Archive for September, 2008

A week of sorts

September 27th, 2008 by under General. No Comments.

 

It is the end of yet another week of non-stop action and drama. Thank god we do have something called a weekend. Beginning with the mid-term exams for 2 of the subjects, both equally daunting, which is pretty normal given that the subjects are Financial Accounting and Managerial Economics, especially for people like me who have spent a lifetime amongst technology centric individuals.

Coming back to the week bygone, it all started with the mid-term exams and all the drama that comes along with it. Long nights of study, last minute problem solving, revision of assignments and notes. It all brings with it a flurry of emotions with each passing hour as you move closer to the exam time. You never feel adequately prepared even after having read the syllabus, for you realize that you have not practiced what you should have, the day it was taught in class. But hey, there is so much to do, who could have thought of studying the stuff the same day it is covered in class, especially when it appears so complicated. Anyways, it was more about damage control now and maximization of the return, from the limited and most important resource – Time, which always just flies by before you even know it!!

As if this was not enough, I had to work on the two group project assignments, which required meeting the team and researching the case we had to prepare. Everyone was just trying to put off the work and yet we knew that these projects were also to be kept in sight and under control lest they too transform into humongous uncontrollable beasts, ready to consume us. So, we decided to meet after the two exams on Monday and Wednesday and just touched base on some basic details on the projects. And hey, before I miss out, I have to manage my GA hours, which is 10 hours of office work per week, and I had to work on some assignments with some important deliverables lined up for the week.

Just when I thought I had all under control, my blackberry flashes a reminder for the preparations for client call I had to make with my team for a social venture consulting project under the Dingman Centre, and again, this too was important. So, all in all, everything I was doing was important. The only unimportant things from which I could take out more time from were sleeping, eating and chit-chatting. So, I did what I had to and what was right at that time. Cut down on sleep and a little on food, basically the time spent in cooking food. But hey, that’s a big sacrifice for me, given that I’m a big time foodie. Yet, such cuts have other unwanted consequences. I was walking around the whole week, like a zombie, for the lack of sleep. No mind, no perceived sense, no soul. On top of that, the sudden turn in weather had made things gloomy. It rained the whole time and dark clouds covered the sky. Talk about getting messages from the heaven and symbolism. Nature has its own way of expressing things and making a point. Yet I kept my spirit alive and there I was, running around, trying to sort it all out.

Thursday was the day for the long awaited Happy Hour, organized by the MBA Association. But guess too, this too was a camouflage for yet another round of preparation, this time for the career fair due Friday, the 26th of September. The prime motive behind the event was to provide a ground for the first year students to develop and practice their elevator pitches with the second years by way of a Schmoozing contest. So, you pitch to a second year, if the person likes your pitch, you get his business card, else you get some invaluable feedback and guidance on improving the pitch. You learn and move on and pitch again. The person with the maximum number of different business cards at the end of the day wins. Cheers!!

I too got to do my share of pitching but I wasn’t quite in for the contest and was content with 2 cards. Well, it’s not that I pitched only to two second years’, but some people I pitched to had not got their cards  yet I did not want to break their heart by not pitching to them, so I have some excuse to comfort myself. Besides, you don’t get things every time you put an effort or do something. You do your part and do it well. And that is what counts most. Returns may come in some way later or may not come at all. I did learn a lot that hour and ended up with a bag full of feedback to work on.

Friday was the day which had everything one could ask for. This was the day for our carer fair, the Career Quest. I wasn’t quite prepared for it, not as much as I would have wanted, but guess that’s the way things would be for the years to come. Go with what you have. I did try to look into the list of companies participating in the fair and thought of my 30 second pitch the previous night and that was it.

I reached the Riggs alumni centre wearing my business suit, a set of resumes in one hand and an umbrella in the other. Nature still persistent in spreading gloom and darkness. Anyways, after spending hours standing in long queues and talking to prospective recruiters, I called it a day and went for a quick lunch at 2PM.

It was now time for the Town Hall at the Frank auditorium to discuss about the current financial crisis, an event to be facilitated by the faculty of the Smith School. I could not afford to miss this although I did miss the session by the Ashoka foundation, a global association of leading social entrepreneurs, regarding its global initiative encompassing social entrepreneurship on university campuses with the University of Maryland as one of the few initial key participants . Well, the sessions were scheduled in parallel and anyways I cannot have it all.

I changed into my business casuals, and felt a little relaxed but I knew that the agenda for the session was not casual at all and had serious connotations attached. The economy sure is in bad shape and it sure is one of the issues to be kept in mind at all times, for this is an experience we might be talking about for the rest of our lives. As we might say, this sure is an exciting time to be in a B-School. Jobs or no jobs, we have to be informed, aware of and prepared for the tough times ahead.

The 2 hour town hall had its own flavours – emotions, actions, debate, conflict and drama. The presentation by one of our finance professors, Haluk Unal, is worthy of special mention, for he was so much involved that he had to calm himself down every now and then. You could feel the passion and concern that he had and he helped us understand the dimensions of the problem at hand. The views shared by other renowned faculty members such as Bob Krapfel from the Marketing department were equally stimulating. The session was worth it, every second of it. It did leave us a bit worried and concerned though, for the explicit and strong pointers to the dearth of jobs and the uncertainty that the financial crisis is carrying with itself, were not very encouraging. But, the faculty did assert that we do what we have come to do, and not be de-motivated by the market conditions but be ready to adapt and move on. Persistence is the key. Success follows.

I reached home at around 6 pm in the evening, tired and ready to go to bed. But hey, it was almost time for the 27th annual All Nighter carnival at the Stamp Student Union. I somehow motivated myself as well as my roommate to attend the event, for I did not want to miss out on this opportunity. So, here I was, in my casuals, an umbrella in hand for nature was still playing its game, trying to drown the spirits of us mortals and keeping us indoors, and failing yet again.

The stamp union was bustling with activity at the hour when it is usually almost deserted. And it had just begun. I had plans of returning home early and going to bed to get some well deserved rest but the fun and excitement, the games and the party atmosphere kept me there. I also played some pool, did some bowling, all at half price and had some food which came at special a price or with some special offer. It was only around 2 a.m. that I returned home. Well, I could have stayed more, but hey, I had more coming up the next day.

I slept late, as usual, and got up early, as usual, to attend the Case Interview session by Mark Cosentino, a renowned mentor for case interviews, courtesy the Consulting Club, wearing my business formals, as usual. The session was amazing and did bring into perspective some seemingly trivial things I wanted to know about but couldn’t find time for. Too bad, I could not attend the advanced session. I had forgotten to register for it in time.

So this is it – an account of all that happened with me and that I did this week with a sneak-peek of the grand finale. I had my share of fun and gained some knowledge and I hope this trend continues for the rest of my life, for living a balanced life – studying, working, spending time with friends and family and partying, is all what life is about. It is only like this that we can actually realize the value hidden beyond the visible realms, for the persistent and the motivated get the rewards. Nature has finally succeeded in keeping me inside my home, for once, for the rain hasn’t stopped and I intend to utilize this time in catching up on the activities I had ignored the whole week, primarily sleeping, chit-chatting with friends and doing some reading, all to prepare myself for the upcoming week!!

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Juggling, Prioritizing and Learning

September 18th, 2008 by under General. No Comments.

Well, here I am, still in the first month of school and it feels like it’s been quite some time already. Time sure flies by! Just few days ago I was putting together my opening blog about the first few days here at school with plans of blogging more about the experience shortly and now I find myself running behind schedule already and with the first mid semester exams scheduled for the coming week, things sure look gloomy.

Classes have been in full swing and together with the assignments, group meetings, student club activities, information sessions by companies and more, the days seem to have shrunk suddenly and I find myself not fitting into a typical 24 hour day anymore. It really seems impossible to juggle your time and work on the plethora of activities, both mandatory and optional, optional only if you want to lag behind and miss out on the learning.

Things are dashing ahead but I have still not been able to move into the shoes of a student completely, for it has been more than 4 years now since I left college and started working in the industry. Back here at B-School, the schedule has been tight right from the word go and thankfully I find many others in the class trying to cope up with the demands just like me. At times it gets tough to assimilate the concepts new to me, especially the ones from the finance and economics classes. The learning curve has been pretty steep yet many times things fly by, a few inches above the head, instead of the shoulder. Well, almost!But this is understandable as a few months ago, such things were Greek and Latin to me. Things sure have improved now, for the better, and I believe that I will be in good shape soon, for I have to as I have no other choice, or to put it right, this is part of the choice I made coming back to school. I just need to work on it a bit more and things will probably be fine.

Having said that, I really don’t want to exaggerate but yes the experience sure has been overwhelming. Yet, there are ample opportunities for having fun, for every now and then I do attend some social, cultural or sports event. Moreover, the MBA association hosts a happy hour almost every Thursday which comes as a big relief, for that’s when I actually get to talk to my classmates in the other section and also to the second years. Besides, I have the weekend with me when I try to give my grey cells some break and spend quite a lot of time doing nothing but sleeping or going to places with friends. Phew!

So, guess it’s just about getting used to the fast pace as soon as you can and maintaining the balance, giving sufficient time to yourself, taking every opportunity to learn and unlearn and also have fun. Well, guess this is what life is about, prioritizing and keeping up; maintaining the balance and the journey will sure be worthwhile and I believe that a school is the best place to learn to align and model ourselves on those lines.

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The journey of discovery begins!

September 8th, 2008 by under General. 2 Comments.

The journey of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, it is in seeing with new eyes.” – Marcel Proust

It’s been more than a year since I started living the MBA dream and now that I have moved into the new landscape, to a new home away from home, I feel good being in the place I could only imagine a year ago. The decision to let go of the comfortable life back home in India was a tough one, but crucial for the attainment of my goals. I was looking forward to a transformation which could help me in realizing my dreams and help me in leaving an impact on the society through the work I would do. An MBA looked promising but I was hesitant given the uncertainties in terms of the future career path, the market conditions, geographic relocation etc. All that is a different story now but the experience of having gone through all the turmoil, the struggle and introspection was worth it.Anyways, I took the step forward and prepared myself to get into the life changing experience, as many people call it, and here I am, at the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, starting a new phase in my journey of life.

Why the Smith School of Business?

Well, after a careful evaluation of my goals, the options and the information I collected and analyzed from numerous sites, I found the Smith School very promising, although it does not figure in the elite top 10 league, as of now. Some of my acquaintances who had friends here affirmed that Smith is indeed an amazing place to be. I also realized that a B-School is more about the experience than about the name, it is about what you make of the experience and what you take back from the school that will lay the foundation for your future and enable you to achieve your goals. Moreover, Smith features on the list of top schools for value for money and I found it offering a good return on my investment in both time and money and also for my commitment towards bringing a positive change in my life.

How do I feel here?

It’s been a month now since I reached College park and settled down, which was not as simple as I assumed it would be, but I guess, it’s a part of the experience, given it was my first trip abroad and that too being amongst people I didn’t know beforehand. But somehow, I didn’t feel lost, not for one moment, and felt almost as if I had always been living here.Just before the International student orientation began in September, I was a bit nervous and concerned whether I had made the right decision and whether Smith was the school I would entrust my life to, which I guess is natural for most people at that point in life. It was on the first day of the orientation that I realized that the decision was one of the best decisions in my life. Meeting new people – future classmates as well as the members of the program office reaffirmed my belief that B-School rankings are not everything. In fact, one really needs to know the school from inside, from the current students, alumni and the faculty, to actually realize and understand it’s value.

The experience so far 

The International Student Orientation (ISO) left me wanting more, as meeting people from so many different cultures and backgrounds had been an overwhelming experience for me. I had never before thought that being in a relatively small group I could meet people from so many countries. The week following the ISO, I got the opportunity to meet the other members of the class, the natives who formed the majority of the class. But to my amazement, the Americans themselves contained so much diversity as one could not imagine. For, apart from Americans there were people from all the countries that I had met in the ISO, people whose ancestors had migrated to America. So, there were Indian-Americans, Chinese-Americans, German-Americans etc., and all with their different experiences and perspectives. The orientation was very engaging in terms of the introduction to the various aspects of life in the B-School, the departments, clubs, activities, the ice-breakers, team building activities, and class simulations and exercises. I could actually feel the energy and enthusiasm the orientation committee, which consisted of members of the administration office, volunteers from second year, guest speakers and alumni, had and I really appreciate and admire their commitment towards contributing to the School in every little way possible. It was during the orientation that I realized how much importance the school placed on the 3C’s – Community, Curriculum and Career. I feel I can write an entire book just on my experiences during the orientation. Having given a preview of what I’ve but I’ve been through and how I feel here at Smith, I guess I would publish more details in separate blogs so as to do justice to the amazing experience I’ve had so far.

As Plato puts it “The beginning is the most important part of the work.”

I’ve made a new beginning, and I’m sure that this journey will have a huge impact on my life. Given the nature and importance of this journey, I will make every effort to share my experiences here at the Smith School of Business through this blog and let the people know about the great place I’m in.

Watch this space for more!!!

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