Saturday, December 27, 2008

LEAD @ Chicago Booth

Chicago Booth is a lot of things, and some more. I decided to pick LEAD as my first topic, because it is the first thing we do as Chicago students- and something that is expected to have a long lasting influence in developing tomorrow’s leaders; and hence improve our lives for the two years at Booth and beyond.

LEAD starts at CORE, the Booth version of orientation and is designed to help student interaction. One great aspect of LEAD is that it is run by second years - so it connects the incoming class and the returning class both formally and informally.

The program starts with The Leadership Outdoor Experience (LOE) - a three day mandatory retreat to Lake Geneva. It is like boot camp all over - but a lot more fun. The LEAD facilitators (second years) design numerous team building activities for the three days - and by the time we return from LOE, we would know a lot more people than we can remember names of. Also, LEAD is the only program we take as a cohort. The entire class is split into ten cohorts, and each cohort is then split into eight squads. You know your squad and your cohort for the entire two year - and hence chances are that you'll find your closest buddies in these groups. LOE is followed by classroom sessions that touch upon numerous leadership topics like ethics, team building, crisis management, etc. The second years have some autonomy on how they manage these classes and they try to make it fun by using videos, cases and real life examples. The LEAD program finally ends with Golden Gargoyles – an annual event where cohorts make movies from which the best movies will get $$$. Overall - the program is designed to be a fun, enjoyable arena where an individual's strengths and weaknesses are identified, analyzed and opportunities are given to improve on them. This information also helps individuals approach classrooms and other group work as better team players and leaders.

Does the program work - mostly yes. People have a love hate relationship with LEAD. There are many factors at play that lead to mixed reactions from LEAD:
  • People expect too much from the program - no one is gonna remodel you in 10 weeks. All you will have is the knowledge that you are awesome in some aspect and you also suck at certain areas. You'll have a to-do list, but eventually you gotta work on it. LEAD is 100% a "What You Get Is What You Give". Unfortunately, no MBA student has enough time to invest in LEAD.
  • The experience is not uniform - second years run the program. They are people. They all have different styles and different approaches. The class is also diverse and has people from different backgrounds and experience levels. The program definitely aims at finding a middle ground - to be valuable to everyone. People sometimes compare their experiences across the table and go bah; which I don’t think is fair - because as a whole, the system works.
  • The program is very theoretical - this was true in my case. I'd have preferred to do more hands on exercises, to see how I react to situations. To see how my team mates react to situations. I learn the best from such experiences, but we felt we could have more of those than discussion scenarios with PowerPoint slides! Fortunately, this aspect was improved this year for the incoming class - but by how much, I am not sure.
  • The LEAD program is reflective - this is debatable; but personally I think it is true. The LEAD facils are second years. They haven’t been to the real world, used LEAD skills over a significant period of time, to come back and say "Hey this worked this way". What we hear is "In my prev job, this is how it worked" or "This is how it would work in our future jobs". By how much this dilutes the experience - we don’t know yet. I say yet because, true to GSB style, we have a professor researching on this and we'll know the results in a couple of decades!
Now - all is not bad with LEAD. I said the program mostly works. This is why:
  • The Learnings - In the very first LEAD class, me and my squad were given a case, asked to solve it and were videotaped! It was hilarious to watch ourselves crack this case. But we also learnt how we behave in a team environment - right from our posture to the tone of our voice to the level of participation. This is just one example - there were numerous instances when I discovered aspects and qualities in me that I did not know I had in me. Fortunately, I've worked on my to-do list. What I hear from my friends (who knew me before school) makes me believe that it has worked. This is the very reason behind LEAD and this is why I said it works.
  • The People - it is no wonder that I'm good friends with all six of my squad mates, and know everyone in my cohort. It works the same way for all 55 of us in our cohort; and all 55 of us in each cohort. There are also avenues to meet the cohort before us and the cohort after us. We also have a sister cohort and sister squad concept - which was not really a big hit because we did very few exercises with them. There's also a quarter long competition for cohorts - so we compete and get to meet people from other cohorts, under the LEAD banner. This is another motive behind LEAD and the program scores heavily on this aspect.
  • The feedback - There is a facil attached to each squad. He's in-charge of ensuring that your LEAD experience is the best. One of his responsibilities is to offer you feedback - at carefully designed points in the program - to help you catch things that you missed. There's feedback from your peers - your squad mates. If you stepped on someone's foot - you'll know right there. No hard feelings. Finally, as I’ll explain in the next point, there are numerous moments when the programs trigger the internal feedback system and help you see yourself in a different light.
  • The opportunities - nowhere else would you get such a risk free environment to test your mettle and see if you've improved. There's the classroom, the cases, the exercises, golden gargoyles, leadership positions inside your cohort, the LEAD challenge - just way too many moments that will show you who you are. Now go work on them...
These are the key aspects of LEAD that I've noticed in the last 18 months. I've seen two batches of LEAD - so I've also seen how the program is evolving. I think it is going in the right direction.

If I take a step back and evaluate its role in my MBA experience, I'd say it is definitely a value add to the program. If you put in a fair amount of time and effort into the program, you'll get a fair amount out of it. And if that is done well, you'll improve as a team player and as a leader - and you'll have enough to handle future situations in school, and beyond, quite well and, dare I say, better than you used to.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

@ Chicago Booth

So I'm 2/3rd an MBA. I finished my fourth quarter finals a week ago and have been chilling out in super-cold Chicago ever since. I've had a great year and a half at business school and am much wiser than i started it a year ago. I have way too many good experiences to share with you all, and way too much wisdom to pass on.

Hence I decided to write a series on my school. This is purely about my school, the only school i attended, and might not be representative of all schools. Also, this is my experience, and is NOT a generalization of Chicago Booth experience. There is no one Chicago Booth experience - each student has a different experience based on his/her choices.

But you're welcome to read mine for whatever it is worth.

In the coming days, i intend to touch upon different aspects of the Chicago Booth experience and I look forward to hearing your opinions, views and comments on those topics. While i do intend to write about all common topics and some more, please let me know if you have any special (or specific) requests.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

ChiBus journey comes to an end

What an experience!!! The last one year has been amazing and Tsu and I have thoroughly enjoyed the fifteen issues we brought out. This week, we picked our two new editors-in-chief and handed over. We're officially done.

Looking back, I'm amazed at how much I've gained through this experience. I've met and befriended some fabulous people, who I would not otherwise have met at such close circles. I've had some great leadership experience which is only bettered by the GBC and not paralleled by any other group. I've had to work with difficult people, handle tricky situations, make tough decisions and be answerable to all 1100 of my classmates. I've also had to give away every second week of my MBA life, slogging inside the hollow burrow that is the ChiBus office. Heck, the day before my interviews, I was in the office :)

It feels kind of weird to not have ChiBus on the calendar. Makes me wanna hang out more with Tsu - I'm glad we're not tired (if not sick) of each other yet! Once next quarter begins I'll realize how much free time I have. I'll need to find other stuff to fill my calendar. But it is also a chance to use the free time to do things I haven't done in a while - like read; and write; and blog; and movies; and sleep!!!

We started with a long list of things to do, and would probably have accomplished the top four or five things on the list - so that's a good feeling. We'd have liked to do more though; but that's how it ends. We have a lot of great memories and some strong friendships to show. Thank you ChiBus.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

An End & A Beginning

I'm 27. It is official - since yesterday! With it, the year of education that was, hopefully, comes to an end.

It's been an interesting period in my life - these last 12 months. Quite naturally - I find myself in an introspective state. Last November started what could be the worst few months of my life. I made some stupid decisions, let myself forget who I am and spiraled down deeper and deeper. By May-June, things had hit rock bottom. Needless to say, many aspects of my life were affected. There are many many events that happened during this last year that I will never be able to forget. And these events will keep reminding me of the choices I made, the decisions I should not have made and how I could let things get worse for myself. Parts of me that I lost in the process, I dont think I will ever be able to recover! May be I just had to. All in the name of growing up...

Then came the summer and the recovery. A quick trip home to touch base with my roots. A time away from most of the things that were causing heartburn. New friends and a new setting. Chile played a huge role in getting myself back on track. It also helped me, for the umpteenth time, reinvent myself in a positive way and get a move on with life. The last few months have been great in many ways and this November, I look up instead of down, with what the future promises to hold!

Most importantly, in those early months, I lost the promise I hold and almost wasted what I am! The moments when people are perilously close to failure reminds people of why they cannot and should not fail; similarly in those dark days I realized why I should not go down this path, why I don't deserve anything that was happening to me and what I should really be. I re-learned myself all over again, shrugged off the chaff that was holding me back and liberated myself from the shackles.

The last few months have been enjoyable, to say the least. I love me more than ever and I am also having a great time with everything I do. The things I don't want to be a part of my life, they are down to a bare minimum, and hopefully will cease to exit pretty soon. The future holds a promise, a promise of me, and I am more focused than ever to honor that promise and deliver on it.

Happy birthday to me...

Monday, November 03, 2008

Employed!!!

Yes!!! I'm done with recruiting for this year.

Last week was B.U.S.Y!!! I had already interviewed with my top choice company the previous week and was invited for the decision round on Wednesday. I had interviews with five other companies, and each one of them had multiple interviews. After almost 75 hours of heavy heartbeats - my top choice firm got back to me on Saturday to inform me of my offer. I've been in a OMG mode ever since!!!

It's official. I'd be joining Bain & Company in their Chicago office next summer.

I'm super thrilled and just cannot wait to start learning from all the great people i met during my recruitment. Also, finally i get to experience business school as just a student - so i'm looking forward to that too.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Find me a job

If there is anything that could be both extremely crazy and incomparably gratifying in a business school, it would be recruiting. That is what me and most of my classmates have been doing over the last month or so - yeah we started recruiting a full week before classes started :)

Considering the status of wall street (or whatever is left of it) and the economy at large, we all expected recruiting to be quite difficult. Even though the stakes have been raised in certain areas, recruiting still looks mostly promising. Talk about the advantages of being in a top business school. Basically every firm that is recruiting is in campus.

Investment Banking, as an industry, is in shambles. Even the banks that have survived so far have either taken some beating or have taken on other risky assets. Quite obviously their numbers are gonna be pretty low compared to any year in recent memory. Interestingly, people who have offers from many "strong" banks have also accepted much sooner - hence bringing down the necessity of many banks to recruit. We expect a 30% - 40% drop in IB numbers (and this does not include S&T - which would be much worse).

Interestingly - consulting numbers have been strong. In fact, as an industry, they seem to be increasing recruiting. But the landscape has become very difficult - many of my classmates who have offers from "less strong" banks are uncertain and are looking at consulting careers. The crowd in the consulting events is bigger than ever, says GSB's Career Services. Purely based on demand and supply - i believe this is gonna be very very competitive.

Industry jobs have kicked in and filled the gap created by banking. These job posts have gone up significantly. In turn, this has brought the overall job posts made in our job portal up by 4%. That doesn't make us feel that bad. The good thing that is happening is that people are thinking harder now than ever to see what exactly they want to do. The Career Services has worked extra hard and made sure we have all these options. They brought in more than 30 new companies, and that seems to have helped balance the situation. Overall - we seem to be doing well as of now, and will know better once the final numbers are out by Spring.

I don't see anyone at GSB really concerned about their chances. Instead, there is this optimism that is true to being here. Everyone seems to be believing that if the stock is good, the market will buy. Going by the response from the employers - our belief in us seems to be true.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Classes - first impression

What am i doing staying awake at 3AM in the morning on a Tuesday night???
I'm celebrating the completion of my first classes for this quarter. Boy, wasn't that fun?!?!

After talking a little about my classes in this post, I figured New Venture Strategy clashed with a few recruiting events. Since i wanted to do a good job in that class, I dropped it and signed up for Managing in Organizations for the Saturday morning class. So my first class for the quarter was actually on this Saturday morning. The other classes were on Monday and Tuesday afternoon.

To begin with, all three classes are with kick-ass professors. They are unbelievably awesome. While Ms. Ginzel held me awake throughout the class even after my partying till 3AM the previous day, Ms. Smith just blew us away (literally) by the way she started her class - she whistled to catch our attention!!! Ms. Bertrand has an attitude that is unbelievably awesome. I thoroughly enjoyed all three classes.

However, I did not enjoy all the work :( I read almost 100 pages of material for each class. Starting next week, each class has some sort of an assignment to be submitted. Since I'm trying to do as much as possible for all classes, I did read everything I was supposed to read and showed up ultra-prepared (and slightly sleepy) for all three classes. It was one long stretch from Friday morning till today afternoon.

So I am celebrating such a successful class week with a movie night. I know - I should be sleeping, but my Netflix DVDs had piled up and I had to do something. So now after two movies, I thought I'd write about it all before I doze off. Any friends reading this, no calling till noon okay...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Recruiting v2.0

A sunny morning
and Bon Jovi songs
A warm cup of chai
and a WSJ mourning Wall St.
A clean shave
and a hot shower
A pressed attire
and a splash of dash

Everything looks perfect, to begin full time recruiting here at the GSB...

The next few weeks promise to be intense and fun, and hopefully will have a good ending!!!
Good luck to me :)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Back on the fast lane

Life's been busy! Very busy!!! I had a ton of responsibilities to attend since returning, and I've been mostly successful in attending to each of them.

Classes haven't begun yet, but preparations have. I thought I had my schedule set, but I decided to drop one of the classes since it clashed with many recruitment events. This was a class I was really looking forward to, but the same prof is offering the same class next quarter as well. So I'm now planning to sign up next quarter. Also, now I have to find myself a class in the next round of bidding. I've never had to bid in the third round for a class. So I'm trying to figure out the dynamics of bidding in this round, with fewer classes on offer. Hopefully I'll get the class I'm keen on.

Chibus is happening! When Tsu (my co-editor-in-chief) and I took responsibility of the paper, we had a long list of things to change. We've constantly had to grapple with the pressure of getting the paper out in time, along with all the school work, so we never got to them. Now that we have some time to work on the paper, we have set out to get all of them done before school starts. Some of them, we feel, are very important to get the slumbering team morale back on track and make life easy for our precious staff. Others, are just an effort to improve the paper from what it is. We hope to set the bar a few notches high, and pass on the baton to the next class, who will then find things that we failed to see, and improve things from thereon.

The Class of '10 is here. They've been to the Random Walks and are almost done with CORE. I have met with many of them, and it is good to see so many familiar faces - people I met through the numerous admissions committee activities. It has been a pleasure to pass on the little I've learnt during my first year. AND - I have three mentees!!! I've been spending a LOT of time with them - trying to ease them into their school life. Looks like I have done a decent job so far, I don't think anyone is overwhelmed and I think I've been telling them the right things. They figured out the bidding process and all of them have classes - so that's one hurdle down. Now it is time to handle their recruitment.

Oh yeah - I'm recruiting as well. So I've been spending the rest of my time on trying to prepare myself better. Given the current economic situations, recruiting is gonna be difficult. Hopefully I'm prepared well. Companies are in campus starting Monday!!! The on-campus-recruiting process ends by mid Nov and I hope to have a job by then. I've been spending quality hours everyday, trying to sort out things and seeking advice/help from friends, classmates and GSB Career Services folks. So far so good and hopefully things will work out the way I want them to work out. Good luck me!!!

As you can see - things are happening. I'm back to the state I'm most comfortable and most satiated - juggling a ton of exciting things and keeping myself constantly occupied. Feeling constantly pushed, but enjoying that stretch.

Life is fast! Life is busy!! Life is fun!!!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Good to be back!

It is indeed good to be back. There are aspects of Chile i miss though - especially good Sushi and Spanish presentations! Overall - I'm certainly kicked about being back.

Things have started rolling and my calendar is full of a million things already. The Class of 2010 is here and I've been meeting many people from the class for different reasons. I have three mentees to begin with - and hope I'm doing a decent job of helping them with their first few days in GSB. That is on top of my priority list at the moment - at least till i get busy with recruiting.

Oh yeah - recruiting. Recruiting starts for second years on September 22nd; which is like 2 weeks away. While i cant believe that i find myself again at the tryst of another gruelling, tiring 3 months - I am really looking forward to starting the process. After one year of business school and an exciting 10 weeks at internship - I think i have better clarity on things i want and those that i don't want. And it is even more exciting to get back to recruiting with that clarity. Or so i think. We'll see...

Classes start on September 25th. I got all the classes i wanted to sign up for. I have three great courses with awesome professors - Competitive Strategy, New Venture Strategy and Financial Statement Analysis. I'm pretty thrilled about this quarter. I just need to be disciplined enough to be able to do well in the courses, along with recruiting.

Oh, and yeah! I met with my ChiBus co-editor-in-chief and we brainstormed about the things we want to do over the first few weeks. So i have a ChiBus to-do list that i need to sort out pretty soon. Hopefully we'll achieve those things within the aggressive timeline we set for ourselves.

So - second year is a few weeks away, but i already feel like second year has started. I guess it is only good to have a head start and keep working as hard as i could. Hopefully this will be a great year.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

ExpertCollective - A Review

So a few weeks ago Josh Hohman from ExpertCollective had left a note on my blog regarding a survey compilation that he thought would be useful for MBA applicants. He was requesting me to review this report so that it could reach potential applicants. I read the free report and found the material interesting - so i decided to review the full report.

While I was in the preliminary stages of applying to business schools, one of the primary hurdles was to find genuine and personal information about the school from people in the school - staff and students alike. This, I understand, is a considerable issue for international applicants like me. This report aims at providing an answer to that issue.

Format:
The report basically has students of various business schools answering a standard set of nine questions. The students are from Stanford GSB, HBS, Columbia Business School. There's also a mini profile of each student - giving us the GPA range (ranges of 0.5), GMAT range (range of 50) and the pre-MBA professional background of the student.

The free report has 6 students - 2 each from Stanford, HBS and Columbia.
The full report has 35 students - 28 from Stanford, 3 HBS and 4 Columbia.

Pros:
The format is no-frills. The questions are not usual and are focused on helping an applicant as against getting a profile of the student. The report does not have a lot from the same person, but the standard questions allow the reader to easily compare across profiles. There is no unnecessary fluff in the whole report - just one interview after another one. Pretty sleek and effective.

Cons:
The list of questions is not extensive; but i'm not sure how to fit in more questions without making the report heavy. Also, standardized is not gonna help people with individual questions - but that is a standardized report anyway. The biggest drwaback for me is that the full report is heavy on Stanford. 28 out of the 35 responses are from Stanford.

Verdict:
It might be useful if you cannot visit schools - but as of now, I can imagine this being helpful only for Stanford applicants. I am not sure of the price - so thats for you to check as well. People have different price points! Bottom line - download the free report and check for yourself.

Disclaimer: I am in no way associated to the person or the website mentioned in this review. I'm doing this simple to point applicants to a resource that they could find useful. Please dont hold me responsible for your experiences with this website or the resource under discussion.

A job through my blog???

I've been quite irregular in checking the email id mentioned in the blog. Even more so in the recent few days, as there's a ton of housekeeping work i had to do after reaching Chicago. And there's so much catching-up-with-buddies to do. After a week - I'm king of breathing easy.

I was thinking of the mails since yesterday and today morning i was motivated to follow up on all the mails. Among the pile, i find this one mail from a certain feedcompany. They are part of a recruiting initiative currently underway at Deloitte - Born2Consult.

So the deal is that i share this video (it is quite funny - take a look) and feedcompany would forward my resume to Deloitte. Quite neat eh! Many things have happened to me through the blog - finding a job was something I'd have never thought about. Blogging does give something back, apart from the pure pleasure of writing :)

Enjoy the video and wish me luck...

Monday, September 01, 2008

Home good home!!!

I'm back in Chicago.

The flight went well. Me reached in one piece. All bags came through safe. Home is in good condition after the sublet. Chicago is hot and happening. People speak to me in English. Good to be back!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Internship: Week 10

It is over. An exciting and enriching 10 week stay in the República de Chile. Time to move to Chicago.

The last week was relatively less intense, compared to how the rest of the summer spanned. The first three days were quite hectic though, what with the team scrapping together the final pieces of the presentation; examining the slides for the umpteenth time, to find if we can spruce it up a wee bit; anxious about how the board would react to the recommendations. Eventually - the hard work paid off.

The presentation was completed on Wednesday, and we did not face any major issue in getting approval. Once the presentation was approved - I was set free. I had Thursday and Friday for myself. Absolutely nothing to do. In fact, it kind of felt weird to not have anything at work. But the million farewells made sure I was busy!!!

I had a series of feedback sessions and it was interesting to hear what people saw in me. I was very curious, considering the completely different cultural and organizational setup i was working in. Overall - it went quite well. I had a tonne of feedback to offer and it was all received very well. What remains to be seen is how this small company, set for major growth, copes up with the challenges of growth and how it incorporates our recommendations in the process. They've promised to keep me updated!!! I'm anxious to see how it works out.

So thus ends another chapter in the bschool story. I've learnt a lot over these 10 weeks. I cant wait to return to Chicago and put them in good use - I will be there in about half a day! And then, life moves on to the GSB drill.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Internship: Week 9

The penultimate week of the internship was a really busy one! I was working hard to try and wind up the project this week so that my last week would be relatively free! Looks like I've almost managed to do that. Almost!!!

I received all necessary information in the defined time lines! All too well. The consultant proved difficult right till the end, and gave us a bunch of so-so guesstimates. We already had our own bunch of guesstimates and found his set to be quite different from what we had. That meant that we had a string of meetings to try and reach mutually agreeable numbers. It took us two days!

My colleague who was working on the model needed extensive help. I did many parts of the model and redid many other things she did. There were a lot of logic questions she had no answers for and the two of us had to run around the office to get a lot of information she had missed. Overall - it was a very fun exercise, and we managed to have a satisfying model by the weekend. Even more, the model now proves that all our initial hypothesis are right - so we're quite thrilled.

With all that done, I'm working on fine tuning the presentation for the board presentation this week. I presented the content to my CEO and he's quite happy with what he saw. I have a review today evening with a few General Managers, and once i answer their questions satisfactorily - I am all set to face the board for the second time. We have addressed a lot of questions from the previous board meeting and hopefully the board will like our answers. Cant wait for Wednesday.

I'm planning to officially finish the internship on Wednesday, after the board meeting. I'll still have to drop in on Thursday and Friday to transition my work and bid adieu to all the wonderful people I've met here - but I want to do that on my schedule and not have the binding to be at the work place during work hours. I'm hoping a few lunches would help me complete the farewells.

Speaking of farewells, my CEO is out of the country on a business trip. We bid adieu after the review session on Friday. We had a mutual feedback session and it went exceedingly well. I wont be meeting him again.

I celebrated this internship with a weekend trip to Valparaíso, Viña del Mar and Isla Negra! I also completed my Chilean ambition of visiting all 3 of Pablo Neruda's homes!!! Quite a humbling experience. Last but not least, I had tonnes of fantabulous sea food from all 3 coastal towns. I'm not exaggerating, but over the weekend, I've tasted some of the best sea food I've ever had!!!

So I'm almost done, with one more week to go in this country. Hopefully everything will go smoothly over the week and I'll find myself is Chicago on Sunday noon! I just cant wait for that!!!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

As anniversaries go...

I just remembered - It's been a year since i left for Chicago as an aspiring MBA student. I have been in a rare introspective mood this weekend. I've lived some kind of an exciting life over the course of my first year at GSB and the internship. Things have changed - for both the good and the bad - and in the process, I have changed!!! Since change is the only constant thing ever, I'm not surprised at the change; but comparing what i was last August to what I am now - I really am surprised what the last year has brought upon me.

It is quite difficult to write this post without giving away too much of myself. Especially to people who know me personally. Still, I feel obligated to write this post, to chronicle this moment in this journal, at least for the sake of posterity! So I'm gonna be as discrete and riddled as possible!

Bottom line: I have had a great year. There have been long durations when i failed to notice it enough to appreciate how great it was. But sitting at my home here in Santiago - when i look back, I must certainly agree that it has been a good year. Business school is a one-of-its-kind beast. At least in my case, the last one year has been quite transformational. Inside the classrooms - yes! Certainly!!! Somehow i managed to entangle myself in a lot of good and bad things outside the classrooms. That, coupled with the great GSB classes, mean that these 12 months have taught me a LOT more, on a LOT many fronts, than ever.

Looking at myself today - I must admit there are changes. The perspectives on a million things (and the very act of having one), the outlook towards life and business and everything in between, professional and personal aspirations, a few core beliefs and the belief on what's core, responsibilities - including the very definition of a responsibility, plans on every front including how & what i plan for, the personality and the person - all of these have changed.

Then there are the causes behind these changes. The Experiences. The successes and the failures; the acceptances and the rejections; the realizations and the denials! The People!!! Friends - old, new and the non-friends, professors, colleagues, group mates, class mates, peers, bloggers, people i meet through the blog, people i meet through GSB - everyone has contributed to this. Some less than the others and some more! But you are featured, at least as the source for a tiny little step (or mis-step) that took me here. And to you all, I am grateful for helping me with that step at that time!

So what am I now? What is this change I am talking about?
Am I a better man today than what I was last year? I cant answer that? I'm partial when i rate myself!
A Good man or a Bad one? I don't know! Who am I to draw the lines?
But am I happier now than last year? Certainly yes! More than i could remember in quite a while!
And in the end - isn't it the only thing that matters!

Here's to all my second year friends' first years at their respective business schools and the corresponding changes it has brought about in them.

Change sure does sound like the flavor of the season!!!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Internship: Week 8

This was the week of the farewells!!! Six people I've met in the last two months finished their work and took off to their respective destinations. By Thursday night, our social network had been effectively brought down to less than half the size it was a week ago. This was also a four day week. Friday, 15th August, was a Chilean National Holiday for Assumption of Mary.

In more closer circles to me - this was the last week for the French guy from BCG who was working with me. So he finished his part and left for Buenos Aires. So here I am, two more weeks of internship, left to tie all loose ends and bring the project to a grand closure. I'd be making my final recommendations to the board during my last week.

The week went by in a jiffy. We had a string of parties during the weekend and the weekly After Office was good this week. So we were sore throughout the week. On top of that, the French guy and me wanted to bring everything to near closure before he left. So we were literally cramming up five weeks of work into the last three weeks. I'm glad we've covered most of it.

So next week - i wait for inputs from a consultant (who's proving to be increasingly difficult to work with) and some evaluations from a colleague who's been given almost everything required to complete the work. Once i get these information, I will have to analyze everything, draw conclusions, make necessary changes in our recommendations and prepare the final presentation deck. As I'm nearing the end of the internship, I'm also planning to set up two-way feedback meetings with my CEO sometime next week. So, all going well, i must bring the internship to a logical closure by the end of next week.

I'm hoping to keep my last week relatively light for two reasons: (1) The presentation is on Wednesday, so there's not a lot of time left once the week starts, (2) There is a bunch of GSBites in Chile for their Random Walk and i want to hang out with them.

Hopefully - it will all work to plan.

Der Feeder

Alright. I was asked to add the RSS Feeder for the blog.

I guess i am spoilt with the sophisticated live bookmarking available in Firefox 3. Seriously, you guys need to upgrade to this wonder browser. It just makes web-life SO simple :)

Nevertheless - I've added the RSS feed tool on the Right side pane.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Talking about GSB

GSB just updated the online student profiles page with profiles from Class of 2009 students, including yours truly. For prospective applicants, this is a great way to hear real people talk about the school, as against reading published or printed material. So get your headphones out and start watching...

India(n) wins Olympic Gold

India's Abhinav Bindra won the first individual gold medal for my country in 61 years in the Men's 10m Air Rifle event at Beijing Olympics. It is one of those moments when you feel instinctively ecstatic; and in a short while start to ponder about the million questions yet to be answered. Lets give it to the man, he has really defeated multiple odds. He really deserves all accolades that comes his way - Congrats Abhinav. You really have earned the love and applause of the billion and more Indians world wide.

You have also earned instant overreaction from the Indian Media, Politicians and general public that will come your way in the next few days! Having lived in India for the best part of 25 years, I can visualize the mindless euphoria that would follow. And everyone would forget the fact that this gold medal took 61 years coming and was not a result of a system but the sheer brilliance of an individual!

No one gave the Indian athletes any chance of winning medals, let alone a Gold, in the Olympics. To quote Suresh Kalmadi, president of the Indian Olympics Association, India should not "expect too many medals in China." The IOA and SAI are hardly worthy of supporting, let alone creating, world class athletes. There have been multiple complaints of shabby politics, favoritism and all sorts of discrimination against athletes. The latest was when Indian weightlifter Monica Devi apparently failed a drugs test and was pulled out literally hours before boarding a flight to Beijing, only to clear the same test when it was too late to play in the event. A CBI probe is looming at the biggest sports bodies of India. The national hockey team, the only Olympic gold winner for India till Abhinav, did not even qualify to Olympics this time. There has been literally no improvement in grass root level development of games. There seems to be no clear planning or execution in improving sports in India. Very often, athletes leave India and travel to other nations to train before key events - that act explains the state of the facilities. The lesser we talk about the individual sports bodies, the better.

The point I am trying to make is that this is hardly India's Gold medal. This is simply an Indian's Gold medal. In 61 years of Independence, we have not made significant strides in our quest for sports supremacy. And the people in the important positions certainly have their priorities wrong. Everyone who can talk will talk about Abhinav. He will receive a million accolades and pose with every important person in India who wants to bask in his glory. But soon, he will be forgotten and the nation will move on to the next political scandal or the biggest summer blockbuster. Including the people who could use this moment and this person to spur the imagination of a country and take steps towards creating the necessary infrastructure and providing fair opportunities to create more gold medal winners. They will claim their share in Abhinav's success, consider their job done and move on.

I believe that Abhinav has earned everything that will come his way in the next few months and perhaps many more. In a system that does not promise any podium finishers, he managed to stand on top of the podium and gave us Indians on of those rare moments of listening to our national anthem at the Olympics. I congratulate and salute him for his achievement.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Internship: Week 7

This week was a drag! Really, after our Maipo escapades, everyone was so exhausted. Slowly but steadily, everyone started falling sick and by Friday - everyone was in pretty bad shape. Things weren't that good with me though, as i felt too sick on Wednesday and had to take a day off. Still had to work a bit from home. I was still in bad shape on Friday!!!

Work wise - this week was busy as hell. The five week plan became a three and then two week plan as things totally went out of control. The strategy recommendations we were working on, we were instructed, had to be ready at least by Monday of week 8. Our manager settled for a draft version, but it had to be ready on Monday because he was presenting it to our biggest client on Monday. Meanwhile, the CEO did his bit to ask us to forward the same draft to a representative from the office in the region with the most difficult business environment for our clients, making it a really lucrative/important office for us. Talk about pressure.

My consultant friend and me crammed all week and managed to get the stuff ready by Thursday. A lot of the recommendations still need to be validated and financially evaluated, which we are working on. We still need pricing information, which we'd hopefully get in a week. Hopefully, the the timeline for these processed and the negotiations with the clients coincides so that we will have concrete plans when the clients are ready to proceed. We also need to get the board's buy in on the final plan. I'm presenting to the board again on my last day at work! I guess it is a great way to bring the internship to a grand closure.

The weekend was fun. I was introduced to Poker, which i found quite fun. I even won the game that night ;) Six of our friends are leaving home this week, so we celebrated together on Saturday. All of us are understandably sore from the action, but are all set for another week of gruelling work. At least this is a short week, with Friday being a national holiday in Chile.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Hanging by a thread...

I went on a weekend trip to Maipo Valley, also called Valle del Maipo, a lush region located in the South of Santiago. It is a long stretch of small villages along the Maipo River, that originates from the Maipo volcano and flows through the numerous mountains of the Andes. The valley is famous for its numerous vineyards, including the Maipo section of the famous Concho y Toro Winery.

We were planning this trip for at least a week. A classmate from GSB is with me in Santiago, working with a different entrepreneur. Her friend flew in from Canada for a week and that was our the motivation for the trip. What a great trip it turned out to be. The original plan was for the friend to reach Santiago at 7:30, we start from Santiago at 10, reach our destination (more on that later) and do all the stuff we could potentially do - horse back riding on the natural forests, bathe in hot-springs, visit a few vineyards, cook Asado on that altitude, etc. What eventually did happen is worth a huge novel.

To begin with, the flight of our friend got delayed and he missed his connecting flight in Atlanta. So it turned out that he was to come on Sunday instead of Saturday. On Friday, we went out dining with out friends in Santiago. After a heavy dinner, we decided to attend a show done by a Bon Jovi cover band. The show turned out to be awesome and we sang along with the cover band dudes till 3AM. When we hit the sack, we had time for 5 hrs of sleep before the weekend adventure.

All of us woke up at 10! Frantic preparation and multiple phone calls later, we find ourselves at the car rental place, Alamo, at 11AM. They took literally 2 hours (I'm not exaggerating) to give us a car. This, after reserving a car the previous day. So we started towards Maipo at 1PM, hoping to reach there at 2:30PM - the trip usually takes a little more than 1 hr. After maneuvering through Santiago's mid-Saturday traffic, we reach the base of the Andes and drive up to San José de Maipo, a small town on the way to Cajón del Maipo, our eventual destination. The time was already 2:15PM. We call the contact person at our hotel, and this is how the discussion went:

Us: Hey, we are the people who made reservations for the night. We're at San José de Maipo.
He: Oh great! It snowed last night. You cant drive the last 500 m. Hope you have an SUV.
Us: What! We have a mid-size-sedan. We'll come over in some time.
He: Uh, what? Sedan??? Good luck!

Really - we "felt" him grinning!!!

From San José de Maipo, we had to travel in 10 kms of tarmac and 19 kms of dirt track to reach Cajón del Maipo! The dirt track is basically a narrow strip on the mountains, where there was snow and water everywhere coz of the overnight rain. We set on our journey, and wriggled through really rough 15 kms of, when the car in front of us stopped. The driver walked towards us and, to our utter shock, declared "You have a flat tire"!!! We replaced our care tire at an altitude of 1800m, in between two huge mountains, with snow all around us. In spite of our situation, we were still overawed by the view around us. It was quite breathtaking!

We eventually fixed the tire and managed to go to T-500m of our night stay - Lo Valdes Mountain Refugio! We struggled for another 30 minutes to find a way/place to park our car. Shovelling 2ms of snow with bare hands at an altitude of 2000m to create parking space for our car definitely goes down at my most memorable experience ever. The tire-change experience comes a close second! After we parked our cars, we set on foot to the Refugio, only to find really bad pathways, with puddles of ice-cold water. We almost gave up after 200m - when the owner of the Refugio met us with his vehicle as he was going out. He gave us a ride up, during which i managed to freeze both my hands pretty badly - that really hurt. Eventually - we got to the place at 6PM and set our beds for the night. And guess what, there was snow everywhere and walking around was supposedly life threatening. We were told that we cant do anything that we planned to do. We had traveled 100kms, scaled 2000m and went through all of that suffering for literally nothing :)

The view in front of us made up for all our miseries. It was unbelievable and the best thing I've ever seen in all my life. We were really overjoyed and buoyed up by the experience of just being in such a picturesque place. The Refugio was on a small cliff, with huge mountains (some scaling above 6000m) all around us. One word - Awesome!!! But the sun sank behind the mountains pretty soon. So we finished dinner, hung around a bit and slept at 11 - when the place shuts down its generator and goes completely dark. Our mobiles had no coverage. The only connection we had to the world was a telephone line. Lying on my bed, tired from the day's activities, I felt like i was in a different world altogether and it was quite refreshingly liberating to shun all the modern bondage and be there as just a human being - me for myself!

True to our tiredness, we woke up at 8AM. We had instructed our now forgotten friend to take a taxi to San José de Maipo, but he was supposed to be there at 10:30AM. There was no snow during the night - so the snow from the previous night had frozen into ice. Driving was gonna be hell. We had to leave as soon as possible. The view outside, with the morning sun, was spellbinding. I'm running out of words to describe it. We could have stayed there for a week. We enjoyed the morning view in all its glory, finished our breakfast and left the place in a hurry. The owner of the Refugio gave us a ride to our car and all of us felt that he was holding back a huge laughter after he saw our car. He had this smug look at screamed "No kidding"! Oh well!!!

Our tires were in pretty shape and none of us were confident about crossing the dirt track without busting a tire. All sorts of contingency plans were being discussed and we were checking our tires every tenth minute. After another painstakingly agonizing two hours on the roads, with some really adept car maneuvering by our friend (I'm really impressed. she did a really great job) we reached San José de Maipo and met our friend who had been waiting there for two hours.

We just had to do something than just driving around. So we drove back a few kilometers and found a spot where they had horse back riding along the shores of the Maipo river. We finished formalities and then the guy at the place mounted us on the horses. To our total shock, we then realized, he let us handle the horses. HE DID NOT COME WITH US!!! In hindsight, it was fun to learn to communicate with and handle the horse - but the first 10 mins were scary as hell. The horses were hungry and they would stop at every sign of food - and just wont listen to us. My best moment was when my horse finally gave up and started galloping full speed at random - only for this owner guy to chase us me in another horse and bring my horse under control!!! In all possibility, i could have gone pale white through my brown skin!!!

So we at least did horse back riding. We were hungry after the trip and returned to have lunch at San José de Maipo. We merrily ordered Asado and waited for the food - for two hours. And the food was crap. It was just that kind of a weekend. We also managed to repair the tire at San José de Maipo. Once we finished lunch, it was late in the day and to started our descent to Santiago for some much needed rest. We made it to Santiago at 6:30PM and dropped the car at the renting place, to bring an eventful trip to a tame closure.

Really - that was one hell of a weekend!!! Even though nothing went as planned, we had a lot of fun. I guess it is boring if things go by plan ;)

Some shots from Valle de Maipo


And finally, the crazy tourist :)


Internship: Week 6

I'd like to call this The Week of a million meetings. Seriously, that is all that we did this week. Though, through the meeting mayhem, we managed to get loads of work done! We also have our task cut out for my remaining four weeks in Chile. Busy times ahead.

The week started with a review of what happened at the board meeting. Me and the consultant intern had some important questions to answer, and we also had to decide on steps to proceed. We brainstormed all of Monday to give a structure to our approach and we had a draft ready by end of Monday. We then dug deeper into individual problems and assigned responsibilities across the five member team that we have. It was two of us, trying to define every \one's role.

As we analyzed more, new questions kept coming up and we needed to literally run on our heels to complete many tasks. Eventually, towards the end of the week, we had analyzed most of our tasks and had tangible deliverables. There is still some uncertainty regarding some tasks, but we decided to take a look at them at the end of next week, so that we will have more information. We'll be working on the remaining stuff throughout this week, apart from working on our individual responsibilities. This is pretty much what we did throughout the week!

After a week of working hard, we played hard too. Trip to Neruda's home in Santiago was a really thrilling experience. I plan to write about the trip after i visit his two other homes in Valparaiso, near Santiago. My friends and I attended a Bon Jovi Cover Band concert, which was good fun. And then, we went on a weekend trip to Maipo, which turned out to be an experience of a life time!!! A detailed post about the Maipo trip to follow...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Internship: Week 5

That was a busy week again. This was the last week of my friend from HBS, and so we were slogging throughout the week to put together a presentation which is to be presented to the board at the end of Week 6. The initial deadline to finish the presentation was Wednesday. We had a board member visiting the office on Friday, so we decided to do a test run when all of us were around. This meant that we cut our deadlines by technically three days and effectively five days (taking the weekend into account).

We finally did manage to get the presentation ready by Thursday morning, and even had time to get it reviewed by our General Manager of Strategy as well as the BCG consultant who works with us. We decided that most of the feedback will be incorporated during week 6, since we did not wanna majorly tinker with the slides. On Friday, we had a 3 hour session with the board member, the CEO and the entire Strategy Development team. We were pushed for information and reasoning behind each of our suggestions and many hypothetical situations, but overall the analysis and the recommendations were very well received and the board member and CEO were very satisfied and highly impressed with our work.

Now we have to implement the other comments into the presentation, add some more slides on global strategies and make it ready for this Thursday. Also, most of the presentation is in Spanish (I'm in Chile remember) with my part in English. The HBS guy is a Spaniard, so it all went smoothly. Apparently, one of the board member does not speak English and with my friend gone, I am gonna handle the entire presentation. So someone is translating my slides into Spanish, to give printouts to this particular board member, while I'm taking notes for all the slides into English so that i have reference points during the presentation. Oh the travails of working in Chile :)

I also meet with my General Manager tomorrow, to discuss future steps after the presentation. We know what to do, but we're short of time and I am hoping to allot responsibilities accordingly. Also, we need to work on a transition schedule, because the team will shrink down from five members to just two by the time i leave. I might also have lunch with my CEO sometime during the week - something I'm really looking forward to. Here's to another week of crazy and exciting fun at my work place!!!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A truly Global MBA - v2.0

This is a list of the food I consumed over the course of the week...

Sunday - Oriental food at Asian Bistro (albeit a bit Chileanized)
Monday - Authentic Spanish Tapas (the taste of that Spanish Tortilla is still lingering in my mouth...)
Tuesday - Yummy Japanese Sushi (Santiago has fresh sea food, so the sushi is great)
Wednesday - Italian Pizza (purchased from the truly American Pizza Hut though)
Thursday - Greasy Desi food (yeah! Indian food in Santiago)
Thursday Night - Chilean Asado (loads of great meat)
Friday - Sandwiches (okay - where did this originate from?)

As you can say, quite a busy week eh...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Internship: Week 4

This week was a start-stop-start kind of week, and the one where I've had the most fun yet. Wednesday was a holiday, as it was the day of the feast for Our Lady of Mount Carmel (or Mary, the mother of Jesus). A mid-week holiday always disturbs the momentum you gain, and this one was no different. We still managed to achieve our milestones for the week.

Work was busy as usual. We are submitting level 1 recommendations to the board in Week 6, for which we have a preliminary presentation in Week 5. Our aim was to finalize the presentation and get things done by the end of this week. Also, we had recommended a client survey, to validate our conclusions, and the client survey was due on Friday. We needed to be ready with that information on Friday. Everything went on well.

There are three Indians (two from Chicago GSB and one from Babson) doing their summer internship in Chile. This Friday, the three of us got together to prepare Indian dinner for the rest of our friends in Chile. It was a three hour long ordeal in the small kitchen/living room of the Babson dude, but it was well worth the trouble. The extensive menu of Chicken Tikka Masala, Fried Vegetables, Rice, Breads and Raitha came out very very well and was well received by the international audience.

This was followed by a day long trip to a nearby vineyard on Saturday. During the trip, we tasted different types of wine, travelled in a Steam Engine Train, saw a little bit of Chilean folk dancing and witnessed a huge sprawl of vineyard space from tall cliffs. Quite a day to remember.

Week five thus begins, and it promises to be one more busy week as we prepare for the presentation on Friday. This week is also the last for the other intern from HBS, so it is gonna be one of farewell.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Internship: Week 3

Last week was hectic, and that is an understatement. My first assignment was coming to a closure – I just had one more interview to do and then assimilate all information. I'd already completed the out of order requests that came my way. But then, when you are working for a start up, there is never a day when things go by your plan. I was pulled into two meetings where everyone talked in Spanish and I was like :-o One of these meetings, I was informed like 15 minutes before the meeting, and they have me a stack of papers to read up and be prepared before the meeting! The other meeting was almost four hours long! Oh well – the joys of Entrepreneurship! Anyway – I did manage to have the interview and finish the write up, only for the General Manager to schedule a review meeting on Tuesday. Am I cribbing too much here? I actually love this job and this on-the-needle experience :)

My second assignment was given to me in Week 2, and it was so interesting, I started working on it already. I'm trying to top load myself, so that I won't be stressed during the last few weeks of my internship. But that's making my days quite busy. This task involved a lot of research – I mean lots!!! I gathered content for a day and was reading it for the next three days. That plenty. The good news is that I have the write up 75% ready already, and it is satisfying to have covered as much when the task officially begins only today! But I have a suspicion that these guys will find a way to keep me busy throughout!

Finally the whole initiative is coming together. We had a discussion with the team and worked on how we're gonna present our recommendations to the board and how the individual pieces each of us are working on fit into the overall story. That discussion's given a lot of perspective and direction, and the team was glad that we're in good shape. In fact, our CEO was so glad that he sponsored two of our lunches last week ;)

Overall – week 4 is gonna be more work. This Wednesday is a holiday, so that would be a welcome break. We are entering the business area of the internship and, going by the first three weeks, it promises to be good fun and a lot of learning.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Chilean blogshots - Part 1: Santiago

It was Saturday morning.

So I've been in Chile for two weeks and haven't really seen anything but office and home. I was dying to see parts of the city. It was also a very sad situation because by design or by fate, I do not have a camera with me. I'd given the old one to my brother and I could not buy the new one in time for the trip. I've been damning myself for that mistake – this city is very nice and there are so many nice shots I could visualize. Okay – enough cribbing!

So on Saturday my classmate from GSB who also happens to intern in Santiago called up and we made plans to explore some part of the city. So we discussed and consulted people and numerous guides (we always make a fuss) and finally decided on Plaza de Armas in the center of Santiago.

Santiago has a decent metro system and we took the Red line to the la moneda stop, from where Plaza de Armas is a nice walk through an array of government buildings.

Right outside the station – we found a Burger King. Before we crossed two blocks – we saw three Burger King Outlets. This city is has SO much American fast food. You cannot walk 3 blocks without seeing a KFC, Burger King, Pizza Hut or a McDonald. Even though I was hungry, we decide to skip the Amrican options and walked further.

The first building we saw was the presidential palace, El Palacio de la Moneda. This is a Chilean National Monument and historical building, closely tied to a lot of historical events in Chile. The President works here. It was surprisingly easy to get access to walk on the patios of the palace – ask one of the guards and you're all set to enter; with camera! To go inside the building, we need ID proof and have to go through a security check. Still, we were allowed to take cameras without any question. May be I am overreacting here. The palace has a gorgeous fountain inside and there are beautiful cast metal structures to capture your imagination. But the best part of entering into the building was the Orange trees. I've never seen one in my life – and these trees were loaded with ripe oranges!

In front of the presidential palace is a huge park and there are many government buildings around the palace. My friend and I walked through these buildings and reached one of those Chilean market places which was SO full of people, we were thrilled. The place had concrete roads, benches in the middle of these roads and all shops were very very colorful. My friend went crazy taking "I was here" pictures :) We then grabbed a quick bite at a nearby café (which surprisingly had an English menu, but less than average food) and walked further. On the way, we also purchased the biggest and the tastiest dark grapes I've ever seen. Delicious!!!

Plaza de Armas is quite a phenomenon. It is like an open fair – and there was so much cheap (I mean really cheap) artwork you could buy here, we were really amazed. This is like the everyday or weekend carnival of Santiago. We enjoyed every moment we spent there. The place also has a huge park with a lot of trees (imagine a concrete square, with concrete roads, having a thick bunch of trees – an oasis of sorts really) and there were small shops under these trees selling all sorts of stuff. Heck, there was a small hall where people were busy playing Chess! We spent almost 30 – 45 minutes just gaping at the buzzing energy and diversity of the place.

Our last stop for the day was the Mercado Central, a huge and busy market place (lots of seafood and meat being sold here). Just an old school market place that amazed me with its scale. We ended the evening by walking into one of the many tiny little restaurants in this place and tasting Ceviche. It was the best thing I'd eaten since I'd set my foot on Chilean soil. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes sea food – it was the best closure to the evening.

More about Santiago and Chile, as and when more weekend tours happen :)

PS: Check this page for a virtual tour of central Santiago. This is a HUGE place and will probably take like a day to explore. We only explored parts of it.

PPS: A lot of things are inferred, given my poor Spanish skills. If something needs correction, please let me know and I'll change it.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Internship: Week 2

This firm sure has a LOT of work to do. I am a member of this unique group called "Development Group" and we added one more person to this group last week. This person is a BCG consultant and will spend 6 weeks in Santiago with us. Everyone i meet is so surprised that the firm needs three people to work on its next version - but in reality, it does. Actually, we've been involved in deep conversations on how the firm will manage the milestones we set for it once all of us leave. So I'm not surprised at all.

It is not just this we discuss about. The three of us discuss anything and everything about how we want to take this wonderful firm to the next level. It may well seem like we are creating opportunities for the firm. The truth is that this is a company brimming with possibilities and we are just trying to prevent and save the company from doing mistakes. We are, in effect, trying to give the company a meaning, a direction and tell them what makes sense and what does not. Very importantly, we are trying to help them see how in the long run, these decisions will place them better than just taking up everything that comes their way.

Needless to say, I am learning a LOT and enjoying myself in the process. The fun of exploring a new city and a new culture also adds to the really good time I'm having here. This weekend we were busy socializing, with a dinner on Friday, sight seeing on Saturday and another dinner on Sunday. I'm also meeting a diverse group of really interesting people in the process and am learning on multiple fronts from them.

Overall - this promises to be a summer (well, it is winter in Chile) to remember and even though I am constantly tired with all the work and socializing, I am certainly enjoying every moment of it.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A consultant's moment

Everyday, my friend from HBS and I have lunch at a Sandwich place near our work place. The food is unbelievably fresh, healthy and incredibly yummy! We have a heavy lunch (as is the culture of Chile) and on our way back to office, we have honey-roasted-nuts for dessert ;) This stuff is apparently available in New York City too - and is sold by a Chilean!

Yesterday, the two of us suddenly ventured into estimating how much the nut-vendor earned per day! We went around on a sound discussion (we have about 3 blocks to walk to reach office) and by the end of it, we had brought in standard deviation, the bell curve, estimated population of Santiago, estimated floating population in this touristy city, % of them in downtown, approximate "office hours" for the nut-vendor, number of packs he could make in an hour, number of packs people could consume in an hour, and perhaps many other parameters. The analysis fast and furious - for understandably no reason. Finally - we settled at an excessive estimate of a revenue of 150000 Chilean Pesos (approximately US$300) for the nut vendor per day.

During our dessert time today, we got curious and asked him.
His answer: 120000 Chilean Pesos (approximately US$240).

Considering it was a blind estimate - not bad eh...

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The ScoreTop Fiasco

The story came to existence when GMAC shutdown the website and then BW covered the story (BW Story 1). The initial estimate of around 1000 violators by GMAC was then increased to 6000 and it made big news; BW published another article (BW Story 2) and there is a huge debate in their forums (BW discussion thread). GMAC tried to answer some questions with a ScoreTop FAQ, but I guess it still left a lot of questions unanswered.

This is hot topic in probably all business schools. This site is a disgrace. The well-being of the site highly depended on a snow-balling effect, in test takers coming back and reporting scores. Of course, it is well documented that Mr. Lei Shi himself appeared for the GMAT thrice, but that's hardly sufficient to run the site for 5 years. The mere existence of the site for well over five years is a clear reflection of the times we live in. When people are desperate, most of them take the easy way out. But guess what, Karma hits back!!!

It is ridiculous to see the perspectives thrown around in numerous discussions. "Test takers were innocent" say many - they're clearly not on firm footing. "How could GMAC cancel my score. I will sue them if they do so." say others - not knowing it wont stand the test of law. "Will my percentile score improve?" or "Will I get off the waitlist because of this" - question a few self centered ones! Some even have the audacity to publicly say "I scored well and got into a M7 school purely because of this website. If they cancel scores, I'll never be able to score the same again", not knowing that GMAC is never letting them sit for the exam again. Even more audacious is when someone says to this person "Don't worry! You haven't done anything wrong." Some even argue "These students must be kicked out because one of the qualities of a successful business person is to do a mistake well and leave no trace; and they have failed in that regard." I've been lost in this maze and don't know what's worse...

My opinion is certainly not going to change anything, but to me this is straight forward. In my eyes, anyone who signed up for the VIP membership has violated GMACs test policies. They clearly had an unfair advantage that others did not have. It was all but common knowledge that the JJs had live GMAT questions. Actually, this has been settled beyond debate in the court of law - the very reason why the website is down. I wouldn't be surprised if GMAC cancels scores of all 6000 students who signed up for the VIP access. But that decision involves a lot of subjective evaluation and would be a bit too rash from GMAC. I'm sure GMAC is more sensible than that. There are violators who went on to post questions in the forum from their tests - and these guys are definitely getting their scores cancelled. In theory, most of these VIP members could be students or alumni of top business schools in USA and hence the repercussions of GMAC cancelling a bunch of scores could be intimidating.

I believe GMAC will certainly cancel scores of many people, otherwise the point of the whole exercise is lost and the signal that it wants to send to such websites will not be sent. I am quite curious to see how this unfolds. If you had a VIP membership, pray!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Internship: Week 1

There is a novelty to advising C-level executives of growing firms, even if they are from relatively small firms, and I am going to experience that novelty throughout my summer. My typical day involves multiple interactions with the General Managers of various departments of the firm i work for and also a few meetings with the CEO. In my first week, I've also met all the members of the Board of Directors and discussed about the firm with them. I feel like i am and could add a LOT of value to this firm, which we believe is at the brink of explosive growth. All going well, this promises to be a great summer experience.

I am here in this firm basically because the CEO wants to take things to the next step and he's asked a 40+ consultant to investigate on what has to be done. This consultant has put together a short term group - that includes two interns: me and another person from HBS. The two of us want to leave this place with clear directives in place, so that this person can aide the CEO in making the changes we recommend. We obviously need to get the Board's buy-in before we leave. That, believe me, makes for a really exciting summer.

I've gotten to know Santiago better over the last week. I've stopped using the expensive cabs and have started using the highly efficient and affordable Metro for everyday commute. I'm picking up Spanish words and have started using them whenever possible. I've explored a little bit of the city and have started making plans for short trips around Santiago. I've learnt how hospitable Chileans are and am growing to like this culture and the way everything is done here. Overall, it is a lot of learning in 10 weeks - but I am sure the experience will help me in numerous ways!

I'll close this post with an interesting fact: The last summer i saw was Chennai August 2007 and if i do spend time in a summery place next year, I'd have spent two years without seeing summer. For someone born and brought up in Chennai, that's crazy!!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

From one winter to another

Chile is cold. This is winter here and i was shocked the moment i walked out of the airport and saw snow on the roofs of all cars! This winter is not like the winter i encountered in Brazil. This is harsher. But the winter means that i see snow capped mountains circling around Santiago, and my 19th floor apartment looks right into these mountains through a string of skyscrapers - making a wonderful sight to wake up to.

Santiago is a nice city and I've had a good two days here in the capital of Chile. The city breathes in Spanish and Spanish only - too bad for me! I really need to learn Spanish. It is going to be very difficult to get my way around the city and live here for 10 more weeks without learning the language. I'm picking up words and recollecting those I've learnt earlier - but the curve is harshly steep! The plan is to learn enough to communicate smoothly by the end of the internship.

My internship began three hours after my 40 hr flight journey ended and i was able to keep up the entire day because of the exciting conversations all day along. This is a great opportunity to positively impact a company that is ripe with opportunities and I'm very glad i made this choice. The next 10 weeks i will be working on taking this company to the next level and hopefully get the CEO to invest in the infrastructure and man-power required to do so. In my first few conversations with him, he seems to be more than willing to listen to us.

Us? Yeah - i have a partner, at least for the next five weeks. There is a Harvard half-MBA who has been here for three weeks and will return in five weeks. He's a Spaniard and speaks fluent Spanish, so i seek his help to talk to people around. Yesterday, we were involved in a wonderful conversation about what we can do for this company and we'd walk out happy if we can achieve the things we discussed. He's done some great work in the last three weeks and we hope to take that forward in the next 10 weeks. We'll see how that goes.

I feel like August 2007 in Chicago - new city and not many friends. I've made a few friends in the last two days, but i need a translator to talk to most of them. There is a bunch of interns in the city and we need to meet up pretty soon and start exploring the city and Chile. More updates as it happens...

Monday, June 16, 2008

10 days in the Metro

I'm home! Been here for 4 days now. Have done SO much work. It is fun to catch up with Chennai roads and the mad rush of traffic. And it is more fun to be reunited with my motorbike :)

Exam week was crazy. I gave a final Monday morning, finished off a take home that took me almost 25 hrs and gave a client presentation that was well received. On the way back, i met with almost half the Indian GSB admits in Delhi (including my mentee) and had some good conversations! Looking forward to September to spend more time with them, but looks like recruitment starts very very soon! So we'll see :)

I'm flying out this Saturday, contingent to the issue of the Chilean Visa. My agents say it should be fine. I'm very keen to begin the internship but am certainly not looking forward to the 40 hour flight from Chennai to Santiago.

I'm hosting a GSB mixer in Santiago. Hopefully there will be a decent turn out. If there's any native from Santiago here, any suggestions for a place to arrange an informal meetup???

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Wind on your face...


This might sound mundane for many of you, but I just realized how blissful it is to experience a ride with the wind flowing on your face. Especially if the ride happens to be right next to a beautiful water body like Lake Michigan. To really understand what it means, you must have experienced the Chicago weather. Not just the winter, but the stop-gap method in which it transitions from winter to summer.

That's right, Spring is not a long-term affair in the windy city. There's really 10 - 15 days of spring, not continuous; and then the sultry summer is here. I just happened to be in the right place (inside a car on the lake shore drive) at the best time possible - a springy dusk. My heart weeped like a kid whose candy was stolen, when the car took the exit closest to my destination.


In one blissful moment, I suddenly felt at home.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

A truly Golbal MBA?

One half of my status line in facebook reads "Iday is gonna live in 3 continents over the next 30 days!"

My journey across the globe and back starts this Tuesday, only after i finish one in-class final, one take-home final and one client presentation in 30 hours. And i have another case writeup to turn in after i reach home. I dont even know the miles i would have clocked at the end of the journey, during which i would have flown over (and actually set my foot on) 4 continents, 4 Countries and 6 Cities. I would have also met one of my mentees (first year GSB student), a bunch of first years, some old and new friends, my summer employers (and exciting Chilean) entrepreneur, other entrepreneurs in the region, GSB alum in Chile and nearby, a group of exciting people from different b-schools working with other entrepreneurs in Chile (and hopefully Argentina too), prospective applicants from Chile at a GSB event and make a lot of Chilean friends. I'll also work in an industry completely different from my earlier experience and in an economy unlike India or USA. The take-aways are numerous.

I'm excited to say the least.

The other half of the status line: "A truly global MBA experience..."

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Half an MBA!!!

It is quite surprising, but year one of Business school is about to end. The obvious question at this juncture is this: "Three quarters of GSB - has it been all that i expected it to be?" I must admit - I certainly learnt more than i thought i would learn in Business schools. I certainly plan to do a year-1 review at some point of time in the near future.

Life has turned on its head with a few recent domestic developments. One of those c'est la vie moments! It brought with it its own fair share of realizations and revelations though!!! Things are better now for everyone, and will hopefully continue to improve.

Life in school is as busy as usual. It is hard to believe we are done with 9 out of the 15 issues of Chibus we are responsible for. It has been a great experience so far and I'm definitely enjoying my time inside the tiny Chibus office. Yours truly danced at the GSB Follies - the annual artsy show put together by students. I also enjoyed my first skydiving experience at a pad near Chicago. It was totally breathtaking (quite literally) and I would totally do it a million times!

Taking four courses at the GSB leads to a lot of burn out! I'm right in the middle of one and am SO looking forward to bring this quarter to closure. It also, i guess, makes one focus more on academics and this has arguably been my best performing quarter yet. Hopefully the grades befit the effort :)

I'm flying to Chennai for about 10 days after the finals, and flying to Chile straight from there. I'm still working out my Chilean visa though. Looks like i dont have enough time to get a Visa in Chicago. So I'm planning to apply for the visa in Chennai. Hopefully the process will be as smooth as it was for the Brazil visa.

So - looks like I'm right in the middle of a million things; and that exactly is business school :) Still cannot believe I'm gonna be half-an-MBA in 2 weeks, but I cannot complain. I've loved the experience so far and certainly look forward to the second half of the roller coaster ride.

Monday, May 19, 2008

India Business Conference @ GSB

The South Asia Business Group of Chicago GSB hosted the Annual India Business Conference on Saturday. GSB Sutras, a classmate, just published a comprehensive writeup about the day in his blog.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

BoB results 2008

Congratulations to winners of BoB 2008 - July Dream (applicant) and m@ (student). Enjoy your new iPod touch guys! Also, congratulations to all the others who made it to the final list. It has been a great pleasure reading your blogs and i hope to continue reading them...

Monday, April 28, 2008

Employed - finally!!!

I just accepted the offer for my summer internship! I had time till Wednesday to decide, but after a few rounds of introspection i figured I'm already decided on this one and so i did not want to keep my recruiters waiting. So finally my internship search comes to an end, and the wait was certainly worth the job I finally got.

Contrary to popular belief (churned by my own posts i must admit), I will not be interning at an Investment Bank. Instead, I will be working with an Entrepreneur in Chile to help expand his business. In theory, I will be working for a firm in NYC that works with entrepreneurs in emerging economies. It promises to be a great learning experience, quite unconventional, challenging and with significantly higher responsibilities. I really am looking forward to the summer in Chile.

The internship search, for me, has been a great learning experience and has helped me understand a few important things that i did not know about myself. Very importantly, it made me stare at failure, provided more clarity to what i want to do long-term in my career, opened my eyes to numerous other opportunities that i found very interesting, and re-affirmed that there are many roads to Rome!

I am planning on writing a book about it at some point of time. Title suggestions anyone???

Sunday, April 13, 2008

BoB 2007-2008 Nomination

I have been nominated, once again, for ClearAdmit BoB. This time, it is under the student bloggers list. Thank you ClearAdmit; I very much appreciate the recognition. And congratulations to all the other nominees.

I believe this is a great time to ruminate on the past 12 months, as far as the blogging goes. I should admit, i intended to blog a LOT more than i did. There are many Chicago GSB experiences i wish i could have spent more time and words on, but it did not happen so. I clearly underestimated the time commitments of a Bschool life. Having said that, i should also admit that given the crazy schedule of a GSB life, i am surprised myself i blogged as much as I did. I'm just doing SO many things at school, and I hope i gave a peek into my life in the Windy City.

As promises go, I am trying to get my life back in order. I believe i am almost there, and once done i should waste lesser time on thinking about myself and more on things i love to do - blogging included. There is definitely more to GSB-life, and I hope to bring more to you guys in the months to come.

More blogging

Being a well-known blogger, well, brings more blogging.

I have been entrusted with the responsibility of managing the blog for the upcoming India Business Conference, organized by the South Asian Business Group of Chicago GSB. The blog went live a few days ago, and is quite fun. If you follow Indian Business, keep an eye open for updates on the conference through the blog.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Best of Blogging 07-08

The annual BoB is around the corner. Check out ClearAdmit's post on this here.
There's a good bunch of nice B-school bloggers around. I'm curious to see who makes the first cut and then the final cut. April's gonna be exciting this way ;)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The MIA quarter

These days, I haven't been blogging as frequently or as well as I'd like to blog. True to its reputation, winter quarter proved to be very very hectic. Academics went up a notch or two, we got involved in numerous activities in school and occasionally, there are things and people to catch up with. If i could do a snapshot of the last three months, it would be full! Such has been this quarter. I'll try to capture what happened, as succinctly as possible.

Academics: This quarter ended up being as painful as i thought it would be. If you remember, i had two accounting courses and the other one was investments. I thoroughly enjoyed (call me a geek) the intense arithmetic, especially in investments, and the accounting courses helped me learn accounting at a much deeper and wider level, after basic accounting in autumn quarter. If i read a annual report, i can make a LOT of sense today, and also derive a lot of conclusions about the firm. It was a LOT of work though, especially towards the end, what with one of the profs teaching the entire course through assignments! I also attended an excel based financial modeling seminar, which surprisingly ended up being super fun. Besides all the accounting i learned, the course on Investments turned out to be really enjoyable. This prof talked formula as if it was his mother tongue; he was better in this language than English, much to the chagrin of many of my classmates! I was enjoying a feeling of dejavu, as he reminded me of of my engineering days, including the cheap thrills when i could recite formulas from the top of my head ;) Irrespective of the grades, this was a fulfilling quarter in terms of what i learned.

Internship: I saw someone asking me the question in the previous post, and the short answer is "No. I don't have a job yet." I went through on campus recruiting, interviewed with a few firms (big name banks included) but unfortunately things did not work out for me. I still value the experience as it helped me learn a lot of things i would eventually use in my career, and it also helped me re-assess myself and go at recruiting all the more harder. It also took me to sides of GSB's career services that i would have never seen. Not to sound boastful - GSB's career services team is absolutely fabulous. Now i see why Economist rated them so high. As for my internship search, i am working on a set of exciting opportunities. Hopefully i will have good news to share soon.

Chibus: This deserves special mention. We're 33% done, unless we delay transition next year, which we intend to do. Being responsible for Chibus has been the single most important experience for me at GSB. It has helped me meet people i probably would not have met otherwise. It is enriching me with experiences which i would have certainly not had. It has offered me perspectives of the kind that would have required a few more years for me to learn. All in about 10 weeks! I love it and cant wait to work on the next issue!!!

Winter Quarter
: I've been through a lot this quarter. I gave myself the time to assimilate and absorb the things i learned about myself. I started the quarter as a wreck and today, i feel better than i have felt in quite some time. Both personally and professionally, I've found myself in situations where i was forced to ask really deep and difficult questions to myself, in places where i had to reassess my beliefs and opinions about people, and i believe i made the right decisions. To sum it up, i think this quarter completed what started sometime last quarter - to help me learn about myself, and to improve upon what i saw. I believe I've done that well. Time will tell.

Spring Quarter: I have a packed quarter ahead. I have four courses - Corporation Finance, Economics and Policy of TMT (with Mr. Goolsbee, economic adviser to the famous-person-i-met-in-the-elevator), Marketing Strategy and New Venture Lab. I am super psyched about NVL. I got the project i SO wanted to do and I am sure i am gonna learn a lot, while having good fun, with the project. I'm quite excited about the other courses too, so overall it looks promising.

So with four courses, Chibus and recruitment - I guess I'm gonna be the same infrequent blogger in this quarter too. I am gonna make a genuine attempt at being more frequent that last quarter though. I missed blogging this quarter :)