Sunday, November 20, 2005

Fuqua Brand Challenge and Diwali/Eid party pictures

Me playing pictionary...

(From left) Shivani (From IIM B'lore), Ashish, Charu (From HEC Paris) and Sandeep. This beautiful picture taken by yours truly.

See more pictures at

Some more fun at school

So after some serious posts about work, SIPs etc. let's get back to the fun stuff! Fuqua Friday's are still happening and boy they are fun! Last couple of FFs have been really cool, one with the Fuqua Brand Challenge and one with 'Taste of Durham'. Other than that, we had a 'Diwali and Eid' party last week.

Brand challenge is this really cool thing organized by students to collect information about different brands out there and also have fun along the way. We had stalls by students, running Dasani vs. Aquafina vs. tap water, heinz ketchup vs. generic ketchup, sugar vs. splenda, Google vs. Yahoo!, Playstation vs. xbox.. the list goes on and on. For example, you were asked to try out two ketchups and answer questions in a survey like 'Which one was sweeter?', 'Which one was more tangy?', 'Which one you liked better?', 'Do you prefer tangy or sweet ketchup?' and so on. The whole thing was really fun! For my part, believe it or not, I was able to differentiate between almost everything that I tried. I caught Heinz, Dasani, Splenda, really cool stuff! The only bad thing that happened was that I lost in the Google vs. Yahoo match. You were given a question related to school and you had to search for information on the net to find out the answer. I was asked to find out the PhD thesis paper of one prof. I used Google and a friend called Shivani used Yahoo! Now I must admit that I might be the tech. guy with a software background, but I suck big time when it comes to net. I am not your resourceful guy and I took ages to get to the person's thesis. Shivani won by a thin margin, and I soooo wanted Google to win!! :-(

Anyway, so that was brand challenge, we did some really funny stuff. I will upload pictures from the thing pretty soon, but it was great! Then we had the 'Diwali and Eid' party hosted by the Indus club last week! Got to eat some Indian food, danced to bhangra music (the Dj wasn't the best though, but whatever) and saw people in sarees and salwar suits and kurta-payjama n all! I was the odd one out wearing one of my 'jhatang' shirts that I am so well-known for! ;-)

Anyway, I am running late so I will write about the other FF, Taste of Durham sometime later perhaps. And we have Thanksgiving break coming up pretty soon and I plan to visit my sister for the 5 days, research some company websites to get some 'intelligent' question to ask them!! Will post some more too then. So catch you guys later!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Them disastrous SIPs

Instead of talking about how the companies present themselves well in their Special Interest Presentations at Fuqua, I thought it would be more interesting to talk about companies who didn't quite do a great job at presenting themselves. It is surprising how many companies do a not-so-great job of presenting themselves, much less selling themselves in these SIPs! Believe me, you would be surprised!

Well, there is an argument that I might be a total jerk and picking on small things, or plain simple arrogant, judgmental, opinionated prick to be writing about companies this way and laying too much emphasis on something as simple as an information session by perfectly good companies eager to hire us. I accept this argument and that might be the case. However, I have spoken to my classmates around and many people seem to notice these things and I thought it might be an interesting thing to write about. For reasons of keeping this nice and only indicative, I will not take company names, but will only give some idea of what these companies are.

To be picky, out of the million or so SIPs that I have attended so far, I have found that maybe 10% of companies really do a good job of reaching out to students and being informative. Considering that these two are the primary purpose of SIP, it is indeed amazing! These are the companies whose SIPs you come out of learning about the work, their culture, values, history, a typical day in a life of an MBA, the role and work involved, priorities, competitive advantage, their strategy, important functions that drive them etc. Considering the breadth of information that I am talking about here, maybe it is not that amazing after all that only so few companies do really well. It's not an easy job by any stretch of imagination. So, let's stop being nitpicky and categorizing them into small brackets and run straight into the really worst company presentations!

In my opinion, about 1 in every 5 SIP that I attend is simply unbearable and you can't just wait until the thing is over and you hit the door! Here are some examples:

1. Bad presenter: One leading pharma company had a smart ass of a presenter who seemed more interested in cracking jokes, and not just jokes, but cracking some really obnoxious ones about topless women, ridiculing his own companies slides. Jokes might be a great way to connect, but one a slide gets a bit too much!

2. Plain simple uninformative: Some SIPs you come out of learning absolutely nothing about the company or its people. You come out of it gaining no understanding of even the work, why they want an MBA and what they do with an MBA! As it happens, I am just coming from a presentation of a reputed Indian company, and this company pissed so many people off with their mumbo-jumbo of a presentation, that it promptly prompted me to write this post! "We add value to customers by giving them a competitive advantage in their market place... (and then a little later) this work might seem like a very mundane job against some of the exciting strategy stuff out there, but at the end of the day, this is where the value generation is..." yada yada yada. You get the idea!

3. Cluttered slides: I come from a technical background, so I can perfectly understand the tendency to fill your slides with jargons, paragraph long bullet points, hard-to-read texts and pictures that make no sense, explaining the technology and industry instead of the management priorities and other stuff that I wrote above. Overall, consumer good companies do a great job presenting themselves and some of their marketing SIPs are a treat to watch with really fantastic stuff out there! That's what they do best: Targetted marketing in a tough, competitive and commoditized market, so I can perfectly understand why some of the technical companies would find it hard to match them. However, even if we don't factor that in, I think technical companies can do a much better job with their content if they are a little more considerate of the audience. Business schools are so diverse that it's almost unforgivable to not do this! By the way, out of the 10% that I said really did a great job, I can think of only Microsoft among the tech. companies that made it to that list! Apple is coming soon to campus and I have high expectations of them! I am sure they will do a good job. They have to! Finger crossed, they will.. I know they will... fingers crossed, there's no way they can't. OK that's enough, I'm rambling here!

This is probably one of my only strongly opinionated post so far, but it is indeed surprising to see how things are not all as 'slick' as you think they would be before you made your way to the hotshot world of a business school. I have much more appreciation for marketing, advertising, PR etc. after these experience and it is high time tech. companies started having some real fun (not just the geeky fun that I was fortunate enough to see in the good ol' days!) I must say I can't wait for this tech. industry to get all 'slick'! Microsoft and Apple would maybe lead the way, I am sure. (I would be the most disappointed person on this planet if Apple does not live up to its reputation! What about all my investments into the iBook and iPod! :-O)!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Start of term 2

After all the insightful details on how one should have the right kind of momentum to enter a term and be ready to manage one's time well that I wrote about in my previous post, I ended up being royally unprepared for term 2. I had a lot of time during fall break, unlike a lot of my friends who were busy trotting the country, and sadly enough, I seemed like one of the most taken aback by the first week of the new term.

Believe me, first day of a new term is no different from any other day and it hits you so bad that you can't help thinking that someone just hit the pause button on this crazy video and resumed! Term 2 started with a bang... and what a bang at that! Marketing, Finance and Accounting, all started in full speed, and by full speed, I mean full speed. I haven't seen anything like this before. Finance and Accounting had a set of pre-course CD that you had to prepare from, and guess what; All the basics you will probably ever need in those courses are in those CDs and if you don't do them well (or do them well but don't really 'get' it), you are in for a fun ride.

I remember coming back one day from classes and thinking: "These guys are ought to be crazy! Or if not crazy, really not bothered about what we learn in school. Maybe it's all about the money! No one really cares how much you learn because the pace at which the courses are going, you can't really learn anything!" This wasn't even panicking because I knew I wasn't the only one with this problem. I was sure everyone was in the same boat and since we have relative grading, it doesn't really matter. Fuqua students, collectively as a group, are not learning anything! And if Fuqua students (you know, being such good ones from a top school and all) are not learning anything, maybe all business school students everywhere in the world are not really learning anything! Wat a minute, I'm onto something here... Business leaders, being as smart as they are, have found the perfect answer. Don't really teach or learn anything and we can all have fun and make a lot of money in the process. Hmm... 'Interesting!', I thought. Maybe running a business wasn't really about skill anyway. All the stories of Bill Gates, Lou Gerstner or Richard Branson were after all really based on their being geniuses... And maybe they had a little bit of luck to help them along. So the entire thing is just a cosmic coincidence between you being a born genius and luck helping you a little. It's a conspiracy! Could that be true?!

As I took up the books to start studying just to confirm or dis-confirm my revolutionary (and to-be-kept-a-secret-from-the-world) theory, I found that it wasn't really the case. (Sigh! There goes another one of my revolutionary theories) As a matter of fact, you do learn if you give it some time. However, for a second, it gave me the scare of a lifetime! I guess I will cover the learning aspect in a separate blog. Some of these courses are (yawn!) some of the most boring ones.

I have not really been partying much this term like the last one. I ended the fall term with a mild fever and a cold that has stuck to me since that time, and in fact, as I write this, I do have a mild fever. Believe me, one thing you really don't want to do when you are here is get sick. It just doesn't work! If you fall behind even by a day or two, you would have to catch up so much that you would either fall sick again or start theorizing crazy stuff like I did above!

Anyway, I just dropped in to say a couple of words since I haven't posted anything for some time, and now I'll get some sleep. I have an accounting quiz tomorrow and I don't want to go in there with a fever! Yawnnn...

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The class format and the profs

Let me talk a little about how the classes were in term 1 and something about the profs. I recently read a small blog entry somewhere from a woman who had visited classes in Columbia, HBS and Stanford. I thought the comments were pretty interesting and I never myself thought how different a particular class could be and even if it is, how much of a difference in your learning it could make.

Recently, since the admissions process has started heating up at Fuqua, I have seen prospective student visitors sit at the back of my class. They are usually welcomed nicely by the profs. at the beginning and the students sometimes clap for them if the situation makes it kinda unavoidable (you know, sometimes the awkward pause needs to be filled with something ;-)). They usually sit for half the class and then disappear after the break. I have seen them through the corners of my eye during lectures and thought to myself, "This dude ought to be impressed.". But jokes apart, I honestly don't know what they take away from the visit and what they write in their respective blogs (!), but I thought that it would be interesting to write about classes at Fuqua.

So lemme cover the 3 classes that we had in term 1, Stats, MICRO-ECON and ME.

PROBABILITY & STATISTICS: Probability and Stats is pretty much your typical math class with a lot of learning from traditional lecturing, doing problems in class and students asking questions. There are occasions when the class is involved in a discussion about how good or bad statistics can be for example, or how a *random* sampling among population can be biased. Sometimes, when team assignments are due at the beginning of a class, one team is chosen (by volition mostly) to present its solution to everyone and this lasts for about a half hour. The class is fairly fast-paced with a lot of topics being covered in a single lecture and then sometimes, you have a class where the lecturer spends more than half a class solving problems on the OHP and giving you a feel for how to approach problems. There are lots of slides (and two bundles of lots of slides sometimes!) and lecturing is the primary tool applied for teaching. The Prof. was Jill Stowe, a good natured woman who used to put up pictures of her 6 month old son Zack in between slides just to wake us up (we had early morning classes for stats!) Stats was also different from the other lectures in a way that it did not have mid-term exams. Instead we had 3 quizzes over the first 8 or 9 (out of 12) classes. The first quiz was monstrously tough and really grabbed everyone's attention to the course. Overall, quite rigorous and traditional course with a great prof. at the helm.

MANEGERIAL ECONOMICS: We had Jim Anton (by now, you must have heard the name couple of times!). He is a tall, well built, nice guy with a great demeanor. He is extremely punctual about class timings and usually walks up to the clock in the class, watches it closely, looks at the minute and (I think) the second hand and announces, "Please be back at 2:56". ECON, like ME, has a lot of reading to do before class and the class assumes that you have done it. Almost the whole class is interactive, from beginning to end with Jim asking people for their experiences in a grocery store, a convenience store, or with life in general, with cell phone companies, flights etc. In terms of theory, you learn a lot by reading a great book that is assigned as the required text for the course. The class, in my opinion, focuses more on the application of concepts that you have read. Jim also has a great way of plucking out topics and placing them in a real life in such a way that you will never forget. I think he is liked by many students for this, but the other reason why students like him so much is his classy and incredibly funny humour that is extremely tasteful.

Talking about learning how to apply concepts, he brings Wall Street Journal to almost every other class, puts it up on the OHP and discusses couple of articles from it for a few minutes. If you think that's practical, think about this: We played 2 economy games in class. We were grouped as suppliers or consumers, suppliers setting a price for 3 grades of a product and consumers choosing to buy one unit of one of those grade-products, such that they got maximum benefit when they bought it. Do this over and over again and you will see where price stabilizes in a market. In another game, we were the constituents of OPEC cartel and were asked to generally *supply* oil. The demand from the market of oil was fixed at a mathematical equation and depending on how your cartel performs, the constituents reaped profits. If a cartel constituent produced in excess to reap high short-term benefit, you saw excess supply in the market, eventually hurting the cartel operations and the constituent in the longer run. This is probably as practical as it gets in a classroom. Often, you came out of a class either thinking that what was discussed in class was vastly different from and had no connection to what you read, or if you did not read the assigned readings like.... umm.. you-know-who, you came out completely lost and panicking. However, at some point, when you are scared enough to sit down and (re-)read the chapters in the book, it all starts making sense (and making a lot of sense in real life!) That is how powerful this course was.

MANAGERIAL EFFECTIVENESS: Last, and by no means the least was the much talked about, much loved and much hated, ME. I don't know where to begin as I think about this course. Ah yes, class format. The pre-class readings were a lot in this class and every class had a case to be discussed. The readings were from books, sometimes articles and research publications. The readings were many and you had to spend a couple of hours before each class to finish the readings and the case. You also had to take a pre-class survey before 10 PM the previous night. These surveys consisted of general questions or questions based on the case. This was one class that went completely by discussions and students involvement. No one can lecture managerial effectiveness into your head. People shared their thoughts from the case reading and also sometimes their experiences in previous jobs. Due to the nature of the topic, sometimes you had heated debate between two groups of students, one, as an example, in favour of promoting the protagonist of the case, and one against the promotion. These cases were real life examples of ME at work. The surveys that we filled the night before were used to delve into the psychhology of a community and how they thought. It felt like this was a more of social psychology class at times. Overall, the lectures were handled very well by Rick but he always seemed like fighting against time because so many ideas were being discussed in class.

I can't even begin to explain the different tools used in this class. Let me try and put down the things that we did: Readings, case discussions, debates, results from experiments by researchers on social psychology, people behaviour etc., lecturing, results from surveys taken by students, and one role-play game. Typically, you had the first hour for discussions and the next hour for a combination of lecture and survey results analysis. This was one class that I think would have benefitted from more than 2 hours of class time, but my guess is that even that would have been consumed by discussions. If there was one class that had an electricity in the air during break and at the end, it was ME. The course was tough for most students because the topics were very controversial sometimes, or open to subjective interpretation, or at risk of being understood too *shallow-ly* or at face value perhaps, or concepts were too interconnected between classes, or because of personal opinions, biases and cultural, social or individual differences coming into play. (Ooh, man! That's all loaded stuff!) But not until you go through this course in some seriousness will you realize how difficult it is to manage a bunch of people in an organization.

So the experience of studying different subjects in a bschool is different. If you sit in a stats class, you would feel the class is more lecture-based with interactions mostly by means of questions and clarifications by students. It is practical with real life examples, but is mathematics that you are learning at the end of the day. Economics was very interactive with prof. engaging students and less lecturing. Students mostly self-learn the theory, with very practical applications being discussed in class. ME was very case- and readings-based with very engaging discussions and research-based learning. You might even think students are very competitive when they are debating in an ME class, but it's all a 'set-up'.

Also, a point to note that amazingly enough, these subjects linked to each other in subtle ways. For example, Game Theory from economics can be applied to ME concepts like *trading differences* instead of *splitting differences* when negotiating between your company and its labour union. It's a pretty direct application.

So attending lectures is useful in gaining an understanding of a school or business schools in general, but just a word of caution - beware of reading too much into it. Now I am beginning to get a grasp of why there are so many conflicting views on the internet about the top bschools. It is in the interest of learning in every bschool to have these different experiences. OK, that was a very management-type sentence that I should save for the recruiters; let me put it more simply. Different subjects need to be taught differently, and that is what all good bschools do, I am sure.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Of Led Zeppelin and cash flow

Yesterday, I wanted to celebrate fall break. I thought I will go to my favourite store, Barnes & Noble. The music collection it has is simply fantastic! They have kiosks that you can stand at and listen to previews of almost any song in the world. This is the store that I have spent 5-6 hours at a time, completely immersed in music, listening to previews of songs, deciding which album is the best introduction to an artist, which album has the most variety, maximum number of familiar songs... generally splurging and wallowing in music, spending the last penny of my savings on great music, be it jazz, classical, rock, pop, blues, soul or R&B or something as yet undiscovered by me.

However, yesterday was different. I went into the store. I went in with a firm will not to buy anything no matter what happens. (I don't plan to build up a suspense here, so let me say that I did not buy anything in the end!) But yesterday was the first time I said to myself, "Not earning money sucks! Big time!". I actually blurted out those words while I was at the store! :-) The stuff that I saw there cried out to my inner soul! Robert Johnson's blues were calling out to me and Led Zeppelin had yet another "tribute by various artists" to their credit. Yesterday, I realized how addicted I was to music. It actually felt like the days when I used to smoke. The urge is terrible and I would have picked up a CD, but for my iron-strong will... ;-)

It is actually hard to get used to living right within your needs. Even an occasional indulgence makes you feel guilty. Everyone tells the story of how they used to live during college days in 1000 or 2000 bucks (Rs.) a month. A few lucky ones get to tell the story of how they lived within a couple of 100 dollars a month after getting used to earning and spending 1000s on useless stuff like music CDs, iPod, Led Zeppelin branded incense sticks (yep! not very proud of that, I was in the moment!), never-even-touched Apple Macintosh version of computer (shooting) games. The list goes on, but for now, there's lull in this part of the world! Hopefully, a storm will follow (Yeeeaahhh, I'm going to buy BN!) ;-)

The fall break

I am in the fall break right now and it is quiet in here. I am in the computer lab in school. I got so tired of sitting at home with not much to do that I couldn't stand it and came here. We have a bunch of pre-assignments for the next term and they all look pretty heavy! Accounting is a whole lot of reading, finance seems manageable for now and marketing has a case and a few readings. I haven't even looked at them yet, will do so at the last minute perhaps. No, let me say this to myself, "I will do the readings well in time". "I will do the readings well in time". Maybe it will work.

Today, I saw the results of ECON paper in my locker and... let's just say I did well in that; in the final exam as well as overall grade-wise. I told you the ECON final would be the differentiator! Do well in final and you would do well overall. The average was relatively low and I was quite comfortably above average. And it did the trick! By the way, it looks like all my theorizing about price-discrimination and the two-part tariff applied to the Rolling Stones concert worked really well! Talking of two-part tariff, I had ton loads of seven-dollar-a-glass beer for God's sake! I was learning ECON... even at the concert... betcha no one could tell! :-)

I am waiting for the ME and stats results and the wait is kkhilling me!! Never thought I would jump up and down like a kid to look at my grades, but you know what, it's pretty exciting to be back to school and give exams and see the results come back! :-) I keep checking the course page every few minutes and keep walking down to my locker every hour that I am in school.

The next term is going to be a very happening one! All of Accounting, Finance and Marketing are new to me. Marketing seems all jazzy and exciting, and I can already foresee endless hours of discussions in my ILE team on the Marketing cases. It is probably best to get the studies started with, but this break is also well-deserved and required to maintain some sanity. I don't know what my friends in NY must be going through, but if you ask me, I am so enjoying the lazing around and the 'nothingness' that surrounds me today!

In less than a week, term 2 will begin and it will again be the mad running for 6 weeks! It reminds me of a time when I was driving from Bombay to Pune after a weekend spent well. It was the monsoons and as I passed Lonavla in between, I saw a sort of a wall in front of me! In a fraction of a second, before I could give it any thought, I hit something at about 100 KM/hr. Nothing seemed to happen for a while. It didn't seem like I was in an accident. The car was still running, but I couldn't see anything in front of me. A second later, I realized that we had actually literally hit the monsoon! Ever seen grey clouds from a distance covering a whole city, and wondered, "it's raining there, will it rain here"? It was the same thing. From where I saw the wall, it was slightly sunny and it seemed like we would have a nice, sunny drive back home. And now, a second later, I was inside probably the heaviest rainfall I had ever seen in my life. The experience is still vivid in my memory, but it's hard to explain what happened that evening. It was like being pushed into a swimming pool, getting all disoriented for a fraction of a second, and then maneuvering your body back into a position from where you can get out safely. Only that you are in a car and travelling at a good speed.

I have a feeling term 2 is going to be another such soft wall.. and as we hit it, we need just enough momentum, but more important than that, we need to be prepared to turn on the lights, switch on the wipers and move our leg to the brakes as we go tumbling forward.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

End of Term 1

My term 1 is officially over with one last exam this morning. It was the stats paper and it was lo-ho-ho-hong... I remember at some point, I just wanted to turn the paper in and leave. There was about half an hour left to go and the last couple of questions were teasing me so bad, I could have torn my paper! I'm kidding, but stats really puts you on the edge. It's I guess one of the more rigorous topics that you have around. It's also so fundamental to everything that I guess all the nightmare is probably worth it. As Jill Stowe, our stats prof. said as she walked into the room to announce the end of 3 hours of paper, "OK people, the torture is over, you can turn it in!" Jill is also probably the nicest profs. around with one of the hardest subjects to teach in term 1. More about profs. in a later post I guess. I have one week break and in a way, I am looking forward to it. :-) Largely, term 1 was a blast and I dread sitting at home and doing nothing for more than a week! More on that a little later...

My other two exams were MICRO and ME. From what I figured, and if my intuitions are right (;-)), I think I did pretty well in both. I will have to wait and see and since this is just the first time we are finishing up with the subjects, I am not too sure about grades and how I fair in my section as a whole, since the grade distribution is relative. The distribution is roughly 25% Superior Pass, 40% High Pass, and 35% Pass, Low Pass and Fail. People are incredibly smart here and so, I think it's not easy to get an SP here. Since I started on this track, let me share an interesting, but kinda-obvious observation (A duh? moment perhaps). If a particular quiz, assignment or exam is easy, it probably doesn't add too much to your grade value as a whole. For example, stats quiz 2 was quite easy and I got a 20/20 on it. When Jill discussed the mean of class for that quiz, many people had got 20, the mean was quite high and so, there was not much scope for differentiation there. Contrast that with quiz 1 (shudderrr) and quiz 3, which were "tough". The mean was a little more modest and the spread was a bit more. If you do well in that, it counts more towards your overall grade. Overall, this is my take on it; Just do as well as you can *if you care*, this grading is far more complex than what you can make of it. I just thought it was interesting how you can surprise yourself once in a while when you outperform your class. But some people are more competitive than others and if you want to keep outperforming, that is ok too!

The MICRO final was one of those differentiating exams, I think. A lot of people had different answers for the same problems, found themselves making more mistakes than they originally thought and so on. That is good. ME, as always, will have a wide spread because of the inherent complexity of the topics. Overall, I did not come out of a paper and feel that I had screwed it up and that I didn't have a clue (like it happens sometimes). That's all that really matters to me.

So overall, term 1 was great (awesome to use the typical American word ;-)), the subjects were very fundamental to our future courses, and I have a week-long break in front of me. I am sippin' on a beer and my section is going for a pub-crawl tonight. Meanwhile, my roommate Navdeep just left for New York to do some Wall Street crawling! It's not his fault (don't blame him, poor guy! ;-)), Investment Banking folks are the earliest to start and apparently the earliest to land up with internship. I know little about their field and from what I see, it looks like a whole different world to me. From my shoes, it looks tougher with all the networking from early stages, more formal SIPs, more formal e-mails, attire, just everything. But hey, isn't bschool about the different perspectives? I find that difficult, others might find General Management, Marketing or Consulting tougher in terms of preparation. It's all about your personality... and that is just my over-simplified, beer-influenced, couch version of things!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Term 1 academics in some detail

I promised I will talk about term 1 and the studies and some of those serious stuff, so here I am, ready to talk about the courses, the profs, the exams, the books, the readings, the cases, the assignments, the homework & exercises. Oh that's an awful lot! Never realized there are so many aspects to studies! Damn! What about job search! Gosh, I'm in big trouble! :-| Maybe I should talk just about the courses for now. (This is when I go back to the title and change it from the ambitious "learning from term 1" to "Term 1 academics in some detail").

OK so let me take this step by step and maybe I will be able to cover this in some detail. Now that I am through with term 1 classes, enough to gain some perspective, hopefully I can write a bit more than "Hey that Prof. is cool man. He cracks so many jokes in the class, doesn't let me fall asleep despite the last night!", or "That subject sucks! I don't see myself using that ever in my life!" or "The team assignments are a killer man! We spent half a day today trying to convince each other of what the problem was." etc.

So let me take a step back and try to put the 4 main courses in perspective in this post. Managerial Effectiveness (ME) is all about how to manage people in an organization. It covers wide variety of topics, from the organizational structure to put in place, the decision-making, managing information flow, how to motivate people, how to make the different groups (that you created in the first place) work together efficiently, how informal networks form in an organization and how the culture (or cult in some cases) are formed and what the incentive structure should be with respect to the hiring and retention policies for the company. (Hey this was a good recap for me, I have ME exam on the day after!) This amazingly complex maze of managerial issues were discussed in class throughout the term. What is strange in a bschool is that everyone has a different take on every single thing. I am not talking just about specific topics listed above. This is even true about who likes what subjects and who doesn't. ME discussions were a source of nirvana for me while some people struggled with the topics. I come from an organization that has tackled these issues, but there are ample fields out there that have no clue about how things work within the realm of an organization. People from these fields find it hard to grasp these discussions and the consequences of deciding where you want to be in this web of complex interactions.

One thing I realized as I prepared for bschools is that every person brings something unique to the table. You might think that it is nothing, or that it is natural (depending on your personality ;-)). However, regardless of whether you have this seemingly simple piece of realization before you come here or not, when you come to a place as diverse as Fuqua, or any good bschool for that matter I guess, you are in for a surprise. You will meet people who hate ME and others who travel to the corners of the universe when going through the readings from the ME course pack.

The second course, and let me be through with this real quick, is COMPUTER SKILLS. You have to do excel, word and powerpoint assignments in this and it prepares you for other course, as, of course, these tools are going to be the bread & butter for us. Nothing to write specifically about this course, except that it's a drag, a necessary evil and very boring to sit and do.

Managerial Economics (ECON or MICRO) is about what makes the markets tick, and what should organizations do to stay profitable in these markets. There are various theories with respect to supply & demand in markets, competitive markets, monopoly and oligopoly markets, price discrimination, costs, revenues etc. The main take-away of this course is that you have to be in a position to understand what's happening in the market. Almost all of us have subscribed to the Wall Street Journal, and when I read it now, I have begun to grasp some bit of why OPEC behaves the way it does, or whether the world is running out of oil, or how much room do companies have to increase output to gain profit, or indeed, do firms always make more profit by producing more, or would it pay off to enter this market given that these companies are serving it; will they act aggressively (cut prices for example) when I enter, or is it in their interest to make way for my entry. A lot of it is counter-intuitive until you look into these theories and you say "Duh?" or "Aha!". And if you are thinking we students have got all the answers, that's where I have to interject and say "We students are learning to ask the right questions", and then perhaps analyze the answers or the reality of the situation. The idea, in my ECON prof. Jim Anton's words is "to get the intuition."

This ties in nicely to the STATS course, so let me jump there. The idea of taking the stats course is essentially 'to be good consumers of statistics' that come by in every day world. Our world is fraught with statistics; you listen to them everyday, in TV, in newspaper, on the net and never do you stop to think how it is effecting your day to day decisions. I am over simplifying the idea and you might think that this might be a soft course. Quite to the contrary, most of this course is hard and mathematical. The stats course starts with probability and then moves on to sampling, random variables, central limit theorem, and finally, to regression analysis. Again, you are taught to be a good consumer of information that comes to you. Can you ask the right questions? Because the answer is in the questions you ask.

Pic from IFF

Me at the International Food Festival singing "Chala jata hoon..."!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The aftermath (revisited)

OK I will give this one more shot. It is extremely difficult to record this kind of thing because it's such an experience! The one thing that remains in my memory from the concert is that one portion of the stage moved entirely to the front towards the audience! We moved from section C1 to between C4 and B5. The stage had moved to the empty space in the middle that you see in the figure! We saw Mick and Keith from a shouting distance. It was close enough for the faces to be recognizable and had we been in an airport, I would have called out to those guys and they would have turned their heads! I was jumping about, thrilled to see them up close and I vaguely remember a hand behind my back as I did that. I turned to look and it was an old lady, afraid that this drunk 6-foot man might fall backwards over her!

They started with start me up, then moved through a string of classics like miss you, wild horses, you can't always..., satisfaction, jumping jack flash, brown sugar, sympathy..., it's only rock... and to my delight, honky tonk woman. They also played the classic Ray Charles song Night time is the right time. What an experience! After the first few songs, I vaguely remember myself jumping about and dancing around. I remember a guy joining me briefly and we went crazy. Then the guy's girlfriend joined me and we danced like crazy for a half hour. I even jived with her (I had no idea I could do that until then!!) The guy seemed quite visibly shocked to see his girl go so crazy, but there was no stopping us! We tried pulling him and Divya in, but I guess they weren't quite drunk enough! :-) We were the two loudest in our section and boy was it fun!

So I have a soar throat today and I finally sat down to study economics. There is nothing much that one can write about such experiences, I guess. As Jethro Tull said You're never too old to Rock n' Roll, if you're too young to die. I hope these guys never get too old to rock n' roll...

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The aftermath

I just came back from the concert. I honestly have no idea where to start. Maybe I should start at the beginning. Maybe I should start at the beginning tomorrow! Yeah, that's a good idea, I have no energy left to write anything... I am drunk and I am disoriented. I am trying to think hard about what just happened and I have a frown on my face right now, trying to think.. I will catch you guys tomorrow!

The Rolling Stones

Yesterday was the last day of our term 1. It is unbelievable, to say the least, how fast this term has gone by! Sometime last week, I also realized that this blog is becoming more about the fun that I am having here rather than giving anyone, any kind of idea of what business school is about, academics-wise, career-wise and job-search-wise etc. I realized this when a friend of mine said "Looks like you guys are partying like crazy!" While we do party about off and on and the parties do tend to stick around in my head a little longer than academics, we do some amount of studies too! ;-) So I promised myself that my next post will be about some of the serious stuff that I am at Fuqua for and also that I get around to doing.

But just when I try to get all serious and wise, they pull me back in! And this time, it's none other than the Rolling Stones themselves in all their devilish, bad-boy glory! They are in town and are playing at a stadium right opposite Fuqua! After much procrastination and lazing around in a classic Shivesh style, trying to decide how much I should spend from my tight budget, I finally bought two tickets for $100 each. And in her own classic procrastinating style, Divya has agreed to join me to the concert. I think I got a good deal, bought it from a Fuqua Alum from NY, who apparently got stuck with work at the last minute! Sounds ominous,, doesn't it? :-) Well, hopefully, I will have better luck when I am out there with the bad boys of the industry! :-)

So my ticket is right on the floor, but not really up close (what do you expect for a 100 bucks, hah!) Here is the seating chart.

My seat is in section C1! I have no idea if it is any good. My MICRO ECON professor, Jim Anton also happens to be a Rolling Stones fan and as he said about the Rolling Stones tickets in class, "It's all about price discrimination. You are not quite sure about the seating arrangements, which section is good, which is bad. They don't reveal much in that seating chart and it's all about gathering as much consumer surplus as you can by product differentiation and maximize profit for your firm." Well, I will be off to the stadium in a couple of hours and let's see some price discrimination in action! (By the way, do you think I will be able to touch Keith!?) :-|

As if to protest the good times that I was going to have at the concert, my car broke down this morning! Well not broke down, but the battery got discharged. Almost all the parking spaces in the University have been blocked for the concert. So this morning, as I drove into the campus looking for a spot close to the school, the slightly drizzly weather was beautiful. I had my windows down and was listening to "Honky Tonk Woman" on the radio, feeling pretty good about the prospect of listening to it being performed live that same evening. My car evidently did not like the idea of being parked at one of the far off spots while I enjoyed the Stones from Section C1! And that too for a 100 bucks! What a shame! Fortunately, it was a small alley where it gave me the boot, so I promptly left it there and started the long walk to school. The drizzle turned into a downpour, and after an hour of some adventure, I finally arrived at the school to announce to everyone that I am going to the concert! It's amazing what the Stones could do to you! Despite everything on my mind and the long walk, I had a bounce in my stride and a song in my heart ...Gimme, gimme, gimme the honky tonk blues...

Sunday, October 02, 2005

My ILE team!

Finally, I have managed to grab hold of a picture of my ILE team! And it is from the ILE "ropes course" that we went to right after the Orientation week. My ILE team 9 was paired up with team 8 from our section.

Standing L to R - Ryan (9), Matt (8), Dave (9), Doug (8), Shivesh (9), Gonzalo (8)
Kneeling L to R - Amit (8), Jenny (9), Bhawna (8), Jaime (9), Julie (Instructor)

Saturday, October 01, 2005

International Food Festival

The International Business Club at Fuqua organized something called the Food Festival this Friday and needless to say, the event was a great success! International students prepared stuff and the guests, other students (like me), parents of students, faculty members and partners of students had a jolly good fill Friday evening. Now I am not really the kind of guy who can report such stuff with great detail, so if you ask me what countries were represented, I am not so sure. Some that I noticed were China, Japan, India, there was mediterranean cuisine, French, umm, that's it. I kinda spent most of my time at the mediterranean stall. There was stuff like Pita, Hummus, falafel and I had a jolly good fill myself! :-) The Indian, Chinese and Japanese stalls had such a big queue that I didn't dare taking that road. India, BTW, got the best prize for stall decoration (or something like that, but so cool!)

After the international festival, there was a show at the good ol' Geneen auditorium called 'Sights and Sounds of the world'. As you might have guessed, this was a cultural show showcasing dances, costumes, talents and traditions of countries around the world. Not until you see some of the shows put up by the far eastern countries or the African continent will you realize how different and exciting they are! The Japanese did a great pop show. About 12 dancers danced to a totally pop tune, much like "dil to pagal hai" or something (and now I know why Rajnikanth is supposed to be so famous in Japan). The song and dance sequence was crazy. It was Japipop!! Pop to the core, but still very Japanese. I have still not recovered from seeing a bunch of quiet Japanese folks doing some of the Jitendra-like dance steps. What a sight! :-)

Well, so the other countries put up some great shows too. Thailand did a folk dance, Chinese did some cool marshal arts stuff, Koreans did a fantastic drum-beat thing, Africans did a fashion show with their long gown-like ummm.. things.... In the Korean thing, 6-8 of them had different percussion instruments and their beat was awesome to say the least! The Chinese marshal arts stuff was scary, especially for the first benchers in the auditorium; they had sticks flying over their heads! :-) Our Indian Junta did a fashion show and a nicely choreographed dance to "Mahi ve" (difficult to absorb for a Led Zep freak like me, but what the heck, it was a 'culture' thing you know... ;-))

Let me come to the main point of this post now. Yours truly did his bit too for the show! ;-) He sang the good ol' Chala Jata Hoon of Kishore (looks like that is the only song I was born to sing; when will I get over it man!!) and guess what, it was a cool hit! :-) I thoroughly enjoyed singing to the claps of the audience (determined not to lose my rhythm due to the claps! kidding...). People seemed (or pretended ;-)) to enjoy it very much and I even got an offer from an amateur student guitarist to jam with him! How cool is that.... :-) Still going strong on the rock singer thing... Some day, some day. :-)

Well anyway, the show was a hit. I got to see the fun side of being Japanese (;-)) and overall, what an experience!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Duke Basketball Campout pictures

The ice luge

The UHauls and Budget trucks!

The check-in rush. Well, the end of a check in actually.

Darren gone asleep (a trained eye would look at the number of bottles around this guy!)

Campout tents, nightfall

Duke Basketball Campout: The coolest thing

Last weekend was the most fun I have ever had in my whole of 2-odd months that I have been here. All the graduate and professional school students of the Duke University converged at a giant parking lot in the campus to spend the 2 days of weekend. The reason? Basketball.

Many of you might know how BIG Basketball is in Duke, but in case you don't know, it is big (even I don't quite know yet how big, but there is aweful lot of fuss about it at Fuqua). So anyway, campout is a way for graduate students to buy season tickets to the games. The price? Forget the money, you pay a bigger price! You book big UHaul or Budget trucks, RVs (Recreation Vehicles, full with toilets and what not!) and camp there because the organizers keep blowing the whistles and you have to go and stand in a line and 'check in' every time. The whistles are blown, of course, at random and throughout the day and night. Check in is a way to prove that you are still camping out for the tickets.

The campout starts at 7 PM on Friday with the first whistle and then its just a thread of whistles throughout the two days. You can't afford to sleep coz. you might miss the whistle. If you tell a buddy, well, he might sleep off too and you don't want to miss the chance to buy cheap season tickets to the game that defines Duke! So essentially, what campout turns out to be is a big huge Woodstock-like party! You drink and drink and drink and party and party and party! The atmosphere is like a carnival to say the least and you have very innovative beer games being played all around the area. You spend the nights dancing like a mad man or a mad woman, but just enough so you don't fall asleep... Or pass out.

I think there were about 20-25 whistles blown between 7 PM on Friday and 7 AM on Sunday, which is when the campout ended. The whistle frequency increased as the night got thicker and we had people running in the drunken, sleepy stupor at 3 AM and barely standing in the line, enough to remember and announce their names and numbers assigned to them at the check-in counter!

And if you think doing all this guarantees a ticket, thing again! If you manage to check in all the time (you are allowed one miss), your name merely goes into a lot! So out of around 1700-2000 people at campout, I am guessing maybe 13-1500 qualify for a lottery and I think around 25-30% of them get tickets. I will post the correct numbers if they give it to us, but suffice it to say that the chances are quite slim!

But who cares anyway! I am sure some do, but a lot of us just went there to party. And party we did! Two nights and one day of nothing to do, but drink and dance and drink some more! The whistles can get pretty irritating for some people, especially, when you are half-asleep in a chair out in the cold (so you don't get too cosy and miss your check in) in a drunken stupor, tired of all the dancing around and playing stupid beer pongs and flip-cups. Oh did I say irritating earlier!! :-) Nahhh....

Here is a partial list of things you typically do in camout; drinking, dancing, playing beer-pong or flip-cup, basketball or football, sleeping, flirting, walking, studying, talking, reading, watching movie or sports, and ahem... networking (man, how can I forget that, and yes, people were found studying, that too someone from Fuqua, and I am not proud of that! :-)). And finally, you hear the whistle blow and you find yourself running to the check-in counters. You don't quite know why you are running (you will check in anyway), but everyone is, so you do too! I wish I had more tools than just this stupid keyboard to give you a feel of campout, but I will upload some pics I guess. Campout is the most fun I have had, not just here at Fuqua, but just anywhere and after a long, long time!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

My first few activities

Just thought I would quickly sign in to tell about the first couple of activities at Fuqua that I have got involved with. I just got the word that I have been selected as one of the copy editors for The Fuqua Times, Fuqua's in-house weekly journal. As you can imagine, I am quite excited about it (I got a call just an hour ago, in fact and am already typing away to glory!) and as always, love the exclusivity associated with reading articles before they make it to the paper. Oh of course, also the thrill of putting on my editing scissors and cutting down the errors in style, grammar, language, layout etc. etc. of the biggest of shots at Fuqua! ;-)

From the little I know right now, copy editing is the final stage before a paper goes to press and copy editors are responsible for the presentation overall of the paper. Painful maybe, but great for a writing freak like me! I am actually joining a team of copy editors consisting of 2 second year students. It's worth mentioning that many of the student posts at Fuqua are shared by couple of people because people are usually busy intermittently.

Another piece of activity that I got my shot at is the hosting of Microsoft on their visit to campus for a SIP. SIP stands for Special Interest Presentation and there are a multitude of SIPs organized throughout term 1. SIP is just a fancy name for an information session about the company and the roles that they typically hire for. So it's basically our good old pre-placement talk as they are called in India, except for of course..... take a guess... the "networking" portion man! What else!? (I am actually now able to utter this word without the certain amount of discomfort that I had before! Good for me, I guess! :-)). So SIPs are where companies come to give information on both the first year internship positions as well as second year jobs. So if you are thinking Shivesh has been here for a few months already, you are wrong! It just happens that SIPs start quite early in the year. This is my 3rd week in the school look at what they are putting me through! :-) SIPs have already started and I know today was Morgan Stanley and I didn't go for that; not really interested.

So hopefully things will work out fine with the additional Fuqua Times responsibility and I will get by without flunking any of the subjects; but then again, you never know. So stay tuned in for some excitement.... :-)

BTW, our second stats quiz results came out today and I totally rocked! I got a full score! Now how about calling that some sweeeet revenge! ;-)

But you know what! The test was really easy and around half the class scored full marks I think! But who cares... :-)

Friday, September 09, 2005

My pic!

That's me. This is a picture from last year. We actually have a photograph of ours taken at Fuqua, but I am in a suit in that, my neck is jutting out and my head is tilted slightly to the right on photo to give a feel that I am a very smart, successful and nice future manager! It didn't quite work out that well though... ;-)

Term 1 courses

Long time, no see you say? I know what you guys must be thinking. Shivesh had a sorta busy week. Yeah, it was a pretty happening week. Before I get into some of the interesting stuff that this week brought, let me introduce you to some of the subjects I have been studying here.

I have 4 courses this term, Managerial Economics (Micro/Econ), Managerial Effectiveness (ME), Statistics & Probability (Stats) and Computer Skills (Excel). A term at Fuqua lasts 6 weeks. We have to learn these subject in quite some depth and we have 6 weeks for that. 6 weeks is a month and a half. At the end of 6 weeks, we have the term examinations, which account for quite a significant portion of our grades. But guess what, there are the mid-terms! Yup! You got it, 3 weeks into the start of a term. That's 3 weeks and no more. And you know what? We have 2 classes per week for each subject, 2 hours each. So imagine this: You have 6 classes and then an exam to tackle! Pretty interesting hahn! 2 classes a week means classes packed with all the information that you care about.

For every class, a student is supposed to do a certain set of things as preparation. For example, ME usually requires one to read a couple of articles and a case study about a company. You are then supposed to go to the class and discuss it amongst yourselves. The Prof. of course gives a whole lot of framework for the discussion and also moderates the discussion. It usually works out pretty well and gets quite interesting! You sit and discuss what incentive structure is useful given a company structure, culture, values etc. or what structure fits a company's needs in the emerging gobal world and so on. I find it the most interesting class. I surmise many other do, but I am sure there are some students out there who just can't figure out what's goin' on!

I am saying this because that is the case with me in Probability. I am supposed to have a science background, very quantitative, analytical and what have you, but I am in the bottom 20-odd percent in the class. Now you say how I know that? Suffice it to say right now that I know that for a fact; I will explain shortly. So yes, the classes are less, but the preparation is usually huge. If you are not prepared, you are lost in the class. At the end of a class, assignments are given out, sometimes team assignment and sometimes individual. There are problem sets to work out for your practice and if you don't work them out soon after, things pile up rather quickly. With the do-nothing weekends, it's unmanageable! :-)

OK you must be thinking an exam in 3 weeks is baddd! There is more. You have the quizzes in addition to the exams and I had two quizzes this week, one in Stats and one in Econ. Quizzes are these short, half-hour tests at the beginning of a class (once in a few classes) that count toward the overall grade. We got the results of the Stats quiz also today and as it happens, I got 9 marks out of 20 in that! The class average is some 13.5 with a std. deviation of 4.5 or thereabouts. And from the little statistics that I know now, in a normal distribution, 68% of the population lies within one std. deviation from mean. So I am one of the outliers, and in the bottom 15-20 percent. (Boy have I picked up stuff!! I am moving quickly towards charts and tables!)

But not all things went that bad. There are other things that went well. My ECON quiz went quite well actually. We have a particularly good Prof. for ECON and he makes things really easy. We also got our grades for our first ME team assignment and my team scored 9 out of 10; the highest in class. We got the case paper we had submitted back after grading and it had a 'Very Good' written on it!! I haven't got a Very Good since my second standard man!! Wow! ;-)

So studies is the meat that I have primarily come here for and this week was pretty eventful (before you jump to any conclusion, let me say that I have no reason to believe any of the coming weeks is going to be any different; in fact it only gets grimmer from here). However, apart from studies, I also applied to a few student club positions in the school this week. I have given one interview and am waiting for calls from others. More about it later when I hear from them. Overall, the curriculum seems pretty strong and the Profs. really know their stuff (Yeah! Like they wouldn't at Duke!). The subjects are pretty interesting and there is a lot of class interaction which makes the classroom really happening.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

The student clubs

So clubs are a big part of the business school experience, right? Yes they are. There are a thousand clubs out there and much to the dismay of students, they are all doing things at the same time. :-) Well not really, I am kidding; they do coordinate stuff and ensure that they are not stepping on each other's toes. But then, much to the dismay of students, they are doing stuff back to back!! You see what I mean? When do I study? :-) Let me give you an example. There was this one day during this week (remember that its only one week since I started studying; I have to keep reminding myself that there are so many more similar weeks to go when one week itself seems like eons with so many things to do) when we had 3 back-to-back club-kick-off meetings. The clubs were Marketing Club, General Management Club and the Leadership Development Initiative. All very active and high-profile clubs in Fuqua with an overwhelming response. We actually ran out of pizzas that had been organized for the last two of the meetings. I spent less time in the school that day with anything remotely to do with studies and more in these club meetings.

While that might be a good excuse for a back bencher like me to not study, but it does really present ton-loads of opportunity for students. Every club has like a 1000 positions each. There is director of promotion and marketing the club, the social chair responsible for liaising with the social clubs etc. etc.; I can't even remember all of them. The best part of it all however, is that they are all completely student-run. I haven't sat in any club meeting where a member of the Fuqua staff or faculty was present. There are times that I look at the second year students suspiciously (you know, looking out of the corner of my eye kinda thing) and saying to myself, "Is this kid really doing all the stuff he is claiming to be doing for the club? He is the co-chair of the club, so I believe him, but come on, isn't he just a student here?" Well anyway, as it is said, bschool is a relatively 'risk-free' environment to try out your stuff without running the risk of getting fired (wait a minute, you are already jobless, so it can't get any better, can it?). So if any of you come to Fuqua next year and find me sitting at the throne of the co-president of the GMC or the chief editor of the Fuqua Times, don't worry; I might falter a bit, might suddenly go underground for couple of months, miss couple of editions of Fuqua Times once in a while, or what the heck, maybe even mix up the schedules of Bill Gates and Jack Welch when they arrive to talk as part of the Distinguished Speaker Series at Fuqua! I am sure we can all have a good laugh and learn from it! ;-) OK, before I am rejected for the position I recently applied for at Fuqua Times, lemme say that I am kidding. :-) The programmes here are really quite well-arranged by the students.

Well yeah, going back to the point of number of activities, its really amazing how many clubs keep doing something or the other and how you suddenly want to do stuff that you never even thought of in your wildest dreams! Its like watching an info-mercial (the long 'informative' commercials that you find yourself watching late-night on TV, usually with a line "Buy this product coz. its really good!" or some nice old woman pretending to be your grand-mom walking up close to the TV screen and saying in a particularly nice and old-fashioned way "I have used this product and found it to be extremely useful. I highly recommend it!"). Jerry Seinfeld once said "I have found myself sitting late at night in front of TV at 1 AM and thinking to myself 'I really don't have a knife that can cut through a shoe! I think I should place a call to 1-866-THEE-KNIFE today and cut up all my shoes'".

In a bschool, you see so many options in front of you, its like your dream-come-true. Have you realized that most of the stuff we thought we would do in life when we were kids are some of the stuff that we are the farthest away from today? Strange, but that's how it works man! So maybe its too late to become an astronaut, but the again, you could write an article on space ships for the next Fuqua Times, maybe its too late to become the President of the United States, but then again, you can surely invite the President and have a tete-a-tete with him (or her, some day hopefully soon) while others eye you enviously, maybe you can never become a singer now, but then again, you can produce the work of some upcoming artist! As you can tell, I am not much of a philosopher, but I think you get the point! :-)

So clubs are the killer! Your classes are not a drain on your time and if you are lucky enough to have a great ILE team like mine, you can spend all the time you want in student clubs. But remember this; there just ain't time enough!

Friday, September 02, 2005

The school

So this is the end of our first week of regular classes. Its a bright Friday late afternoon and I am sitting at the Fox Center, on a comfortable couch close to the glass walls. A lot of people are sitting around, doing their own stuff. Fox center is this pretty big 'student center' at the business school where students can sit around tables, have their meals, sit and pound away at their laptops and umm... generally do things like sit around and work on their blog.

As I sit here, the last 3 weeks seem like ages. I have not even explored the school building or the university as a whole. I am just not that kinda guy, you know. The classrooms are pretty impressive actually. Well you would expect a guy from India to say this right, but this is what makes it impressive: There are 71 students in one section and the class seems smaller than any of my previous schools, even though they had like 40 students max. As you would expect, I was a happy back bencher and could do whatever I wanted with the teacher standing a mile away! (I have done the sort of things that back benchers are typically proud of; let's not get into that ;-))

Here, there are only four rows! Not only are they staggered, but they also form a semi-circle around the prof. No back bench!! You just can't escape the prof! He or she is right there, looking at you. You know what is worse? They have these giant name cards that you have to put up right in front of you so the prof. can call you. And here is the biggest of them all: Class participation.

When I first heard that class participation counted towards your grade, my heart sank. So here is what I thought: You are throwing in a bunch of bschool students together (a-ha), and not just 5 or 10 of them but 70, in one room that has an environment that is virtually asking of them to open their mouth (coz. they feel so 'wanted' and visible in this staggered, semi-circle of a classroom that they just can't contain themselves!) and expect one poor man or woman to control them?? On top of that, you know what? You have to learn some pretty tough subjects also!

I thought we bschool students would probably be the most boisterous lot of people you can find and 70 of us together would be quite more than enough for anyone. But believe it or not, against all probability (forgive me, I am taking probability classes as of now), we seem to be moving along quite nicely! There are a couple of "gunners" (the friendly Fuqua term for the 'so full of themselves that they can't control raising their hands at least once in 5 minutes') in the class, but overall, its pretty impressive!

OK, it is a Friday today and there is something special about Fridays at Fuqua that I want you all to know. Its 6 PM right now and people have started crowding the Fox center for the 'Fuqua Friday'. Don't go by the name n all, its just a party with free beer! So before the beer and the pizzas vanish, I will make my way to the party and catch you guys later...

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Integrated Leadership Experience

The second week of the MBA course in Fuqua is something called the Integrated Leadership Experience or ILE. The ILE 1 is conducted for the first years and is revisited at the beginning of the second year. Briefly, ILE is about some of the basic concepts around leadership, ethics, cultural diversity, team work etc. As we were going through it, I really couldn't make up my mind if we were really learning something. In hindsight, though, it seems quite thought provoking (which was what it was primarily meant to be, I think).

Well, the important thing about ILE was that we all, for the very first time, did something in a team; that too, a team that we were going to be stuck with (or the more politically correct, 'working with' ;-)) for a year. So my ILE team has Dave, Jaime, Jenny, Ryan and me. We played some weird outdoor games, did a mock case together and what not. The games were pretty physical, and moreover, in order to build trust within team members, involved some crazy stuff. For example, there is a mesh of ropes between two poles, resembling a spider web. Each team member has to cross through the openings without him or her touching the ropes. Figure this: you have to lie down on the ground and keep absolutely still because you will now be lifted by others and passed through the mesh. You are transfered to the people on the other side of the mesh. This goes on until everyone passes through the mesh. What is the idea? This was the 'metaphor' for trusting your team mates and working together to solve a problem. There were some other pretty scary ones, like parallel tight-rope walking by two members balancing against each other and some more such weird stuff.

Anyway, I know you must be curious about the two questions that I spoke about in my last post. So these were the questions that we were asked to ask ourselves, as some of the future leaders coming out of a top school. Here they are:

1) Who are you?
2) What are you doing here?

Pretty basic, eh? Try betting a 100,000 dollars on a horse and asking "What is this horse?" and "What is it doing in my stable?" If it doesn't give you the creeps, come to me and I will make sure I dedicate a post to your name. I thought hard about these questions (people will tell you that I think too much, you know and I come up with some pretty good answers). So after some introspection, I came up with the following:

1) I thought you would never ask.
2) I am here because I didn't know where else to go.

I think there is some scope for improvement in those answers and that's what I intend to do in the next 2 years, but overall, that's pretty much what I know today. I am in week 3 right now and the classes have started. My frame of mind is a lot different from what it was during the last post. When I was writing the last one, I was hanging on to my life (especially trying to answer those questions at the same time), trying to survive, trying to maintain sanity between my ears, trying extremely hard to find faces that seemed more miserable than mine (that wasn't really very hard, actually). This time, I am more relaxed; my ILE team just submitted an assignment, I raised my hand a couple of times in class and asked the stupid questions that make students feel so nice, tried solving some tough problems on probability, failed, looked at the solution and hit myself hard on the head a few times etc. But nevertheless, you will still find me squirming in my seat.

The ILE week ended with every team drafting its first 'team charter'. This is the place where you record everything that your team collectively wants to do in the next year, what the priorities are, what each person brings to the team, what each person expects from the team and so on and so forth. I am very glad it worked out pretty smoothly for our team, but there are certain teams out there who had more fun than us in preparing the charter ;-).

In any case, we have the labor day long weekend coming up and I hope to catch up on my sleep and hopefully will post some more!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The very beginning

(Disclaimer: Some of the statementsb below are exaggerations and huge generalizations. If you talk to some people who know me, they will say it is true to my nature. For what its worth, let me say that I am simply trying to put across my state of mind during the first few days. So take them with a pinch of salt and I hope you enjoy it!).

Its been almost 3 weeks since I arrived here at Durham and I would be lying if I said they were the easiest. New place, the weather (there are places in North America that are worse than India, believe me), no car, no phone, an unsuspecting neighbor's stolen internet, new flatmate, seeing other anxious bschool faces. And that's just the beginning.

My days started quite well, with a very nice gentleman called Jones (a second year student) picking me up from the airport and taking me shopping for the essentials. You must be thinking what was the first thing I bought? It was a shower curtain. A shower curtain. Apparently (and as I realized later), you would be in quite some trouble if you do have a shower, but no curtain in US. I saw "Team Fuqua" in action the very first day and was feeling pretty happy to be here.

That was the start of settling down here. The first week went by without any incidents. I had no tools to create incidents with, if you know what I mean. My flatmate, Navdeep arrived couple of days after me with his sister Harpreet Kaur. Things did start moving a bit and we were frantically looking for cars. Here's another thing about US. You are a dead man if you don't have a car in US. And I am not just saying that to make you feel horrible. You don't exist here without a car. If you keep it up for a while, you will actually not exist because you will die of hunger! Good thing I had packed some food from home and MTR totally rocks!

By the end of first week, I had not visited my college. I had no inclination left to go check out the place that I was going to spend most of my next two years at. Navdeep and I rented a car for the first weekend. We gave a lot of reasons for doing that. Going to buy some food was among them.

Well anyway, days progressed much too slowly. Navdeep got a car just in the nick of time for us to start going to college for orientation sessions. Boy were they a drag! To be fair, it wasn't anyone's fault really. The second years tried their best to keep up our spirits. "You should be proud of where you are", "There are people who have their noses pinned to the windows from outside, while you are sitting in here; the best business school in the world" (I almost looked to see if there was a window in the auditorium), "Start networking from day one; exchange names, backgrounds, interests from other students" and my (and Navdeep's) personal favorite, "Get out of your comfort zone!"

With respect to networking, I just have one thing to say. "Yeah right!! I must have asked that guy who is wearing that white t-shirt today at least 4 times this week what his name was. If I ask him his background one more time, I am sure he will start regretting having such an interesting and unique background that I am sure he has!"

"Get out of your comfort zone!" That was something that hit me hard. And it was not because it was a profound statement with very deep meaning and connotations that my already overworked, GMAT-cracking brain wanted to chew endlessly as I made my way through those corridors. It was because I realized that I was already here. My comfort zone was left halfway around the world. I had no friends and I was in the middle of these strange faces trying very, very hard to remember each one's name (and backgrounds, of course).

So that was orientation. It did orient me, I must say quite successfully, to the reality of what I was doing. But it wasn't until the 2nd week of college when I tried answering two of the most fundamental questions. They made me squirm in my seat at the grand Geneen Auditorium of the Fuqua School of Business.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Signing in

The first few eventful days at Fuqua are already over. I call them eventful more for the anxiousness than anything else. I will perhaps sometime post why 'anxious' but for now, let's see if this works.