Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Wolverine Grows Some Scales

So, as I mentioned in a recent post, I've been pretty busy over the past 6 months. Between getting married, applying for jobs (both academic and non-academic--for those interested in hearing about McKinsey & Co. interviews I am happy to give some insight there in what sort of atmosphere to expect, but take them with a grain of salt, as I was ultimately not offered a position), finishing up my dissertation, and having a slew of research papers coming together all at once, it hasn't left much time for blogging. But, luckily, all of this has led to an exciting announcement (for me at least).

So out with it. I have officially signed an offer with the University of Florida. Assuming a successful defense of my dissertation in May (of course, not a given), I will begin my new appointment as Assistant Professor with the Department of Tourism, Recreation and Sport Management in the College of Health and Human Performance this August. Obviously, I will then have to change the subtitle of this blog to "Naive Assistant Professor".

I will say that I will be very sad to leave Ann Arbor. Not only is this a great place to live, but the opportunities that Michigan has provided for me have been unbelievable. I was rather lucky to be in a situation where the department was in a monumental shift--especially for a Sport Management program--and it has been nothing but good. I was able to get here right as my adviser, Dr. Rod Fort, arrived and work with him as an MA student in the program. This ultimately led to me rolling into the PhD program and having a chance to do dual MA degrees in Statistics and Applied Economics--not a something that happens without some things falling right into place.

There is no doubt in my mind that this is the prime place for quantitative and economic analysis of sports (and this includes comparing it to economics departments). I have been able to bump elbows and work with some of the top names in the field, and would like to thank them for their guidance throughout the process: Professors Rodney Fort--who played a pivotal role, taking a chance on a guy with a Psychology degree to do quantitative work--Mark Rosentraub, Jason Winfree, Kathy Babiak, Stefan Szymanski, Dae Hee Kwak, Kate Heinze, Ketra Armstrong, Bruce Watkins, and Richard Wolfe (now at University of Victoria). I'd also like to thank my fellow graduate students here for all of our discussions and collaborations: Steve Salaga, Matt Juravich, Mike Cantor, Scott Tainsky (our first PhD graduate, and an Assistant Professor at University of Illinois), Kelly Xu, Thomas Peeters (visiting from Antwerp), Seung Pil Lee, and Joon Sung Lee. And, last but certainly not least, I would like to thank our Graduate Coordinator, Charlene Ruloff, for all of her help with administration of graduate student stuff. We would be completely lost without her.

Of course, I have had the chance to take advantage of the top tier Statistics and Economics graduate programs here at Michigan as well. The opportunity to take classes with the likes of Charlie Brown, Jeff Smith, Joel Slemrod, Scott Masten, and Naomi Feldman has been a real thrill. I will certainly be sad without Charlie around to pitch in softball. Hopefully, he will continue to share his thoughts on outrageous internet links.

Through my studies, I have had the chance to personally speak with Joel Maxcy, Michael Leeds, Stefan Kesenne, Roger Noll, Dan Mason, Stephen Ross, and J.C. Bradbury, as well as email discussions with Cy Morong and Young Hoon Lee. Each of these discussions had added to my knowledge of the field and expanded my mind with respect to possible research topics in the future.

As an MA student, I had the opportunity to take a class with Alan Ostfield, which was really a lot of fun. Additionally, Mark Rosentraub has been pivotal in providing students with access to prominent business figures in sports. Through Dr. Rosentraub, I have had the chance to meet, hear talks from, and/or have lunch with the likes of Rob Dupuy, Ron Shapiro, Jim Irsay, Steven Soboroff, John Moores, Paul Dolan, and Dan Gilbert. While I am sure they won't have much to remember about me, I will certainly always remember what they had to say while they were here.

This blog has gotten more attention that I would have ever expected. It really started out of frustration as a grad student having lots of ideas, and little direct outlet for them. The chance to speak with some prominent names in the front offices of MLB, talks with Josh Orenstein at Trackman Technologies, and an invitation to speak at an R Users Meetup following Metamarkets CEO Mike Driscoll--not an easy act to follow at a data science meeting!!--all stemming from work on this blog have been a real unexpected honor.

Of course, those commenting here--and at other online forums--have forever contributed to my thinking about analytics and sports. I thank you for the enlightening discussions over the past couple of years, even if we still disagree. Mike Fast, especially, has been extremely helpful in discussions regarding Pitch F/X data. I don't have any plans to stop updating my blog, but the type and regularity of updates will depend on the time I have over the next 6 months or so as I finish up my required work and prepare for the move.

So, here we go. Looking down the home stretch--and with some luck--I have sun, palm trees and Spanish moss in sight. I am excited to become a Gator.


  1. Hey Brian, thanks for all of your PITCHf/x and R help way back when. Congratulations on your new gig at UF, and best of luck with your future endeavors!

  2. Congrats Brian! Getting married and a job at UF all in 6 months? Not too shabby. Thanks for all the help and things I've learned from you (which is a lot) along the way. I'm glad at UF many others will now have the opportunity to learn from you.

  3. What happened at McKinsey ... did you get to final round. I'm currently interviewing Bain and BCG but didn't get through the McKinsey screening rounds. Would love to get any insights you have though ...


  4. Albert and Josh,

    Thanks for the kind words. I won't be leaving the online community, so hopefully we can all still interact both here and elsewhere. Good luck to you both, as I know you have been pursuing what are likely very fun career paths.

  5. Alex R,

    If you have specific questions, feel free to email me. My insights for the resume screening is to have something on there that makes them say "holy shit" (i.e. a 4.0 in Economics at MIT and a JD/MBA from Harvard) or something unique that gets them interested in you (previous consulting experience with significant results). I know that's pretty vague, but I really have no clue why they chose me when other places didn't even give me an interview. For the IQ test screening round, be sure to practice the tests you can find online. One thing I found helpful is to know what they're looking for. Despite being a multiple choice test, my opinion is that on their test there are actually questions with more than a single right answer. I found this to be stupid, but through practiced realized the type of answer that they actually liked. This will help with the time crunch at the actual test, as McKinsey looks for specific types of answers (don't ask, because I can't quite put my finger on what it is, but you can recognize patterns after a while and after researching their careers website and such).

    The McKinsey interviews were a mixed bag, and keep in mind that I went in with the Advanced Professional Degree (APD) crowd. They were very professional DURING the process, and this was extremely impressive to me. I made it through the CV screening process, and then through the first round interviews/IQ test. I felt that I did well at second rounds, but was not invited to the final round office. It's a ridiculously competitive process, I know, so I was okay with that despite some slight disappointment. Anyone without a Harvard degree is a longshot with McKinsey, who really does play the "elite degree only" card. Michigan is pretty much as low as they consider.

    I think the best thing to do is talk to whoever is in with them and make yourself known. The decisions seem to be relatively subjective once you hit the case interview stage (assuming you don't screw up really badly). During the interview process, everyone was extremely nice and helpful, and they were very open about the expectations and the way they go about their problem solving exercises. One negative here is that they are somewhat condescending to the APD crowd, as if we don't have the ability to think logically through business problems or understand what "mutually exclusive" means. The "MECE" method was presented as something profound and unique to McKinsey, which gave an impression of real narcissism and arrogance. But like I said, everyone was very friendly overall and really wanted the candidates to do well.


  6. If you make it past first rounds, they'll assign you a case coach to go over things and also let you set up a practice group interview call. I know for certain that the responses I gave over the phone were among the better ones in the group session, so I was pretty confident after this. It was an enlightening and overall pleasurable experience, and they truly did seem to be open to ALL experiences (remember I am finishing my PhD in Sport Management, a degree usually looked upon as fluff in the hardcore business world--I think my studies in Econ and Stat helped with making them look past that and I showed this to be the right choice by passing their little test...but I even got chuckles from other candidates before we took the test when I told them my field...which of course made making it to the next round over them that much more enjoyable). But take all this with a grain of salt, as I am not the type of person that gets too nervous.

    However, there were a few things to be aware of that really disappointed me about the process (even before hearing the final decision, I felt this way). While the second round interviews were generally friendly, I found them to be less about solving the problem and more about spewing bullshit. It was almost as if they wanted a specific answer even if your defense was shaky at best. I think this is an experience many APD candidates have. You've shown your chops with the analytical test, so I imagine they're less interested in whether you can solve a multiplication problem in the case interview than whether you can make it seem like you know the answer without much effort. On a scale relative to other PhD candidates, I think I do this pretty well. But on the scale of, say, a group of MBA's, I am a little more hesitant to say with conviction that I think I'm right. In other words, having a pompous attitude tends to be valued highly.

    The second complaint I have is with one of the interviewers at the second round. I am relatively young at 27, but interviewing with someone who was about 24 just out of an MBA program (at the same school) and with a bit of a self-assured attitude wasn't a pleasant experience. I am sure this guy was very smart, but probably not nearly as big of a deal as he would have liked to think. The cases themselves are purposefully muddled, so be sure you ask good clarifying questions. The way the cases are set up--I would hope--aren't really how people lay things out. I have done some consulting in the sports world and while problems are generally communicated vaguely, my experience was very different from the way the case interviews were laid out. I know it's supposed to replicate real-world consulting, but having 30 seconds to answer the question "What should our company do" without any information is screaming "just give us some BS". I suspect there is a meeting where they have to signal to a CEO that they know what they're doing, and I guess I missed the ball on this one. Most of the questions are pretty easy if you were to sit with Excel on a computer for 10 minutes, so it's important to know that they already understand you have the ability to answer these questions in a more realistic setting. Overall, this interviewer was rather off-putting, and I found it strange to have only MBAs interviewing APD candidates. Not because of some elitist view I have on 'credentials', but in order to understand the difference in the way the two groups think about these sorts of problems.


  7. Another negative had to do with the phone practice. I will say that it was amazing someone took the time to help me out for a couple hours a week before my second rounds. But, it turned out that my "McKinsey Buddy" who gave me practice over the phone was in Toronto. I was told he was with the Toronto office, but assumed they would be pairing me with a U.S. phone number for long phone conversations. I was wrong, and my next phone bill ended up with over $100 in extra charges. So be careful here.

    The most negative experience I had was after the notification of not advancing to the final round. It wasn't the rejection itself, that I can deal with. I expected NOT to be passed on to the next level at every turn, so even being at the second rounds was a solid achievement in my view and I was happy that they considered me that far. But, with the notification they offered to speak with me personally about improving and the reasons why I wasn't passed on, and when I called back, the number they had given me was essentially a BS number (I was out to dinner at 8:30 pm with my new in-laws, so I did not have my phone when they initially called). The guy that let me know (who was the one interviewer I liked) called from an office that wasn't his home office, and left that number as a call back. They didn't know who he was when I called back. I am always up for self-improvement, so this is one of the parts of the process I was most excited about. Not getting any feedback at all was very disappointing.

    Finally, a pet peeve I had was that when you ask what they do, you NEVER get a straight answer. Ever. They tell you "we solve problems", which tells you absolutely nothing about what they do. If the case interviews are really what they do, their job isn't particularly difficult (though, I'm sure very demanding and time consuming). It seems to me that the responses I got were canned to protect them from letting people know what they do isn't much beyond basic Excel functionality, and if people actually knew what they did, they probably wouldn't get paid as much. Maybe a pessimistic view, but there are plenty of situations where they can give examples without breaking any confidentiality agreements. Answers to this question were cagey and almost defensive, and I think this is why McKinsey has such a mixed reputation.

  8. So, overall, the people are very nice. The impression I get is that it is a collection of very smart people that are significantly overconfident (a somewhat required characteristic if you are going into a company at 24 years old that you've never dealt with before and claim you can solve all their problems). Mirroring this characteristic without being an asshole in my view is actually a good thing in these interviews. My current officemate--a very smart kid who gave up a job in consulting out of undergrad to do his PhD--is very good at this, despite many things coming out of his mouth being unsubstantiated when we have conversations in the office.

    With that, I will also say that I did not get interviews at any other consulting company that I applied to, so I am grateful that McKinsey took a chance on letting me attend the interviews. Despite and PhD focusing on Managerial Sports Economics and enough coursework leading to MA degrees in Statistics and Economics--and really all the same classes that MBAs take (though, geared toward sport)--I couldn't land an interview anywhere else. Rejected applications included Cambridge Group, Bain, AT Kearney, Deloitte, LEK, Monitor, Oliver Wyman, PWC, ZS Associates, Booz & Co., and The Analysis Group. LEK surprised me as I have the background in quantitative things, but I know the others tend to be less focused on APD candidates than McKinsey. If for whatever reason I apply to consulting again in the future (doubtful, as I enjoy the academic life), I will likely no longer include "Sport Management" on my CV/resume. In fact, it might be an interesting case study to see if that changes interview invites.

    Good luck at Bain and BCG.

    1. Millsy -- thank you for your long and detailed reply. That is very helpful. Interesting that McKinsey interviewed you and no-one else did - it probably talks to an ability to go outside the box for non-standard / APD applications.

      I am interviewing with BCG Tuesday after Easter and Bain a couple of days later. Will see how it goes. But great advice so thanks again

    2. Good old UF. My daughter got her PH.d. there, and many, many moons ago I did my Residency there. I guess you will be at the main campus in Gainesville.

  9. I should mention, that my niece just moved from LA to Ann Arbor, as her fiancee is finishing his PH.d. for UCLA, at some lab in Ann Arbor. Go giants.

  10. Congrats on the job. I am not sure if I should call you Dr. Millsy or Professor Millsy, but I am sure I will figure it out. As always continue success and joy in whatever you do.

  11. Thanks everyone. Appreciate the comments.

    Hmmm...maybe I should have my students go with Professor Millsy. Might be fun. Of course, still have to successfully defend first!