The 3 Cs – Courage, Case competitions and Case interviews

Before you get comfortably seated and latch your belts on, let me warn you that this post is going to take you back in time – not prehistoric, of course. Nevertheless, a time span of a month in a B school’s dictionary is equivalent to at least a year in common man’s terms as soooo many activities that keep you busy. I wrote this post more than a month ago … but you’d get a glimpse of what went through even if it was way back in the past …

The past week had been good and exciting. We are almost half way into the second quarter and only this week I could gather my courage to open my Finance text book. All these days, I relied on my classroom attention, few of my classmates’ help in understanding the substance behind the homework problems. I have never had any Finance course before. For that matter, any course in the business curriculum. All my learning have been on the job. Why I did not take the book out for so long? One reason may be psychological – when you aspire to be good at something (of which you had no introduction whatsoever), you are so nervous that you fear you might not become as good at it as you want to be. So as long as you delay the onset of that particular task, you keep telling yourself that ‘if I spend some time with it, I can master it’, living in the belief that as long as I do not start doing it, there is always a possibility of the unknown that I might become a master of it. The moment I start doing it, I can see for clear where I stand and that might not be very pleasant. So in short I was postponing that unpleasantness. However, to the contrary, the moment I organized myself and started reading, I found myself engaged in it, understanding most of it and not at all unhappy about the few things that escaped my mind. I keep telling myself on why I wanted to do an MBA – it was not to strengthen my strengths but to weaken my weaknesses; to learn that I never had learned before. Finance is one such – I know that this is the only place and the only chance to learn it. Since am not-so-good at it as of today, I want to learn more of it. The ‘grades are not important’ aspect helps my learning by taking the pressure off. Not that I will relax and flunk or get bad grades, but had there been any pressures on grades, I would probably take those which am already good at, thereby adding lesser value to my time here. So yes, ‘grades are not important’ policy helps. 🙂

Talking of learning, I learned a valuable piece of approaching an issue from one of my classmates during the internal case competition that we had last week. We had an amazing team, sharing the responsibilities, a team where everyone’s voice was heard and a decision was reached only after we arrived at a uniform consensus. I learned how to keep the solutions simple and down to earth, how to de-clutter everything in front and see the crux of the situation. I learned that we need not have lofty ideas to deal with an issue and the sooner we see the immediate implications of an issue/solution, the better it would be.

Next weekend will be another competition at the Microsoft HQ, where we would be competing with tepper, nyu, cornell and ross schools of business. It is first time for Fisher in this and I am greatly looking forward to it. It’s been an adventurous journey so far  from bringing Firenze to OSU, recruiting students from the engineering and the design schools till this point of having crossed two rounds. Working with them was enjoyable and a beautiful learning experience. I saw in practice the different workings of the left and the right brainers – can not express in words. The moment there is a human element to the solution, views differ so much that its amusing to watch and participate in those debates. I am extremely glad that I got such a committed team and am very excited and happy to be representing OSU at the MSFT HQ. Looking forward to it! 🙂

Oh yea! I didn’t get to the 3rd C – maybe next week 😛

A brand new year…

I know, I know… its a tad too late to be talking of ‘New’ year, but I was warming up the ‘new’ness of it…being out of school for 3 weeks watching an average of 4 movies per day, reading all the books that you wanted to read, sleeping when you wanted and sometimes simply doing nothing, does that to you. You take time to realize where you are….In spite of the depressing winter (and having to be in classes at 8.30 am), this quarter is exciting. It may be partly due to the freedom to choose my elective – mm may be. And of course, I don’t find any joy at all wearing jeans, plain tee, hooded jacket complete with sneakers to the classes! 😉

New year, new quarter, classes with new cohorts – I am enjoying this relatively relaxed pace compared to the fall quarter. I never took any interest in New year resolutions – but I find myself tempted to resolve to do a few things this year: do things that I love doing, which have taken a back seat for a while like reading, continuing my salsa classes and organize my ipod.. trust me it deserves a top place in the list of to dos. And yes, before this winter ends I should have built a snowman and learned to skate (this is highly ambitious! but hey aren’t all management students categorized this way?). Instead of getting depressed ’cause of the snow I might as well learn to enjoy it. Lets see how far that goes…

I love all the courses this quarter. And that’s not good – at least for me. I ought to hate a few courses so that it becomes easy for me to select a major or two or tailor make my curriculum. Liking everything is detrimental to decision making. Anyway, time will help me solve my dilemma.

Coming back to the exciting stuff – Its kind of amazing to me that I get to see a lot of cool CEOs and hear them talk as if its an everyday affair. I mean, I have not met as many CEOs in my life as I have in the last few months here. And hear their stories? That’s even better. And whats best? To see them so unassuming, polite and some of them are so very unconventional and funny. Yea! I had a real good time today hearing Mr. John Lowe talk about jeni’s icecream in one of our classes.  And the founders of ‘four loko’ are visiting us in our marketing class. How cool is that ? yea, it is alcohol and yes the drink is banned but the idea was and still is innovative and am sure it will be yet another interesting session this quarter has to offer.

My first Thanksgiving and my Mom’s first email id..

Yea, I see the question on your face. There is nothing more common between my first Thanksgiving in the US of A and my mom’s first email id other than the date that they happened. More connections will follow in this post. We say that the grad student’s life is miserably hectic – not that we ‘say’, let me rephrase – A business grad student’s life IS miserably hectic. During our orientation week (which by the way seems far far away..) one of us asked the second year students ‘I see that there are classes only till the Thursday of the week. I was wondering what the students get to do on the Fridays…’ Every ‘enlightened second year soul’ in the classroom burst out laughing and just said ‘you’ll know..’ May be they felt the need to be kind to us as we were all looking like this during our first week. All the scrambling and anxiety have given way to relatively more confidence and more anxiety – yes, then it was only the

Doe facing the headlights of a vehicle

anxiety of getting accustomed to the place and the people, but now add performing in class, doing well in exams (if i dare count that) and searching for an internship to that list – you get a potpourri of anxiety-elevators. Anyway, before I digress too much, what I wanted to say was that in this fast paced, hectic, stressful life style of a business grad, holidays are like thirst quenchers to a desert traveller. After a very long time we had a truly long weekend during the weekend of Thanksgiving. This weekend was eventful in many ways – family get togethers, the famous OH-MI game, and shopping!!! I cannot ask for more. 🙂 I spent the Thanksgiving day with an American family. It was wonderful. I learned a lot about their culture, their everyday life style, their perceptions on many things and a little bit about their value systems. It was amazing and gladdening for me to see the extent to which they reached out to host complete strangers on that very special day meant for family get togethers. I felt like I was in a more happier and a drama-free version of ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ 🙂 We were three Indian students at their place on that day. We spoke about a lot of things without having any reservations about ‘sensitive topics’ such as Obama’s rule, outsourcing, caste system in India etc. I was actually surprised when they brought politics into the conversation. As far as I knew, you steer clear of politics especially when you do not know the other person very well. But, it was interesting to hear the debate between the family members on the two sides of american politics. May be things are changing. All in all it was a day well spent, thanks to International Friendships Inc.

Talking about changing world, my Mom’s world has changed what with she having her first ever email id. It’s been a very long time since I was telling her to create one for herself and now that she has finally done that, I am not sure I feel like emailing my Mom. Well, I have never done that before – we had never been very far away that we could not call each other over phone. So now it’s kinda strange for me to sit and write to her about anything. Like a 13 yr old, she wants to see an email from me everyday. Hmmm, now that’s going to be difficult – I don’t know if I am ready to handle a teenager in the midst of my school work. Let’s see how that goes.

Ah, coming back to an awesome weekend –

Thanksgiving is always followed by Black Friday – a God sent day for shopholics. I was warned of the mad crowd in the shopping malls. But I ventured out anyways, I have always been brave you see :-P. Well, I was in for a slight disappointment – If that’s what people refer to as a ‘mad crowd’  I wonder what the word for the actual ‘crowd’ at the shopping malls in my hometown on a normal weekend would be- It would be interesting to find out 🙂

The right school.

This is my second or third post on how important it is to get into the right school.  I am not getting any other single thread of thought that links to whatever I am doing here at my MBA program. Be it a new idea that I bring in or work together with classmates in a case competition or take help from a classmate in understanding American culture or have lots of fun with them celebrating Indian festival, I am having fum or learning something new because I chose my right fit and so did everyone else in my class.

When I brought in the idea of starting ‘Microsoft Firenze’ case competition at Fisher, the support that I got from all of the faculty and the dean was awesome. With very tight deadlines, I wasn’t told that it was not possible. I was given the kind of freedom and support that we needed to bring this on. I should mention the help that I got from the second year students in making this happen. With their experience in school, they did all that they could. The result? We progressed from a time when we thought pulling off 8 teams will be difficult, to gathering 14 teams in all! Firenze is on now and am very happy to see many students from across schools participating in it. All thanks to the Dean Karen Wruck, the faculty and my seniors at school.

Talking about case competitions, there is no dearth of such at Fisher. I love solving cases and suggesting solutions. I am a devil’s advocate within whatever team that I work in. Questioning assumptions and validating the solutions are some things that come naturally to me. So case competitions are something that I really enjoy working on. Green Case competition was one such.  I loved my team on that competition. These are the times that you get to work with different people, understand them, have fun, and make good friends. And the best part is when you cheer for your classmates when they win the same. The most heard line in the conversations between the teams was “The only part that I don’t like about this is competing within ourselves”. So when another team from the class wins, it’s just so natural to feel happy for them.

Coming from a foreign land, I didn’t want to take anything for granted. I always want to be sure of what I speak and do with my fellow mates and other Americans. So when I was invited by the IFI to spend the Thanksgiving day with an American family, I sought the help of one of my classmates to pick up something for them. She was gracious and generous enough to not only suggest a gift but also take me to the right place to get it. I am truly lucky to be with such wonderful people.

When it comes to celebrations in India, nothing beats Diwali. That just multiplies 10 fold when you are celebrating it in a foreign land and 100 fold, when you are celebrating it with your American and other international friends. 🙂 I am just back from the best party that I had so far in school – Diwali Dinner organized by Fisher Indian Students’ Association. 🙂 That was a lot of fun. All those who were present were very open minded, had a lot of respect for Indians and their culture and wanted to learn more. They all learned some cool Bollywood moves!! No one had any inhibitions and the kids of my classmates had fun too. This was one of my best times here at Fisher. 🙂

I got a few emails from prospective students on how and why I chose Fisher and I said, “Because this is where I fit very well”. That’s what I would say to any one looking at a business school:- contemplate on whether that school will be the right fit for you. Trust me, these two words “Right Fit” mean so much and more!!


Everthing about Sustainability.. Net Impact Conf – Part 1

Long before this month started, I had marked this past weekend as ‘forced break time’ as the midterms had just ended and this weekend was just mine to relax a bit and unwind. This was the plan till I got to know about the NetImpact conference that was scheduled at Ann Arbor, MI from Oct 28-30. We started at around 5 am on Oct 29th and were in time for the sessions at Ross. It was a  pleasant 3.5 hrs drive, with wonderful classmates to keep me company. I have this strange habit – I fall asleep within 30 mins of being in any closed moving vehicle. When I was a kid, my parents had a tough time keeping me awake in any trip – rail or road didn’t matter – and then they gave up. I sometimes fall asleep on my way home from college, which takes about 25 mins :-P. But on this trip, I wasn’t even a wee bit sleepy in spite of starting early or on my way back after a long day, thanks to my amazing classmates. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I carefully picked my sessions after a ‘could-have-been-better’ start of the day- I had forgotten my wallet in Columbus, my handbag’s handle broke and I had forgotten to take my business cards from the handbag when I went back to the car to dump my bag. I could not attend a session on sustainability and product innovation in spite of being at the venue 5 mins early. The two main subjects of my interest….my sadness was exacerbated when I heard from my classmates on that session’s ‘awesomeness’ :- (. Anyway, I attended another session on gridlines and sustainability and learned quite something.

The highlight of the day was the “Walmart Better Living Business Plan – Quick Pitch Challenge” where one of our classmates, Christine Deye had participated. She was one of the 12 that were selected from the vast pool to present their ideas in front of a panel of 3 judges. She was amazing in her confidence and presentation style and moved on to the second round, which had the top 5 ideas. The judges loved her idea but were of the opinion that a lot of unknowns needed to be explored. Look  here for the video of her presentation. Though she did not win the competition, she got a lot of appreciation from the crowd and many came forward to talk to her about her idea. That was something! She made several very good contacts, one of which was with the CEO of Stonyfield. She was on a roll! 🙂 She is now working on her idea to participate in the bigger ‘Walmart Business Plan Competition’, later this year. We wish her good luck with that. 🙂

Did I mention Stonyfield? 🙂 yes, he was a key-note speaker on Saturday. he was truly amazing.. More on that in the next part of this blog..

That evening we all hit a bar somewhere in Ann Arbor. Met a lot of interesting people from all over the world. We shouted our trademark “O-H-I-O” right in the basement bar in front of the locals and were greeted with “I will bounce you all out..” by the bartender.. we laughed. “I am not joking, see I am not smiling”, he said and played the traditional MI music till he was sure that we were done with our O-H-I-O. I was always curious about this MI-OH relationship. I amused myself with people’s reactions after I told I was from the OSU 🙂 and my appetite was well fed. I was greeted with ‘oh’s and ‘ah’s and knowing smiles.

I was looking forward to the next day and made sure that if I wanted to attend a session badly, I was there at least 15 mins before the start.

– to be cont’d…

Everthing about Sustainability.. Net Impact Conf – Part 2

Saturday started early around 8 am. We reached the venue to hear one of the key note speakers of the day, Mr. Gary Hirshberg, CEO of Stonyfield Farm, a man who started his business with just seven cows and with no VC and grew it to a $340 million company; a man who has weaved sustainability through every piece of his business.

His ways were different, his courage laudable and his passion contagious.

When he spoke about renewing the top soil of the farms or anaerobically treating waste water or capturing the attention of the buyers by quality and not by larger-than-life advertisements, I was at awe of his ideas, personality, courage and his passion for sustainability.

Whoever would have thought of feeding the cows with proper diet from the perspective of global warming? He did. The methane from cow’s burp could be avoided by feeding them with their proper diet. The amount of methane might be small to significantly melt the glaciers, but if something detrimental to the environment can be avoided, then why not?

He was bold enough to cite the unhealthy food choices that we make and in claiming that the whole world could be fed with organic foods alone. I don’t know what it takes to feed the world with just organic foods, but I would love it if that becomes a reality and I loved him for his brave comments on those who said it was not possible.

His model of win-win-win with the farmers, the business folks and the consumers as the players, brought everyone to think differently. His story of receiving a reject from the White House to stock Stonyfield in their kitchens because of a lid label which read “In politics, the cream doesn’t always rise to the top”, brought smiles and laughter to the audience. When he showed the contradictions between the government’s suggestions on healthy food and its subsidies to the  food types, I could see the collective nod of the crowd in agreement.

All-in-all, he enraptured the crowd with his presentation and am sure like me, several others who are new to Stonyfield would at least want to try it now.

Another person who was impressive with his unconventional thoughts was the Finance Professor at Ross, Prof. Gautam. He urged us to look beyond the $ values that we place on the things we do and make financial knowledge to help gain a positive social impact. The two panels that he moderated were very good learning steps for someone like me, for whom Finance might well have been Greek.

It’s just amazing how in a sea of speakers and notaries, a few just blow you away with their unconventional ideas and personalities.

I came home with two distinct thoughts borrowed from these great thinkers – “Don’t let ‘the best’ be the enemy of ‘the good'”  and “When you fear, you can not love people. Love – for the environment and all things in it, is the first step to sustainability”

The weekend ended on a high note with OSU Net Impact winning the ‘Small Graduate Chapter of the year 2010’!! Way to go!!

The next Net Impact conference is in Portland, OR.. Looking forward to another such stimulating weekend. 🙂

cymbals, ‘dosas’ and more..

Okay, so there was a week’s gap since I last wrote anything here. Seems like eons ago. Its amazes me on how time flies when you are in the moment and still when you look back, you feel like you have been for ages. So much has happened, and so much more to come in this coming week. Here I am, just after a couple of review sessions for ‘Acconomics’.. Accounting and Economics, the two very laborious exams of the quarter.  I might probably end up like this, if I ever choose a career in Accounting..

(hope Prof. Roulstone doesn’t get the time to read this)

Ok, ok.. agreed.. his cartoon is kinda lame.. but you get the point right? On how good my accounting skills are ? Anyways, last week was eventful. Just  like any other week at Fisher. Highlight of all those was the trip that we made to Univenture, where we witnessed the latest technology to aid algae harvest, which inturn can be used in a myriad of innovative energy producing processes. I need a two page essay with a 1000 word limit, to cover what we saw and heard at Univenture. It was a cool place.

 Talking of the word ‘cool’, I never really understood the full meaning of that word, when I saw that word being randomnly used by many. I asked a few and never got a proper explanation. Now I know why. Simple.  Because you cannot really explain it.. kinda strange, but that’s how it is. Since I was enlightened with its meaning, I started using it for things I found fascinating – like the Net Impact organization. All that Net Impact OSU chapter does are in line with my interests and I find it ‘cool’.. :-). Last weekend also happened to be one of the auspicious days of the Hindu religion. In India, we have two epics, one of which is Ramayana (raa-maa-ya-na). This is a story about a young prince Rama, in line to the King’s post and his adventures in slaying the villain, Ravana. 

Its an epic.. will try and summarize it in a few lines.. Rama, the protagonist, was the eldest son in his family. So, ideally, the throne would have gone to him. Instead, his step mother wanted her son to be the king and so drives Rama and his wife off to a jungle. One of Rama’s brothers accompanies him to the jungle. During their stay there, the villain sets his eyes on Sita and abducts her to his kingdom. The rest of the story is how Rama, without deviating a bit on what’s moral and ethical, defeats the villain and brings Sita back home. Last Sunday was the day commemorating that victory. I went to a nearby temple, heard some devotional songs with cymbals and drums playing in the background, had south indian pan cakes (called dosa) and spicy chutney for dinner at a restaurant named ‘Udipi’. It was wonderful. I never thought I would have a temple to visit here. Well, that’s Columbus for you. Small but self sufficient with respect to anything that you would need.

Okay, now I need to really go and take care of my Acconomics, otherwise my concepts of supply and demand will get skewed like the understanding of Calvin here….

see you all next week! 🙂

Clearing ‘dead air’ and sorting through ‘ white noise’

Okay, I am not endorsing the cartoon above, that’s not how you lead your life. I am going to tell you what you’d hear a lot in your first year orientation but will never realize the importance of it until you reach a point where I am right now. This is how I felt on Monday evening,

when I started to realize the impact of the lost time at the NAWMBA conference on my modestly organized school work deliverables for the following week.

Things you’d hear in your orientation are

– Don’t try to be a control freak

– Try to be on the edge and learn to be comfortable in being a little uncomfortable

– Know that you cannot be THE BEST in everything but be happy to put in YOUR BEST

Well, for me

– I was a control freak, still am to an extent

– I am on the edge and still learning to be comfortable in it

– I am trying to do something different, may not be every day but at least at the frequency that keeps me uncomfortable

Being a control freak doesn’t mean that you boss around other people. It also implies that you are highly organized, that a day’s slip out wracks your nerves. I am that person. After coming back from NAWMBA (where I had an awesome experience), I had a lot of things to catch up on and just one Sunday wasn’t enough. I freaked out. I played along being utterly uncomfortable in running late on a couple of assignments’ self-imposed deadlines, my unkempt room, back log on many readings etc., until I could no longer take the fact that there were still things in ‘pending’ status. I had to take a mental time-out, which I did. Watched some TV for the first time after coming to the US, spoke to a senior, took a step back and prioritized my work.

I cut out on the ‘white noise’ – a noise containing all of the audible frequencies of vibration, that tuning in to a particular frequency becomes difficult i.e., I started to concentrate more on what was in hand than worrying about the thousand other things that needed my attention. I tuned in to one frequency at a time.

I cut down ‘dead air’-a term used in the radio world for unproductive time. I looked at different ways to maximize my work, for e.g.  reading easy-read materials during my travel, working in groups more often and combining my cooking and reading 😉

There are so many organizations that are active at the same time and the fact that you cannot be doing everything that’s there, calls for your better judgment on what you REALLY want to do. There is no place like an active MBA course such that of Fisher’s to learn the art of knowing your passion and prioritizing your available options accordingly.

The satisfaction that I am putting in my best has opened new hours in a day that never existed before.

Breaking Myths…

Myth no 1: All cities in the US are as busy as the ones we see on TV shows such as Friends or Seinfeld or How I Met Your Mother.

Break it: Unless you are talking about New York, where these shows are centered in. Columbus is a nice, cozy place perfect for studies. You get everything here and yet it is not so overwhelming that it competes with your studies for your attention.

Myth no 2: Pack all Indian groceries that you possibly can because you don’t get any here.

Fact: You get almost everything here, except “mom-made” food. True, you don’t have an Indian grocery on the corner of every street, but you have a few where you get all that you’d need in your kitchen.

Myth no 3: You can’t survive here if you are a vegetarian.

Fact: Every restaurant or eatery will have at least one veggie dish .. even if it is just a salad. You just have to know how to be clear to the waiter when you order. Moreover, there are some very good Indian restaurants around where you get almost any kind of Indian vegetarian food. Also, if you are open to other cuisines, you do get a variety of vegetarian stuff.

I am still learning and I know there will be more myths to break in the coming months…

A high note weekend

The energy of the mind is the essence of life. 

And there was a lot of positive energy there, waiting to be felt by those who could sense the vibes of great winners in life…  

Yes, as you had guessed, am talking about the NAWMBA Conference 2010 held at Louisville, Kentucky on Oct 1 and 2.  I am not the first one to report this in my blog and I am certain that I won’t be the last one either.  No woman blogger of Fisher can resist the urge to write about this truly inspiring conference. (In fact, there was one gentleman from our class who had attended this conference, in spite of being the only man in a sea of women MBAs). Such was the magnetic pull of the highly successful leaders who graced the occasion.

 Awesome women leaders, thought provoking speeches, business opportunities and of course, loads of fun defined the conference.

Some feed for thought from various speakers at the conference

— Know what you want, map the values that you hold dear, ingrain those values in your actions and always always keep looking ahead

— An obstacle is only as much strong as you want it to be. Do not be bogged down by road blocks. Instead, know that you have the ultimate power to realize your dreams no matter how big they may seem to you at the beginning

— Leadership is ‘inclusive’, in growing together. That is the true form of leadership that one should aspire for and the one that would last

And finally, the words of Lynn Tilton, who once saved  250,000 jobs  — “it’s women who really run the world. We are natural creators, we give birth to children. Too often we are what men expect us to be & the further away from success we get. We need to create leadership that inspires…we need to rise up as one people.”

Those, I guess, were the main goals of this conference – to make women realize their potential; to help them break away from the conventional descriptions that try to mask their strength;  to help them be inspired towards greater success.

I am sure that many women like me would have taken a leaf out of these great personalities’ books, to be used as a guiding light in their lives, both professional and personal.

For one day, our lives will flash before our eyes. Let’s make sure that it would be worth watching, by giving our best every waking moment…