Foundations Term is Over… Finally!

Frankly I did not anticipate it would take so long to post again here… MBA, as generally perceived, tends to be a breeze-through, a party-cause, and a pay-for-degree kind of thing. Yet the reality is… well, at least ‘a tiny little bit’ bitter at the very best.

But in any case, the first milestone is behind us – and it enables us to capture some beautiful moments of the Canadian fall. (well maybe not so Canadian to the true Canadians since most Canadians hate Toronto and doesn’t really consider the city Canadian XD)

Queen’s Park on a particular sunny day, October 2015.


At Rotman, the first year is divided into 4 terms: Foundations (1 month), Term 1 (3 months), Term 2 (3 months), and Capstone (1 month). With the grades for Foundations Term released yesterday, I guess I’m finally in a slightly more credible position to share a bit on what happened…

Foundations Term consisted of 4 courses:

  • Introduction to Model-Based Decision Making
    • This course teaches Decision Trees, as well as the concept of Utility, leading to an introduction of basic Game Theory and Nash Equilibrium.
    • The goal of this course is to have the students realize that, 1) utility for any given situation can and should be quantized (i.e. turned into numbers) and 2) decisions has consequences and it is very important to consider the consequences before making decisions.
  • Integrating Models and Data
    • The course focuses on the foundations of statistics – when and how should statistics be used, and, what are the fundamental limitations of using statistics to prove any points in general.
    • Simply put – Correlation does not equal Causation and You can never be sure of anything from statistics.
  • Managerial Economics
    • Touches upon all basic concepts of microeconomics such as supply / demand, monopoly / duopoly / oligopoly and their intrinsic properties, consumer surplus and basic pricing strategies, as well as applications of economics in strategy (i.e. auctions and Nash Equilibrium again!).
    • For people (such as me) with very limited economic background, this course provided completely different insights into what all those articles in the news is about!
  • Business Ethics
    • Introduces several different frameworks / approaches for assessing ethicality in making decisions, The classes are centered around recent industrial controversies and the crucial part is about learning how those frameworks should be applied in practice.
    • Surprisingly, this turned out to be interesting and useful…

Looking back at the past month, I would say that these courses has been immensely useful. On top of the knowledge that were taught within these classes, the fact that these topics were all extremely application-specific made it a good thing to be learnt under a somewhat mentor-based approach. In all courses above, the professors would personally show their steps in analyzing real-life problems, and, with their extremely high caliber in the subject areas, clear the misunderstandings on the common divergences between theory and practice.

Of course, just like any school… the sad fact is that, being a world-class researcher does not necessarily translate into being a good teacher. For some of the courses, I could see that the professor was trying to “dumb down” so that he could explain things in simple ways that even “idiots” (comparatively) could understand – only to fail miserably (from our consensus… XD). But then again, you can’t get along with everyone’s style… At least they were trying their best and are regardless super friendly too. Plus there’s absolutely no question about their actual skill level.

The other part about those courses is that, well, since GMAT is a joke on mathematics – Yes I know I somehow hold a BMath degree but I still feel like an idiot on maths – the professors had to put in a lot of effort in skipping the mathematical proofs.on most materials. For example, they had to say “slope of this line” instead of “derivative of this function” – and even this is destroying most kids from non-math majors such as Design, Education, Music, Psychology etc. Yet, without those mathematical foundations, most theories actually ended up even more cryptic than they were supposed to be. And then the professor had to spend extra time on ensuring coverage for these people, while I sat there, idle… But nothing’s perfect right? Plus you could always discuss the intricate details personally with the professors – they all know what you mean mathematically, and they all know way more than you do.

Overall, on a scale of 100%, I would say the utility of the courses are at about 80% -90%. They are nice refreshers to the concepts, and I would say the real value comes from the access to the world-class professor themselves. Leverage that as much as you can.

(And MBA jargon has started to mix into my words too, even just after one month… ouch…)


That seems to be quite a lot for today… I’ll keep more stuff for the next time. 🙂

Aside: Life of typical MBA students

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Hmm… if it doesn’t balance there’s must be something wrong right… but where?

Next time I’ll write more about the true MBA life. Stay tuned.

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3 weeks into the game

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Apparently life in the MBA was way busier than I have imagined. Although I do not have an accurately account, I would estimate my total weekly workload for the past 3 weeks to be as follows:

  • 15 hours of lecture at ~3 hours per day, times 5 work days per week.
  • 20-30 hours of homework / assignments at ~8-10 hours per assignment, times 2-3 assignments per week
  • 5 hours of reading at 1-2 hours per course, times 4 courses
  • 5-10 hours of events / seminars / workshops that happens outside schoolwork.

This will sum up to about 50-55 hours per week. Now I’m really starting to miss my previous work which is only about 32 work hours per week on average… (Well hope my past boss doesn’t really see this )

The clubs I’ve joined haven’t started yet… I think I’ll write something on them once I get a slightly better idea.


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Of course, 3 weeks into the game also mean that I’ve started getting some ideas about what MBA is. Some parts are the stuff I don’t like, but other things are just amazing. But then again, just like any other job (since MBA is effectively a job), there’s nothing perfect.

One thing I’ve noticed though, is that people here have absolutely MAXED OUT their passion and stamina. So far I’ve seen almost NO ONE who was just dragging through – I can just easily sense that everyone is trying their best do become the best. This alone gives me the chills – skills and experiences aside, I’m really not sure if this level of devotion could be observed anywhere else… Well this is a school after all so this is all normal, right? 😛


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On my classmates – frankly, some people here sucks at maths and/or logical abilities. Or at least so from my standards. This has become extremely frustrating for people from software backgrounds like me, who likely have a combination of OCD and strict logical paths.

But on the other hand, if you work with these “stupid” people long enough, you will likely observe something that you can completely “Wow” at: Some are empathetic beyond imagination (again, by typical INTP software engineer standards), and they are able to warm up and convince people around something voluntarily; Others may be extremely artistic and creative, bringing up completely wild yet strangely possible ideas forward with ease. At those times, you will realize that being logical, quick and precise doesn’t necessarily make you the best in the crowd (as most of us in the industry has presumed). It’s a painful revelation, but on the other hand, it does make life more interesting.

After all, if you can’t even disrupt your own thinking, how can you disrupt the world?


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Although I moved to Toronto 15 years ago, this is absolutely the first time I’m living in the very core of this vibrant city, and I’m absolutely loving it. Autumn is the best season in Canada, and I’m trying to enjoy it as much as I can. It especially helps that I am crossing Queen’s Park every morning and I could say Hi to the squirrels who’s recently been busy burying pine cones.


There’s a lot of things I would like to write about and there has been a lot of thoughts and feelings that I would like to share. But unfortunately that will have to wait until I get another opening in my calendar… See you until then. 🙂

Preface

Hello All… Welcome.

I believe I am in a pretty unique situation, in that I come from one of the backgrounds that is (almost) the least likely to yield a MBA – Software Engineers. While I do not hold any particular grudges against either software engineers or MBAs, getting both at the same time seems to be an odd combination. But I’m already on the boat now… Nah whatever.

Quitting my full time job as a Senior Software Engineer to pursue full time MBA is definitely a hard decision, especially considering the fact that I still hold great passion in coding and software development even now. As most Software Engineers would, there has been extraordinary amounts of research done before this decision, and the details might come in a different article. But nonetheless, I did have great difficulty in finding ANY related literature from someone with a similar background…

Which is why I am motivated to take a note of what happens after MBA starts, for someone from similar backgrounds, in the future.

While any thoughts regarding any related topics are welcome here, my goal here is definitely not about providing guidance to others as to whether MBA is good or not, or whether you should be doing one yourself. Everyone is different, and I would just like to share and reflect on my experiences… sweet or bitter, good or bad.

My program just started a week ago and as any new MBA student, I am still learning to adjust. Many of my feelings might sound stupid, weird, arrogant, or whatever other words you might think of – but I am trying to stay true to myself, and I do not mean to judge anyone by anything. So if you find anything overly offensive, please let me know and I’ll try to correct them to the best of my abilities – but also, maybe not. This is my own space. 🙂

Anyways, again, welcome.