December 31, 2007

Wishing you all a great new year! Happy 2008!

To all my blog readers,

Here is wishing a fantastic new year 2008 to all of you.

I hope it turns out to be super great. If you're looking for a MBA admission, I hope you get what you want (Harvard, INSEAD, GenkoChienKung..). If you're hoping for a great GMAT score I hope you get that (700, 770, 820..yep, someone once said he got 810 or something). If you're looking for a partner, I hope you get one too - a good man, woman, (or an inflated doll, depending on what you want). Hope you get to make lots of $$$ (assuming the dollar doesn't keep falling). Hope you get the job you're looking for. All in all, let it all turn out fun and successful!

And me? well, please be generous and gift me the following :)

That's just for starters! Assuming I'll have a job and that I don't have to open a food court stall in Singapore post INSEAD :P ...

in case some of you are wondering about my "many" posts at this time of the year instead of partying..well, turns out I caught a minor flu 2 days ago and am still recovering. It's annoying enough for me not to go anywhere.

December 30, 2007

The story of my corporate finance pictures

You can guess the story. I'm never going to be an investment banker.

December 27, 2007

INSEAD Singapore Update + Photos

This is a short update on my previous INSEAD Singapore FAQ, based on some other issues I remembered + a point raised by Res I(p)sa. And then, a few photos for your viewing pleasure :)

  1. While going to Fonty from Singapore is pretty much assured, from this batch onwards we're seeing that coming to Singapore, especially in P3, can be very difficult due to limited seats available. Singapore is smaller and therefore cannot accommodate everyone from Fonty.
  2. Housing in Singapore is hard to get and is expensive - it's became worse in the last year or so. If you plan to be in Singapore, look early, and look wide. Don't wait until the last 2 weeks to get a house.
  3. If you do any 1 term in Singapore + P5 in Singapore (so you graduate from Singapore) you get invited to apply for Permanent Residency in Singapore (Singapore PR). So if you are interested in Singapore PR, this is a fast way to get one :)

This photo is the main corridor on the way to classrooms (the classrooms are behind the photographer)

The view beyond the glass wall, there's a nice outer court where you can sit and have a beer.

More photos later!

December 25, 2007

INSEAD Singapore FAQ, Facts and Myths / clarifying doubts

There appears to be some confusion regarding INSEAD's dual campus structure - one in Fontainebleau in France and the other in Singapore. I get questions on this and recently I read some threads where some not-so-informed posters write what is sometimes utter rubbish without even bothering to find out the truth. This post is to talk more about INSEAD Singapore, facts about what it means to be in INSEAD Singapore and how it differs from Fontainebleau, impact on career, reputation, brand, professors etc. Hopefully next time some idiot posts his ignorance, you will also get a chance to read about it from a different angle. So, just to make it easier, I'm going to keep it in a Q&A format.

Q0. Is admission different between INSEAD Singapore and Fonty?
A. No. Admissions is centralized, you only specify which campus you prefer to start in. In some cases, you may not get what you choose - your admission is guaranteed but the campus is not. The idea is that this is "one campus two locations" and not two "distinct administrative campuses". I have class mates who opted for Fonty but were given Singapore. There are many, many people in my class (including me) who opted for Singapore as the first choice for various reasons. The admissions committee apparently does not even know which campus an applicant chose (adcom says this, and a professor who is in the admissions committee told us in class - I trust them). What that means is there is no quality or any kind of difference between students in the 2 campuses - both campuses are equally diverse, groups are formed in the same way (each class = 'n' groups where each group = 5 people with each person from a different country) and student bodies mix mid-way in the course.

Q1. Isn't INSEAD Singapore a separate institution from Fonty?
A. No. It's only a separate location. The dean is the same, many of the professors switch and teach different terms at both campuses - and this includes many star professors, the curriculum is the same, the exam terms are same, the fee is the same *sigh*, companies are not told which campus a student is in - they recruit from the common pool, both campuses apply and interview for the same jobs.

Q2. Isn't INSEAD Singapore a lower brand compared to original Fonty campus?
A. It's INSEAD - period. At the end of the course, you are an INSEAD MBA. Not INSEAD Singapore MBA. Companies don't really go around distinguishing between "oh wait, you're in Singapore campus,you must be a moron!" Where you are does make a difference in terms of how you approach your career move, not how you are perceived. Nearly 70% of the class switches campus mid-way. In fact, for P3 starting in January, we have more students in Singapore than in Fonty! Over 150 Fonty students are coming over to Singapore. Fonty is the bigger campus - about 2/3rd student population is in Fonty and 1/3rd in Singapore.

Q3. How does where you are impact your career?
A. If you want to focus on being in Europe, you should aim to be in Fonty in P4/P5. If you want to try for Asia, be in Singapore during the recruitment season (P4/P5). From statistics we got, in previous batches, 80% of Fonty ends up in Europe and 20% rest of the world. In Singapore, it's 60 Europe/rest and 40 Asia. Asian recruiters in general prefer to see commitment to the region, so if you are really interested in working in Asia you should spend majority of your time in Singapore campus. Starting in Singapore works very nicely - you get to experience this campus and if you want to focus on jobs in Europe, you switch to Fonty in P4/P5 (many do this - and everyone gets the chance to go to Fonty because it's a big campus).

Q4. What are the advantages of being in Singapore?
A. Depends on what you seek. It's a smaller campus, feels more cohesive, you get to know your class mates much better, you are in a great city, parties are "class wide" and everyone attends, paperwork to go to Singapore is super-easy, it's easier to meet/talk to companies that are located in Singapore, easier to do treks to Hong Kong, lots of beach countries around, and you can get setup easily in just 2 days. And you can go to Fonty whenever you want :) And most people love the place once they come here.

Q5. What are the advantages of being in INSEAD Fontainebleau (Fonty) ?
A. More companies come on campus to Fonty which means better chance to network, meet and see presentations (note that jobs are open to all, I'm only talking about physically being present to meet companies and in some cases, Interviews). Fonty provides closer access to London if you want to try getting there. If you plan to search for a job starting early in Europe, then it makes sense to be in Fonty. It's a much bigger campus (so I am told, I'm going in P4) and apparently has a very different feel to it. You get to be in crazy house parties, live in chateaus, and eat French food. You get to see Europe.

Q4 and Q5 point - remember, most of the class switches campus, so you can experience both and use both advantages. For e.g. you could do legwork and your own career search in Singapore until P3, go to Fonty for P4, do recruiting events, and return to P5 to Singapore. It's flexible and you choose what you want. You can be really focused and choose to remain in one campus throughout - and you will be a minority. Some are really adventurous, they do Singapore, Fonty and Wharton!

Some phrases you should not worry about

P1) "Do you think I should try for INSEAD Singapore?" - there's nothing like trying for INSEAD Singapore. You try to get into INSEAD and make a campus choice. If they put you in Singapore and you're super unhappy, you can always go to Fonty in P3, P4 and P5.

P2) "I'm not sure how INSEAD Singapore is perceived..." read P1.

P3) "Can I get a job in Europe if I join INSEAD Singapore"
see (P1), then read (Q3)

P4) "I read somewhere that there is this Asian school XYZ that is better than INSEAD Singapore!" - Sure. Go there.

Hope that helped!

December 18, 2007

Strategies for CV / Resume - top 5 do's and don'ts

My last post on Tips and tools to make an effective CV / Resume has been receiving a fair amount of hits and strangely enough, these (Number 1)  phrases (1st page) are (page 1) high on Google already - given the plethora of articles on resume writing. Odd. Clearly, writing an effective, well written CV / Resume is of great interest to people given the way the searches originate.

In this post, I'll cover some of the strategies on writing effective CV (Curriculum Vitae) / Resumes - and more importantly, what to be careful about so you're not wasting massive amounts of time writing what amounts to be a pretty confused, useless Resume. Of course, these are my view points and there is a level of subjectivity attached to it. Choose what works best for you.

The audience - professionals (engineers, designers, consultants, MBAs. I have no clue about doctors, nuclear scientists, assassins etc.)

My top 5 Do's and don't s (though not in any order of importance)

  1. Get your resume screened or reviewed by someone in the target sector and type of function you are targeting. If you are an engineer aiming to get into Banking, show your CV to a banker friend and not another engineer who might nod and say "it all looks great."
  2. Don't add objectives if you don't know what your objective really is. My personal take is that writing "My objective is to be a high performing part of your organization and use my skills to the fullest extent" is a waste of someone's brain cells and might make them a few notches dumber for the next 2 hours. I've read many such objectives in my career too - and they said nothing useful. Focused objectives, if that is what you want (at the risk of getting your Resume rejected because so such positions exist), can be useful. On the other hand, comprehensive summaries like " Over 4 years of experience in network engineering with high expertise in ABCD, EFGH, IJKL. Consistently among top 10% rated employees and top ranker in University..." could be a lot more effective in catching the eye of a manager. On a side note, that summary wasn't about me.
  3. Attention span of the reader is inversely proportional to length of resume (subject to floor length of 1 page). 'Nuff said. Keep it short and to the point.
  4. Over-reviewing -  Avoid the temptation of getting your CV reviewed 3,467 times. The review effectiveness graph, in my experience, is something like this - there is a sharp value add for the first 3-4 reviews, then - for the next 2-3 reviews you reach a refinement stage. Beyond 8 reviews (or thereof) there is a drop-off in value. The issue with too many reviews is that after a while, you begin to get very conflicting, often confusing view points. It will never be perfect - so once you feel the CV has improved substantially compared to the older one, stop.
  5. Always think from the view point of the hiring manager / recruiter - it's kind of easy getting carried away by our own virtues and brilliance and write eloquent prose while forgetting that the reader might as well get flogged on his/her bare bottom with a whip than read our resume. Short sentences. Numbers. No self-aggrandizing prose. Action. Results.
My Resume / CV won't get me a job, so I don't want to confuse the resume to be a "cool! this'll get me my job!" - it's only a way to get past that first person.

On a side note - we ended our P2 INSEAD MBA exams today, it's such a relief. It's been an incredibly hectic term that ended with some humbling exams - wait, I'll called "nuke-me-down" exams. I'm headed home tomorrow for a fine week or so of relaxation. Really looking forward to it, and here's happy holidays, Christmas,  new years to all the readers!

December 12, 2007

Negotiations - frameworks, methods and tools (and other future interests)

It's hard to argue about the importance of negotiation in both personal and business contexts. Negotiations play an inescapable part in our lives - whether with customers, vendors, partners, friends, cab drivers, vegetable sellers. A lot of us suck at it big time - I'm one of them. It's an area one could and should learn a lot about.

At INSEAD there is an elective called - well - "negotiations". Taught by one of the star professors - Horacio Falcao (read his bio) (Harvard law + INSEAD MBA) this is one of the most desired and sought after courses with the highest elective bid this time. Following professor Pushan Dutt's (another star of P1) advice, I bid my valuation and got the elective which is all about frameworks, strategies and methods of negotiation - something I believe is invaluable in the business arena. I am really looking forward to this course, which is taught in Singapore in P3 this time. I've heard that it is pretty heavy as well in terms of course load - and when combined with the rigor of Finance star professor Pierre Hillion's course of Applied Corporate Finance, I think we have a busy P3 ahead of us. Of course one cannot forget the fact that P3 is the time to start informational interviewing and start revving up recruitment efforts. When I go home in this break, I am indeed meeting some fairly top level managers in some large interesting companies back home. How did I get the casual informational interviews? I asked :) (it's true what they say - you never know until you ask. True in life - personal, professional...)

Exams loom ahead.Tomorrow we have accounting and strategy. My strategy for accounting is to do the strategy exam well to compensate for the stratospheric failure in accounting.

December 06, 2007

Tips and tools to Writing an effective CV / Resume

made some minor updates: Dec 08. Original version Dec 7.

Yesterday was the deadline to submit the CV (curriculum vitae, for the clueless - a.k.a Resume, or Bio-data) in INSEAD. I'm not going go dwell on why we do this internal submission and what it's purpose is and so on, but simply touch on the fact that it takes a lot of work to get a decent CV out. In my case, it could have easily run to 20 hours and with over 10-12 reviews.

The questions to ask before writing an effective CV / Resume are

1. Will a recruiter/manager with 60 seconds on his/her time find it appealing to shortlist?
2. Will the hiring manager find it compelling enough to call you?
3. When you show it to someone, do they feel it has weight?

These are not "meaningless" questions - many of us have been through recruiting someone else for our organization and the CV tells a lot about the person behind it. Badly written, obtuse and confusing resumes usually get the trash bin treatment. The same assumption holds true whenever you apply to well known organizations.

While the process was painful, when I see the end result of what it achieved as compared to what I had a few weeks ago, I can say I saw a lot of value in the process, however exhausting.

The key traits to writing a good, quality, effective resume takes work. The main points, in my learning for writing a good Resume are,


Does your CV tell your life story in a single page? Can you cover your education, experience, awards and interests in a single printable page? Trust me, took a lot of effort and here's a screenshot of mine.

2. Results driven Resume / CV

Structure every sentence to show what you did, and what it achieved. When I started, I was all happy about my fluffy puffed up self-important sentences that said nothing concrete. I got butchered by my class mate and career services reviewers. It took a lot of refining to get the sentence to the core - "I did <this> and therefore achieved <this>" A simple example is, say, you did program management. You could write

"Demonstrated program management skills by leading several impactful programs across the organization and showed skill and expertise in all the programs leading to high satisfaction"

or you could write

"Demonstrated program management skills by leading 4 programs worth $7M leading with >90% customer satisfaction and 95% business retention"

Some professional functions might me more qualitative, but in general for most of us it would do better to highlight results.

3. A CV Focused on its audience

The way the content is structured needs to be aligned to the mind of the audience. Is your target banking, consulting, FMCG, Hi-Tech? The same CV might not work - your core CV will need some slight modifications (not making up stories but highlighting those that you think are relevant to that field. Bankers would be least interested in your expertise of network architectures and ASP.NET skills. This means one might need 1 or 2 variants of a CV that have subtle differences in the message.

4. Review, Rework, Review, Rework, Rinse and Repeat

Make sure you are not blinded by your own biases at your CV ("my CV looks great, I don't need to ask anyone else"), and this means getting multiple people to review your CV. Also make sure you get the CV reviewed by native English speakers because it makes a difference.

5. Clean, neat, correct

It needs a lot of time to get a clean (well spaced, margined), neat (structure, positioning, paragraphs, bullets) and correct (grammatically) CV. While my CV is tailored closely to INSEAD format (which is pretty good when you get it into MS word and format it a little), I found this link quite simple and useful for those of you artistically challenged. I used some tips from there.

The entire exercise can come to help even later in life, because honestly I've never, ever spent this much time on a CV! (guess it took me to come to an INSEAD MBA to figure it all out!) And the next time I have to do it all over again, I'm hoping I will be a lot more effective and will know what to look for.

Later on, I will spend some more time on a follow-up posts on some of the more subtle points in writing good Resume's and some of the important "do's and don'ts for an effective Resume / CV". Right now I'm in the panic-state of exam preparations with just 4 days left, so we'll see when I can get the next tips and tools follow-up!

December 04, 2007

Time flies like an arrow

My INSEAD MBA is about to be 2/5th over - exams start next week. It's crazy how fast time flies here ... it was as if we just began P2 yesterday and here we are, hurtling through the term into the next exams. P2 has been rather crazy - it started slow but rapidly picked up pace with tons of case work, CV work and now exams just around the corner with classes right up until the exams.

In P3 we will have lots of people from Fonty invading Singapore (and we will do the same in P4, P5 at Fonty). I'm looking forward to finishing the exam and taking a break...

December 03, 2007

Fun filled Desi Week

Another facet of the diverse INSEAD MBA is that we have a tradition of "national weeks", where a week belongs to a country, group of countries or even a continent and the week has many themes where students from the specific group/country represent their regions in different ways.

In the last few weeks we had had The Korea-Japan week, Aussie week, Africa week - and the last week was "desi" week. (A "desi" is someone from the Indian Subcontinent). It was a great fun filled week, with the t-shirts, dinner, party all sold out, well attended and very well organized by all those involved in it (Good work, guys/gals!)

The event was sponsored by Merrill Lynch (thanks!). Yo, Merrill Lynch, come hire more INSEAD grads!

* yup, I drew the poster.