October 10th, 2011

Little Things Mean a Lot

I'm back in the time warp again as I've been back on the exercycle for two weeks of workdays now and starting a third today, missing only last Friday due to the trip to ConClave. (It's ok. I got plenty of exercise slinging boxes and recording gear around to make up for it.) My exercycle reading material is still the cache of aging Time magazines that I didn't get around to reading when they were new. Right now, I'm in March 2001, which is a very different world from today.

One of the articles was discussing the SAT test and its limitations. I'm actually rather fond of the SAT test and all its friends and relations, as I'm pretty good at standardized test taking. (And I managed to answer all of the sample questions in Time while riding the exercycle, which isn't so bad. :) )

The last standardized test that I took was the GMAT as I was preparing to bail out of my Ph.D. program in chemistry and head off to get an MBA. I scored 790 out of 800 which is both pretty good and an indication of what someone with a science / math background and the ability to write can do to an exam for business people. (Or so I presume. I remember watching the undergraduate business majors at SIU and opining that they never seemed to need to study, which I think said more about the course work than anything else.)

I sent my scores off to the University of Chicago Business School, to Northwestern's Kellogg Graduate School of Management, and to the University of Illinois Business School, the last because I was already there and figured I could pay for school by continuing to work on PLATO if I couldn't find another option. The folks at Illinois got my scores, realized I was there on campus, and called me in to talk to me. It was pretty clear that I would be able to get into the school there.

U of C dropped me on the wait list, but KGSM had me up for an interview. And the fellow I was talking to told me that they prefer to have students who've had some work experience before coming back to school.

"I understand that," I said, "but I've decided that I don't want to work in chemistry, so there's really no point in doing that. I'd like to come here, but I will end up going to get my MBA somewhere."

And I got in.

Then in my second year at KGSM, I decided to take a class on Strategic Analysis from Carl Noble, because I would learn all of the things that I wanted to learn about shareholder value analysis from him that I would from Al Rappaport's much more popular class on Mergers and Acquisitions save for the actual merger accounting and it would be a much easier class to get onto my schedule. Carl and I turned out to be very well attuned to each other, so much so that when I left KGSM without a job offer in hand, I took a temporary job working for Carl and his partner, the aforementioned Al.

Twenty nine years later, I'm still working at that temporary job, which didn't take very long at all to become permanent.

It's all a very fragile basis for how my life turned out. A standardized test, an interviewer who decided to let me into the school, a decision to take a particular class, all of which led me to this job and to Chicago, where I met Gretchen as I started working on that MBA.

And here we are.