Days until graduation: 76
Picture of the day:
|Two years in the life of a Darden MBA student||
Days until graduation: 76
Picture of the day:
Days until graduation: 78
Picture of the day:
Looking to take a step out of your comfort zone and learn about something that will be seriously useful in your career? I’d recommend Casey Lichtendahl’s second year (SY) Forecasting elective. You learn how to write code in a programming language called R, on top of learning advanced statistical concepts, including time series, advanced regression, and machine learning. If DAO* is DA**’s nerdier older brother, Forecasting is DA’s rocket scientist uncle.
But don’t let that dissuade you—you’ll be surprised how valuable this course will be for your career. After learning R as a master’s student at Stanford in the ’90s, Casey says he was surprised by “this whole trend that has emerged almost ten years later that regular practicing managers want to learn. I hear about more and more practicing managers that have R code books on their shelves and they’re taking these Coursera courses. It’s a validating experience to come across…MBA students who want to learn this stuff.”
During the course, we tackled problems like whether to expand the UVA hospital’s Neonatal care wing based on trends in the area’s birth rates, whether you could predict stock market returns, how to identify which Yelp reviews are the most helpful, and even whether you could predict which of the Titanic’s passengers survived. We also got the opportunity to work with recent alum, Kyle Redinger (‘12) on a challenge he was facing in his start-up, VividCortex, as well as to talk with Rohit Gupta (’13) about his work on big data at HomeDepot.com while he served as our unofficial teaching assistant.
Casey designed the course to be taken in one of two ways. The first is the more intense way, building mastery, in which you “actually [learn] the R code, you [dive] deep into the concepts, actually [try] to understand what these models are, why they work, [and] how you implement.” Take this approach if you’re one of those people who, as Casey says, “feel like they’re going to have some exposure” in their careers directly to forecasting, “they’re going to eventually want to learn this, and they’re want to take that first step.”
The second way to take the class, which Casey says he’s committed to offering, is to “tour” or gain an appreciation for the concepts. This is for people who are “maybe…never going to take the deep dive on the job, but they want the exposure now because they’re going to be in and around people who are deeply into this stuff,” Casey explains. Taken this way, the course allows you to make the connection between a business problem and what tools could be used to solve it, but then delegate authority to someone else to actually use the tools. In reality, it seems that this is the way that most of us will use this knowledge in our careers.
As seems to be a theme in SY, we acquired several new pieces of software throughout the class. In addition to R Studio where we worked with R, we also learned how to use import io: a tool to “scrape” data from websites into an analyzable form, and Tableau: a tool to visualize data for better understanding and presentation. I won’t get into it too deeply, but this is some seriously cool stuff. You can check out Tableau visualizations on their “viz of the day” site or through a couple of examples from our final projects at the bottom of the post.
Completely different from other courses, the forecasting elective evolved as it went. That’s not to say that Casey hadn’t done his homework and put together an extremely well thought out course before day 1. What I really mean is it was mostly “open source”: our textbook was online and a new edition appeared in the middle of the term; different students in the class led demonstrations of software and techniques that Casey discovered they knew, including Tableau and import io; and Casey put together extra evening workshops for topics we needed to discuss and practice more.
As the field of data science continues to evolve, so will the course. Next year, Casey plans formalize the inclusion of the tools showcased by this year’s students. He’d also like to involve UVA’s new Big Data Institute to expose students to true big data, “not these data sets that I give out with hundreds of thousands of rows and can actually be stored in your laptops’ memories.” Casey’s hopes are that students get the opportunity to not “just talk about [big data], or read about it, or hear that others have worked in it,” but to actually “get our hands dirty with it.”
Most importantly, though, Casey emphasized that it’s alums that will be the engine for the course’s evolution:
“I want to urge the student body to embrace the idea that these courses depend on you: one year out, two years out, ten years out. The material for these courses has to get refreshed over the years and most electives work like this. You take 15 class sessions and maybe three, sometimes more, get dropped and three or more new cases come into that course. That’s a pretty big churn rate and it happens pretty much every year. …Where do those cases come from? They come from alums who are at the companies, who are facing these new and real challenges now. And they’re getting in touch with [professors] and feeding [them] enough information to write a really good case so that future generations of students can learn from the latest and greatest problems that are being faced by real managers.”
In fact, at least one (probably more) of the class’s final projects will be turned into a new case for next year’s class. Do yourself a favor and set aside some bid points for this one.
*Decision Analysis and Optimization, First Year term 5 elective
**Decision Analysis, First Year core class
Days until graduation: 79
Picture of the day:
Days until graduation: 80
Picture of the day:
I hosted a pizza and brainstorming meeting tonight for the Darden Bloggers. One of the ideas that popped into my head was doing a picture a day until graduation. So...public accountability begin! (That said, with exams and spring break starting tomorrow, the next couple of weeks might not have one every day, but I promise I'll do it every day once I get back.)
To kick if off...
Days until graduation:
No don't worry, that's not my picture of the day. Here you go!
Two years ago, I came back to my desk after a meeting and saw that I had a missed call from a Virginia number. My heart almost stopped. I nervously picked up my phone and listened to the voicemail. It was a friendly admissions officer from Darden calling to tell me I had been admitted. I *maybe* should have listened to it in a conference room because I practically bounced off the walls when I heard the news. I feel like I should have applied in Round 1, because that would have been the best Christmas present I could imagine.
But today, some of you are getting that present...so welcome to all the Round 1 accepted students! We are keeping our fingers crossed that you'll decide to come to Charlottesville (read about why I chose Darden), and are so excited to welcome you to the community. I obviously won't be there when you get to grounds in August, since I'll have graduated, but I will certainly be there for Day at Darden and Darden Days in the spring. They're by far two of my favorite events of the year because the whole community (all the students, partners, faculty, and staff) gets together and it reminds me what a wonderful place this really is. Please feel free to reach out if I can answer any questions you might have about the school and I can't wait to meet you all!
And as if you needed more reasons why Darden is awesome, I'll leave you with some of my favorite pictures:
This has to have been one of the coolest academic experiences I've had at Darden. And that's saying a lot given that we were stomping around the Gettysburg battlefields in driving rain and near freezing temperatures one day and even colder temperatures and high wind the next day.
The premise of the class is to learn about leadership from the decisions both Confederate and Federal generals made during the Battle of Gettysburg through 5 classroom sessions at Darden taught by a UVa undergrad history professor and a 2.5 day trip to the battlefields led by professors from the US Marine Corps University.
To start, the classroom sessions were fascinating. Our professor, Gary Gallagher, is an amazing lecturer. His knowledge about the Civil War is just astounding and what's more, he tells a good story. I love the case method, but it was refreshing change of pace to sit back and hear this first lecture (which you can watch on YouTube). In true Darden style, though, we peppered him with quite a few questions. In subsequent classes (watch class 2, class 3, and class 4), we moved more to the case method, analyzing the leadership decisions of Lincoln, Meade, Lee, and several of their subordinates. In our last class before we left, Professor Gallagher brought in several artifacts to give us a better feel of what it was like to be in the battle: hardtack made from the original recipe (which was rock hard, true to its name), almost every type of ammunition, and a rifled musket (I believe) including its bayonet, which we got to fire (blanks, that is). Pretty cool to see and touch these parts of the battle.
When we got to the battlefields this past Friday, the Marine professors took over. Equally well-versed in the battle, they gave us an additional perspective based on their military experience as we walked the fields and saw firsthand how the leadership on both sides made decisions--why was Little Round Top such critical ground to take and hold? Why did Sickles abandon the ground Meade told him to hold? What was it like to be part of Pickett's charge, walking 20 straight minutes from Seminary Ridge to Cemetery Ridge while being fired on the whole time and why would a leader ask his people to do such a seemingly absurd thing?
Besides being an unusual and just plain cool experience, the class is actually supposed to teach us about leadership. I'm writing this post as a means of procrastinating from writing my final paper for class, so I haven't fully formed my thoughts about the leadership lessons I've learned, but here's are some of the questions that I took away:
It dawned on me this weekend that I only have seven months left before I graduate. There is definitely a part of me that is ready to get back to having a full-time salary, but there's also a big part of me that's saying WAAAIIIITTTTT!!!! I HAVE SO MUCH MORE TO DO HERE!
It's that latter part of me that's been thinking about a Darden bucket list for a while. I first started thinking about it on the second year camping trip when I hiked Old Rag for the first time since I was little. I then promptly forgot about it. Then it popped into my mind again this weekend when I visited Monticello for the first time with some friends that came into town (practically a crime for a UVa student to have waited this long).
As I thought about it, there really are a lot of things that I'd like to do before I leave Charlottesville in May. My plan is to write through my progress on these and maybe add some more. If you have any suggestions, I'm all ears!
Darden Bucket List
(In case you're wondering, I've left the following off because I already crossed them off, but they're still pretty critical ones to hit in my opinion: