Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Chicago Essays

[file under: Thoughts for Applicants]

A week or so before the Chicago deadline, 3app had this suggestion for me:
Yog, here's how not to answer Chicago's question:

If you could step into any celebrities shoes for a day, who would it be and why?

I would step into Tom Cruise's shoes because our feet are the same size and he has better shoes than me.

Amn't I glad I decided to heed his word !

I have received a few emails recently asking about application strategies, how I differentiated myself from the 'yeti' pack to make it to Chicago etcetera. The honest answer is that I don't know. I mean, it's not like I spent months drafting, editing, versioning, and rewriting my essays to convey a well-crafted message. Far from it ;-)

Take the answer to this essay question, for instance. It took me all of three hours to write. On the night before the deadline. An extended deadline, I may add. True story. However, it wasn't like I thought it up at the time. Not at all. The idea had been germinating for a while, but it's one of my foibles that I can't help but wait until the very last minute to do things - I guess I have a subliminal craving for that adrenaline rush. Anyways, for this essay I knew who I was going to write about, and a bit of what I was going to write about, but didn't really know how I was going to do it, as in the format of the essay. Also, I didn't have an opening.

A few days before the deadline, I went to watch a movie with a good friend. While we were waiting for the show to start, I brought up the subject of the whacko Chicago essay questions. Now, this guy is one of the smartest people I know and he said that they reminded him of mathematical equations. What? My thoughts exactly. But, he had a brilliant point, which I don't exactly remember but I'll try. In math, there are problems that have solutions. And then, there are the problems that seemingly don't. The way you tackle the latter is by reducing them to a known form that can in fact be solved.

Applying this logic to the question at hand brought a certain clarity. It wasn't really about the celebrity or a day-in-the-life-of. It was about me and how I saw myself ! It was a chance to talk about the things I *want* to do. It was, in some sense, about dreams dreamt.

I shall digress here for a moment. A topic that is oft-discussed is that of over-represented applicant categories. And, the question that is most often asked in that regard is: how does one distinguish oneself from the pack?

The answer, I believe, lies in the asking of the question. If standing out is the main issue, then it must mean everyone by and large looks the same. As in: Has a similar educational background. Has a similar GMAT score. Has similar work experience. Has similar goals.

I shall add another crucial element: Talks about similar things.

I have read and re-read my essays from last year, and some of fellow applicants who asked for feedback, and certain similarities in the way the essays were approached became obvious. Hindsight, I know, but it's got to be good for something, right. My suggestion, especially to the Indian-IT demographic, is: Do not forget that you submit a resume. I will assert that everything that makes one similar to the pool should be restricted to that document. If you have done, say, x projects for y clients, restating that in the career progress essay is not just repeating information, it is reinforcing the stereotype. Forget talking about 'what' you did. Talk about the 'why' and the 'how'.

You and I and a thousand others slaving in code factories do somewhat similar work. I don't fault the Adcoms for making certain generalized assumptions about that aspect of the application. But, can one make a case that we are all motivated by the same things? Work the same way? Dream the same dreams? Absolutely not. The reality, of course, is that unless you show them what drives, motivates, scares you, you will remain another face in the crowd. A 770 GMAT notwithstanding.

I'll take another detour as I meander back to my orignal topic. I have come to believe that the questions the schools ask matter. Duh? Not exactly. What I mean is that, to a large extent, answers are framed by the questions asked. If you are asked to talk about an ethical issue, a failure, a significant achievement, and career goals as your four essays, there is limited wiggle room for going 'off the wall'. On the other hand - a mascot, celebrity, hero and career goals - now that's either a recipe for disaster or something spectacular.

If I were a betting man, I'd venture the reason I am in Chicago is because of their questions. The free form nature meant that I wrote about:
1. what drove me to start a company when i was in grad school, how its failure shaped my career choices, and how everything i've learnt on my job has been building up towards an entrepreneurial career; that MUST go through Chicago,

2. a school that is built on the primacy of ideas and a spirit of constant questioning , and whose mascot i envision representing a school that is grounded in this spirit yet leading the charge to the future,

3. one in which i see myself, much like a celebrity I admire, leading a successful, socially-responsible company built from the ground up by the dint of hard work and rooted in values,

4. which I've imbibed from my father, my hero, to whose efforts I owe dreaming big dreams and realizing them.

It was HIGHLY coincidental that all of these came together this way, because I hadn't thought of them this involved-ly during the all of two days I took to put together my app :-) But you, dear applicant, should.

Question: What about those four essays screams 'yeti'?

I did not talk about any projects I worked on, or even what company I worked for in my essays ! This is the entirety of my reference to my past four years of work experience:
I have spent the past four years gaining the technical expertise to transform ideas into products in addition to accumulating leadership experience to manage teams and projects. I have also pursued a varied range of roles - recruiting employees, mentoring engineers, and interfacing with cross-functional organizations – to prepare me to eventually realize my larger goals

I do realize that this is probably not a 'strategy' that is recommended by the pundits. But, this is the one school where I took the risk of telling them, not about what I had achieved, but what I *want* to achieve. The above quoted text was the third paragraph of my first essay. It was also the last reference to anything about my past. Everything else was about la-la-land.

Being that this approach did get me my only admit, I do think it is worth thinking about.
Bookmark: del.icio.us

Monday, May 30, 2005

Click for Small Change™ supports idealist.org

[file under: Sensible Adsense]

I'd make a lousy farmer. Not for me the long long wait to see the fruits (and vegetables) of planting seeds and watering the plants. I much prefer quicker results. It has been, therefore, with considerable impatience that I have watched the Adsense 'revenues' on this blog crawl cent by cent towards the first dollar, only to add up to the grand total of 54 cents as of saturday. Then, yesterday happened. The traffic spike delivered a windfall, relatively speaking. The total now stands at $4.72!

I also realized as I was applying for the Google account that they don't make payouts until the figure hits $100. That's probably going to take a year or so to happen. So, I'm going to put up the money now and collect it when they decide to cut me the check.

Which brings me to the point of this post: As promised, the first proceeds from the Adsense program on this blog are going to make their way to a non-profit! woo-hoo! I realize 4-odd bucks is a really small amount and maybe I should wait until this pot gets a little bigger, but having served with a non-profit myself for over four years, I also know that these folks need the money like yesterday. However, 4.72 is indeed too small an amount, so I've matched it and written a check for 20 dollars to idealist.org.

idealist who, you ask?

Idealist.org is the website of Action Without Borders, a group that 'connects people, organizations and resources to help build a world where all people can live free and dignified lives'. In more practical terms, it brings together over 45,000 nonprofit and community organizations in 165 countries and hooks them up with volunteers and job-seekers. They have a Nonprofit Career Center that has hundreds of non-profit job and internship openings. This is a great resource to connect people who are looking for non-profit careers with opportunities therein. Oh, and their systems are all run on open source software: Apache, FreeBSD, mod_perl and MySQL.

In my experience, it is harder to get people to volunteer than to donate money. On the other hand, there are those who want to volunteer/work with nonprofits but oftentimes don't find the right group that meets their interests. Any effort to connect the two is laudable and, in my humble opinion, worthy of encouragement.

Non-profits need talent as much as for-profits. Maybe even more so, given the incredible constraints they operate under. Access to information about, and connections to, career opportunities in that sector can only attract more people. Also, for every 10 or 100 people like myself who come away from a volunteering experience with a renewed appreciation for the work being done, there is the one person who is influenced enough to make a career of it. Websites like these help facilitate this in their own small way. At least, I think so.

I'd like to end by quoting a comment on their website by a visitor, Susan:

If you're on Idealist, you're probably a non-profit professional. Your salary mantra is something like, "Another day, another 25 cents." We sacrifice making the big bucks because we want to leave this world a better place than we found it--and we know we can't take money with us.

I just donated a small amount to Idealist. It wasn't much, and it was all I could do, but I know it counts. I love it when folks send in $1 cash or $5 checks to my organization--we make every dollar go the distance. I know Idealist will do the same.
Bookmark: del.icio.us

Sunday, May 29, 2005

hit me baby one more time

I straggle out of bed this AM, turn on the computer, and do my round of blogreading. Stop by my own to check if there were any comments to my recent post. And, then I look at the hit counter and something's not right. I click to see the stats and it's Wake-up time:

Average hits per day: 86
Average page views per day: 192

Estimated unique visitors by end of today: 7444
Estimated page views by end of today: 7815

WoW. I've been Slashdotted. Again ! The ApplyYourself fiasco is once again a topic of debate at Slashdot, but this time it's with regard to Stanford's approach to the issue - and from the comments, their asking the 'hackers' to explain themselves and *then* rejecting everyone makes them worse than HBS. People think it was just a matter of 'holier-than-thou' grandstanding against HBS/MIT on their part.

As with any slashdot discussion, oftentimes informative and always entertaining:

These people are deliberately trying to get MBAs. I'd say they deserve everything that happens to them, up to and including being boiled in oil. Fuck 'em.
- BushPig

It's sad for the unlucky ones that this happened, but the harsh reality is that smaller mistakes are enough to let your competitors wipe you out in real business. Perhaps they'll learn something valuable from business school after all.
- Anonymous Brave Guy

I read a comics website sometimes. Occasionally, their script screws up and doesn't post the next comic link correctly. Sometimes, i'll go to an archive link and rework it to get the missing image. Occasionally, i'll use google by doing www.google.com/search?q=test

Am i hacking yet?
- LordEd

Don't Harvard and Stanford have Business Ethics classes? Presumably, you teach a class to educate people on a subject. But apparantly, for these students, the test was administered before the lessons were given. Hurray for Higher Education.
- NipokNek

Isn't the school looking for students who are smart enough to work their way around a problem? They should admit everyone who was able to find their way into the system. I guess they'd rather have students who just blindly do whatever they've been told.

Sounds more like an attempt by the PR departments to cover their collective legal asses after their PHBs jumped the gun and block rejected applicants on the grounds that they committed a crime that technically isn't. IMHO, their position on the matter is weak.
- viceice

No one gains a thing out of it. Well except Berkely. They gain some more people cheering for them when they play Stanford.

Bookmark: del.icio.us

Friday, May 27, 2005

Out: MBA | In: MBI

[file under: What, me Worry?]

I came across a Manifesto by Jim Carroll today that I thought was an interesting read.

His thesis:
Figuratively and literally, it is time to move beyond the thinking that has led us to a world of MBA's – Masters of Business Administration – and focus upon the critical skill that will take you into tomorrow.

But, pray, what's wrong with MBA's?
...they focus on managing, rather than leading. Administering, rather than inspiring. Complying, rather than creating. The result is that they continue to wake up each morning and think, “what happened to the world I knew?” Perhaps that is because their focus has been misdirected – they've become experts in “administration” at a time when what they really need is a lot more “imagination.”

The solution:
The world doesn't need more administrators. It needs more MBI's – Masters of Business Imagination!

The author also describes what he considers to be the key elements of an MBI. They will have the ability to, among other things:
  • see things differently
  • spur creativity in other people
  • focus on opportunity, not threat
  • refuse to accept the status quo
  • bring ideas to life
  • have the skill to learn and unlearn
  • refuse to say the word "can't"
  • accept challenges with passion and enthusiasm
  • embrace change rather than shy away from it
  • listen to people who are different from them
  • live for the opportunity to have ideas challenged and debated
  • instead of saying "it won't work", ask the question, "how can we make it work".
Question: How many of you just skimmed through the list with a 'heard that one before'. I, for one, did. The funny thing is, every b-school website lists a set of the above traits as what they instill in their students - doesn't that mean an MBA is already an MBI (or at least an MBi).

Here is the full post.
Bookmark: del.icio.us

Thursday, May 26, 2005

If it isn't a cellphone ... [updated]

[file under: Story of my Life]

Get this. I am waiting for my dinner date to show up and I just realized I have no money. As in no cash in my wallet. As in my current balance in my bank account is -137. yeah, they do overdrafts. As in I am about to hit my credit card limit. On a Discover. Which isn't even accepted most places. Had to borrow 75 bucks from my Saint roomate. Only to realize that I have to be at a consulate tomorrow where the fee is 47 bucks. Cash.

Maybe I should cook ? Feign a broken rib ? Cry ?

damn, if the next two years are going to be filled with broke-ass days like this, I want out. Oh, I forget. Loans. Can I have one now ?

"Confess your sins to the Lord and you will be forgiven;
Confess them to man and you will be laughed at" - Josh Billings.

I say Confess to a woman and, if you're so lucky, you may get a sparkling laugh and a 'aren't you glad you have a sugar momma'. Maybe this broke thing ain't all that bad :-)

Oh, and thank the Lord it's friday. Pay day.
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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

And the MBA Bloggie goes to ...

"Oh my God. I'm sorry. This moment is so much bigger than me.

"This moment is for 3app, Trip Enel, Chunky. It's for the bloggers that stand beside me and those that don't - StanfordMBA, Megami, Riter - and it's for every nameless, faceless MBA applicant that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened.

"Thank you. I'm so honoured. I am so honoured and thank the academy for choosing me to be the vessel from which this blessing might flow. Thank you.

"I want to thank my manager -umm, I don't have a manager- but anyways. He's been with me for 12 long years and you've fought every fought and you've loved me when I've been up. But more importantly you've loved me when I've been down. You have been a manager, a friend and the only father I've ever known and I love you very much.

"I want to thank my Mom who's given me the strength to fight every single day to be who I want to be and given me the courage to dream that this dream might be happening and possible for me. I love you Mom so much.

"Thank you my someday wife who I know will be the joy of my life. And India - thank you for giving me peace because only with the peace that you've brought me have I been allowed to go to places that I never even knew I can go. Thank you, I love you and India all my heart.

"I want to thank Hella. Thank you. And all of you who linked to me for making sure everybody knew about this little tiny blog. Thank you for believing in me.

"Our director, God Herself - you're a genius - you're a genius. This blog-writing experience was magical for me because of you. You believed in me, you trusted me and you gently guided me to very scary places. Thank you.

"I want to thank Yvonna Chubick. I could have never figured out who the heck this lady was without you. I don't know who the heck you are, either. But, I love you. Thank you.

"I want to thank Tad Holbie, our TrailBlazer. Thank you for showing me this path- for believing that I could do it and now tonight I have this. Thank you.

"I have to thank my agents, Blogger/Google - thank you, thank you for never kicking me out and sending me somewhere else - thank you.

"I - who else - I have so many people that I know I need to thank um... my lawyers. Thank you - OK wait a minute - I gotta take this - 18 months here - OK I've gotta take this time.

"I need to thank, lastly but not leastly I have to thank Chicago for putting me in my very first b-school and believing in me.

"Oprah Winfrey for being the best role model any girl can have. Jo Silver - thank you and thank you to Warren Beatty. Thank you so much for being my mentors and believing in me.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you."

Phew, had to get that off my chest. My gratitude to all those who read my blog and thought it worthy of this much consideration. And, my apologies for going all Halle Berry on y'all :-)
Bookmark: del.icio.us

Monday, May 16, 2005

living in the love of the common people

I just got an email that my housing application has been approved! I now have a room to stay in Chicago, and it's in one of the coolest digs around - the International House at the Uni.

I'll be living in a simply furnished dorm room, with shared bathrooms on each floor and a communal kitchen for those who want to cook. A far cry from the buildings where many GSB students typically stay - high-rise luxury apartments with city views, gyms, pools, valet parking etcetera. Alator had a post describing the herd mentality around housing. So, why me no do what I'm 'supposed' to be doing?

Money, for one. Yeah, I can be a cheap bastard(exceptions duly made for $50 haircuts :) I will, for the next two years, have no income and have to borrow money to eat every next meal. In my book that's being broke. The single rooms at I-house cost 500 bucks a month which is 500 less than for a studio at the Doral building downtown. A nice chunk of change that can be put to good use elsewhere.

Last week, a 1y student who I was talking with strongly advised I not stay at the i-house. In his opinion, with the amount of loans we are going to incur, an argument for saving money won't cut it when compared to the networking opportunities that come from living with 100-odd classmates in the same building. I'm not too kicked about the networking argument, but he was right about one thing.

It's not all about the money.

I checked out the i-house last weekend with Byron. The first thing I heard upon walking into the 70-year old neo-gothic building was the music. Right off the main hallway is a wood-paneled Main Lounge with well-worn sofas, chandeliers, study tables, and a grand piano which a resident was playing accompanied by another girl on the violin. The building is organized around a tree shaded plazetta-style fountain courtyard where other students were studying and enjoying the gorgeous day. For the times when hunger strikes, there is the option of a cafe in addition to cooking in a huge common kitchen and eating in an attached dining hall with a pool table ! Also on the first floor, though we didn't get to check it out, are a library, map room, and the Coulter Lounge, which is downright bourgeois.

On the way to the upper floors, we did get a peek into the really grand Assembly Hall. On to a mock-up of the room which I thought was pretty adequate for the sleeping I'll be doing there. I'd need to study from time to time also, no? The floor we saw had a study lounge complete with a fireplace ! And, in the building are also private study rooms. Oh, downstairs in another common room - right next to a Music Room and Mac lab - a salsa party was just about getting started. Nice.

Apparently, letting the south americans show off their dancing skills isn't the only social activity at the i-house. They actually have a calendar chock-a-block with events. A sample from this week:
> A night of Afghani Arts and Cuisine; presented by the International House Global Voices Performing Arts Series.
> Middle East Music Ensemble Concert; presented by the above Series along with the Department of Music
> Haitian Flag Day Celebration; presented by the Spring Festival Series
> Author Night with Rachel DeWoskin, Foreign Babes in Beijing; presented by the International House Global Voices Lecture Series and The Seminary Coop Bookstore
> The Annual Festival of Nations; presented by the Residents.

This is really exciting. I am about enjoying what the rest of the University has to offer, in addition to the GSB, and meeting and making friends from around the world who are pursuing vastly different endeavors. Given the time and effort that the MBA is going to ask of me, the I-House seems like the perfect way to weave that into my experience. Living there would, in the words of a friend, "be good for my soul". I can't disagree.

Got to say, this is nothing like the dorms I know of. Except one. One of the main reasons I was so keen on LBS was the opportunity to live at another institution that is in every respect similar to I-house: Goodenough College. A friend who spent her law school years there showed me the place when I was in London last, and I was absolutely taken by the place. She had a great experience and made great friends from all over. I sure am glad I found a similar home in Chicago ! All of you headed to LBS, I highly, highly, highly highly highly recommend you take a dekho. Also, for those headed to Haas, Columbia/Stern and Wharton: check out the I-Houses in Berkeley, NYC, and Philly.

On a more practical note, the one commodity dearer than money when in b-school is sleep. The i-house is located 2 blocks from the GSB. You read it right - 2 blocks. I don't think one can put a price on being able to wake up 10 minutes before class and still making it on time (unkempt notwithstanding :) It's also one block from the train stop into downtown for the times I'll have to head north to party. Convenient with a capital Yes-Siree-Bob.

And, there's the issue of this being the last opportunity I'll have to live a dream that's quintessentially American - starting a company from my dorm room ! I think I have an idea that has potential and will definitely work on it. Not to mention that the money I save on rent can be used as seed capital.

This is sounding too good to be true, no?

Alas, there is a downside: the women. No self-respecting b-school bombshell would be caught anywhere near a dorm room now, would she? [editor's note: the use of 'bombshell' is not intended to be exclusionary; quite to the contrary it is meant to include any and all of the fairer sex. To be read as a feeble attempt at flattery by a man who has been shown his desolate destiny]

But, as my friend Iceman, in his infinte wisdom, observes (in an apt post that begins with 'sex' and ends with 'here's to 2 years of celibacy') : Apparently the ladies aren't feeling most of the 'Top 10' MBA Guys. Harvard, Wharton and Sloan guys included. The non-reference to Chicago (hey, we are Top 10 OK, according to every ranking), especially with the 'included' caveat, can only mean that us nerd boys have been written off even before the game begins. I can safely say that with a dorm room, I have saved them the trouble and taken myself off the roster. Which, of course, does nothing for the already-zero chances of my penthouse-dwelling, valet-parking brethren :-)

So, I might as well save 500 bucks by bunking in my dorm.

Then again, Karma Points exist for a reason. According to the brochure - at the I-house more than 400 marriages have resulted from friendships that blossomed into romance. Oooh, who knows, the GSB's loss may yet be the Divinity school's gain :-)
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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Sensible AdSense

[file under: Clicking for Change]

So, one of the features of Blogger I've stayed away from using is the AdSense program where I could display Google ads on my site and be paid for clicks on those links by readers of this blog. I didn't start this blog to make any money, and to go that way because i'm getting more hits would be just plain wrong.

But, I'm about to change that and add some ads. Why? Well, for a very interesting reason.

One of the greatest thing about my workplace is how incredibly generous my coworkers are. Every month there is someone doing something - a walk, run, bike, volunteer - for their favorite causes and they raise an incredible amount of money from our small office of a hundred people. I'm a regular contributor myself to these efforts(which is the easy part), and last year I walked the Boston Marathon route for the Jimmy Fund(which was pretty darn hard) and was fortunate to raise funds from my officemates for the good cause. Point being - i'm affected by the charity bug by being around these folks.

A friend did the Walk for Hunger two weekends ago and we were talking after and he asked if I would donate for another thing he's planning for later this fall. He doesn't know I'm going off to b-school, and I realized that I won't have an income. So, it dawned on me that maybe I could use this blog as a resource to raise some money for good causes.

Hence, AdSense. I'm going to take a couple of days to play around with display formats etcetera to make it non-obtrusive. I know it's probably going to only generate small change, but something is better than nothing, no? And this is my promise: All proceeds WILL be donated to charity, and accounted for on this blog. I say that because it is you the reader who is generating the money by potentially clicking on an interesting link.

And, as is wont to happen, ideas lead to more ideas. So, here's my pitch to Google: why not create a program around this. So that interested users can sign up to have any revenues from ads on their blogs/sites be pooled in a repository - pennies from each site add up to dollars - and it be administered in a sensible fashion. It's a win-win-win, in my opinion. I'm sure there are many users, like me, who don't want to 'pollute' their pages, who may be swayed by the good cause nature of this advertising. Maybe create a note/logo saying this is charitable revenue. The more AdSense is adopted, more money for google. And, hopefully, some money ultimately finds its way into the pockets of those among us who really deserve some help. Think about it.

PS: Props to Aregon for pointing me to Amazon and their giving program. They have an interesting take: Non-profits can use the 'Wish Lists' feature to create lists of things they need, and users can browse through those to make very targetted and relevant contributions. Their philosophy:
At Amazon.com, we believe that innovation has the power to change the world. We innovate on behalf of our customers every day, and our passion for innovation extends to our philosophy for giving.
Bookmark: del.icio.us

Monday, May 09, 2005

Backpacking the Web 2.0

[file under: An Apple A Day ...]

Last tuesday, I received an email from the good folks over at 37signals that their Backpack service went live. I had signed up previously to be one of the early users. I've been playing with it all week and I'm liking it. Their idea: take Email, one of the bonafide superstars of Web1.0(yeah, i'm sold on the lingo thing), and re-fresh it for 2.0. What's come out of it is a way cool Personal Information Manager. With a twist. You can go to their website and create to-do lists, notes etc, but you can also send the info in an email and they automatically do it for you.

I guess it doesn't sound exciting, but I was in a meeting the other day and remembered that I was about overdue in making a payment. Now, I'm a very forgetful kind of bloke when it comes to these small things. This time, I sent an email to Backpack to test this out and, guess what, I forgot about it soon enough. I got home and logged on to my Backpack account and I was stoked to see it on my to-do list. It's a more than just to-do's though - there's integration with blogs, ability to make your lists public, photos, collaboration, reminders. Give it a spin.

This is just one of the many 2.0 projects that are going live almost on a weekly basis. In the past weeks, I've been playing with del.icio.us, technorati, JotSpot, Rojo, Ta-Da List, and 21publish. I'm very much an early adopter, unlike Steve :), and man I've got to tell you, I am jazzed about the stuff that's going on right now, even from a distance. Apparently, I am not alone. Adam Rifkin writes, in a review of the Web2.0 conference:
Including the gatecrashers there were probably close to a thousand people in attendance, schmoozing each other up and creating the kind of optimistic, wild enthusiasm that I haven't seen since 1999. Silicon Valley is buzzing again -- and the powerful, the influential, and the entrepreneurial came together to trade ideas, to make connections, and to get energized to take the industry and the world to the next level.

I believe that this is an exciting time in the evolution of the web, and everyone ought to take a closer look at what's going on. More specifically, what's driving this. I'm not an expert by any means, but in my opinion the answer lies not in whizbang technology but in the changing charateristic of the web itself. It is no longer a static go-to-a webpage to get information or shop kind of place. It's about conversations. Books selling because of user reviews. mi bookmarks es tu bookmarks. wikis. 'Public' as the default permission for photos. Tags. Blogs. Blogs about blogs. Blogs about blogs that matter.

In some sense, there is Chaos. But it is out of chaos that beautiful things are created. And, that's what is going on right now. How far along are we in this transformation? Jeff Bezos had this to say:
[Our philosophy is] find the useful guts of Amazon and expose them... offer API's and let an ecosystem develop... It's still day one.

It's still day one. Wow. Coming from one of the very few people who really gets It, you'd better believe it. Let me change tracks and pose the question: can we aspiring MBA's make an impact on this evolving landscape? Richard McManus, in this post, opines:
I do believe that Web 2.0 is starting to permeate into mainstream business culture - perhaps from the bottom up, i.e. from business schools.

Personally, I am more pessimistic. I don't believe one will find anything particularly insightful coming out of b-schools today. Allow me an anecdotal illustration. Seated on either side of me at lunch saturday were 2y MBA students - one a McKinsey-bound consultant, and the other a UBS-bound banker. The conversation veered (rather, I veered it) towards Web2.0 and blogs. The banker seemed disinterested while the consultant asked me the question - how do blogs differ from IM? Now, this is not a comment on these guys, not at all. It's just that the composition of the student body at b-schools is overwhelmingly wannabe bankers and consultants. And the entire structure of the recruiting process for them leaves them little time to experiment. Couple this with the aversion the schools have to admitting anyone with a technology background, and I think you can see why I hold this position.

In his comment to Richard's post, Bud Gibson (who, incidentally, is running a High Octane Blogging Bootcamp at Ross this saturday) says:
My experience with MBA students is that about 1-5% are really in it to get deeply into the underlying technology or theory. The rest you have to sell on business benefits.

I tend to agree, and I think it's a real shame for two reasons. One, the need to see money being made or its potential means they miss the early morning boat. And, Two, if Web1.0 has any lesson for us, it's that to really thrive one has to think about building sustainable businesses around these ideas - something that MBA's are, quite frankly, being taught to do and could really contribute if they were interested.

So, let me offer up a carrot to pique your interest: the money is starting to show up. If that's not a good start, consider the Why. Fred Wilson, a VC with Union Square Ventures, invested in del.icio.us recently. On his blog, he notes:
The question everyone asks is "what is the business model". To be completely and totally honest, we don't yet know.
In summary, we believe tagging is important, its here to stay, del.icio.us is a very important participant in the tagging phenomenon, and we are really excited to be part of its development

Deja Vu, anyone? Read back to Adam Rifkin's comments. Can you see why the excitement is growing? Investments in ideas without business models? I-have-to-be-there-first or someone-else-will? This could be the start of something big. Maybe even 1999 all over again, though with much more caution. I, for one, missed it the last time around. I intend to be a part of this one.

And, I want for my school to be too. The b-school which benefited the most from the last wave was Stanford. It's open range again. Why not Chicago this time? We have the infrastructure in place (trust me, we abso-f-ing-lutely do), but not enough of an ecosystem. I was chatting with an alum about my plans and he told me point blank: You are going to the wrong school. Well, given that I don't have much of a choice, I'm going to try to make the best of it. I intend to blog and talk and do 2.0 stuff. I sure hope that there are others who think the same. If we can get a critical mass, it should be a fun ride. We'll see.

Finally, if you should read one blog post today (the proverbial apple, if I may) it should be this. It's probably the first time I've linked to the same blog twice in one post, but this commentary by Adam Rifkin summarizing the Web2.0 conference is much deserving. Good things are happening.

[edit:] So, here's a new idea. As in, an idea that is brand spanking new. 3:08 pm today, to be precise. John Resig has just started work on a new venture, ideaShrub. As with any 2.0 project, there is a blog! In his first post, he says:
It all started as an idea of Julia’s just over a week ago. Preliminary sketching and mapping started just after and will continue until this weekend. Then for the next two weeks development will commence followed by a full-scale launch at the end of May.

In my LBS essay (3 months ago) I wrote about a similar project - an idea sharing workspace - that I had initiated at work. It moved from my initial push to the next set of people and then stalled. It's fun to see these guys try to go from idea to product in a month. Good luck, folks. I've signed up to be a early user once it goes live.

And - Fred Wilson may like this - I found this through del.icio.us - there is something to this tagging stuff ! Followed a tag I created, '2.0', to someone else who had, and their tag called 'ideas' to this website. And now you know about it. Small world, getting smaller with every new tag.
Bookmark: del.icio.us

Friday, May 06, 2005

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, and me ...

I am from the Sun !

Followed Simba's blog to one of those questionnaire type websites to find out the answer to the question: what kind of blogger are you? And, in their algorithmic opinion:

You Are a Pundit Blogger!
Your blog is smart, insightful, and always a quality read.
Truly appreciated by many, surpassed by only a few.

woo-hoo. phew. Now I know. As I poked around on the site, I found out many more things about myself that I never knew. Here's the kicker - I showed those to my roommate, who's also a great friend and I'd say knows me very well. She thought they, while a good laugh, actually made a lot of sense !

So behold, dear reader, the little known (to the author himself :) details of the Pundit Blogger.

You are from the Sun
Of all your friends, you're the shining star.
You're dramatic - loving attention and the spotlight.
You're a totally entertainer and the life of the party.
Watch out! The Sun can be stubborn, demanding, and flirty.

Your punk rock band name is The Sleepy Ukulele

Your socialite name is Meter Rio

You Are 65% Normal
Otherwise known as the normal amount of normal
You're like most people most of the time
But you've got those quirks that make you endearing
You're unique, yes... but not frighteningly so!

You are 47% Sketchy

Your Inner European is Italian!
Passionate and colorful.
You show the world what culture really is.

You May Be a Bit Schizotypal ...
A bit odd and socially isolated.
You couldn't care less of what others think.
And some of your beliefs are a little weird.
Like that time you thought you were Jesus.

Your Seduction Style: The Natural
You don't really try to seduce people... it just seems to happen.
Fun loving and free spirited, you bring out the inner child in people.
You are spontaneous, sincere, and unpretentious - a hard combo to find!
People drop their guard around you, and find themselves falling fast.

You Are 21 Years Old
You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to
come... love, work, and new experiences.

Your Brain is 66.67% Female, 33.33% Male
Your brain leans female
You think with your heart, not your head
Sweet and considerate, you are a giver
But you're tough enough not to let anyone take advantage of you!

What rejected crayon are you ?
Spank me Pink

And, finally, my recommended new year resolution:
Wake up before noon
You've been accused of sleeping your life away
And it's a little bit true - you are really into your pillow
In fact, it may be years since you've seen a sunrise at the *start* of your day
Sleep a little less. Some sunshine would do you good.

This one got me. It has actually been years since I've seen a sunrise. The one luxury I allow myself is to live without an alarm clock. I usually walk into work around 11, but work later into the evenings and night.

'some sunshine would do you good'. A bit odd no, considering I am from the Sun :-)
Bookmark: del.icio.us

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Response to Comment

Suzy asked, in response to my previous post : PY, tell me if I'm too nosy, but what do you think about the point this guy's making? Agree, disagree?

Simple answer: Agree.

Not-so-simple answer: It's not so simple.

My first reaction was to think back to the students I had interacted with at Admit Weekend. I found that the stereotypes usually affected to the school are definitely dated. There were a bunch of very smart, friendly and nice folks at the school. Maybe the author's frustration has to do with his expectations of his classmates unmet? Was he extrapolating from his specific experiences? But, I realized that that line of thinking was missing the point entirely.

The subject of the piece was the Chicago community. What, pray, is a community ? According to the dictionary, it is defined variously, as:

1.a) A group of people living in the same locality and under the same government.
-.b) The district or locality in which such a group lives.
2.a)A group of people having common interests: the scientific community; the international business community.
-.b) A group viewed as forming a distinct segment of society: the gay community; the community of color.
3.a) Similarity or identity: a community of interests.
-.b) Sharing, participation, and fellowship.

This is telling. There is no standard defintion of what a community, or a better/stronger/tight-knit/loose-knit/etc one is. The way I see it, it's entirely up to the members of a community to make what they want to of what they have. No shit, Batman - you say? indeed, i'm mouthing the obvious, but that's what it is.

In the context of b-schools, I guess most of us walk in with a certain expectation of what the 'community' is going to be. For some, it may be a very social one. For others, serious. For some, it may be filled with people on the same career track. For others, it may be one which gives them the freedom to be a maverick. At some level, I think one may tend to be satisfied with their 'community' if their expectations are met. Or, dissatisfied, if they are not.

But, I also believe (hope, really) that b-schools are filled with the kind of people for whom attainment of personal aspirations is coupled with a healthy motivation to support others in the pursuit of their own. It is on this point that I find myself agreeing strongly with Mr. Sharpe. Does that necessarily mean more people should show up for rugby practice or write for the newspaper? Not. Everyone has their own passions, and oftentimes one may not find enough people interested in what they want to do. That's fine. What really matters is that there be a vitality at the intersections of these interests. To be fair, the essays does not say that there isn't at the school.

The reason I felt strongly enough to post his essay was because I got the sense that his expectation of the community, to use the definition above, tends to 3(b). Sharing, participation, and Fellowship. In my experience, there are always a few people in every team/group/organization who do more to foster the group dynamic than others. What I found surprising in his piece was his contention that the inverse 80/20 rule exists at Chicago. I'm not saying that it's a super special place where it shouldn't, but then again it's a carefully selected group of individuals.

If true, it raises an important question. The school has ostensibly admitted candidates who have, in addition to their outstanding personal achievements, contributed significantly to their communities. What happened once they got there? And, it has implications. I have heard Dean Snyder speak twice, and both times he listed improving alumni relations as one of his top priorities. I'm actually glad that it's recognized and being addressed, but in this context it stands starkly compared to schools like Tuck where the involvment of alumni is a matter of pride. I can't help think that the issue of community is somehow related.

My personal expectations for the community going into b-school: quite frankly, I don't know what to expect. It's both a factor of Chicago not having an outwardly singular cultural theme, like Team Fuqua, say, and the reality that each incoming class plays its own jazz. The one very strong hope I do have is that none of my classmates, me included, feel compelled to write a similar essay a year down the line.

So, dear reader, tell me if I'm too nosy, but what do you think about the point this guy's making? Agree, disagree?
Bookmark: del.icio.us