Monday, August 30, 2004

Columbia : Slow Progress

I'm slipping on my deadlines here. Wanted to have good first drafts of C done by yesterday but I'm not there yet. Variety of reasons, the biggest of which was an unexpectedly long time spent moving rooms and cleaning up the house. The positives are that all the thinking I'm doing has me sharpening my post-MBA career goals, finalizing an essay topic for the Haas 'who do you admire '-type question, and finding what I think is my 'what matters most' theme, again leading off of one of the Columbia questions. It's funny how the mind has a tendency to wander off in these odd directions, something about the circuits in our brains finding links to related information, I guess. I have to be careful not to digress from the task at hand, while at the same time allowing for some amount of free form thinking. Towards that end, I walk around now with a little 'moleskine' (my little allowance for doing things in style :-) notebook so I can jot down interesting thoughts and revisit them later.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Putting faces to names; and gamefaces to nameless fears;

In the last couple of weeks, I've started to communicate with some of the old-time bloggers with our real names, and also put some faces to the names. I met up with Mark and Jie for lunch at a new age Indian 'bistro' called Tamarind Bay in Harvard Sq. and the three of us met 3app for drinks over at John Harvard's the monday after. Good beer, good conversation, laughs, and an alround great time. 3app - good luck with your INSEAD intervew mate, I really do hope you make it to the January intake. Keeping my fingers crossed for ya.

I've also started to play regular squash at 7 am three times a week. I play with this friend of mine who is much better than I am. My goal has been simple - to win a single game. And I finally did - this morning, after two weeks of play !

As I was driving back to work, obviously elated, I realized that these squash sessions have actually been educational. In a life-lessons kinda way. I know, I know, I'm getting carried away by a simple game. But it isn't so simple.

Why did I set myself such a low goal ? I think it was because I had already prejudged my opponent as being much better than myself, and gave myself very little chance of winning.

Looking back, I realize that this attitude bore itself out on the court. My early games were disasters. I lost, as the scores will attest, but it wasn't about the actual points. I wasn't reaching for the close ones, not taking the T more often, not pushing him to the corners. I think I had reconciled to a sort of 'fear' that regardless of what I did, he would do it better because he was better. And, as ashamed as I am to admit it, fallen into the 'what's the point' trap.

And then, slowly, he started to make the occasional unforced error. There is something therapeutic about actually seeing your opponent mess up. Especially someone who you perceive to be beyond foibles. It humanizes him, just that little bit. And has the potential to energize you. Somewhere along the line, that's what happened to me. I realized that, at a minimum, if I stayed long enough in the game, he was bound to make mistakes and I could start to win points. To do that, though, I needed to stretch a little more, run a little faster, hit the ball a little harder. I tried and started to win a few more points, and along with it, my confidence. Confidence is an amazing thing. It frees you to take risks, and shrug off a lost point. You can always win the next one.

Game point.
Every game eventually gets there. If I may be allowed to exagerrate, I would say that this is a moment of truth, a test of character.
For the one standing there facing a serve, it's almost all over. Lose this point, and the game is lost. Anyone who has played a sport can attest to the sweet siren song of rest and a sip of water calling the tired, sweaty, beaten body. But again, the point is yet to be played. How badly do you want to win ? It's not over yet.
For the one serving, it's almost over too. Almost. The point still needs to be won. This is not the time to drop your guard. You have beaten the opponent to the wall. Can you find the concentration to finish the game and walk away the victor ?

There was this one game where I was just a few points behind and kept telling myself that I would not give up. The game went to a tie-break and I lost. But, it struck me that when you push yourself to play at that level, you ask much more of your opponent too. He has to bring out the best in him to win. You are not giving it away anymore. And if he does win, you don't really lose. And vice versa. Both of you smile at the fantastic game you just played, shake hands, and walk away better players than you were when you stepped out onto the court.

Isn't this application process of ours a similar game ? I must admit that squash is an infinitely easier game to play because you can actually see your opponents. They remain nameless in the admissions game. I see shades of the fear of this unknown when I am on the discussion boards and people are worried about adding 10 more points to a 740 GMAT. The 'opponents' are seemingly superhuman. No, they are not. They are human. Maybe they play a great game, but they will make mistakes. And the higher the level of your own game, the more obvious your opponents' mistakes become. Also realize that any game has several facets, some your strengths, some not. In some sports, you are able to capitalize on others' weaknesses. In others, you'll just have to play to your strengths.

When I think about my application saga of last year, I can see the similarities. My strongest applications were Wharton and London, which I wrote after my first application, Tuck, was rejected. It was hard, but I challenged the disappointment into something positive. The results weren't what I expected, but I can be confident that I did not give reason for these schools to summarily toss away my applications. I am sure I went head to head with the best, and those who were truly better won. I tip my hat to them. I am a better player for having played that game.

So, I step into the court again. Hopefully, I bring the lessons learned and use them to play a better game. Could I be up against better players and lose again ? Sure. Then again, like my game this morning, I could win.


Event conflicts

The MBA tour calendar is getting busy. I checked and realized that Columbia's Boston session is on the 14th, the same evening as Stanford's ! Now I am in a bind. S has another event the same week on the following sunday but I am doing a marathon walk that day. Now, I know i'll not have many chances to speak with Stanford whereas I could always go down to Columbia and meet with the folks, sit on a class etc. However, I do know quite a bit about what Stanford is, wants etc from their info sessions and my research while considering applying last year, whereas I still need to learn quite a bit about C, esp its entrepreneurship focus. Also, I should have Columbia's drafts in place by then, and the gaps in there would help me target the kind of questions I would like answered. We'll see.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Application Progress

Last weekend, I decided that Columbia should be on my list of schools for Fall and started scoping out my essays for the same. I'm going to apply in the regular round and not ED, but starting on this app first. Why ? From experience, the first application is not usually the greatest and needs a lot of refinement. So, I'm going to start with C so that I can kick off the process, get my thoughts onto paper, get them to a decent shape and then set them aside. After I work on my R1 apps that are due in Oct-Nov timeframe I'll get back to the C essays and polish them from the experience with the other applications in time for the January deadline.

The BIG mistake I made with my first app last time around, Tuck, was that I started with the essays I thought I had the best stories for. While this was good in the sense that I could re-use these well thought-out essays, I postponed the all-important 'why why why' essay to be pencilled in at a later stage. And I ended up with very little time for the one essay that has the most impact relative to the others.

So, I started sunday with C's first essay. The wording of the question is very different from Wharton's, which I was using as a reference. It asks right out what my short/long-term goals and how C will help me get there versus W's approach of asking for what has shaped my career upto this point leading into why I want to go where I want to go and why via W. So, after an unsuccessful attempt at trying to fit this square peg into the round hole, I started off with a clean slate and have an interesting opening and a transition into talking about the motivations etc. of the goals I aspire toward. The latter half of the essay is going to be fuzzy at this point because I will need to meet with some students/alumni, maybe attend a class etc to form more exact opinions about why C.

The second question - about a time when you identified and captured an opportunity - is incidentally the first Tuck question I worked on last time around. I think I have a solid response almost in place. Needs more adaptation for C.

The third question - what personal value means most to you - was something I was struggling to get a grip on. I believe most of us live by a set of values, without necessarily have any single dominant one. At least I do. Any one of those values could be the answer. However, the criteria for making the choice from the list inevitably led to the trap of thinking about 'what the adcom wants to hear'. bad detour. This afternoon at work, I was reading something online that sent some bells ringing, and after going for a walk at lunchtime to ponder, I have my answer. This is a 250 word-limit essay so needs some careful work.

Q4 is a choice between (a) what do you feel most passionate about in life & (b) if you had a free day and could spend it anywhere, where would you. In thinking about my 'themes' for my applications, I laid out a number of things that I know represent ME, and then eliminated ones that weren't relevant, or duplicated and ended up with 5. The one I couldn't find a reason to remove from the list was my sense of adventure, of the outdoorsy kind. I really feel passionate about some of the things I do in that sphere and I'm going to talk about them. For columbia, this question is where it will be. Haven't yet decided which of the two options to pick.

Q5 is the optional question about information you wish to provide. I think I am going to use this too - there aren't many glaring issues to talk about in my background, but if there's anything not covered by the essays and I feel I have to let them know, I'll try to find a way to use this essay.

This week is designated C week. I hoped to have good drafts done, and the online application filled by the end of the week. But a sudden outage of DSL at home which will last into next week throws a spanner in the works, but I'll try to find a wi-fi hotspot or something. It's an easy excuse to wuss out of filling out the online app and pushing it out to next week, but now's not the time for these games. It's starting to get busy.

Woo Hoo.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Columbia, when will I see you next ?

Yesterday, I registered for a Columbia event in Boston sometime in September. I was in a hurry and didn't put it in my calendar. So, today I open up the confirmation email for the registration and something's amiss:

Dear Yogi,
You are registered for this event:

Boston Reception

Event Location:
Columbia Management Group
100 Federal Street, 2nd Floor
Long Lane Room
Boston, MA 02110
Guests: 0

For More Information/Event Coordinator:

There is no event date in the confirmation !! To add to the mystery, there is no link to the events page from the email, just another email address to contact. Now, I (and presumably others who register) have to go back to their website and navigate their links to get to the event date.

I wish they'd just add the date of the event to the email they send out. Just a matter of some simple code. Would've saved me some work and a blog entry :)

But, I still like you C, and hope to see you sometime(still haven't checked the webpage for the exact date) in September.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Bring it on

I was in a Wharton kind of mood this morning and as I was browsing through some back-issues of Adventure magazine I came across an ad. I thought it would be perfect for W. (any guesses what the original was for ?)

We test things here.

Like you, for example.
For within my borders awaits the most savagely seductive proving ground america has to offer.
An unblinking world of dares, inquests and pop quizzes all bent on exposing
the true you,
the big you,
the strong you,
the amazing, living, breathing, shout-at-the-top-of-your-lungs you.

Can you handle the truth ?

Sweet, no ?


Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Making a Commitment

The gaze was unmistakably serious.

"yogi, if we want this to go any further, you need to make a commitment".

no, it wasn't a girl (though I suspect I WILL need to be asked that question if it ever came to that ;-). i was just over at the home of the engineering big-guy of a startup-in-the-works. i have been talking to him and another person in his team about helping them build the technology prototypes for a product they are pitching to venture capitalists. it seems like we have a decent idea for what we want to develop initially, and we are now going to have something working in the next few months. this is in addition to my day job. life is getting busy.

at work, i was given an option to work on a new project - actually, the manager wants me to work with him, which in corporate-speak means i really don't have many options unless i want to piss off some folks - and after mulling it over, i have decided to make the commitment to learn a new platform, a new product and a new role as a project lead. it is going to be a steep learning curve, but i guess i need something more challenging that what i have been doing upto this point.

and last week i made the commitment to walk in a 26.2 mile fundraising walk for cancer patients. now, while it is nowhere as strenuous as actually running a marathon, it is still no walk in the park. so, i've been waking up at 6 am three times a week going for 6 mile walks along the river to 'train'. i figure this is also a good motivation for me to get prepared to do something i've always wanted to do - but have been postponing making up various reasons. I'm thinking of going to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro once my R1 applications are submitted - sometime late october if i go alone, or over thanksgiving if a friend who also wants to go can make it. i hope i can go.

in the midst of all the things going on in my life, i have not made any progress on my application essays. this is sad. i need to make the commitment to myself to find the time and dedication to prepare good applications in time this time around. i will be starting in right earnest later this week. i think i am going to talk to a couple of admission consultants to validate my thoughts and approaches and see if taking their help is going to be useful.

the one real regret i have about my application process last time is that i put a lot of things on hold while i worked/thought about schools. granted, it does take a lot of effort and work pressures were enormous to boot, but i think i expected some sort of finality to my life as it was once i went to b-school and a fresh beginning after that. i have come to see the foolishness of that thought process after the results are in. this time around, i will continue to do the things i want to do in addition to applying to b-school. it will definitely make things harder, but if I don't then i am doing myself a disservice.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

a b c d . . . W

here's a shout out to the bloggers starting pre-term at Wharton - FutureMBAgirl, Brad, Jeamish and JP. I guess you guys've been waiting a long time for this - have fun and best wishes.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

blogger troubles

something's whacky about blogger today. i typed in a long post about the mba admissions panel i went to yesterday and when i wanted to post it, i got a message that i should re-login. when i did, it took me back to the screen i was in but all the content was gone ! when i backspaced my way back to the earlier page - same thing, empty post. damn, i'll retype it in later today. it was an interesting session, mostly old news for me though :), featuring adcom members from W, K, H, S and the other S (sloan). the thing that got me was the number of people that showed up. i went to one last year in cambridge and i could swear there were many more people this time around. talk about declining volume of applications ... ;-)