Category: Student Blogs

When You Look at the World Differently, You May Just Change It for Good

The following blog post was written by Brett Welcher, MBA Class of 2019

Last month, I traveled across South Africa to learn more about the largest economy in the second most populous continent in the world. The 12-day trek was part of my Simon MBA program and was organized to help students gain hands-on experiential learning through corporate visits, cultural immersions, and a live case study.

More than two decades after the end of apartheid, South Africa is playing a key economic and political role on the continent, and many of my 300 hours in the country were spent examining the pillars that have contributed to South Africa’s prosperous growth. Here are the most important takeaways I gained while doing business in South Africa:

Successful Urban Revitalization Focuses on the Creative Community

Photo of #makeyourmark graffitied on an outdoor wall

#MakeYourMark encourages street artists around Johannesburg to literally make their mark and help beautify the city. Public art has been central to the success of Johannesburg’s urban revitalization.

Did you know that Johannesburg is home to one of the most successful urban renewal projects in the world? Located within the Central Business District, the Maboneng Precinct has emerged from a state of abandoned disrepair to become a mixed-use creative hub filled with apartments, restaurants, shops, and art studios. For the first time in a generation, a community of creative young professionals have chosen to live and work in downtown Johannesburg, and as a result, South Africa’s largest city is optimistically looking ahead towards the future.

The success of Maboneng has also spurred worldwide interest in urban revitalization, as officials examine whether the project’s model can be sustainably replicated in other cities to help rejuvenate communities, fuel urban growth and drive innovation. In fact, in the coming weeks, our class will be presenting our findings to city officials from Rochester, NY – Simon’s home town.

Global Awareness Is Crucial for All Businesses Today

Shipping containers on a dock in Cape Town.

Cape Town is one of the most important industrial centers and a major seaport in South Africa.

Home to 11 official languages and a rich collection of ethnic backgrounds, it’s no wonder South Africa is known as the Rainbow Nation. This diversity and makeup has been an important factor in furthering my understanding of business, particularly as world markets become more interconnected and interdependent on emerging economies.

This point was further emphasized at Sanlam, a financial services group headquartered in Cape Town. During our company visit, we engaged in an hour-long discussion with the group’s CEO where he articulated the challenges of doing business during the 2008 financial crisis, as well as in the era of apartheid.

The biggest takeaway from our talk were the perspectives we gained on the business landscape in Africa. According to Sanlam, “the opportunity in Africa is characterized by falling trade barriers and greater intra-Africa trade, changing customer demographics, more diversified economies, and major investments from other parts of the world – all drivers of growth on the continent.”

The Future of Africa Is Bright

ALA group photo.

We posed for a photo with members of the ALA. The visit was a highlight of the trip for me.

Imagine meeting the future Nelson Mandela, the next Wangari Maathai, or the African Bill Gates. At the African Leadership Academy (ALA), this prestigious institution seeks to transform Africa by developing a powerful network of over 6,000 leaders who will work together to address Africa’s greatest challenges, achieve extraordinary social impact, and accelerate the continent’s growth trajectory.

Every fall, the academy welcomes young leaders aged 16-19 from across Africa to begin a highly selective, two-year pre-university program. Graduates often continue their education by enrolling in colleges and universities around the world, including the University of Rochester.

Visiting the ALA was a major highlight for me. The opportunity to meet and hear directly from young student leaders was inspiring. It gave me new ideas about business and the world, and underscored the degree to which young people are rising up in every continent to seize the possibilities of tomorrow.

The Grand Takeaway

Photo of safari animals.

Experiencing South Africa’s robust tourism industry with a visit to the world-renowned Kruger National Park.

After two weeks abroad, I returned from South Africa with a myriad of rich experiences and profound memories that will continue to shape my business perspectives for years to come.

This life changing trip provided a solid foundation for exploring international business possibilities and practices in an emerging nation. It immersed me in a high growth urban regeneration project in Johannesburg. And most importantly, the trek enriched my understanding and appreciation for diverse ideas and innovative ways of doing business.

An interesting moment occurred on my return flight home. As I boarded the plane in Johannesburg, I came across an inspirational billboard nearby. It read: “When you look at the world differently, you may just change it for good.”

My trek to South Africa greatly expanded my aperture of the world. As far as changing it for good, my journey towards making a lasting and meaningful impact continues.

Second-year MBA reflects on her “Simon Bucket List”

The following blog post was written by Raven Hudson, MBA Class of 2018

As a second-year MBA student concentrating in marketing and entrepreneurship, my time at Simon is drawing to a close. The New Year is a good time to evaluate progress and set new goals, so in that spirit, I thought back to the “Simon Bucket List” I created before coming to business school, and I’m proud of how much I’ve accomplished in a year and a half.

My Simon Bucket List

Diversify my portfolio – take advantage of the finance and accounting courses available
Our MBA program is ranked No. 2 in the world for finance by Financial Times of London, and regardless of which of the 15 areas of study you choose to pursue at Simon, I recommend taking a few finance or accounting courses. Finance heavily influences marketing, especially when you own profits and losses and are in charge of launching new products. The courses I took came in handy during my internship at Baxter Inc. in the Commercial Leadership Development Program (CLDP), and will continue to serve me well when I return to Baxter as a CLDP marketing manager after graduation. If you’re interested in marketing like I am, I recommend Entrepreneurial Finance and Financial Statement Analysis.

Students gather with Carla Harris.

Students gathered with Carla Harris at the SFIC event.

“Expect to Win” – meet Carla Harris in person
“Create your own agenda, know who you are and what you want from your career, and don’t spend a lot of time comparing yourself to others.”- Carla Harris, Managing Director at Morgan Stanley

After following her career for the past two years, my dreams of meeting Carla Harris came true at an event sponsored by Simon Finance and Investment Club (SFIC). I also recommend reading her book Expect to Win, in which she outlines key strategies for thriving the workplace.

Make an impact – give back to the community while gaining consulting skills
I came into business school with 2.5 years of work experience. Compared to the Simon MBA class profile, I knew it would benefit me to find a project to enhance my work experience so I could be a competitive candidate to recruiters. Simon Vision Consulting allowed me to gain project management and problem solving skills by managing a team of four of my peers, while giving me the opportunity to give back to the Rochester community at the same time. There are various clubs here at Simon that also allow you to give back, such as Simon Volunteers and Net Impact.

Gain global experience go on an international immersion trip
The Simon EDGE program offers global awareness exposure for MBA students through opportunities to travel abroad for 1-2 weeks. In the fall I took a “Doing Business in South Africa” course led by Dean Ainslie, and we traveled as a group to South Africa in December. I recommend immersion trips to anyone passionate about understanding how business is conducted on a global-level.

raven_photoBecome a student leader on campus – bring my “vision” to Simon
I’ve always had a passion for economic development. Before coming to Simon, I worked as a marketing consultant for a law firm that focused on small business and entrepreneurship. Simon Vision Consulting allowed me to pursue my passion, and I am now the president of the student-led pro bono consulting organization. I highly recommend making the MBA experience your own by getting involved with student-led clubs and organizations. With more than 30 options, there’s something at Simon for everyone.

With two terms left in my MBA, there are still a few things I’d like to accomplish, including more international travel and attending more conferences. I plan to make the most of my final months as an MBA student, and I look forward to taking on my next challenge – my full-time role at Baxter!

Three Most-Asked Questions about Simon’s MS in Business Analytics Program

The following blog post was written by Jen Park, MS in Business Analytics Class of 2018

Choosing a graduate program is as hard a decision as choosing the right b-school. Thus, I want to address the three most-asked questions I receive as an MS in Business Analytics student at Simon.

  1. Do you need programming background? No! In fact, I didn’t have programming experience before coming to Simon. However, as you might have guessed from our admission process, which does not require you to take computer science or tech-related classes, our program is designed to train students from “ground zero” to professional level by the time of graduation. During our first term, we took classes on R programming, stats, economics, and marketing. Once we became more familiar with programming, we were ready to tackle the next introductory classes on business analytics. Essentially, our classes build upon each other, and in winter and spring, we will work on a project with professors and companies to apply the skills we acquired in classes to real-world business situations.
  2. Do you nJen Parkeed an undergraduate degree in business? Some prospective students worry that they are unqualified to apply because they do not have an undergraduate business major, such as economics or marketing. Rest assured that you do not need a business major in order to apply. My classmates come from various academic backgrounds, including physics, biology, mathematics, and engineering. And, similar to my previous answer, there are introductory business classes in the program to help all students get on the same page. The most important thing is not where you are coming from, but your passion for data analytics!
  3. What do you like about your business analytics classes? First off, Simon has always been big on data, even before it became a trend – Simon professors are very knowledgeable and experienced working in this area. Secondly, I like how we are learning the most important skills to become a data analyst: R, Python, SQL, and Tableau. They are not only interesting subjects to learn, but also the most wanted skills in the industry. Lastly, taking business classes is advantageous. Since Simon is a business school, we have the advantage of taking both data analytics classes and business classes! The majority of my classmates will be looking for full-time work after graduation so understanding the business landscape is another crucial asset.

If you’re considering applying to Simon’s MS in Business Analytics program, I hope you found this blog post helpful! Please feel free to contact the Admission Office or a Simon Admissions Ambassador if you have questions.

Taking Risks and Reaping Rewards

The following blog post was written by Koji Takagi, MBA Class of 2019

I recently took a big risk. I left my comfortable job. I left a familiar place. Most difficult of all, I moved 6 hours and 36 minutes away (by plane) from my wife. I did these things so I could further develop myself by earning an MBA at Simon. Several times a week, I mutter to myself: “why in the world did I do this? My life was so comfortable.” True, my life was comfortable, but that does not mean that I was living up to my potential.

To remind myself that this risk was worthwhile, I want to take some time to number several of the rewards that have resulted from taking this risk:

Koji1) I gained a network of brilliant, kind individuals. I haven’t met someone yet who would not be willing to help me. I have a classmate who took the time to teach me some calculus just because he wanted to help. I have a classmate who, hopefully, will become a business partner someday. I have also met a number of alumni who have taken the time to get to know me and have shared their experiences. These interactions have helped me realize that what I am doing will help me get to where I want to go.

2) I am learning so much. Simon wants everyone to be aware of its reputation: a program that is unabashedly analytical. I can vouch for this 100 percent. Every class takes an analytical approach to learning, which is shoring up my skills in this area. Simon also has world-class faculty. Lectures are engaging, even subjects that I am indifferent to, like accounting.

3) I am having new experiences. I did a ropes course and I went zip lining during Orientation, two things that I would never have done before. By the way, I probably won’t do either again. But, I am happy I tried. I went to New York City for networking events and Philadelphia for a networking conference. So much happens during an MBA.

This list could easily go on for a while, but I think you get the idea. Sometimes it is good to get out of your comfort zone and take a risk. A wild ride and some unexpected rewards are likely waiting for you.

​Cheers.