March 29, 2007

A letter of good-bye to my job

After almost exactly 7 years in my current job, I sent my letter of resignation to my boss. I had already him of my impending exit (he's a really good boss, and the entire process was cordial and encouraging - one of things I loved at my current company, I've had a string of good supervisors..lucky me) so there were no surprises. My last day will be sometime in July.
You might wonder why the long notice - well, partly the company requires it, and partly it is unprofessional to dump everything without proper notice and put everyone in difficulty. The notice period is sufficient to plan transition (I handle a bunch of things and it's not very easy to replace my position quickly) and make sure things are in good order before I leave. I'd like to leave on a good note, and not by winning a pissing contest. I firmly believe that it is important to leave my organization on good terms - and "not burn bridges". Walking out saying "I gave the finger to my boss, my company blah blah" isn't helping anyone, least of all me.
It's a job I  enjoyed, liked it when I did it, worked hard at it, worked with many really good people, and I think I did it well. But It's just time to move on. Next thing is to meet a bunch of fellow INSEADers when there is a meet at NYC/Boston.
I will be packing my bags from the US, almost 3 years after I came here, and will head back to India before going to Singapore. Who knows where else and what next. Personally I would like to be back in the US to work, but one never knows. INSEAD's US presence is a topic for another post.

*choke* *splutter* holy crap

I chanced upon this when I trolling the WWW (saw the reference first on this blog). I won't write a long post but it's amazing how some of these rip-offs work. The institute in question (in this case, Institure ;) ) has many attributes that make you wonder --who the hell applies here!?
1. The photo on the front page is Columbia.
2. The address is Fontainebleu! And suspiciously 'overlaps' INSEAD
3. Many of theprofessors are..err. INSEAD professors...
4. Introduction is super vague... and to read a few gems from the web site - see this link
Astonishing, really.

March 27, 2007

ho some institues maket themseles!

MBA tends to be hot. Recently, out of curiosity, I was generally
looking at forums for some less known schools in India, and came
across a thread discussing a specific school (which is not among the
big names - not IIMs/ISB/XLRI) I have not heard of the school, and it
was quite amusing to read the posts where there were many critics and
a few supporters - predictably current students. Apparently a lot of
current students advice applicants to keep this school as a backup
last choice! I won't name the school.

So after wondering what caused such caustic remarks and fervent
support - I happened to look at the web site. Boy, it sure is

For starters, they mis-spell "Institute" as "Institue" right on one of
their admissions pages. And it doesn't end there, if you were
wondering about 'don't be an ass about a spelling mistake!'

Then, eligibility seems rather lax. For e.g. for the finance program
you need to have a prior degree in "economics, mathematics, political
science(?).." and the sentence ends with a "etc." Etc.?

You also require 50% marks in your examination but never mind if you
don't have that score, just write another institu(t)e test and all
will be well.

And here's another kicker - apparently if you are called for a group
discussion (GD - a concept not used in US school admissions. It goes
something like this: a bunch of students stridently arguing trying to
get a point across to a professor who probably isn't listening ;) )
..where was I? yes - if you are called for a group discussion you are
required to bring a certain sum (25,000 rupees - about 800$) to the
discussion and you may be "spot offered." You must accept the offer
immediately or you will be placed under wait list. If you take the
offer, the amount is non-refundable. Talk about making decisions on
your feet!

These institutes, and many like these, have quite a bit of competition
as well. A combination of a fast growing economy, media hype
surrounding some of the highest salaries in the top schools, lack of
high paying opportunities outside the traditional IT fields makes many
think of MBA as a fast ticket to success. Where there are buyers there
certainly are sellers. A lot of students are interested in these
institutes never mind questionable admission practices and vague
information on placements and career opportunities. I just wish they
did their reserach a little more diligently before "what? avg sal iz 4
lks plzz lemme know i must dpost mney 2day!" The posts are often
peppered with "our school has a great campus and wi-fi" - I hate to
break the news but a great campus maketh not a great school (ask
students of Columbia for the reverse case). Great schools have an
influential alumni, renowned professors and research capacity, strong
track record of interaction and placement in the industry and
positive, supportive vibe from its alumni.

Sometimes I feel tempted to add a sentence of caution or two, but when
you see how similar posts have been treated (with disdain, vicious
attack - including one in which the not-so-polite student cautioned
the posted with 'we are watching you!') it's best leave the thread
alone and hope some of the deserving applicants do their research and
get into a place that makes more sense.

March 21, 2007

Calling all INSEAD class of 2008 bloggers

Ok folks, looks like R1 and R2 results are out and some of you have probably have interesting blogs. I'd like to create a little ecosystem of new admit blogs.

So if you have a blog - send the link to me, and I will link it from my page. And once you do that, don't be lazy and keep your blog updated. Finally, at the end of the term, if you have 5 job offers and I have none, give me one. I already know Caspian and Post submission bliss have their blogs, and I'd like to get some more. What say?

hmm..I hit the 10,000?

Interesting -- when I checked my blog stats, I crossed 11,000 visits some time ago and mine isn't an ancient blog either. Cool.
Also turns out searches on INSEAD and rankings tends to get my blog right out in the first page on Google search, who knew!
I've got a couple of topics in the pipeline but no time :(

March 18, 2007

North Korea's first business school! Cool!

(click for larger size)

Ok. I lied.

March 17, 2007

I got ROI'd! All that talk on return on investment.

"Return on Investment (ROI)" - that's the first buzzword MBA applicants learn even before the school starts. It's the first among the many to follow (like PE, Hedge Funds, IB and what not - terms wannabe's like me use without a clue of what they really are..sounds good anyway!). But ROI is discussed a lot - it's sometimes the topic of heated discussions on whether school 'A' is worth it, or whether it makes more sense to let go of an elite school and go to a lesser known school just because 'ROI' makes more 'sense'. Let me present my take on ROI. Especially considering top institutions.

ROI in the traditional sense is calculating, say, what you have earned in about 5 years on the investment on your education and figuring out if you will recover that cost and make more, or will you break even, or will you be 'broke.'

The most straight forward calculation takes into consideration the following variables on investment

  1. The Tuition

  2. Difference between living expenses during study and otherwise

  3. Lost wages (including average pay increase)

And then post study earnings by taking a 5 year view of earning using past reported numbers as a benchmark. When you compare this with what you would make without the disruption, you can see if, overall, you made more or less.

Many discussions are centered around this mathematical calculation to the extent that some rely solely on this factor by ignoring everything else (I read of a discussion where an applicant chose a lesser known school compared to Columbia because he felt 50K difference could not be justified based on ROI). We will come to that 'else' very soon. The mathematical calculations are tangible, and they can be made to look reasonable based on linear progression, a relatively stable economy and job outlook, a good understanding of the target sector for which the calculations are made, and comparison and adjustments based on past reported numbers.

In reality ROI can vary wildly based on pre-MBA earnings (if you are from a lower wage country), lifestyle changes, economy, job growth, surprise investments, emergencies - a lot of which do happen over a course of 5-10 years. ROI calculations also often omit stock grants, perks, bonuses (which, at higher positions, all happen at larger scales as a percentage of annual salary and this gap can be significant) so ultimately, when taken over a decade of career growth post MBA, the calculations done now cannot be 'deal breakers' on choosing schools. Of course, calculations must be made keeping a certain positive outlook - otherwise it doesn't make sense anyway.

What ROI calculations omit completely are the intangibles of education. Those that cannot be measured monetarily but have a real effect on career and business progress. The top ones are

  • Brand of the school helping to open doors to interesting, and otherwise unavailable positions. International mobility - in an increasingly flat world, this is a big plus.
  • Strength of the alumni network that could assist in job searches, business deals, entrepreneurship ideas, venture capital and so on.
  • The experience of attending classes with a whole bunch of smart, driven people (discounting some who you might hate) and learning from the interaction, if not from the books.
  • The fact that your career is not over in 5 years after MBA and that it will possibly be for another 30 years - and in majority of cases, post MBA you will probably be working for a longer time than you have been alive so far!

Studying in top class institutions, whether it is Harvard, Wharton, Columbia, INSEAD or MIT etc., gives a certain leverage that you cannot measure (not everything is material) and average reported numbers do not give that picture. If you class mate starts a venture and you can be part of it, and you make a million dollars 5 years down the lane, then all your ROI calculations go bust. A single big bonus or a stock grant can render your old ROI calculations useless. (As a kicker - Last year the top London Goldman trader made 50 million dollars in bonus and he's an INSEAD alumnus)

By sticking to straight metric driven ROI, you are discounting all the other benefits of going to top institutes, even if they cost more. Now before you spew fire on me, I'm not saying you can't do that from other ranked schools - it's just that with established large brands it's more likely and the probability of such chances is higher. Taking advantage of that is up to you.

To me, current considerations are more pressing than what I perceive 10 years later. In my own case, I simply could not afford 2 years off the market given my condition (personal, financial, visa) and that is why it made more sense to apply to INSEAD than, say, Chicago GSB. But it had nothing to do with ROI between the two schools. My own take is, don't go overboard with ROI calculation. Focus more on your fit and whether you can afford it now without major issues. If you are not positive that your degree will do you good, why do it anyway?

March 11, 2007

300 : movie review (comics and movies!)

I love 'big canvas movies' the types with lots of special effects, wars, battles and so on. I happened to watch 300, a graphic comic style recounting of the battle of Thermopylae between Spartan King Leonidas and Persian Emperor Xerxes.

The movie in itself is a visual treat - a faithful adaptation of Frank Miller's 300 , it is filled with copper, gold and blood red and is incredible to watch. The battle scenes and the thumping score are amazing, and I personally did not find the 'graphic violence' not so graphic. It is all so over the top that it really does not register as violent - definitely not in the league of, say, Saw III.

Just don't go to the movie to understand history, that's all. Personally, I loved the movie because it fulfils my movie-watching-fantasies. Having said that, there are several annoyances,

  1. There is a voice over in several parts of the movie - darn annoying as hell, irritating, extremely pompous. Makes you want to behead the voice-over artiste in slow motion.
  2. Silly dialogs - apparently the movie makers took the comic too literally. Some of the dialog comes across as corny - for e.g. when Leonidas leaves his wife and walks to the battlefield, a serious droning voice tells you something like "he did not say he loved her, because there is no room for emotion in Spartans. yada yada" You'll know when you hear it. The movie has many such cliches. Consider this "Leonidas' only grief was that he could not sacrifice more of his soliders".. what the...?!
  3. They said "Sparta" more times in the movie than I said GMAT during all my preparations.
  4. Interesting to see that Leonidas, the king, has an interesting accent while his wife sounds very British.
  5. Xerxes as a 8 foot tall androgynous weirdo with lots of piercings. Really.
You can find some real Thermopylae pics here and you can see the approximate location on google maps by clicking this link. In antiquity, there was water near the road you see by the hills today. The actual story is pretty amazing. It is a story of an army that uses geography to its advantage when battling an enemy. What I found a little surprising, from a historical perspective, is that Xerxes was a big king and a veteral of battles. Why did he ignore the perils of fighting in a narrow corridor and why did he send waves of his soliders to be slaughtered? Why did he do no "due diligence" before planning an attack? I suppose I have to read Herodotus' original accounts to find out Xerxes' rationale for even sending his crack troops, the Immortals, into battlefield.

All in all, watch the movie, enjoy the visuals, and then browse the Internet to read more about the real battle.

March 08, 2007

Am going into Detox/Rehab

Nothing like a sensationalist heading to attract attention. Imagine how boring it would look if I said "I'm cutting down computer time."
Anyway, Late night 3 few days ago I realized that I was wasting away my life on the computer. I would be in front of it all day, morning to night, and getting up only for lunch, dinner, snacks. But no matter what chore I did, I would be back on my desk. I was feeling miserable, my shoulders hurt - and an angel appeared to me...well, not really, just that I figure this was enough. I had to detox from my computer usage and check-in to a "rehab of the mind"
I now follow a strict regimen (I tend to disciplined once I make up my mind for something)
  1. I will be on the computer only as much as my offical work requires
  2. I will not check my personal mail or browse anything unofficial, even news, when I am at work
  3. I will condense all my personal work to a single 1 hour slot per day. This 1 hour will be for
    1. Check my personal mail, respond to them
    2. Read my favorite blog feeds
    3. Make any blog entry if I have something to say
    4. Visit some of my top sites/forums and troll around
  4. I will shut down my laptop once I am done. It will not be in 'idle' mode so I can hop in anytime I want.
  5. I will go to the gym regularly. I used to, long ago.
I've been following this to the letter for last couple of days and I feel so much better. I don't feel lousy, my mind and body feel better with the exercise. I'm back to reading my favorite books (Michael Connelly!) and spending more time with my family. I guess I need this discipline because I need to do some pre-reading before heading off to school.

March 07, 2007

bumped off hella's list..

turns out there is a problem in the way blogger generates the feeds and my blog is a victim...crap...

March 03, 2007

The CNN/Fortune "top 50 to be hired" row .. ;)

You may have read that CNNMoney published a list of the Top 50 Business Schools for Getting Hired (in the US). Soon after it was released, there was an uproar from UNC Kenan-Flagler about being left out (Boston Univ. was left out too). And now, CNNMoney retracted that list for reasons written on the site. You can read more about it here.

So whether you love 'em or hate 'em, rankings are read, discussed, debated and people make decisions based on them - and sometimes we see schools taking exception to them. Anyway, I just couldn't help...

(click for larger size)

Next year, I'd like to see INSEAD go higher than LBS in FT rankings and we can start a new flame war. Heheh.

In other news, I see that people from who's-who in the corporate world are visiting my blog. McKinsey, Goldman, Cisco, Intel, Google, Microsoft, Bain, Booz-Allen, Lehmann, BT, Shell..the list goes on. Thank you all - someday I might put a post asking for some GIMME A JOB!! ... What d'ya say? ;)

March 01, 2007

Picking your recommenders

I've read many posts about picking recommenders. I've had people mail me and call me about my tips on picking the recommenders.
My own strategy for my recommendations was simple.
1. Pick those who I know really well, and whom I trust to write positively about me. I chose a former boss and another colleague who had watched my career grow. Both knew me well in professional capacity.
2. They did not have to be the CEO or the VP (I could get my recos from both). I wanted my recos to have substance and bolster my case. Not generic "I know him and he's the greatest since Isaac Einstein*"
You may be surprised, but apart from asking my recommenders to be nice to me, I did not write my recos, I did not see what they wrote, and I did not ask what they wrote. All they did after filling the recommendations online was to say briefly that they wrote good things and I left it at that. And I am absolutely certain they were professional and kind in their words. This sort of comes to a point that it is important to build solid, reliable relationships at the work place. There are times you get to work with great colleagues, competent bosses - and those are times you make sure you work well with them and create a network that lasts.
Getting a recommendation from the current boss can be tricky for obvious reasons, but I suppose it varies from people. I recently approved vacation to a team member so he could study for his exams. My reasoning was simple - he is a great performer and he was honest with me. My expectation was that he be committed to his job as long as he stayed. So now, he is committed and knows I supported him, and I know that I will not be blind sided by his decisions. If you have such an equation with your boss, he may be the right person as well. Of course, you would not gloss aside the fact that I empathised with him as I knew what he was aiming for (and so am I).
Given favorable circumstances, I think it is good to choose recommenders whom you trust and who know you well in a professional capacity. The titles and designations come later - I don't think adcoms of top business schools would be impressed by high sounding titles. Just as a personal perspective, I have interviewed candidates who got their recommendation letters from ministers. If nothing else, it cast a doubt on their candidature than strengthen it and it did absolutely no good to them. You want your recommenders to paint a compelling picture of you, not some hotchpotch modern art. With due respect to modern art ;)
*yes, I really meant Isaac Einstein.