wake up to find that Anastasia and Farheed are already going over the work that Chase and I completed. There are plenty of typos, but keen eyes catch them.

11:35 am: At a table in the Fox Center, we scan over our report one more time to make sure we’re submitting the right copy. So many have been passed around! And then … send. I take a deep breath. It’s done. Now all there’s left to do for a while is wait for the results. The judges will be announcing who passes the first round later this afternoon.

5:15 pm: I’m getting dressed after a nice nap at home to head to Fuqua Friday. My phone starts buzzing. Both Anastasia and Chase sent me messages. “Wake up! We’re on to the next round!” I choose comfy clothes, knowing there’s another long night ahead of me.

6:46 pm: We regroup, settle back into our room, and start on the details of our presentation. In the final round, we have to expand on our initial analysis that we already did and give recommendations that we can back up with facts. We start by returning to some of our previous information and we each take up the parts that are most familiar.

9:00 pm: Where did all that time go?! We review what we have left to do. We set an alarm and regroup in 30 minutes. We decide to be done in an hour.

9:42 pm: Deadlines are made to be passed, so they say. We’re nowhere close to where we want to be. We discuss how to set up the presentation. I suggest we tell a story with our recommendation at the end and after a short discussion, we all agree. We get back to work, figuring out what goes in and what’s left out.

11:11 pm: We decide to start wrapping it up. We’re all exhausted.


12:27 am: It took a while, but now we’re finally leaving. That’s it.

I’m a bit nervous because we haven’t practiced our presentation at all. We plan on practice in the morning. So it’s time to lay out my clothes and get to sleep ASAP.

7:10 am: Anastasia picks me up. I’m thankful she’s driving. I don’t wear high heels often, but I feel like my shoes are not the real reason that I feel shaky.

8:33 am: We are in the room next to where we’ll be presenting. Glad we’re going first, but I wish we had a bit more time to prepare. We’ve talked out our presentation a few times, made some last minute tweaks, and are as ready as we’re going to be. I take some deep breaths and together we shake and laugh out our stress like we learned in Business Communications class. We’re ready to go.

9:20 am: We did it! We’re done! Thinking back, I definitely could have been stronger in my section of the presentation, but we were saturated in the information and kicked it up in the question and answer section. Now we are back to waiting again, but decided ahead of time to do it outside the presentation room. There’s plenty of homework to catch up on in the meantime.

10:47 am: We are called back into the presentation room. All four of the groups have presented. One of the judges thanks us for our hard work and talks about each of the teams. We receive second place! They liked our information and unique recommendation, but wanted the recommendation earlier in our presentation. So that’s that. I feel bad for suggesting the “story-telling” method, but the point of the competition was to learn some new things quickly and present it as polished as possible. Without a doubt, that is what we did.

▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪

This case competition was a pivotal moment for me. I had delved into the project with my teammates and we presented our findings to the best of our ability. The deadline was stressful and we all wanted to win, but we put in our best work and I saw things in myself I hadn’t expected. I realized that I have an interest in strategy and saw what I could add to a group under tight circumstances. I feel like the case competition enabled me to show some of my strengths. Walking away, I’m happy with the work we did and happier for what I learned in the meantime.

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25 Random Things: Are You the Next Piece of the Puzzle?

In my last post, I talked about Team Fuqua. Team Fuqua is what it is because of its people. Each person admitted into one of the MMS programs is an irreplaceable piece of the Team Fuqua puzzle. As applications begin to flood into the admissions office, the admissions committee is tasked with piecing together the puzzle for next year’s class. If my class is any indication, each student is carefully chosen, and brings a unique story and perspective to the program.

Are you the next piece of the puzzle?

This year’s MMS application (for both MMS: FOB and MMS: DKU programs) asks prospective students to provide a list of 25 random things to help the admissions committee to get to know you better (read more about it in this blog post from Cathy Johnson, Assistant Director of Admissions). This essay provides an opportunity to share a wide range of interests and insight into who you really are. So keeping that in mind, have FUN with it! What makes you different, unique, and interesting to be around? Consider this a personal, longer version of the David Letterman Show’s humorous top 10 lists.

Inspired by the new essay prompt, I compiled a list of 15 random things about myself, but be sure to write 25 for your own application essay. I hope this helps you to structure your response as you prepare your application.

  1. I want to fly jets and Blackhawk helicopters! I am currently working towards the pilot licenses and certifications needed to do so.
  2. I co-produced a documentary film which won entry into Durham’s Full Frame Film Festival. As a result, I was able to spend the weekend watching some of the world’s most entertaining documentary films, free of charge.
  3. I won 10 intramural competitions in undergrad at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Go Heels!) including underwater hockey, poker, NCAA basketball bracket selection, and soccer.
  4. I can’t whistle. For that matter, I can’t do anything that would qualify as a “superhuman” trick.
  5. I still have 2 baby teeth. According to the dentist, I’m stuck with them for life.
  6. I have an extra bone in my foot. My X-rays have been the subject of several anthropological studies. I am a freak of nature.
  7. I am a published poet. I also like to freestyle rap, but don’t ask me to battle. I can’t handle the pressure.
  8. My last name, Patron, is pronounced Pay-tron, as in Patron Saint. It is not pronounced Pa-trone, as in the tequila, unless, of course, we are hanging out at the local bar.
  9. I swam with dolphins in the Bahamas. I also grabbed a few lobsters. They are quicker than they look!
  10. Malcolm Gladwell is my favorite author. His style combines studies and stories to explain how the world works. I like that he has made social science cool for water cooler chatter. His books are perfect conversation starters. Start chatting with me and it won’t be long before Mr. Gladwell shows up. As a student-journalist, Gladwell is the kind of storyteller I hope to emulate.
  11. I come from a lineage of French royalty. My great grandfather was a Duke of France. I’m not sure what that makes me.
  12. I don’t think NASCAR is a sport. It is simply glorified speeding. Sorry Jimmie Johnson!
  13. Yosemite National Park is my favorite vacation spot in the United States. I have been there 5 times. Every time I visit, I find something new to admire, from secret hiking trails and fishing spots to the diverse wildlife and majestic rock faces. It’s the great outdoors at its finest.
  14. I participated in a Shamu show at SeaWorld. Having watched the recent CNN documentary film, Blackfish, I guess I’m lucky to be alive.
  15. If I could have lunch with any 5 people dead or alive, I would invite Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Jesus Christ, Thomas Edison, and William Shakespeare. Each man changed the way we think about the world, life, and humanity. In the event that one of these men could not make it (I’m sure they’re busy guys), I would invite basketball great and fellow Tar Heel, Michael Jordan.

I wish you the best as you complete your application. Remember to be yourself. You may just be the missing piece of the MMS puzzle!

Tim Patron

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MMS, Class of 2014. Find out more about me...

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