Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Required Reading

Back from London safe and with a nagging case of the cold. I just wanted to link to an awesome post by Future MBA girl who just got her dream job.

Many congratulations, FMG !!
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Thursday, November 24, 2005

A door Opens. Closes. And it opens Again.

My friend Farbe commented on my last post: 'PY: You are travelling again - why am I sitting with my ears perked up and in anticipation of your next blog?'

Given my tendency to make my travels, let's say, interesting I was looking forward to my next post too. But, I decided to do the good-boy routine this time. Normal is Boring, said an Ad for 7-Up a long time ago, but I guess it does get you to where you have to go when you have to. I had to get into London wednesday morning for a presentation at Google's offices. 'Please make sure you are here between 4:30 and 4:50 so that we can start on time at 5 pm', the invite said. I wasn't going to risk doing anything stupid and miss this one.

Leave school at 2:30 PM tuesday to catch the 3:50 train to O'Hare - Check.
Arrive at station 10 minutes late - Check.
Next train not for 40 more - Check.
Arrive at O'hare 25 minutes before Departure - Check.
Barbarian at the gate: 'don't tell me it was the traffic. you were supposed to be here 2 hours before takeoff' - Check.
Settling in to get some sleep on the flight - Check.
Staying up to watch Mr. and Mrs. Smith - Check.
Arrive in London - Check.
Handle on my baggage broken in transit - Check.
Meet up with friend for breakfast - Check.
Get offered to ditch Hostel and stay at his place - Check.
Head to LBS - Check.
Make Suzy wait for a half hour - Check.
Meet up with Suzy and KV - Check.
Tell Admissions at LBS about why I want to do an exchange program - Check.
Get told by Admissions at LBS they don't make the decisions on those - Check.
Go shopping on Oxford Street for clothes for evening presentation - Check.
Leave back for home and get off train at 4 - Check.

I had just enough time to get back home, change and head towards Victoria. Walking out of the station, I was making a mental checklist of things I needed - business cards, directions, wallet, socks. Socks. Damn. Socks.

I just remembered that I had forgotten to pack any socks !! See, in my hurry to pack, I found like 4 pairs but with only one sock of each, so I figured I'd go buy some in London before heading to google. The socks I had on were these colorful knit peruvian wool ones that were a gift from a friend. Let's just say them and wingtips aren't exactly buddies.

Luckily, there was a mall in the train station. But, as is usually the case, there were no stores selling socks. I did manage to buy a sandwich though. Walk outside, and considered heading home and bumming a fresh pair from my friend. But, what if he didn't have any? I decided to leave that for the last-case scenario and see if I could find something along the way. Nada. Then, I see a shoe repair store. Walk in, and he has no socks. But, he directed me to another place that was back where I came from. As if to reiterate the point that I need to take Managerial Decision Making, I headed back. And didn't find the store. Turned around again and headed home this time.

This thing was going downhill in a hurry.

Then, I saw this woman's store thing. Walk in, see a few men's shoes, ask the lady if she had socks. She then shouted for her husband to come out. Said it would be a minute. He was on the phone. Out walks this jovial chap of around 60. Of course, we have socks. Black or Blue? Blue. Wait, maybe black. Can I see both? Sure thing. Except it took like a couple of minutes to fiddle around with the boxes. Black. 1 pound 50. Thanks much Sir, I couldn't have gone to my presentation without these. No worries mate, what presentation?

Note to readers: Never, Ever, get me started on a conversation. 15 minutes later, I stepped out of the store having talked about the river behind his store, the museums of DC, driving into Boston, London's architecture, significant pauses trying to figure out that city with a tennis stadium ... Newport, yes !, the Patriots' stadium, similarity between London and Boston, and trying to answer his question: why do you want to move to London?

Ran home, changed, didn't have time to eat my sandwich, ran out again to the train station. 4:55.

This wasn't good. But, the train arrived prompty. And it left on time, albeit a tad slow for my liking. At least, there were none of those abrupt stoppages in between stations that seem to happen with regularity on the Tube. This guy stopped at a station.

The doors opened. closed. Then, they opened again. Stayed open for a while. Closed. Opened again.

Damn it. why now? Finally, they closed and the train moved on. Got off the Tube at like 5:20. Ran down the street, through the tallest revolving doors in the world, and up an elevator. Entered the office, hung up my coat, took a seat. 5:30-ish. The presentation was well on, but I was looking quite dapper. At least that's what I think those looks, especially from the Stanford women, meant. So I look around, and there are people with their hands raised. I tap the guy in front of me. What's the question? What is Google's Strategy. Thanks.

My hand goes up. Yes?

And, just like that, the road turned and it was all uphill from there.
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Thursday, November 17, 2005

What passport do you travel on?

I was chatting with Byron and C last evening when this question came up. I was wont to say Indian, but we agreed that I might be better off travelling on a Chicago GSB passport now !

I am happy to report there might be some truth to that.

Today started out Awesome. Awesome like the way I like my Awesome. With an Adventure.

There is something about traveling that I just absolutely love. I don't know - every time I set out, it's one unexpected thing after another. I am off to a recruiting thing next week to the UK, for which I need a visa. The primo procrastinator that I am, I neglected doing anything about it. I travel next tuesday, so I figured it's kinda time to go get one. So, the day before yesterday, I went online to check the procedures and they said that I needed an appointment. Luckily I got one for 9 AM this morning. Then I bought a decent priced ticket, and also found a place to stay.

Last evening, I realized that I needed to actually apply for the visa. Was going to do it after a night out celebrating our Fuqua Finals with my team. Sure enough, I had a good time and, sure enough, I came home and fell asleep :) Without setting an alarm. Got to say, I did get a good night's sleep. I woke up at 7:30 this morning and I kept thinking that there was something I had to do. It hit me like 15 minutes later ! So, I run down to the computer lab and start filling out the application. It took me around 30 minutes or so, including trips back to my room to get information about every single time I visited the UK. If you are wondering, or are beyond wondering as a long-time reader of this blog :), why I didn't do this stuff from my room - they require this thing to be printed out, and though I have a perfectly fine printer capable of not only printing, but scanning and copying, it's still sitting in its box. For like the last two months :-)

Anyways, stuff done, I get ready to drive to the consulate. The optimist that I am, I discounted the traffic situation. Well, I was mistaken. The loved-by-the-big-time-consultants analyst that I am, I found a way out of the mess . My friend who I was giving a ride to knew a parking lot on a traffic-free street half-way-ish to the consulate. So I got off the highway, parked there, and took a cab downtown. Stupid, maybe. Did it work? Oh, I was only late by like 10 minutes to a 15-minute appointment window.

I get there and am fishing for the appointment letter when I see the fine print - No Cell Phones Allowed ! The one time I didn't need a cellphone - there it was, in my pocket! I was at a consultate in Toronto once where they didn't let me in with one, and they wouldn't keep it with them at the counter. So, I almost - true - considered burying it in the soil of one of the plants they had in the lobby :-) good thing I decided to ask if it was OK to carry it with me. Suprisingly - no wonder I love surprises - they were like Sure. I'd like to say it was my good looks, but I think it was the suit. (ok it was the suit - someone at the I-house who was walking by just told me it was a nice suit. Maybe she'll cook dinner for me? But, I digress)

That done, I walk in and get called on right away - only to realize that I hadn't even read the bold print.

'can i see some information about this MBA event?'
'you know we require a letter confirming participation right?'
Oopsie Again.
'Hmm, so, what do you do?'
I do the GSB.

'OK. You can pick up your visa this afternoon'

:-) Now, I just need to hand in my I-20 to the Office of International Affairs and hope to get a signature back from them authorizing my travel. I should get it with plenty time. Right?
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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Or why I'm like never getting a job. Like, ever.

Get this.
(you might just do one better than me!)

I got an email yesterday inviting me to a dinner tonight with one of the biggie consulting firms. This was to be after a presentation that they were going to have this evening on campus. I showed up all excited early and bright this AM, went to class, another presentation, got some lunch, chatted with friends, and was waiting for said presentation to start. Seeing that I had over an hour to go, I decided to head home for some down time.

Well, down time I did get. A little too much.

I fell asleep !!!!

The presentation was to start at 4:45. Woke up at 5:30. Rushed back to campus, past the company reps at the sign-up-type table looking at me like I just broke a Parisian curfew, and into the hall. Funny thing was, the presentation was still on. And I found myself standing at the back of the room. In the middle of all the other consultants from the company. I'm sure they took more than one mental paparazzi shot of this latecomer. I can see why Closed Lists can be such a power trip. They gonna make be bid for the open list now. Damn.

Things went a little better from there on, I think. Dinner was good, at a nice joint. Too bad I wasn't picking up the check, 'coz the waitress had a smile to put my number down for :)

On the way home, I was thinking of other big-time consulting company that I had met a campus rep twice already over the last few days and hadn't sent a thank-you note yet. I was talking about it to someone earlier too. I came back to the computer with a note composed in my head to send to her. What do you know? Yes, gentle reader. Story of my Life. There was an email from her ! Saying how good it was to meet me, and - get this (i suspect you are) - inviting me to a dinner next week. That's pretty cool. Except, I will have to refuse her invite because I will be leaving town that evening !!

And so we kiss, ever so tenderly, another Closed List goodbye.
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Monday, November 14, 2005

Square Peg for a Round Hole

Last night, over dinner, WakeChick kinda dared me to get someone to cook a dinner for me. (and she can be pretty good at this - or maybe i'm just a sucker for these things - ended up leaving my number on the check for the waitress, at her, well, would you say encouragement, WC :-). Anyways, I figured I should at least step into the kitchen for once if I were to get anywhere with this cooking thing. And so, three months after I got here, I finally got myself a food locker in the communal kitchen at the I-house. Of course, I realized pretty quick that an empty locker isn't much more than an empty locker, so off I went to get some groceries.

Two days ago, I was at a 'lunch and learn' thing with Prof. Art Middlebrooks who made it into an Ideation session complete with props and Play-Doh. In that class, we went through a bunch of creative exercises one of which was to answer a question he posed to us - you suddenly find someone mistakenly drop off a truckload of wine corks at your doorstep. What do you do with them? My friends T & A (clean thoughts, now) came up with a cool one - start a winery now that they have the corks for the bottles !

That thought, quite like the previous paragraph in this post, popped up in my head abrubtly and out of context as i stood staring at the wine rack at the grocery. You see, I felt like some wine and wanted to get myself a bottle of red wine, but was also pretty sure that once I opened it I wouldn't get back to it for a few days and it wouldn't be all that by then. So, I was resigned to getting a white that I could refrigerate. And, then I saw it. Wowza.

Talk about a product that you come across and it's like someone's read your thoughts and decided to surprise you by putting it there. It was one of those boxed wine things - that don't lose their flavor for about six months ! And it came in a box to appeal to a packaging whore like myself - The Wine Block !Now, I'm not all that kicked about drinking wine from a box but then again, I'm a starving student (at least i'm supposed to be :) so I'll take it. But seriously, I love it that the wine doesn't spoil, is actually good, takes up less space, has 1.5 litres and costs 10 bucks. This is actually one of the more innovative designs I have seen on grocery shelves in a while (the 'while' includes the four-odd months I haven't stepped into one). I suspect they could take off and do pretty well.

Come to think of it, maybe they already are. Is that why the corks showed up at my doorstep in the first place - 'coz no one needs them anymore? Hmmm.
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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Shall We Fuqua?

I have been an absent blogger of late, but it's been owing to time spent on interesting projects. All of the week before last, my team (3 marketing whizzes and, well, me) was brainstorming on a case submission for the Fuqua Product Strategy Competition, the "World's Largest Business School case challenge focusing on Product Strategy". It was a blast - we applied techniques that they teach in class - 3C, 4P, 9Z (ok, there's no 9Z lest you run to your deans complaining that your classes aren't as cool as mine :), did a lot of research, financials, came up with pizza-pie-in-the-sky ideas - and decided to go with one of those ! Show them a vision of what's possible. No seriously, it was really neat stuff.

As time ran down (and I absented myself for a couple of hours to film a commercial), we finally got our different pieces together into one document. Only to find that each of us had used different font sizes and spacings. That cleared up, we started a final review and the 10 minutes we allocated per page started to go into the 20s. Finallly, with around 5 minutes or so to go, we stopped arguing if a period at the end of sentence goes before or after quotes. Blessed it godspeed and clicked Send.

And, we were told a few minutes ago that we made the Finals !!!! WOW !

This is so cool. Five teams - 2 from Notre Dame, 2 from Michigan, and 1 from Chicago - were selected from the many entrants. Off we go now to Duke to battle it out mano-a-mano during the finals. This is sweet. Sweet.

Go Team !
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Friday, November 11, 2005

GND = Gracias, Non-Disclosure ?

Question Everything.

That's supposed to be the mantra here at the GSB. It definitely was the one espoused by my mascot for the building when I wrote my essays. And, amidst the craziness of trying just to stay on top of things, I do try to stop and ask a question or two here and there.

Like last week. I was at lunch with a professor of marketing with a few other students. Having finished working on my sandwich and emptied the bag of chips, I had to find something else to keep my attention. I decided to resort to a question - professor, what are your thoughts on grade non-disclosure?

It was almost like a schmoozing-standard-issue question that wannabe bankers or consultants employ where you already know the answer that is to come. There were no surprises here. He didn't like it one bit. From his perspective, it makes us uncompetitive and that ultimately impacts the quality of the education we receive. What was ever more profound was his unqualified assertion that GND has made us students more uninterested. He has noticed this very clearly in the classes he teaches. Students come unprepared to class and there's no stick of grades to force them to study. Now, this guy is distilled-pure brilliant, and it was on ample display. When countered with our viewpoint that GND gives us the freedom to take the classes we *really* want to take, as opposed to easy classes where we can get A's, he counter-countered by asking of us why it was that in an advanced marketing elective, which ostensibly everyone is taking only because they are interested in the subject, there was such limited class participation. He says that it is extremely frustrating to have some people in class not participate at all.

Fair point. Really. But, in our fabled (it might be of interest that one of the dictionary definitions of the term is 'to recount as if true') tradition of inquiry, i must ask: Is it just about the students? (I am not confident that it is even OK to mention that as a possibility to any professors here)

Question Everything.

Classroom participation is a two-way street. At least to the extent that one of the judges of its effectiveness, or lack thereof, is the one doing the teaching. I sense, from the professor's attitude towards GND in one of my classes and articles written to the ChiBus, that they are willing to blame this policy for all that's wrong with the attitudes of students in class. Don't get me wrong, I think it is a very valid point. However, and my microecon professor is to blame for this new-found line of analysis :-), let us assume that the students come into day 1 of any class curious to learn about the subject. And let's also assume that there was no GND. And to make it interesting, let us - for a brief monet

Ok, that was me falling asleep in the middle of typing that sentence last night :-) it's a brand new fall day. and we continue.

Hmm, I forgot where I was going with that last one. However, the point I was trying to make is that, what are the factors that go into determining student participation as the quarter progresses? I would reckon interest in the subject matter is right up there. And maybe the desire to get a good grade.

As I look back at my quarter so far, I have to say I am extremely disappointed with one class, and thoroughly enjoy two others. The interesting thing is, the class I'm currently not liking is the one that the professor tries to get the most class participation. The second class is lecture based, and the third is a mix of case and lectures. I am really kicked by the second class. It's one of those where I walk out every class knowing more than when I walked in. It is lecture based, but a few students ask questions - and they are very thoughtful questions on the concepts he is talking about. The word I'm looking for is invigorating. And, I'm going to be a participant in a class like that - how can i not be? The third class is awesome because we do a lot of work before each class on the case and I go into class with an opinion and understanding that I can debate. I do sense that I get show down by the professor a few times, but it's awesome.

The first class, I don't know. The basic structure is that we read about all the concepts and do a bunch of homeworks before we get to class, and the professor picks a couple of problems and we work through them. As we do it, he introduces some of the concepts that chapter covers. It started out very interesting, I have to say, but then I find myself not learning much in class. I mean, if we are to read everything from the text book ourselves and do all the problems, then why are we in class? To do one more problem? It is, well, uninteresting.

Grades, or no grades, have nothing to do with it. The class isn't interesting enough for me. And it's part of a vicious circle - where I'm falling behind because I don't have the motivation to do the homeworks before class. Here, I have to admit that if they were graded (they're not) I might be more inclined to do them regularly. I might actually do them religiously if grades mattered. But, would that affect my 'class participation'? A bit (owing to my being better prepared), but not by much, I suspect.

I am not saying though, that GND is a total positive. I will readily admit that GND is one of the reasons why I'm slacking in said class. The professor hates it, I think he probably hates me too, but as far as i am concerned, my interest level in the class has been reduced by the structure of the class. I would much rather study enough to be confident that I understand the material, rather than push myself to get an A. In my other classes, I am at the top of my game in terms of how much I can do and learn. A grade doesn't even come into the equation.

That said, I have observed that, with recruiting taking top priority, a lot of people are using the 'thank god for GND' line. I suspect it's in jest, but I do think it has contributed to a certain lessening of interest in the classroom experience. It has led to a more than a few people wanting to work towards a 'Gentleman's B'.

Gentleman's B?

Yeah, it was new to me too. First, 'gentleman' because the women in b-school are, on average, more competitive and driven than the men, so they aren't anywhere close to this special group of people :) A Gentleman's B is that nether zone between a B and C where the professor decides to take pity on your plight and do the honorable thing and give you a B :-) Fun part is, a B's a B's a B. No different from the library-dweller's who missed an A by a whisker.

So, what's the verdict? I don't think there's one. I don't think there ever will be one. Because the opposing parties in this debate are evaluating this policy on completely different parameters. Professors care most about the academics and that's what they believe we should be here for primarily. We, on the other hand, are interested in learning, but also in building the foundation for a career, partaking in the activities of the community, networking, socializing ... never the twain shall meet?
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