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.

Everyone Woke Up Today

Induction period over, first day of actual classes, and work suddenly became serious. 2 hours of accounting, followed by 4 hours of probability during QUantative Methods. I have some accounting reading for Thursday's class, Quant problems for Wednesday, and the first groupwork assignment for Quant as well. Plenty of time left, right? Well yes, except that I had a networking event this evening till 8:30 (which meant I got home by 9:30), tomorrow have a careers workshop all day (with a CV session tossed in for good measure), drinks with one of Arati's cousins on Wednesday evening, and group meetings on Thursday and Friday for coursework review and the Quant project. Which basically means tomorrow I'll need to finish up the QM work and reading before leaving Cass, finish up the Accounting prep on Wednesday before drinks (and maybe after?), then see how it goes from there. Oh, and sign up for a few more personal development workshops before they're filled up. Fun fun? I think today people really came to appreciate the high-intensity nature of the session.

So, I haven't posted thus far about how life at Cass is going, since I've been busy trying to adjust to being back in the academic grind again. The last two weeks have basically flown past, and I'm only now catching up on all the stuff we've done. In terms of course content, the Induction was basically meant as a way for us to get introduced to the concepts and expectations of the MBA, get our minds thinking along new lines, and become familliar with the facilities and opportunities that Cass offers. More importantly however, it was a chance for all of us to get to know each other, and become comfortable in our groups. The batch is an amazing group of people; 30 nationalities, and a wide variety of backgrounds and ages. For example, my group has one person each from England, Wales, Canada, Russia, the US, Lebanon, Italy, and India (c'est moi).

One of the most enjoyable parts of the course so far has definately been the Portsmouth weekend. We went down to the Naval Base there, and engaged in two days of intense leadership and teambuilding activities. We were broken down into different groups, and learnt a lot about each other during the process. On a personal note, I found that our group really evolved during the entire process, progressing from strong individual tendancies during the initial stages, to really working well and cohesively as a team in the later stages. If you haven't done such exercies yourself, you may have a tendancy to scoff at them, but if you go through it with an open mind and a good group, you can get a huge amount out of it.

The highlight of the weekend - by far- was the DRIU, the Damage Repair Instructional Unit. This basically represents a ship's room, which is damaged and taking on water. You have to work together as a team to repair the damage and stop the water flow. Except that the water is about 18 degrees, around 5.5 feet deep, and the room is constantly swaying; one moment the water level is around your knees, the next you're pressed up against the ceiling trying to catch your breath while trying to control large pieces of wood, wedges, hammers, and flailing bodies. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Within the last couple of weeks, I've really come to appreciate my decision to come to Cass. Part of the reason for this is that we had to examine our reasons for doing an MBA, and especially a Cass MBA as part of our Introduction to Strategy lecture. I think that the focus on exploring and developing an individual's entire skill set, the emphasis on learning by doing rather than mostly theory, and the large component that groupwork plays in grades forces you to adapt and learn quickly how to excel in team environments. Then again, it'll be interesting to see how enthusiastic I am about the high intensity workload in a couple of weeks.