Entrepreneurship & Guts

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(Shanghai, China) Always have a dream in sight and reach for it.

Not sure if I ever mentioned this before but during my last semester in college, I took up a course on Entrepreneurship and its semester long group project involved writing up a credible business plan, one that someone could actually bring it out and make it work. My team decided to focus on E’s dream because that’s what she hoped to start after graduation and because it seemed the most plausible to success. I had a great time in the team, and produced a fine business plan that I believed the professor was even happy with. Heck, I was so proud of the final project that I kept it on my desktop until now to remind me of it.

Well, several weeks ago, E informed me that she had submitted the plan into a business plan competition and made it all the way to the final round for the grand prize of $10000 and numerous other misc. support. She’s one step closer to starting that dream business of hers. And all this because she had the vision of what wanted and the guts to push it one step at a time. Why am I writing this now? Well, the final round is just round the corner and I’m rooting for her.

Graduation

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(Ann Arbor, Michigan) Big Stadium – The Michigan Difference

For today, goodbye.

For tomorrow, good luck.

And forever, Go Blue!

I had been slow updating about my life recently. It was not the lack of content, rather the lack of willingness to sit down and start typing it out. Also, another tidbit to add here. I am officially a graduate of the Class of 2011, majoring in Actuarial Mathematics and Economics. With my International Studies major dropped, I decided to graduate a year earlier than intended almost impulsively. I had mulled over this decision within the past two months and was still indecisive until the last moment.

With that, my summer plans had suddenly gone awry because I did not take into account that next Fall, I do not have university to go back to. Hence, I am currently a job seeker and if you have any recommendations, do let me know. Time to get out of the college bubble and start supporting myself. This summer, I decided to forgo part of my extensive vacation, opting for a quick post graduation trip with my parents instead. I will use the remaining time to figure out my plans for the future, brush up on more technical knowledge (with learning new programming language in mind, recommendations please), and perhaps set up some passive income for sustenance.

I will update future post with my Strategy game ‘s results.

BP Trading Simulation Challenge

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(Sandusky, Ohio) Crash and burn.

I saw the BP’s participation certificate tucked somewhere on my table and decided to recount the event that occurred few weeks ago. BP came to campus and provide a trading simulation exercise on crude oil. It was supposed to be a competition among all the participants doing thee simulation. I teamed up with Has for this challenge. I had some prior experience doing some virtual trading and analysis before so it should be in my favor to be ahead of others. Indeed, as soon as the simulation started, we start out small by longing and shorting to fell the market around. Has and I are rather passive players. We will hold a position and wait until we earned a profit. With 10 minutes left in the game, we locked in around $12 million in pure profits. But hold strategy was no longer working for us in the final moments, we ended up reducing our profit by $3 million, but I was adamant to recoup those losses till I forgot about the time clause. The time runs out as I was trying to close my account. Still, I had $9 million in the bank, so it should be okay right, wrong! Because I didn’t managed to close the account before time ended, we were penalized $43 million from our holdings. To make matter worse, earning $9 million would still make us ahead of the market by a large margin because the runner-up (who won the game because of our penalty) only earned $2 million, while the rest of the participants all lose money or are just barely scraping through. I should have not gave up on the forest just for an additional tree, a key lesson that I should not be myopic in chasing small profits and forgot about the things around me. Rubbing salt into injury, Z came and congratulate me, “Hey, at least you know you’re the best trader here.”

FYI, my virtual portfolio last year earned more then 100% return. It’s just that I do not have the guts to put in real money to play, unlike A and H.

Stories from Class

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(Orlando, Florida) Hogwarts School of Magic: It’s all magic to me.

Here’s two laugh worthy stories from one of my classes this week. That’s why it’s nice to study in Michigan, the faculties here are blessed with great experiences, and often funny encounters.

Story 1

This story was from a professor’s experience in the 80’s. Professor M created a computer accelerator so that the CPU can accelerate from those 126 kilobytes to 256 kilobytes (I’m making these numbers up). It was revolutionary at the time and he sold a lot of these accelerators. But, there’s a twist to his marketing methods. Because he has trouble identifying the correct price for his product, he resorted to create seven different packaging with different colored boxes. He priced each of these with different prices and just like that, created seven new products which are essentially the same underneath. He captured all the surplus because different people will buy different products according to how much they valued them. And here’s where it get more ridiculous, a pc magazine decided to produce a top 10 list for accelerators in the market. His products occupied every position from 1 to 7, which are essentially the same accelerator. This shows that even the writers never did their homework properly. He still hangs the cover of the magazine in his office and have a good laugh with his visitors who asked about the magazine.

Story 2

I did a case study on failure about WB and his investment in Berkshire Hathaway. The story is not about the case itself but the authors. They are also students  who took the same course a few years ago under the same professor. They decided to wrote a case study about Warren Buffet and the first company he owned. They finished writing about the case study and give it to Professor L to review. Professor L then give a call to BH and sent the case study to Mr. Buffet’s secretary, asking if Mr. Buffet wanted to take a look at it. Mr. Buffet looked at it, was impressed and invited the two authors to come attend a board meeting with him and other investors. So, they went there, and had a great time meeting Mr. Buffet and others who were there, including Bill Gates, Charlie Munger and Jamie Lee Curtis to name a few.

But, one of the author, D have his first week of job that same week. So, he called the office and asked to start working on the next week. Here’s how the conversation roughly goes:

Hi, I’m D. I’m one of the newly hired graduates who going to work at your office next week. I want to shift the starting date by another week. I’m going to fly to Omaha to attend a meeting with Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. Thanks.

Imagine the look of the person who received this call, as well as all the upper echelons of the company when they heard this message.

On the Monday he’s reporting to work, every single partner in the company went to work. Each of them wanted to look at the newly hired who just had a meeting with Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. Last Professor L heard from D, his career didn’t rise from Day 1, it skyrocketed because everyone in the company knows about him.

Personal

This is a snippet from my personal life. I’m a very careless person. This is because I’m quite impulsive and always decide on things with my intuition. Yesterday, I went and did a quick NPV calculation to make sure my group’s investment was still relevant. I came up with a number and approved the decision. It was after that then I realized I approached the parameters wrongly and the payment was off. The data was ambiguous and I used the data that I believed intuitively was a better estimation.

Today, I had a short quiz on calculating the probability of death within ten years on a multiple decrement model given two force of mortality. I was impulsive and didn’t think things thoroughly before I started. In the end, I calculated the probability for a newborn and not someone aged 40 as instructed. This cost me my quiz since I do not have the time to edit my answers after I realized about it.

Edit:

Might as well add another one, this is about customer service in France. Professor L was transiting in France airport together with a Nobel Prize winner and the President of a large aerospace corporation. They were waiting in line for their boarding pass to board the airplane when the lady at the counter suddenly looked at her watch and decided that its break time. This was despite the fact that there were 15 other people waiting to get boarding pass for the same flight and the plane and gate was right in front of them, having the last call to board the flight. The NP winner was so enraged that he took his prosthetic leg (shouldn’t be hard to guess the identity) and wave it around, trying to hit the lady while standing on one leg. The manager showed up along with 10 officers, and the President threatened to use his power to ask the FAA to ground the flight unless they got their boarding pass. At the end of the commotion, they finally got their boarding passes and board the plane, escorted by the 10 burly officers. The crowd were enjoying the scene while it last. Customer service in a socialist leaning country; can’t fire them and no incentive to make it better.

Revaluating Failure

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(Los Angeles, California) Still waiting to climb up.

How many times did you fail before? Let’s be honest and say plenty of times. But, failing isn’t a bad thing if there’s a lesson to be learn from it. What is important is to reflect on the mistake, analyze it and look at how it went wrong and future precautions. Do you get up from your failures? I’d failed too many times to count. How many of us would keep ourselves stuck in the cycle of failure and didn’t try to climb out of this pit of despair?

What did I do when I failed? I complained while others will blame others for the failure. People lose hope when they failed. Some even don’t care about it anymore. It’s not a matter of failing or success, but it is the matter of how we cope with failure. How do we deal with it? Are you going to get up every time you fall or give up? What is important that if you failed, you must be willing to struggle harder, get up and achieve your goals. Learn from the mistakes and try to correct them. Some people know that they’re wrong, but they just won’t change their style.

I believed that I am one of them. I wrote reflective post like this each time I went through a major setback. I know that it was my fault but I just won’t change. Worse still, this current mistake was very similar to what I did last year. I was burdened by it last year and wrote a post, promising to change. Yet history keeps on repeating itself because I never learned my lesson. Right now, I’m still stuck in the same cycle, I’m complaining about my failure here, lose hope, and promise to try harder next time. I am still stuck in the pit without planning to dig any foot holds to climb out of the pit. Perhaps, this time I will be true to my words, reflect on my mistakes and truly able to grow from them.

21st Asia Business Conference 2011

The Asia Business Conference concluded about two weeks ago. Yesterday was our post-event celebration party. The conference was a pretty good considering our limited resources and time.

I learned a lot through this conference planning. I was in the Operations, meaning that I have to handle the behind the scenes planning. I’ll list down what I takeaway from this experience.

  • The world is very uncertain, something I’m sure not learned in school. I have to decisions in the dark without the full information and then make alterations to get things through.
  • Do not refuse any help like I usually do. They are a godsend, especially in crunch time. In such scenario, being the lone wolf is not the best viable option and teamwork is especially crucial. I can’t thank you guys enough for the help and information offered.
  • I learned the value of good human capital. I would rather have an excellent person who can handle the workload and do things well, rather than a few who just can’t get things right. I realized that’s why major firms have such rigorous interviewing process, they judge the interviewees for their passion and personality.

I also must polish my karaoke repertoire. I’m pretty sure I embarrassed myself with my terrible singing and tendency to forgot the tune.

TOTD: 12/13/2010

I am quite worry right now. It is the finals week and I am just worried that I did not prepare enough for my exams. I am, still a firm believer in achieving the best possible outcome with the minimal amount of work necessary to free up time. This time, is best invested in something I would like, something I would at least concentrate my efforts and be the best at it rather than keeping my (lacking) attention equally on all aspects.

However, right now, I am wondering if I should reprioritize and concentrate where it matter the most – my exams. I am particularly stressed about the two upper level mathematics course I am taking, with the sprinkling of graduate students in the same class. Right now, the classes are curved such that above average is no longer acceptable, and only the truly exceptional reaps the benefit of their effort and time.

I am looking back at my notes right now, thinking whether I could master everything again for that last final push before the break.

There’s a Job Out There for You

A few days ago, my professor bought up an interesting reminiscent. When he graduated around two decades ago, jobs (in Korea) were plentiful and it was a booming period there. He mentioned how his classmates bombed entrance exams into prestigious companies and it took to rectify that was a simple phone call to the HR stressing on the intent to work in A company.

Those good times are bygones, at least in the current US job market. According to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey by Bureau of Labor Statistics, job openings are very modestly increasing. The companies that came recruiting on campus are all chirping that there are job openings and they are hiring. Interview rates had gone up but I don’t think the number of hires increased at the same pace. Yeah, the companies want to meet you, to interview you, but just not to hire you.

I am seriously reconsidering my post-graduation option of heading straight to work or to travel the world for a while.

Note: I had been mulling over this for the past few days, it is just so hard to break out of the societal  pressure of conforming to the standard routine of getting a job in a prestigious firm.

I want a career, not a job, and a legacy that I could attached to my name.

Fall 2010 Courses

It’s actually several weeks into the Fall semester already, but I guess it’s better to be late than never. Otherwise, I might not update over here at all. Right now, I am taking five courses for this semester. It’s pretty reasonable for now, judging by rumors that some of my classes are challenging.

FIN 300 – Financial Management. 3 cr.

An introduction to the issues, theory, and methodology that comprise a framework for rational decision-making by financial managers. The objective of this course is to use examples, problems, and cases to develop analytical ability and to illustrate the practical application of financial theory and analysis. Topics include present value analysis, capital budgeting, pricing financial assets, firm financial structure and the cost of capital, mergers and acquisitions, and security underwriting.

By far, the easiest of all my courses. I guess my mathematics background really helps out over here.

ECON 406 –  Introduction to Econometrics. 4 cr.

This course, a continuation of ECON 405, is intended to prepare students to conduct empirical research in economics. The classical linear regression model is developed with special emphasis on the basic assumptions of the model, economic situations in which the assumptions are violated, and alternative estimation procedures that are appropriate in these cases. Computer exercises are used to introduce students to special problems encountered in the analysis of economic data.

Introductory econometrics. It is almost similar (currently) to the previous statistics class I took. I guess Prof. Smith is still building up our foundation for further delving into econometrics. The computer exercises using Stata is fun. Stata has higher capability to other statistical software I used before (ie PASW – formerly SPSS).

ECON 490 –  Topics in Microeconomics (Korean Economy). 3 cr.

Sections cover specialized topics and topics that span subfields in economics. The topics are presented at an advanced undergraduate level. Topics vary with the interests of the faculty member teaching the section.

The prof teaching this class is Prof. Baak, a visiting prof from Waseda University, Japan. It is supposed to be my fun class since the topic caters to my interest. The only downside is the copious amount of readings and the frequent data entry and analysis from databases. I am getting better at accessing databases and editing the data in Excel to be more presentable. (My professor laments the fact that the University pays so much for these databases’ access and the students hardly ever used them, thus his intent for us to access the databases as much as possible.)

MATH 520 –  Life Contingencies I. 3 cr.

The goal of this course is to teach the basic actuarial theory of mathematical models for financial uncertainties, mainly the time of death. In addition to actuarial students, this course is appropriate for anyone interested in mathematical modeling outside of the physical sciences. Concepts and calculation are emphasized over proof. The main topics are the development of:

  1. probability distributions for the future lifetime random variable,
  2. probabilistic methods for financial payments depending on death or survival, and
  3. mathematical models of actuarial reserving.

MATH 523 is a complementary course covering the application of stochastic process models. MATH 520 is prerequisite to all succeeding actuarial courses. MATH 521 extends the single decrement and single life ideas of MATH 520 to multi-decrement and multiple-life applications directly related to life insurance and pensions. The sequence MATH 520-521 covers the Part 4A examination of the Casualty Actuarial Society and covers the syllabus of the Course 150 examination of the Society of Actuaries. MATH 522 applies the models of 520 to funding concepts of retirement benefits such as social insurance, private pensions, retiree medical costs, etc.

It is an irony that the upper-level/graduate classes usually have lower credit hours but much higher workload. Still, this course is still fairly enjoyable for now if I can keep up with the weekly quizzes.

MATH 523 –  Risk Theory. 3 cr.

Risk management is of major concern to all financial institutions and is an active area of modern finance. This course is relevant for students with interests in finance, risk management, or insurance and provides background for the professional examinations in Risk Theory offered by the Society of Actuaries and the Casualty Actuary Society. Students should have a basic knowledge of common probability distributions (Poisson, exponential, gamma, binomial, etc.) and have at least junior standing. Two major problems will be considered: (1) modeling of payouts of a financial intermediary when the amount and timing vary stochastically over time; and (2) modeling of the ongoing solvency of a financial intermediary subject to stochastically varying capital flow. These topics will be treated historically beginning with classical approaches and proceeding to more dynamic models. Connections with ordinary and partial differential equations will be emphasized. Classical approaches to risk including the insurance principle and the risk-reward tradeoff. Review of probability. Bachelier and Lundberg models of investment and loss aggregation. Fallacy of time diversification and its generalizations. Geometric Brownian motion and the compound Poisson process. Modeling of individual losses which arise in a loss aggregation process. Distributions for modeling size loss, statistical techniques for fitting data, and credibility. Economic rationale for insurance, problems of adverse selection and moral hazard, and utility theory. The three most significant results of modern finance: the Markowitz portfolio selection model, the capital asset pricing model of Sharpe, Lintner and Moissin, and (time permitting) the Black-Scholes option pricing model.

Definitely the hardest of all the courses I am taking. Prof. Panjer is a quite famous in his field – a past President of the SOA, co-author of the standard textbook, and introduced a very famous algorithm etc. I like attending his class, he makes the materials feel bearable, if only I could keep my understanding of the lecture outside of class. However, his Excel exercises do makes me contemplate whether to drop this course. I am pretty sure I tried out a new function or two of Excel trying to finish his assignments.