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!