My name is Ben, and I’d like to tell you about a typical day in my life during my first semester in the Wisconsin School of Business MBA program.
First though, keep this in mind: My schedule is not meant to be representative of the typical A.C. Nielsen student’s schedule. All of us have different backgrounds and life circumstances, so I don’t know if there is a “typical” schedule. As for me, I never took a statistics, business, or marketing class in my life before starting the MBA program, so I probably need to study more than some of my classmates. Also, I’m married, live 6 miles from campus, and rely on the bus for transportation. Factor all of this into my day.
6:00 AM – Wake up, negotiate with my phone alarm for about 15 minutes, ultimately get out of bed
6:45 AM – Catch the bus to campus. I live pretty far away from campus, so I have to catch the bus earlier than most people do. On the bus ride, I will usually read any material that doesn’t involve a lot of writing or calculating. Good example: a case for Marketing. Bad example: practice questions for finance, which involve writing and using a calculator.
7:30 AM – Arrive on campus and either go to the gym or study. The gym is really close, and at this hour it’s pretty quiet. Sometimes, though, I need to take that time to catch up on school work.
9:30 AM – First class of the day. On Mondays and Wednesdays that means Marketing. The class usually involves a lot of discussion and debate among the students, which is a lot of fun. On Tuesdays and Thursdays that means Data to Decisions. D2D (as we call it) involves taking an intimidating amount of information, finding the meaningful insights within that information, and presenting it effectively to influence a major decision. It’s a very practical class, but sometimes I struggle with the more quantitative aspects of it. Then again, I was an English major in a former life, so…
11:00 AM – Second class of the day. On Mondays and Wednesdays that means Financial Accounting. The class focuses less on the bookkeeping aspects of accounting and more on the use of accounting information to understand the nature and health of a business. Being fluent in the language of accounting is a good skill to have, but applying that skill is often tricky. On Tuesdays and Thursdays that means Finance. This class, though often quite difficult, can be very interesting. It probably won’t come up a lot in Marketing Research, but the fundamental principles of valuating investments apply to all aspects of business. Our professor is pretty hilarious as well, so that helps to keep me awake and focused.
12:30 PM – Lunch. On Mondays, this often means that a guest speaker comes to speak with the A.C. Nielsen Center students. The topics range from the ethics and methods of doing marketing research on kids to the best ways of using social media to understand customer opinions and perceptions. Also, there’s free food, for which I am always thankful. On other days, one of the 2nd-year ACN students will give an informal presentation on their internship from the summer and answer our questions about the experience. This is a great way to get a candid, in-depth look at what internships are like, and what specific companies are like. I try never to miss one of these.
1:30 PM – Meeting. If there’s one thing you can be guaranteed of, it’s that you will have a lot of meetings. This will zap more of your free time than anything else in your day. My early afternoon meeting will often pertain to any of several group projects on my to-do list. This could be for a Marketing case, a Marketing Research project, a D2D assignment, a study group for an exam, or for our cross-functional Integrated Company Analysis (ICA) project, which incorporates everything we’ve learned this semester into one mega project.
2:30 PM – Another meeting. In addition the groups listed above, this time slot is usually reserved for school function groups, such as the Master’s Committee or the Graduate Marketing Network. Usually these groups aren’t too time-consuming, and they offer a lot of value and a great learning experience. On Tuesdays, however, I have my Marketing Research class, so I’ll most likely be learning the tricks of the trade with my ACN classmates.
4:00 PM – Call someone for advice. Seeking advice is something I never did as an undergraduate and always do as a graduate student. It is also one of the single best changes I’ve made to the way I approach school. Usually I’ll call someone from our External Advisory Board (EAB), which comprises some pretty influential people in the industry. The EAB members have worked in, worked with, or ran the Consumer Insights divisions of almost every major company in the U.S. They’ve helped me learn more about companies, fine-tune my resume, practice for interviews (specifically tailored to a company of interest), and manage my career goals.
4:30 PM – Another meeting. This is usually a break-out meeting, where one group member and I go off to work on a specific part of a group project. By now, you’ve probably gotten the idea that the first semester of the MBA is very team-focused. At first that annoyed me, but working with different personalities and scheduling meetings when everyone has a different schedule has taught me a lot, and it will definitely come in handy when I go back into the real world.
7:00 PM – Dinner, often hosted by a potential employer. We get wined and dined a lot, and the employer info sessions give us a chance to interact with our potential employers and understand more about the companies to which we’ll most likely be applying. This year, more than 15 companies came on campus to recruit 11 students—we’re a pretty lucky group. Also, free food.
8:00 PM – Assuming that there is no employer info session, this is around the time I get down to studying on my own. Whatever I don’t get done during the school week (Monday-Thursday), I’ll get done on Friday or Sunday. I reserve Saturday for spending time with my wife. Often on Saturdays I just want to curl up into a ball on the couch and watch football, but my wife forces me to go out and actually do stuff. There’s plenty to do in Madison, and even though I don’t want to leave the thoughtless bliss of my couch, by the end of the day I’m always thankful she dragged me outside to experience this awesome town.
10:15 PM – Catch the last bus home.
Fall asleep Read some Marketing stuff on the bus.
11:00 PM – Try not to wake my wife as I check email one last time, get ready for bed, and then crawl into bed. Every day is a battle against a mountain of work, but every day I learn something truly interesting, meet someone who will surely change the world, and have fun with great classmates and friends.