Monday, December 20, 2010

How did I miss the class photo?

I have not posted for such a long time and I forgot my password on blogspot... Or, maybe I am just getting old with each term?

It is hard to post after Anand's philosophical writing, but I thought I would put down some simple words to end my 2nd term.

So, how did I miss the class photo? Simply put, I had too many things going on during the last day. Right after the Stats final, I run down to the 4th floor to finish up the PRiSM case, knowing that a career service appointment is coming up at 12pm and GCP team meeting at 1pm (which last for the rest of the afternoon). Most of my learning teammates joined me before noon with wine/beer in hand. Since classmates promised to call us before the photo session starts, we focused on the case. 

Even though the 4th floor study room is not at all where you want to be with a glass of wine, we were surprised that there is actually cell signal. We got the photo call, then hurried to the elevator. Elevator rose to the 5th floor but the door did not open. In a panic, we started pressing other floors and the elevator started going down slowly, a little faster than the snail. We can see a little light coming through whenever we passed a floor. Finally, we reached the first floor and attempted to break the door without any sign of success. So we started pressing the emergency button, calling classmates on cell phone... It was really warm inside the elevator, which made me more anxious... I cannot remember how we got out but I remember the relief I felt when the door opened and when I saw Larry's big smile. And the photo was done.

The silver lining is that we are moving to a new building next year so the new students probably will not encounter the elevator episode. But the lesson to myself is "do not end the semester with three hard deadlines in a row". While we did complete all the tasks on time,  I had no wine, no fun, not even a chance to say congrats or goodbye to my classmates. I wish I have learned the important lessons Anand learned - not to get bogged down in the homeworks and deadlines, but training your mind to cut down to the chase by distilling the situation down to its basics - which is to enjoy life and be happy.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Penchant for parsimony

As Term 2 wraps up and we head towards the holidays, one lesson that stays in mind from the term is the importance of being concise and precise in what we say by getting to the heart of the issue quickly and efficiently. Abel called it "nuanced observations", Ziv called it "nuggets", while Waterman taught us that we should always be parsimonious in our choice of regression models. So a penchant for parsimony was indeed what we tried to develop in the last four months. Ittner distilled down complicated cost accounting scenarios to the basics of activity based costing and allocation bases. Abel taught us how to simplify interactions between international economies through the IS-LM, AD-AS models and the asset, goods and labor markets. Useem made us focus on leading people by "saying it so it sticks" and providing us with a leadership template that summarizes the essentials of how to lead effectively. Waterman, through the PRiSM credit risk modeling gave us a sneak-peek into getting comfortable with volumes of data and analyzing and finding a signal within noisy, discontinuous, real-world data. Finally, Ziv made us realize how complex the issue of insurance hedges against oil price shocks could be, and gave us a taste of how we could navigate those waters by just focusing on the essentials and simulating and analyzing different risk environments. In essence, Term 2, for me, was all about learning not to get bogged down in the details of the data or the business situation that you are in, but training your mind to cut down to the chase by distilling the situation down to its basics, getting a laser focus on the key issues that need to be addressed, and finding appropriate solutions for them.

This post, however, clearly does not attempt to do what its title suggests. There's a lot to talk about, given that we're done with Term 2. Just a year ago, we were all busy with our admissions essays, talking to alums and students, figuring out the best time to interview with John and Barbara, deciding on where else to apply, supporting friends who were going through the same process ... fond memories of a time apparently from the distant past. The year just flew by, and boy what a journey it has been. Many of us in our class had significant events happen in our lives. Shane got married on the week school started, soon to be followed by Chad and more recently by Tao. Chandra kicked off the class 36 baby series soon after we got our admissions calls, and we've had Sonny and Harshit adding to their families as well. Mohit is leading the pack among the liberated ones to have taken the decision to submit themselves to a lifelong overlordship by getting engaged. Congratulations to all of you and welcome to the new additions to the class 36 family!

The last session was over before it began. We had two finals, and a credit risk homework due in Waterman's class. It was a welcome change to sit in Ziv's exam and not have time pressure to complete the test. One had time to admire the surroundings, wonder what the answers might be to problems that one didn't have  a clue about, and in general ponder about existence and other matters of consequence. Waterman rounded up the term with a multiple choice final where one ended up with different answers for the same questions depending on how many trials one attempted on the problem. Now if only they converged to the right choice ...

We celebrated the end of the term with a toast - yes, beer and wine before noon! Here's a picture of the class looking relieved to be one-third done with our MBAs.

Well, not really. The term was not quite over for many of us. We had postponed completing our credit risk analysis project for Waterman (called PRiSM2) until the weekend, so many of us were in the building until late evening. Thank you Larry for staying past your usual 7 pm closing time just to accommodate us poor souls cranking out a report and predictions before the 9 pm deadline. We owe you big time!

As the year draws to a close, many of us are also beginning our journey towards the goals that we have set for ourselves post-MBA. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many classmates start their companies in the past few months - first steps towards what I'm sure will be great efforts and at least a few big successes. Kudos to you all! Thanks to the dedication of classmates like Satish and Abhishek, the class had several informational treks to companies in the Bay area, forging relationships with them and paving the path for future classes to benefit from these interactions. For those that intend to apply to Wharton, look forward to several key announcements coming up early next year, about the new campus, new career management services locally, and the laying of foundations for relationships with firms in cleantech, finance, consulting and other key Bay area industries. Doug has been hard at work in making a lot of this happen, assisted by folks like Eswar from class 35 and Satish and others from my class.

That's it for now. Happy Holidays everyone and hope all of you have a wonderful new year ahead!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Refueling ...

Many of you would be aware of the interesting problem of a truck traveling in the desert. The truck gets 10 mpg, and starts next to N 50 gallon gas drums. Its tank can hold 10 gallons and is empty, and it can only carry one 50-gallon drum. You're asked to figure out how far the truck can go in the desert.

Why is this interesting, apart from its mathematical challenge? As several of you heard, the Wharton full-time program has made an announcement opening up executive-education classes for free (a limited number every so many years) for its alums. This is definitely a step in the right direction.

What is less known, but more significant for WEMBA students, alums and applicants, is that WEMBA classes are open to alums to audit, subject to approval by the faculty. This is a really cool part of the program for those that feel that they need to refresh their knowledge on something they learnt several years ago, or for auditing a class that was not offered at the time they were in school.

Reaching one's destination often involves several constrained optimization problems. Those that plan ahead and stow away refueling and recharging material for use when needed often end up reaching farther along the path to their destinations than those that don't. In this journey, it is heartening to note that Wharton helps by stowing away some of those refueling materials for us along the way, to stop, refuel and charge ahead.

Just thought I should highlight this at a time when Wharton and the revamp of the fulltime curriculum is being discussed. One more reason to join the program!

1. You can read about the curriculum overhaul here.
2. The curriculum overhaul is going to reflect into the WEMBA program as well, probably starting 2012.
3. WEMBA class audits are free once you graduate from the program, East or West.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

On apples, consumption, and giving back ...

Another weekend, another final. Term two comes to a close 11 days from now, bringing us a third of our way towards our destination. Last weekend we got done with our macroecon finals. As expected we had really interesting questions on the final, including Abel's trademark two-period apple consumption/allocation problem. Speaking with him over lunch, I learnt that multi-period consumption models are an area of research of his, which is probably the reason we get to consume apples at all his exams. Its pretty awesome how one "toy problem" (as Ziv calls these) can highlight so many aspects of real life macroeconomic issues such as tax rates, interest rates, binding borrowing constraints and social security. On being asked about his other areas of research, he tried to dumb down and explain one of the other topics he was working on - "optimal inattention to the stock market" which seemed quite fascinating as well. It would have been great if we got more time to interact with our faculty to learn about their areas of research and how that applies towards real-world problems. Zander from our class got a tshirt designed for Abel with apples in front and "Extreme Consumption Smoother" at the back, and we gifted it to him at the final  lecture - was pretty cool! As Kent mentioned to me tonight, Abel should be glad that we didn't give him the parting gift that we gave Kent - classrooms plastered with posters that deify all the "demons" that he made fun of in class.

The two-period consumption/allocation model serves as a good metaphor for the two years at Wharton for all of us as well. How we allocate our time across the two years - when to get burnt out, when to conserve energy, when to accumulate "brownie points" at home to use efficiently when needed, how to partition workload at work between the two years .. it is actually not a bad approximation, coming to think of it. Speaking of multi-period models, we had, in my view, one of the most interesting sessions in the program so far in Ziv's class over the weekend where we discussed a risk management case for hedging against oil price shocks through different insurance contracts. That was followed by a lightning drive-thru through PERT and CPM time-to-completion analysis and job completion times. It would have been interesting to have this as a full-credit class spread through the term so we got a better opportunity to internalize and learn more about these fascinating topics.

After that cerebral weekend in school, I ended the Saturday at a class 34 alum's house party with many class 34 students. Was great to see them again after the holiday party last year and their subsequent graduation. It was interesting to see that it was better attended this year - now that the class had graduated and had fewer opportunities to meet. It was also interesting to see how many of their careers had evolved in the past two years. Can't wait to see how the paths of class 36ers course-correct and accelerate over the next 16 months.

Though a good chunk of this post focused on academics, we're hardly all about classroom experiences. Here's a sneak peek at some of the cool stuff my rock-star classmates have been upto. After the gruelling weekend, some of them had international flights to catch, to travel to their first client meetings as part of the Global Consulting Practicum - one of the great experiences of the Wharton program for those that are interested. On top of the insane hours we need to put in into Term 3, these troopers like Monica have signed on to work with an international client, and students from an international MBA program to advise the firm on a consulting project. Hats off to them, and good luck!

Continuing the tradition of the earlier classes, class 36, under the leadership of Wendy are planning to extend and expand on the NonProfit Board Leadership Program in its West Coast incarnation. Call for applications has gone out and we will have training sessions coming up next term for the individuals who will join the Boards of different local nonprofits starting next June. Another project that's progressing pretty well with serious involvement from classmates like Chandan is Energize The Chain - an awesome project that aims to solve cold-chain issues in vaccine storage in developing nations by innovatively using cell towers. Its amazing to see folks devoting time towards giving back to the world around us through initiatives such as these even in the midst of their busy lives juggling work, home and school. Kudos to you!

Many of you might have read about Wharton's overhaul of its curriculum as announced earlier this week. Watch this space (or the official EMBA blog) for updates on the implications of this for the EMBA program. Thats it for the penultimate update for 2010! Roundup of term 2 and the year coming up in two weeks!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mind over matter ...

It feels good to be back home, a day after possibly the longest day we will have in the program. For most of us, yesterday began really early (for some the night before ended very late). We had classes from 9.30-12.30, 1.30-4.30, 4.45-6.45 and to top it all, a two-hour exam on leadership from 7.30-9.30 where we had to write essays on leadership related issues based on cases we had learnt. Did I mention that we had two homeworks assignments due as well?

 Hats off to fellow 36ers who survived the day and came out unscathed. Many of us went back and celebrated at the Wharton Pub at the end of it all. The day started with Bretton Woods and the Big Mac Index, gained momentum with Monte Carlo simulations and exotic option pricing, and led us into dinner with volatility smiles and Mahalanobis distances. If you didn't follow me through the end of that sentence, not to worry. I didn't either - now the lecture notes would have to rescue me. After all that, we got time to hurry and huddle together for a quick dinner and then take the test of our lives. I don't think I've written so much since my English exam in 12th grade, where I had to critique Pygmalion, Lord of the Flies and Macbeth over three hours. Since then, laptops arrived and the clickety-clack of the keyboard has replaced writing for most of us. Getting my fingers and shoulder used to writing for that long again was definitely an interesting experience. Studying for the test was a worthwhile exercise as well, tying together the different concepts we learnt in the leadership class.

In the middle of all this, several of my classmates were busy preparing to deliver their presentations for the International Study Tour choices. This year the top three contenders were Turkey, China and Brazil. The extent of research done by the teams and the quality of their presentations was just remarkable! These guys should work the tourism departments of those countries. Thank you guys for giving us a quick crash course on the business potential and party potential of all these countries. Whichever we end up picking, I'm sure that many of us would visit the other options as well in the future, so we will rely on your expertise and contacts to guide us then.

And just when I thought that class 36ers (yours truly included) had minds of steel that could conquer it all, today put things in perspective. Unfortunately, the day began with one of our faculty having a medical emergency and canceling his session in the morning. While we had a joint session for the other class in the morning, we waited to hear that he was well and was going to be taking time off to rest and recover while we figure out how to reschedule the class. But he had other ideas. He rushed out of the hospital at the first chance he got back to campus, so he could teach us what would be one of the most interesting topics we have covered in the class so far. Despite appearing to be tired, it was clear how excited he was to teach the same topic that he has probably taught to Wharton students for decades. The commitment, dedication, and pure mastery over the subject were just inspiring to watch and an experience to be part of. We all wish him the best of health and speedy recovery!

In journeys like this one, it is often the quality of the minds (like the one above) that you encounter that matter. The nuances of their commentary, the sophistication of their world view on their subject matter, their keen senses of humor - these are experiencies that will get etched in our memories forever. For that, I'm glad to be back in school, and to be back at a place like this where one sees the mind transcending physical limits and achieving what one would think was not possible.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The road less traveled ...

Thanks to the leadership and efforts of our Vice Dean, Doug Collom, Wharton San Francisco in conjunction with Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati launched the first session of a series of workshops focused on entrepreneurship. This first episode of the Wharton Entrepreneurs Workshop got oversubscribed in a few hours after it was offered, which is a great indicator of how many among the Wharton community (students and alumni) are interested in starting companies, or are currently doing so. I was not surprised to have this validated at the event either. I met a few alums and current students who left their jobs a year ago and are in the early prototype stages of their startups that they bootstrapped so far.

Class 36ers were of course, the largest contingent, given that we're already in school and this felt like another lecture we could go to. The speaker today was Rob Coneybeer, co-founder and general partner at Shasta Ventures. The discussion was around what the focus should be while starting a company - how much of a focus on the product vs. team and other things. He had a few interesting observations to make and experiences and anecdotes to share. Can't wait for future episodes of this series. Doug is also trying to get these archived so that folks who could not make it can watch them offline.

Why is this the update for the week? When interviewing at Wharton I used to compare what resources are available here with the Wharton Entrepreneurial Programs at Philly, and wonder how much of it we were missing here. Though we still probably aren't there at that level of operation, efforts like this are unique to our geography that no other region in the US could do as well. We are at an amazing confluence of technology, capital, talent and entrepreneurial bent, and programs like this are ideally positioned to leverage all of these and fashion the big successes of tomorrow.

So if you thought Wharton in SF and entreneurship did not gel well, think again. And keep watching this space for more updates on such programs. The road to entrepreneurial success is a long and lonely one, and events like this help solidify connections that go a long way towards making that journey quicker, livelier and more memorable.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pedal to the metal ...

Last week was probably the toughest so far in the program. Two midterms, one homework submission, one team-project simulation and a lot of required reading for OPIM that started last session. It felt great to survive that and forge ahead ... albeit from the frying pain into a rapidly forming fire. We were supposed to have a final in the leadership class as well this session, but we managed to get that postponed so that things were more manageable.

Having said that, some of the experiences were just surreal. It is not everyday that one has the opportunity to look at a headline news item on the Fed and their actions to get us out of the financial mess and hear one's Professor explain in class "Ben must have done that because ...". For those that think that this sounds like PR for Wharton, let me add that other top programs would rightfully have similar claims to make as well. My experience is at Wharton, hence the description. In Abel's class we also had a simulation where we got to run economies as a fiscal team or a monetary team and wreck them through our badly chosen interest rates and taxes. There were a select few that won the tournament of course, through judicious and prudent policies. But it was fun to wreck an economy nevertheless, something one might never get a chance to do again ...

Speaking of other programs, we had a get-together of MBA students and alums from the Berkeley-Columbia, UCLA and Wharton programs on Friday night at the Meridien. Was interesting to chat with students and alums from other programs and compare notes. Many of us class 36ers were spent after two days of exams and homeworks, so we might have sounded a bit brain-dead to the rest of you ... accept our apologies for that :).

It was also great to meet with prospective applicants who attended our sessions. Looking at their backgrounds and accomplishments, I think class 37 is going to be an amazing class .. just as ours ;). Its getting time for you guys to narrow down your choices in terms of programs, as well as what to put on your resumes and essays. If you haven't scheduled your interview at Wharton already, you might want to get on the phone and get started soon. John and Barbara are amazing people to talk to, and let us assure you that they don't bite, so come soon! If class 36 is in session, I do hope to meet with all of you while you're in as well.

The other highlight of the weekend was Ziv's OPIM opening session. It is kind of surprising, spooky and brilliant all at the same time when your Professor walks into the room knowing all your names and employers and looks at you at appropriate parts of the lecture to point out to you how it relates to your job, or asks for your input based on your direct background. The material seems heavy on math but the treatment in class was more to stimulate intuition and teach the correct thought process for making business decisions, so it would be interesting to see how these two paths converge as the course progresses.

It was also great to see so many spouses, partners and children show up for this session. We also had Doug speaking to us about his plans for WEMBA West in the months to come and details about the announcement about the new campus. Given all the activities that we had, there were no speakers scheduled this time, which was great as it gave us time to catch our breath during the hectic sessions.

Post-session, it felt great to see that, which was started by a couple of WEMBA West alums, got acquired by Amazon for a good chunk of Benjamins. Of course, as Waterman told us this time, "correlation is not causation". But hey, it feels good to think that it might be. Given the interest level and experience that my class has in entrepreneurship, I wouldn't be surprised if 5-7 years down the line it was one of their names that I find on a similar news article. On that note, its time to post this and call it a night ...

Monday, October 25, 2010

The power of ten ...

October 23rd 2010 was a landmark date in the history of WEMBA West - something that many of us will remember for years to come. After a lot of planning (thank you Juana and Doug!) we had an event that brought together all batches to ever be part of WEMBA West - from class 27 all the way to class 36. How cool is that!

The event was kicked off by Mike Useem with an engaging lecture on leadership. For those of us in class 36 it felt like a continuation from earlier in the day when we had just finished our leadership simulations and lectures for his class. All ten cohorts have had the rare privilege of learning leadership from Mike, so it was only appropriate that he kicked off the event. It was fun to watch cohorts that graduated years ago volunteer enthusiastically to answer questions that Mike posed to the audience. Of course there was the pride in one's own class evinced by the cheers that the responders got from their classmates.

This session was followed by a wonderful reception hosted at the Wharton Pub. Great food, great music, and an important announcement from Doug - stay tuned for an official update when its ready to be announced. The warmth with which classes from years past greeted us class 36ers and engaged with us was quite refreshing. It was also fun to observe them meet each other and catch up, after a long hiatus, in a school setting.

What did I learn from this event? School is school irrespective of what age you graduate from it - nothing like a ten-year reunion to drive that home. The growth of the WEMBA West program in the past ten years has just been amazing, and the next two years will expand and solidify our presence here in the Bay area. So applicants, now's your turn to claim a piece of WEMBA West history and make it your own!

What else? We got done with managerial accounting last session with an "interesting" final to wrap things up - alas, no more Ittner or Useem for the rest of the program. It was a pleasure to learn from them. In terms of visitors who came to speak to the class, we had David Pottruck, the ex-CEO of Charles Schwab who came to talk to the class despite not being in the best of health. We also had Stephen Denny, the author of "Killing Giants", give a riveting lecture on what companies can do to stand on their own against giants in their own market. We had animated sessions to discuss which electives to vote on for Year 2, with the different focus groups recommending electives important to them. Some of us were out partying with Berkeley-Columbia folks Friday night as well. And oh, did I mention the upcoming mixer on the 5th where we will have WEMBA, Berkeley-Columbia and UCLA folks attending! All in all, the sessions end up being so packed with action that one needs all of Sunday just to recuperate and get back to regular life!

That's it for this update. For folks that are looking to apply, visit us, attend a reception, and let us know if we can help answer any of your concerns. Until next time, goodnight, and good luck!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Come Visit!

Hey all you out there (yes, you!). If you're thinking about Wharton's program in San Francisco or knows someone who might be, I encourage you to schedule a campus visit. No matter what we write (although it is fun for us to keep the blog), it's hard to convey the energy of our class. It's sort of magical to be honest... like fairy dust. No, not really, but seriously I am a believer in things always working out the way they're supposed to, even if it's not what we expect. I found a home at Wharton and if you're looking to do an MBA, I encourage you to find a home that fits you and I hope that 101 Howard is on your journey.

Learning from the Best

It's been awhile since I wrote about my experience at Wharton directly but have been thinking about this post for some time. 
Okay - Wharton EMBA is not cheap. Seriously. The value (to me) is in the classmates, the network, the brand, and of course, the professors. When I was talking to people from other schools the had mixed reviews about the professors, in stark contrast was the way the Wharton students talked so highly of their professors. Now I'm living it first hand.
Term 1: Great professors to ease you back into school work, detailed explanations and gentle teaching
Term 2: I was apprehensive since our professors were so awesome in Term 1 but was pleasantly surprised when we got: one of the best storytellers I've ever met (great for a leadership class), a fast talking British statistics professor, a quirky and operations-loving cost accounting teacher, and an uncensored macroeconomics dude. Sure, they might be eccentric but they are PhDs after all! (Can I say that since I was in a PhD program?) 
One thing that strikes me about all the professors is how much they care about the students. They genuinely want us to learn, understand our passions, help us with startup ideas, and work with us to create new electives (like internet retailing and how it relates to business model, marketing strategy, and supply chain -- yes please!). 
So even though I had already settled the money factor in my head before coming to Wharton, I've been pleasantly surprised at almost all the interactions I've had. They say we get the best professors (ones that get the highest point bidding in the full-time program) out here in SF, and I believe it. It's an incredible value to connect with and learn from these amazing folks inside and outside the classroom. Money more than well spent in my opinion.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The paradox of choice ...

Its time for our class to be voting on choices - where to go on international trip and which electives to pick for next year. There's a more immediate vote going on - in what we call "hell weekend" we have three midterms scheduled and two homeworks due. A vote is on to see if we can move one of them to the following session.

In the midst of all of this choice, its easy to get lost. In fact its hard not to. There are those that wish to remain generalists and pick electives from different specialties. Then there are those that wish to focus on a specialty and go deep. Then there are those like me, that love being back in school and find half the electives interesting - which means that it would take about 10-11 years in school to finish those.

The choice is on for new applicants as well, as the MBA receptions are on in full swing for many programs. We have our steady stream of visitors during our sessions, and had a reception after our last session for potential applicants. It felt great talking to all of them, sharing what I've learnt, and reliving those exciting days of taking the GMAT and writing essays. Good luck to all of you! For those of you wondeirng if the Career Management Services at WEMBA West are any good, stay tuned for updates officially from Wharton as well as from us students in the coming months ...

These are exciting times ... these are testing times .. as one decides which of the roads to take. There's but one life, but there are so many lives to live. What road at the fork will we pick and where will that lead us to?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The better half ...

Just got done with our first session post-Philly. While we did miss the fun we had at Philly, it was great to be back on home turf and settle down into our familar classrooms with familar faces sitting at familiar locations :). Had two riveting sessions on managerial accounting from Ittner, and three macro sessions from Abel where we got done with baby steps and are into the core of the macro material now. We also had a talk from Howie Kaufold about the electives process for our second year courses.

What was most heartening for me was that I got to meet two potential class 37 candidates, and both were women. Officially now I've had more potential women students contact me than men. So I thought I'd dedicate this post to that topic. As Wharton EMBA program wins yet another #1 ranking (WSJ), it is sad that like other EMBA programs, the number of women that are part of a typical cohort is not that high. I've heard various reasons for this, including the fact that the typical woman candidate has a child or children at home and that makes it even harder to strike a balance, on top of managing work and school. That the full-time programs get more women applicants because at that stage in their lives it is easier for them to make the commitment to school.

So why am I, a man, writing this post? Firstly, I can speak to the caliber of some of my women classmates out here in SF, as well as a few that I met while at Philly. Not only are they balancing great careers and school, some of them have kids at home as well! Having had the good fortune to have the women closest to me through my life all be super-women that juggled all these responsibilities, I know that it can be done. And that it can be done well if done right. For the folks with kids, I think a cooperative spouse is an amazing support system as couple of my classmates can attest to. For folks without kids, or those that are single, I do wish to learn more about reasons why the applicant pool is not as large as that for men since I firmly believe that there is no dearth of talent.

This is not a "feminist" post or something that's going to refer back to women's empowerment and all that. We all know our history and where the world is today. A woman is no less smart, no less capable, nor less ambitious than a man today. Several of my classmates and other Wharton alums that I've met are living testimony to this. So why is the applicant pool of women in EMBA programs so low?

So if you are a woman reading this blog (including the few that I've spoken to so far) - take the plunge and apply! Its not going to be an easy two years, but I believe that it will transform your lives in more ways that you can imagine right now. If you have any questions feel free to write to us, or talk to us and we're more than happy to put you in touch with folks who have been through similar experiences and can guide you.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Its a blur

In the short break between terms, we presented our Field Application Project to our sponsoring organization. FAP can be a strain. It was a lot of work for our team, and we had to pull long nights to get the analysis and report done. It left us with a very short time to prepare for finals in term 1, and they were brutally hard.

Term 1 feels like hors de oeuvres after the first few Term 2 lectures that ratcheted up the pace. The Philly trip was a blur -- classes, networking, parties, after-parties, caffeine, more caffeine, more networking, both with students from the east as well
as our own West buddies.

In both WEMBA programs, the class is divided into two sections, and in each of the first three terms, rotation of students occurs, allowing one to take classes with each of your fellow grads in the first year. This
adds to the learning experience -- one learns from classmates as well as faculty.

Faculty -- wow! We thought the first term faculty were phenomenal, and then term 2 turned out to be mind-blowing. It takes incredible passion to be fully focused at delivering a great lecture (twice a
day, once to each section), and then sometimes do a third lecture at the end of the day. I never felt that the professors "tired" of teaching. With the rapid give-and-take that occurs during the lecture, you have to be on their toes, in case you are called on to respond.
Mike Useem knows how to deliver a performance (I highly recommend you read his book, "The Leadership Moment"); Andy Abel is entertaining and helps keep dry macroeconomics interesting (plus you get to say that you are one degree of separation from Ben Bernanke); Chris Ittner helps you take a dry set of numbers and question everything behind them (it was entertaining that he picked the entertainment industry's accounting as a starting case); Richard Waterman makes statistics come alive with his choice of cases as well.

Reality check: There is a boatload of work this term, since we have 4 courses in parallel instead of the 3 from term 1. The half-credit-unit courses imply finals in the middle of the term as well. Plus, we have to prepare for our international trip presentations (coming up soon for a
presentation/vote); some classmates are preparing for GCP interviews (Global Consulting Practicum); and we will soon have to vote on electives for the second year.

To WEMBA37 applicants: This is an incredibly phenomenal program but it is a lot of work. It requires commitment to the program and to your fellow classmates. Its not just a network that you build here, but lifelong friendships.

I have had the privilege of meeting fantastic friends; we have opened our vistas and conquered prejudices. One of my closest friends in class comes from a diametrically different ba
ckground. Yet, we have learned from each other, and have influenced each other's lives.

As you start the application process, bear this in mind. The impact that the program has on you is a given; the question is: what impact will you have on the program?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


That, in short, describes how last week felt for most of us, riding down the rollercoaster of Term 2 in Philly. Classes from 9 am to 6 pm, official events until 9.30 pm, unofficial events until late into the night ... rinse and repeat for three straight days. Follow that up with a day long trip to Gettysburg as part of our leadership class. And the sheer exhaustion of sleepless nights, four classes filled with new information, and the sheer wealth of talent in front of you in terms of the class from the other coast that you wish you had enough time to interact with at a slower pace - it takes a few days to recover from this journey and the recovery has just begun for me.

Mothership was all that one was expecting it to be, and more! As an Indian, I was proud to see Dhirubhai Ambani's name outside the big auditorium in Huntsman - Indian names in these buildings are a rarity and its always cool to see them. I loved the campus and the architecture of so many buildings out there. I'm told that Usain Bolt ran at the stadium at Penn as part of Penn relays - how cool is that! School had started for fulltimers and undergrads, so campus was choc-a-bloc with students and parents. Some of us wondered which category we would get slotted into, since we fit neither well. You will probably get to see some pictures in the coming days when one of my co-bloggers finds time to upload some.

This term promises to be an exciting one! Leadership from Useem, Stat from Waterman, Macroecon from Abel and Managerial Accounting from Ittner, to be followed up by OPIM with Ziv - so much to learn from the best minds that offer it to us in three-hour capsules to gulp down and digest. Its amazing how dedicated, well-informed, inspiring and passionate each of these people are, and I cannot wait to see what the rest of the term has in store. I never thought I'd learn so much about leadership with the civil war as a backdrop, and the trip to Gettysburg with Prof. Useem and my classmates achieved just that. We also had an amazing guide - Bill Bowling from the National Parks Service. If anyone plans to visit Gettysburg I would recommend him in a heartbeat - there seems to be nothing civil war related that he does not have a detailed answer for, including days, dates, months and years when things happened! Look him up online for some other blog posts that talk about him.

Hope essays are going well for the folks that plan to apply for next year. Some of the folks that contacted me are working on other essays right now and were going to get to their Wharton essays later. I would recommend to atleast have an outline of what you intend to write for your Wharton essays ready and to call admissions folks and schedule an interview when you're ready to talk to them. Also reach out to as many current and former students of the program as well. Talking to more people helps refine your thinking and realize what you want from the program. It definitely helped me think through my essays and reasons for joining Wharton.

That's it for now folks! Its crunch time for new applicants now, so keep your focus and hang on tight - this is going to be one hell of a ride!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Inching up to the top of the roller coaster ...

It has been two weeks since Term 1 ended. This has been a great break to spend some quality time with family, as well as catch up at work and put in the time needed to finish up things that had slowed down during finals week. Term 2 starts in less than a week in Philly and we're all excited to check-in to the mother ship, meet classmates from the other coast, and enjoy the experience. Oh yeah, there are these small annoyances called classes that happen all day as well, along with the associated required reading that we are supposed to be doing now, and the preparation required between classes. But then again, who has time to read ahead of time when one can always read later :) ...

We had a good get-together today with class 33 and class 36 folks at Pedro's in Santa Clara today. It was great to meet class 33 folks who showed up and hear about their experiences. Equally great was to meet classmates after what looks like forever and catch up. Its been only 4 months since we've all known each other, but one could already get the sense of long-lost friends getting back together the way the conversations went today. Feels great to belong to a close community like that. A shared experience of surviving through stress brings people together I guess ...

As we inch up to the top of the roller coaster for another engaging ride starting next week, I wanted to give a shout out to the WEMBA East folks ... get ready! We're coming! Can't wait to meet the counterpart class from the other coast and get to know them!

Monday, September 6, 2010

WEMBA Reflections post Term 1

Now that all of us WEMBA 36's have successfully completed Term 1 (on 08/28/10), I certainly have a better understanding of what I signed up for :)
For starters, it is certainly more work than I had believed - certainly people said it will take 20 hours a week but I thought that I would be able to manage with less (haha!). In essence, we have signed up to go through an experience and the appropriate effort needs to be made (else you will short-change yourself). In summary, regularity is the key - somewhere between 5-20 hours a week is what is required (yes, not all sessions are as hectic - we had a couple of days that were pretty chill).
The academia is competitive but unlike undergrad or even grad school, your peers are very helpful. I think that's a major difference - the classmates, teachers, alumni are SO much more responsive and available. The other major realization I had is that there isn't much time - 2 years is generally a short period of time anyway but in WEMBA since you only meet alternate Fri/Sat, its effectively even shorter! Its important not to procastinate. So reach out, socialize, mingle/network, utilize Wharton resources, discuss ideas, construe feedback - start whatever you want early - you have to make the effort to reach out and make things happen for you and quickly!
The material that we covered in Term 1 (Managerial Economics, Financial Accounting, Management of People) was very interesting and very applicable to everyday life. Its surprising how much of it makes sense when you put it in context of work or your own expeirence - ofcourse it also makes you wonder how some of the people you work with know so little! I was engaged even more by the great professors we had and some of the great discussions that were triggered by the diverse backgrounds and experiences of the students.
The weekly routine does become very hectic. The week that you are not in school is not any easier because either you are preparing for school or working on a team/group assignment or doing other related research AND catching up on work and family chores/commitments. Since you end up choosing between work, Wharton and family many times a day, in some cases you will have to choose to be a C-class player and suck it up. What's important is to balance your priorities to achieve your goals in all aspects of your life.
My decision to join WEMBA wouldn't change if I had known all this upfront though - the reason is because WEMBA is a transformational experience (different for everyone, but life-changing nevertheless) and this is what it takes for that to happen...
On to Term 2 - WEMBA East we're coming.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Application Tips

Lessons I learned from The EMBA Application Process…

For those of you who are applying this year, it is time to start! I guess there are four things you need to worry about once you have decided to apply to Wharton – GMAT, Resume & Essay, Recommendation, and Interview, usually in that order. I did GMAT four years ago when I had lots of time, so I do not remember much about it. Pick the test date, then put together a study schedule and follow it with discipline. A super high score (close to 800) really gives yourself good feelings about yourself but might not help much in the application. Pay attention to the class average stats. Budge your time wisely.

Now, what matters more is the other three. Before you start any of them, you have to think hard what you really want to do with your life. My yoga teacher’s line for today was “the purpose of life is a life of purpose”. Stanford’s first essay question – what matters to you the most – is a great question you should ask yourself, even though you do not have to write it for Wharton. The key is to be “open, safe and vulnerable”. You really have to face the real you, know your dreams, understand your priorities, and identify your weakness. Another good way to know yourself better is to jot down what you spend your time on every day. For each activity, ask yourself what motivates you to do it and ask yourself what else you should do instead. It will help you identify who you are, and also help with the Wharton essay – how do you plan to spend 20 hours per week on study while living your normal life.

Once you have your own story, share it with your family and friends. They will ask questions to make your thoughts clearer. Do mock interviews too!

Now, you are ready to interview! Yeah, I meant interview. One key difference between EMBA application and interview is that you can interview before submitting your application. EMBA also interviews EVERY applicant – the admission staff really wants to know every applicant. So, go ahead schedule your class visit and interview. During the class visit, you will be able to meet current students, and observe the high level of engagement in the classroom. Most importantly, decide whether WEMBA is a good match for you.
Once you have met the admission staff and current students, you can start writing your essays, updating your resume, and asking for recommendations. Those are pretty standard once you know your story.

Feel free to reach out to any of us by leaving comments on the blog site. We are more than happy to help!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Network, Network, Network

Outside of networking opportunities at school hosted talks and alumni gatherings, I find the class using each other as great resources through a variety of mediums:

- Email group (unofficial): a google group of most students. Great place to get references for a variety of things from each other. Just this week alone, people shared sample NDAs, advertising contacts in Asia, and import agent contacts!
- Email list (official): this the mailing list for all students and administration staff. Used often to communicate schedule changes, reminders for school events, etc.
- Student clubs: mailing lists to share upcoming events and information for specific clubs (finance, entrepreneurship, etc.)
- Blackberry Group: group chat on BBM with about 30 members. Quick 411 on golf plans, bar hopping, poker rounds, and club scenes.
- Facebook Group: internal group of students and select administration staff. Lots of group discussions around upcoming trips, sharing of articles, class photos, team events, etc.
- Webcafe: internal tool (think Sharepoint) to share documents, course materials, reports, presentations, etc.
- Direct Email: Wharton’s address book gives you access to all students, faculty, and a ton of mailing lists.
- Good old texting: and when nothing else works, this does!

It feels like drinking from a fire hose at times, but seriously, the information shared is awesome! Best of all, the network is for life!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I love school!

I am a nerd but seriously, I love school. Not just the learning a lot of stuff in a short period of time aspect, but the community, the ideas, and the energy -- you know, the whole package.

Yesterday we had our first final and at dinner our Econ professor had some "healthy banter" with us about the exam. On my way out of school, I chatted with the Admissions Director about some potential applicants and making school visits (dare I say) fun! Last night a group of fellow nerds and I studied for our Accounting final today and while we were taking it seriously, we also chatted about careers, aspirations, and our entrepreneurial ventures. During my run this morning on the beautiful Embarcadero (take that Philly), I bumped into several students on their was to campus and it hit me -- I am having the academic experience of my dreams.

I don't know if it was the endorphins from running or a long overdue epiphany but I am completely, utterly grateful for this experience. For those who anyone who might think that being away from the mothership (read:Philly campus) makes any less of an experience, I challenge you to come and feel the energy we have in SF and tell me that it's not pretty darn amazing.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The end of the beginning ...

In a few days, Term 1 will be history, and class 36 would have made 1/6th of its way towards graduation. As you can see from the silence on the blog, we're all busy preparing for our first finals in possibly several years, trying to remember how it felt like to take a three-hour exam, remembering how to make efficient cheat sheets, and listing out materials to take with us for open-book exams.

Just in case you forget, these exams are on top of your work and life commitments. After hearing about these from earlier WEMBA batches, it now gives us first-hand experience in juggling all of these commitments in this crucial week, dropping a few to pick them up later, cherry-picking a few that we refuse to let go of (like family commitments) and holding on to them for dear life while watching other less important ones drop off for now .. It makes for an interesting experiment in time management, to say the least.

For applicants to the WEMBA program, here's an update. Some of us met with the admissions folks over last session. They are really excited to start the receptions for the next year and are waiting to meet all of you at the receptions in the Bay area, as well as in a host of other cities that they will announce on the official Wharton blog. Meanwhile, feel free to write to any of us with questions you might have - just leave comments here and we can get in touch with you, or better still, come to a reception and meet us there!

Join me in wishing the WEMBA 36ers the very best in their finals - hope all the lost sleep will be worth it :). As with all beginnings, as we reach the end of the beginning, we come that much closer to the beginning of the end of this wonderful journey...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Entrepreneurship Club!

The enthusiasm of our class is unmatched! Just within the first term, we have already established: eclub (entrepreneurship club), finclub (finance club), En-a-CT (Energy and CleanTech club), real estate club, golf club, expert club... . Classmates joked that we need a "recap" club to summarize all the great activities organized by these clubs.

As an organizer of the eclub, I am going to write about eclub (of course!) But first of all, let me mention several differences between our clubs and the full time MBA clubs. First of all, our clubs are not across classes since class 35 and class 36 have different schedules: we show up in San Francisco during alternate weekends. Nevertheless, we are trying to find opportunities to learn from and collaborate with the class 35 eclub. The advantage is: we have a chance to define our club mission and strategy and deliver it for our class! Second, since we are not on campus 24x7, we need to be very selective in what we organize. There is very limited free time during class weekends and all the clubs want to schedule some activities. We learn to collaborate and deliver high quality activities (value, value, value!). Third, since we are all working in different companies/industries, we can tap into our existing networks very easily. Within a short time, we already have a pipeline of speakers filled up!

So far, eclub has organized two activities: a) club member meeting to establish club mission; b) entrepreneur panel with our classmates. Over half of our class is interested in setting up their own companies - the unique value Wharton EMBA West advertises to applicants is true! We focused our club mission to enable our classmates to run their startups. The first panel with entreprenuers was very successful: entreprenuers from our class discussed challenges they faced openly with us and answered all sorts of questions from us. One classmate commented "I started to know what I do not know."

Our upcoming events include: Panel with VCs (from our class and outside of our class), Busienss Plan Competition Prep, and Treks... I really feel that I am on track to accomplish the entreprenuership mission I wrote in my application essay!   

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Parties on non-school weekends

Attend Harshit's party this weekend. Wow! I didnt know what I was missing. Got to connect with the families of my friends. Had some really interesting discussions and ate some amazing food. Pictures from the house party in South Bay. People also got together in San Francisco and Seattle.

School this coming weekend!!

House Parties

In addition to all the networking events, it’s nice to see the batch come together for what seems to be quickly becoming a ritual – house parties. I hosted the second one last week. So far we seem to be averaging one a month. It’s definitely great to get more face time with your class mates, but the real value of these events are for families, quite frankly.

There’s no question that the program is taxing and takes a lot of hours – both in and outside of class. And there’s also no question that we can’t do this without the support of our families. The house parties give them a chance to meet each other, trade war stories, and form their own network. After all, we are all in this together!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The sound of silence ...

As fall approaches and the MBA admissions process starts for different schools, many of you might have started the process of taking GMAT and wondering what to do with your essays. As I look back to those days, one useful piece of advice I could give would be that the habits you develop during this time will help you once you are in the MBA program as well. As you navigate the labyrinths of application forms and deadlines, listen to yourself. Take feedback and advice from as many different people as possible, internalize it, and then take a pause. Look within. What comes to mind when all there is is the sound of silence? Just as the application process is all about figuring out what you wish to achieve with the MBA and how your life so far helps you towards that, the MBA process itself, as I am learning firsthand, is all about figuring out what you want out of it and working towards that. What rings true in the silence of introspection as you prepare your essays is what will guide you as you navigate the waters of the MBA program.

In some sense, it is like transplanting you as you are driving during rush hour in Boston or New York, into the traffic in Mumbai on a normal day in India. You are already an expert at driving in an environment where traffic rules are considered useful suggestions rather than rules, so you know how to move forward successfully under uncertainty. Now you need to figure out how to travel towards your destination in an environment where everyone seems to be traveling in totally different, sometimes contradictory directions. The sights and sounds on the roads are aplenty, several roadside vendors of interesting products beckon you to stop awhile and take a look. Each moment is a sensory overload in terms of the information your brain can process, yet you need to focus and remember that you hit the road with a plan to get to a destination. While you can have your pick of roadside distractions to entertain you along the way just as any other person, it is ultimately up to you to reach where you intended to reach. If you are lost all that you need to do is to stop and ask any bystander for directions and they are eager to help. But unless you, in the silence of your thoughts, process all inputs thrown your way and find out where you wish to go, you will not get there.

So as you look ahead to some of the busiest years in your life, stop, relax, reflect. For one, you will not find time to do that for a while, especially if you get into a program that's intense and intensely rewarding such as the WEMBA program. Listen to your mind as it tries to find an optimal resting place between the different constraints of time, family, friends, work, money and desired goals. Observe what process led it to that choice. Once you are in the MBA program, these observations will help you stay the course and course correct when needed, and not get lost as myriads of choices get thrown your way. After all, it is through moments of silence that our inner selves speak loudest to us.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Term 1: Check Point (exams and FAP)

More than half of the first term is gone… we have had 3 mid-term exams since the second weekend in SF and finally, we now have two weekends (end of July and mid-August) without worrying about any exam. Then, the finals will arrive at the end of August. What a packed term! And it will get worse in term 2, 3, 4 …

When I evaluate how well I did in the exam, I cannot help but using the equity theory learned from the management class: was my output/input ratio above or below my expectation? If not, did I study efficiently? Did I spend the extra 80% of time to get the extra 20% of score? Of course, sometimes I tend to compare my output/input ratio to others’ – “too competitive”. But more than often, I would self-correct since comparing with others will never make me happy. The ultimate goal is to learn and apply the knowledge, at the same time, maybe improve exam tactics. Study partnership definitely helps, even if you understand one concept better than other people, explaining it to them make your own understanding deeper. Knowing others got a better score with your help is much more satisfactory than getting a higher score yourself. And when I am the person being helped, I feel very grateful for the great classmates I had the honor to meet in Wharton.

The biggest project for me this term is FAP (field application project) since I convinced my learning team to conduct the study in my organization. If you really want to do it in your organization, the key is to convince your upper management to sponsor FAP before you start at Wharton. Since the project lasts for less than three months, a quick start is crucial. After that, you will work with your organization and your learning team to define the scope and approach. Our data collection is mostly done via phone interviews and competitive analysis. Of course the highlight of the project was meeting the president of my organization – half of my team travelled to Seattle for this. It is an eye-opening project not only for my learning term who did not know much about my organization before, but also for me. I got to know many people in my organization and learn about cultural differences outside of my team. Coordinating the entire project is not easy at all, and I probably spent 20 hours just to arrange all the appointments and internal data collection. Not everyone will understand the importance of the project, and you really have to believe what you are doing and continue doing it especially when people refuse to participate for various reasons. Believe that you can make a change is the key to success of FAP, or to any other endeavor in life.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Pacing oneself ...

Since I don't run quite as often as I talk about running, I thought I'd use running analogies this time as a wishful motivator to get me out and about. These first six weeks at Wharton have been like the first two miles in a marathon. You know you're a 4-hr finisher, but you like to feel cool and stand at the 3-hr starting line with the Boston qualifiers. You see them zipping ahead and in all the headiness of the race, the cheering crowds and the reality that race day has finally arrived, you get your adrenaline rush and start sprinting along with them too.

It feels good for the first mile. At the second mile, slowly some muscles start to cramp. Stomach tightens. Posture sags. You start taking big breaths from your wide-open mouth ... and slow yourself down to a jog, trying to recover your breath and deciding to pace yourself at the speed that works for you. Ultimately, thats what the marathon - and in a sense, life - is all about. Its about the journey, and your experience along the way; the friends you make, the people you cheer along, the folks that run beside you when you begin to tire and cheer you on. Its about finishing strong with a smile on your face, your friends crossing that finish line together with you.

There are the 3-hr finishers. Hell, there are the 2.5-hr finishers. Kudos to them. The key is, what is in this journey for you? When you decide to apply for an MBA program, or more specifically for the Wharton Exec MBA program, what motivated you? As you will all find out, this is not your typical Exec MBA program. Getting the same experience as a full-time program in terms of workload - that is the exhilirating part about this program, and that can be something difficult to get your head around as well. The key, as we're learning slowly, is to pace yourself. To keep in mind, that this is not a sprint, but a marathon. What matters is not how long it took you to cross that finish line, and how many were ahead of you, but how many will remember that you ran the race with them, and cherish the shared experience for years to come.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Things that made it worth it.. in session 2 alone

It’s not easy chasing that equilibrium people talk about. I wonder if I’ll ever find mine. However, I did find a few things last session that made it fun.

1. Wharton Clubs: it’s a set of people with common interests. Entrepreneurship, Venture Capital, Invest Banking, Consulting, and Clean Tech were the ones people talked most about. The concept of taking ‘treks’ is pretty neat. A bunch of students setup day long meetings with a few firms in an area (say VC firms, or Invest Banks) and then they spend about 1-2 hours with each firm. They sit in on meetings, listen in on conversations, get to ask tons of questions, and make plenty of connections. For a lot of people, they have a sense of the career switch they have planned, but with no concrete ideas/next-steps or connections. This solves that all, and more!

2. Learning Teams: the Director of Admissions is behind the art and science of putting these together taking a bunch of factors such as work experience, job sector, location, scores, and his secret sauce into the mix. What comes out is teams of 5-6 people called learning teams. All team projects for the first year are done within this team. This team is where you start – the foundation of team learning. They are your de facto study group, people you lean on, and the people you probably get to know first (and best?).

3. Class Diversity: not to beat a dead horse, but the people here come from varied backgrounds. The class profiles give you a sense.

4. The Wharton Bar: this is a great idea; kudos to whoever thought about it. A bar just for students and faculty in the hotel where everyone is already staying. Drinks are half off. And no one needs to drive back!

5. Commuting Options: a bunch of us carpool up from South Bay in a Limo. That’s right, a limo!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Perspective on Priorities

I always thought that I managed my time well, but the WEMBA is teaching me new prioritization skills on a daily basis.

There's a fair amount of work in between classes -- this is the undiluted full-time program in an executive format. Right after the last session, we plunged into the MGMT course paper on "job analysis". Throw in a couple meetings with the learning team and the host organization for the Field Application Project. After two crises at work last week, that left me bleary eyed, I finally did the d-thing: delegated. It was my team's chance to sink or swim. The team at work did well with me watching from the sidelines. I see the upside potential of this already!

Delegating allowed me to make time over the weekend to cram some micro-economics in prep for the mid-term that's coming up in the next session; I haven't ever pulled an all-nighter for anything -- work or exams -- ever, so if I don't prepare ahead of time, I am royally screwed. The distribution curve in the class for grades is reflective of the caliber of students: > 50% of students scored more than 90% on the first accounting midterm.

To keep things in perspective, there is a lot of fun as well. One of our classmates threw a house-party in the south bay last weekend, and more than 50 (students + significant others) showed up. Talk about team spirit! You do learn to party well...

The other important thing is to manage time while you are in sessions. This is the only time to physically network, so the key is not to work on cases or assignments while you are in between classes. Its been fun to mix with the class at the Le Meridien each night -- you don't have to drink to mix and and have fun. The poker sessions are fun too -- there's a number of newbies learning to play.

Managing time at home is the final challenge. The last two weekends, I spent Sunday with the family going out and doing things we haven't done in a while. The meaning of the cliche "quality time" has finally dawned on me.

Right now, I'm looking forward to the BBQ on Friday (assuming I survive Prof. Smetters midterm)...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The journey of a lifetime ...

When we started school a month ago, not many of us thought that we'd be going to school in a stretch limo. But sure enough, thanks to the creative spirits and enthusiasm of one of our classmates, Tania, that's exactly what a dozen of us get to do each time we're in session - chill out in a cool stretch Hummer, turn up the music and have a ball of a time to school and back!

Its precisely such experiences of camaraderie and fun that makes us look forward to every weekend we're in session. Even as your thirst for knowledge is quenched by high-caliber professors like Smetters, Lambert and MacDuffie, shared experiences inside and outside the classroom make this more than just an information-transfer exercise. As our individual journeys progress like brightly-lit buses hurtling down the countryside at dusk, these reunions feel like reunions with familiar buses with their passengers on their separate journeys pulling up alongside on this shared stretch of road, looking at us again - waving, cheering, smiling faces encouraging us towards our final destinations. Those memories make us wish we got to know those fellow travelers better, while this one actually gives us the opportunity to do so.

Irrespective of the roads that brought us to this shared stretch of road, every classmate I've spoken to seems genuinely interested in what I've done, what I aim to do after the MBA, and how they can help me reach my goals. This is similar to what I've heard from many of them as well, about their own personal experience with other classmates. I firmly believe that what you are in life is not because of what you were able to do, but who walked with you, supported you, carried you through to that destination. And going by the caliber of people around me, I feel positive that this journey is going to be an exhilarating one. And when that journey is going to be in a limo every other week ... man, what a journey ;) !

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Chasing Equilibrium…. Are we there yet?

During orientation week, Prof. Kaufold talked about balancing between career, school, and personal relationships. It’s not news to me. In fact, I read all about it in other Wharton blogs and heard all about it from the alums. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. And I’ve always been really good in time management. Or so I thought…

The first week of school was crazy! But good kind of crazy. We were fire hosed with massive amount of info, but I felt completely energetic being challenged intellectually and meeting all the great people in my class. I thought, now that boot camp week is behind us, I can finally get into a rhythm. Or so I thought…

Then we got to go home. Now career and home life also got thrown into the mix. And the next two weeks got even CRAZIER!!! Time flew by faster than I had ever experienced. I felt like I was constantly putting out fire. You know that game “Whack-a-Moe”? I love that game in the arcade. But now I’m playing it in real life. Things just keep popping up everywhere! Emergency at work, accelerated milestones, vendor issues, staffing plan change, review sessions, team telecons, case presentation, 3 hours daily commute, paper drafts, post-readings, pre-readings, and oh, a midterm.

Realization #1 – Slacking off is NOT an option! Every minute counts now. It really does. Being the geeky engineer that I am, I actually did a whole cost/benefit trade study on different commute options since I spend about 3 hours commuting to/from work everyday. I can really use every minute of the 3 hrs I waste in traffic everyday.

Realization #2 - Something’s gotta give! I told my boss that I would try my best to maintain zero impact to work due to school. I told my partner that I would try my best to keep a balance to maintain our relationship. And I promised myself that I would also do my best in school and stay on top of all my studying. Oh, and exercise… it’s completely out of window at the moment. And sleep? Ummm.. what is that? I quickly realized… I can’t have it all. I can still keep them all, just not at 100% at all times like I had hoped. Something’s gotta give.

Realization #3 – Equilibrium is a moving target! So I thought once I have my schedule figured out, I can get into a work/study/travel rhythm. Ummm… reality is, unanticipated events/issues kept happening and will probably continue to keep occurring for the next two years. Sometimes you just can’t plan for everything. By trying to live a 30+ hrs life in a 24 hrs day? Well, I will have to keep changing my rhythm to adapt to each day. The infamous elusive equilibrium point!

Frustrations became acceptance once I realized these points. It’s ok to grab a quick yogurt with my partner instead of a full sushi dinner. It’s ok to redefine quality time. It’s ok to trade planned study time to put out fires at work. It’s ok to skip a hockey or biking session to catch up on studying. It’s ok to put off blogging for a while. It’s ok to ask for understandings and not try to be everywhere. It’s well… simply okay. It’s ok to not beat myself up for not having a perfect plan. May not be my original plan, but somehow, all the fires were put out and everything still got done. Well, except the sushi dinner. LOL.

Now that our first midterm is done, I can finally relax for just a minute to catch up on blogging to tell you guys that it’s ok, don’t beat yourself up, and everything will be ok.

Welcome to Wharton, and we’ll be chasing equilibrium together for the next two years!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Returning back for Session 2

So we are back in 'student mode' this Thursday -> Saturday and we have an Accounting mid-term and have to discuss/finalize our FAPs. Today, I was catching up on the eRoom daily email alerts for the last 2 weeks (we should check them each day!) and learnt that we also have a survey to do (SG Cowen) and an opportunity for setting up time with Wendy.
There seems to be an influx of information - and this really is going to be about consistency, and really making an effort to keep up with the happenings during our sessions (via team meetings/action items, Facebook, eRoom, Homework, pre-reading and post-readings!). I guess this is one more difference in an EMBA where perhaps in-between sessions you do not get regular face-time and thus are more likely to miss something.
Since we had our kick-off week in May already, we know what to expect. I can understand what the alumni meant when they said that the sessions can become a routine and a break!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

If you are not from San Francisco...

Not everyone is as lucky as those living in San Francisco (esp. those whose apartments are within a block to the classroom). The travelling can be daunting to lots of out-of-towners. So do you settle with a local EMBA program or do you choose the seemingly "painful" road to Wharton? I chose the latter and it turns out to be the best choice ever.

Now, let's talk about the Seattle 7... (later on we discovered the 8th but 7 just sounds better per Brian, LOL). When you are from out-of-town, you really have a strong support group. Before school, we had three gathering (reception, Wendy's home party, Seattle Wharton Alum event) and lots of email exchanges, some of which are hilarious. We are already each other’s good friend before the first class. Our "scientist" Brian knows the science behind negotiation before attending Bschool and got all of us an "MVP" + "EasyBiz" deal from Alaska airline. As a result, on the way to San Francisco, two of us (not me!) got upgraded to first class.

After the flight, we followed Mohit to the BART station and learned how to buy a BART ticket while making fun of each other. We successfully found our way to the hotel then school (with a little detour - my mistake) and picked up several students from other cities on the way. Yeah, when you have a tight group, you naturally attract others... When I bumped into Seattle people during class breaks, they always gave me helpful tips about what would happen in my next class. Thanks to Mohit, I was emotionally ready for the Microsoft jokes Eco Professor played on me.

Just today, Wendy found a cheaper ticket to San Francisco and sent out an alert. Brian told the group Alaska could refund us the difference, Parry figured out a way to do it, and I got 40 bucks back! All of these happened in 15mins via email. Can you believe it?

I cannot wait to travel with these cool people again in two weeks! Of course, we are having happy hour in Ruth Chris next week...

Btw, this is not only Seattle... I heard the South Bay people are renting a limo to school every week? Craziness...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Caffeine addiction

I'm just getting accustomed to treating caffeine as another essential food group. Is it just coincidence that classes are held at the Folger Building?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Abilene Burger Company

Wharton does stuff well -- the first thing that strikes you is the way they put the learning teams together. I'm sure all the LTs (learning teams, not lowest ten) have something similar to say.

Our first team meeting started with all of us trying to test the waters, but we quickly realized that we were comedians first. Prof. Kuriloff's story about the tyranny of agreement and the folks that ended up in Abilene eating burgers was a reminder that we didn't have to all be too nice all the time, and we chose our team name on a whim. (Actually we had other suggestions for which we might have been sent off to sensitivity training :)

By Thursday, when we had the "identity" assignment, we were ready to share and bond... Group hug, anyone?

I'm sure it won't all be kumbaya moments, but we're off to a very positive start.

What did we get ourselves into?

As I drove up to San Francisco on May 23, I kept asking myself if I was really sure that I was doing the right thing. The $$$s and time commitment? And I'm not getting any younger...

Just meeting the brilliant class that makes up WEMBA36 put those thoughts to rest. Diverse, smart, accomplished, -- one fails to find enough words to describe the cohort.

The nitty-gritty begins:

Prof. Kaufold: The reality check slide says it all. Its going to be one thrill ride for the next two years. I've been putting this in perspective since I got back from Week 1.

Muzzammil, my 4 year old son, wanted to know what grade I was in at school. When I explained the concept of college to him, he was baffled that he would have to leave mom and dad behind -- sweet as that sounds now, I'm sure he will be singing a different tune in a few years :)

Asmina, my wife is surprised to find me going to bed with the Stickney book lying on one side... I hope she realizes what she has gotten herself into as well.

The Friday after week 1 was strange -- I had so much fun during the week that it felt odd going back to work -- hey, that's what pays the bills, so I've got to keep that up. I spent a lot of time describing the experience to my colleagues, and have probably convinced a couple more folks to think of a WEMBA. It actually felt good delegating and not having to worry about a crisis at work through the whole week.