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!