Wednesday, April 27, 2005

So, here's an idea.

[file under: Patting One's Own Back]

I've been meaning to post for a while about how relevant I think the MBA pedagogy is to what I want to do when I grow up, and things along that line. But, I've been alternately busy and lazy. That post will come soon, but in the meanwhile I had an epiphany today. Well, it's not like I really know when I have one, but humor me here.

One of the things that I have been at least thinking actively about is starting/working on a new venture when I am at the GSB. Mainly as a way to mesh the classroom teaching of proven theories with the rapidly evolving wild west of what's being referred to as Web 2.0. I would like to explore areas that interest me, and are not really stuff that schools care to touch, such as the Long Tail, Corporate blogging vis-a-vis developing relationships with customers, printing-on-demand technologies, Wikis, etcetera while also trying to build a business from scratch. If it doesn't make sense, no worries. It doesn't too much to me right now, either.

Anywho, there's been a question that's been nagging me. I'm an engineer by training (and a darned good one, if my recommenders are to be believed :-), and I have a natural tendency to think about implementation details. But, I won't have the time to sit down and write the code for what I have planned. And, I shouldn't either. (gotta keep reminding myself that I'm entering the dreaded manager-land). So, how then do I assemble a team to do this for me ? I've got no money to pay them, and this might end up being more of an academic venture than a real business. And what do Chicago peeps know about anything besides banking, anways :-). So, How ?

This morning, I was considering writing the Alumni affairs chap at my alma mater back in India about possibly giving a talk to the student body when I'm in the country in a few months. I went to a small college in kinda rural India (it's unknown enoughtto not be listed on any b-school apps in the education section) and I remember us being very eager to listen to the experiences of the rare alum who showed up. I was proposing to give a 'from XYZ to the GSB' kind of talk. yeah, i know, hubris doth affect us all.

That brought back some very nostalgic memories, of both the camaraderie developed at the tight-knit community of ours, as well as our struggles being relative unknows. One particularly stood out. As part of our curriculum, we were required to do a senior year industry project. All engineering departments except Computer Science had their students interning at firms for this. We didn't because we couldn't - no one would give us projects. Not that we weren't good (did i say darned good already?), but it was a young department with no visibility. I remember our team paying numerous visits to the offices of India's space program, all come to naught. It was rough. We ended up creating a training manual to be used for a continuing ed program the department was starting. A let down for the budding programmers in us, for sure.

So, back to this AM. Epiphany time. I thought - how about I offer this to one of the current senior teams as their project ? It could be a perfect win-win. They need to do this, and I need to get this done. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense at so many levels. I will, in addition to getting my project off the ground, be playing the role of a responsible alum. And, while I get to hands-on guide an offshore team, they get to work the reverse (good prep for jobs in Bangalore !) in an entrepreneurial setting, and if this should lead to something more tangible, more power to all of us. Most importantly, it's not going to cost a bunch, if at all. Bootstrapping, I think they call it.

I'm sorta stoked. It's the little highs like these that keep reminding me why I don't want to follow the consulting/banking/corporate paths. I've paid my dues the past five years being part of a big company, learnt from some amazing people, was part of a team that grew from a few people to a lot, helped recruit almost everyone I've worked with including two of my managers, made some great friends, and been part of the evolution of an idea to a product, through its entire lifecycle.

I feel like it's slowly getting to be my time now.


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