Exam Weekend

This is the second weekend available for me to take my Quarter 6 exams. I haven’t actually taken any exams and my essays are still in the draft stage. The pressure is on. I did this to myself.


(Note: For the Executive MBA program they release exams on Friday at 5 pm on the first weekend and they are due by midnight on Sunday of the following weekend.)

I have attempted exams various different ways:

  1. Splitting them up over both weekends
  2. Taking them all during the first weekend
  3. Taking them all during the second weekend
  4. Taking time over the whole week to take the exams (usually includes me taking a half day at work)

Last quarter, I did them all over the last weekend. It wasn’t pleasant. Three 5-hour exams from Friday after work to Sunday at midnight is not the best plan. I finished by about 8 pm on Sunday. Tired. Dazed. (and maybe a little confused.) But I did actually get good grades for the classes so all was well.

How did I do that, you say?

  1. I live alone
  2. On Friday Afternoon I did all my errands for the weekend and stopped at a grocery store to get my supplies for the weekend (eggs, juice, a few Dr. Pepper’s for the caffeine, snacks, fruit)
  3. Got home on Friday.
  4. Didn’t leave my apartment until I was done with exams on Sunday.

Yes. That is right, I didn’t leave my apartment. I put myself under house arrest, intentionally.

I don’t necessarily recommend this to anyone, however, in the middle of summer, when all you want to do is be outside and enjoying the beautiful weather, the last thing that you want to do is leave the apartment. I know it would be difficult to return.

So that is what I am doing this weekend. The clock is ticking and I have things to complete, but I can only procrastinate so much, there is a deadline I must adhere to.

Maybe I just like the pressure cooker situations.

Leadership Residency 1: Other thoughts

My Facebook feed is rife with pictures from my preparation for Leadership Residency 1 last fall. While I talked about my EPIC FAILURE at packing for the trip last week, I wanted to take a moment to talk about some other thoughts I had reflecting back on LR1.

Based on our syllabus, this is what the intention of LR1 is:

“[LR1] introduces you to the challenge of leading with an executive’s point of view, which must consider the interests of the enterprise as a whole when making and implementing decisions. Common interests to consider include those of different business functions, internal and external stakeholders, and diverse global contexts. During LR1 you will learn what it means to take an enterprise perspective, and begin to understand the important leadership skills required to move a complex organization forward. You will engage in case discussions, role-plays, presentations, a self-assessment, and team-based activities. As part of the course, you will also have opportunities to learn, experience, and reflect on the implications of developing an enterprise perspective in your own practice of leadership.”

Here are the things that you might not expect:

  1. The amount of acronyms and abbreviationsacronym

  2. Just how hot a room can get at 5pm on Friday when the A/C is turned off and there are 120+ people in one room…. SPOILER ALERT: an uncomfortable level of warmth that I still remember to this day. heat2

  3. Almost everyone is a stranger to each other on day one.giphy

  4. By Day 6, it is a complete group of spirited individuals that are ready to take on the rest of the program (or at least everyone that isn’t completely exhausted from the week of class).giphy2

  5. Bringing your own wine and beer to Sloney’s may be frowned upon, but that doesn’t mean that you still can’t be inconspicuous about it.ultimate-guide-sneaking-booze-into-any-event-w1456

  6. Class Participation – while necessary for your grade – is really difficult in LR1 because of the sheer amount of classmates and the different professors that teach each class. Be patient. It does get better and easier.

  7. Canvas can be a trickster – arriving at Darden I realized I have missed crucial pre-LR1 readings because I didn’t know how to navigate the portal. Thinking that I had completed all the readings, only to realize that no, in fact, I had about 200 pages of more reading to do is not the best thing to learn about the night before classes start!canvas20icon-f-01-01

  8. There is laundry at the Darden Inn.tenor

  9. The gym is on summer hours during LR 1 – be aware that the hours are different.tenor1

  10. The Tech Support Team is awesome. giphy1

  11. There may be red, green, and blue, but I will always have a soft spot for YELLOW!tumblr_o2yatj8yfl1so0c2bo1_500

  12. Maybe don’t go to drinks on a Bumble date while at LR1 – I take that back… you do you! 😉 fadevih

  13. There will be enough food during the week to feed an entire army many times over. y2dpi2y

I would love to comment more on what LR1 is about, but then I would be giving away some of the serendipity of the week.

Work-Life Balance: Exam Time

I sit here at my desk at work, waiting for my brother to arrive on one of his days off from flying as a flight attendant around the world to come and have dinner with me.

Yes, you heard right.

He is coming to DC to have dinner with me. He knows the rest of the night will be taken up with writing essays for finals and verifying my templates for my Operations exam this weekend.

With his schedule inconsistencies and my schedule filled with activities from now until, well, May 2018, that is sometimes all I get. A dinner. A drink. A lunch.

However, I wanted to share what is happening this week in real-time (i.e. not a reflective blog post but a stream-of-consciousness blog post):


Those crafty little buggers that pop-up on my calendar about every eight weeks (since Darden is on a Quarter-based program rather than a semester-based program). This week it is:

  1. Global Economy and Markets – Part 2 – focused on emerging markets
  2. Global Leadership Explorations – Part 3 – South Africa
  3. Operations – Part 2 – Supply Stock, Supply Chain, Lean, etc, etc
  4. Action Learning  – Where business school meets business

I would say that I am prepared for the exams, but I still have several hours of studying before I am ready to sit for exams and turn in exam papers.


Exams in the midst of Balancing Life:


Darden Executive MBA Schedule is one of the most demanding schedules I have ever had to integrate into my life. One of my classmates framed this demanding schedule in this post, and quoted here:

You will spend, on average, 25-30 hours a week preparing for class on top of your full time job. As such, you need to be extremely open with those that are close to you so that they are not blindsided by the nature of this new commitment. You will need their full support and help over the next two years, so it’s important that they are fully onboard.

Not every week is 25-30 hours, but most are. Which makes me think the idea of a Work-Life Balance and the Lean In concept are not the way to approach business school when it is part-time.

This is just the choice I made for my life. Nothing more, nothing less. For 21 months, I would forgo other commitments and throw myself into this process with my entire being. After a year of this battle, I thought I may want to write down my averages.

Here is a typical hour breakdown of my week:

  • Class time: Two Evening Classes (3-4 hours)/week
  • Learning Team Meetings: Very dependent on the courses for that week, meet at least once a week. Meetings usually run about 2 hours, give or take.
  • Study Time: Most Professors will say about 2 hours of prep time per class. This is HIGHLY dependent on the subject matter of the class, how much reading is assigned, and the level of understanding I have for the subject matter. Example: Most accounting classes would take about 3 hours of prep time for me since I don’t have an accounting background.
  • Saturday Asynchronous Class: This is either a video recording (1.5 hours), or a written assignment. With the reading involved, I would allocate about 3 hours for the work assigned.

So that is:

  • 3.5 hours of classes/wk
  • 2-4 hours for Learning Team Meetings
  • 4 hours of individual class prep
  • 3 hours for Saturday Class
  • Total: 14.5 hours

But wait, Casey, didn’t you say that it was at a minimum of 25 hours per week? Yep. I did.

Here are all the things that are missing:

  • Career Search – whether looking to advance in your current position or change careers you could easily be working several hours some weeks on resume building, industry research, networking, etc
  • Supplemental Reading – (Casey, Are you serious? Yes, Yes, I am.) Many classes recommend supplemental texts including but not limited to, technical notes, Wall Street Journal, The Economist, other textbooks, the list goes on. You aren’t REQUIRED to read these, but when you are cold called in class, it sure helps to have at least glanced at what is happening in the world of business.
  • General communication between peers and the EMBA staff and faculty – those emails really do add up.
  • Want to be involved in Class Leadership or Club leadership? – That takes time too!

Just like in finance and accounting, I learned that the back of the napkin numbers can be deceiving.

Summing it all Up:

Back in undergrad, there was this saying that is probably still common today.


I want to know when this joke will end. Because that is not the truth. Unless you are a two dimensional person with no other interests, commitments, or just general wonder of the world around you.

I sometimes count myself lucky out of my classmates because I am not married, nor do I have children. But yet, I have relationships that I want to keep strong through this process; family and friends.






Leadership Residency 1: Reflection and Advice on Packing

Business Casual.

Can I be anymore perturbed by this term answering the question, what should I wear? Probably not.

I feel like guys have it easy. They can just wear slacks, button-down shirt, and a sports coat. If it is less formal, lose the sports coat and unbutton a button, perhaps, and boom, a more casual business casual outfit. Maybe throw in a few polos. Their job is done.

Women though…. I have been working for over 7 years and I still have qualms about the term business casual.

When receiving information about the first leadership residency for the Executive MBA Program at Darden they said wear business casual…. I audibly gulped.

Image result for gulp gif

This packing adventure was going to be a trial! And I still had a huge amount of pre-course work to complete!

What was my response?


Leadership Residency 1 Pack list (Reality):

  • Basically pack every piece of clothing that would fit;
  • Way more shoes than the amount of days I was going to even be there;
  • and then, toss a few other things in, just for laughs. It was ridiculous

NOTE: I also drove to campus, where many of my classmates flew into Charlottesville. I want to say that all I had was one luggage piece, but that is a lie…

Image result for packing gif
Are you really going to need those angry eyes? If not, just leave them at home.

I knew from about half way through the week I packed completely wrong. A year later, several weekend residencies, and three international trips, I wanted to look back on the packing list I should’ve had in hand for my first leadership residency.

Image result for packing gif
While a silver sequined coat looks awesome, it may not come in handy until the Global Residencies.

What I wish I packed for the Leadership Residency:

  • 2 Jackets (black tailored fit jacket and a casual blue jacket)
  • 2 pairs of jeans (I prefer skinny jeans, one black pair and one blue pair). My business casual route is usually to dress up nice jeans not dress down slacks or professional dresses.
  • 5 Tops (I usually wear blue, black, and grey tops majority of the time)
  • 1 skirt (Darden in August can be a cruel mistress)
  • 2 Knee-length dresses (For pairing with a jacket or wearing out on the lawn during social dinners. My dresses to choose from at the time were very patterned an fun, I have toned down the ones I travel with to be more versatile.)
  • 1 Maxi dress (This I would’ve worn for the opening dinner where we all gathered and heard from recent graduates, the Dean of the Program, and broke bread together. My dress is black but made of very casual material. Makes me look, at times, a lot more fancy than I intend.)
  • 2 cardigans (blue and black)
  • 2 pairs of shorts (for lawn social events)
  • 2 Pairs of flats
  • Optional: 2 pairs of low heels (I am 5’10” and love to wear low-heels with jeans so this is a must have for me)

This takes into account 6.5 days of classes, several evening social events, and incidentals. (Also, there is laundry at the Darden Inn)

This list above paired with the necessary, workout clothes and whatever you sleep in, would probably get you through the week. Heck, it got me through a week in South Africa (just threw in some warm jackets since it was winter)!

Other things to consider:

  • They have so many pens you won’t know what to do with them all… take them 😉
  • Bring a bottle opener… trust me on this.
  • They feed us all the time. Seriously.
  • Be mindful of when the group picture and ID picture will be during the week and plan accordingly, if you so choose.
  • The Leadership Residency gets more casual as the week wears on. The first day everyone looked very professional and throughout the week it went from BUSINESS casual to business CASUAL. On the last morning (We were dismissed at noon on the last day) many people wore their newly purchased Darden shirts to class.

Forte Forum in DC Tonight!

If you are looking for a spectacular event to attend and learn more about the MBA programs across the world, I cannot recommend the Forte Forum events that are held in late summer.

Tonight’s DC event I attended last year. I was so sick that I probably shouldn’t have gone, but I did anyway.

At the time I was in the last half of my MBA Launch program and in the middle of writing my essays and studying to retake my GMATs. In essence, I was busy.

Here are the details for tonight.

#forteforum #MBALaunch #DC #MBA