Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Time to Spare

Last week I was talking with a buddy of mine, catching up on a whole bunch of different things because we hadn’t spoken in a while. This was, of course, my fault, as I’m generally terrible at staying in touch with people (Note: sometimes I’m bad at this on purpose, because I simply don’t like you). Anyway, he lives in Richmond and mentioned that he was thinking about visiting some vineyards just east of C’ville. I immediately invited myself and volunteered to help plan the trip, even though I really don’t like wine and my knowledge of it is pretty much limited to reds, whites, Slap the Bag, and Bling-Bling Blue Raspberry. When I actually showed up my buddy looked shocked. Considering I’ve declined or bailed on every event he’s planned over the past 15 months, I can’t say I blame him. But hopefully that shouldn’t be a problem anymore.

You see, I recently accepted a job and have solidified my post-Darden plans. What I’m going to be doing isn’t important; just know that I’ll be doing it here: http://www.sandiego.org/nav/Visitors/VisitorInformation/Weather. And while that’s got me thinking about a lot of things (mostly the future), it has also taken a lot off my plate. I didn’t realize that until last week, a couple of days after sending in my acceptance. I wrapped up my last class of the day and started walking back to my apartment while I planned everything I needed to get done that afternoon . . . and came up with nothing. No 8am class to prepare for. No networking event to attend. No resume to update. No club event to sign up for. No cover letter to proofread. No interview to bomb.
Holy cold call Batman, what the hell was I going to do?
The answer is everything I’ve always wanted to do in Charlottesville but couldn’t because I used recruiting as either a real or made-up excuse. In just the past week I’ve been able to:
·       Take a drive out to Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway (I know, driving isn’t really “doing” anything, but I hate hiking and refuse to wear cyclist attire, so back off).
·       Attend Darden’s Entrepreneurship Conference, which is easily the most underrated event we have here. Saw a bunch of awesome ideas at the concept competitions, met a lot of really cool entrepreneurs, and wore a blazer with jeans.
·       Meet a buddy I haven’t seen in a while at a vineyard on a Sunday. I found out they have these things there called tastings, where you can try a bunch of wines and you even get to keep the glass afterward (side note: I finally own a wine glass).
Finally time to enjoy days like this one.
So if that’s just Week One, I’m feeling good about what’s left to come. I might buy tickets to all the Hipster-band concerts in Charlottesville so I can finally understand what their music is all about. I could also start a streak of attending 20 straight Boylan Heights Wednesday Power Hours, although if I did that I might have to start attending AA as well. Anyway, the point is I’m not exactly sure what I’ll do, but I’ll definitely have plenty of time to figure it out.

I’m starting a new thing, which I’m unoriginally entitling “Dave’s Awesome Song”. From here on out after each post I’ll let you know which song is currently #1 on my iPod playlist. The point of this is for you to make fun of me. So feel free to do that and send along any song suggestions you have. This week I’m starting off with two songs, because I want to:
·         Taylor Swift – “Sparks Fly”
·         Jay-Z – “Heart of the City”

Have at it.
If you would like to contact the author, he can be reached at david.a.miller4@gmail.com.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Washed-Up Athletes Club

When you’re in a business school as demanding as Darden is, you need an escape. Some sort of way to release your stress, step away from your cases, and clear your mind. Some people do it at the gym, pounding away on the treadmill until their sneakers have gaping holes. Others head to the Corner and grab a drink or ten. In some rare cases, overwhelmed students run frantically through the halls screaming “I can’t take it anymore, I can’t take it anymore!!” Me, I play softball.

Let me explain why briefly: I’ve had a bat and glove in my hand for as long as I can remember. For the longest time, baseball was one of the most important things in my life (actually it still is). Then my college career ended, the real world began, and playing regularly wasn’t really an option anymore. I joined an un-elite group, one of full of others with a competitive fire but no way to fulfill it: The Washed-Up Athletes Club. We have members all over the world and are easily spotted:
·      At the local sports bar still wearing our lettermans’ jacket and state championship ring
·      Trying to win a meaningless game of pick-up basketball at the gym, running over anyone in our way
·      At the football tailgate talking about how we used to play against so-and-so who is now in the Major Leagues or NFL
But by far the most popular place for washed-up athletes to hang out is the softball field. We come from all athletic backgrounds and abilities with one purpose: pretend like we are still just as good as we once were. That’s why I’m proud to be a member of Darden’s second-year softball team. We’ve assembled some of the greatest washed-up athletes out there, including:
·          Various college athletes (baseball, football, hockey, etc.)
·          Former professional hockey players
·          A former pro-baseball player who still tries to throw the softball 90 miles-an-   hour
·          High-school stars that haven’t given up the dream
It’s easily my favorite escape in business school. Most guys don’t take it as seriously as I do, and I realize it’s silly, but frankly I don’t care. We get together, warm up just enough so no one blows out an Achilles, try to hit a homerun every time we swing, and argue every single call with an umpire who wonders how anybody could care so much about a meaningless game. For me it’s total bliss; the chance to be competitive, hang out with some friends, and relive my glory days. [Note: there is also one thing that’s awesome about being washed-up as opposed to a real athlete: every game becomes an excuse to drink.  And always out of America’s favorite drinking contraption, the red Solo cup.]
At the end of the day, we don’t really care about winning, because it doesn’t really matter. It’s just about the escape. And Lord knows I really, really need that. I’m not sure if there is an official Washed-Up Athletes Club out there, but if there was I’d be a member for life. And you know what, I’m ok with it. That being said, if you’re a pro-baseball scout looking for a mediocre second baseman whose been keeping himself in shape playing slow-pitch softball, give me a call.
If you would like to contact the author, he can be reached at david.a.miller4@gmail.com.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Finding Neverland

Those who follow this blog (all 3 of you) may remember that one of my first posts last year was about growing up  and how I might be starting to do so at Darden. As I head into my second year I’d like to revise that though: there is no way I’m growing up, at least not this year. Simply put, I can’t do it. There’s too much time to do that later and not enough left in Charlottesville to take advantage of everything here if I’m trying to grow up at the same time.

So I’m going the opposite way and trying to make this year just like I did my senior year in undergrad (minus the frat parties. Actually scratch that, might as well try to fit in a few of those too). I’m spending this year getting to every football tailgate, going to every guest speaker on campus, working out at the Main Grounds gyms, heckling the opposing team at every basketball game, and joining in every social outing this town has to offer. I’ll end the summer with as many afternoons at the Ivy Gardens pool as possible. This fall I’ll visit a few vineyards and watch the leaves change. In the Winter I’ll dance my face off at Darden Prom and go sledding as soon as there’s enough snow. And in the Spring, well, just let me say, watch out Foxfield. Meanwhile, I might go to a few classes, do some cases, and try to figure out my future (but not really). Darden is just such a fun place that it would be borderline insane to try and prepare myself for the real world when college is right here staring me in the face.

So let me just paraphrase our good friend Peter Pan and say “I’M NEVER GROWING UP”! I’m going to try and be just like the Lost Boys, minus the green tights and pirate nemesis (friends, please don’t take this as an invitation to start calling me by a new nickname). But there will be no regrets this year, no “I wish when I had lived in Charlottesville I had . . .” Just me, my classmates, and a lot of great memories to be made. Feel free to join in.
If you would like to contact the author, he can be reached at david.a.miller4@gmail.com.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

And . . . . We’re Back: How I Spent My Time Away from Darden

Alright so what do the following have in common:

·         New York City;
·         Austin, TX;
·         Princeton, NJ;
·         Jeddah, Saudi Arabia;
·         Blacksburg, VA;
·         Washington, DC;
·         Las Vegas, NV;
·         Johannesburg, South Africa;
·         Atlantic City, NJ
·         Annapolis, MD;
·         San Diego, CA;
·         Stone Harbor, NJ;
·         Lexington, VA;
·         San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Yea, those are all the places that I’ve been since classes ended in Charlottesville a mere 13 weeks ago (you read that correctly: separate trips to Saudi Arabia AND South Africa in one summer; I’ve got some serious airline miles, don’t worry about it). Now the real challenge for you is to figure out whether each of those was for a:
1.       Wedding;
2.       Weekend getaway;
3.       My internship;
4.       Vacation;
5.       hA holiday (4th of July or Memorial Day);
6.       Bachelor party.
I guarantee the answers will really confuse you.

 stock photo : A world map background with flight paths or trade routes

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, it was awesome. I had an incredible summer that included an extremely challenging but rewarding internship, chances to catch up with friends and family, and a lot of travelling. I felt like I was a boxcar Hobo, never knowing where I was going to be heading next. But not one of those trampy Hobos with the stick and bundle; I was one of those very classy, dignified ones (ok really the only difference was I had a small backpack instead of a bundle).  
But there are tradeoffs. Now, I don’t want to speak for all B-school students, but I feel like this is just kind of the life of anyone getting a full-time MBA. In the year since I’ve moved to Charlottesville, between job treks, spring break trips, winter break, interviews, weekend ski trips, and everything in between, I’ve always felt like I was on the move. Which is good and bad. Good because it’s interesting, exciting, and life-changing; bad because you never really feel settled. That’s why I think it is important to get yourself anchored before you really get on the move.
Personally, I had no idea that I had anchored myself in Charlottesville. But while I was out and about this summer, I realized that as great as all of the places I was visiting were, not one of them was here. So while I was enjoying every minute of my travels, at the same time I couldn’t wait to get back here. I mean to me, what’s the point of travelling if you don’t have somewhere great to go back to at the end of it? I guess all I am trying to say is, it’s good to be home.
If you would like to contact the author, he can be reached at david.a.miller4@gmail.com.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Let's Get Ethical!!

Ok, so admittedly my last entry was terrible. Even my parents told me it was awful, and I’m pretty sure that by law they’re supposed love everything I do. I hadn’t written a post in a while, I couldn’t think of anything all that good to write about, and I was just happy that it wasn’t freezing outside anymore. Not much of an excuse, but from now I on promise to avoid extremely boring nonsense.

Anyway, this term I’ve been taking what is by far my favorite class so far at Darden. To my surprise, that class is Ethics, a subject I only thought was useful for philosophy majors and people who liked to pretend they always did the right thing. When I applied to Darden I heard all about the course, how the school was one of the only top MBA programs to require all students take a Business Ethics class, how it went hand and hand with UVA’s ethics code, and all that other good stuff. I pretended to care in my essays, writing about why it was a major reason I wanted to attend Darden and that I believed it would make me a truly principled leader. All the while, I didn’t really give two seconds of thought to the class and just assumed it wouldn’t be nearly as helpful as finance, marketing, strategy, etc. It wasn’t that I didn’t think the course was a good idea, I just didn’t think it would be very helpful. I envisioned a class where all the cases were about sacrificing profits in order to make the world a better place. Everyone would get on their soap boxes, talk about how they didn’t really care about shareholder value, and we would all feel better about what amazing people we were.
Well as you can probably figure out that hasn’t been the situation. Instead, our cases have been incredibly complex and usually the only possible outcomes involve somebody getting screwed over. The faculty is incredibly engaging and they challenge us to consider harsh realities. For the first time in business school, I’m taking a class that doesn’t try to make a decision easier, but rather much, much more difficult. In other classes, it’s generally simple: buy the company or don’t; release the product or shelve it; change the inventory system or keep the old one. But in ethics, I don’t have a freakin’ clue. I walk into class completely sure of what to do and leave convinced that there is no right thing to do.
Not that we aren’t given lots of tools to dissect and evaluate the decision. It’s just that the frameworks we use serve to ask questions that I normally wouldn’t think of. And that’s what I love about the class: the framework actually makes the case harder. Plus, I can use them in almost any other class to evaluate decisions more broadly than just what the numbers tell me to do (it was getting really boring to just think in terms of the numbers anyway). Decisions are no longer black and white; they involve a lot of gray area, just like they will be after business school.
This time last year, I would have guaranteed you I would be one and done when it came to Ethics classes. Now I’m planning to take as many as I can next year. Because anybody can run the analysis and know why the decision they are making is right. I want to know why the decision I’m making is wrong. 

If you would like to contact the author, he can be reached at david.a.miller4@gmail.com.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Today's a good day. I've never really liked January or February. They suck. It's cold out and I get SAD from not having enough sunlight (SAD = Seasonal Affective Disorder, but also having it does make me sad). Combine that with a relentless month and a half of recruiting and I got stuck in one really deep rut.

But that's finished now that it's March. Or at least I’m going to make sure I dig myself out. They say in Virginia that March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb but I've never really thought about it like. Everything gets better:
  • Baseball is back (college and spring training)
  • NCAA Basketball Tournaments start up
  • I can wear sandals again
  • The outdoor areas at bars open up
  • Exercising outside instead of in the gym
Now add to that two weeks of Spring Break in Brazil (cha-ching!) and I’m feeling pretty damn good about this month. I’m a little disappointed in myself for being so worthless lately and I’m hoping to gain some momentum in March. It’s hard to believe I’m looking at a little more than two months left in my first year here so I’m hoping to enjoy it and not just survive it.

If you would like to contact the author, he can be reached at david.a.miller4@gmail.com.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Internship or Prom Date?

Do you remember that time in the spring of your senior year of high school when you were trying to figure out who you were going to Prom with? Whether you were a guy or girl, you were continually listening to the rumors floating through the halls, trying to figure out who was taken, who was available, or who might ask/say yes to you. If you were lucky enough, you were already in a relationship or you knew early on exactly who you wanted to take and they wanted to go with you. Boom, problem solved. If you were like some of my less-moralistic friends, you asked someone early so you had a guaranteed date, and then went looking for the girl you really wanted to take. And as word got out that somebody wanted to go with you, more and more people suddenly became interested. And if you were really screwed, all the people you thought you might go with got their own dates early on. At this point you settled for whatever you could get, asking everyone you could and saying yes the first invitation you got. Basically, you just hoped you could still get into the “cool” After Party and get drunk enough to salvage the night.
By now you’ve probably figured out (or at least you should have if you looked at the title), the entire process described above essentially applies to getting an MBA internship. Beginning this week and going on for the next month, Darden essentially turns into High School. First year students walk the Grounds all hours of the day and night begging (well, it hopefully hasn’t come to begging yet) for a job and companies try to figure out who they want to go with. And the rumors swirl about whose got jobs, final rounds, blah blah blah (by the way don’t get me wrong, I’m not above any of this, I’m totally involved). If you could hear the hallways, they would be silent. But if you listen more closely, there is plenty to hear. Just like High School Prom, it’s easy for some, exciting for others, challenging for many, and hopefully, just like a classic 80s John Hughes movies, everyone ends up happy. (Note: not everyone will end up happy).
Just to prove the awesomeness of the metaphor (is it a metaphor?), I will redo the first paragraph replacing types to high schoolers with the MBA students:
Do you remember that time in the winter of your first year of B-school when you were trying to figure out who you were going to intern with? Whether you were a guy or girl, you were continually listening to the rumors floating through the halls, trying to figure out what companies had already made offers, who hadn’t made decisions yet, or who might give you an offer. If you were lucky enough, you were already sure where you were going, either because you interviewed in the fall or you were going back to your previous job. Boom, problem solved. If you were like all of my classmates, you interviewed somewhere early so you had a guaranteed internship, and then went looking for the job you really wanted to take. And as word got out that somebody made you an offer, more and more companies suddenly became interested. And if you were really screwed, all the companies you thought you might get offers from took others instead. At this point you settled for whatever you could get, asking every company you could and saying yes the first offer you got. Basically, you just hoped you could still get into the “cool” jobs next year and get drunk enough to salvage that week’s TNDC.
Hmm, that worked pretty well. I should add as a caveat, however, that the above does not apply to those going after “nontraditional” internships or others that are recruiting off-grounds. These people are instead the high school kids that either dated a guy/girl that went to a different school or those hippy, hacky-sack-playing types that were too cool to actually go to Prom.
And I should add that amidst all this madness, we start classes and three cases a day again next week. Wowzer. In the words of Kristen Dunst, Bring It On.

If you would like to contact the author, he can be reached at david.a.miller4@gmail.com.