Snapshot Series: Creativity

The last Snapshot Series article of the year is a Buzzfeed-style article by Ben Nader on creativity. Happy break!

What is Creativity?

Like many of life’s treasures, to different people it can mean many different things. It can include bright colors and flashing lights, artists and music, or a single person working on a computer. Creativity is truly whatever you make it to be and the possibilities are endless!

When I Hear the Word Creativity

I imagine myself in a colorful psychedelic trip

or painting a masterpiece under the stars.

Even Though My Creative Product Looks Like This

A Beginner's Guide To Creativity

When Being Creative, I Feel Like

a rockstar who’s on top of the world

When Being Creative, I Feel Like

Even Though I Look Like

another millennial attached to his computer

Even Though I Look Like

How Do I Practice Creativity?

Being creative is not an easy thing to accomplish, mainly because it is so hard to understand. For me, creativity is about being yourself, silencing those gremlins inside of you that lead you to believe you’re not good enough, trying new things, and having fun. I have found that there are several thing that have specifically helped me to increase my creativity that can help you too!

1. Stay Curious: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

It’s hard to learn more about something that you don’t know anything about

A Beginner's Guide To Creativity

Keep asking questions regardless of how silly they might be and remember that there’s no such thing as a stupid question!

A Beginner's Guide To Creativity

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

Everyone will experience times when all they want to do is continuously bang their head against the desk and can’t help but constantly ruminate over their failures, or the mistakes they’ve made. It’s important to realize that failure is not always a bad thing…

A Beginner's Guide To Creativity
A Beginner's Guide To Creativity

We Should All Learn to Embrace It

A Beginner's Guide To Creativity

Continue to: Fail, Learn From It, Try Again, and Repeat.

A Beginner's Guide To Creativity
A Beginner's Guide To Creativity

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help

We often forget that it’s not possible for us to know the answer to every question or situation that arises. Reaching out to someone and asking for help and advice doesn’t make you a weak person. In the end, it will actually help to make you stronger.

A Beginner's Guide To Creativity

4. Growing Up Doesn’t Have to Be Boring

A Beginner's Guide To Creativity

or Depressing…

A Beginner's Guide To Creativity

Turn That Frown Upside Down

A Beginner's Guide To Creativity

And Be A Kid Again!

A Beginner's Guide To Creativity

5. Step Outside Your Area of Familiarity

It’s far too easy to find yourself trapped in a routine. Doing the same thing day in, and day out: eating the same food, drinking the same drinks, going to bed at the same time, not wanting to deviate from your schedule. It’s as though everyday is Groundhogs Day.

A Beginner's Guide To Creativity

6. Discover Something New and Exciting

Try something new. Step outside your comfort zone and experience the world around you. Instead of spending your day off catching up on sleep and watching television – go out there and explore!

A Beginner's Guide To Creativity
A Beginner's Guide To Creativity

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Dream Big

It is safe to say that all of us at one point or another have had a great idea or proposal but were too afraid to act on it. You were too afraid to fail, too afraid to try, thought that your boss would judge you, or were afraid that no one would take you seriously. Whatever the reason was, you’ve got to start following your dreams. Continue to reach for the stars and quit worrying about what others think.

A Beginner's Guide To Creativity

8. Look at the Big Picture

Too often we make a decision before considering any other options. We fail to consider all the factors, examine the entire board, or even stop to think outside the box. It’s important for everyone to look at all the possibilities, ask questions, get feedback, and do not settle for an idea until you are confident that it’s the best one!

9. Be Yourself

There is always going to be times where you feel out of place and like you just don’t belong. The easy thing to do in these situations is to either remove yourself from them or conform to your surroundings. Instead, try letting your true colors shine!

A Beginner's Guide To Creativity

10. Always Remember…

10. Always Remember...

What You Can Do

You are given the unlimited right to print this manifesto and to distribute it electronically (via email, your website, or any other means). You can print out pages and put them in your favorite coffee shopʼs windows or your doctorʼs waiting room. You can transcribe the authorʼs words onto the sidewalk, or you can hand out copies to everyone you meet. You may not alter this manifesto in any way, though, claim it as your own and you may not charge for it.


Snapshot Series: Ask to Lead

Today’s Snapshot Series features Stacy Reichert. Stacy is the mother of our chapter member Sydney Reichert as well as SVP Strategy & Business Development at PepsiCo Foodservice. She visited our chapter meeting in October and spoke on leadership. Below, she shares a few highlights from her presentation:


Duh. That title seems pretty obvious…if you want to get leadership experience, it occasionally will be necessary to “raise your hand” and ask for it or actively seek it out. However, that’s not the point I want to make. Rather, successful leaders know what questions to ASK to effectively LEAD their organizations. The leader who asks the right questions (even if they’re tough ones!) at the right time with the right intention will be seen as a respected, empowering and inspiring leader. When questions are preceded by an encouraging or expectation-setting remark, even better. This leadership tactic is likely seen in someone who is able to influence, collaborate and “bring others along” with him. Here are a few examples of some common situations and potential questions that illustrate what I mean.

When deciding to move the team in a new direction:
“I have decided that we will need to cancel that project…how will that impact the team and your need to reallocate resources?”

When hearing about an exciting recommendation:
“I really like the recommendation the team is making but I want to make sure we’ve looked at all of the options…what other options did the team consider and how do they compare to the recommendation?”

When reviewing lackluster team performance:
“I know that each of you is as unhappy about our performance in the first quarter as I am…what’s the most important thing each member of the team thinks we should do to turn our performance around this quarter?”

When more effort is needed by the team:
“Each of you brings a level of expertise that can contribute to our success but I’m not seeing that reflected in the team’s work on this project so far…how will the team work differently in the next two weeks to bring bigger ideas that enable us to address the problem/opportunity faster?

When wanting to lend support without disempowering the team:
“The team has clearly worked hard to get to this point …what support do you need from me to help the team overcome the last remaining obstacles to success?”

Bottom line, remember that your team wants to impress you. They want to build your trust in them. They want to know they’re adding value and that you believe in their ability to perform at their fullest potential. Don’t be a leader who reads ahead in the presentation, acts like she has all of the answers or is tempted to just tell the team what to do. No doubt, there will be situations where such approaches are necessary but more often than not, you will want to “ask to lead” and your team will thank you for it!

Stacy K. Reichert, MU ‘84
SVP Strategy & Business Development
PepsiCo Foodservice

Snapshot Series: Net Neutrality

Today’s Snapshot Series features Director of Technology Ben Nader, who gives an excellent overview of net neutrality, or the concept of a free and open internet, and the proposed changes that are being discussed in Washington.

Net Neutrality: What it Means for the Average American

This past week there has been a lot of attention focused on the FCC and the issues of net neutrality and Internet fast lanes. Statements have been made on both sides of the aisle, from President Obama asking the FCC to reclassify the Internet as a public utility to Senator Ted Cruz claiming “‘Net Neutrality’ is Obamacare for the Internet…” Even with the increased attention, many individuals are not able to grasp the importance of this decision, or don’t understand what is being proposed. My hope with this article is to break down the jargon surrounding net neutrality so that the average Internet user, one with little background in technology, can understand what is happening and will be able to make an informed decision.

What is Net Neutrality?

Sometimes referred to as the “Open Internet,” net neutrality is the Internet that we currently know. According to the FCC, “It’s open [or neutral] because it uses free, publicly available standards that anyone can access and build to, and it treats all traffic that flows across the network in roughly the same way…Once you’re online, you don’t have to ask permission or pay tolls to broadband providers to reach others on the network. If you develop an innovative new website, you don’t have to get permission to share it with the world.”

Net neutrality guarantees a level playing field where Internet users will not have to pay their Internet Service Providers (ISP) more money to access online content. It additionally protects content generators, such as Facebook or Netflix, from having to pay additional fees to ensure that users will have access their websites and apps.

Why is it an Issue Now?

Net neutrality became an issue back in December of 2010 when the FCC released the Open Internet Order, which established high-level rules requiring transparency and prohibiting blocking and unreasonable discrimination from ISPs like Time Warner, Comcast, or AT&T. The goal of this order was to protect Internet openness, as some ISPs were starting to throttle websites or limit access unless customers or companies would pay them a toll or fee. The FCC’s rulings were challenged in court, and in January of 2014 the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit upheld the transparency rule, but vacated the no-blocking and no-unreasonable-discrimination rules. The court then invited the FCC to act to preserve a free and open Internet, which is what is currently underway.

What Would Happen Without Net Neutrality?

Without net neutrality your Internet Service Provider could block or slow down your online content depending on what websites or applications they prefer. For example, Comcast might speed up your access to since they own a majority stake in them, while also slowing down or blocking your access to or since they are competitors of NBC. An ISP could charge Netflix a fee for carrying online videos of its network to ensure that users will have access. While these situations are hypothetical, there have been real instances in the past few years of ISPs abusing their power.

Back in February 2014, Comcast and Netflix reached an agreement where it is estimated that Netflix is paying anywhere between $25 million and $50 million a year to ensure that quality content reaches their users in a timely manner. The problem with this is that ultimately this fee will be passed on to the individual users, causing their subscription rates to increase. In 2012, AT&T announced that it would block FaceTime, Apple’s mobile video chat function, from all devices (cell phones, laptops, tablets) unless the customer purchased a family plan, which is more expensive. Public interest groups filed a complaint with the FCC saying that it violated net neutrality, and in 2013, the company began unblocking the application.

Without net neutrality, the possibility of an ISP throttling or blocking content is a reality that will impact an individuals experience on the web. Additionally the increased cost to both companies and consumers is very real.

What is President Obama’s Plan?

Contrary to what Sen. Ted Cruz would like people to believe, the President’s plan does not put the government in charge of pricing or allow the government to determine the speed of the Internet. What the end goal of President’s plan is to stop ISPs from slowing service down and is asking the companies to treat all of their customers fairly. The plan is outlined as follows:

  • Classify Internet service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act while at the same time forbearing them from rate regulation and other provisions less relevant to broadband services
    • Title II regulations ensure common carriers of wired telephone service treat consumers equally and share their infrastructure by leasing it to smaller companies. It also requires companies to keep customer information private and offer “reasonable charges” for services, among a list of other thing.
  • No Blocking
    • If a consumer requests access to a website or service, and the content is legal, your ISP should not be permitted to block it. That way every player – not just those commercially affiliated with an ISP – gets a fair shot at your business.
  • No Throttling
    • ISPs should not be able to intentionally slow down some content or speed up other – through a process often called “throttling” – based on the type of service or your ISP’s preferences.
  • Increased Transparency
    • The connection between consumers and ISPs – the so-called “last mile” – is not the only place some sites might get special treatment. The president is asking the FCC to make full use of the transparency authorities the court recently upheld, and if necessary to apply net neutrality rules to points of interconnection between the ISP and the rest of the Internet.
  • No Paid Prioritization
    • Simply put: No service should be stuck in a “slow lane” because it does not pay a fee. That kind of gatekeeping would undermine the level playing field essential to the Internet’s growth. The president is asking for an explicit ban on paid prioritization and any other restriction that has a similar effect.

Why is This Important?

According to The Open Internet (, a project created to promote net neutrality and the consequences associated with disbanding it, there are seven reasons why enforcing net neutrality is one of the greatest issues facing our country today:

  1. A free and open internet is the single greatest technology of our time, and control should not be at the mercy of corporations.
  2. A free and open internet stimulates ISP competition.
  3. A free and open internet helps prevent unfair pricing practices.
  4. A free and open internet promotes innovation.
  5. A free and open internet promotes the spread of ideas.
  6. A free and open internet drives entrepreneurship.
  7. A free and open internet protects freedom of speech.

“More than any other invention of our time, the Internet has unlocked possibilities we could just barely imagine a generation ago. And here’s a big reason we’ve seen such incredible growth and innovation: Most Internet providers have treated Internet traffic equally. That’s a principle known as ‘net neutrality’ — and it says that an entrepreneur’s fledgling company should have the same chance to succeed as established corporations, and that access to a high school student’s blog shouldn’t be unfairly slowed down to make way for advertisers with more money.” – President Obama

Snapshot Series: Lessons Learned While Studying Abroad

Today’s Snapshot Series is a bit different from past ones. Today we’re featuring Nick Rupel and Maddie Bessinger, PSE members who are currently studying abroad in Luxembourg and Italy respectively. These members took some time to write down their thoughts on the study abroad experience as a whole and the cultural differences they have come to appreciate. Below are their quotes.

“I’ve had an awesome time here in Luxembourg and exploring the rest of Europe. The classes and professors are great and I’ve met some really cool people. Aside from my very OCD host dad complaining about the sock lint I leave on the floor or the local elementary school hoodlums harassing me on my way to class, I appreciate the cultural differences I’ve experienced and broadened perspective of the world that I’ve gained. My favorite trip has been Italy and Greece, where we had some amazing food and rode ATVs around the island of Santorini. Studying abroad has been an unbelievable experience that I would recommend to anyone who is able to. Keep doing big things and I can’t wait to see everyone next semester and meet all the new members!”

Nick Rupel

“I am spending this semester studying, interning and traveling abroad in Milan, Italy! I am sadly already halfway done with my program and am loving every aspect of the culture, from the food to the fashion to the people.

At my internship, I have noticed several differences, such as how work days are in Italy versus the US. For example, my boss takes a two hour lunch break every single day. She meets up with friends for food, conversation and sometimes even wine and champagne! I think this is very different from lunch breaks in the US as a lot of professionals I know eat lunch at their desk while catching up on emails.

One thing that has really stuck out to me is a conversation I had on a bus with a 45-year-old man who has lived in Italy his whole life. He told me that although Italy has several financial issues, business efficiency problems and some political instability, the Italians put their quality of life at the top of their priority list. He told me stories about how much they value friendship, romance, travel, great food and most importantly great, quality wine. He asked me that if at the end of my life I will appreciate how much money I earned or how valuable my relationships were and how rich my life was.

Although I think it is important to develop professionally and work hard, I definitely took his lesson on enjoying the fullness to life to heart. I have been having a blast here in Italy, and I can’t wait to bring the lessons I have learned back to America with me! I hope everyone in PSE is having a great semester! Have a Chipotle burrito bowl for me, and I will see you when I am back in the spring!”

Maddie Bessinger

Snapshot Series: Effective Business Writing

The Snapshot Series features PSE alumni and members sharing their expertise on anything from professional advice to specialized business topics. Below, member Libby Mueller gives some quick tips on how to make your business writing better and more compelling.

Tips for Effective Business Writing

            One important skill to have as a businessperson is the ability to communicate your research, recommendations or findings clearly and concisely. No matter how thorough your research is, if a client or supervisor doesn’t understand it or can’t pull out your key points, it doesn’t serve its purpose. Here are a few pieces of advice for effective business writing:

  • While still in school, practice taking the longer writing assignments you may have (research reports, papers, etc.) and pulling out the “bullet points” that could summarize each page. In this way, you can practice taking a lot of information and boiling it down to the principal insights.
  • Keep an arsenal of sophisticated words that communicate your ideas with more authority. For instance, instead of saying “began” or “started,” use words like “implemented” or “established.” Instead of saying something “caused” something else (the decrease in price caused an increase in sales), use words like “drove” (the decrease in price drove an increase in sales).
  • Proofread. This may seem simple, but it’s often overlooked when in a rush. Making sure details are correct can elevate your work in the eyes of your supervisor.
  • Learn your company’s style and lingo. Learn all the acronyms and incorporate them into your reports, but remember not to use them in reports to external sources who may not understand them.
  • This also may seem simple, but know the difference between contractions and possessive nouns. For instance, know that “its” is possessive (its success can be attributed to this promotion) and “it’s” translates to “it is.” If in doubt, see if you can replace the contraction “it’s” with “it is.” If you can’t, use the possessive. Know also the difference between “your” and “you’re” and “their” and “they’re.”

The ability to effectively communicate your work will lend you credibility as you start your career. Use these quick tips and practice your writing and you’ll be a superstar!

Snapshot Series: Excel

Today’s Snapshot Series article was written by member Daniel Schack. He outlines some incredibly useful formulas, shortcuts, and general tips about using Excel meaningfully.

Being able to manipulate and analyze data is a vital skill no matter what major you are, or what profession you are looking to go into. Having a solid understanding of Excel can go a long way to helping you stand out to your boss, especially if you can show them something they don’t know. While this article will not make you an expert (FIN 303 will help with that) it will teach you a few neat tricks that should help make your life easier with Excel.

When using Excel, there are three basic keys that you need to learn. I don’t mean basic in the sense that they enjoy pumpkin spice lattes, but rather in the sense that the majority of shortcuts utilize some combination of these three keys. These keys are Alt, Ctrl, and Shift. Although it may seem awkward or slow at the start, mastering these three keys will make you more efficient at Excel if you practice.

By holding down the Shift key, I am able to select multiple cells at once as shown below.


However, I can only select the cells one at a time. By holding down Ctrl+Shift at the same time, I can jump and select many cells. If I hit Ctrl+Shift, ↓ I will go from the above picture to this:


As you can see, my selection went as far down as the blank row of cells in row 12. This is how Ctrl works; it jumps to the furthest filled cell. Using Ctrl without Shift will not select the cells, but it will allow you to quickly navigate the spreadsheet without using your mouse.

Pressing the Alt key brings up the command keys for the ribbon at the top of the screen, as seen below.


Now by pressing any of the indicated keys on the keyboard I can quickly jump to that tab on the ribbon. In this example, I will press H for the Home tab, as that is the most commonly used tab, and it will clearly illustrate what happens next.


By pressing H I have brought up the keystroke options for the Home tab. I can now press any key here to modify the cell or spreadsheet that I am working on. For example, if I press 1, the selected cell (or cells) will be bolded. Some options like Border (B) have additional drop down menus. In these cases, you simply follow the keys until you obtain the formatting you want. So for example, if I wanted to add a bottom border I would use the keystrokes Alt, H, B, O. Try it out and see what happens (spoiler alert: it will add a bottom border to your selected cell)


Trace Precedents/Trace Dependents

One of the most frustrating things in Excel can be when you’re looking at a formula in a cell and you can’t figure out where the numbers are coming from or what numbers the cell modifies in the rest of the spreadsheet. Using the Trace Precedents command will show you where numbers are coming from, while Trace Dependents will show what other cells this cell is impacting.

Trace Precedents


Here you can see blue arrows which show that cells G9 and I30 are feeding into cell I9. When cells draw from multiple cells, using Trace Precedents makes it easier to track where the cell is pulling its data from. The keyboard shortcut to for Trace Precedents is Alt, M, P. M takes you to the Formulas tab, and P is the Trace Precedents command.

Trace Dependents


Trace Dependents is very similar to Trace Precedents, except it shows what the current cell feeds into. The shortcut for this command is Alt, M, D. What’s interesting is that if you hit the Trace Dependents command again, this happens.


It now shows the next step of cells that this cell feeds into. If you hit Trace Dependents enough times, you can see the entire tree of what the cell impact, like so.


Trace Precedents and Trace Dependents will also have arrows that seem to point to empty cells. When this happens, the cell is most likely drawing from, or feeding into cells in other sheets. So if you can’t figure out what is changing your cell on this sheet, it could be because it is pulling data from a different sheet. If you see this icon, , know that you should be looking at a different sheet for the data you want. Notice how the projected revenues feed into other sheets, which makes sense because revenue is what drives an organization.

If you want to move between different sheets without using the mouse (which you should), you can get there by pressing Ctrl+Page Up or Ctrl+Page Down. This will move you between sheets as shown below. I am now looking at the Balance Sheet for the company.


(Side note, to flip between the last window you were at and the current window on a PC, use Alt+tab. This is similar to the Ctrl+Page Up/Down function in Excel, except with windows. If you have a Mac go online and order a PC, then use the steps I just gave)

This spreadsheet seems to be missing some values. Instead of typing new formulas into each cell in the remaining projected years, I can highlight year 2011 by using Ctrl+Shift,↓ a few times to get my screen to look like this:


Now I let go of Ctrl, but I keep my finger on the Shift key and I move it over to the 2015 column so it looks like so:


Now that I have the cells that I want selected, I let go of Shift and press Ctrl, R. This is the fill right function. It will take the formulas I have put into 2011 and fill them to the right up to 2015. Then your sheet would look like this:


You have just saved yourself a lot of time by letting Excel do most of the work for you. You are happy, and your boss is happy. Good job.

Back on the income statement, we can see that the Growth Analysis numbers are given as percentages, but it looks sloppy. For starters, there are –s. Parentheses are better than – so we will change the formatting of these cells.


After selecting this group of cells by using Ctrl and Shift like we learned earlier we will let go and press Ctrl+1, which will bring up this dialogue box:


We already know that the cells are percentages, but we want parentheses instead of –s. There is no way to do this with the given options so we will write a custom number format (be excited, this is tricky and few people know how to do it).

First we will go to the Custom Number option by pressing tab and then ↓ a few times to get to Custom. Now we will write in the format.


First we will write the positive format. We want it to be a percentage so we will write “0.00%”. This tells Excel that we want 2 decimal places, and for these to be percentages. Next we will write the format for negative numbers. We start by inserting a ;. This separates positive and negative formats. Now we do the same as before, except we add () because these numbers will be negative, so we write “(0.00%)”.


Hit Enter and see your handiwork.


Well it works, but it looks sloppy. The decimals and % signs are not lined up because of the ) that the negative numbers have. We need to add a space the same size as the ) to the positive numbers to make the decimals line up nicely. To do this we hit Ctrl+1 again to bring up the dialogue box. Go to the 0.0% and add a “_)” to the end of it. So now your entire format should look like “0.00%_);(0.00%)” The “_)” tells Excel that you want a space the size of a ) at the end of each positive number. This will ensure that your positive and negative numbers line up on their decimals. Hit enter and see how it looks.



Now your Growth Analysis looks very sharp and professional. The last thing you want is for poor formatting to distract someone from your numbers, so taking the extra time to format everything nicely can go a long way.

You can do much more with custom number formatting than simply moving decimals. In the example below, the terms for these loans are in years. You cannot type the word years into the cell, or it will confuse Excel.


So how do you put the word years into the cell, but still have it able to do calculations? Good question.  Open up the formatting dialogue box with Ctrl+1 and go to Custom.

Now in the Type box type: #,##0 “Years” as seen below.


The #s tell excel to only display a number if there is a value there, whereas a 0 tells excel to always display a number there. As an example if we wrote “0,000 “Years” instead of #,##0 “Years”, then Excel would display 0,030 Years, because we used 0s instead of #. This would look silly so we will not do it. But it is useful to know if you ever need to use this information in the future because you want Excel to display more digits.

Hit enter and you will see this:


Notice how the cell now says “30 years”, but the formula bar only sees the 30? This is what we want because since there are no words in the formula bar, I can include column B in the formulas that I will be using to calculate the various interest payments on these loans.

Now I need to copy the format of this cell to the others to do this I hit Ctrl+C to copy, and then I’ll let go of those keys and select that column with Ctrl+Shift,↓ as seen below.


Now instead of hitting Ctrl+V which is normal paste, I will do Ctrl+Alt+V which will bring up the paste special dialogue box. I do not want to just use normal paste because the bottom two terms are 20 years not 30 and if I do normal paste, it will replace them with 30. I only want to copy the formatting, so I will select the Formats option in the dialogue box. I can do this quickly by simply hitting “t” once the dialogue box is open because the letter t in Formats is underlined, indicating that t is the shortcut key for Formats. Hit enter.


Now all of the terms have the same formatting and can be used in formulas.


Paste special is very useful and can be used to copy values only, formats only, formulas, and other options. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the function, it’ll be worth it.


My favorite function that I learned over the summer at my internship was the CONCATENATE function. It was extremely useful for consolidating lines of database information into one cell for ease of reading. I have made a sample function below.You can see what it looks like in the cell as well as the formula bar:


As you can see, the function strings lines of text in with cell values to create cohesive sentences. The commas separate the cells and strings of texts. When inserting text it is important to remember “” so Excel knows what you are trying to say. Also note that the word “years” is not included in the text string because we added the word “years” in the number formatting. If we want it to say “years” we will need to add that part after B3 like so:


Although it can look odd in the formula bar, it is very useful if you ever need to print out large amounts of data that you want simplified into readable sentences. By Selecting cells I3-I10 with Shift, I can use Ctrl+D to quickly fill in the rest of the cells like so:


I learned this formula from talking to one of the accountants in the accounts payable department, which wasn’t even where I was working, over the summer. The moral here is to get to know as many people at your company as you can; you never know what neat tricks you will learn that you can apply to your own tasks.

Appearances matter. You wouldn’t hire someone who shows up to an interview in jeans and a t-shirt, so why would you turn in work that didn’t look its best? Take the time to understand how Excel works and how you can format the sheets to look their best. Your boss will notice the difference, especially if your work is compared to someone else’s.

Snapshot Series: Clear and Consistent Communication

The Snapshot Series features PSE alumni and members sharing their expertise on anything from professional advice to specialized business topics. Below, alumnus Tyler Clayton shared some valuable insights on the importance of clear and consistent communication when transitioning from college into the workplace.

The Importance of Clear and Consistent Communication

Starting your first job out of college leaves you with a ton of mixed emotions. You are excited, nervous and usually a bit scared. Some of us walk through the doors a bit more confident than we should be, while some of us are not confident enough with our own abilities.

Working in public accounting for over a year now, I have learned that handling all of these emotions with an intense work load is only made easier by communicating effectively. I will lay out a few scenarios that most of you will likely find yourselves in, and hopefully you find my advice helpful.

First things first, there is no such thing as a dumb question. You are going to get a lot of new information and tasks thrown at you; most of the time it will feel like it is all coming at you at one time. You will not understand everything right off the bat. But guess what? That is understood and even expected. If you ever find yourself not understanding something or confused with a task, it is okay to try and struggle through it on your own for a while. After a short period of time, raise your hand and ask for help. Your employers know that you will have questions and that there will be tasks that you don’t understand, but we can’t help give you better direction if we don’t know what it is that you’re struggling with. Spinning your wheels accomplishes nothing.

One small side note: GROUP YOUR QUESTIONS. Work all the way through a task until you get to a point where you literally cannot go another step. Then go ask all of your questions to someone at once. Asking a superior a different question every 3-5 minutes is not the route to take.

It is important to be very clear on your timetables for completing tasks. In all industries, but especially in public accounting, there will be multiple people who need tasks accomplished by you at the same time or around the same time. Do not feel pressured to have to tell everyone yes for everything that they ask you to do. If you truly cannot get to something, let that person know so that they can find someone who does have time to accomplish the task. It is better to be honest up front, rather than taking on too much and not getting something completed on time. All that does is stress you out and make you look bad to your superiors all at the same time. If you truly don’t have time to get the task done, it is okay to say NO!

The most important thing I hope that you take away from my attempt at passing along knowledge is this: Understand and acknowledge that your lack of experience and need to learn is understood and expected from everyone. You are not expected to know everything or be an all-star right off the bat. Ask questions, and be honest about your own abilities to accomplish your tasks so that everyone is always on the same page. This will help smoothly transition you into the working world.

Snapshot Series: Videography

The Snapshot Series features PSE alumni and members sharing their expertise on anything from professional advice to specialized business topics. Below, member Michael Henry shared some insights on videography. As marketers, leveraging the video tools available to us can be invaluable to the digital marketing space.

With the availability of new cameras, smaller equipment and more affordable options, the capability of an average amateur videographer in today’s world is growing. In the realm of digital video, one of the most impressive tricks is the almighty SLOW MO!

With the release of newer versions of the Go Pro, a small versatile actions sports camera, and the newest iPhones, almost anyone can create high quality slow motion footage.

Quality slow motion video is entirely dependent upon frame rate. Frame rate is the rate at which a device produces unique consecutive images, which is measured in frames per second (FPS).

For many years now, video cameras and phones have stuck to the standard frame rate for most video, 24 FPS. But now with the advancement of technology, everyday people can shoot in FPS up to 240! This means that there are 10 times as many frames to be manipulated! The iPhone 6 can record 720p video at 240 FPS. 720p is roughly 4 times the resolution of a DVD, but not quite Blu-ray quality. Similarly, Go Pro’s HD Hero 3+ (Black Edition) can record FPS up to 240, shooting roughly the resolution of a DVD. However, the Go Pro is better known for its ability to shoot ultra wide-framed 720p Video in 120 FPS, which also holds true in slow mo.

See below for a Go Pro compilation video, shot in 720p (120 FPS), featuring a few members of Pi Sigma Epsilon!

Slow motion really adds that wow effect! Another recent capability available to everyday videographers is 4K Resolution.

The video above was shot in 720p, which, in terms of pixels, measures exactly 1280 x 720. One step above 720p is 1080p, which measures 1920 x 1080 (Blu-ray quality).

4K, which just recently started becoming an available on consumer grade cameras, is an astounding 3840 x 2160 pixels. Take a look at the graphic below to see just how massive 4K is compared to the video resolution sizes that we are used to seeing online every day.


It should be mentioned that while consumer grade cameras now have the ability to shoot in 4K, most people don’t have an adequate computer display to even accurately show a 4K resolution. But this hasn’t stopped Google from allowing users to upload their videos in 4K resolution on YouTube. As the demand for higher resolution computer displays increases, companies are answering the call of consumers with more affordable options. Dell in particular has a great line of affordable 4K displays for around $400. However, spending such a small amount on a high quality display means that it is likely to lack in other areas of performance. Its contrast, coloring, and refresh rate (the term for “frame rate” in the world of computer displays) are likely to be below average.

It’s a very exciting time in the digital revolution, especially in the realm of video! Cameras that can shoot both high quality slow motion and the unbelievable 4K resolution are becoming more accessible and affordable. Get your hands on a new Go Pro, iPhone or any other new camera to quickly and easily experience these awesome capabilities!

Snapshot Series: Powerpoint

The Snapshot Series features PSE alumni and members sharing their expertise on anything from professional advice to specialized business topics. Have you ever wondered how to wow a class, client, or organization with a presentation? Member Kelsey Baesman gives some tips on PowerPoint below.

PowerPoint is a well-known program that you can find as part of your Microsoft Office suite of applications. No doubt you’ve used it for a project or seen one used by your professor for lectures and class notes. It’s possible that you’ve seen a PowerPoint that has kept you more engaged in the classroom because it was so well put together (and I’m talking more than a cheesy animation or transition), or one that was so boring that you couldn’t help but fall asleep. Personally, I think PowerPoints are a fantastic resource and it is possible to make them look very impressive and equally professional.

Here are five helpful tricks beyond just the words on your slides to make your PowerPoint presentation look awesome.

  1. Title Slide

While PowerPoint does give you a dependable format for the title slide, I like to spice things up by adding a picture. I would suggest finding a picture that supports your topic, stretching it to the full size of the slide, and turning the color to grayscale so that it is a subtle background image behind a potentially colorful font. For a project for Abercrombie Kids, I took the iconic moose and made it the background image of all of my slides to add something without it being the focal point of the whole thing. This does not mean that it necessarily has to be on every slide, you could opt for just it to be just on the title slide since there usually isn’t extremely important content on the first slide that a picture would detract from. From there you can have slick follow up slides.

  1. SmartArt

The use of bullet points is significantly overdone. SmartArt will save your life when you need to list information in a more creative way. This can be found on its own tab if you have a Mac, or under the Insert tab. There are very organized ways that you can present your information to not only fill up a slide better to avoid awkward blank spaces. There are list, cycles, and hierarchy graphics among others so play around with it to give your slides a very clean, sleek look.

  1. Remove Background of Picture

This is very helpful for pictures that you add to your slides that you get off of Google. Sometimes there are weird colors of backgrounds behind a picture that you don’t need because all you really wanted was the item in the foreground. While clicking a picture, go to Format Picture and then Remove Background. You will then see the background highlighted by the program as to what it thinks you want removed. Go ahead and click and drag this highlighted area so that everything you want to be removed is encircled. This process can be a bit frustrating especially if the background is complex and not just a plain color. Keep dragging the highlighted section and you will be able to get a clean background so your picture will look sharper.

  1. Reorder objects

This is critical if you have a lot of things going on with the slide. From pictures, to text boxes to bullets and charts, sometimes you want things to overlap and sometimes you don’t. The Reorder Objects feature which can be found under Arrange on the Home tab will help you move around the order of overlapping for each of the objects on your slide. If you want a photo behind your text, and an chart that hangs over the picture a little bit, or any type of scenario, this will help you organize the slide all at once.

  1. Slide Master

Ever needed to put a company logo or something at the bottom of every slide and got sick of copying and pasting it every time? The solution is the Slide Master found under the Themes tab. Here you can place the image where you want to have it on every slide and it will show up for you! You can also select the fonts and colors and bullet styles for your headers and text so that you don’t have to fix them on every slide.

I hope these hints help you create a masterful PowerPoint. Don’t underestimate the power of a professional looking presentation! If you have any questions about these tips or other fun aspects of PowerPoint, feel free to reach out!

Kelsey Baesman

Snapshot Series: Social Entrepreneurship

The Snapshot Series features PSE alumni and members sharing their expertise on anything from professional advice to specialized business topics. The latest article in our Snapshot Series is from our very own Nick Perry.  Below is his article on social entrepreneurship.

Why Social Entrepreneurship Matters to Multinationals | By: Nick Perry

What Does Social Entrepreneurship Mean?

The field of social entrepreneurship has a loose definition, but what it typically refers to is the use of innovative business strategies in order to solve complex societal issues. Social entrepreneurship brings a capitalistic mindset into the charitable world. This means that with social entrepreneurship, doing the right thing and improving the standard of living for people also means making a profit.

Why Consider Social Entrepreneurship?

4 of the 7 billion people on Earth earn less than $2,000 per year, and another 2 billion people earn less than $20,000 per year. This means that 6/7 people in the world are considered in poverty by American standards. These are profound statistics from a humanitarian perspective. However, for this article, I’ll focus on the business significance of these statistics.

Social entrepreneurship, unlike charity, sees these figures as a potential business opportunity with 6 billion untapped people in the marketplace. If social entrepreneurs can work to develop poor markets in a sustainable way so that basic needs are covered, people can move out of extreme poverty and will suddenly have some free income to spend on products and services that we, the top 1/7 of the world, currently use everyday.

Business Implications

People in bottom-of-the-pyramid (BOP) markets, the 6 billion people mentioned above, currently have a low amount of spending power individually. However, when we look at BOP markets as communities, the spending power is significant. For example, the poor population in Rio de Janeiro has a combined spending power of $1.2 billion (roughly $600 each), and this is indicative of major cities all over the world. In fact, the combined population of the world’s 1,300 largest cities is roughly 2 billion people, half of which can be classified in the BOP. These people currently rely on informal markets to gain access to the everyday products they use such as water, food, loans, toilet paper, electricity, cell phone service, medicine and so on. If multi-national companies work to develop and formalize some of these markets, they can start selling to these 1 billion people, who all already have, or will have, some money to spend, and these companies would have access to a huge new source of revenue.

In BOP markets there is currently a high cost for people to acquire basic needs, and common services. For example, interest rates in many BOP markets vary from 600%-1,000%, roughly 50x that of interest costs here (even though debtors in BOP markets are significantly more likely to pay back their debts), and water comes in at about 37x the cost in BOP as it does in America, just to name a few examples. This means that large multinationals have an extremely low barrier to entry in these markets and can actually charge more than they charge in the US to cover their costs of learning how to access these new markets. For example, if a large bank entered a BOP market and gave loans with a 300% interest rate, it might seem unethical in everyday US life, but in reality this would drive local interest rates down and stimulate BOP economies, all while remaining hugely profitable.

A few multinationals, such as Unilever, have realized the value of BOP markets and have implemented many programs to not only develop these areas, but to learn how they operate and how to make profits while improving the quality of life of their customers.


Social entrepreneurship starts at the root of problems, whereas charities start at the symptoms of problems. Social entrepreneurship finds out why people don’t have clean drinking water, and then finds a way to provide clean drinking water, without relying on donations, by using a sustainable business model. Once the basic needs of people are covered, they will become exponentially more productive in their economy and will earn more money to spend on products and services that further improve their quality of life. Forward-thinking brands recognize this and are working hard to develop markets not only for social responsibility reasons, but to create new sources of revenue for themselves.

-If you have further interest in social entrepreneurship, I’d be happy to talk with you about it: