Monday, September 26, 2005

Bringin' out the firehose

drinking champagne from a firehose ? i can see the firehose connection but champagne - methinks not. I am going to class today needing more sleep - all because of the pre-first-class homework I had (make that Still Have) to do before class starts. and I have two classes that need over 100 pages of reading each as well as homeworks or case writeups before we even step into the classroom. today. wow. how bad is it? i have freakin' writer's block as i write this. no time to do anything to overcome that. so off i go to begin a brutal day.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Grade Non-Disclosure

Simple title for a post on what is really a very complex issue. The student body at Chicago GSB hasn't yet started to discuss this issue and vote on it, but it seems to be a hot-button topic at Wharton, as indicated by posts from Linda and JP, among others, in response to the article that started it all on BW.

Chicago is one of the four 'top' schools that has this student-initiated policy in place. Reading the various sides of the issue, I can appreciate the concerns of the various parties involved. Especially, the professors at Wharton who seem to be observing "lackluster academic performance and student disengagement".

The BW article doesn't quote any Chicago professors, and I haven't heard their opinions on the issue, but anecdotal evidence suggest (to me, at least) that they mayn't be so critical of the policy. That's what I think. I wrote about Prof. Rayo's approach to his class, which I think is pretty cool. Also, I was talking with Prof. Meadow who advised me to approach his class with the intent to learn as much as I can over getting caught up in trying to get an A. Sage advice. I have heard the argument that grades are meant to reflect how much you've learnt in a class. I think that's not entirely true. An 'A' means that you know how to concentrate on what's required to get an 'A'.

The biggest argument in favor of grade disclosure seems to be the recruiter angle. You know, I don't know about that one. There are MANY classmates of mine who are taking advanced level classes first quarter to prepare them for their chosen career internships. If grades by themselves were a factor, I suspect many more of us would just stick to the foundation courses to better our chances of meeting the GPA cut-off for an interview list. I also suspect this is unique to Chicago because we don't have a first-year Core. I've been told that a student's choice of classes is, in itself, a strong indicator of motivation when it comes to recruiting. Please don't read this as laziness - take some cool-sounding classes, coast through them, and get jobs over the A-ers. Classes here at Chicago are tough. I should actually not be blogging right now - i have a problem set to solve PRIOR to my FIRST accounting class that has people asking questions like: How would one treat an unsettled law suit amount (payable by my firm at the time of preparing the balance sheet)? Would I treat it as a current liability? And this is a basic accounting class. God help me if I decide to walk into an advanced class just for the heck of it.

Linda makes the statement "Accountability is a great motivator. It is absent at the schools with the non-disclosure policy." This I don't understand. Just because I don't have to tell my recruiter a grade makes me somehow unaccountable? [wrong grammar?] I think we are as accountable to our classmates as to our professors. And, in an intensely competitive environment, if a policy such as GND can facilitate greater co-operation, I am all for it.

Finally, she also asks: "Do Wharton, HBS, Stanford, and Chicago have cooperation and collegiality, or laziness?"

A few hours ago, I was in a kick-off meeting with the film chairs of all our cohorts. This is a competition where each cohort comes up with a 6-minute film that is then shown to the school and awards handed out a ceremony called Golden Gargoyles. Now, a bunch of us have never done film, but one of the cohort chairs has something like 7 years of experience in the film industry ! I didn't even know what the questions she were asking meant :-) Towards the end of the meeting, she gave us tips on what she thought was a great short film to watch to see how it's done, and offered to sit down sometime next week and give us all some of the incredible knowledge she has regarding how to approach this thing!

Now, I think that she didn't really have to. The rest of us could have stumbled throught the process while she went off and made a great movie. She still will kick our collective ass come awards night, but I for one would be the better for what I learn from her.

Co-operation? Collegiality? Laziness?
You decide.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

'Twas the Night before Classes ...

and i got back to my dorm around 11:30 after a very nice dinner over at Byron's and as I was headed to my room to catch some sleep when I met some people who talked me into watching Oprah get a million bucks from Jon Bon Jovi. I didn't even know Oprah was on that late. Maybe 'cuz its Chicago?

Anyways, midnight came around and just ad I was about to call it day, this other guy comes by and tells us that there's a movie playing next door. Movie? In super-quiet Hyde Park. Yup, Ida Noyes Hall (in between the GSB building and the I-house where I stay) has a 450-seat theater and Doc Films, supposed to be the oldest campus film club, had a free midnight screening of The Life Aquatic. Now, I saw Seu Jorge perform the songs he sang for that movie live two nights ago, so I just had to go watch the movie ya.

Watch I did. For like an hour I think before I fell asleep in my seat :-) woke up sometime later and decided to head to a bed. It was finally around 2 when I fell asleep. Set two alarms so I wouldn't miss my first class.

Slept through both. But, a phone call woke me up! And it was from a recruiter :-) Well, not that kind of recruiter exactly. I was called last week to provide a reference for a VP they want to hire for a startup, and she woke me up this AM to ask if I could recommend any senior engineers. Kinda networking without really networking. I'm going to ask her if I could come intern there next summer :)

And, I did make it to class. I've read the Wharton bloggers post about their Concert Rules, and decided to ask the professor if he had any such rules we should follow. This is pretty freaking cool. You can eat, drink, use your laptop whatever as long as it doesn't offend anyone else. If you are bored in class, feel free to leave. On top of that, you don't even need to show up in class ! yup, he was like if you think you know the material well enough, just make sure you submit the homeworks and show up for the mid-term and finals. Wowza !

Class was good. The prof announced a prize of a super-expensive bottle of tequila for the most creative cheat sheet on the mid-term. Oh, and there's no need for a textbook or course materials. I'm lovin' it :-)

Finally, two more of my classmates are blogging. That's two more perspectives: Hugo and Mandar. Check 'em out.

Off I go now to study. I have some really scary reading for my two monday classes.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Now we're Coursing

The bid results are out. I went for broke and had bid ALL the points I had to try to get into Prof. Meadow's class. Guess what? I got in, and the course didn't close ! Which means I get it for free. Even better: to get into this class, I dropped another class that hadn't closed the first time around - and it closed for 1000 points in this round. Which means I get those 1000 points. So, I actually get the schedule I want (with wednesdays and fridays off) and 1000 points back !

Kinda sweet how these things seem to work themselves out.

Where do little birds go when they die?

I saw something very sad just now. I was walking back to the GSB building after collecting my Chicago student ID and right outside the doors, on the concrete balcony-type thing we have, was a bird. It was on its back but I saw one of its wings fluttering. I went to see if I could help, but alas, it was just the wind ruffling the little one's feathers. Tried to shake it but it didn't move :-( Sat there for a little bit not knowing what to do. I mean, I couldn't just leave it lying there. There were people walking around, and someone could step on it. I felt much worse when I thought of those who would walk away ignoring it. Such a beautiful creature doesn't deserve that. But, what does one do with a dead bird? I didn't know, i mean it's the first time I have actually seen one I think. So, I just picked it up off the floor and put it in a flowerbed that was nearby. I hope that was not a bad thing to do.

Go in peace, pretty bird.

Bathroom Conversation

4th Floor Men's Room at the I-house last saturday. I'm shaving (very carefully, lest the one I want to impress at the GSB Semi-Formal is left unimpressed :-) Another guy walks up to the next sink.

Me: Hey
He: Hi

Me: Are you new here?
He: Yes, just got here. And you.

Me: Me too. What are you studing?
He: I'll be at the GSB.

Me: No Kidding. Me too. First year?
He: Cool. No, actually I am an exchange student. Where are you from?

Me: Bangalore originally.
He: I'm from IIM Bangalore.

Me: Awesome. Is Kima your classmate?
He: Wow, yeah, do you know Kima?

Me: No, but I read his blog.

Got to love this blogging thing man.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

To Thine Own Self Be True.

Why did I not listen to the inner voice that urged me not to get out of bed this morning?

That monumental mistake has me sitting here tearing my hair out. If you guys thought our bidding system was rough, welcome to the world of dropping/adding/swapping courses. It's actually simple dropping, simple adding, add one of-ing, swap/drop only if i can add one of-ing ... Jim H. Cavizel !

And the reason I find myself at this point of jump-or-else-we'll-push-you was attending and, the extravert that i am supposed to be, asking a question. I was talking with a finalist from a previous year's New Venture Challenge who now has his own ice-cream company, and he told me that the best prep for the competition was taking Prof. Scott Meadow's Commercializing Innovation class. This class has like 6 recommended pre-reqs and so I decided to walk over to Prof. Meadow's office.

You've got to meet him, this guy is awesome. He told me that I should take it this quarter. When I asked him about the pre-reqs he said I'd be alright. He also made a point that, in his opinion, no coursework at the GSB can prepare anyone to take his class. So, it would be the same now or later in terms of prep. Also, that the sequence of Commercializing Innovation, venture finance, and the New Venture Challenge was one of the best entrepreneurship streams at any b-school.

It's going to be really, really, really hard but I am going to do it. The reason I came here is to study entrepreneurship, in as much as it can be learnt. If this is going to be the path that will best prepare me - to steal a line from my admit letter :)- for my life's work, bring it on.

That's one part of it. I've now actually got to bid for, and get into, the class. That's a whole different ballgame. Especially because I may have to drop/swap/whatever-the-fuck TWO classes. I won't even go into the crapshoot this process has become. Suffice to say my bracket-busting strategy is out of the window :-) The end-case scenarios are NOT looking good.

Oh, did I alreadly say I was elected un-opposed as the film chair for my cohort. Can I drop/add/swap/beg out of that one. No, just kidding. We'll make a great movie. Or so I keep telling myself :-)

Monday, September 19, 2005

what the F am i doing here?

I've said this to more than one classmate, but i've been really bothered by the question of whether I belong here at the GSB. Or at any business school for that matter. I know, it's crazy, but it pops up in my mind, what can I do. I've been told that it's a big place and you'll find your niche of people and all will be good. I understand that, but I don't think it's about my classmates.

We had a session on the MBTI today and I thought it was pretty revealing. If I were to believe the results, it is actually about me and certain characteristics that are probably innate.

It was a surprise to me to see that I was adjudged to be an EN-F-P. I always thought I was EN-T-P. That's what those free tests I did on the web told me. But, according to this more detailed one, I'm slightly skewed towards being an 'F'.

What does this mean? According to the book:

For people with ENFP preferences, life is a creative adventure full of exciting possibilities. ENFP's are keenly perceptive about people and insightful about the present and future. They experience a wide range of feelings and intense emotions. They need affirmation from others and readily give appreciation and support. ENFP's are good at understanding how people and groups work and are persuasive and compelling in pursuing what is important to them. They are adaptable, blooming where there are planted. Their energy and enthusiasm encourage others to bloom as well.

Got to say, all that blooming stuff sounds pretty kick-ass-go-yogi-go. But, when I ask the 'what-if' questions, things are a tad different. For e.g., What if an ENFP doesn't get the 'affirmation' they need from others. Again, for lack of an alternate, we turn to the book:

If ENFP's do not find a place where they can use their gifts and be appreciated for their contributions, they usually feel frustrated and may:
* become scattered, have trouble focusing, be easily distracted
* fail to follow through on decisions
* become rebellious, excessively nonconforming
* ignore deadlines and procedures

See, this is scary stuff. This was EXACTLY what my job got to be at one point. And it was because it was a stifling situation for me personally. We did another test today where we had to, in groups sorted by type, complete a few statements. The NF's responses ?

Q. Work is a reflection of ..
A. what I care about.

Q. The most important contribution I can make in my work situation is ..
A. use my talents.

Q. The worst thing I can be asked to do in a job is ...
A. routine stuff, or be asked to fire someone.

I quote these because it seemed from the other responses that we as a group were so off the charts when compared to my other cohort-mates in their group responses. Some of them:

Q. Work is a reflection of ...
A. Personal goals, passions and abilities, responsibility etc.

Q. The most important contribution I can make in my work situation is ...
A. Impact on society, increasing production, accomplishment of goals, creative solutions.

Q. The worst thing I can be asked to do in a job is ...
A. Artistic skills, work in a changing environment, unethical, non-challenging work.

Don't the other responses sound more MBA-like ? No wonder NF's are also characterized as Idealists, with a motto: To Thine Own Self Be True. Pretty freaking hard to do if you're an MBA student, I tell ya.

ENFP's hate routine, schedules, and structure and usually manage to avoid them.

Seems to me almost all the jobs an MBA can expect to do post-graduation actually involve a lot of routine, schedules, and structure. I say *almost* all because I'm an optimist and still believe there's got to be a career for me that will allow me to be myself. After all, Dr. Seuss was an ENFP. Wait. OK, bad choice. But, they didn't give us any other ENFP examples :-)

What is also interesting is looking at the percentages of these various types as compared to the general population. ENTP's are 10%(working MBAs) as compared to 3.2%(national sample), ENTJ's are 8.9% vs 1.8% (whoa!),ISTJ's 17.1% vs 11.6%, ESTJ's 17.4% vs 8.7%, and INTJ's 7.1% vs 2.1%. Looks like the TJ's self-select into b-school.

The NF's in b-school, on the other hand, are lower than the national averages. For ENFP's it is 5.9% vs 8.1%. In our cohort we divided the class of 52 into 4 groups - NF, NT, SP, SJ. There were 3 NF's.

I don't know. Maybe I'm not making sense and over-reacting to this little test thing. Then again, the book may be right:

ENFP's find meaning and significance readily and see connections that others don't.

Ah well, screw it. My brain's fried and the World Music Festival is in town and there's a free concert at Millenium Park that I want to check out. Off I go now.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Autumn Classes: No Gain, No Pain.

I got my top schedule, and also got a pre-req go-ahead from a professor and I need to drop a class, so I'm kinda not really all scheduled yet.

But it's pretty cool. There were two cardinal rules that I wanted unbroken when it came to my schedule:

* no going to class at 8:30. i think it is against every law of nature.
* i'm not sitting through a 3-hour class unless there is some form of compensation.

glad to report that both have been met among the courses i've got. my schedule of the 3 sure classes looks like this:

Financial Accounting - Monday 1:30 - 4:30 PM. It is taught by Professor Weil, who wrote the book. I've been told there is very little lecturing in the classroom (a lot of self-study) but he tells a lot of stories and it is supposed to be an entertaining class. I think I can sit through it, no problemo.

MicroEconomics - Tue & Thu 10:10 - 11:50 AM. I should be able to manage waking up by 10. And it's twice at week at hour and half each. Oh, and they tell me all the girls in the GSB are in Il Professori Rayo's class. Not that it means anything to me. Just saying what I heard.

The Practice of Leadership in Business - Thu 6:00 - 9:00 PM at our downtown campus. This is an intersting class, taught by a professor who was a CEO for 19 years. Course programming is more case-based and there are 3 guest lecturers who are business leaders, and we have to meet senior executives of chicago-area companies for a research project et cetera. OK, *real* reason is thursday night is TNDC - thursday night drinking club - and we go to bars downtown or norther (and i live south) and i figured might as well head to class on the way to the drinking. it's just more convenient that way :-)

I'm thinking of dropping my 4th class and signing up for a friday afternoon class from 1:30 to 4:30. So I can end up at LPF(this is free drinks and conversation on the House, in the House) right after class :)

There you have it fellas - an insight into the frameworks a 'future business leader' employs to determines his class strategy that will be the foundation of a sustained ... no can do any more buzzwords.

On a more serious note, i actually chose my classes based on what I want to do the next two quarters. Our bidding system encourages strategic course selection. You assign a bid value for a schedule you want, and after all the bids are sorted, course prices are set and then you are charged for the classes you got. In my case, I bid 3001 points for my schedule (which, in true yogi fashion, was the Least Successful Bid for one of my classes. In plain english, it means that i was the last guy to get in before it closed) Now, if my course A has a price of 1000 determined for it, B has 500 and C has 300 - I end up actually paying a total of 1800 for my schedule. If, on the other hand, the sum of the prices of the classes is more that what you bid, you end up only paying the bid amount and get a 'subsidy' from the school. Kinda complicated.

My plan is to take 3 courses next semester, each of which is very expensive, around 5000 points each. I can get away by bidding and paying only say 5001 which will get me into each class. It is highly inefficient to bid on a schedule where your most expensive course is 2x or more your next expensive course. Of course, the exception being if you have a class that you HAVE to take. It happened with me this quarter with Prof. Rayo's class, but the amounts aren't too big. I think I'll be in good shape come Winter with around 13000 points on me.

Spring I *hope* to take the Free Ride Train. There are a few courses you don't bid on - you can only get in if selected. I want to do the New Venture Challenge, PE/VC Lab and LEAD. I think (not entirely sure) that these courses also give you back 2000 points on successful completeion. *If* this pans out, i'll enter next year with a kitty big enough to go out and bust everyone's brackets (that sound you hear is the evil capitalist-in-the-making in me laughing :)

But, I know these plans never work out and I'm cool with what I have for now. Classes start Thursday.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

You know you're all settled in ...

when you skip your first class :-)

yes, it has happened. and i realized that the GSB is a strange, strange place when the halls and winter garden are empty. there are buildings where I enjoy the one-on-one's but the hyde park center seems pretty cold to the single suitor. anyways.

spent last evening trying to bid for classes. and boy, it's a trip. we have a complicated bidding system (one that was soundly rebuked by an economist i was trying to explain it to at dinner later) that starts us off with 8000 bid points each. we have to pick 3-4 courses we want to bid on to form a primary schedule, and upto 3 alternates, and assign a bid for the *schedule*, not individual courses. more complicated magic happens and you are assigned a schedule only if you can be accepted into all of your courses in that schedule. if none of the schedules can be met, then we are herded into the next phase where one can drop/add courses but this time bid on individual courses.

i understand the procedure, but i am not sure i like it. what made it really tricky for me is that i couldn't find out in time if i could get waived out of a pre-req for a course i want to take NEXT quarter. yeah, i make things hard for myself. so, i've bid on a course that, most likely, i will drop out of. in doing so, i had to adjust the schedule so that i could actually add a meaningful course without conflict. but it's all in and i find out tomorrow.

yesterday was also moving day. i was staying in temp dorms until the International House renovations were complete. so had to deal with packing and unpacking again.

this after a night of some really vigorous debate. i was sitting in the dorm lounge tuesday night around midnight reading something when this economics student visiting from france came in after a tour of chicago and said something about how he had only seen african-american beggars on the streets of chicago. a motley crew of said economist, a russian girl, a confessed left-wing mathematician and yours truly sat up until 3:30 am talking about everything from working at mcdonalds to immigrants to third-world work ethics to, finally, the caste system in India ! it was pretty cool.

at which point i proceeded to stay up for another hour writing a Candidate Platform. we have cohort elections on monday and i am running for the position of Film Chair. i can't do sitting on student councils and networking with the deans man. the platforms were due yesterday and i did submit one that referenced my almost non-existant experience with film - well, there's tapping cable for scrambled porn, but i'll have to see how people take that reference. elections are monday following a 2-minute speecheroo. i need to find some props for that one.

after 5 days of rest, my liver should be all toned for another bout of action. the weekend's approaching and that means the social life is kicking back into gear. tonight is our first TNDC - thursday night drinking club. bunch of things tomorrow - a classmate's birthday, bars, i've heard bowling mentioned. and saturday we're supposed to all dress up and go see some fish. there's a foo-fie do at the shedd aquarium which reminds me that i need to get my suit altered. don't want to look anything but my sharpest best now, do i :)

ok, i'm hungry. personally i think the whole lack of sleep thing at bschool is over-rated. i mean, you'll get up in time for class whatever time you go to bed. or if you're like me, you'll just skip the class. it's the lack of food in time as i'm running around that's getting to me. it's 10:51 now and i haven't had breakfast and there's a long day ahead of me. so off i go now. cheers.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Outed by the GSB - but they think I'm beautiful !

Just checked my email and saw a note from someone at the GSB Administration asking to link my blog to something they are working on (wait for it - i think it is going to be interesting).

Only one problem (oh, but not really a problem). They think I'm wakechick :-) :-) :-) I'm looking forward to walking into their office and seeing that look of utter disappointment as the vision they expected evaporates :-)

But this is cool. I'm so really freaking glad that the GSB is *getting* blogging and reaching out to prospective students. It can only only be a good thing.

So, this is what being an AdCom feels like.

After four successive nights of getting to bed past 3 AM, I decided to take it a little easy today. I hope to get to bed by 2.

No, I'm not out partying like the previous week. I am, in fact, reading application essays. One of the privileges that has stemmed from my blogging is being considered worthy enough by some applicants to review or comment on their essays. I must apologize that I have slightly disabused that privilege this past week, caught up as I was in the heady, albeit boozy-headed, beginning to my b-school experience. I have spent a good part of today correcting it. I should be all backlog-cleaned-up by tomorrow.

This is the first time that I have read back-to-back-to-back sets of essays and I'm sitting here with a renewed appreciation for the AdComs at the various schools. Partly for the work they have to do, and partly for the work they have to *NOT* do. I mean, it is REALLY hard to read each application *un-influenced* by what you just read previously. At least for an untrained person like me.

Harder yet must be the ability to listen to each application as an equal music. What I mean is, moods matter a lot in influencing opinions formed from reading the essays. I'm now pretty convinced the one person in the b-school-world who said "yes, let's admit this guy" must have had the best sex (or chocolate) of their life right before [no implications implied about the sex lives (or access to chocolate) of AdComs who rejected me ;-)].

I also have a few other observations, but take it with the requisite amount of salt. You're listening to a wannabe pilot who's put on his first uniform and already thinks he's going to make TopGun.
Surprises are good things - a different opening, an unexpected twist to a story.
Humor can be a good thing - 'can be' being the operative word.
A good story is a very powerful thing.
Being Yourself is the most important thing.

I mean, it is pretty incredible how some applications seem to have a person jump out from the words. No, I'm not exaggerating [any ex-AdCom's :) want to comment on this?] And I realize I wasn't doing much jumping myself when I looked back at some of my old essays (which is what i wasted some time doing today, along with writing this blog entry). I'll repeat the cliche that you should write what you want to write and not what you *think* you're expected to write. I don't know, it just makes for more interesting reading.

Now, let me clarify that I'm not trying to do an AdCom here, but just giving some feedback by taking a critical eye to the essays. But, in the process, couldn't help myself thinking about what it would be like to sit in one of those chairs. Hence this post.

1:56 AM says the clock. Class starts at 8:30. Alarm set for 8:10. Yeah, I'm that lucky. My commute, door-to-door, is 3 minutes. G'night.

[Disclosure: I am NOT on the Chicago GSB Admissions Committee. I am more likely what they call an Admissions Mistake. Which means I most likely won't ever be on any such committee :-)]

Friday, September 09, 2005

Some comments on some Comments

whoa ! i just got off the bus from our outdoor thing and check the blog and see that there are 12 comments. kinda threw me off because i thought there was nothing in there of that much interest. i guess i was wrong.

c'mon people, the title was totally meant to be humorous. it was actually, if you could see it thus, mocking - the school was the one that called us the 'smartest' or whatever [smiley added for emphasis ;-)] by talking about gmat/gpa scores, but none of us even care about that. i hope you noticed that I had also, in a similar vein, modified the header on this blog.

and as does happen, a comment on the title led to one about validating stereotypes about indians and gre/gmat/numbers. well, stereotypes are funny things. they only exist in the minds of those who believe in them. actually, those who *want* to believe in them. let go, man or woman. not worth sweating over.

would you believe i've actually been sitting at this terminal for two hours writing this. Wrote a long post, deleted most of it, rewrote, and for symmetry, re-deleted. i'd say it was time not entirely wasted, as I also got to briefly chat(oops, my bad. 'network') with a classmate. in a more innocent time, i.e. before seemingly every second person here knew my blogdentity, i'd have mentioned that the classmate in question was actually quite pretty :-)

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

We the best. And we've got the numbers to prove it.

So, the Chicago GSB Class of 2007 has arrived. Today was the first day of CORE and boy was it a drag. Not all of it, but the first half for sure. I think the schedule is to blame, or maybe it's just me, but it's not fun to put people in a room and have them listen to speakers non-stop for hours on end. I wish there were at least some breaks. I found myself unable to really concentrate on the stuff being said, and I do feel badly for the faculty and staff up there who put all the effort into their presentations.

The one part I did hear though was being told that we are the smartest bunch of people to ever walk these hallowed halls. Average GMAT of the incoming class has crossed 700 for the first time ever (it's 701). The undergrad GPA average has also hit an all-time high at 3.5. But I didn't hear any of the 1y's talk about their GMAT score. Which is a good thing.

The last session was an introduction to LEAD and Leadership Outdoor Experience(LOE) which starts tomorrow with a roll-call at 6 AM. Yup, 6 AM. I hope I can wake up in time, for if I don't not only will I possibly fail the course but will also have to pay the school for organizing it. It's a three-day adventure/retreat/thingy in Wisconsin. I'm really looking forward to it - should be a great intro to my cohort-mates.

Many props to the 40 2y's in black T-shirts - the LEAD facilitators. These are the guys and gals who will run the LEAD program for us. I talked to some of them today and I get the sense that it is a really great opportunity. I want to do it next year.

The evening ended, as should every evening, with free drinks and food. Lots of it. I ended up talking to some of my fellow classmates and they are a very cool bunch. It was also great to see fellow bloggers wakechick and jeremy again, didn't find any of the other bloggers among the 550 people there (which, btw, is a lot of people), but was talking to a fellow cohort-mate about my visa/passport/flight issues and he goes - i like your blog - or some such. turns out he's also read my blog. it's the first time it's happened to me and kinda wierd to react to. But it's all cool. He's offered to share his bug spray with me.

Is this post even making sense? I'm really tired and it's past bed time. I should stop.

Monday, September 05, 2005

[Thoughts for Applicants:] The Pizza Pilgrimage

I've been meaning to post about something for a really long time, but it's never come together. It probably won't now either, but anyways.

Earlier this year, sometime soon after my Chicago admit, I went to Sugarbush resort in Vermont for a snowboarding weekend. Sugarbush is close to Waitsfield, among whose claims to fame is a converted horse barn where they are reputed to make some of the best pizza in the land at a restaurant called American Flatbread.

So we get there and turns out they don't take reservations. We put our names on the list and try to find a place to stand inside. Yeah, it was so crowded that they had a campfire for those standing outside. We eventually found a wall to lean against and the wait began. Minutes turned to half-hours which turned to hours. Serious. Two hours later, we were still not seated (well, we did manage to find a chair at the bar) and ran out of the energy to even talk. That was when a thought came to mind. This whole pizza thing was similar to my application saga.

Nothing I had ever done had prepared me for how long it would take.

I took my GMAT in August 2003. Was going to apply R1. Work got in the way. Applied to R2. Bad news flowed in. I went R3. Interview calls ! Ding. Then, a waitlist. Which turned into an agonizing summer waitlist. Which became a ding a few days before the next R1. Reapplied. R1. Interviews again. Sent in R2 apps just in case. Finally, I got the call. And in less than 8 hours I will be an MBA student.

If you are an applicant, this is something to ponder. All of you are successful people with a 'plan', but this entire process can be very, well, funny. Things usually, at least for me, have always had expiry dates. But, if you really want this degree, it can be a difficult beast. Please make sure you are prepared to deal with the uncertainities. Either with a better 'plan' or the right attitude.

The day after our pizza experience, I took the shuttle that goes in a long, slow loop around town. It was flagged down by a woman, and she asked for her destination. The driver told her that he could take her there but it would take a while. She got in. The same thing happened at the next stop. For some reason, I thought his 'line' was very interesting - it's gonna take a while. Not I can't go there. Or wait for the next bus. Nope. Just, It's gonna take a while. I think it is true of this process too. You just need to have faith and stick with it when the shit hits the fan. It'll all work out.

Just remember that It's gonna take a while.

But there is something else to consider too. We finally got a seat 2 hrs 15 min after we got there, waited another 15 minutes for a waiter and 30 mins for the pizza to be delivered. Was it really worth it? At that time, if you had given me a three day old pizza - cold - I would have told you that it was the best pizza I had ever had. One has to wonder if the reputation of the pizza has more to do with the starving partrons finally getting a meal rather than the pie itself.

Think about it. As you consider programs, and even the MBA itself, who do you get your inputs from ? I will, at the risk of heresy, suggest that current students are probably not a good source of opinion. They have recently been through a competitive application process and in some sense will justify both the degree and their school. Not exactly an unbiased opinion, in my biased opinion. I can't recall a single student at any school who told me this wasn't the best thing s/he's ever done. Or that it was the right step for his/her/my career.

Alumni, on the other hand, are a required source of perspective. I have found their advice to be reflective of the value of the MBA as relates to their more recent experiences back in the workforce. And, I have been told some pretty honest stuff too. My LBS interviewer told me straight up that he could have done his current job even before he went to school - except he couldn't have gotten the job without the degree. That was its main value for him. A Chicago alum I met had quit her job - and she was considering becoming a school teacher ! A Stanford alum I met had just joined a position in my company that one usually gets by doing the company sponsored part-time MBA. The point simply being, talk to as many alums as you can in your desired career field to get a more 'real' picture of what the degree you seek can do for you.

The best to both the applicants and the recently-applicants who are newly-students. Cool Runnings.

Day 2 in Chicago

The weather here is awesome right now and I've had a really relaxing day today. I've got to say, I'm really digging the Hyde Park area around Blackstone Hall where I am temporarily staying. Of course, there's the crime - a girl who's also in my dorm had her car windows smashed last night - but it is really quite neat. It also has the feel of a small place. Went to get some breakfast and ran into a person I'd met last night at the party - and he introduced me to his Lebanese friend, who showed up at a BBQ a few hours later!

Had a lazy start to the day, checked email for a while, and offered to help setup for the International House (which is where I will eventually be moving to, a week or so from now) barbeque, which ended up having a good turnout. And I'm really really glad I decided to stay at the I-house. My fellow I-housers are an impressively diverse, eclectic, and very nice, bunch. I must have met a score or so and they hail from: Korea, Japan, China, Mexico, Portugal, India, Germany, Lebanon, France, Colombia, and the US. The range of things they are here to do is also pretty diverse: Chemistry, Economics, Statistics, Public Policy, Social-something, Business, and even Dance, at last count.

Later that evening, I watched some canadian football on the TV in one of the lounges in Breckinridge House, played foosball, and had dinner with another I-houser I met today. This guy just graduated with a degree in Financial Math and works at one of the big-name firms and educated me in the workings of the buy-side. It was a very interesting conversation over some not-so-interesting food and a nice way to end what might be the last day I can spend doing nothing.

To Business School or Not to Business School

That is the question that was at the top of the cover of the inflight magazine on the American Airlines flight I boarded to Chicago. Pretty fuckin' apt for the moment, ya. It's here finally, the end (the real beginning?) of a journey begun on 25 august 2003 when I walked into the testing center to take the GMAT. Funny thing though is that I don't seem to feel like the 'moment' has arrived. Is one supposed to? I don't know.

But I've had a ROCKING introduction to student life, and it doesn't involve the GSB crowd. yet. except for two cool people. Flew into O'hare earlier this evening, and took a shuttle to a dorm where I am staying temporarily. As I was waiting to finish some paperwork to get the keys to my room, I said Hi to a bloke standing behind me in line, and we started chatting. Turns out he's a GSB alum, and he invited me to go out to dinner with some people. Dumped my stuff in my room and headed out to meet up with the folks. Turns out all of them are staying at the I-House. And it was an eclectic bunch - a German student, a web professional who's also writing a novel, the GSB alum who's starting something on his own, and a political sciene Ph.D student. It was a fun dinner, no *networking* involved, just talking to some very cool, and seriously smart, people. I also got invited to a bbq tomorrow afternoon for I-house residents.

Walked back to the dorm and was sitting in the lounge leafing through a magazine listening to another student playing on the piano when another european-looking bunch walked in. Initiated a conversation and got myself invited to a house party. It was a nice party at the home of two law school students, and most of the crowd was also going-to-be lawyers. The other most of the crowd was Ph.D students in Economics, who are quite a fun bunch. I was holding the fort for the GSB for a while before being joined by a fellow GSB classmate who's also going to stay at the I-house. Met some nice people and got back home around 2:30.

My eyes are really closing shut now, so i'm going to sign off. Core starts tuesday promtly at 8;30