Less is more?

Over the past few years, I have coached a number of undergraduate teams for international case competitions. We would have regular trainings over a few weeks, I would accompany them to the competitions, etc. None of these teams proceeded to the finals despite performing well.

Earlier this semester, I advised two of my MBA students who were participating in separate case competitions. This week, they informed me that their teams did quite well in their respective competitions. One team won the International Business Ethics Case Competition and the other came in Second Place for the Wake Forest Case Competition. All in all, I spent at most 3 hours on one of these teams and not more than 1 hour with the other. So, maybe less is indeed more — less involvement from me = more success for my students 🙂

5 steps to sync Endnote 7 libraries via Dropbox

Recently, I changed from JabRef to Endnote 7, and found that Endnote doesn’t offer an easy or straightforward way to sync its reference libraries via Dropbox. In fact, Endnote appears to discourage users from using Dropbox to sync their libraries (see here for example).

My workflow is as such: I store all articles (typically in pdf) in a Dropbox folder so that the files are synced across my desktops and laptops. I also need to sync my bibliography manager’s library file, so that when I add/remove articles (with file attachments and remarks) in the bibliography manager, the changes are applied to all terminals without extra intervention.

Here’s a Endnote 7 + Dropbox hack that works for me (in Mac OS 10.10.5 environment):

Step 1. Create a folder “Endnote” in Dropbox > References. (You can add the “Endnote” folder to whichever folder you use to store your references.)

Step 2. In Dropbox > References > Endnote, create three new folders: “Styles”, “Filters”, and “Connections”.

Step 3. Open Endnote 7. Go to File > New to create a new library “References” (or use any name that you like). Save this library in Dropbox > References > Endnote.

Step 4. In Endnote 7, go to Preferences > Folder Locations. Change the locations of folders for “Styles”, “Filters”, and “Connections” so that they points to the respective folders that have been created in Step 2.

Step 5. In Endnote 7, go to Preferences > URLs & Links, uncheck “Copy new file attachments to the default file attachment folder and create a relative link.”

In the other terminals, you can go straight to Step 3 with a minor change^: instead of creating a new library in Endnote 7, go to File > Open Libraries and select the endnote library that you created for the first terminal. (^ Assuming your files sync correctly in Dropbox, those Endnote folders should appear in the other terminals once you have created them.)

Now your Endnote libraries should sync via Dropbox.

Should you ask me for a recommendation letter?

A number of students have approached me to write recommendations for their internship, exchange program, and other types of applications. While I’m generally happy to do so, it doesn’t mean I will or can agree to all requests. Ultimately, I will only do it if I can write strong recommendation letters for the students — and this is what students should aim for too.

If you are thinking of who you should ask to be your academic referee, here are some advice. Do not simply look for the professors who are nice, friendly, and approachable, and/or whose classes you aced. Instead, the main criteria should be those who know you and your performance very well and in depth, such as professors who:

  • taught you recently (who can better recall your performance)
  • taught you in a relatively small classes (which allow for deeper interactions, and better observations of you)
  • taught you an advance course

In my opinion, it is better for you to get a recommendation letter from the professor who taught you, say, Advance Linear Programming in the previous semester (in which you get a B grade among 30 students) than from someone who taught you Introduction to IS in your freshmen year (in which you get an A among 100 students).

So, should you ask me to be your academic referee? If you completed an independent study under my supervision, or worked on one of my research projects, you can consider asking me, especially if you had performed well. However, if you simply attended my lectures, did well in the exams, and score an A for the course, I strongly suggest you look for someone else for the recommendation letter. After all, I could only say that you did well in my course and attained a good grade, which is what your transcript would say anyway. I’ll not be adding any new information about you to readers of the recommendation letter, which doesn’t serve its purpose for you.

Now, if you decide to ask me to be your referee, drop me a note and I will let you know if I can do it. Also, refer to what you can do to help me help you.

Do you need a recommendation letter from me?

Students have asked me to write recommendation letters for them. It is nice to know that I’m contributing a little to some exciting new chapters in their lives. Generally, I’m happy to do that for them even though it’s quite time-consuming.

In case you would like me to write a recommendation letter for you, here are two simple guidelines.

 1. Give me time to write a good letter

If you like to have a strong and credible recommendation from me (and why wouldn’t you?), you need to give me enough time to work on it. A rush job usually means a poor job — and that’s not going to be helpful to you. So give me at least 7 working weekdays, and more if your request comes in during my peak season. And please don’t bother to ask me for a letter to be done within one to two days. No matter now polite you ask and how valid your reason is, I will not entertain  “urgent” request.

2. Give me information to write a good letter

Tell me what the letter is for. Is it for a job application, graduate school application, exchange program application, or telling your girlfriend’s father why he should let you marry her? You should also provide me information such as an updated CV or resume. In addition, it is useful if you can let me know what you would like me to focus on in the letter. Your leadership quality? Communication skills? Sense of humor? The more information your provide, the easier it is for me to craft the letter. However, please note that (i) I may not use all or any of the information that you provide, and (ii) I don’t rubber stamp or simply sign off on a recommendation letter that your write for yourself.

You should also let me know whether I should send the letter directly to the requester or pass it to you. Letters for graduate school applications and prospective fathers-in-law tend to bypass you — so give me details about where to send these letters. And tell me upfront whether you want the letter in hard or soft copy.

The above-mentioned little things that you do will help me in helping you.