Carnegie Mellon Orientation

Just got back from a long weekend in Sunnyvale, CA for Carnegie Mellon’s incoming student orientation. It was a fun weekend – filled with seminars and workshops. Nancy went with me and spent the time visiting her family.

The orientation opened on Friday morning with class pictures and a “mixer” activity designed to help students get to know each other. You can see photos and videos of the various activities on CMU Silicon Valley’s Facebook page.

Friday featured a teamwork exercise that required each time to build a castle out of Lego bricks according to a specification. Each time had to have a project manager, QA manager, warehouse manager, construction engineer, and process analyst. Our team did reasonably well although we had a costly integration mistake at the end (one of our towers was rotated 90 degrees which caused all bricks in the base of the tower to be counted errors).

The completed castle
The completed castle

Saturday started off with a guest speaker – the CEO of CollabNet. I thought he did a great job as he discussed various aspects of managing a business. It was just the right blend of business/tech insights for our mixed group of software engineers and software managers. On Saturday evening Nancy and I attended a barbecue for staff and students. I chuckled a bit as Nancy interacted with the CMU folks who were an interesting combination of professors and tech geeks with the occasional spouse or NASA researcher thrown in for good measure. I don’t think Nancy has experienced that level of nerd conversation before – we discussed the relative difficulties of Linear Algebra or Differential Equations, the merits of the band Journey, and whether or not Software Management students should practice managing a team of Software Engineering students. When one of the guys started talking about “stochastics” I could see Nancy mentally deciding that it was time to go. Look on the bright side Nancy, at least we didn’t subject you to a discussion of Captain Kirk vs. Captain Picard!.

On Sunday morning we had to participate in presentation workshops. I signed up for the executive presentation workshop where we had two minutes to pitch a team of executives on a particular product, service, request for funding, etc. We then received feedback from the execs on our pitch as well as a rating by our peers. I felt I did reasonably well although I fumbled the close a bit because I felt pressed for time and struggled to find a nice crisp ending to the pitch. The feedback from the execs was brutal but necessary if I’m going to improve. I got a pretty good rating from my peers so overall I was pleased.

We flew back home yesterday in time to get the kids dinner and put them to bed. It was a fun yet tiring weekend. Now I launch straight into classwork, assignments, and team meetings. It will be pretty much a non-stop process for the next two years including summers. I just hope I can hang on for the ride.


  1. Hey guess what. I read a book about stochastic indicators when I was trading stocks. in the end, it did not help me out. I lost most of my money.

    It sounds like you have an exciting two years in front of you.


  2. Of course you can hang on! You and the family will do it all just fine. Many attaboys to you Nancy. So glad you both were there together. Hope all was well at home. Every one of the children will observe and learn a great deal from this example.

  3. So was anyone else singing “one of these things is not like the other” when they saw the picture?!? Good job Brian. It will be so worth it in the end.

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