Friday, April 22, 2011

Crossroads ...

Growing up in a small town in South India, traveling by train was the affordable and preferred means of long distance travel. Since the town itself only had trains to a few larger cities, one typically had to take a train to one of the larger cities that was a hub and then transfer over to another that took one to the desired destination. It was an interesting experience traveling with people planning to go North, West and East on the same train, all waiting to reach the hub. On getting there, people took breaks, stretched out, exchanged contact information with newly formed friends and moved on to the next train.

The first year at Wharton felt a lot like that. We came into class 36 with several destinations in mind – investment banking, consulting, marketing, entrepreneurship – and traveled this journey together to the end of year one; getting to know a bit more about other destinations that you may not travel to on this journey, listening to the excited voices of other passengers talk about the exciting vistas they plan to travel to and wonder if your destination sounded too ordinary in the face of that.

Having reached the crossroads now, it is time to pick one’s destination. And catch the right train. Some of the passengers who came with you so far will follow you through to your electives, new learning teams will be formed and new seating preferences sealed. But all that's for another day. Now's the time to rejoice over the journey behind us, for the year that whizzed past in a crazy stream of hyperstimulated consciousness. What better way to do that than a class toast to seal the deal?

We had corporate finance finals as well as marketing strategy finals to close the term. We had an exciting farewell to SABRE as the winners were announced to an Oscar-like suspense-filled crowd. The winners won the adulation and cheers of the cognoscenti that knew what it took to win the crown. The losers trash-talked each other in jest about how badly they performed. It was a fun exercise that will definitely be missed. Relief was writ large on every face on Saturday, as a grueling Term 3 came to an end. Congratulations to all class 36ers for staying the course and fighting it out to the end - its an amazing achievement that I'm sure all our predecessors would be proud of as well!

Meanwhile class 37 is ramping up to make its history.  We're all meeting with different subsets of them and responding to their questions and concerns and helping them make the right decision about which MBA program to join in case they are undecided. Good luck to all of you as you start your journey! I look forward to a few of you stepping up to share your thoughts on this blog.

The Bard said "If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well It were done quickly". But alas one can only wish for speed and there are always consequences to the choices one makes to apportion time between life's commitments. Henceforth, you would be hearing less from me on this blog for a while, and I look forward to hearing the voices of other members of class 36 that will lend more color, excitement and perspective to this blog.

It has been a wonderful year, and thank you all for sharing the journey!

Welcome Class 37!

I just wanted to say a huge WELCOME to Class 37. We got to meet some of your during your visits and hope that we meet the rest of you soon.

You're in for a whirlwind adventure of pushing yourself and the concept of time management beyond what you knew before. Prepare to be surrounded by brilliant people (seriously humbling) just as excited about your future as you are.

It's a special time, that first term, enjoy it and welcome to the family.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Heartbreak hill ...

The end was almost in sight .. that's when the Heartbreak Hill showed up last weekend. Having survived that, we are getting ready for the final stretch towards the finish line next weekend!

Last session can be described in a succession of V's - V for victory, V for Veeraraghavan, V for vagaries V for Viagra, and V for VC.

Veeraraghavan - last weekend was OPIM finals.  It was definitely a challenging exercise, so it remains to be seen what the outcome is for the class. Last session was also interesting from the point of view of the class discussion in Patti's class on Viagra vs. Cialis. As she said in class, this is not a topic on which you can research market share on Google - for obvious reasons :). After the class got done with the usual set of jokes around this, we had a good discussion around how Cialis was able to position itself in a market that already had a clear leader. We followed that up with a second session around Dove and the campaign around real beauty and its repercussions. The classes seem interesting so far, but in terms of preparing for the finals, the materials seem quite haphazard and all over the place, so it will be interesting to see how we can bring all of it together in our minds in a week in time for the exam.

Victory - after a long wait of 28 years, India finally brought home the cricket world cup, beating Sri Lanka at the Wankhede Stadium last weekend. All the Indians in our class have waited for this moment for decades, from the time we were kids that watched Kapil Dev and his team win this in 1983. Sadly though, after all this wait, we had to be stuck taking our OPIM finals while the game ended. We made up for that by watching the replays after the exam, during lunch break. Many others in class were intrigued by all the excitement that this generated and were trying to follow what was happening as well. All in all, definitely the highlight of the session, if not the year, for me.

Vagaries - this was also a session where the fire alarm on campus went off, right before the OPIM final, as people were trickling in for the test, following their time-tested rituals before taking an exam. It was fascinating to see how the crowd dynamics evolved as folks were asked to vacate the building and wait outside in a plaza behind campus. Imagine race-day when you are at the start line, doing your stretches, obligatory porta-potty visits, checking your gel packs, and getting your mind ready for the start of the race. If they had announced that the race would be postponed even by an hour, that would throw your plans off quite significantly. It was something similar last Saturday as well, as folks didn't have time to eat breakfast, or print their last minute cheat-sheet printouts. Instead we suddenly had this free-time on a morning outside campus to just chill and kid around about the test and the cricket finals - was quite interesting to observe the interactions from a distance and see how different people responded to a change in schedule on a day where they were probably not used to that happening.

VC - We had Anu Nigam from the Sand Hill Angels come talk to us about what venture capitalists and angel investors look for when they look at startup pitches. Had quite a few interesting nuggets to learn from. I must also add a shout-out to my classmate Sanju here for bringing so many interesting speakers to talk to us. We also had the CEO of Equilar come talk to us about executive compensations.

As the class 37 students are making up their minds between Wharton and other options, many of us met with or spoke with them as well, to help them through the process. I met with four of the candidates that I had spoken with for lunch to celebrate their admission into the program and answer any questions they might have. The admissions reception is scheduled for this Saturday on campus, so I hope all the folks who got admitted attend it and make the right choice ;). If you have any questions to help you with your decision making, feel free to reach out to us any time.

Lot more to write about the CFA GIRC competition at Omaha, but I shall reserve that for another post. We're on our way back to the Bay area from the event and our flight out of Phoenix should be boarding any time, so that's it for now folks! Good luck to everyone on next week's finals!