Last cold call please

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My days at the business school are nearing its end. One more week of classes, then finals, and finally, in two and a half weeks, graduation weekend. I am so ready to graduate.

In highschool, you were expected to have done your homework and come prepared to class. At any given time, the teacher might call on you to show your homework and explain what's going on. At the business school, this behavior has a name: The professor is cold calling you. The reason why there is a special name for this behavior is that there are all kinds of ways by which you can be called upon: There are soft calls, there are warm spotlights, and if you ask me, some professors also make fuzzy calls. The differences between all these calls is the amount of forewarning you get, how much time to prepare, how long you are grilled, etc.

This last quarter, I made a mistake: I took several quantitative classes that required a lot of preparation. Unlike highschool, where most teachers are aware that students have to attend other classes as well, at the business school each professor acts as if his or her class is the only one. (After all, we are supposed to improve our time management skills.) The workload is accordingly high.

In particular in Corporate Finance, which unfortunately I'm only taking now, we have to prepare a whole case for each class. This usually involves an assorted selection of income statements, cashflow statements, cash budgets, revenue projections, financial analysis and metrics, project evaluations in the form of net-present-value calculations, balance sheets, etc. For some unknown reason, all the Corporate Finance professors have decided to be the toughest kids on the block. No warm and fuzzy spotlights here, it is cold calls all the way.

Taking my seat in class today, I had a series of pleasant experiences: People came by to say happy birthday. This was great, but I was confused how everyone knew. I turned around and saw that the friend sitting behind me had put up a sign pointing to me, declaring: "It is Dirk's birthday!" I smiled happily. Then class began.

After his usual introduction, the professor declared it is time to turn to the case. With gleeful eyes he turned to me and said: "Dirk, I hear it is your birthday. What better reason than to celebrate that day with a cold call. Please explain to us how you are going to lead Marvel Entertainment out of bankruptcy." I got a cough attack.

Fortunately, I had prepared, and started explaining. After a short while, the professor was friendly enough to turn to another student, and I could escape class to get a cup of water for my coughing.

Later that day, I ran into the very same professors, and we chatted shortly. I asked him whether this had been the last cold call for me this quarter. (And then my whole b-school career.) He answered that we are through with all the cases now so yes, this had been my last cold call. I pushed on and asked whether I could have this in writing. He smiled sphinx-like. I'll guess I'll survive.

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