Sunday, March 27, 2011

Once a runner ...

[In keeping with the running theme about running, today's title is inspired by one of my favorite books on running - "Once a Runner".]

The highlight of the past session was the talk by the SVP and CIO of the SF Giants, Bill Schlough who's also a Wharton alum. Despite being the busiest session in the year so far, the talk was well attended and appreciated. Friday night gave a chance for classmates to mingle with the families of the rest of the class at a dinner at Thirsty Bear Restaurant. As expected, nothing can dampen the spirits (both the spiritual and bacchanalian kind) of Whartonites. Sleepless nights spent partying or working on assignments (or both) followed by full days of lectures and cases whizzed past and before one knew it, the three-day weekend was over.

This weekend was an occasion to get to know Senthil from OPIM 632 better. I haven’t heard anyone mention Silvia Plath and William Feller in the same breath – he does seem to have an interesting breath of taste in books. A quick summary of sustainability and carbon footprint considerations in the supply chain was fascinating as well – brought out several facts that I had not heard of before. The other interesting class related event of course was the MKTG 621 final – was interesting to take a closed book, no-cheat-sheet test after a long time. The class itself was one of my favorites so far in the program and it will be missed. We got exposed to marketing strategy discussions with Prof. Patti Williams through the Medicines and Aqualisa case - was interesting to learn formally what we were trying to wing our way through in SABRE so far. Many of us stayed up late on one of the nights, debating over cost of capital, corporate capital structures, asset, debt and equity betas and a whole bunch of other things as the night progressed, for the Teletech case in Finance.

This term underscored more than anything else my feeling of being a participant in a race that I probably qualified for by mistake, like the other academic sojourns of mine where I've felt equally out of place in the midst of a sea of talent. I have friends that recounted the experience of running the Western States 100 to me, and at some level the WEMBA program itself can be abstracted to that race. Only those that have the endurance and will to qualify for it would even consider applying. Once you’re in the race, your vitals are checked at every aid-station to ensure that you have what it takes to reach the next one. 

It’s been an honor so far to witness the races run by my fellow classmates, even as I huff and puff along from one aid-station to the next, willing one leg in front of the next. The effortless cadence of the elite runners to whom this is just another race to be done perfectly, the flair and gregariousness of the social runners, cheering on the slower ones and chitchatting with the aid-station staff, the methodical approach of the personal-record hunters as they watch their time and vitals at every step, the tired visages of the few having a bad day as they trudge towards their next stop, unsure whether to call it a day and race another day or not. As the year almost draws to a close, it’s been amazing to look back and see the hills and valleys we’ve conquered so far in our quest for that elusive belt buckle that the finishers get to keep.

The nostalgia stems also from hearing back from applicants who I had interacted with during the admissions process – their happiness at getting in brought back pleasant memories from last year, and my exchanges with my own mentors who helped me through the process –Miri (class 34), Ashish (class 31), Laura (class 31) and Venk (class 27). Congratulations to all the newly minted members to the WEMBA family and wish you all the very best! 

To continue with the running analogy in this context, the Anbessa song comes to mind – we’ve done our part keeping the WEMBA flag flying high in the first year, and now it’s your turn to get into your stride and power ahead of us.


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