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...