Where is my AUC?

December 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’m having a bit of the hump day blues. The day has been painted in a lazy hue, slow and ineffective, without much purpose it would seem except for the occasional twinkle of an idea. My mind is still fully occupied with wrapping up this year – it’s meaning so to speak – picking a new direction.  My cotton thoughts, echoing it seems somewhere in there… in that head of mine numb from all the schooling, but desperately trying to figure out my next move.

You see, within the next two weeks I’ll need to decide on my future … the course to take with it. Should I follow an already existing path, or take a chance on something bigger and scarier – something new. Not just new though, something that deep down in my heart I know is anti-me… something that says to the world… I love money. I love business. I want success and computers are my friend. Honestly, I wouldn’t like this person. But I also wouldn’t like the person I would be if I didn’t grasp at the chance to become it. A sort of life philosophy I want to live by… reject only that which you know. So following that logic, first I must know. I must want to know!

…yet somewhere deep down, i just want to dance around a campfire in some far away land, singing kumbaya…  I’m probably not making any sense, but that is because I’m feeling stuck, and sense is overrated anyway…

I think the problem is in identifying what I’m fearful of… am I more fearful of not trying – due to perceived probability of failure and/or disinterest …. OR … am I actually fearful of not going for the one thing I know I actually want, which is a life of meaning and not money at all. I’ve been clawing at this in my head all week, and still I’m nowhere…

Yesterday, I saw myself taking the easy way out… Today, I woke determined to take this chance of a lifetime and see where it leads… all these codes, periods, commas, delimiters… these forecasting robots, these engineers… these business people with their business plans and algorithms for making the world go round and round. Who would have thought in a million years that I would have my own key to the whole Faculty of Economics and Business building and spend vacation days under its florescent lights… wishing quietly, in the most non-technical way possible, for a predictive model for my future… Where is my AUC?

… I have a friend that is now going through something similar but in a more work related sense and honestly when I think about her situation, it’s as clear as day. There is no wrong move that she can make, only one requirement… the decision needs to bring with it utter excitement. If she can find excitement for the thing she’s about to do, she has made 100% the right choice.  Hmm… perhaps it’s only logical that I take my own advice. I shall wait for some sort of excitement to kick in… i think right now I don’t feel it for either – maybe that’s in fact the problem? Interesting point, dear me. I will know when it’s here.  M… so will you! 🙂


…just a little badass

November 17, 2010 § 4 Comments

Defeat might be wafting in the air, but when victories come however small  – it is important to celebrate them equally. Today (finally) my case study group and I received our feedback for our presentation and report. You may remember me having mentioned this… we were given a chunk of some international qualitative data on chocolate and were asked to write a report of our findings and then present to “management” in the form of our professor, 35 classmates and Why5 Qual Research expert Tom Meere. When we were given the assignment, I remember specifically thinking this is probably my only chance to prove something if anything about why I’m here… having at least done this before. If I couldn’t do this then well, it was time to go home.

Our group consisted of 6 people and like I had mentioned before, there was a bit tension surrounding everything… and of course, being somewhat buttheaded as I am, I really tried to push for things to be done my way – no matter how much resistance I seemed to get. I fought for a better model, a better way… my way, made all the slides and eventually was handed over the presentation portion of things. I presented in front of the class with another girl and the rest of the crew focused on writing up the report. Of course there quite a few errors scattered throughout, but I figured as long as it follows my general preso structure, it’ll do… i made sure it did.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when it came to grading – I figured most everyone will get a pretty good score. It was only on the way to our consultation today that I was informed that a 14/20 would be an expected good score in Belgium and that no one gets anywhere close to 100% here as that’s not how it’s taught. A part of me was still hoping for having achieved some of what I thought I could back then… but I’m totally disoriented by now by how different everything is here so my only consolation was that whatever happens happens to 6 of us – somehow that feels better than getting an independent outcome.

When we walked into the classroom, the professor asked us to sit down and began to question us about how we thought we did. He says – so… there were 6 groups presenting that day, how do you think you compare to them all? First of all, can we just pause for a sec to discuss what a strange question that is… I mean yes, we all want to be mindful and better than the next guy, but I can’t remember the last time it was ok to say that out-loud.  “Maybe, in the middle – one of the Belgians says”.. ‘oh, I don’t think so’… says the professor… ‘Number one, I would say” he adds.

And, what’s more… and of course not to let this get to my head, but right now, i’ll take a self-esteem boost in any way shape or form… … all of the things that he mentioned that won us this title had been in large part due to me (presentation, model, health built into model – (which they so fought me on, and I added it last minute anyway), brand position from a consumers point of view, even Q&A…   and the few negatives mentioned had nothing to do with me – nice.

Another weird thing about how things are done here, the paper was not yet graded… the professor stopped talking after a while, opened the report, looked up at us and said… this is really excellent work he says as he jots down 16/20  … he must have seen my face afterward, because as he looked up he began to explain that in Belgium this is considered to be an exceptional score… he then paused for a second, crossed out the 16 and wrote 17 instead. ‘yes, perhaps this demonstrates that even better’ he says… ‘now go’.

And so there it is. 17/20 – best preso out of 6 – setting the curve, you could say… for old times sake. This will be a very short lived victory indeed, but you gotta admit it’s a little badass.

Dear Market Research, it may indeed be that we’re meant to spend our lives together.  Someday.

Talking to ‘America’

October 15, 2010 § 6 Comments

Some days there is simply nothing to say, and on others there is so much, it’s hard to know where to start… I haven’t really found groove yet with this whole blog thing.

How much of my life should I document? How bored should I leave my several readers? If I knew who my audience was, at least I would know approximately what direction to take. But, I guess I know a few of you, so maybe I’ll just pretend I’m writing you all emails. Most of you would only be concerned with food, cultural mishaps, maybe a tiny bit on school and perhaps the occasional love quest. But do let me know if I’m missing out on any important topics.

Things here are going well. I hesitate to use the word great, or amazing as I tend to always hang back on the fence, and have to leave some room for a few doubts and, god-forbid, jinxing.

Of course, every chance I get (which is not a whole lot due to insane amounts of time spent studying) I enjoy all the little things that come along with living here.

The thousands of fall colored leaves paving my way to school, the exposed bird’s nest perched atop the autumnal tree outside my window, the crisp near-winter breeze, the ginger breaded houses lining the pastries shops, the chocolates, the pumpkins, specialty teas, Kaas Mecca  YES , an entire store filled with cheese and a wooden bucket of freshly laid eggs, the butcher shop across the way, a whole store of honey –  with everything honey from all over the world you could imagine, textures, flavors, colors, you name it!.. , the film festival buzz, fliers upon fliers of amazing events I will never have time to see, the Christmas market readily approaching, talk of spicy hot wine and December plans… and those lovely bells that chime, chime, chime far in the distance… all swirling inside me, constantly giving me reason to be happy.

And yet, what most of my classmates and I have come to discover is that there is no time for it, at all. Just the other day, we were joking about how over the weekend we completely forget that we’re in Belgium…  seriously.

But, of course, I don’t mind studying – in fact after having worked for a few years it only makes studying more fun, yet more natural. Somehow doing it all day doesn’t seem wrong – after all, that’s how work is anyway. But, what I’ve found is that there still isn’t enough time in the day to do it all – and the time that I do take to relax, I am extremely inefficient at. I should be out at least having fun a few times a week – just for an hour or so, here and there. Yet, the guilt of all that there is to do, is constantly overshadows everything… and somehow I find myself spending that time, just worrying about the fact that I’m not studying… like right now.

But of course, my classmates and I make it a point to go out to lunch every day after school. So that’s been really nice and at least gets me out of my head for a little while. The program is funny too, we are a group of interesting individuals – that’s for sure. But I’m digging everyone more and more with every passing day. There’s always something to laugh about, something new to learn or something to share. I’ve really missed the comradery that comes along with being in school – at work of course you get that too after a while, but it’s a lot more work to establish it, where as here it’s just a natural part of belonging to a group of people with exactly the same goals – it’s wonderful.

I’ve also made a few Belgian friends, although those come with a little more work. You of course won’t be surprised to hear that Americans are not exactly anyone’s favorite. I mean, everyone tries to be nice – some more than others – but, I won’t lie there’ve been a few instances where it’s come across rather clear. Couple that with some things lost in translation and you have a whole international relations fiasco. In stores, on the street … even in the classroom.

Yesterday for example, we had some group work to do for our Marketing Research class – our group consists of 2 international students (including me) and 4 locals from Belgium… and let me tell you, there was a point there where it was getting pretty tense. They of course gave the US market to me (as it’s of no interest to them) and requested to be grouped together with other Belgians (ya know, cause it’s easier). They’re actually all very nice and of course don’t mean anything by it, but I definitely get a distinct feeling that they don’t quiet know what to do with anything international – it’s just not as common here. Yes, they speak many languages (so they can deal with the language barrier across many countries – some of them know up to 6 languages), but when it comes to a cultural barrier, they’re really at a loss. Even Americans in SF have to be much more trained to dealing with a variety of cultures… I hope no Belgian reads this, but I get this sense sometimes that they kind of experience the world as flat.

Maybe I’m wrong and am the one being cultural insensitive here.  But anyway, there was a whole misunderstanding that took place on what a market research report should look like – somehow I was thinking power point based on work experience and the fact that we were suppose to deliver a case study report to management, but they were thinking single spaced word document as you would do for any other school report. I kept referring to dividing up slides, they kept telling me to forget the slides, but were diving up the same topics… anyway, it was all very confusing, until of course we realized why. The amazing thing though was what a shift that made in how we could relate afterward. Suddenly it was all clear… we were coming from different places, but ultimately we were here for the same thing… suddenly there was laughter, and eye contact and well, within minutes of this discovery, we actually became a team. And as we sat there together, wrapping things up, one of the boys addressed me by my name and as we talked, all I could think about is that somehow he was finally just talking to me… not America. I was not representing anyone or anything, I was just me again. And it felt good.

Part II: When I grow up, I want to be a…

October 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

When I was a kid, I wanted to be one of 3 things when I grew up:

– An advertising guru

– A therapist

– A forensics specialist/detective

I don’t know what it says about me that I haven’t done either exactly (most people I think would have just chosen one and gone for it), but that’s not how i roll.    … but I think, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find out that – really –  I’ve been doing doing all three, all along.

Hear me out.

OK, Marketing Research isn’t exactly advertising, but at least it was in the ball park and whenever I was stuck devising some ridiculously complex chart, I would imagine I was making a cool ad – hey, it was as close as I got (sans that time I almost applied for Art Direction and oh yeah, that copy writer gig I was vying after). Lets just say for the sake of argument – working with ad agencies + marketing + chartists wannabe extraordinaire = almost accomplished goal.

The therapist thing, I got just as close to  – not. OK, so there was a time when that path was almost set – I did have the degree for it and it really did seem like it was up my alley

I think a lot, you think a lot… lets talk!

But, the more I started looking into it, the more I became worried that I just couldn’t handle being around people who pay you to divulge their deepest secrets and problems…

…therapy for normal people? absolutely. talking to wackos all day about terribly depressing things? nooo thank you!

My solutions to this was simple  – Business Therapy. That’s right, you heard me – that’s pretty much what a market researcher is… a business counselor. Many of the same skills apply, but you’ll just never find yourself agonizing over whether or not you made the right call on the best-choice handset, or shaken by how people really feel about their family plans. In that sense, it really was perfect.

Dear Business,

What might be bothering you? How can I help?

And while it’s too late for me to become a detective and/or a forensics specialist, I think that it’s pretty self explanatory how marketing research and data mining fit into that scheme pretty nicely… Um, hello… RESEARCH. DATA MINING. ANALYSIS – putting puzzle pieces together. Ok, so it’s kind of missing the whole blood/gore thing that’s kind of cool, but I can always start working on crime databases – eh…? 🙂 … and of course my slight stalker proclivity. true.

And all the while, sociology and anthropology have been near and dear to my heart since my early college years and while a part of me wants to keep those for mere enjoyment, I have a feeling that they too will play a big part in how I decide to use this degree.

So you see, I feel like I have a plan – this degree, seems to really tie everything I love about everything, into one nice little package. And it’s not to say that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life, only that in order for everything that I’ve been doing up until now to make sense, I just have to push one more time. And after that…? Well, I can assure you, I will know better… but if nothing else, I will know that I tried. I will know for sure that all those things I that I wanted to be when I grew up are either a part of me, or they’re not – but regardless, I will already be grown.

Part I: Climb That Mountain!

October 3, 2010 § 1 Comment

Time here rolls on by at effortless speeds. Whether, as before, I  was simply basking in limbo-land, or as things are now, desperately trying to catch up in my studies – one thing’s remained the same – i swear, there’s something wrong with the clocks here!

I merely blink, and two more hours pass – one more time – and the entire day’s gone. Is this a function of my age or is Europe somehow on a different schedule – maybe it’s this pesky military time 🙂 But seriously, before I knew it today.. it was 16h… and I was like… WTF.

This time issue comes with a few challenges. I just can’t seem to get enough done in the allocated hours of the day. Surely it did not take 10 hours today to work on one chapter or eat fifteen separate snacks… impossible! On top of which, I keep staring at my course schedule, which I so diligently taped to my wall. It screams at me – tic toc… a whole week has gone by, only 10 more left until your fate is sealed.

Of course, looking that far ahead can’t do me any good either… gotta stay in the present.

Today, I made the terrible mistake of looking at a job history of one of my classmates – quite randomly really, just on facebook – and I’ve gotta say, reading that she was a software developer before (in INDIA no-less!) did not make me feel more prepared.

Yes, this is indeed what I’m dealing with.

But I guess, I gotta keep reminding myself that I’m not here to compete with anybody… this is not a race with my classmates, this is for me and only me.  And my only compass for where and how I should be doing will have to come from my teacher.  My bar can only be as high as my class requirements, the teachers expectations and most importantly, my ability to understand the basic programming languages sufficiently enough to use them in my work – which is NOT about math or programming, but rather about interpreting data, business strategy, and marketing analysis.

I have to keep reminding myself  that these are just hoops and I just gotta find a way to jump.

The reality is, once I have some of these basics down, what I’m actually here to do is absolutely fascinating. It is truly the forefront of marketing, research and technology coming together. And of course, it brings with it people from across all types of industries and backgrounds, more power to it!  But common,… it may be easier for them to learn this stuff, but they can’t possibly be more excited about the outcome… just imagine all the stories waiting to be found! 🙂

I had a soc professor in College who used to say that as a teacher he took it upon himself to climb a big a mountain, take  a look around and tell us what he saw (stories, as we so endearingly refer to them in market research… yes, the field of simplifying numbers, analyzing possibilities and tying it into a pretty bow… the art of story telling) – after which he’d always remind us to file it way, but with a grain of salt. As it’s only what he saw, not what is true. I guess in  a way, I see data mining as the new age of social sciences (the digital kind) – a way to see and understand so much about our world and all that is in it, without having to go anywhere or ask anyone – as a database analyst, you are truly privy to a world that not even its members are aware of. how cool is that.

I shall climb that mountain and pass on those stories… be it through blood, sweat and tears and…

… maybe I’m romanticizing it a bit, but that’s what I’d like to think 🙂

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