Saturday, January 8, 2011


After three weeks of rest and recovery, Term 3 started for me this weekend. Many of my classmates took the Global Modular Courses offered locally as well as overseas in India and other countries. I heard from a few of them that the marketing class in India, as well as the product development class out here in San Francisco were quite interesting. Some of us had other commitments during the break and hence could not sign up for these – there is always next December to catch up.

Friday started early for some of us that are participating in the Global Investment Research Challenge – we met on campus early before classes to strategize and divide up work for the fun ride ahead dissecting a firm’s financials. After two terms, the starting of a term feels like meeting long-lost friends after a while – was awesome to meet everyone again and get back into the cauldron that is the WEMBA program. This session we started with Terwiesch for OPIM, Percival for Corp. Finance, and several instructors led by Carl Maugeri on Management Communication. In two OPIM sessions we play-worked on two production lines – first a small assignment approving/rejecting mortgage applications as a line of 5 people, and then as a longer assignment bidding for contracts to build a circuit board that beeps and blinks based on how quickly a line of 5 employees can churn these out. Competitive juices were out in full flow as teams practiced how quickly they could insert the different components and move the product down the line to reach the tester at the end and be validated to be defect-free. Based on activity times we had to make bids on how low our selling price could be. The winning team in my section made 31 of these in 10 minutes with zero defects – hello, China, here they come!

The revelation to me for this term so far has been Prof. Percival. Not in my wildest dreams had I imagined that analyzing and contrasting the financials of FedEx and UPS over the past two decades would be presented as interestingly as a suspense thriller. The man should definitely go into theater. It was just fabulous sitting back and soaking it in – seeing how the numbers were just one piece in a larger context in which they were set. The focus of the course is value creation – and from the session we had, it looks like it is not just about the value creation happening in firms, but also within our minds about rethinking the rights and wrongs of earnings management and other shady but legal accounting practices. I’m sure I will spend more space on this course in the coming weeks, so will postpone further analysis. The Management Communication class promises to be engaging as well. It was great fun to be broken up into teams of seven and have an opportunity to address the team on a topic provided to us and speak for 3 minutes about it. We were videotaped and are to get a detailed analysis of how we did and recommendations for improvement during a 30-minute one-on-one meeting next session.

As if all this action wasn’t sufficient, we had two lunchtime speakers come talk to us about their work – one on impact investing and the other on issues that companies face as they go global. This was also the first session in the MBA program so far that one of the sections had a class as late as 7.15-9.15 pm.

Some classmates came with their significant others, some with their kids. It was great to see everyone relaxed after a good break and after having spent time with their families. It is difficult to get enough time during the term to do justice to all the relationships in our lives. It reminds me of stuff learnt during undergrad actually, if you will humor me – the Nyquist-Shannon sampling theorem. It states that if you sample a process often enough, you will be able to reconstruct it fully without any loss of quality even though you did not get to witness the entire process. Life during the MBA program seems like an experiment at disproving this. In the recent past theories, like compressive sampling have actually extended this further to say that for sparse signals (that have very little information in them over long durations) one can actually time the sampling at appropriate times, less frequently than the Nyquist rate, and still reconstruct with full fidelity. But unfortunately, not everything in life is a sparse signal. Catching up with friends during breaks might suffice based on how well one knows them, but time not spent with kids is memories that cannot be reconstructed with any other samples from life. One can only try to sample more frequently during breaks and see if one gets back any signal from times that one did not witness.

Timing seems to be a culprit in corporate behavior as well. As we are learning in the finance class, the artificial segmenting caused in a company’s life through splitting earnings reports into quarters causes the firms to move numbers across the divide to achieve their earnings estimates and manipulate public perception of performance. Clearly a 3-month sampling period seems to be insufficient to gauge how well a firm is doing. It will be interesting to see if the FASB comes up with stricter regulations around these earnings management tricks. OPIM opened our eyes to a different sort of timing – within production lines. For maximal performance of a team, the members need to work in lock-step, or achieve “line balance” as we were told. The takt time needs to be regular. It was also interesting to hear a professor use variance in VO2Max between students as an example for variance between people, just like variance in productivity. Terwiesch's got to be a long-distance runner.

In life, timing is everything. For those of you that are applying to the program, this is something to keep in mind. As you work on your essays and schedule your interviews, think about why you are doing an MBA, as well as why you are doing it now.

1 comment:

  1. For investing all his money in a new formation they want another information to check this out.So apart from this they are too in a hurry to launched this project soon.

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