Jan 192016

When I heard the term Moral Turpitude, there was no question about it – I had to make a ‘terp’ pun out of it. For those of you who aren’t familiar with US immigration law dating back to the 19th century, Moral Turpitude (as it is correctly spelt) is “a legal concept in the United States and some other countries that refers to “conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals”.” Here’s the link to the Wikipedia article. If you applied for a visa to get here, that confusing question that asks you to voluntarily confess to trafficking or drug violations in your application form has origins in this.

I thought for a while what Moral ‘Terp’itude might be made out to be. It’s funny, so it’s got that noteworthy feature. Everything else I thought of was too lame so I invite you to take it and run with it any way you please. It did get me thinking though, about what it means to be a business graduate in a world where access to information and transparency in operations is sifting out the unworthy.

I just completed a class in Corporate Risk Management this past winter – it’s a class I highly recommend for both finance and non-finance majors because of the insight it offers on the culture inside a number of banks and financial institutions (certainly not all). You can choose to take away just the financial concepts – the types of risk and how to hedge them – but you can choose to have a dialogue, even if only internal, about why the systems and culture and people we reward so generously in high-stake environments fail us again and again – and in doing so, wipe away billions of dollars of savings, jobs and livelihood. Why accountability is a preventative measure  and not an inherent compulsion. And why conduct that is considered “contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals” is sometimes forgiven with a mere slap on the wrist.

Nov 042015

B-school conjures up a very specific image in one’s head. For those contemplating an MBA, B-school means sharp suites, an expanded business vocabulary that finally renders you capable of saying something apart from ‘thinking outside the box’ and of course, tons of firm handshakes and follow up emails. But as in life, business school often lands you a few from where you least expect it. So here’s a list of things students don’t expect to learn at R.H. Smith School of Business:

  1. Regression analysis

There are only two types of people in the world of regression – those who get it and those who don’t. And even amongst those who do, there are sufficient moments of squinted sideways glances to make it seem like someone pulled the rug from under your feet.

  1. How to walk into a room and get everyone to stand up

No, not because you are popular (which you very well may be), but because you booked a case room and the previous occupants need to stand up to leave. It’s a small victory on days you spent too many hours gaping at regression equations on the whiteboard.

  1. An appreciation for products you can’t possibly afford

Because you finally understand how margins work, how cost-based-accounting works and how you can no longer play the game of sour grapes when you see something that’s just outside your budget. To be fair, you should expect to learn this, but the dawning of the idea that not all corporations are evil is still unexpected for some.

  1. Business suits require you to maintain your weight

Yes, there’s only one way to keep your well-fitted suit well-fitted – by respecting where the buttons are positioned.

  1. Have your cake and eat it too

Literally. Every Thursday. Balancing a drink and food in both your hands while standing and talking and eating all at the same time. It’s a feat for the limbs, an unexpected but valuable skill.

May 072015

Dear Future Employer,

Our final tests for the semester stand as gatekeepers to the summer, and as we chug along to confront them with varying degrees of willingness, thoughts of internships constantly steal our attention. What is it going to be like? Will I use anything I’ve learnt so far? Will I remember what it’s like to work after this entire year of school? Why do I have to take tests? Perhaps I should study…

Pondering over these nuggets, I can’t help but think about the countless graduates, stooped over their desks at the end of their first year, worrying about a future that (hopefully) in retrospect, was clear as the day. Still, perhaps what makes us most human is that we have a penchant for knowingly pouring ourselves over things we simply cannot control. So as we brush up on capital markets, consumer theory and two sided networks, I hope this year of school creates the right balance of smirks, aha-moments and quietly shed tears in the office closet this summer, so we come back next fall feeling just as superior as MBA students should.


Mar 022015

Dear Future Employer

Last minute presentations are not really anyone’s top pick for ways to spend a beautiful Sunday evening, but alas, a few must battle for the many (many being those who present on Wednesday instead of Monday). There was a rumor going around last semester that things get easier as one proceeds through the year, like easing into those 2 pound dumbbells I haven’t really touched since 2011. It might just be the combination of a valuation class with what I can only describe as advanced to really late stages of data mining, but I haven’t had to perform quite such a balancing act since I last dropped those same dumbbells in 2011.

But that’s an MBA for you – time loses its boundaries; the last time you checked, there just weren’t enough hours in the day to get that last bit of work done, but it gets done, and the next thing you know, you’re standing at the altar of Van Munching hall puzzling over how you ever managed that mysterious feat. It’s most reassuring, especially on a week like this, when all the quizes and presentations have piled up, like a tax accountants office in April. So, as we tread gingerly into this week, let us, with spirited humor, brush up on our business vocabulary through this funny, if only in jest, Weird Al song. Until next time.


MBA Candidate 2016

Jan 272015

Dear Future Employer

After a long and much needed winter break, we are back to our second semester. As we close a splendid year, it might bode us well to reflect on the lessons learnt and the way forward. Somewhere between deciding whether or not to venture into a finance elective and puzzling over the relevance of snow days in Maryland, we suddenly find ourselves a step closer to the destination. As the summer looms suspiciously ahead, there are only two things on our minds – internships and whether our Accounting Professor is going to cold call us tomorrow.

Talking of internships, there are really just two types of interviews out there as MBA students see it – the mock interview and the this-is-not-a-mock-interview. The latter, of course, is conducted by you. It is pleasing to note that around 12% of the first year class has received offers for internships already, while the rest of us are in various stages of preparation, application, interviewing and losing our minds. But I think most unanimously agree that just a semester of classes has taught us to think (or start thinking) like managers, entrepreneurs and analysts. It’s exciting to contemplate how the coming semester and the ones beyond will broaden and deepen our understanding of business.

We will continue to correspond about internships, as it seems to be the appropriate season to do so. In the meanwhile, wish us luck with tomorrow’s accounting class.


MBA Candidate 2016

Oct 062014

Dear future employer,

Almost every team out there wants to attract candidates who are creative. Creativity implies thinking out of the box, finding solutions that change the way a problem is viewed, and by and large, thinking of things that nobody else really thought of (or thought of 5 seconds later).

A classroom full of the best and brightest, like the one we have here at Smith, is almost like a mass racquet ball court of creativity on overdrive; so many ideas are bouncing off the wall, you might get a whiplash just keeping track. Now I know that you, as a prospective employer, want to always find yourself in such a space. A room full of the most creative people from around the world? Who wouldn’t want to set up camp there! And for the record, that’s exactly what we want as well, so I’m glad we are on the same page.

But here’s the thing. When we aren’t wearing our business suits and circulating firm handshakes, some of us might surprise you with how resourceful we can be. While each of us face our own seemingly mundane challenges, I’d like to touch upon a specific challenge I and a few classmates of mine have been facing – finding vegetarian food. It’s usually the last dish on the table, laid almost as an afterthought. It’s the one with the pity greens, sparse corn, and hesitant dressing of vinegar. It’s the one that’s usually lined with a confused looking international student or two.

Now there’s something to be said about the human capacity to feel sorry for oneself. After a couple of weeks of ponderously poking the thankless lettuce on your plate, it caps. Hunger has darkened the corridors of your happiness, and something needs to be done! So, with limited time and skill (in cooking), creativity takes the center stage.

From explaining to the baffled lady behind the Taco Bell counter what ‘no meat’, ‘vegan’ and ‘vegetarian’ entails, collecting a dish or two from three different community lunches across campus to amass an entire meal, drinking alcohol to meet daily calorific requirements to getting artistic with the fruit options at Whole Foods, vegetarians are pioneering the way in gastronomic creativity. We can make fruity cocktails sound like a health drink.

So here we are – MBA candidates who are gritty idea generators, have an eye for opportunity, have high endurance levels, and can make cutesy dishes with fruit.

Until next time,


MBA Candidate 2016




Sep 152014

Hi there!

I’m a first year full time MBA candidate at the Smith School of Business, and at the outset, I’d like to thank you for agreeing to read this. We just got done with two weeks of orientation, and though I don’t exactly know who you are yet, I feel like I’ve known you for a while. In fact, between career coaches, networking sessions, cover letters, and recruitment panels, we have discussed you in such fascinating detail, you might actually find it very flattering (or creepy, depending on how sensitive you are to attention).

For instance, I do know, for a fact, that you like listening to stories. You have probably heard stories of all shapes and sizes, natures and motivations. But sometimes, and I’m being a bit speculative here, I think you might be at a particular disadvantage, because the anecdotes that come your way might be perfectly practiced SAR aligned gems, which is not to say that they aren’t important or significant. But as most of my classmates will agree, they don’t always truly reflect us in our entirety.

So as we start our journey here, at business school, one part excitement and two parts awe, I’d like to invite you for the ride. What are the benefits of accepting this invitation? An upfront and center look at how MBA’s navigate their lives, a glimpse into the stories that really shape us, and a preview of all the little things we do to make you happy (for that warm fuzzy feeling you know you like).

Dr K, our MD of the Office of Career Services, told us that if we ask you for advice, you will give us a job. In the true spirit of building a real and honest connection, I just wanted to say, we are on to you.

And with that, dear employer, I sign off. My next letter will talk about a real problem some of us face in the US – The only vegetarian food here is alcohol.

Until next time.