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.