Monday, March 21, 2011

Darden United!

We're on spring break now at Darden, a great opportunity for everyone to catch their breaths after a frenetic winter.  Many students have jetted away on a Global Business Experience, to faraway lands such as Argentina, Spain, and Brazil. Some are working with a Chinese company for a "kaizen" week in Shanghai, and others are in Central America just enjoying the beach. For me and my roommates it has been a very relaxing time in Charlottesville. We've enjoyed the mild and sunny weather that has returned to Central Virginia and having Outlook calendars devoid of any appointments, finally!

With the end of winter means the end of my first UVA intramural indoor soccer season. Darden United is my coed team of first-year students, a group of old fogies who still have the magic to dominate some undergrads, on a good day! Our collective wisdom and knowledge makes us competitive against younger legs, plus we have a former US Olympic gold-medal winning goalkeeper on our squad! (my MIT varsity soccer experience pales in comparison)

Soccer players at Darden have a good support network. We play pickup games every weekend at "The Park" and also are starting a Darden soccer club to travel to MBA soccer tournaments around the country. If you're applying and wondering if you'll have people to play with here, you're in good hands!

Here's some photos of Darden United (courtesy of Filipp Gorelik):

Getting ready for kickoff at Memorial Gym
Starting in the goal...not my natural position!
Packed in defensively
The ball looks like it's on fire!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Summer Internship Set!

Yes! I finally ended my summer internship saga this week by accepting an offer to work for Waste Management at its corporate headquarters in Houston. I will be working with the Organic Growth Group, a team which creates partnerships and makes venture capital investments in companies which have promising emerging waste conversion technologies. Over the past couple of years, WM has invested in companies which can convert biomass to electricity, specialty chemicals, and fuels such as natural gas. Over the long run, WM's corporate strategy is to integrate these technologies into their massive materials collection operation -- WM is the largest waste handler in the United States -- and generate additional income from the waste stream. They literally want to turn one man's trash into another's treasure!

The group recently got a nice little writeup in Fortune magazine and also some press in the green media regarding an investment in a biomass conversion company called Genomatica. Given my interests in sustainability and renewable energy, I think this position will be a great fit!

Like all those at Darden who have accepted offers I'm much relieved to be through the job search -- for now. The culture of first year at Darden, for better or worse, creates a feeling of anxiety around the whole internship thing. My colleague Yumi wrote a terrific post in the fall describing the process of running to company briefings "like a scared mouse", which captures it perfectly.

It needn't be this way -- just about every second year I've met had a worthwhile summer internship -- but at least the career services folks don't breed a feeling of complacency around here. You start by probing your inner self to conjure up what you really want to do, maybe discovering nothing. You run between briefings, collecting the occasional Chick-fil-A along the way. You draft and redraft and nitpick every single little word and phrase on your resume, culminating in Resumania!, an event whose name makes me think that we had sunk into a collective madness. You then!, calling every Darden alum you can find who will speak for 20 minutes (thankfully they have all been through this too and are very gracious). Then you nitpick every little word in your cover letters, culminating in CoverLetterMania!, respond to as many job postings as you can tolerate while managing your Term 3 exams, fly away to a job trek, take a day off for Christmas to catch your breath, interview...interview...INTERVIEW! in January and February (missing several of your classes for final rounds), and finally if you've played the game right you end up with a couple offers.

The feeling is often frantic, but if you put in a full effort and "trust the process" you might end up with a killer job, which is probably why you came to business school in the first place!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Striving for Ethical Improvement

Hard to believe but we are approaching the end of FY term 5 here at Darden. The month of February flew by in the blink of an eye and already spring's bloom is upon us shortly here in Charlottesville.

The most thought-provoking class for me this term has been Business Ethics. We focus on cases with very difficult answers, such as whether natural gas companies should continue hydraulic fracturing in the face of uncertain harm to local drinking water or whether an airline should fire a pilot who is eventually certain to acquire a genetically-transmitted disease. Certainly I have never faced decisions of such magnitude in my lifetime, and I always feared receiving an "ethical dilemma" question in one of my business school interviews -- thankfully one never came up. Because of my general lack of such situations to date, this class is a great learning opportunity for me.

Thankfully, teaching my section is Ed Freeman, a teaching all-star and one of the thought leaders in the Ethics field. Freeman has a skill for steering the classroom discussion to the most difficult issues of each case and always seems to have a counterpoint no matter which side of an ethics argument you take. His style forces us to prioritize our values and develop robust moral frameworks for trying to tackle ethical issues.

Recently, we were asked to craft a "Personal Vision Statement" to think more about the kind of leaders and people we aspire to be and to articulate our values and considerations that we intend to guide our careers and lives. The assignment gave us an opportunity to reflect on the personal meaning of Darden's mission statement: To become a principled leader for the world of practical affairs.

I wrote a draft in which I tried to describe my values and the character I wish to cement. My vision statement, I feel, should be able to survive the "publicity test", so I've posted below. Comments certainly welcome...

Jonathan Harris – Personal Vision Statement

In the year 2036, when I am 53 years old, I want to be able to reflect on my life and affirm that I served as a valuable person in the lives of other people.  I want to be a person grounded in strong family values with enduring relationships both personally and professionally.  I want to be an integral part of my community, trusted and respected for my honesty and reliability.  I want to make decisions not solely based on narrow self-interests but also guided by the interests of those who I know and love.

            In business, I want to be a reputable partner and a trusted advisor to others.  When people ask me for guidance, I want to answer truthfully and in their best interest.  When a conflict of interest exists between me and a trusted party, I want to be mature enough to acknowledge this transparently.  I want to treat my business colleagues fairly.

            In my personal life, I want to live authentically in concert with my values and ideals.  I wish to abide by the golden rule: “Do unto others as you have them do unto you.”  I want those closest to me to regard me as a man of my word, responsible for his actions and how those actions affect others.  I want to be described as a man who was generous with his time and gives willingly to others.  I want to act with compassion towards my family and friends.  I want to be regarded as an optimist, a man who sees the glass as half-full rather than half-empty and works to find solutions, not being stuck by conventional wisdom.  I want to be seen as a man of action who worked tirelessly to impact positive change and was not bound by the status quo.

            Finally, I want to be known as a man who acts consistently when faced with difficult situations and does not rationalize compromising his moral framework to fit the situation.  I want my actions to pass the publicity test – there will be no skeletons in my closet and I will be able to talk honestly about my decisions because I will have nothing to hide.  This means I will have acted consistently with integrity, with the strength to act according to my beliefs even in difficult situations.  I will hold myself accountable for mistakes and acknowledge that I am not perfect, though I have continually strived to be.