Monday, November 22, 2010

Sneak peak into the future

When you are deep inside this bubble called  investment banking recruiting it's difficult to plan ahead for the upcoming semester. Nevertheless, we still had to bid for courses we wish to take in the 2nd semester, and more importantly decide the destination for spring break!

Bidding for courses is a new phenomenon for me and it does become difficult to come to terms with it at times (especially when you lose!) . Even though there is great diversity in backgrounds and interests among the class of 2012, there are still many courses that fall into the trap of a supply/demand equation. For instance, Professor Greenwald's course on Value Investing is legendary around here. When you stick a rumor (or fact maybe) that he is taking a sabbatical after next semester... you get the idea. Many of my friends who bid >3000 points (which is ~25% of your total available bid points) still ended up empty handed as the course cleared over 5000 points! Initially I thought about bidding for the course (and most likely not win) but then I decided against it. I wanted to focus on taking courses that might help me perform better during my summer internship in an investment bank (if I'm fortunate to get one, touch wood!).  I got lucky and got all that I bid for- Capital Markets & Investments by Professor Tetlock, Financial Statements Analysis & Valuation by Professor Katz and Consumer Technology by David Pogue (New York Times Technology columnist). There are a few more courses we had to bid for and those bidding results are due in a few days.

Moving on to more fun things, I had to decide whether to participate in the lottery for Chazen study tours. Chazen study tour is basically a week long trip to experience the business and culture of a new country. Some of the main attractions about these trips are the opportunities we get to interact with senior managements of the top/most exciting companies in that area and also meet with  the senior political leaders of that country. The main attraction is of course the cultural exposure you get to experience and share with your friends from CBS! For the spring, we were offered trips to Italy, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Mexico. Most of them had a selection process that included a lottery or an application. (When you decide to attend an MBA program, get ready to accept  this as a fact of life- there is more demand than supply for all things worthy, except beer during happy hour!) All that said, I was in two minds about applying for the trip. On one hand, I had missed out on the awesome CBS World Tour and I was excited about traveling with friends from CBS. But then, for good or bad, Chazen didn't allow significant others to accompany us on the tour.  I was looking forward to spending time with my wife without stressing about internships and academics etc. Finally, my wife and I decided that it will be a good experience for me to take part in the Chazen trip :-) So I applied and was lucky enough to win the lottery for the Israel trip (my first choice!). Yay! The itinerary is exceptional- check it out here

So it's going to be a great start to a new year! Now before I start thinking too much about spring break, there is still final exams, cover letters, resumes, interviews and all that jazz standing between me and 2011. So for now, back to reality.

Monday, November 8, 2010

James Gorman and Chris Dixon

Yes, you read it right. Normally, there is no reason that would require them to be mentioned in the same context. But if you attend Columbia Business School, you get opportunities to interact with both. If you wish to do an MBA, you would want to be in a school that promotes diversity in all aspects. It can't get any better when there are no seats left in the room whether it is James Gorman who is the speaker or Chris Dixon.

I worry about the high interest (~10%) I'm paying for my student loan as an international student. When Mr.Gorman spoke about having a long term view about the MBA, he meant it- his interest rate was 24%!
It was insightful to understand his perspectives on leadership. He mentioned the importance of being able to reduce complexity. As a leader, you need to be able to decide on what matters and what doesn't. Once you decide that, you need to be able to communicate that well to your people. Above all, you should be equally equipped to deal with less information than ideal during decision making and also have the ability & desire to dig into the details when required.

As expected, there was a discussion on the recent financial crisis, what happened at Morgan Stanley and the ongoing financial reforms and regulations.  He expressed some reservations on the Volcker rule on principle- the ability of the government to dictate what businesses a financial services firm can participate in versus what it can't. His point was to let the government give guidelines on the capital requirements and other matters and leave it to the shareholders to decide the business focus of the firm and whether they find certain businesses attractive or not given these guidelines.

The focus went back to leadership again and he mentioned that one needs to care about what one is leading and be true to self. He recommended to keep our focus on the quality of the institution and the people and reminded us that we will have many careers in our lives, so we shouldn't judge by what happens in the next one year. He spoke about the importance of being able to communicate well and suggested that we get ourselves recorded in front of a camera to improve our communication skills (Every single student at Columbia Business School is recorded in front of a camera and given feedback as part of our career development program!)

The talk ended with him sharing his thoughts on the current economy and the importance of having patience in this turbulent period while things change for the better.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Clubs and leadership

CBS offers many outlets- clubs, conferences, competitions and other events one could participate and contribute to, be it professional, social or something in between. When the Association day (the day when we can officially join the clubs) arrives everyone goes crazy with all the choices available- Wine society or Microbrew? Soccer or Rugby? Banking or Consulting? Almost all of us end up spending 500$ and join a ton of clubs, this behavior may be explained by the phenomenon -Fear Of Missing Out.

Through my application process, I had networked with current students and was aware of this issue. So I decided early that I won’t spread myself thin and end up not enjoying the experience as well as I could. I promised myself  to pick not more than two-three things to focus on each semester.
 
This semester, I'll be focusing on Hermes Society (selected group of students who assist the admissions committee), and South Asian Business Association, as the AVP of Careers. I'll also be dedicating a lot of time and energy on the Investment Banking Club activities as that's my professional area of interest. Recruiting for an IB internship merits its own post and I'll cover this topic once my midterm exams are over. 

That said, I did sign up for one more activity initially only to drop out later.  I enjoy writing and I wanted to actively participate in the CBS Follies club. After participating in a few sessions pitching  skit ideas and working on a draft I could already see why everyone says Follies is one of the most fun/rewarding thing you can ever do here. Kate, Imran and rest of the leadership team go to great lengths in making this so much fun. The only reason I dropped out was because I couldn't do justice to the opportunities presented to me. Some of the workshops I attend to prepare for my future career were being scheduled at the same time Follies met...  I do hope I will get a chance to join the team again in future.

CBS MBA is all about making choices, sticking to them and not falling into the trap of FOMO. In my opinion, that’s the secret sauce to getting most out of this two years!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Yours truly, on CNN

To represent the hopes and dreams of Class of 2012 on CNN  and on top of that seeing my own quote become the title of a news story- words can't describe this feeling!

http://edition.cnn.com/2010/BUSINESS/09/30/mba.students.innovate/index.html

Obama, Jiabao and I

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fun at CBS

It's been about three weeks since I officially became an MBA student. So much has happened over these past few weeks that it's difficult to not feel overwhelmed. Also, the amount of fun I've had is unbelievable. Orientation was a blast.  Our peer advisors (a bunch of 2nd year students who have been selected to lead the new class through the orientation and beyond) created such an energetic atmosphere that the entire Uris (the CBS building) was celebrating for the whole week. Honestly, the day after then orientation I almost felt sad and lonely entering Uris, with no one there waiting eagerly to welcome me with pom poms and high fives.

Classes took prominence in the coming week and our professors didn't waste anytime to impress upon how much work is ahead of us. Soon I found myself spending long hours at Watson (our library). That said, we still had fun! Our first official CBS happy hour was coming up and each cluster's pride was hanging on the balance.


Thursday Happy Hour is one of the school’s most cherished traditions.  Once a week students come to together for socializing and fun, nothing else – these Happy Hours allow everyone to take a break from the stress of academics and recruiting.  Happy Hour is a privilege for Columbia Business School.  No other school at Columbia University has anything like it (we’re the social envy of the other graduate schools).  And no other business school in the world has committed as much time, effort and capital to any of their social events (I heard CBS spends close to $10,000 per happy hour!)

For the first happy hour, each cluster had to come up with its own official cluster song/dance, cheer, tee shirt and beer stein. As expected, we all try to outdo each other and we all believe ours is the best. Without further adieu, let me introduce my cluster's awesome tee design.  



As you must have guessed by now, I'm lovin' it!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Career Management

When it comes to career choices there is a temptation to make sweeping generalizations. I offer my own story here requesting that you take it with a grain of salt. I think the takeaway should be not the actions I took but the process I followed. There are some people out there who develop a strong affinity to a particular subject at a very young age. For them the road ahead is more clear, for the rest of us it's more tricky. During my high school,  I did very well in the exams but I didn't display out of the ordinary brilliance in any one particular subject. When the time came to make a decision about an undergraduate degree, I chose engineering because I didn't like biology. This was the first and last decision I made by the choice of elimination.  

It is not that I disapprove completely the choice of elimination process. Sometimes that's all we have got. But once we reach a certain age, even if we are not a born genius with some introspection we can unearth what we are really passionate about. And without passion one would always find the cost of excellence too high. Again I believe this issue will be a common one for most of the above average students, those who can and will do well in their studies but haven't yet unearthed their strong foot. In other words there is no escaping this intellectual exercise for discovering your passion. One criterion I found useful and I touched upon this in a blog post earlier in my own blog is - if you can pick up a book on an industry and find yourself tempted to read a few more pages before lying down, that could be an industry you are passionate about and could excel in. And as you grow in your professional life you will get exposed to new roles and industries and may develop new interests.

In my case, software engineering was the subject that piqued my interest the most in undergrad. The fact that most of my peers found it boring didn't bother me at all. I remember browsing the Software Engineering Institute website with child-like enthusiasm. Having discovered a real interest I yearned for more opportunities to learn more. I was fortunate enough to have two great friends who encouraged me to take up GRE and apply to the top Master's programs in USA.  A year later, I was attending classes taught by Prof.Mary Shaw and Prof. David Garlan. These were the same people who wrote our undergrad texts! The icing on the cake was getting an internship at the same Software Engineering Institute I read so much about. The takeaway here is to follow your passion and chase excellence. I could've followed the herd and carried on with the job offer I got from Wipro. But I knew Wipro was not the best place for me to pursue my interests- not being complacent is vital.

My consulting experiences after Carnegie Mellon exposed me to the financial services industry and I was hooked like never before. I spent a lot of time reading about the business of my clients and acquiring knowledge that was not entirely necessary to perform my daily job. My benchmark was to be able to grasp the big picture of the op-eds in NYTimes written by folks such as Paul Krugman. I also extensively conversed on topical issues with friends from the industry to learn from their insider perspectives. As I learned more about the broad landscape I gravitated towards certain areas of the industry- Investment Banking. While I was in this pursuit, financial services transformed from the hottest career path to the deadbeat one. Nevertheless today I'm pursuing an MBA at one of the top business schools to succeed in making this transition to a career in Investment Banking. The takeaway here is to not let macroeconomic developments completely change your career choice. 

If you find yourself passionate about an industry/function, figure out ways to excel in it- whether it means pursuing a new degree or just spending sometime in the public library and then get your foot in the door. Do not worry too much about whether your friends are interested in the same industry or whether the media recommends this as "the next big thing". Chasing excellence always pays off. There will always be great careers waiting for the best, no matter whether it's a recession, recovery or a bubble.
I wish you all the very best! 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Class of 2012

Over 6000 applications
548 enrolled
42 countries
48 languages
38% women
35% international
714 GMAT
3.5 GPA
5 years of work ex
Double digit strength: USA, China, India, Spain, S.Korea, Israel....
~12 countries with 1 representative

As per the admissions office, the toughest year to get into CBS yet!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Day 1

The international orientation started with the campus tour. Even though I have been living in NYC for many years and I got the admission to CBS almost a year ago, I had never done the tour. Who knew the 2nd biggest stand alone statue was in our campus (first being the statue of liberty)! We also have one of the very few copies made by the original architect of the Thinking man statue. The best part was to learn that one of our architecture professors had protested against the design of the CBS building suggesting it was ugly. After spending 1.5 years in the Wean Hall at Carnegie Mellon, I actually don't mind the Uris Hall at all. If you haven't seen Wean Hall, you haven't seen ugly. Someone said if we go to the top of Uris hall and look down the statue in front of it resembles a $. All in all, a fun tour.

After the lunch in Uris deli, and the welcome remarks we had a three hour lecture on Developing Cultural Competence for the Global Workplace  with Craig Storti. Craig captured our attention right away with his great sense of humor. The lecture was very interactive, he made us take a lot of surveys and analyzed the answers in a very entertaining manner. The best part was his short stories on living in different parts of the world. One interesting story he told us was about how Muslims would say Inshah Allah (God willing) when they talk about things they intend to do in future. He said that in Morroco, some people would translate this Arabic word and say "Perhaps" instead of "God willing" when they speak in English. So when he was there, he invited a couple for dinner and they kept responding - We will come, perhaps. He assumed they were not fully sure about it while all they meant to say was We will come, god willing. Paraphrasing the story makes it less interesting, but trust me he is super good at this :)


In the evening we headed to a nearby restaurant for happy hour (Havana Central). CBS did a good job with this event. I got plenty of time to interact with the rest of the international gang (~120). Looking forward to tomorrow!  

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

And so it begins...

I will be officially a CBS MBA student at noon tomorrow. I can't believe it's finally happening. For the past couple of years I more or less had a one-track mind, now finally I'm on the doorsteps. The next two years are going to play a huge role in shaping rest of my life. I know a lot of success and failures are waiting for me. I hope I have the courage and determination to persist and come out victorious. I'm looking forward to pulling all-nighters, drinking too much coffee, living on pizza and all those things that are part of a campus life. I'm excited about the challenges, about the learning, about the tremendous improvements I will achieve in my life professionally and personally.

Many people have been responsible for my success so far. Foremost is my wife who has been my pillar of strength, who pushes me to aim higher and believes in me unconditionally. I'm blessed with friends and family who stand by me in my darkest hours without my asking. In this new phase of life, one involving a lot of stress and struggle, they will be my guiding force. I'm going to take this time to thank you all, for believing in me and for supporting me throughout. I promise to make you proud. Cheers!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Global financial centres

Traveling is the first thing that comes to my mind once you receive that admission. It's an easy sell, only in rare occasions do many of us get such a break from the professional career. Being away from our families, my wife and I wanted to spend sometime back at home as well. We planned and planned and planned even further. Once you open the map it's easy to go overboard. We had to remind ourselves about the budget. MBA loans were not cheap and my wife wouldn't start her new job until winter. So we postponed some of our most exotic plans for future. I promised to her there will be more celebrations to come. Tuscany is not going anywhere!

Since I had decided to pursue Investment Banking we thought it would make sense to visit some of the leading financial centres of the world (outside of USA). We could witness how life would be in these places and decide whether to recruit for these locations or not. The main contenders were London, Zurich, Singapore and Hong Kong.

We clubbed the London trip along with our India trip. That helped us save some money and thanks to my wife's best friend (who resides in London) we got to stay for free as well. I really liked the Canary Wharf area where most of the big shots in FS are located and also the Trafalgor square. Space is a luxury you can't afford in London (just like in NYC). Thanks to living in NYC, we could easily accustom to taking the tube (subway) to visit different zones (similar to boroughs) in London. The only irritation was the unpredictable weather.
That said, I think we would enjoy living in London especially if we come here during the summer (internship).

Next week my wife and I would be flying to Singapore. I will be there for two weeks and we have squeezed in a weekend trip to Hong Kong as well. I'm super excited about this trip. So we would be done with three out of the four places we wished to visit before starting MBA.  Due to many reasons, after the London trip we were unable to schedule any traveling. Finally, everything fell into place just before the start of school! 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

In search of the perfect laptop for bschool

Update: I finally purchased a Lenovo Thinkpad Edge 13" laptop for $585+tax. It's not exactly what I wanted in the first place but the cost factor kind of took precedence in the last minute. Here are the specs:
250GB HDD, 3GB RAM, AMD Athlon Neo processor. It weighs 3.8lbs.

In the past few weeks I've been spending a lot of time figuring out that perfect laptop for bschool. I should've known better- life's full of compromises.

My criteria for the perfect laptop were,
  • As close to 3lbs as possible
  • 13" screen size
  • full size keyboard and touchpad
  • Affordable
After a lot of search I assembled this list of highly recommended ultra portables
  • 13" MacBook Pro
  • Sony Vaio Z 
  • Sony Vaio Y
  • 13" Thinkpad Edge
  • Thinkpad X201s
  • Thinkpad X301

Out of these, I fell in love with Sony Vaio Z. It has the latest Intel processor, SSD hard drive, very high resolution screen and it looked sexy! I played with one at bhphotovideo showroom and was impressed completely. Unfortunately, it's super expensive too. It starts  around $1900K and if you add some service warranty like the ones CBS recommends, then be ready to shell out 2500$ easily. Now, that's a lot of money for someone with a negative cash flow :-(

Thinkpad X301 is almost same price as Vaio Z but it has the older processor and lacks a SD slot. Not so impressed. In the same store I saw the 13" Thinkpad Edge, it looked okay. It felt a little plastic, the keyboard was of low quality and it made noises like a typewriter while typing on it. That left me wanting to see X201s, I remember seeing a similar model with an old friend from CMU but I was not sure if the screen size is enough for me. I wanted to see one again and I haven't been able to find one in a store. Karan, a friend from CBS has bought one, now I need to wait for him to come to NY.

Saurabh, another friend from CBS managed to convince a bunch of us to go for the MacBook pro. He also offered to give some training so we can all be Mac experts. He is a good salesman, no doubt! The claims on better productivity may be true, but when I tried to use one, I just didn't find it comfortable. May be it's just a matter of time. Also, I was not able to accept the additional weight. I was looking for something close to 3lbs and the 13" Pro was over 4.5lbs.

So it finally came down to Sony Vaio Y series or Thinkpad Edge 13". Though I'm yet to see the X201s I doubt if I will be happy with a 12" screen. Weight-wise both these are almost 4lbs. Not ideal I know. The only discernible difference seems to be the Intel processor. Sony has the latest one. Also, when you work with them it's pretty easy to come to the conclusion that Sony hardware is much more robust than Edge (I know, it's a Thinkpad but there is nothing "Thinkpad" about Edge other than the logo, trust me). Well done, Lenovo! Ugh.

I'm yet to make the purchase, may be it's because I'm still dreaming about the Sony Vaio Z series even after pushing myself to make the sensible decision of buying the Y series. I'll post an update once I seal the deal.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Blog featured in ClearAdmit newsletter !

While applying to schools I came across many excellent MBA related blogs thanks to the ClearAdmit newsletter.  It feels great to become part of this newsletter :-)
http://blog.clearadmit.com/2010/07/fridays-from-the-frontline-196/

Monday, June 28, 2010

Pre-MBA Career Day - Part I

This was a very useful event put together by CBS. I'd recommend everyone who can afford to try and attend the next session (I think 2 more similar sessions are being planned.) There were about 40 people from the Class of 2012 and most of CMC (Career Management Center) was present as well. The desi representatives were myself and Rahul.

The event started with introductions from Regina who gave us favorable news- market is picking up, recruiting for internships have been fantastic this year etc. But she also discussed about a new normal that is a fact of career search in near term. We need to be on the top of our games, gone are the days when we could expect to receive jobs just because we are at CBS. She also mentioned about new kind of networking events that are taking place nowdays such as the event that was held at NASDAQ later in the evening being attended by the alumni of six peer schools (for those who are regulars at MBA forums- that would be the M7).

Emily discussed how she is already talking to employers and assigning slots for interviews! She spoke about how you should have the stomach to stick to your guns if you're not recruiting for IB/MC etc as only these employers show up on campus early and do a structured recruiting process. It would be interesting to see how many people end up going the IB route (if you remember during admit event 1, only 4 hands showed up for IB) just because of this factor.

Next up was an interesting exercise by Laurie - she gave us 3 minutes to map out our career plan for the next 10 years. It took me 30 seconds ;) Me and my wife had spent a ton of time thinking about my career plans in the last few months  so I'm pretty happy that everything is somewhat clear now. All that time/effort didn't get wasted. Laurie mentioned some very interesting things. She talked about creating a personal profile.

  • Interests/Passions- related to industry/function
  • Skills- what are you good at? out of those, what do you enjoy doing?
  • Values- work/life balance, $$$. what are your priorities?
  • Style- work environment- structured/spontaneous? numbers/big picture? alone/team?
  • Needs- geography preferences, family commitments
She recommended taking the careerleader assessment right now and then evaluate discrepancies within and across categories, i.e competing/conflicting interests and values. For instance, rating both work life balance and compensation as high, may not work out in real life, ouch. We discussed how to move from current career to future career in terms of the personal profile using an example of an analyst in a bank trying to switch to entrepreneurship. That example helped me clearly understand what she meant. We also talked about bridge jobs and the importance of having plan A,B,C (something I need to work on).

Jay showed us some cool stuff which CBS offers us like Career Chronicles, Recruiter tips, Career chats, etc. A lot of videos of students talking about various careers/experiences etc. Tremendous value addition for us. They have just provided access to these through the admit website. I will be spending sometime over this weekend on them.

By this time we all were pretty tired with the amount of information thrown at us. I can only imagine how orientation will feel like. After the break, Michael moderated a wonderful panel of Columbia Coaches (alumni mentors). Carol '77 (Brand Management, Consulting), Andrew '02 (Investment Management) and Raji '04 (Non profit management, finance) spoke at length about their career, the different choices they had to make and how they navigated through them. Andrew mentioned that we should use the alumni after  we have done basic research in the field of choice and only when we are ready to have intelligent, in depth conversations. Thus, we would receive more value from the limited time we have with them. He recommended using the CMC, cluster mates and second years for the initial conversations when you're not sure about an industry/role etc. Everyone knows not all alumni are equally thrilled/interested in being contacted etc, so having dedicated career coaches from different fields is a great asset for us. +1 CBS!

Coming up- A candid discussion with current students on life @ CBS.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pre-MBA exams

So Columbia requires us to pass some exams on Finance, Accounting, Math etc before August. In June, they gave us access to some online tutorials through HBS courseware.

The accounting tutorial was pretty good. It explained concepts well but I kind of became tired by the time I reached Cash Flow statements and also the tutorial for that part didn't really help much. It took me about 10 days to go through it without putting more than 1-2 hours at a stretch.


The exam itself was some work (I printed the pdf and solved offline), I had to go back to the concepts to solve the problems. I could solve most of them except 1-2 cash flow stuff.


Finance tutorial started out nicely but by the time it started talking about projected fin. statements, I wanted to kill myself. I couldn't understand much nor the example problems in the tutorial really explain how it got those answers, ugh.

So I left it there and decided to take the exam. Luckily the exam was a breeze, it mostly focused on concepts instead of tough problems like accounting. I think I am not sure about may be 2-3 questions maximum.

Vocabulary- that's kind of a joke. The pdf tutorial has all the answers if you don't know something :)

Math- Embarrased to say this, I thought I would be solving everything in a jiffy considering my background. Long story short, I still havent solved about 5 problems.

After all this there is still some reading, some excel tutorial, some essay to write etc...

Friday, June 11, 2010

A love affair

I can't remember when this love affair started. I have vivid memories of my mom bring a bunch of them to me everytime I was going to eat. What was on the plate never mattered as long as I had them next to me. It even didn't matter if my eyes and hands had gone over them many times before. I could still find the same happiness, I could still get lost just like the first time ever.

The first time I took one of my dad's I got scolded. He said it was not the right time. But then as most kids would do, I sneaked one. Soon I became well aware of what he meant. But then there was no stopping now ;)

Without adding more confusion, I'm talking about books. Books have been my constant (as in Lost). At all ages, they have been with me. I feel an immense peace of mind when I'm with a book. The number of times I find an excuse to go to the Borders at MSG or the Strand, even when I have nothing to buy...it's just something very personal. Many a time, my wife gets bored while I am in my own world. When we travel to other countries, the first thing on my list is to visit a famous bookstore. Recently, I had the opportunity to visit a bookstore in Oxford and Trafalgar square in London, what a memorable experience. Especially, the one in Oxford it had an old world charm, with all its rare collections.

My MBA applications had kind of taken me away from my books. Once I got the admit, one of the first things I did was to make a list of what all books I have to catch up on. I don't know whether it's just a pursuit of knowledge, pleasure or may be both. To each his own, as they say.

In the last few months, I have read many excellent ones on finance and corporate strategy topics and I seem to naturally gravitate towards reading even more on the same. Fiction has taken a backseat. Actually, the last fiction I read was a while ago. I couldn't even finish the Lost Symbol which I was eagerly waiting for. Hmm.

I highly recommend these books if you are interested in these topics, or may be you should just pick one and read and see if you find it interesting. I believe especially in terms of non-fiction- if you can pick up a book on an industry and find yourself tempted to read a few more pages before lying down, that could be an industry
you are passionate about and could excel in. Not sure if it's the right way to judge, but I believe in this test.

Age of Turbulence- I read this one start to end in just 2 days in summer 2008. Actually I was flying from NY to see my girl friend (now my wife) in Luxembourg and I finished the book in that round trip flight. I also met someone in the flight who was reading the same and had a wonderful conversation about it. This probably was the first book I picked up on this topic. The one thing you find out after reading a lot about this industry is that there is no constant villain or hero. It's good to be humble at all times. One never knows when the tide turns and why, just look at Mr.Greenspan.

Curse of the Mogul- This was my intro book into media and strategy. I've always been interested in media and technology and had started following the trends in these industries.  I learned a lot about what could be different in this industry and enjoyed the process as well. It's a great feeling to know that I'm actually going to be taught by these authors at Columbia Business School and this is actually a textbook for a media elective, ha!.

Competition Demystified- This gave me a decent intro on strategy across industries. The various examples they talked about to illustrate the points, I'm amazed. You learn without actually going through the motions. I couldn't finish the book though, as I got pulled into some other priorities. I'm hoping to finish this before school.

Accidental Investment Banker- I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I could say this was my primer into IB along with some other popular websites on IB out there. While reading the book, I started developing a liking towards working on corp finance/M&A roles in an industry group, preferably Media/Tech/Telecom. Hmm, let's see if I can find an internship in this role. Fingers crossed. Wish me luck.

Too Big to Fail- This is a classic. After reading countless NYTimes and WSJ opinion columns and editorials, this book helped me get an overall understanding of what went on during this recent infamous crisis. To actually read a book from the vantage points of various CEOs, how they interacted, the role Fed played, the role Mr.Paulson played...highly enchanting. I just got hooked into it. I found myself constantly debating each action of these players, what would I have done in this scenario, how does ethics find a place in these high pressure situations in unchartered waters. What Mr.Dimon quoted regarding Mr.Paulson, it was poignant and apt. This was one book I found myself unable to put down even when I felt sleepy. The last time I had this much urge to read more was when I was reading the famous speech by John Galt in Atlas Shrugged (while in undergrad).

There is no glory in sitting on the sidelines. One has to act at the best of his capabilities with the best interests of everyone in his heart. How it plays out is not in our control. Reminded me of Bhagvad Gita.

When Genius Failed- When I was reading Too Big To Fail there were references to hedge fund crisis in the 90's, especially Long Term Capital Management and the role Goldman Sachs played (fact or fiction) and it piqued my interest to read about the financial crises in the past. I'm glad I read this book. While it gave me a sense of history and how this was the first time major wall street players got together (may be they had no choice) to solve a crisis/rescue themselves and the system I also learned a decent bit about hedge funds and their strategies etc. It took me a while to finish this as I went on vacations and sometimes I also had to read other online material to understand better what was being discussed. Very interesting to note how quickly one could make money and how quickly one could lose it. That says something about the industry I guess.

Liar's Poker- Now I am further back in times, in the 1980s. I'm enjoying this one a lot and it is giving me some good insight on the sales & trading aspect of IB. I'm already done with the first half since I started reading this couple of days ago. Looking forward to the rest. I also read that thesis a Harvard undergrad wrote on how the whole mess with CDS happened, it was recommended by the author in his latest book. I learned a lot from that thesis, but some of it I couldn't understand. May be after I wrap up the first semester at CBS, I'd go back and read the thesis again and it would all make sense then. Hope so!

More books are being queued up in my mind like The End of Wall Street (already bought this one using my IPad, my first ebook!) and I want to finish as much as possible before school starts. I will have to plan for this reading habit while in school, I might just end up overwhelmed with the class reading materials. I don't want that to happen.

My love affair continues to blossom and my wife ain't jealous about it, ha!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Loan update

This one is going to be short-

The loan has finally been approved, though the rates are ridiculous. I will most likely accept it in the next few days.

Credit Decision:
Approved
Amount:
$95000.00
Interest Rate:
9.125%
Loan Fee:
3%
Offer :
Expires JULY 19, 2010

Monday, May 17, 2010

You win some, you lose some

When I applied for some need based funding, I didn't have much hope but went ahead as I had nothing to lose either. So it was a pleasant surprise when I got an email from CBS saying I got 10K$ off the tuition fee. It's not much but it's still money :)

The joy didn't stay for long though. Just a few days later, I got an email from CBS saying that most likely I won't get the university housing. What a bummer. Now this means an additional 10K expenses per year at least!

I have registered my disappointment regarding this decision via an email to CBS, I don't have much hope but I don't have anything to lose either.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

LBS Visit

My wife and I spent three nights in London last week. It was a very hectic trip but was well worth it. I visited  LBS twice, on friday I met my friend at the Windsor pub and on saturday I attended a 3 hour class from 8am!
Some observations-
1. The class I attended was super good. It was an advanced strategy course - Mergers, Acquisitions and Alliances by Prof. Phaneesh Puranam. This was the first class for the course so he started with a strategy refresher/pop quiz. I thoroughly enjoyed his way of teaching and didn't find it difficult to concentrate even with my jetlag. Kudos!(I even knew some of the answers of the pop quiz, thanks to reading Competition Demystified by CBS professors heh)
2. LBS campus is tiny, I always sulk about never being able to study in huge university. Carnegie Mellon is small, my undergraduate college is even smaller and Columbia too is about same size. But if I look at LBS, all these places feels jumbo size! To be honest, I didn't feel the university setting, it felt like some corporate training center (may be if I spend more time there I'd change my opinion).
3. The course I attended was an elective so it had regular full time people, executive MBA, some other management programs like Sloan etc. Now this may be considered a plus and/or a minus.
4. London is very similar to NYC, I had no problem finding my way using the subway, I mean the tube. The ticketing system is kind of complex and I'm yet to figure that out. And I got a chance to witness the crappy weather, it's supposed to be summer but it was raining and cold (4-8 degrees celsius).
I also visited Canary Wharf which is like the Wall Street of London. That place is a beauty and it felt great walking around the area.

In terms of academics I liked LBS but in terms of soft/intangibles...I would need more time to make up my mind. Although one thing is sure, I will either apply for campus exchange to LBS if I attend CBS or try to intern in London over the summer (@ Canary Wharf :) ). I liked the city, and would like to spend some time there and travel around Europe.

Before leaving London, we drove to Oxford. Now, that was a class act. What a beautiful town, we had a great time walking around 4-5 hours taking tons of pictures of the majestic buildings. Weather was good and we saw many music troupes in the lanes and enjoyed the student life setting. Now if only LBS was at Oxford ;)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

London!

My wife and I will be flying to London tomorrow, yay! I always wanted to see London and finally the time has come. I also got lucky, I will be attending a class on M&A on Saturday morning 8AM! and will be meeting my friend on Friday evening at the Windsor Pub next to LBS.

I'll be leaving London on Monday to India. First trip to India since wedding. :-) I will be back on May 30 and tons of Pre-MBA course work and exams will be waiting for me, ugh.

Oh, before I forget- my wife gifted me an IPad 3G, woohoo and I'm a proud owner of a Nikon D3000! Lot of retail therapy lately hehe.

Over and out then, next few weeks are going to be a lot of fun with family and friends. While in India, I will learn about LBS result as well, fingers crossed. Though to be honest, I am more or less decided on Columbia, especially after the ray of hope I received (that will take care of immigration matters).
Let's see what's in store!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

LBS interview

This was the most chilled out interview experience ever. First of all, I prepared zilch. I had made up my mind that I've done enough prep over the last year and I shouldn't require anymore prep to sell the same pitch.

I was asked three questions- Tell me about yourself, Why MBA, Why LBS. My pitch was not as polished as it could be (Note to Self- prep counts!) but I think I did cover most of what I wanted to say but also mentioned some stuff which came to my mind just then. After that came the infamous presentation. I got the topic- a US company decides to outsource some work to Eastern EU country. Justify the outsourcing from company perspective as well as outline my own views on outsourcing/offshoring. I think I did a great job here, I presented my views coherently and with confidence. At the very end we talked a bit about LBS in general and  interviewer also recommended not to apply to INSEAD as I won't be a fit there. He felt I might be better off with a 2year MBA trying different things either from LBS or a USA school. I couldn't agree more :)

Other matters- today was a good day, something my wife and I were waiting for a long time came through. Along with it came some new issues to resolve, but that seems to be the way we roll. We celebrated at Dhaba, one of our fav indian restaurants in the city.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Columbia Admit Event - Act II

For a change, my wife and I made it to the event on time. The deli was overflowing with people and to me it occurred that more people had showed up this time. Well, not being in the middle of winter must have helped. Within a few minutes we were ushered into the hall to welcome our keynote speaker. Dean Hubbard gave a short speech on why we should all come to Columbia. Diana Taylor spoke at length about her career(she never did anything for more than 4 years). It was particularly interesting to hear about her comments on being a board member of Citigroup (the only one with regulatory experience). The most remarkable moment was when she asked the audience - how many of us wanted to go to Investment Banking? A mere four people raised their hands, it was pretty surreal.

From there, we moved to the Cluster welcome. I was part of Cluster 3 and our peer advisors made sure we had a great time. We played the quiz again and our team (Party of Five- yeah we couldn't come up with anything nicer heh) came close to winning it. If only we remembered CBS was founded in 1916, oh well!

Next up was the lunch reception. Unlike last time when we all went to different
restaurants nearby, this time around we all assembled at the magnificent Low library. The tables were divided based on different clubs, so we could decide where to sit based on our interests. I chose to sit with the people who do god's work ;) and had a great time listening to Ryuji (current student, IBC co-president) about recruiting for banking. According to Ryuji, IB recruiting is better now, and should be even better for us. He impressed upon us how quickly the banking recruiting starts, the events begin around
late September. He recommended buying a few good suits, there were times in the first semester when he wore a suit everyday. One thing I figured is the fact that being in NYC is a double-edged sword. One thing it gives access to recruiters like nowhere else but it also means we spend more time on networking than others. Another takeaway from him was- try not to get Low Pass in any subject (Honors, High Pass, Low Pass...) as banking recruiters ask about our grades. We also had a representative from Deutsche bank (Sean Gupta)
who remarked on how perfectly all of us timed our admits, he was very optimistic about the markets and was pretty confident about great recruiting seasons in the future (yay!). All in all, a good lunch and a great conversation with Ryuji. I left for the first class visit session in an upbeat mood.

Prof. Usher spent an hour discussing a very interesting case on Finance and Sustainability. As a stark reminder that we were signing up for further studies, a week ago Prof. Usher had sent everyone a 20 page case to read for this class. The topic and the case were interesting enough, so I didn't mind :-). But to be frank, with all that food in the stomach, I badly needed a coffee...After the coffee break, we got started with the E-cademy awards. Prof. Cliff Schorer did an outstanding job presenting the different ventures,
I think everyone was sold on how great CBS's Entrepreneurship program was. Here are a few interesting ones- 1) PayPerks,  a debit card which is preloaded with the paycheck amount so an employee (without a bank account) needn't spend money on cashing the check. 2) PilotVault- a website for showcasing unaired pilot shows and audience testing 3) 99- a comic book based on virtues mentioned in Holy Quran, this one is already a big hit in middle-east and one interesting fact was that the entrepreneur's
class themselves invested a million $ or something in the venture! (my favorite) 4) Recyclebank- this one is making big bucks as well, it's like a rewards program for recycling and many others which were equally interesting and with great potential. All the presentations were great and I felt immensely proud about the network I'm going to join :-)

Prof. Bruce Greenwald didn't waste anytime getting into the core of the financial crisis. He said it was not a case of any single bad actor but an inevitable conclusion to the way international finance players carried out its business. With couple of interesting statistics backing him up, he also showed how Alan Greenspan's office was irrelevant in context of how Fed could/couldn't improve the economy. It was a very
informative lecture and I for one absolutely loved his wisecracks and many things he mentioned made more sense as I recently read a great book on the crisis- Too big to fail. In his view, the economy was going to be like this with less or no growth for many years with unemployment around 8-10% as it is now. He mentioned there will be enough jobs for MBA graduates but many others won't be so lucky :( He got a lot of cheers
when he mentioned USA needn't worry about China- as per him China is stuck with US$ and unless they move a large segment of their people out of manufacturing, they had no other way but to keep increasing the $ reserves. Many valuable insights, hope I would be able to sign up for his class(es)!

As an indication of how CBS and NY went hand in hand, the evening ended with a reception at Bloomingdale's with a brilliant speech by Michael Gould (CEO). Mr Gould, frankly mentioned how we were all destined to be successful no matter whether we went to Wharton or Chicago or Columbia.
He encouraged everyone to follow our passion and mentioned how NYC is the best place to be! His passion for NYC was amazing but then he supported Red Sox! Everyone had a good time munching on hors d'oeuvres, drinking some great wine and interacting with other admits at the end of
a very long day. When Mr.Gould asked how many of us had decided on joining CBS, I noticed a huge majority raised their hands.

CBS had done a good job with the event, showcasing some of its best professors, best students/alumni entrepreneurs and the best of what NYC offered. I left with my wife and a couple of others to a nearby restaurant- Serendipity where an outrageously yummy 'forbidden broadway sundae'
was waiting for us.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

INSEAD

 I had thought a lot about INSEAD in the past few weeks and talked to a professor and some current students. I figured out that I won't be a good fit. And with god's grace studying @ CBS might just work out. I don't want to jinx it, so will post once I actually know for sure :-)

In other news, I have applied for London visitor visa, for two of us it's costing ~$500 (incl. travel agent fee). Never paid so much for any visa. Phew. If all is well, I will be checking out LBS and meeting my friend @ LBS on May 7.

Friday, April 9, 2010

LBS interview call- Woohoo

I know it's not an admit yet, and it's a Round 3 application and I'm a desi so chances are slim. But hey, I put a lot of effort in this one under tight deadlines and I'm happy I got the call. I want to crack this one, it will solve so many problems for me and my wife. Wish me luck. Now have to start preparing, it's been over 6 months since I gave an interview for MBA. Happy day today :-)
---------

Thank you for submitting your application to the full-time MBA Programme at London Business School commencing August 2010 (MBA2012).


I am delighted to inform you that based on the strength of your initial application you have been selected for interview by the MBA Admissions Committee.

Your interview arrangements will be organised by your regional representative from the MBA Recruitment & Admissions Team. All interviews are arranged by the MBA Office and then conducted by a London Business School alumnus.
It is important for you to remember that we interview all around the world, and that this process will take time to set up, (possibly up to two weeks). Please be patient during this time, but if you have had any location, phone or email address changes recently please make sure that you let us know about this as soon as possible.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about the Programme, please do not hesitate to contact the regional representative who is responsible for processing your application. (Please see below).

Congratulations on reaching this stage - we wish you the very best of luck with your interview.

MBA Recruitment & Admissions Team

London Business School

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Updates

 I am pretty happy that I could write a bunch of essays, get the recos and submit everything on time for LBS round 3.

Meanwhile, I told my employer about my MBA admit. They are very supportive and are eager to give me leave of absence. I'm excited about it, but I'm not very positive about getting it. They are checking with the legal department to see if my visa/immigration condition allows this leave. Hope it all works out.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Challenges after MBA admit- visa woes

4/23/2012 Update (copied verbatim from my GMATClub post dated 5/23/2011)

I initially decided to take the H4 route and not bother with applying for F1 etc as my I-140 was approved and I didn't want to risk not getting F1. I finally took an unpaid sabbatical from my company and started my MBA (on H1B). Around November, I figured that finding an internship outside of USA and on top of that returning to USA from the internship on an H1 (but on sabbatical and studying full time) might be even more complicated. So I mustered courage, prayed a lot and took the leap of faith. Yes, in other words I applied for an F1 CoS in Nov/Dec.

I consulted many lawyers and eventually used a lawyer in NYC who was referred by a friend. (If you need details email me, my email is listed in the comments). The lawyer helped me out and we successfully got a F1 approval CoS around Feb, 2011. I resigned from the employer once the CoS got approved. I went to India during spring break and got my F1 stamped without any trouble.


Now, as per my lawyer if the next employer of mine post MBA applies for GC, they should be able to use my approved I-140 and request USCIS to use same priority date. But then again, no guarantee if they will use it or not. I'll find out that when the time comes. For now, I'm happily interning in the fields of my choice in NYC


For most of us, getting the admit is the last step in this tough journey. They have access to funding, no immigration issues and can start planning for vacations, pre-MBA internships and what not.

For the unfortunate few, the misery continues. Having first applied in 2008 unsuccessfully (2 waitlists), I was eager to get an admit ASAP in 2009 as a reapplicant. CBS ED worked out in my favor and I was looking forward to packing my bags as soon as I got my admit in November. New Year brought with it new challenges-  no-cosigner loan was becoming a major issue unexpectedly, and my visa became even bigger concern- a green card application in process (I-140 approved stage) meant transfer to F1 visa is not straightforward. I spent the months of Jan and Feb frantically searching through all forums to find an answer. Different people said different things, tough luck.

I then approached a lawyer who recommended pursuing part time MBA instead. I was devastated. First ray of hope came through a current student at Wharton. I found him in one forum, he had left his email ID in a message posted in 2008, thank god for that. He was very kind and gave me good advice. I then found another lawyer who suggested me options I could pursue, things were looking better. There was still no certainty but at least all hope was not lost. Meanwhile, I decided to hedge my risk by trying to secure an admit from schools in EU. I did it, I submitted my application a week ago on time for R3 @ LBS. I'm hopeful something will work out in my favor, but these past few months have been very tough on me and my family. I'm lucky to have a supporting wife and parents. Without them, I'd have given up long ago.

Right now, I've secured my I-20 and I'm going to tell my employer about my MBA admit and request to withdraw my greencard application. Hope it doesn't create any problem for my current job. I need my job till I get my F1 visa approved through change of status. Wish me luck!

For the sake of people having similar issues out there, here is a comprehensive plan of action.

1. Secure I-20 from business school by arranging for funding
2. Withdraw I-140 by requesting the employer. They should send a letter to immigrations.
3. Take a copy of this letter, and create documents that support your intent to go back to your country after MBA...real estate in your name, family ties, a job offer from your country etc and apply for Change of Status from H1b to F1 while being in USA.
4. Change of status takes 2.5 months on average
5. You need not go to your country to stamp, instead you could just change to F1 status while being in USA and start MBA. You need to stamp F1 only when you leave USA (in order to return). So you can go while in school and get it stamped in order to have ability to freely travel in and out of USA during your F1.
6. You needn't apply for change of status while being in USA instead once you withdraw I-140 you can just resign and go to your country and apply for F1 from there. From what I have heard, change of status seems to be less risky than applying through consulate.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Columbia MBA Admit Event 1

Feb 27 was a very un-New York day. Those who flew in had a terrible time with flight delays and those who took the subway waited for eternity to board one. The campus was closed down for the most part but the event was unaffected. Around 200 admitted candidates turned up- some confused it to be another interview and wore suits, while others couldn't care less and wore jeans. Gods were cruel to those who wore high heels.

I arrived fashionably late with my better half (as per CBS), the keynote speaker (Shelly Lazarus) was in full swing giving vivid anecdotes on how to manage work/life balance. She said it was super easy, just walk the talk. Figure out you priority every day and have the courage to act on it, she said. She made a good impression, sharing funny one liners like- working mothers are comfortable with failures, they fail someone (family, boss...) everyday.

Someone in the audience wanted more reassurance, asking her to compare CBS MBA students with others. Shelly grabbed the opportunity with both hands, comparing CBS with HBS and Stanford. HBS students wanted to solve only big/important problems, she said. CBS MBA students had humility and practical knowledge, she said. I noticed relief/happiness in many faces, having heard exactly what they wished to hear. Of course, I was feeling pretty good too who doesn't like to be told they are the best!

We moved to the Cluster welcome event from there. I was part of the Cluster 3 along with another 40 odd. The cluster reps part of Hermes Society welcomed us with Follies videos (Regulate, is a must watch) and a frank discussion about life at CBS. Deli sucked they said, and facilities could be better. But they were mostly happy, CBS listens to the students they said. They also spoke highly about CBS World tour but many candidates had no idea what it was (very surprising, I feel). We played a quiz that included questions like what does the symbol of CBS represents (greek sign/god of commerce ?!) and how many were admitted in the last fall term class (554).

Some career related questions were asked and the current students
suggested that it's best to be flexible (not so good news). We could pursue unpaid internships during school terms, an opportunity available thanks to being in the heart of the business world (good news). Banks have started hiring again (good news).

Next up was lunch, I had a sumptuous three course lunch at Le Monde with eight others including an admissions official. I poured my heart out to the official, talking about the improvements that could be made to the application process. I was not all alone, everyone at the table seemed to share similar feelings and we all bonded over the misery that was now behind us.

Interestingly, most at the table had similar aspirations. They all wanted to be in Media in some capacity, but acknowledged the fact that some will end up following the herd to wall street or consulting for that sign on bonus. The admissions official was pretty candid and receptive to our suggestions, who knew this day would
come ;) But of course even after asking the same question in five different ways, he didn't tell us how many seats were left, oh well.

Upon returning to the campus, we were welcomed by the many club representatives. I was a little bit drowsy (chocolate eclair did the trick) but
still managed to do some "networking". Next we had a half hour session with Fin Aid Director. I had zero interest, as the one item which concerned me- the private loan for internationals- CBS had given up long ago. She spent 29 minutes without any questions on this topic but some brave soul brought it up and another candidate replied- no cosigner implies you are screwed. For that, she said -not really and after some 2 minutes of diplomatic talk- pretty much said the same thing- you're screwed if you have no US cosigner. Oh well, I didn't expect anything more at this point.

I was looking forward to learning more about the Entrepreneurship center
and they didn't disappoint. The panel included a recent alum and
second year students who were pursuing a business opportunity through Greenhouse program. Heard many stories on how the CBS brand opens doors and
how Lang center goes all the way to help us succeed in our ventures. Fantastic stuff, if you can manage your loans.

Mary Miller, director of admissions, talked about pre-MBA program next. Some online tutorials and exams that we should pass in order to matriculate. We will get access in May. It's going to take about 40 hours of work for the average student. We also heard from the current student body president, a cool and confident fellow who talked about the CBS community. He shared a few stories, the most remarkable one- a student from his class had an accident in his 1st yr and had to miss the entire semester. He still managed to pass his exams and graduate on time, thanks to the
friends in his cluster. Amazing story, everyone was sold that your cluster is your family.

Everyone (or at least me) was waiting for Prof. Greenwald but we learned that the he slipped and injured his ankle during the snowstorm, so he was not coming. I guess I do have to spend 5000 points to get into his class, after all. Prof.Robert Bontempo, instead took the stage. Frankly, I didn't know who he was and I'm thinking many were in the same boat. What an amazing guy, the next 1 hour was the best
part of the entire day. He taught leadership, negotiations and spent the hour discussing the art of persuasion using theory and demonstration.

People were either Ask assertive or Tell assertive. Another classification - they were also either Analytical, Driving, Expressive or Amiable. With some explanations on what these means, he asked us to identify ourselves and brought 4 from the audience and did a role play. He asked two people to sell him a car, each person did it in a different manner showing how all this classification makes sense and how we should do our
pitches based on what kind of person our audience is and not what kind of person we are. Well, I am not doing any justice I know, just wait for his class in the fall :-) Take a bow, Prof. Bontempo!

Next up was the happy hour, Dean Hubbard addressed the audience and so did a couple of alumni. Everyone was eager to meet the dean and he was
gracious to spend time with many. My wife and I got a chance to speak to him as well. We all had a good time, a nice ending to the day that gave
everyone a peak into what lies ahead. Six letters will connect us in future- CBS MBA.