Fall 2008 Classes

I pay a lot of money to go to school.  Part of that premium is having really good professors.  I’ve also benefited from getting a Yahoo! fellowship that lets me research stuff near and dear to me while getting a master’s.  Here are the classes I’m taking this fall:

MSFS-538 Small and Medium Enterprise Development
Taught by a career USAID foreign service officer, this class will help me understand the environment needed for successful scaling of startups to fast-growth businesses and how to duplicate that across cultures, societies, and countries.
“This course will explore small- and medium-enterprise (SME) development, addressing issues of innovation, scalable and sustainable solutions, and SME’s contribution to growth in developing countries and emerging markets. The course will include an introduction to the economics and dynamics of the sector and basic theory, and the opportunities and obstacles in SME growth. Through case studies, exposure to practitioners’ best practices, and an operational approach, the course will analyze what works and why as models for economic growth and poverty alleviation.”
MSFS-746 Workshop: Managing Development
This class is taught by a retired USAID officer who is now a senior consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton.  In addition to learning project design and implementation, I’ll also get to do some consultancy work for Chemonics, which, along with DAI, is the biggest development consultant in the US.  I’ll be working in their Knowledge and Innovation division.
“Development management is a specialized management discipline focused on achieving social goals and it typically involves consensus building among diverse groups with differing values. Development managers need to work collaboratively with local groups to design, manage and evaluate projects, programs and policy reform activities. They may also be engaged to assess and strengthen local organizations that provide services to poor people. The ability to understand and respond to the special needs of women and vulnerable groups is central to development management.

“Drawing on current international “good practices” this graduate workshop provides students with practical tools, skills and methods for managing development and social change. The workshop addresses the management challenges faced by the international development agencies–and specifically, the role and skills of development managers–in enhancing development effectiveness. Combined with the Development Management Skills Clinics the workshop will provide students with a comprehensive, state-of-the practice–and highly marketable–skill set for launching their careers in international development. The course is also intended to provide students with a critical insight into their personal attitudes and biases in managing development and social change. Through a required consulting project students gain practical consulting skills and insight into how to influence (rather than control) change in a client setting.

“Course topics include:
• development management as a unique management discipline
• building and managing teams
• gender analysis and social analysis
• assessing development project quality
• structuring project organizations
• developing monitoring and evaluation systems
• project scheduling and budgeting
• developing winning project proposals
• assessing and building organizational capacity
• planning and managing partnerships
• managing policy reform

“Using a variety of hands-on case material, experience-based assignments and team-based methods, students will address critical development management issues through work on a sampling of “live” projects in HIV/AIDS, environment, poverty alleviation, education and private sector development. Class discussions and assignments may be supplemented by several guest lectures by leading practitioners.

“Students also will complete a team-based consulting assignment in development management for a development agency in Washington, DC. Previous client agencies have included the World Bank, USAID and a variety of NGOs. Typical assignments may involve supporting a project design activity, designing a monitoring and evaluation system for a new program, conducting an organizational assessment, assessing a development project portfolio, completing a gender analysis, or supporting a strategic planning activity.”

INAF-450 African Development
Taught by Callisto Madavo, a native Zimbabwean and former vice president of the Africa Region at the World Bank.  It’s an undergrad level course but I’ve been told the professor is fantastic.
“The course will survey the development of the Sub-Saharan African economies since independence. The focus will be on economic development, but aims to place the subject in its broader political, social and cultural context. The approach will be historical: starting with a brief review of the colonial inheritance, then covering the largely optimistic period to the early 1970s, moving on to the problems and stagnation of the 1980s, followed by the slow recovery of the 1990s which has accelerated in the first half of this decade. The survey will conclude by looking at where Africa is today and the prospects going forward. The course will explore key issues and themes that marked each period and try to piece together an overall story concerning where African economies have been and where they are going.”
SEST-540 Al Qaeda and the Global Jihad
I’ve been dreaming of taking this course ever since I first thought of applying to Georgetown and read the professor’s (Michael Scheuer) book “Imperial Hubris”.  He was the former head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit prior to 9/11 and has written an excellent book recently on US foreign policy’s failure to address contemporary problems.  He has since renamed the course to something like “Assessing the Enemy”, which in my opinion is more appropriate towards the current dynamic ecosystem of terrorist organizations.
“This course is specifically designed to enable the student to understand, think, plan and react like al-Qaeda’s leaders. In studying Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, the course will make an attempt to put them, and the threat they and their allies pose, into the context of contemporary international affairs, Islamic history, the traditional tenets of U.S. foregn policy and the nature of war. In short, the non-traditional national security threat posed by al-Qaedaism will be examined as if it were not that different than a traditional national security threat from a nation-state.”
CCTP-732-01 What’s Shaping the Global Internet Society?
Taught by Michael Nelson, Al Gore’s technology and science advisor when he helped pass legislation facilitating commercializing the Internet.  He then moved to the White House when Clinton was elected, and then worked at IBM for ten years as director of internet technology and strategy.
“The Internet continues to evolve rapidly. How it evolves will affect the way individuals communicate and use information, which will profoundly change both business and society.

“This course will examine how new technologies, government policies, standards decisions, business practices, and different world views are shaping how the Internet is being used in countries around the world. The course will begin with an examination how Internet policy, telecommunications policy, information policy, national security policy, copyright policy, trade policy, and other government policies can foster or hinder the development and use of Internet. It will also examine the impact of the Internet on business models and culture.

“The class will discuss a number of case studies in which national governments, the European Union, and the United Nations have adopted policies or policy recommendations affecting the Internet. Among the case studies likely to be examined:
1) The OECD’s Summit on the Future of the Internet Economy
2) The adoption of the IPv6 standard
3) The Digital Millennium Copyright Act
4) The EU’s Directive on Data Retention
5) The UN’s Internet Governance Forum
6) The evolution of ICANN
7) The development of Internationalized Domain Names
8) Allocation and regulation of wireless spectrum (esp. unlicensed spectrum)
9) Internet censorship in China
10) Development of authentication systems
11) Regulations regarding Net Neutrality and network management
12) The build-out of fiber backbones around and in Africa
13) Development of “cloud computing”

“Professor Nelson was personally involved in debates about many of these issues during the years he spent working with Al Gore in the Senate and at the White House, while at the FCC, and as Director for Internet Technology and Strategy at IBM.

“For each case study, teams of students will consider the different parties involved and their positions and examine how they pursued their objectives. Each team will provide the background that their fellow students need to better understand technology trends, the impact of policy on technology adoption, and how technology is shaped by (and shapes) society and culture—skills that will be valuable whether working in business, in government, or in research. No final paper will be required.”

On My Development Class

So I’ve had a few months to think about my int’l development orthodoxies class last semester. I couldn’t explain why, but I always had a thorn in my side about that class.

I ended up getting a B, even after talking on several occasions privately with my prof and usually being the lone contributor of the dissenting opinion in our weekly reading reports, published online for all the students to see.

I was really pissed about getting a B because I felt like I put forth more effort than most (in fact knowing for sure that many didn’t even do all the reading) and that I would contribute in more ways than just blowing hot air by making dumb, forced comments in class, which the prof always tried to get me to do more.

He claimed that I didn’t cite enough evidence for my claims, which is probably true to some degree but now that I think about it, I really do think there were ideological differences that played a part as well. I am notoriously bad at being thorough in justifying my opinions (you need only read this blog to see that) but in general my intuition is usually right. If you disagree with someone, it’s much harder to see their opinion as justified or backed up with good evidence. I was dealing with a class of future institutioners and a prof who had a history of institutionalized work.

I remember vividly one time in my globalization class (which had several of the same students) when I went off on some rant about Iraq because our book that week was on the Bush reasons for war. The professor stopped me after I’d said something to the effect of “well, the ultimate goal of capitalism is to achieve a monopoly, right?” She actually told me that that was impossible to prove and that we should move on… (I think I also said in the same class that we should’ve at least gotten a shitload of oil out of Iraq if the neocons were to succeed at their plan, and we even failed at that, another statement that received no feedback.)

That really rubbed me the wrong way because it seems so self-evident that a company’s basic goal is to make as much money as possible for its shareholders. The best way to do that is to push out all your competition and achieve complete pricing control. I don’t buy into the bullshit of corporate social responsibility very much except that hopefully it’s some bridge between raw capitalism and some future, enlightened state.

Read this article about the profit-maximization of businesses under Bill Gates’ “creative capitalism” proposal. There are three things that I see wrong with capitalism the way Americans are taught about it:

One, it requires a competitive market in order to work properly. The assumption is made that if the government is not involved, then any company that exists in a space is going to maximize efficiency. No, it’s maximizing profit and not necessarily benefit to the customer. Efficiency is not required in a monopoly or oligopoly. A competitive market, by the way, is not the same thing as a “free” market, which is what neoliberals want.

Large distortions take place when companies get the government to give them subsidies or legal protection or monopoly status. Which is what’s happened in a lot of areas in the US right now. Many of the most “successful” companies in the US live completely off sucking the teat of the US government in no-bid contracts and high-level networked deals.

Capitalism is war — companies SHOULD be fighting it out with each other. But the government has to ensure that that level playing field exists.

Two, that companies will be “good”. Muhammad Yunus describes this well in his latest writings. Basically, a company that purports to care about a community or about the environment or about political issues only cares to the extent that it doesn’t interfere with the true bottom line, maximizing profit. Usually being “socially active” helps some other agenda the company has, like establishing a presence in a foreign country or pushing policies that will help it get favorable status in an industry. Double and triple bottom lines are bullshit.

A company should always be assumed to make profit regardless of how it affects others. Business is warfare. Companies fight with the gloves off — there’s no “honor” or “generosity”.

I made the same analogy when I was in the military. We were soldiers, and we were trained to destroy and to kill. That’s it. That was our job. To make us win the hearts and minds was plain naive. To have us doing policing duties was stupid. To think that we could become good friends with Iraqis and Afghanis was what the government told the people to placate them. Our job was to kill, and whenever we were around with our weapons, missions, and intelligence, lots of people died. It’s like in the movie “The Siege”, when Bruce Willis, playing an officer, implores Congress not to deploy the Army to protect New York City during a terrorist threat. Of course, when the Army ends up coming in, it starts torturing suspects and intimidating the populace. Nature of the beast.

Three, the way that corporations work right now, it’s rare that the top executives and board have much of a stake in the success of the company any more. People are involved in multiple boards of directors and they tend to cash out fairly quickly once making a profit. And bad CEOs continue to be hired by other companies after destroying the last one. So you have a CEO class that takes turns leading companies without any accountability, while their salaries and bonuses and options packages continue to bring them more money. The idea that it’s in a company’s long-term interest to serve its customers and deliver the best product or service is not necessarily true because the owners are no longer always stake-holders.

This would seem to contradict my claim that companies seek to maximize profit. So I guess the point is that everyone is basically following the maxim “get rich or die tryin'”. In other words, the floating executives are earning as much easy money they can no matter what the negative impact will be, and so are companies as a whole. Long-term success is devalued.

Francis Fukuyama is often quoted for his “End of History” theory that stated basically that after the Cold War ended, there was no ideological opponent for capitalism. This has certainly been true in the US. “Government” is such a bad word in the US that companies have run amok. But really you need a government to represent the commons and the people, because for companies, they are going to keep innovating new ways to monetize whatever they can, as they should. It is warfare, and you need both sides.

What’s funny is that for anyone to say this publically is suicide. Claims of socialism and communism and big government quickly follow. But man, I’m all about capitalism and entrepreneurship and exploiting niches. But I at least have the sense to look at the bigger picture, and know that there should be laws and standards and regulations to stop me from going too far.

So going back to that development class, we kept being told that the Washington Consensus was pretty bad, but what else is there? If we can’t deny that no country has succeeded without economic growth, then how can we toss that out as a metric? Aren’t the World Bank and IMF and development agencies better now that they’re not trying to force structural adjustment programs on unsuspecting countries?

Every week in my dissent paper I would dispute those challenges… Intuitively, but perhaps not empirically, I’d resist what we were being taught.

Now, with some hindsight and more reading, I understand more about why I resist the main development line being espoused right now. It makes me far more suspicious about the entire development field. It makes me suspicious of my fellow development colleagues who will end up pushing a top-down agenda at the World Bank, USAID, and self-righteous NGOs. Isn’t there a third way? Or multiple other ways to help reduce poverty and encourage freer markets and encourage bottom-up democratic movements?

Lifetime Education

Bear with me. This may be a naive post. I don’t have enough background to know the implications of what I’m about to say.

So we’re about to get rid of the key players in Washington who’ve been around since the Nixon/Vietnam/Cold War generation who’ve managed to push a neocon agenda. Cheney and Rumsfeld et al will be unable to push their bullshit since they’ll be retiring. There’s something to be said for the legacy of an entire contracting/security apparatus they’ve created of workers trained in DHS and intelligence-gathering and whatnot who will not give up their bread and butter so easily.

But the thinking of the key leaders is notoriously outdated in terms of today’s international context. The way US politics operates is at odds with all reason and developments in political theory and economics.

Is there something to be said about the disconnect people face once they’ve left school and stop reading as much and start working in an ever-increasingly specialized field? That is, don’t a lot of people start working and then focus like a laser-beam on their craft? Is there as much adaptation to new ideas once you leave school and go up the food chain? Is this why our politicians are so at odds with today’s realities?

Is there something to be said for continual educational opportunities for US employees? To keep their minds fresh and open?

Are we really becoming an insular, increasingly ignorant nation that revels in knowing nothing about the outside world outside of our business, education, and diplomatic classes?

Notes from the International Achievement Summit, 2008

Reposted from the MSFS Summer Blog:

Fellow classmates,

Ben Turner here. From July 2nd to the 6th, Rafael Bellón Gómez and I attended the 2008 International Achievement Summit at the Four Seasons Hualalai in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island in Hawai’i. We were selected earlier in the year (he was the primary choice, I was first alternate) by the MSFS administration after an open call for essay submissions.

The Academy of Achievement web site has posted a rather thorough summary of the itinerary for the several days, so you should check it out first.

So once you read that, read these bullet points for the experiences that I remembered the most:

-While I was on the phone with Jen Hoar, also from our program, during a layover in Maui, I asked her, “Umm, is General Wesley Clark short? You’ve seen him before, right?” She responded yes to both, and I said, “Er, I’m pretty sure I see him sitting over there. Should I go talk to him?” She said I should, and later after hanging up, I went up and said hello and told him I used to be in the Army and that I respected him and hoped he was on the short list of Obama VP candidates. He thanked me warmly and then promptly had to take a phonecall.

-Maria would be proud: from the baggage claim area until our departures, we students were talking non-stop with each other, networking.

-At check-in at the Four Seasons, we received a cup of nectar juices, a moist towel, and schwag including unique Timbuk2 messenger bags and Academy bag tags. Most students were down the beach a ways at the Kona Villages so they had to walk to all the events at the Four Seasons, passing beached sea turtles along the way. Their rooms were more like private bures, with no air-conditioning. The Four Seasons rooms had wide-screen TVs (which I used to watch the epic Wimbledon final between Federer and Nadal before my flight) and my favorite touch, an outdoor shower in the bathroom. We also got a choice of aromatherapy scents for the room and Hawai’i cookies, with daily water bottles.

Benjamin Carson, the famous neurosurgeon who was the first to separate siamese twins, gave a speech on the triumph and sadness of a separation operation that went well and then went very wrong. He also talked about the importance of being nice to people, and how that is an effective form of preventive and humane treatment. Everyone was touched by his speech and indeed some speakers in following days would refer back to his speech. By the way, I did not know this but I was watching “Stuck on You” on TV the other night and Dr. Carson was the head surgeon in the film.

-A great performance from Josh Bell (YouTube vid), the young violinist who you might know as the guy who participated in the Washington Post experiment to see if anyone in a DC metro station would recognize world-class violin-playing when they heard it. He played a slow piece and then a fast piece, which the audience loved.

-At the various events, we got free mai tais and wine, ceviche in a champagne flute, luau pig meat, sushi and desserts for after-dinner receptions, and delicious buffet breakfasts with a Hawai’ian fruit bar.

-The first morning, another classmate and I were looking for the breakfast restaurant and a guy came up and showed us the way. My friend asked what the man did and he said he was the mayor of Chicago! So we ended up eating with Richard Daley and he’s very passionate about education initiatives in his city. He gave some talking points but was also very warm to us.

-David Doubilet has taken some absolutely amazing photographs under the sea. Check them out.

-Naomi Judd is pretty wacky in person. Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes, is hilarious. My favorite line was when he said that Irish never say anything plainly, citing that most men propose to women by asking, “You know, I love you. Would you marry me?” Irish people say, “Mary, how would you like to be buried with my people?”

-A panel on city politics with three mayors, Willie Brown, Richard Daley, and Antonio Villaraigosa was fascinating because they’ve decided their cities couldn’t rely on traditional power structures to help them, so they began to operate as independently as they could. As a result, they all believe in consolidating a lot of local power.

-Bill Russell said that if you get paid 5 hours but work 7, thus working harder than you’re expected to, then your boss needs you more than you need him. You can also tell anyone at that point that they can go to Hell. One of the most bizarre images I’ve ever had was walking to lunch afterwards and seeing the extremely tall Russell, black with his distinguishing grey beard and hair, walking and talking with a short and stubby George Lucas.

-The war historian Rick Atkinson said that General David Petraeus asked him before the Iraq invasion, “Tell me how this ends.” Quite a prescient comment to ask a war historian on the eve of a massively questionable action.

-Archbishop Desmond Tutu did a fist-pound. I thought of Gyude when Madame President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf spoke at one of the panels.

-After dinner one night, I talked with Kevin McCormick, head of production at Warner Brothers. He lamented the success of Marvel Comics in the box office. Universal owns DC Comics, a rival comic book brand that tends to have darker, more mortal heroes than Marvel does. He’s a very smart guy, very engaging, and obviously he’s enjoying The Dark Knight’s success currently.

-I ended up having lunch at tables with Naomi Klein, Sally Field, and Kevin McCormick. I pitched my social business idea to all of them and they were skeptical, but asked questions!

-An overarching theme in the advice given to us is to follow your dream and to take risks as a young scholar. For students going to the best schools, if we’re afraid to take big risks and follow big ideas, then who else will? We have no excuses. Entrepreneurship and innovation is what all these older, wiser people always regret not pursuing more, even if they’re famous.

-Most of the students were from Oxford and Harvard, and had medical backgrounds. Many were Rhodes scholars. At the formal banquet, I sat between three Rhodes scholars. One was just out of the Naval Academy, another was a PhD candidate in economics at Stanford and told us about pricing models for electricity in California and what it really costs the power companies to service their regions. Rafa and I represented Georgetown MSFS by explaining what our program involves and where our competitive advantage lies. But there were a lot fewer international affairs types than I was expecting. That said, the students were absolutely brilliant and funny and type-A to the extreme. Some were running in the morning and conducting business late at night.

-Michael Spence was the lone economist of the distinguished guests, and he appropriately gave a slideshow on development statistics. Of course this was right up my alley. His key measure was that only 13 countries have sustained 7% growth over 25 years consecutively, and the only thing common to all of them was strong political leadership. I feel this measure is underemphasized when discussing how to lift countries out of poverty.

-Greg Mortenson talked about how he built schools in Pakistan for girls, saying that educating women will make that region more sustainable. Nicholas Kristof, the NYTimes journalist, met up with Mortenson at this Summit and I assume this meeting was the basis for Kristof’s article about Mortenson. Mortenson gave away free copies of his book, but I stupidly did not get one.

-On the last day, we broke up into small groups focusing on separate topics. My first panel was on Afghanistan, and it had Kristof, General Clark, Khaled Hosseini (The Kite-Runner), and Greg Mortenson. General Clark spoke the most of all and led the discussion. One person behind me whispered that he was doing his presidential talking points a bit too much. The other panel I sat on was for writing, and had Frank McCourt (Angela’s Ashes), Jonathan Spence (Chinese historian), W.S. Merwin (Pulitzer poet), Michael Ondaatje (The English Patient), and A. Scott Berg (Pulitzer biographer) talking about how they go about writing books. McCourt is just a total trip and being around these writers really made it feel like writing a book could be possible.

-A panel with premier scientists such as the head of NIH and the former head of the Human Genome Project was perhaps the most intellectually interesting. They are wrestling with the future problems of genetic engineering and cosmetic babies and the ethics of genomics. There was also a large desire for mass collaboration and online sharing of information, which of course I identify with.

-There was a banquet outside near the beach one night, and all the sudden there’s a disco floor and a band set-up and Chuck Berry comes out and starts playing all his hits! Everyone gets up to dance, and then suddenly Berry finishes and fireworks go off behind him out at sea. What a Fourth of July!

-One panel was about the upcoming election. Chris Matthews moderated; Ralph Nader, Andy Stern (head of the largest US union), Richard Daley, Willie Brown, General Wesley Clark, and Villaraigosa participated. The best moment was when a student asked Chris Matthews why the news covers dumb news stories instead of the big pressing issues that we’d been talking about throughout the whole summit. Matthews asked, “Well, what do you watch?” The student replied, “Daily Show and Colbert Report” and everyone busted out laughing. Then, Chris Matthews to the student, later: “I thought you said you only watched the Daily Show and the Colbert Report. Now you’re telling me that you watch CNN and the BBC. So which is it?” Student: “Well the Daily show comes on at 8 AND 10. I have an hour in between to watch other things as well.”

-The final formal banquet involved Kobe beef, very expensive wines being continuously poured by a great waitstaff, and sorbets for dessert which melted because Brian Wilson came out and played all the Beach Boys hits for us while everyone danced in the middle of the room, including Desmond Tutu, Sam Donaldson, and a bunch of drunk scientists! Earlier, Taylor Swift played. Having lived in Nashville, I loved her down-home country songs, and she’s a great performer for being so young. We also got free albums.

-Upon leaving, at the Kona airport, I went through the TSA screening line behind Ralph Nader. His friend introduced me to him since she and I had eaten together earlier. It was an awkward conversation and I’ve never thought I’d be talking to Ralph Nader while taking my belt off in front of him.

I didn’t get many photos of the whole Summit weekend, but there’s a Facebook group that has open photos, so if you’re curious, check them out!

Thank you to the MSFS administration for nominating me to go — it certainly changed my life and opened up my eyes to the possibilities for innovation out there. And it was good to hear these successful people tell you that you should pursue your passion and that it will work out for you.

My Career

Perhaps the main thing I’ve been wrestling with since coming to Georgetown is what my career is going to look like.

I’ve struggled to apply to different think-tanks in town, some of which I’ve interviewed for and lost out to other people. I did manage to get a web contractor job at USAID for all of last year but I don’t want to be stereotyped as a web designer. It’s an awful job to do web design for non-web people. I make that distinction because I think if you’re working for an actual web company, you don’t have to explain everything to everyone, and they don’t make you do as much stupid design stuff.

I’ve also looked at a LOT of job listings and haven’t found them interesting at all. This includes within my concentration, international development. It’s just rather suspect whether those jobs actually end up producing any good at all. Most jobs look like ways to establish your credibility. And if you get a stint in Africa, that’s as good as gold in development! It’s like working at Booz Allen or McKinsey in consulting. Get in there and you’re set.

Now, I’ve applied for those two consultancy groups because they seem to really take care of their employees and they generate a lot of people who don’t necessarily create new businesses, but are involved in the nurturing and initial investing/leg work of them.

But most of all I just want to see my business idea come to fruition. I’ve come across this vast expanse of space in the human reputation management arena that no one else is really working on, and I think it’s perfectly suited to my curiosities. It’s not an easy path, though, so part of me wants to hedge by getting a solid job and working on it in the part-time. But everyone who knows me believes that I can do a start-up, and part of me thinks that even if I fail at it, that will be enough to get my career started. In the US anyway, entrepreneurship is rewarded even if you fail.

And I’ve had problems finding ways into the big tech companies because I’m not really an engineer or an MBA, so I don’t have much to offer in that way. Why not create my own job by starting my own business?

So what do I want my career to look like? Well, I’m just so fascinated in all of the stuff going on with the web, mass collaboration, industrial design, marketing, human efficiency, etc. What’s more, I love the start-up culture and I love the breadth that it takes to be a CEO in today’s times. I’d love to be a serial entrepreneur. And since I’m dying to be involved in all these things I continuously read about, I’d also love to be the head of a large company that dabbles a bit in everything. Obviously that’s a long way off, but I don’t see any other way to be involved in so many different things.

The bottom line is that at the end of this school year, I’m going to need something that pays. Whether it’s angel funding or an actual job, the pressure is on. I have a lot of thinking to do, but it seems like with every passing day, I get more and more encouragement to just go for it and try to get my social business off the ground. And when I DO focus on it, I get rewarded with things like the Yahoo! fellowship and the Academy of Achievement (whose distinguished guests uniformly said to follow your passion) and a bunch of new contacts with cool ideas. It’s a lot better than going to interviews with people whose intelligence is dubious and who ultimately choose someone else over you for murky reasons and logic.