Friday, April 25, 2008

Goodbye P4

I'm forced to say goodbye to P4, I wouldn't if it were only possible to hold on. I'm such a nostalgic. Singapore was good fun in P4...I can only guess the atmosphere was less stressed than back in Fonty where the hardcore job seekers went. For all future students...make sure to take advantage of both campuses, I can't imagine missing this opportunity.

For those curious about the job market, I can share the following observations:
- tons of opportunities in Dubai
- high growth asain markets are more difficult, mostly closed to outsiders
- forget about finance for the moment
- an MBA doesn't guarantee a dream job, it takes hard work...and don't blame career services

My career aspirations received serious reaffirmation in the closing weeks of P4. While I started wondering if my desired path would pan out days before...a series of events played out which confirmed I was heading in the right direction. I had been gladly ignoring every single element of recruiting (except for an amazing dinner by McK :) but some (masochistic) part of me wanted to share in on all of the practice case interviews, 1st round madness, and anxiety waiting for call backs. I know it sounds stupid, I feel stupid even writing it out. It's true though, it is so easy to get caught up in the heard mentality...

Anyway, I'm more sure than ever that doing something entrepreneurial is the only path to happiness for me. While I'm sure happiness is the first priority of most...I wonder how this reconciles with begging for a job to sit over powerpoint and be a slide production machine...I guess the money is good and maybe this is happiness for some. Luckily (because my risk aversion is probably a bit too high), I'm finally confident that I'm on to a great idea, let's see if potential funders come through in p5...initial signs are positive.

So I'm moments away from hopping on a plane and seeing my loving partner. I have to admit that INSEAD (and probably all MBAs) have a reputation for being tough on relationships. I now see why. It has not been easy these past months. Distance is a killer. Intense personal growth can make the distance seem farther yet. Things happen for a reason, true happiness cannot come without short term pain. I'm confident the future is brighter as a result.

Friday, March 14, 2008

INSEAD MBA is life altering

I wish I could slow down the clock... So vividly I remember the initial days back in Fonty, with such intense happiness I reflect upon the experiences I’ve had over the blur of the past 7 months. I know, at this moment, that I am an in complete denial over the fact that this ride will have to end. But end it will, and all too soon if the next 2.5 months go as fast as the last 2.5; unfortunately though, I fear they will only go faster.

I think each and every one of us will walk away from the INSEAD MBA somehow different than the day when we arrived. If someone doesn’t leave this place changed in a very positive way, they would only have themselves to blame. But for those with decent emotional intelligence and a willingness to drop defenses and open up to a new way of seeing life, amazing levels of personal growth is possible.

Here are three key reasons my life will never be the same:

Friends: Can’t life always be like this? Surrounded by hundreds of smart, fun, ambitious people, dozens of whom you can get connect with really really well? I’m pretty private, so for me these things always take longer…but I love the relationships that I’ve made at this school, the intensity of some of these bonds have surprised me. While it is foolish to think you will stay close to everyone, I do know that I have made some amazing lifelong friends and business partners. The diversity of these bonds (thanks INSEAD) makes them even more special.

Self-awareness: This experience has been a great way to learn about oneself, learn what is important in life, learn what it is worth going after, and learn what is not worth a second thought. I have definitely gained deeper insight into all of these; I’m surer than ever of things, and have a sense of confidence that will follow me where ever I end up.

New perspective of what’s possible: The MBA creates for me a new reality of what’s possible in life. This is from hearing, seeing, dreaming about the millions of opportunities out there from professors, alumni, speakers, students, etc. The number of doors that have opened is mind boggling. I am more ambitious, my options for the future are limited only by my own lack of creativity.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I am loving P3; it's a combination of being in Asia and finally being able to choose courses. Here is a quick breakdown:

VOBM (Venture opportunities & business models)
Professor Phil Anderson is really incredible. The guy is the most efficient person I have ever met...I think he may have an agenda for each class broken down to half-minute intervals; not even 1 second in his class is misused. What's more, the class is so interesting. Many name it their favorite class of the period. The class is kind of an intro to venture capitalism. Phil puts a lot of effort into these classes. He writes several "live cases" for each period where you read of a current dilemma faced by an entrepreneur and then the case "comes to life" as the entrepreneurs come to discuss the case in class. The guy even personally takes ~14 pg transcripts of everything that was said during the visiting lecturers and sends them out in “less than 24hrs”…amazing.

Strategies for Asia Pacific
Fantastic look at doing business in Asia. Professor Michael Witt seems to be quite an expert on the region and makes even history lectures entertaining with his un-PC version of events. The first set of lectures were backgrounds of the larger countries (Japan, Korea, China) and then we moved onto case studies looking at how to partner and what to look out for. The professor’s explicit objective is to make sure we don’t get completely taken advantage of on business deals in the region. Seems that screwing people in Asia is popular in more than one way.

OK, this is a good course and could make it into a core course. I think maybe it was a bit over hyped (as seen in that it is the only course that cost most people some of their bid points...even though there are 4 full sections offered). Professor Horacio Falcao is certainly entertaining, but the best part of the course is the frequent role-playing negotiation exercises that we carry out. Debrief discussions in lecture tend to drag on a bit too long for my liking. I think the course only needs 12 lectures rather than 16 ala IPA.

The last 2 core courses are also very good. International Political Analysis is relevant to business people…even if some people grew tired of Kapstein’s Davos name dropping. I liked the guy and found the course great. Apparently some of French students were offended by some of his views on politics in their country. E.g. France turned over monetary policy to Germany because they “needed adult supervision”. Probably most realize that French policy kills businesses and growth in their country, but I guess they don’t like being told that by an American.

Macro is also very good. I’ve had the course in undergrad, but it is a nice refresher and Ilian Mihov is a great professor…keeps it at an “Econ for MBAs” level.

P4 electives are shaping up to be just as good. Here are a few of the courses I’m looking at: Realizing Entrepreneurial Potential (basically a step-by-step guide to acquire a company), Private Equity, New Business Ventures (taking a venture idea from the P3 VOBM or Ent. Field Studies course to the next level).

Monday, February 11, 2008

10 month MBA???

INSEAD's 10 month program is less than half as long as most other top MBA programs. Such a shame that the tuition fees aren't adjusted accordingly!

There are the obvious advantages:
- less time out of the workforce
- less redundancy for those of us with business backgrounds

The are serious disadvantages:
- Shallow courses: the myth goes that we learn everything the other schools teach in half the time....while we probably are assigned readings on everything the other programs teach, there is no way we come away with the same depth of knowledge as students who have twice as much time to absorb the material and work on applying it. The periods here are so intense that we are lucky to be able to do a fraction of the assigned readings, let alone really get a firm grasp on all of it.
- Shallow networks: while we all make great friendships with a handful of people, it seems like I'm just getting to know many others when campus swaps means I may never cross paths with them again.
- No time to spare career wise: you needed to be ready to tell IBs exactly why you wanted to be a banker from day one of the program. If you missed that opportunity, you had approximately 5 months to polish up your "I wanna be a consultant" speech and practice calculating how many ping pong balls fit into a 747. For me, I'm desperately trying to iron out a workable entrepreneurial idea, probably at risk of not being critical enough given the lack of time to develop plans B, C, & D.
- No time to explore interests: from clubs to careers to electives, if you want a chance to look around and feel out what is best for you....too late, you really needed to have that figured out a month ago.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Happy New Year!

Chinese New Year that is (a.k.a CNY). Students on the Singapore campus are celebrating with trips all over the region given that the campus was shut down for 2 days last week. It is a welcomed break, although strange considering INSEAD's statement on the class schedule:

"INSEAD is international and its MBA programme is extremely intensive. Classes are therefore arranged in the evenings or on Saturdays when necessary and may occasionally run on Sundays. Neither local nor international public or religious holidays are observed."

Somehow INSEAD is better able to keep the French from observing traditional days off than they are able to keep the Chinese from observing them in Singapore. I'm not complaining, I just found it interesting.

The Singapore campus has been a great change from the French campus. On the one hand, I'm enjoying the courses here so much more. True, this is mostly because I have been able to choose my own courses now that we are in P3. But, being in Asia puts the whole Asian spin on all of the topics which I really enjoy. After all, this is where the excitement is going to be in the next decade. Forget about the US & international MBA really needs to get exposure in Asia.

Secondly, being in a major business city makes it possible to gain exposure to amazing external resources. In most of my courses this period, we have had top quality outsiders come in for various topics. Plus, the school is able to put students into touch with great business people to help with various projects. It is quite a bit harder and less convenient to organize these things when you are out in the forests of France. It is a shame that so many students still don't take advantage of this dual-campus opportunity!

Friday, January 18, 2008

2 campus & 2 intake dynamics

There have been at least 2 awkward introductions in the past week when I've met someone on the Singapore campus, I've asked them how they liked Singapore over the first 4 months of the program, and they explain that they actually spent those 4 months with me in Fonty. This is bizarre for the Singapore intake to see. They started with 100 in their class and they all know each other by this point. Fonty was different, the environment didn't facilitate interaction like it does in Singapore. For one thing, there are many more people to get to know (300 vs 100). In addition, students disperse themselves over the French countryside as opposed to concentrating themselves in 2 high rise apartment buildings as happens with Dover/Heritage. In fonty, you always saw the exact same crowd out at the social events (maybe 60% of the class). There was another 40% who rarely, if ever, went to the standard events. If you didn't share a section with these people, it was possible that you never properly met them.

There are 3 distinct groups on campus these days. The P4s who started in Fonty, the P4s who started in Singapore, and the P1s who just arrived here. The interaction between the 3 groups isn't as fluid as you might expect. P3's mingle and slowly break down the walls between the campus intakes, but their seems to be very little interaction between the P1s & P3s. It isn't suprising, P3's are still tired from meeting hundreds of new faces over the past months and the P1s have enough name learning to do of the people that are in their own boat. Judging from our first periods in France, the most successful ones to break the P1-P3 divide will be the P3 guys. They seemed to have some sort of power to win the attention of our intake's P1 girls. I guess girls are always impressed by the older, confident guys. Let's see if our P3 guys are able to find the same keys to success.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A new beginning

Stepping onto the campus in Singapore was a bit cathartic. P1 & P2 in Fonty were great, but I feel my MBA experience now has a chance to truly begin.

P3 is the opportunity to break free from the shackles....of core courses, of pre-defined projects, of a herd like mentality. Up until now, it was all too easy to be swept away in a current of convention. While the current is still strong, I am serenely content with the idea of breaking free and swimming alone.

So, P2 was not a very successful blogging period for me. It started off hot, I found a lot of success with my Sex & the MBA entry! On the other hand, someone or two took strange pleasure in making my anonymous blog a little bit less so. Maybe having my identity known made blogging subconsciously a little less fun...or maybe the mountain of coursework and group work made blogging seem less of a priority. Either way, in P3 I will pick it back up and share my perspective on this whole strange experiment called the INSEAD MBA.

Week 1 in Singapore was really great! It is not easy getting back into the casework mode after spending a non-stop 2.5 weeks with the person I love most in life on an amazing holiday. Plus, the feeling of being at a resort seems inconsistent with work for me. Being able to swim and play tennis in the sun each day just outside my front door is associated with vacation, not school. I've just drawn up a schedule of all key deliverable dates to force myself to stay on top of the workload.

The most work in week 1 seemed related to weekend trips. Just 1 week in and loads of people have all weekends through the end of P2 booked...Thailand, Bali, Vietnam, Cambodia, KL, HK, blah, blah, blah. I'm a bit slower to figure out exactly where I want to go and more importantly who I do and don't want to go with. Some location decisions area easy...I've never been a beach person, I enjoy the culture of the big cities or countryside much more. Plus, I hate group tours, that'll cross of lots of trips where half of the airplane is made up of INSEAD students. I've spent enough time on superficial relationships in the last 4 months, I look forward to building better and long lasting bonds in the next 4.