(Above: The view from my balcony at 7 a.m. today. One of winter's only perks: sunrises that sleep in.)
Five blissful weeks away from class will end on Monday.
Q3 is coming. The six-week sprint will include finance, management communications, decision analysis (which I weirdly love), macroeconomics, and strategy. I'm looking forward to it — five weeks, while blissful, is too long. (Suggestion to Darden powers-that-be: How about a week between Q1 and Q2 off, and a four-week winter break?)
It's as if our brains have been on a runaway rocket for months, and suddenly everything slammed to a stop. Now we have to get the engine going again.
Highlights of Winter Break
Venture Capital Bootcamp — This fantastic multi-day workshop is part of Darden's entrepreneurial program, though you need to apply and students from other MBA programs also attend (go Terps!). We also end up in groups that worked on a VC case together, which was fascinating and fast-paced. I learned that I have a lot to learn about the venture capital funding calculus and that VC really works for a certain type of enterprise and timetable, not your average mom-and-pop business. We met amazing people, in the VC community, the startup community, and within our own schools. One of my favorite experiences at Darden so far.
Job treks to D.C. — Each year over winter break, first-years organize visits to companies off-grounds. Ex: Students interested in energy might travel to Houston to tour a few companies of interest and meet a few executives. I would love to end up back home in D.C. one day, so I helped out with two treks: MES (Media, Sports, and Entertainment Club)'s D.C. trek and a brand-new D.C. trek aimed at entrepreneurs.
The MES trek visited The Washington Post, Discovery Communications, NFL Players Association, Sirius/XM Radio, and the Washington Nationals. Most of these visits featured panels with executives, who spoke about the role MBAs play. We got to ask questions of Discovery's Chief Marketing Officer and the Nats' Team President, among other superstars, which was awesome.
The E-trek skipped the corporate halls (and the tie and suit of most treks) for an array of startups. We visited Affinity Lab in Adams Morgan, a cool working space above the Tryst coffeeshop where hoodies and sneakers fit in just fine. We met a handful of entrepreneurs there who were working on everything from socially progressive PR to crowdsourced community building to solar thermal products. It was a refreshing switch from the profit-focused firms we learn about most days. Sure, all these companies want to make a dollar, but it's not the first or fifth thing their owners mention.
We also visited FortiusOne, a company that transforms mountains of raw info into compelling and enlightening maps, and Opower, which charts energy use compared to your neighbors in hopes of nudging you to a more energy-efficient lifestyle (and, as the numbers show, it really works!). Both are young startups with 25-60 employees and a great energy in the air.
And we had lunch with local entrepreneurs from smaller companies AwayFind, FELA, and FitFeud, who all had interesting and insightful stories to share.
Field trips for MBAs = a big hit