Saturday, December 7, 2013

The part of the course that I learned the most in were the talking sessions.  I found the anecdotes provided to be very insightful looks at the things that could be modeled economically.  This was further enhanced for me by reading the book, something that I wish was stressed more in the course.  I found the book to be quite engaging, and wish that more had been done with it.  I imagine I am the only student who feels this way, however.  But, this is because I learn the best, by far, from reading.

I like the blogs.  I like reading other students experiences, perspectives, and ideas.  I think it allows for a lot more creativity than one normally finds in an economics course.  Furthermore, I like the commenting groups.  I found it nice to see how my fellow students were progressing throughout the course; I even read other students' blogs from time to time to see what the buzz was elsewhere.  When I am blogging, I usually read the prompt at the beginning of the week and mull over what I'm going to write.  This week, I have overmulled, since I'm posting this on Saturday night.  At the end of the week, I write up the blog post, occasionally have a friend look it over, and then submit.  I spend up to a half hour per blog post.  As you may have noticed, I like to spice it up with a picture each week to break up the monotony of the text.  I couldn't think of anything that was too relevant, so I am leaving you with the cutest picture that is known to man.

For the Excel, I try to be more proactive.  I do this because if there is a problem that I can't figure out, I have more time to work on it with less stress than if I were doing it Wednesday at 10:30 pm.  I've spent anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours working on an Excel homework.  The latter ended up being  a cell reference problem and not a math problem, which was quite irksome.

Something I would have like to see in the class, as I mentioned before, was more use of the book.  It seemed like an afterthought.  I don't know how to integrate it more into the class, though.  Perhaps linking it somehow with the blog posts?  Professor Arvan seems to like modeling; I do not.  I do not think I am alone on this one.  I would have like to see more numbers and less e-bars and w-tildes.  If theory must be stuck to, I think more work on the board would be helpful.  Yes, our eyes glaze over, but we are only seeing the math once.  I found that I really needed the math to be worked out in front of me rather than just neatly shown in the Excel.  

Friday, November 22, 2013

"Delicious. Refreshing."

Everyone knows Coke.  Around the world, Coke brands itself as young, hip, and great to enjoy with friends.  Coke ads feature hip music and hipper twenty-somethings smiling, laughing, and drinking the beverage.  In some parts of the country, the work is so synonymous with soda that all soft drinks are referred to as Coke.  Consumers know that Coke is cheap and the product is consistent.  They know that they can get a Coke at basically any restaurant, bar, or vending machine.  But this high profile doesn't reach to all corners of the globe.

Coke is available in all but two countries of the world -- North Korea and Cuba have sanctions against the product.  Until recently, Myanmar also did not allow Coca-Cola to be sold.  In 2012, Coke was allowed back into the country after a 60 hiatus.

In Myanmar the brand was only vaguely remembered.  Knock offs, such as "Max Cola" and "Star" Cola took it's place in the market.  Upscale hotels and restaurants sold smuggled bottles of the real thing at highly marked up prices; it was known as a rich man's drink.  Coke wanted to change all that.  The company wanted to shift it's reputation from an upscale drink to something everyone can enjoy and for cheap.

To realign the company's reputation with its branding, the company had to resort to some clever advertising.  Taking cues from the campaigns of the 1800s, when no one knew of Coke, the company posted giant ads in shops and cafes explaining the product instead of just reinforcing the brand's image, as it does in America.  "Delicious, refreshing," how to drink Coke, and the standardized price, 300 Kyat were all shown in the ads.  With this campaign, Coke was able to show the Myanmar public what it was, how to enjoy it, and how cheap it was.  With this, the brand took a step towards fixing its reputation.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Trading in the Tie for a Toga

As I've mentioned before, at my job all of the staff are students.  Because students are generally only here for four years, there is a lot of turnover for staff.  I've been at my job for three and a half years (including each summer).  I only know of a handful of other people that have been at the job as long as I have.  Because I have been at this job for so long, I have gained a reputation from both the staff and the supervisors.

I would say that it is a positive reputation.  I am someone who likes to stay busy, I like to address things before they become a problem, and I have a great attention to detail.  The new staff see me as someone that they can ask a question to in lieu of the supervisor.  (By now, I know where basically everything in the building is and how to address most common questions and problems.)  The supervisors see me as someone who they can give a task and a team to, and I will get the job done efficiently and well.

To keep my reputation, I just continue to try and be a leader at work and to act proactively with issues that arise.  The supervisors really like to hear that there was a problem that was fixed without them having to intervene.  In addition, I make sure to get to work on time, and I always stay until every last thing is done for the night.  I keep my good reputation at work, because if I can't find a job in my field, I'm hoping to work as a supervisor at my job instead of moving in with my parents (or something similarly as hellish.)

I definitely have cashed in my reputation a time or two for personal gains.  Often times, I'm working late on Friday and Saturday nights; I get out anywhere from 11pm - 1am some nights.  I'm a college student, so weekend nights are the most fun, and the last thing I want to be doing is cleaning up from an event when I could be attending a toga party.  On a few occasions, I've just said to my manager, "I want to leave, is there anyway I can make a deal with you?"  Because I have such a good reputation, they often are able to come up with quick and dirty jobs for me to balance out leaving an hour or so early.  

Friday, November 1, 2013

Principal-Agent, on the Rocks

I'm a bartender at a conference center that is affiliated with the University.  Many companies, couples, and individuals throw parties at the ballrooms where I work, and I bar tend these event.  We are (supposedly) a four star establishment, and we charge four-star prices; the bar is the biggest money maker in my company.  Thus, we bartenders must be constantly conscious of things like inventory, over pouring drinks, and especially customer interaction.  This last one is most important because the bartender is one of the few staff at an event that one directly interacts with.

When I'm behind the bar, I answer to two principals, the customer and the company.  There is a University policy that dictates how much alcohol per drink we can pour, and oftentimes the customer does not see this as an adequate amount.  I am constantly being asked to "add a little more" or "top it off!"  I almost always  begrudgingly give more to the customer than I am supposed to.  Because monitoring the bars is so hard for my company, I knew there is almost no harm to me if I indulge the customer's request.  When you're the one who is face-to-face with the customer, it is harder to keep with policies that are set by the center.

One reason that I am willing to pour more for the customer is to save my self some hassle.  I have had multiple occasions where belligerent customers have raised their voices towards me, and a manager has had to get involved.  These times were really difficult situations to deal with, and I have no desire to have a situation escalate that much again.  Instead, I take the easy path and just hurt the company.  It's just easier.

The one time that I difficulty dealing with the situation, a manager had to step in.  Someone was angry that he was not getting served more, and he was making a scene.  To complicate things more, he was, not only the best man, but also the son of someone who works in the company.  This put both me and my manager in an awkward position; this was the first time that both of the principals were able to both monitor my actions at the same time.  We ended up telling the father of the groom to remove the man.  It was a lose-lose situation for the company and for the customer, and it reflected badly on me.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Dreaded Group Project

To be honest, if I find out an elective I'm taking has a group project, I drop the class.  Group projects, as executed in past classes just don't work as learning experience for me.  Before I started this policy, I was involved in a couple of group projects.  In two different classes I have taken, I have participated in a large group project.

The first group project I had was in a class about linguistics.  The class was large, about a hundred people, and we were in groups of five to six.  We were to give a 10-minute presentation.  Five people in a group is too many to get together outside of class, so the only time we actually met, there were only three of us that showed up.  B&D mention guidelines for group synergy, and one of the is "Agree on the Basics."  Because only a fraction of the group had shown up to the meeting, we were never able to come together as a group to agree on what our direction was and how we were going to achieve it.  Instead of productive talk about the content of the project, all talk became about logistical aspects of the project.  

To add to the problem, there was one girl who wanted to take the leadership role.  She was one of the ones that came to the in-person meeting.  A problem arose from this.  In the e-mails to the other group members, her role as self-proclaimed group leader was not made clear.  Therefore, in the back and forth communications, she would try to take control, and it was easy to see that the other two were pushing back.  She had not established herself in the leadership role to them, so she just came off as pushy and bossy.

The project became less about learning and understanding the subject, and more about endless e-mails back and forth.  It was truly a nightmare.  One group member I knew outside of class, and we were able to make our portion of the project solid and cohesive.  We met on our own and went forward with the few things all five of us agreed on.  The other 3/5 of the presentation, however, seemed totally unrelated once we presented it.  I would say that the largest contributor to to the problem was group size.  Five may not seem like too many people, but when there are RSO, work, and school obligations that each group member must deal with, this greatly complicates things in a project.  The large size then contributed to the lack of agreement on the fundamentals of the project.

The second group project I had worked better on so many levels.  It was for a cinema class.  We were to watch The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and give a 15-minute presentation about the movie.  We met bright and early on a Sunday morning and spent three hours in a round-table discussion and brainstorming session.  We agreed on what we wanted to say, who would say it, and how we would present it.  Not only were we able to agree on the basics, but we also followed B&D's advice to "doubt your infallibility."  The other members of the group came from backgrounds like communication, business, and anthropology.  I was an English major at the time.  We all came to the table with different opinions on the subject matter, but we were eventually able to come together with a cohesive project.

I know we are supposed to be bringing juicy stories to the table, but this movie project experience was about as seamless as one could ask for.  I'm actually had I had the second experience so I'd be (slightly) less colored about group projects as a whole.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

"Mad Men Lose Their Marbles," Say 4 out of 5 Doctors!

In the world of advertising, agencies will have the creative department structured into teams of two who then report to a higher office. These teams are composed of an Art Director, in charge of the graphics and a Copywriter, responsible for coming up with the print and arrangement of the advertisement. After the creation of an ad, these teams will then have their work reviewed by the Creative Director who decides whether or not it is a viable direction for a campaign to move forward with and present to the client.

A campaign that is liked by the client and is considered successful can have great repercussions for all parties involved. The Art Director and Copywriter are seen having a successful campaign.  The Creative Director shows his management and his ability to pick out a good campaign.  The agency as a whole gains reputation and respect.  In addition, an agency can use their past work to attract new clients.

Because a successful campaign can be so lucrative, often agencies and the creatives are eager to claim responsibility and have their hard worked recognized. Most times, however, the agency reaps the recognition reward, while the Art Director, Copywriter, and Creative Director are just internally recognized.  In this case, the agency has more of the marbles than the three who worked on the campaign.

The author writes, "If the Democrats really want to get moral psychology working for them, I suggest that they focus less on distributive fairness — which is about whether everyone got what they deserved — and more on procedural fairness—which is about whether honest, open and impartial procedures were used to decide who got what."  In the ad agency example, it seems like the normal for this sort of hierarchy of recognition to happen.  In any office, the manager is going to get more positive recognition from the top than those doing the footwork.  

Despite the fact that proper recognition of ideas can be so valuable, team cohesion among the creatives is of the utmost importance. Marbles must be shared at this level.  It is important for both the Art Director and the Copywriter to feel invested in the campaign that they're working on. Therefore, the manager has to share some of his marbles with the pair.

The nature of the creative process is such that ideas can strike at anytime, whether in the office or not, which means that the team may not be together. If one member of the team came up with a novel idea while he developed on his own, he may refrain from presenting the wholly formed idea to the other member but instead guide the direction of the conversation towards his idea, ensuring that the other member will also feel responsible and involved with the work.  In this way, one team member has pulled his rope and is coaxing the other to pull his.  He wants them to reap the marbles, without making it seem like it was his idea to get them in the first place.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Financial Freedom Supplied Gratis

I have been very blessed with my family when it comes to the finances of the future.  My mother is both a Certified Public Accountant and Certified Financial Planner.  My father is a farmer who is very shrewd business man and fairly cheap.  The two of them have been saving money for my brother and I since they first got married.  Neither my brother nor I have to pay for any of our schooling, undergrad or grad, ourselves.  This has freed us both enormously of debt after college, which is a great gift a parent can give their children.

Before I was an Economics major I was an English major.  I didn't choose it because I wanted to pursue a career in English; I chose it because I didn't want to come into college earning credit for nothing.  I think this turned out to be a great decision, because, by the time I decided to change majors, I already had accumulated enough credit for an English minor.  So, with little extra effort, I have been able to get a major and minor.  While some see Econ and English as an odd combination, I have been told that this will work to my advantage.  The English skills I have learned (analysis, clear writing, communication) will help me in any field that I enter.

I have a great job here on campus.  Since I am not paying for my own tuition, I have been able to save a lot of this money for my future.  I have an emergency fund building itself, I have a vacation fund, and various investments that I contribute to.  I am thankful to be ahead of the game.  I'm taking a class in personal finance through ACES and I'm learning more and more about what I need to be doing for the future.  

My brother graduated from Illinois in '08 with a degree in Psychology and a minor in Business.  Right now, he is at graduate school at SIUE, near St. Louis.  He has a job lined up already after graduate school, and I'm hoping to follow a similar path.  I don't think he ever believed he was going to get a job right out of school with his degrees, and I somewhat feel the same way.  I do believe, however, that he has managed his situation well.  What else could somewhat want then a Masters and a job right out of the gate?

If the career fair is any indication, most employers look bewildered when I tell them I'm in Economics.  This indicates to me that I am going to have a tough time finding a job that directly relates to my major when I leave school.  I'm okay with this; I've read that college is mostly about showing employers what one's capable of.  One's not necessarily expected to take triple derivatives on the first day.

To fully answer the prompt, I would say that my actions now have set me up for a risk of low income.  However, my actions now have also set me up well in order to deal with this larger risk.  In a perfect world, I'll get a great job and I'll build a stable financial foundation.  In a more realistic world, I'll struggle to find a job and be forced to chip into my savings.  I'm content with this.  I know there are students out there that are in a lot worse situations than I am.  I'm just thankful to have a CPA for a mother, even if her work stories have me nodding off in less than a minute.