Friday, November 20, 2009

Here Without You

Continuing from yesterday's theme of storytelling and hitting the "WOW" moment, here's a slightly older clip that I've always enjoyed a lot.

The notion of storytelling is something that almost all of my courses here have emphasized, in one way or another. In Information Management, storytelling was presented as a way of managing and transmitting knowledge within an organization. In Accounting, we're encouraged to look beyond simple ratios and piece together the entire story of a company's performance from the various bits of financial data available. Marketing is all about the customer engagement story, and even Quantitative Methods... ok, I'd really be stretching it on that one. Still, it's a concept that has taken me a while to see, especially in terms of combining the discrete disciplines that we're being taught to get a better idea of the larger "story".

Storytelling is also something I picked up on Wednesday from Richard Sells, the Chief Innovation Officer of Electrolux who presented the story of the rise and challenges of Electrolux, where its been and where it is going. He was talking to us in the context of a customer insight project we're doing for Marketing, and one of the key points he emphasized to us during the presentation was the need to connect with our audience. In this case, the audience consisted of people who'd be affected by the move to a national "Smart Grid". We needed to look at both macro trends, as well as observing and talking to our audience to get a sense of what they needed, what they're priorities were. In reflecting on our group's presentation, I feel we could have done a better job of building the framework of a story within which to present our 'insights.' Granted, it was only a 3 minute presentation, but we should be able to improve for the future.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The "WOW" moment

I came across a brilliant talk today (thanks Yoshi) on digital footprints and the Web's Secret Stories. I believe everyone needs to see this talk, and play around with the tools mentioned in it.

Its very rare to come across something that, as soon as I see it, makes me go "Wow, that was incredible." An idea so new, so interesting, and yet so intuitive that it inspires and energizes me. A product, service, or technology that I want to actively talk about and share with other people (as I've already done with this on Facebook and Twitter, and am now blogging about). I guess in a way, its the rarity of the event that makes it special.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Walking the Unseen Trail, Owning a Beer Company

After slogging through some Marketing and Econ readings for this week, I decided to take a break and catch up on a few of the blogs I follow. I came across a great article on Brazen Careerist (a community I highly recommend), which made me realize that one of the barriers I face in updating my blog regularly is trying to come up with topics that others might find interesting. Reading David's comments made me think back on why I started this blog, what the Unseen Trail means to me.

This is one of my favourite pictures, and somehow seems to capture the essence of what I mean by the Unseen Trail. A shaft of light illuminates a distant, unknown goal, but the way there isn't clear. Reaching that goal will be arduous and complicated, yet ultimately rewarding.

At this point in my MBA, I've reached a level where I've finally become comfortable with the current level of ambiguity I'm facing over my post-MBA plans. I've forced myself to do more research, and learnt a bit more about my options. I've also started to find areas of business that I enjoy and want to focus on, as well as ways of pushing myself further in those fields. The trail ahead is still hidden, but the journey is becoming a bit easier.

Moving away from philosophical musings, here's another amusing read I came across. It basically talks about how two ad agencies enable random people to collectively own Pabst Brewing Company. The idea is really pushing the boundaries of crowd sourcing and social media, something I've been studying and researching seriously for some time now. It also raises some interesting possibilities for companies to generate financing from alternative sources, or for non-profits for that matter (think Kiva for example).

Are You Ready?

Interesting video promotion the continuing relevance of social media for business.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Integration Week - Thoughts

Readers of the Unseen Trail will have noticed that there has been a significant hiatus by the author. The short answer explaining this would be: Its an MBA! Or as one of my friends on the course said "Dude, how do you even have time to blog?" The long answer would be that in the last three weeks, I finished off Block 1, completed Integration Week (more in a bit) and took a week off to recuperate... I mean, review. Yeah, that's it. Anyways, now that the grind has started again, I thought I'd take some time to recap those manic few weeks.

Week 4 of Block 1 pretty much flew by - see previous post for a relatively accurate description thereof.

Integration Week was a very different story. The aim is to "Integrate the three disciplines together" through a series of time-constrained exercises. However, for me Integration Week was more about learning to work together as teams, being able to divide up tasks quickly and then later integrate individual work into the group report / presentation. Over and over. Throughout the week we were focusing on analysing a single company, through the three different lenses of Accounting, Quantative Methods, and Information Management. Monday we had four hours to prepare a presentation with an accounting focus; while those four hours sped away, it seemed like a huge luxury later in the week since we only had two hours to prep on Tuesday and Wednesday. Each day we also had to give a 5 minute presentation along with our written report, which was another good takeaway from the week overall. It really gave people who are not comfortable presenting opportunities to get comfortable with the process, as well as enough situations for everyone to participate. We also started moving away from "Death By PowerPoint" by using different presentation techniques such as a News Interview.

Thursday flipped up the game again. In the morning we spent an hour or so making collages about how to integrate information. To be honest, I didn't see the point of this particular exercise, but then again, I haven't been much for collages at any point. The second half of the day was given over to making a two minute commercial on a topic none of us had seen before. We had five hours to decide on a message, a style, storyboard, shoot, and edit. Got off to a slightly slow start, but once we hit our stride we really managed to get it together. I don't think we left ourselves enough time to edit, so the finished product was a little rough, but we were all pretty happy with the result.

On a side note, we didn't finish in the top 5 videos shown that day, but a lot of people told us later that they really enjoyed our video, and that we were robbed. Ahhh, artistic genius is often appreciated by the masses but rejected by the critics. After the judging, the entire class (along with a few professors) went out for drinks to a local pub, and proceeded to drink perhaps a little more than they should have. Overall though, it was a great evening, incredibly relaxing after the hectic week / month, and a great way to unwind, and share experiences and thoughts.

So, to kind of wrap up, what did I think of the first Block of my Cass MBA? Good in parts, frustrating in parts, and challenging in parts. I think the course overall was perhaps a little slow to get up and running, but I can understand that is more to ease people in a bit and get them used to what is expected. I'm looking forward to the increased challenge in Block 2, stay tuned for more updates.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Now with MBA Comics...

Readers of Unseen Trail will have noticed that there have been no updates for the last week and a half (at least, those of you not doing the MBA with me). Let's just say that if I thought the course was intensive before, I had no idea what I was smoking. Block 1 has literally sped by, and before any of us have quite got a handle on what's happening, it's almost ended. I hope I'm not the only one floundering around a bit, trying to figure out what I've actually learnt in this period... it feels like nothing, and yet I'm somewhat comfortable discussing concepts such as return on capital employed, depreciation, z scores, and even weaving. The pace of the MBA I think can best be summed by the response I give to the question "How's the MBA going?"

Seriously though, it's not that bad, it's mostly about time management at this stage, and learning effective ways of handling assignments in the group. My group had a meeting on Wednesday to analyze how we did on the last QM assignment, figure out how to improve, peer feedback (the gloves were off on that one...), etc. It seems to have helped us in the new assignments that we've now got, but still room for improvement. I think I'm not finding it as tough because I'm consistently trying to explain the concepts to myself / others, and that process helps me figure out how to understand things in my own head. On the other hand, exams aren't till December, so lets see if I manage to retain anything.

On Saturday, Arati and I went to Golders Green Park for a couple of hours. It was a really nice outing, very relaxing. The park is pretty nice, a bit small but still pleasant. Unfortunately winter seems to be sweeping in quickly, so not sure how many more outdoor excursions we'll be able to manage. I think a lot of these places, such as Hampstead Heath, Isle of White, etc., will have to wait until the spring. In the meantime, museums and shows abound, and shall be visited.

One of the things I really miss about Delhi is the driving. I know, sounds crazy what with the traffic, crowds, manic drivers, road rage, etc, but I still miss it. I loved driving, the sense of total freedom and escape it offered. Getting out on the weekend, driving around Delhi, visiting friends, going to malls, talking to Arati during the drive, etc, was a blast. I haven't driven for over two months now, and the concept is beginning to feel almost alien, almost like I've forgotten how to.

On the plus side, no more breakdowns in the monsoon. Yay!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

An Indian and an Italian walk into a bar...

Into week 2 and the pace is really starting to pick up. Group assignments are coming in, and we need to be on the ball to make sure they get done. Meanwhile, reading for some of the other classes is piling up (ex. six 10+ page PDFs for IM to read tonight), but I'm finding myself spending too much time on Quantitative Methods. I guess this makes sense since it’s the "hardest" subject this block, but I think it’s more because I'm still in a reactive mode, rather than proactive... reading the chapters after classes / on the weekends. Let’s see how much I can catch up with this weekend; ideally I'd like to spend some time reading the next chapter, because I know regression is going to be pretty tough. I spent a part of last Sunday helping a classmate revise some previous QM material, and found that that process really helped clarify my own understanding of the topics, maybe will continue that this weekend as well.

Our group work is getting better as we go along, and I think we'll be a lot more effective in the future. Since this the first assignment and we all want to do well, there's a bit too much flailing around, which I'm definitely guilty of as well. One of my group members made a good suggestion, to sit down after we've handed in the assignment and review our performance, how we can improve in the future, how each person performed, etc. We've been doing similar peer reviews for other activities, and it’s really helped. Today was also the first meeting of SASCO, the student activities committee for the MBA. Bounced around a lot of good ideas, how we may want to structure the events / committee, budgets, etc. Honestly, I'm a bit wary of how much time it may end up consuming, but still, I think it’s a great opportunity to get people involved, allow the various wives / partners to interact with the MBA class, organize fun evenings to relax.

So, our group was working on our QM case study today, pasting charts from Excel into Word, writing up analysis, etc. I pasted in the first chart, and was about to move on when my Italian colleague said "No no no, it does not look right, you should paste it in bitmap format." To which my response was "But bitmap takes up too much space and memory, I think this looks ok." We discussed it for a bit, compared both the Excel table and the Bitmap image (along with JPEG and GIF). I will admit that the Bitmap image did look the clearest and of the best quality, but found the stereotypical reactions pretty amusing. I mean, you really can't script it better, the Italian from the textile industry talking about image quality and the Indian IT guy talking about technical specifications. We ended up going with the Bitmaps, and I think its one of the best examples thus far of what I'm really enjoying about the course. I'm learning so much from my peers in so many different ways, and I think a big part of that is keeping my mind open and trying to pick up on the different ways we all approach problems. It truly is "buono".

Thursday, September 24, 2009

True Roots

Enjoyable Indian ad - we truly are like that only.

Leveraging Skills Learned from Past Jobs When Interviewing for Your Next Job

Interesting article that popped up on Reader today, and one that echoes several things that we've discussed at Cass. For many of us looking at switching jobs, one of the key elements is going to be the ability to translate our old skills and experiences into ones suitable for a new career, and effectively communicating the same through CVs, interviews, etc. The Career Transition workshop this week and the online self-assesment applications have actually helped me see some of these things, in that they've allowed me to look at previous experiences not in terms of specific events, but rather as a part of broader themes. For example, one thing I realized was that during my time at my former company, I built up a level of expertise in a paticular domain . While the specifics of the expertise may not be relevant to my next job, the fact that I have the proven ability to learn new information and apply it to different situations successfully is definately relevant.

This viewpoint was enhanced during the CV editing session. I had a very technical-oriented CV, with a lot of industry specific jargon that I wasn't able to translate into everyday language, a fact pointed out to me by a couple of very helpful ladies in class. Working with the CV consultant not only helped me fix the mechanical details of the CV, but also shift my thinking / PoV. While I'm still not sure exactly sure which career or industry I want to target post-MBA, at least now I can think about positioning myself appropriately by using previous experiences as strong foundations for change.

On a totally different note, had a great discussion at lunch today with a fellow MBA student from the video game industry, who's worked on at least one game that I've enjoyed in the past. We talked about both past and future games, how the industry works, what it takes to break into it as a professional, etc. As someone who's played a lot of games (Arati would probably say to many...), it was pretty cool to get an insider's point-of-view on it. For example, the current shift towards micro-payments fuelled MMOs and the age demographics involved in it isn't something I'd thought about, but made a lot of sense as we discussed it. I think that's one of the things I'm enjoying most about this program, the sheer diversity of people to talk to and learn from. In another instance, I was talking to an Aussie who'd had issues with IT companies unable to deliver a quality product, and was able to provide some insight on the subject from a vendor's perspective.

You know what makes me nervous? Getting e-mails about assignment due dates and submission guidelines, when we haven't recieved the assignment yet. Oh well, up on Google Calender it goes. Does anyone know a good way of showing Google Calendar on the Windows Vista Desktop?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Anyone else feeling overwhelmed by data these days? I'm trying to keep updated with stuff on Google Reader, but am just finding it impossible to read everything. I know that I have too many feeds subscribed, but feel that I'll miss something important if I unsubscribe. As it is, I've got more sites that accumulate and coalate date (SlashDot, for instance), rather than those that generate fresh content themselves. Other peoples' coping strategies welcome.

One example of this would be the Financial Times newspaper. Before starting the MBA, I figured it would be a good idea to get it everyday, keep up with important business news in the City, etc. I really enjoyed it for the week before my course started; its a great paper, highly condensed, well written for the most part. However, since the 7th, I've barely had time to read one on the weekend, and am considering cancelling the subscription at the end of the month. Since I live about an hour away from the Cass campus, I need to leave the house around 7:15 to get to school for the 9 AM time (the extra 45 mins is budgeting for the unexpected joys and suprises of the Northern Line).

Today was a Career Transition workshop, where we went back to the basics of looking at what motivates us, what we find interesting and stimulating about potential jobs, and ideally what we'd like to have in our future careers. We also examined our own career timelines, and tried to identify the what and why of the various peaks and drops, and the transitions through them. I found it pretty stimulating, and got a lot out of it. Admitedly, the post-lunch session flagged a bit, but then eh. I seem to be lining up towards a particular career path,based on my interests, experiences, and skillset, but at the same time don't want to settle for the most obvious choice.