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!

1 comment:

  1. Excellent summary! Anand, in this short blog, you've captured almost everything that was "significant" in these last four months.

    For me, it seemed like things have started to come together now - it was awesome to see how the macro environment drives a lot of the micro stuff (Smetters-Abel), to see how financial accounting drives managerial decisions (Lambert-Ittner), how teamwork is the most essential part of leadership (McDuffie-Useem) and how statistics is useful in addressing very complex decision making (Waterman-Ziv).

    The dots have started to connect ... and we're just a third done. 2 terms down, and more exciting things are to come in the next 4!