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'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!