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!