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.

Week 1: Notes to self

So, week 1 was amazing: Good food, Awesome profs (who appreciated humor and made learning fun, so opposite of undergrad), phenomenal class mates and not so bad food and hotel.
I also really enjoyed Wharton because, I got a lot of self-feedback. Which is weird because I goto work every day and am still not able to reflect like I was able to in the classroom and in group sessions. Almost freaky!!!

My two key take-aways:
Lesson 1: More talking = Less Learning
So in class during the first three days, I was pumped, excited to be learning cool Wharton MBA stuff. I was so excited that I would be tempted to speak up to every topic in class. Ofcourse, I had to have my opinion heard. But what I realized by day 3 was that I was so focused on getting my opinion heard that I was missing out what other people were saying. Sometimes, I would be thinking about how to formulate what I wanted to say and the prof had already moved on to the next thing. Bad Idea!!! I remember when I first started in sales, I would talk so much that I walked away from the customers learning nothing about them. My coach/mentor at that time told me: Shutup and make money!
So on Wednesday night, I told myself: Shutup and Learn.

Lesson 2: Your team mates are cooler than you think
Like Damn!!!!! Go Business-Casuals. Between the 5 of us, I think our team has experienced everything, and I mean everything. We have a VC/portfolio manager/ Investor, Consultant/Comedian/techie, Entrepreneur/Soldier/Product-manager/world traveller, IIT Grad (Bachelors and Masters)/Software Director/techie/Entreprenuer/Did I say IIT grad?
So note to self: If Wharton has admitted someone, be rest-assured that that person is a super start in his or her own right.

Needless to say, the Wharton education is paying for itself already.
Additionally, I have so many things that I need to explore, like the Wharton clubs. The investing club actually makes a trip out to Omaha, to visit Warren Buffett. Yes, thats right meet Warren Buffett in person. Did you know that dinner tickets with Warren go for upwards of $1 Million dollars.

Lastly, Sort of Random note: I also just ordered my Wharton MBA Business cards.

Until next time, Adios!!!

Wharton West Week 1 - the People

Many people wrote this on their Facebook after the first week: what an amazing group of people! Before flying down to San Francisco, I got to know several classmates quite well through admission welcome dinner in Seattle, Wharton Seattle Alum event and most importantly, Facebook. I felt the energy and enthusiasm, with a little anxiety. Who are these 92 people I am going to spend the next two years with?
During the intro session, I heard the following keywords: musicians, dancers, models (& hand model), extreme sport, marathon, wine, PhD, doctor, tech, banking, VC, entrepreneurs… We are definitely a diverse group of people with great passions for almost everything I can imagine. I breathe in such diversity and will try my best to contribute to the class.
The only pity is that I did not get a chance to talk to everyone in person during breaks, dinners and parties. I enjoyed every conversation I had and cannot wait to have more of those during the next class. I was hoping to work out a strategy for meeting people, but for now, I will just keep it random.
The highlight – with the crazy schedule, several of us kept working out in the morning every day. Some are talking about starting a runner group. We really work hard, work out hard and play hard!
The lowlight - wine is good, but not so good when you have to get up at 6am to work out and attend the 7:30 math class.

Wharton West Week 1

Before my aging memory fades, I want to capture Wharton West week 1. Maybe it will help future Wharton WEMBA West or East classes, or maybe not. Still, for those wanting to gain an understanding of the "Wharton West" experience in a short summarized manner, here you go!

Sunday: no classes, just meeting and greeting. each classmate's intro was funny, creative, and (broken record) impressive. dinner with the partners and it was great to meet the "better halves."

Monday: first day of class! for future wemba classes -- make sure you do your Management reading and relate theories to cases clearly in your pre-term work, the pace is fast. 6+ hours of sitting is rough and it was definitely one of the "drinking from the fire hose" experiences that continued through the week. Also note, no matter how prepared you are (I think I did most of the pre-term work), there will be additional class assignments and work to do the first week. Let the fun begin.

Tuesday: Living in the hotel the first week is pretty cool. People are always out and about. More group dynamic sessions after class, which were surprisingly helpful, even at the end of a long day. I met with my study group and other classmates to knock out some of our assignments and went to bed late.

Wednesday: Early morning run (missed my husband and dog, my usual running partners) and ran into some classmates along the way! I skipped early morning Math Camp (thank you UCLA Engineering). Fatigue started to set in...cure = soda, candy, caffeine. I know (tsk tsk tsk), my body punished me for those. Wednesday afternoon around 4 PM it seemed like the morning was days ago. Class dinner at a local restaurant/brewery was awesome. I met people from the other section (the class is broken into study groups of about 6 or so people, and study groups are assigned to either section 1 or 2) and started to get comfortable with everyone. Go liquid bonding!

Thursday: There was obvious hurt in the class from last night's partying. Boy I'm rusty at this late night partying thing. A few more sessions and our end of week toast was followed by more meet and greet time, and finally returning to our normal lives.

The week went by FAST with things to fill up every second of the day, and as I said before, I'd done most of the pre-reading so there were some who were even busier than I was during the week, prepping for classes. It was a (good) shock to be back in a classroom, and an equal (good) shock to return home at the end of the week.

Wharton stood out to me because of the strong class camaraderie and full-time-like experience. Those two things held absolutely true this week, in addition to amazing work experiences that people shared to help bring concepts to life. That's when I realized that I have the best of both worlds - real world exec wisdom/knowledge + full-time program-like bonding - at Wharton. I'm grateful to be here and can't wait for the next two years.