February 24, 2007

*chuckle* "650 GMAT for Indian no good" - I hear you man!

Google analytics shows me some of the ways a user is directed to my blog. Recently, I saw this query that seems to have hit my blog as the top link!
"650 GMAT for Indian no good"
I hear you man - and I feel your pain! I'm sorry but I could not help but smile after I read this. It is a very legitimate query, and unfortunately if you are targetting top schools it could be 'no good' especially if you are a typical Indian/IT/Male with no "stellar" experiences. I had a reasonably better score but trust me, I've had my moments of doubt amidst a sea of 750 and 760s. Of course, as we all say, a GMAT score is not everything - but it turns out that it is one part of the application that you have true control on, and you would rather do well there than not.
Long ago, I posted this http://onwardtomba.blogspot.com/2006/10/indian-jones-and-profile-of-doom.html during my "moments of doubt" as I was completing my application to INSEAD so I know what you're talking about.
Whoever you are, anonymous reader, I wish you luck in your exam and I hope you get what you seek!

February 20, 2007

plzzz dont wrt lk this plzz!

You know, I'm an old coot. I'm a relic of a bygone era. I'm so old my mama got her driving license on a dinosaur*

Lately, when I visit certain MBA forums (prospective students), I see lots of posts that have "SMSy" style of writing. For e.g.

"i wud like to study mba plzz sumone lemme kno' which univs btr than dat i rsrched. ne1 wid this info plz mail me. congo all u wid admits!"

If this is just a new style of writing in forums, then I have nothing to say. But if this is how the posters actually write english (trust me, I've seen mails with such words in actual official mail sent out to customers - and to me, that's an absolute no-no) then they really must make an effort to write properly. It's not that my english is perfect - grammar nazis probably already found 15 mistakes in this blog post, but that's not the point. We Indians are not very good at english, and I believe we need to make an effort where possible to improve it. In a global work place, communication skills are very important. That's it for my lecture.

nxt tim plz i wud not wan2 c such sentences thx evry1

-Ze Olde Coote.

*that was a rip-off from a song I heard somewhere. Not my original.

so..why MBA? (as of now)

February 15, 2007

Better late than never - my INSEAD second interview

I thought I should post my experience of the second interview with INSEAD alumni. While this comes late for R1, I guess R2/3/4 may find some of this a little useful.
My second interview was with a partner in a pretty large firm, he specializes in consulting technology companies on mergers, acquisitions etc. He was very cordial right from the point of my asking for an interview until the end. He offered to buy me lunch, and the good thing was that the meeting place (a cafe) was just 10 minutes from home.
I was on time (BTW great view from his office floor!) and we went to the cafe and sat down. I made the mistake of ordering a big pizza (tip 1: if you're on a lunch/dinner interview, order something light and non-sticky to eat) while he settled for salad. The interview began with the question of why INSEAD - and I won't repeat myself here, but I had clear, strong reasons on why INSEAD. Interestingly, he and my previous interviewer never once asked me "why now" (when you consider I have over 11 years of experience), perhaps something told them I had my reasons. We touched a broad range of topics about business, challenges of doing business in emerging economies like India and China, developments in the technology industry etc. We did discuss a couple of times about what I planned to do after studies - and I think I conveyed the idea clearly that I wasn't looking for a company to join, but was more interested in the roles that would present myself to me. For example, I would not try to join an entry level MBA job in Goldman Sachs just because it is Goldman. My career step should make sense to me, and the job should be something I want to do - not just a blind status symbol.
I then asked him about his experience in INSEAD, and what it did to his career. He spoke quite a bit about his experience (he loved the time there) and how it helped his career. During the meeting he did speak in a tense as if I were in the school - but I did not try to infer too much from it. We also spoke about what he enjoyed at school and what was challenging (mandatory group assignments with no leader, and what if the group does not get along?). He asked me what I would consider as my top challenges on going back to school etc. Overall, a very friendly, cordial interview. He was both impressive and to the point, and I actually enjoyed the discussions over the lunch (though I hated the pizza). We ended the interview with some light hearted talk. He gave no specific indication if he would recommend me (neither of my interviewers did). After the interview, I sent a thank you note and some additional URL links which bolstered my case and he wished me luck.
After I received my admission, I sent him a note mentioning my admit and thanking him again for the time, and he sent a rather nice reply. I plan to e-mail him once more after I join and tell him my first impressions! And that ends my second interview saga.
Now a few things I believe will help those called for interview
1. No two interviews are the same, so don't go with preconceived notions. Expect to be asked why MBA and why INSEAD - but apart from that it's an open field.
2. Be comfortable - from the different experiences I have heard and then my own, it is usually friendly. After all, the alumnus is trying to find out if you would be an good alumnus to have! Be confident.
3. I did not hesitate to say I wanted to be in INSEAD.
So, if you have an interview, don't sweat - go ahead, have a good conversation, and I wish you a good interview!

February 13, 2007

a digression - great movies to watch

In between all this MBA running around, I've got me some time to watch some good movies. My recommendations for now are
1. Departed - Martin Scorcese - this movie is great. It's gripping, great performances by all. In particular I loved the foul mouthed lieutenant played by Mark Wahlberg, very amusing to watch. Of course, I'm not discounting the terrific performances by jack Nicholson, Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio (who BTW did pretty well in Blood Diamond too)
2. Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of our Fathers - both great movies. The interesting thing is they're movies shot about the same battle (Iwo Jima - US against Japanese forces on the island of Iwo Jima) from two perspectives (American and Japanese). Very well made and beautifully portrayed. Letters from Iwo Jima is completely in Japanese subtitled in english.
The movies above are well made movies. But if you're out for a bellyfull of laughter..
Sacha Cohen Baron is hilarious - just see the movie.

February 09, 2007

Fooling around with statistics

I just looked at the my Google Analytics statistics for visits to my blog. There are some interesting trends (all trends taken over a certain period of time)
  1. The top nation in terms of visits is the US, accounting for 67% of the hits. The next is India at ~8%. Surprisingly, Singapore is the next and I suspect this is because my blog is heavily slanted towards INSEAD.
  2. In the US, california tops the percentage list with 22.25% followed by New York at 17.6% and Massachusetts at 16.7%
  3. In India, Bangalore - the city - accounts for 40% of all the hits from the entire country.
  4. Comcast is the most popular Internet provider
  5. http://blog.clearadmit.com is the biggest "referrer" followed by hella's opencoder http://opencoder.org/mbablogs/applicants/
  6. Zero hits from Mainland China (but a small % from Hong Kong).
  7. Over 1/3rds of visits to the blog are repeat visitors.
  8. Even searching for common keywords like "INSEAD interview" or even "INSEAD" is getting my blog within the top hit lists in Google.
I'm making a few inferences from these hard numbers and correlating them to all the things we've read and heard in forums, boards, discussions and articles.
  1. The US has maximum interest in MBA (duh) and low Europe numbers indicate possible lower hits to english language sites.
  2. The heavy Indian/IT problem becomes apparent when you consider that Bangalore, the IT hub of India, accounts for bulk of India hits. All those IT engineers applying for business school!
  3. California has highest US hits. Again, no surprises - the presence of Silicon Valley, and perhaps many engineers showing an active interest in getting themselves an MBA explains this number. New York follows next, and then MA - none of these are surprising to say the least. What is interesting is Illinois is at 10 well below NJ, Texas, CT, PA, MD and DC. I thought the presence of Chicago should have gotten Illinois higher up. GA does not feature - looks like not many from Atlanta are interested in researching European business schools like INSEAD. Even in CA, Santa Clara ties with Los Angeles. Hmm...Santa Clara = many Indian and white/chinese engineers. Oops. It shows the density of interest based on demography. A relatively small "town" like Santa Clara (I've lived there for a while so save your indignation!) matches a huge city like LA!
  4. Clearadmit is pretty popular and many seem to visit their blogs. Hella's list is pretty close too.
  5. My repeat visitor list in increasing slowly but steadily. Perhaps my blog doesn't suck so bad after all.
  6. The Chinese hate me and my blog ;) aw C'mon now! Ni-Hau!!
  7. No hits from Japan. I suspect Language issue and low interest in going out of Japan. Nihon-jin watashino blog-nu Irrasshaimasen!! Anatano watashino blog no interest desu ka? (ok, that's a really bad sentence, but my Nihon-jin friends will get what I'm trying to say. Don't correct me grammar Nazis, I know the sentence sucks)
  8. Many visits from Cisco.com - bad bad engineers! Browsing blogs at work! I may need to drop a line to John Chambers!
  9. Surprising that common keyword hits on INSEAD get my blog on Google's first couple of pages (if not among the first few). More than an indication of my blog being super top class kick-ass insightful, I think INSEAD needs more blogs with better choice of keywords!
  10. There are visitors from Fontainebleu too - current students are watching ;)

Thank you for your visits.


February 07, 2007

MBA loans...aaargh...uurrrp..choke...

(click for larger size)

Many blog readers may not appreciate some of the labels in the cartoon - that's more specific to a forum I frequent. But you get the point ;)

A good MBA sure costs money. Just sit down and start calculating and soon you'll be seeing colorful kaleidoscopic images dancing in front of your eyes.

BTW - getting a check made out in Euros is pretty tough in the US. Bank of America branch and calls to their customer services yielded no results. I mailed the school and they said "US residents do have a problem" and told me I could either wire the money or send a check in USD for a certain fixed exchange rate. If any of you US residents are applying to INSEAD, know that there is a way out.

February 02, 2007

The feel of real paper/deposit/pre-readings!

I finally received my packet from INSEAD, with a signed "congratulations" on the page. There's something more personal about paper when compared to getting an e-mail. It just feels better.

Anyway, I now need to figure out how to wire Euros from the US. Does anyone know? for e.g. can I go to my local Bank Of America and can they give me a check made out to INSEAD in euros? Or am I asking a very stupid question..? I need to send the cash by Feb 16th.

I need to buy the study pre-requisites to brush up accounting and finance and what not. Once I get the finance books and read them, I hope I don't feel like a "monkey in a maths Olympiad"

February 01, 2007

Financial Times FT 2007 MBA rankings - do they matter?

If you are planning to do an MBA and did your research, you will come across a few well known MBA rankings. The notable ones are Businessweek rankings, The FT ranking and Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) rankings. Of the three the Businessweek and FT rankings have considerable weightage. The EIU rankings are ..well.. strange. I mean, Wharton is no. 17, Harvard is 8, INSEAD is 22...you get the picture.

The Businessweek rankings are significantly US/North America centric (Queens outranks LBS and INSEAD..) whereas FT has a more global approach, and is probably the best mirror to general branding and perceptions. FT rankings are read around the world.

The rankings came out 2 days ago, and for me - it was good news. INSEAD is 7 (though I would have liked us to swap places with LBS. But in terms of 1 year general management programs INSEAD is no.1 in this case) and there were optimistic debates about the future of MBA. This post is not to discuss whether MBA is right etc. but to discuss if rankings matter.

Shoot me if you want to - but yes, they do, and quite a lot. Industry observers, leaders, executives all read these rankings and that creates a perception. This perception perpetuates and has its own power. No amount of reasoning is going to make us agree that some how Wharton is no.17 in the world and Harvard is 6 positions below IESE (no offense to IESE ;) )

Ranking is like a brand - it has its own power and influences potential applicants, recruiters, professors, business leaders and media. A strong rank is self-perpetuating. It creates an aura that a school is strong, therefore well qualified applicants apply, therefore the quality of student pool and eventual alumni is better, therefore recruitment becomes increasingly stronger - and it sustains. An observation will show that the top 10 schools pretty much stay that way (even if they juggle the positions internally within 10) for years and it is unlikely they will suddenly go down.

My own take is that it is important to research your potential schools well and aim higher if you can. It is not sufficient to say "school X has course Y I like and so I'm going to spend 100,000$ going there". It is also important to see what your world looks like after you graduate and 10 years down the line. Where are your potential classmates likely to be and what would they be doing? You want to gain the best mileage out of your MBA and the better the perceived rank of the institute, the better your chances are.

You could argue all you want, but if you were a VP of a company and you had 2 strong candidates - one from Columbia and one from Tchikkakaramba* school of business, the chance that you would lean towards Columbia are greater.

If you have a good background, strong scores, then don't aim too low to start with. Yes, competition is fierce, but how would you know what you can achieve if you did not even try? It may be a good option to mix top schools and some next level schools to achieve balance. I'm not the right one to comment because I only applied to one :P (hey, in my defense, I had very strong reasons. You might find it interesting to know that nearly 40% of INSEAD entrants applied only to INSEAD). A post like this is bound to raise heckles and ire about "stupid ranking nonsense", hey - don't shoot the messenger. It's better to face reality and take it by the horns than pretend it isn't real.

I plan to put another post on why ROI calculations miss what I call as "the flash of opportunity" that can alter our lives. But until then, I have to get cash for the school admission advance. I'm now about to become officially very poor.

(I am a little disappointed that power houses of Indian Business schools - the IIM's -Indian Institutes of Management - made no cut into the list. I do have my own observations on how some IIM statistics are twisted played to the gallery, but even then they are a powerful local brand, have great students and I would think they had some currency outside too. What are they missing so much that they don't make it to the top 100?! There are some areas they hurt - like diversity, experience of incoming class, international experience of class etc... if any IIM student/alumni is reading this - care to comment?)


* You could argue that I valued FT over Businessweek because of the bias that my school ranks higher, you can see for yourself that Canadian schools rank higher than world class European institutes like LBS, IMD and INSEAD and I don't buy that. Flame me.

* There is no Tchikkakaramba school of business anywhere in the world as I know it. But hmm..it sounds nice..I think..