Sunday, 12 April 2015

MINIMAL WARDROBE

Source: https://www.pinterest.com/angusandrich/minimal/
A couple of weeks ago I gave myself a promise to introduce some kind of a concept to my wardrobe in order to make it more functional (the post is here). When I was a teenager I used to experiment with different styles, cuts and colours. I used to travel much more often and every country used to inspire me to wear some certain palettes or styles. For instance, I bought many bright clothes in Holland and many neutral coloured simple pieces in Sweden. 

When I moved to the UK for some reason my style changed to something eclectic. I didn't own anything casual enough I could wear to walk my dog. I live in a small city in England where people are OK with wearing casual clothes or something from an outdoor shops, which is fine, but I wasn't used to it. Clearing out my large makeup collection forced me to think that I could do the same to my home and my wardrobe. Home was very easy, because I don't own many things (I rarely buy anything for the house, and if I do it must be essential). As for my wardrobe, I looked at the colours that I like the most (white, black and navy) and shapes I like, and got rid of the rest. Now my wardrobe consist of approximately 20 items and I've never been happier. It takes me a few seconds to choose an outfit in the morning (or any other time of the day if I need to), it just makes everything clear. I don't miss the items I don't own anymore. 

It also makes shopping easier. Having a minimalism-inspired wardrobe doesn't mean that you can't go shopping anymore. If you need to buy a special occasion outfit, go for it. However you will see clearly which colours you love the most and what will fit in. For instance, I don't look into any bright colours while shopping, just because I know they don't go well with my style and the items I own. 

Thursday, 9 April 2015

GETTING AN MSc. DISSERTATION


This post will be one of the last posts about my current attempt to get an MSc degree from the University of Derby. I will be presenting this mini-project on Monday. In my previous posts I have spoken about the MSc in general and the modules.The studies are coming to an end and we've got just a few assignments left to complete. 

The dissertation (or the Independent Study) is the most important work we've got to do. It's an individual research (approximately 18000 words or less). Research is a broad term, there are many methods and approaches, they will depend on what you are trying to achieve and of course, the area of your interest. Our course is called International Business and Finance, so the students are writing about corporate social responsibility, attitudes to financial products, financial crisis, online shopping, knowledge transfer and so on. The main thing about the dissertation is that it's a very narrow area of knowledge. You pick something and explore it. You will probably research others' research first, see what the authors got to say, identify the main trends in the literature and see the gap in the knowledge and try to make a contribution, which can also be theoretical. 

My supervisor told me to start with the news and see what's current and interesting. Probably not the general news from the local newspaper, but sources such as Forbes, BBC, WSJ and so on. I had difficulties choosing a topic because this MSc takes a year to complete, so as soon as we started we had to think of a topic for the dissertation. It had to contain a "financial" element, but this year was the first time I studied finance specifically. As soon as I discovered behavioral finance, I knew I'd be looking into it. Either way, the supervisor can assist you with finding a topic, but it should be interesting to you personally, because you will be researching it for a few months, and will probably be working in this area afterwords. 

After you select a topic, you should write a dissertation proposal, then an ethical approval (we submitted ours in the end of February) and then you are free to write the dissertation. The supervisor will be assisting you and helping you concentrate on the topic. I saw one of my lecturers yesterday and she said it's better to complete small pieces of work and let the supervisor see them to make sure you are not deviating from the subject and not writing about anything that is not relevant.  

So far, I have only got a draft of my literature review. My supervisor asked me to look at what different authors got to say about this subject and identify the main areas and then link them together. One of my friends has selected a number of articles and books he wants to revise for the literature review and he's working his way through that pile. I prefer to look through as many relevant sources as I can (articles, books, papers, statements, interviews etc). This way I learn a lot about the area I'm interested in. However there's no perfect way. I believe everyone can find their own :)

BURT'S BEES


Burt's Bees lip balms are great; they are some of my most favorite balms on the market. I don't buy much from the brand as many of their products are heavily scented (even if the scent comes from the essential oils, it's still a fragrance) and I find the textures to be too heavy. Nevertheless, the brand itself has a pleasant "green" (natural) image. My current favourite balms are the  Honey one and the Ultra Conditioning balm with kokum butter. The Ultra Conditioning balm (the silver cap) is very silky and hydrating, it feels great on the lips. Those balms are 100% natural, according to Burt's Bees. 

Thursday, 2 April 2015

GETTING AN MSc. THE MODULES 2 SEMESTER


The second semester is not over yet, though it's coming to an end, so I can give an overview of the modules we've been studying. This semester is more challenging in terms of workload, as we are starting to write a dissertation as well as trying to pass all the exams (written essays and presentations). Some students are doing extra activities to get University awards (volunteering, social media, leadership). 

The subjects we've been studying are Mergers and Acquisitions (optional module), International Business Theory and Strategy and International Banking and Finance Law. The other optional module was Financial Market Analysis (I suppose), but I found it to be a very specific subject and the majority of information I need to know for analyzing the financial markets (or at least, to know where o start) I received when studying the Finance module in the 1st semester. Mergers and Acquisitions seems to be a popular module. I like it because it unites the areas of knowledge which would make sense in the real life situations. For instance, it brings together the corporate finance and strategy, HR management and organizational culture and ethics. The lecturer has an industry experience, he's new to lecturing, but he's doing a great job, he seems interested and determined to teach us. He's cool.

International Business Theory and Strategy consists of two parts, the theory and the strategy. I liked the theory part a lot, because I enjoy doing research and bringing the pieces of knowledge from different sources together. The strategy part is interesting, however sometimes the terms, the theories and definitions sound like management BS. It's too descriptive, which it doesn't need to be. I believe that the relevance of strategy won't change if they introduce some more concepts and terms to this MBA subject. I agree with the authors who say that a strategy is a "vision", there's more to it than just following the steps from a textbook. Moreover, the strategies existed before these concepts were introduced. Having said that, the lecturer is good, she does her best to explain everything to us and she's open to discussions.

My most favourite subject this semester is International Banking and Finance Law. I'm very interested in using behavioral economics knowledge in regulations, and the lecturer has been open to my decision to research this subject. He is interested in GMO regulations and he publishes a lot. He's one of those "it's OK" people, you can chat with him and it doesn't feel awkward. 

That's the MSc programme! 6 modules plus one large one, the Independent Study. It definitely gives you an idea of what the international business and finance involves, now it's just the actual work that can develop one's knowledge and experience in one or more of these fields :) 

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

GETTING AN MSc. THE MODULES 1 SEMESTER


As I mentioned in my previous post, over these two weeks I will be writing a few posts about getting an MSc degree from the University of Derby. The previous post was just an overview and some general thoughts. This time I will tell you more about the modules we've been studying. Each semester we had  to do two core modules and one we could choose (one out of two available options). Overall, there are two semesters and a dissertation (Independent Study). The Independent Study runs throughout the whole year, you get a dissertation supervisor and classes each week to give you some directions on how to write a dissertation (data collection, data processing, writing up etc.). Those classes finished a couple of weeks ago, so now it's my responsibility to write the dissertation. The dissertation is 60 credits, just like each one of the semesters, so it can improve (or damage) the overall grade you get for your MSc. I will write about the dissertation some other time.

Now, the modules. The first semester started in the end of September. The core modules were the International Economics for Business and Finance and Strategic Finance and Investment Behaviour. The optional modules were either HR management (something like that, I picked the other one) and Consumer Behaviour. They are nowhere near as difficult as they sound. Some people in my group didn't even have a pure finance or business background. 

My favourite subject in the first semester was Strategic Finance and Investment Behavior. Not because I always liked finance, but I learned a lot there and the behavioral finance part  was brilliant. Behavioral finance is somewhere in between the neoclassic theory of rational behavior and decision-making and psychology. The lecturers were great. The Strategic Finance part is more about investment, portfolio and asset pricing. The Investment Behavior part was about the irrationality of investors (people), biases and irrational decision-making. 

The International Economics for Business and Finance was very good. The lecturer who's got two PhD degrees is always in a good mood. I chose him to be my dissertation supervisor. He's one of those people who can teach the 3 year old children and adults equally well. He's very friendly. The subject itself is mostly about the trade between countries globally and the theories behind it. It was more international economics than finance because we studied the module together with the guys who chose MSc International Business. 

I chose Consumer Behavior because it sounded like marketing to me, and I got my undergrad degree in marketing. Consumer Behaviour was more psychology that marketing, but as I see, a number of sciences (like economics) utilize the findings from psychology to enhance their areas of study. It makes sense as people are in the middle of decision-making (finance, investment, trade and so on). We learned a lot of surprising and interesting things there. For instance, why people buy Evian water when it's "just water". Or how companies get the very descriptive information about their customers. The lecturer  is interested in cultures; she is German, but lived in the UK for a long time. 

Overall, the first semester was really good. The only challenging thing was understanding (or getting used to) the marking of the assessments. We only had one computer based test where the results are straightforward. The rest of works are marked by the lecturers, so one might say it's always subjective. Even though there is a marking criteria (which says, if your work is so and so, you get this and that). It's all very vague and I still don't understand the difference between "excellent" and "outstanding". However, you learn from it too, intuitively you  start realizing what a good piece of work (an essay or a business report) is. I  would still prefer the computer based tests, but they are mostly suitable for calculations.