Posted in Personal Stories

The Idiot’s MBA Survival Kit

Inspiration works in unusual ways. Like the idea for this post, this came from this 2500 year old quote.

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” – Confucius

For a while now, I had been looking back at my life and wondering how I could have done differently in the last 2 years. Not with any regrets, but with an analytical and retrospective frame of mind.

I mean, B school is a confusing place. You are presented with a zillion choices, what you want to do, where you want to be?. Being shown glorious examples of outstanding alumni doesn’t make life easier either. Worse still, you look around and find that everyone has been a super achiever at a certain level.  There is a desperation and restlessness to excel, which I haven’t seen anywhere else in my life. Newcomers come with fanciful notions in their minds, allured by fanciful placement brochures and reports. Humongous egos and whopping IQs raring to go and make an earth-shattering mark in the future!.

But is it all hunky dory underneath this razzmatazz ?

Scratch the surface, prod on with a few leading questions, and you would find each one is as clueless as another. A bunch of confused people trying to reassure each other with Jargon :|.

So, given another chance, how would I have done things differently?

That made me sit down and write my very own “Idiot’s MBA survival kit”. A list of stuff I wish someone had told me before I joined MBA. Not that it would make a walloping difference, but could have spared me the pain and angst that moments of confusion and indecision bring!.

Be yourself: Amidst all the melodrama and humdrum, it’s very easy to lose your individuality. With so many decisions to make, it is sometimes impossible to survive herd thinking.  You are tempted to get swept away with the wisdom of the crowds.. Always advisable to give it a thought – whatever others are thinking is it really right for me?

You will encounter many groups and associations eager to recruit you, showing awesome “benefits” .. Choose carefully; they will demand massive amounts of your time. Some of them will use all sorts of mumbo jumbo to create a cult among the followers. And as it is with all cults, they infuse an ideology, keep you so busy in it, ostracize anyone who doesn’t go by the creed, linking belief with a chest thumping propaganda.

Many innocent victims have been sucked in by this lure of delusional riches called “CV Value”. 😐

If you happen to be drawn into such a group, don’t be afraid to stand out. You could have the most valuable opinion in the crowd.  Some American guy from early 1990s said; “I have never in my life learned anything from any man who agreed with me.”. Yupp, totally agree with him!  😉

Take risks: Battle the unknown, dabble in the unexpected.The biggest mistake you can make during your 21 month MBA stint is not making a mistake at all!! Be open to experimentation because mistakes are the best teachers. I have learned the hard way!

If you meet with overall success in something, you tend to ignore all the little mistakes you had made. It clouds your thinking; you are drunk in your success. Fail and fall flat on your face, you pick up all pieces right from the start; and the take-away there is priceless!.  Just calculate the opportunity cost. What is the best place to make mistakes than while at school?. You might lose a few grades, and not your job. And you will learn a hell lot more!

Keep the Faith: I’ve noticed this – MBAs tend to be the most risk averse demographic. They hate uncertainty, totally lack patience, leave nothing to chance; evaluating all potential risks and returns. That’s why you need to remember what Steve Jobs said in his famous Stanford address:  “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards”.

When the universe constantly rearranges itself every Planck time (yeah, that’s the smallest unit of measurement), don’t blame yourself if you do not have visibility for the next 5-10 years of your future. You can never really know!

Its like: You don’t always have to find the right choice, sometimes the right choice finds you!

Choose your Advisers carefully:  A lot (or rather all) of your B-school experience depends on the choices you make. And social animals that we are, we generally seek advice.

Now, every place has some bad apples. You will meet your fair share here; with a deranged idea about competition (thanks to the Normal distribution curve). If they are your advisers, God save you from them!..

Equally lethal are self proclaimed thought leaders who try to control the opinions of others. Beware and look out!

Explore the Interactions: In first year, I wondered why we studied so many theoretical and “soft” HR subjects, even when someone just wanted to specialize in Marketing or Finance. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Two weeks into my very first job, I was making frantic calls to all my HR friends to forward me their notes and presentations!.

Out of touch with the “Real” world, many of us  have single minded focus on the so called “specializations” Unless you belong to the 20% which would get jobs totally specific to their specialization, most management jobs require understanding the linkages between all disciplines. The work you do will most probably involve bits and chunks from all classes. Make the most of it ; just explore the interconnections.

Don’t run after things you don’t want: The cushy looking Investment bank role paying a fat salary – do you really want it? Just because something looks so glamorous from outside, do you have to run after it?. Brand Management, Management Consulting, i- Banking – there are glam jobs in every campus. Alas, “All that glitters is not Gold”!

Many of these seductive profiles have an enchanting aura around them. Think for yourself.

Can you picture yourself in that role? Would you still be passionate about it if your friends debunked it? Do you REALLY want it?

Questions.. questions.. Ask yourself a lot of questions. The Gyaan listed above will hopefully help you understand and answer many of them… 😛

But introspection can of-course take you only so far.

Till you encounter the all-encompassing life’s compelling question  – “Why MBA?”

Dude,  its a sticky question. Will haunt you all your life; before, during and long after you are done with your MBA! 😉

Posted in Personal Stories

B School Profs: Angels or Demons?

When I wrote the post about classifying MBA students, I had this faint lingering notion about how this thought would stand for MBA Professors. After all, these were the most charismatic, lethal, flamboyant and outstanding Profs I had met in my life! (Too many oxymorons bundled together, isn’t it?!)

And to add to the spice is a perplexing place called B School.

With attackers lurking in every corner, the Economists would scare you with their “invisible hands” and morbid fatalistic dialogues like – “In the long run, we are all dead”. The Finance Profs would confound you with levered and unlevered cash flows. The HR instructors were even more alarming – linking all your motives and actions to Freudian theories. Ouch!

And then, there were the Spiders who would stick to the blackboard, crawling from one end to another throughout the class. And no session of the Superman was complete without anecdotes of his glorious achievements and how he saved the MBA Community from extinction!

There I go, time to begin another classification.

So, if I had to classify all the B-school profs I’ve met, what boxes would I put them in. Lets see…

The Bully – The unforgettable ones first. Call them demons, call them monsters, this is a class of Profs who love to be hated and feared. They simply swagger into the classroom and terrorize students with their brazen wit, armed with some inner psychological complex to inflict the maximum torture on the lowly student community. Greater the pain inflicted, greater is their sense of satisfaction. Slights are hurled as incendiary bombs if you so much as sneeze in the class. Exceptionally intelligent minds, they specialize in delivering the most innovative and damaging insults. Shocking, disgusting, appalling, disgraceful, shameful, hideous are their favorite words. And all of these are used to describe the abominable mental capacity of the foul-slimy-creatures (called students!) in their class. Their grades send shock waves across the halls, leaving a trail of destruction behind. The survivors thank their stars – perhaps some benevolent act of their previous birth has spared them this time. However much they aspire to be hated, they are usually admired for their wit and creative insults. Now that I think of it, their goondagiri seems to be somehow cute in retrospection!!

The Angel – So, now that you’ve met the demons, shouldn’t the Angels be close around? Like a bright ray of sunshine in the gloomy environs, these Professors are loved and admired by one and all. They can make any class interesting with their infectious enthusiasm. That doesn’t make them lenient though, and like the rest of the lot, they also make their students sweat it out. Yet, in the end their generous appreciation and warmth makes it worth the effort.

The Dinosaurs – I’ve just read Jurassic Park so couldn’t resist this one. Here they are, teaching an obsolete course with data which hasn’t been updated in years. And like a dinosaur, continue to dwell in the rich glorious history of their extinct-since-ages subject. Refusing to change according to the times and clinging on to their close to heart curriculum, they sometimes come up with statistics that could easily belong to the late Cenozoic era!. Yet, never ready to lose hope and enthusiasm; they try to entice the students with leading phrases like – “We have a very interesting topic coming up now” or “The theory we will discuss next is mind-blowing”. Unfortunately, these words usually have an unintended sedative effect and half the class ends up snoring away in full glory right under their noses!

The Dementor – Have you seen the Harry Potter series?
If you have, then you would definitely recognize the Dementors. Their classes are not for the fainthearted, who opt out right in the beginning. A cold chill fills the room dissolving every bit of happiness the moment they step in. You have a sinking feeling and a dull stomachache until their class ends.
Genius of dark sarcasm, they can suck out your soul while you squirm in your seats. If the dementors are in the mood, they can make you feel clinically depressed, and long exposure to them can make you lose your mind!. These scary things frighten you so much than even when you know the answer; a mere look into their expressionless eyes will paralyze you. Your body refuses to respond, you can barely talk, and your words come out in an incoherent squeak!.
Like dark creatures of magic, they somehow have some affiliation for the forbidden witching hours. All their assignments need to be submitted in the dead of the night. No wonder the poor souls taking their subject are usually spotted wandering around aimlessly – like ghouls in the night mess!

The Gods – Gods don’t walk; they just float, and the students worship the grounds beneath their feet!. FB updates and status messages are dedicated to them, they strongly divide the population between the Believers and non believers. Attending their class is like an out-of-the-world experience as they transport you to a different universe, and dazzle the audience with their depth and wit. Their mastery over their craft creates loyal followers with blogs, groups spawned in their name. Their ready wit has the whole class in splits, and earns them an iconic status amongst all students – past, present and future!.

The Saint – “In his holy flirtation with the world, God occasionally drops a handkerchief. These handkerchiefs are called saints.”
Having already achieved Nirvana, the Saints envision letting their whole class attain self actualization by their libertarian methods of teaching. Like a breath of fresh air, they bring a peace and calm in the stressful environment of B school. Strong advocates of Globalization, Liberalization and the Internet era, they sincerely believe that knowledge is best imparted through online games and social networking in their classes. Bunking their class to sleep is almost a religious ritual, and the Saints wouldn’t even bat an eyelid if 1 student said “Yes Sir!” for all 60 roll calls!. No wonder their classes are hugely popular, especially in the 5th and 6th Sem.

The Joker – Don’t be fooled. These Profs are not the funny type at all. Like the Joker in Batman movies, they will kill you while they flourish a huge grin on their faces. What’s funny is the ridiculous lengths they can go to excruciate the hapless souls forced to attend their class, and the inventive ways and means they find out to torture them.
Some snapshots illustrated below.
The class begins with statistics of how many students of the previous batch have got D in this subject (Hovering dangerously close to 80% )
Assignment 1: Write a blog post on some god-forsaken-disgusting-topic (Pardon my irreverence, but I really mean it!) within 5 hours it is unleashed to the world. Means, don’t dare breathe, eat, drink or sleep in these 5 hours, just madly Blog!. All ideas have to be original, otherwise strict anti plagiarism measures will be taken (that’s F)
Assignment 2: Comment on at least 10 other posts, with all comments seeming to be “genuine”. If you don’t give enough “genuine” comments, you get a D. If you don’t get any comments, your post was too pathetic to comment on (straight F)
Assignment 3: Come and discuss with me about your flaws in Assignment 1 and 2. Not coming to me shows you are too overconfident (means D). Come to me and patiently listen while I lambaste you at length for my entertainment, you have some hope to pass. Keep praying.

And the icing of the cake is that they consider their classes to be the most interesting and engaging of all. Remember the scene in The Dark Knight when the Joker walks around the room pointing his shotgun at everyone – “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. We are tonight’s entertainment!”. Yeah, engaging like that 😦 !

The Geek – Little-understood geniuses, extraordinary eccentrics, lovable nerds. They come in many varieties and are known by all these names. The most manifest quality of all Geeks is that ordinary mortals just cannot understand them. They speak right out of some esoteric Scientific or Management journal, appreciated and understood only by students who are geeks in their own right. Brilliant minds which bring many accolades to the Institute, they are never really understood, but only appreciated from far.

The Maverick – Free thinkers and believers, the mavericks are the epitome of style and class. They rubbish all forms of formal discourse, exams and evaluations, and develop their own ingenious methods to mock the rigid administrative systems. Their classes are replete with gyaan – of the intangible types, and a classic air of “been there, done that”. They have their own set of admirers, and manage to awe everyone, though their devil-may-care attitude might sometimes creep you out!.

The Nursery Schoolteacher – Now introducing you to the rare breed of innocent and naïve Professors you would find in an MBA institution.
Usually first timers, the nursery schoolteacher is way too respectful to the students, unaware of what impish rascals the students can be! Disciplining the class is a big challenge to them, and they always seem flustered and ruffled (keep flapping their wings like a scared pigeon around a clutter of cats!). Desperate to get good feedback from the students, they are unabashedly manipulated by the bacchas who easily see through their weaknesses and negotiate with them. Arrey MBA students hain Bhai!!.
My most vivid recollection of such a lecture: A feeble and desperate attempt to keep the class in order – “Arrey zara suniye toh!”

The Dragons – With flaring nostrils, nimble and light-footed, they breathe fire while prowling around the whole classroom, ready to pounce on their unsuspecting prey. First bench, last bench, behind a pillar, under the table – no place is safe in their class. Infamous for cold calling, the moment they ask a question, everyone starts avoiding their gaze by looking deeply into books like newly married brides. If you fail to answer any question, you are met with a disapproving tch..tch, and a look of deep disgust! Coincidentally, a huge portion of their marks is allocated to class participation. To preserve your ass, you need to think a million times before you open your mouth.. Anyone making an attempt at DCP is mercilessly shot down. Dare you even nod or wink in their class, you would be treated with a thundering – GET OUT!!!

The Scrooge- Recognize Charles Dickens’ legendary miser Ebenezer Scrooge?.
These Scrooges cling on to every little mark like its giving away a drop of their blood. Almost makes you wonder if they consider that the list of unallocated marks are a hoarded treasure for eternity!. With silky smiles and a sarcastic grin, marks are doled out in itsy-bitsy increments of .1s and .05s!. On top of that, they also make you work like a dog, and you are rewarded like a donkey. But divine intervention ensures that they don’t get away easily with this injustice. Like the Ghost of Christmas haunting Ebenezer, you would usually find them hounded by gold medal aspirants of the batch!.

The Performer – Think of the classroom as a huge stage, and the 90 minute session as a famous opera. Every move of the Performer proclaims – “The center of the stage is where I am!.” Their booming voice fills the room with its overpowering presence. The theatrics, pelvic thrusts and dance moves would put Mithun Chakraborty to shame. Imagine the Performer boogieing to the jingle – Yahi hai right choice baby—Aha! Whether the act is supposed to be funny or serious, I have no idea. They give this performance with such a deadpan expression; it’s a serious health hazard really. You cannot dare laugh in their class, and suppressing laughter for long periods of time can make you choke and die of asphyxiation!

The Express Train – They scramble into the class, open their laptops with expeditious urgency, rush through the zillion slides at breakneck speed – barely stopping to breathe, and end the lecture collapsing on the podium gasping for breath!. Firmly believing that management education can never capture the colossal extent of knowledge out there in the universe, these altruists harbor the noble intentions of imparting maximum amount of knowledge to their subjects in the limited time available. Unfortunately, these benign intentions are not met with much appreciation by the common junta.

In their class you would find two groups – A tiny harassed bunch which furiously scribbles notes to keep up with the depressing monologue, and a huge hostile crowd that casually covers the last benches, deflecting the verbal assault with protective gear like earplugs and headphones. Students usually turn up ten minutes before beginning of their class, since there is a frenzied competition for the last bench!.

Oh, I can keep going like this.. On and on. Leisure, I guess has made my imagination run wild. Or totally berserk. (you might find bits of dramatic personalization here and there) 😛

So I’ll take a break and end this post here. Ciao for now!

Coming up soon :
The Idiot’s MBA survival kit

Posted in Personal Stories

A layman’s guide to classifying MBAs!

It was a lazy weekend when on the insistence of my little niece we ended up taking a trip to the zoo. Now, I’ve been to the zoo a gazillion times, but always ended up being amazed by the variety of its inhabitants. If you are open to psychological mumbo jumbo, this is a place filled with ample opportunities for psychoanalysis. Just look at the monkeys scampering around, the lion lazing away in all its majestic splendor, the alligator waiting for some nosy onlooker to pop into its outstretched open jaws!.

Quite naturally, I compared this environment with the place I was most familiar with.
If the B school were a zoo, what would the various personalities of the animals be?? What categories or boxes I would put them in ?

The thought inspired me into putting together this post.
A layman’s guide to classifying MBAs!! 😉

The Topper – They normally come in different shapes, sizes and personas. Some examples – the Dazzler, the Underdog, the Lawyer.. Some are flamboyant, some of the silent types. Highly esteemed by the rest of the B school crowd, they intimidate the system with their impeccable quality of getting marks. Few even terrorize the most obstinate profs with their eloquent arguments on why they should have got a 9.75 rather than a 9.5 in an assignment!

The Fresher – Here is a bunch which is always frantic to increase their CV value, with little clue to what CV value is!.. Right from the first day, they are seen enrolling for the maximum number of committees and sweating over being selected in them. The most enthusiastic participants in all dead-of-the-night God-only-knows-what activities, they are the ones most committed to building the Brand value of the insti. Not belittling their soaring levels of enthusiasm, they are indeed the life and energy of the B school diaspora.

The Free Rider – The most dangerous and feared species, they are also the most threatened lot. Not many of them survive till the end of B school life, as they usually tend to get eliminated by mutiny of the aam junta!. Still, like clever mutants, there are a gifted few who camouflage themselves to survive and sustain in the hostile environment. Quickest way to identify a Free rider – Always seen making last minute frantic calls to be included in any project group in the beginning of the term!.

The Mamas ,Kakas, Chachas, Baba, Dadas etc – Instantly designated to higher echelons of seniority right from the start, they are fondly nicknamed “senior citizens” by the rest of the younger bunch. Sometimes this demarcation is a deliberate attempt to reduce competition for all single females of the batch. There is a certain respect bestowed to them due to the significant years of work ex. Many of these single shaadi ke layak gentlemen go through a mid-life crisis while at school, while their not-so-experienced friends try to find them a shaadi ke layak ladki ( Outside the list of eligible girls in college, ofcouse!). This is normally the B-school demographic with the maximum amount of LOAD . – Need a good salary man kyunki shaadi karni hai.. Losing hair- oh no.. Shaddi karni hai.. Aaj Life enjoy kar lo yaar, kal ko shaadi ho jayegi toh you know!! Constantly dreading shaadi like an impending life imprisonment, they keep telling themselves and each other – Aaal is well.. Aaall is well! 🙂

The Mausis – The married and committed association of ladies in B-school, this is the most uninteresting non-happening demographic for the guys. Shaadi kar liya toh life khatam hai yaar! Off limits for the rest of the batch, they may serve as an interesting subject of study of post marital life for a few – a glimpse of life of the other side!

The Babes – You might have seen them everywhere – the plastics in Mean girls or the new fangled Bebo types in Ekta Kapoor serials. Yet, if you expected these babes to be dumb, you are in for a realty check! In a B-school, you would find the most intelligent, academically oriented and intellectual babes on the planet!. They also come in different varieties – the Rakhi Sawants, the Manekas ..etc… Cynosure of all the single, committed (and married!) Males on campus, their happening social lives are closely monitored by one and all. Summing it up – they top the list of “PGDM’s Most Desirable”!!

The Overachiever – These geniuses register and sweat it out for every B school competition in the world. Ordinary mundane subjects and assignments are way too lowly for them, they dabble only in higher intellectual pursuits. They dare-to-compete in every one of them and even end up winning a few. Living in their own world of boardrooms, battlegrounds and tournaments, they eat-drink-live competitions. Mere mortals might fantasize of Kareena Kapur or Katrina Kaif, but these great men only dream of shaking hands with the Mahindras, Birlas and Ambanis!!

The Devil’s advocate – Frighteningly sharp, they can shake the confidence of meanest of professors. Proponents of the most contrarian view in all discussions, they are the bold ones pushed and prodded to request profs to postpone tests and submissions. Keeping the faculty on their toes gives them immense pleasure. The not-so-tough a.k.a faint hearted profs risk their arguments being ripped apart and eaten alive when the Devil’s Advocates begin lashing their dangerous fangs!!.

The Bhais – Come rain or shine, come tsunami or tornado, these dudes are unruffled by the slings and arrows of fickle fortune. When the whole batch is scuttling around like headless chicken to submit an atrocious assignment, they are seen casually checking their mails to see what the assignment was all about!! Also sometimes bestowed with the title of “visiting student”, they are seen in class only when they feel like doing so. Masters in their own right, they never let the system manipulate them. Admired by many, but dared to be followed by none. Their surprising nonchalance and zero commitment to acads reminds me of the revolutionary Pink Floyd chartbuster – “We Don’t Need No Education.. We don’t need no thought control”!! 😮

The Madhatter – A rare species, but nevertheless cannot be ignored. They have the unenviable quality of turning everyone mad around them. Not their mistake, they are much more intelligent than the rest of the junta around them. They are also the happiest, blissfully unaware as they wreak havoc wherever they go. When you encounter these innocent bombs, they ignite the thinker in you; You cant help wondering why the most deviant genetic mutations happen in the demographic of the most brilliant people!! ;)..

The Spammer – Highly social self opinionated people, these enlightened individuals are committed to share their knowledge and wisdom with the whole universe. Or maybe they are just technically challenged – having difficulty in differentiating between the “Reply” and “Reply All” button. All the world is their stage , and their opinions are way too precious to be left to them alone. Their harmless banter is usually well tolerated unless they are unlucky enough to send a gyaani mail when the crowd is in a foul mood (especially during quizzes and exams). That’s when their Bravado backfires, but they handle with grace and élan, or sometimes brickbats 😀 !!

The Night Owl – Masterful creations of mother nature, these creatures live in a different time zone altogether!. The class is their favorite place to sleep; perhaps they find their beds way too comfortable. One practical explanation might be that their beds are so crowded and their night life so busy, that they find space and time to sleep only during the day and in the classes. With immense practice, they have mastered the art of sleeping while delicately balancing themselves on their desks; unsuspecting profs would think that they are deep in thought and contemplation. Quick thinkers that they are; even when caught mid napping , they come up with ingenious questions like – “Don’t you think this theory needs to be analyzed from a new perspective?!!”

The Superstar – Every batch has one or two of its own, albeit of different types and characteristics. Like Dolly Bindra in Big Boss, they somehow end up grabbing maximum public attention on campus. Always the talk of the town, they are the most talented and gifted – Physically, Mentally, Technically, Romantically, Gravitationally, Spiritually, Psychologically.. phew! Mess discussions and hostel gossip is all framed around their activities. Lending spice to the life in b school, these unforgettable characters are hailed as the Rajnikants and James Bonds of B-school life.

The Consultant – “In every society, some men are born to rule, and some to advice” – Ralph Emerson. These consultants, they walk into team meetings, give high level suggestions, sketch a few graphs , hypothesize the models and leave the dirty work to be done by grass root level workers. Always ready with graphs and charts, they can prepare probability weighted decision trees in seconds! No wonder their advice is highly valued during elective selection and placements. Masters of statistical espionage, they analyze, predict and transform the perspective of everyone around them!!

Ok now. I guess I have done way too much talking here. And, considering how colorful MBA life is ,I could go on babbling like this forever. So I have to stop.
My apologies to The Revolutionaries, the Fin-maniacs, The Bevdaas , the Atankvaadis and the Aaam Aadmis. Sorry to have missed you in this post. Another place, another time maybe!

Coming soon:
B-School profs – Angels or Demons??!!