femba week 0: leadership foundations

I just completed my first week of business school. Academic classes haven’t started yet, but we took this week-long leadership style course in order to get to know our sections and classmates, learn more about ourselves, and lay the groundwork for the rest of the upcoming school year. All in, it was absolutely exhausting but I’m pleased with how it turned out.

We more or less had 12+ hour days and we did everything under the sun from a leadership simulation exercise, to personality assessments, to a ropes course. I don’t think I learned more about myself, per say, but I definitely was able to observe a lot about my classmates and how I can best interact with them.

A few things I came away from the week with:

1) Being in an MBA program is a lot different than being in an academic one. For one, I spoke up more than I have probably ever done. We had a public speaking class too, and I think I surprised some of my teammates because I evidently come off as ‘the quiet one’. It’s interesting, how a lot of stereotypes and first impressions come into play and I won’t say I don’t enjoy surprising people every now and then with what I can do.

2) People are nice, mostly. I’m just bad at relating with some of them.

3) I hate networking. Always have, and still do. Repeating myself over and over again is just – ugh. But I’m trying to get better at it and I hope that one day I can small talk my way in and out of every situation as easily as I eat all the ice cream in my freezer.

4) I’m looking forward to this year and I’m still terrified, but in a good way. It will be a challenge, and it will challenge me like no other. I know I have a tendency to be inflexible the instant I think someone isn’t pulling their weight and taking advantage of others in a group work situation. So I think I need to work on my tolerance and also work to not be a burden to others. So, how I balance this and learn to do more leading matters. What this means – lots and lots of introspection coming to this blog in the near future. Aha.

Overall, a good start to the year. I’m optimistic for what else there is to come.



I expect this is mostly because I’m tired and mood swing-y, but I marvel that the people in my life seem to know when to reach out as I sit here marinating in my grumpiness.

This past weekend was massively eventful, a small intro to the craziness and social dynamic that will soon come to dominate the rest of b-school. It also left me drained, grumpy, and justย down. I know, I know, not your typical response to getting a peek of the exciting leadership growth and networking opportunities. But that’s me – your overextended introvert.

The work day today wasn’t the greatest. I was only halfway productive and I just wanted to go home the entire time. On top of it all, it was bloody awful freezing in the office, as usual.

But then after I get home I’m reminded that I have a lot to be grateful for. Namely, the people in my life who care and matter, even if they don’t realize that they’re doing the biggest thing by shooting me a message. My oldest friend of 20 years (literally, twenty years) asking to hang out soon. My dad, because I left a very weird grumpy voicemail on the home phone and he always knows how to keep it real. My mum, forever my sounding board even if I’m frustratedly half-yelling at the phone while driving home. And even someone I met this weekend, my future classmate, inviting me to another happy hour for next week to just hang out.

So just remember. There’s always people.



in other news

Seeing as I more or less failed at the writing thing, I’ll just go ahead and lead with it: I’m in! I’ve submitted my deposit and SIR, and I’ll be joining the FEMBA class of 2021! Woohoo. Three more years in LA. Do I sound excited or what?

These last few months have been on-and-off eventful. I alternate between being crazy on the go, and being a hermit in my apartment. It’s like I’ll binge socialize and then go into hiding hungover until the next round.

I’m also now on a budget, so I can pay for school and not deplete my savings. We’ll see how well that goes. I’ll do a little post on that at some point later, after my finances stabilize.

Nicole out x

road to 700

At the start of 2018, I decided to do my best to document my journey toward and during b-school. Namely, I wanted to write down my thoughts, strategies, challenges, and successes related to my goal of attending UCLA’s FEMBA program.

It’s certainly not a sure thing (touch wood), but there are a myriad of factors that led to this decision stretching back the better part of 6 months. It culminated in my decision to leave my last job and move down here to LA. One important component of the FEMBA application (besides grades, work experience, etc) is the GMAT.

Now, nobody likes standardized testing, let’s be real.*

This aversion to testing probably dates back to elementary school days with CORE testing to AP tests to SATs and ACTs and beyond. Somehow, there was always a test you had to take somewhere, somehow. Cut to 2012 when I took my GRE, having studied only ridiculously obscure vocabulary words so I wouldn’t completely flunk it. Fast forward once more to today, where I’m looking at these probability math problems laughing at Younger Me’s conviction that I wouldn’t ever have to take another test again because heck no, was I planning on going back to school. Funny how things turn out.

I gave myself less than four weeks to prep, which in hindsight was a terrible idea. I also set a minimum goal of 700 for myself. It’s difficult to find the right balance between rushing and giving the right questions the right amount of thought.

But I did it!

700 flat. I didn’t take any of the breaks and I actually thought I did better than I really did. So yay, 1 less hurdle to worry about on my journey to FEMBA. Time to start my application!

*The vast majority of the population, at least, so I rounded up.

A Month of No Shopping

The first step is always admitting it, right? So here goes: I have a spending problem. Don’t get me wrong – I still save quite a bit of my earnings. Before I moved down to LA this year, I was maxing out my 401(k), contributing the full amount to my company’s stock program, maxing out a Roth IRA, and still putting a little extra into savings. A lot of this was helped majorly by bonuses and unloading vested RSU’s, but nonethless, I made it work. I’m also very grateful to my parents (thanks mum) who put money in my account to pay for family travel expenses, etc.

Since I’ve moved, I’ve dialed back my retirement contributions in the interest of saving for a more immediate goal – paying for b-school (which I’ve still got to get into). Currently, there is a mandatory 7% pre-tax deduction, and I also put in an extra ~8% post-tax. I no longer receive all the nice bonuses and RSU awards I used to, since I work for the state now. I also took a pretty substantial pay cut, but I’ll talk about that some other time. Same goes for my personal finance strategy. Every person is different, but it’s something I want to examine over time.

Anyway, my point is that I have this bad habit of justifying spending sprees whenever there is a major life change or event that occurs. Some of it is definitely necessary, but a lot of is isn’t. I just get it into my head that a new phase in my life (or new travel adventure) necessitates a new wardrobe or new shoes or new toys. Yes, I did need to buy more “business-casual” clothes for my new job because I used to wear jeans everyday (that’s tech for you). Yes, I did need to re-furnish an entire apartment and am still in the process of doing so. And yes, I did need to buy that new $150 vacuum cleaner because for some reason, this apartment is dustier than any place I’ve ever lived and I don’t even open the windows? It was also my birthday month, which I subconsciously used to extra-justify all my spending (sigh).

What I didn’t need was to buy 8 pairs of pants in my quest for the perfect work pant, nor did I need to splurge on a gazillion new pairs of (nice) flats. And I most definitely did not need an X-Box. At least I had the good sense to return that one. I know this because I still reach for the same pairs of pants and shoes at least 2/3 of the week. And they’re not even the new ones. Sigh. So suffice it to say, I’ve been throwing my credit card around like nobody’s business and I’m pretty sure the UPS/FedEx drivers are very familiar with my front door by now.

So I’m going to press pause on any unnecessary shopping through the month of February. “Unnecessary” is categorized as just that – no clothes, no shoes. No toys. No sous vide gadgets. No junk food that I can make myself.


  • Furniture for my apartment. This most likely will consist of a TV stand and maybe a second floor lamp for my living room.ย A TV. (Bought it this weekend, actually.)
  • Groceries. But try to restrict buying things like pre-baked goods, candy, processed food stuffs. If I want to bake something from scratch, that’s acceptable.
  • Some house items. Stuff related to upkeep and cleaning are ok. Replacing things I’ve used up, but don’t have any extras stashed away for are ok (eg. I have a bajillion types of toner in my stash so I don’t need to buy new toner, but I’m almost out of face wash and I don’t have any of that).
  • Miscellaneous to-dos. Like repairing my major curb rash, or buying return flights and such.
  • Trip expenses. I’m going up to SF for President’s Day weekend, so I can spend on food and such then.
  • Kindle. After being lost to the void in China, I’ve been debating whether to replace this immediately or later on. What I’m worried about is having to take one last emergency trip back home, and not being able to read. TBD.
  • 1 movie. I might catch Black Panther in theaters this month.
  • Existing subscriptions. Currently just Crunchyroll and Shades Club. Spotify’s been paid for the year, and Elizabeth and Clarke is once a quarter.

There you have it. I’m going to make do with what I have, try to eat clean and enjoy watching the Winter Olympics this month. My credit card spending reserves have pretty much dwindled at this point, so I’m starting without any cheat funds available to put on my cards. To myself – good luck! You’ll need it. ;D

hello, hello


After a few months of hiatus, I’m back! Ever since our Half Dome hike, life’s been quite the whirlwind. I’m not even sure it could be called a whirlwind – it was more like a Class 5 hurricane, keeping in line with how this past year has generally gone on both the personal front and the national/global affairs front.

To recap the last several months of 2017:

  • I spent the entire month of September in Singapore for work. It was wonderful, spending time with my entire family.
  • I quit my job at Autodesk in October and left San Francisco, trading the fog for the LA beaches with the intention of applying to b-school this year.
  • I also bought a car.
  • In November, my heart broke again and we said goodbye to another family member.
  • Thanksgiving was spent in Texas with my parents and brother, for some quality bonding time with the Texas Longhorns.
  • Come December, I was a) frantically trying not to lose my passport (I did) and get my China visa (it worked out), b) flying to Singapore on Christmas Eve (yes, again), and c) adventuring around Yunnan province and getting stranded in Shangrila because of the snow.

I’ll do some thoughts on our time in China in a different post but needless to say, there was plenty of nice scenery, we ate a lot of yak, and endured quite the adventure trying to get back to Singapore intact. 2018 showed up while we were holed up in a rando little Naxi village somewhere on the side of the Haba mountain bordering the Yangtze river. It was great.

One of my goals this year is to blog more often about the things in my life that are meaningful, whether it’s things that bring happiness or things that are lessons well learned. Something tells me this is a time in my life that I’ll want to document. I used to be really good about writing posts for the better part of my college and grad school years, so I want to do the same as I start yet another journey into my late twenties (!!). Working life in a big city can make it harder to want to write here and there, but some day when I look back, I’ll be glad the internet is practically forever. A peek into Younger Me’s mind surely makes for an interesting read.

Cheers to an interesting year ahead! Let’s see what you’ve got for us, 2018.