Friday, September 30, 2005

MBA Time Line & Priorities US Vs India

The assumption: People are applying for starting MBA in Fall (Aug/Sep) of year 200X. (200X - 1 ) is the year before 200X.

Applying to MBA in US Schools

Year (200X - 1)

Jan - March:
  • Prepare for GMAT.
  • 3 weeks is the time required to seriously prepare for GMAT.
  • Although since most will not have studied/written exams for quite some time a 2 month being-around-the-GMAT book is required to boot you up.

March: Take the GMAT Exam.

April - May: "Back up" time to re-take GMAT if things dont work well the first time.

April - June:

  • Introspect/ Analyze your career progression,
  • Decide on your future career path.
  • This is a really good time to think about yourself, your ambitions, what you want to do in life. Don't do what everybody else is doing. Think about why you are unique?
  • Make sure of the reasons why you want to do an MBA?
  • Make sure of the reasons why you want to go to the US.
  • Find out about post-MBA careers and where you fit in.
  • Talk to people who have done MBAs and understand what sort of work they do.
  • Dont underestimate this 2 month effort. This is important.
  • Most blokes have no clue on what people do after an MBA. They just apply because MBA is a cool thing to do.
  • Your core story will evolve at this point. Do due diligence.

June - July:

  • As a deliverable for the previous step. Write 1 long essay detailing your career progression, your goals (short term and long term), why MBA, Why Now? etc.
  • This could be a really long essay. Dont worry. Just write every small detail about yourself, your life philosophy, your leadership situations, your extra curricular ectivities. Make it one long cogent story.

July:

  • Short list your colleges.
  • Understand what "application rounds" mean.
  • Develop a strategy on how you want to distribute your colleges across application rounds (depending on your work schedule).
  • Talk to possible recommenders. It is your responsibility to ensure that they send their references before the deadline. Keep sending regular email reminders about deadlines.

August:

  • College release application forms.
  • Columbia opens Early Decision round.
  • Begin Tailoring your application to the college of your choice.
  • Apply to Columbia if that is indeed your interest.
  • Start scheduling interviews/school visits with other schools. Your POA is determined this month. You should finish scheduling interviews this month.

September:

  • Some School Interview all students prior to submitting application forms.
  • Interview with universities of your choice.
  • Write essays.
  • Write essays.
  • Write essays.
  • Oh ya... Write essays.
  • Harvard - 6 essays. Wharton - 4 essays. kellogg - 6 essays. Michigan - 3-5 essays. Chicago 5 essays. Stanford - 2 essays. You could be writing anywhere between 15-20 essays per application round.

July - October: :

  • Write Essays.
  • Have people review your work. 1 bschool student, 1 English expert and 1 analytical/logical dude is the combination you are looking for. The more bschool students the better.
  • 4 months is around 16 weeks. 16 weeks for 20 essays is a challenge. Plus there are other things going around too.
  • Fill your data/application forms well in advance.
  • Prepare a solid resume. Make sure you do your data forms in detail.
  • The transcripts takes 3 hours to write to an Excel sheet. Please do it very early and not on the day of submission.

October:

  • This month is a terror.
  • Most biggies have deadlines this month. Typically your work life will be screwing you at this point too.
  • Columbia, Wharton and Harvard typically have Oct 10, 11 and 13 deadlines. Stanford, Kellogg and Michigan will have Oct 22, 28 and Nov 1.
  • All essays, supporting docs, recomendations have to go before the deadline. Midnight is 00:00:00 hrs. 00.00.01 hrs might not be considered (seriously). Why? Because it is past midnight. yes! they are picky. If they aren't picky when you submit late and I submitted my forms on time. I would be very upset. This is the reason why they are indeed picky. get this point early on.

November/December:

  • Start working on your back up plan.
  • Round 2 is as open as round 1 and you can send more applications in Round 2 if your R-1 plans dont work out. Sometimes it just doesn't. Dont fret over it. Just move on.
  • There is a overwhelming wave of emotion to take stuff like this personally. Just Don't and move on.
  • Your essays will be much better in R-2 than R1. trust me. This is an universal truth. The essays you write last will be your best.
  • This month plan on tracking R-1 application status.
  • Some Universities call you for interview after reviewing your applications and shortlisting people. Be prepared.
  • Interview is an important part of your applications.
  • Book your consular Visa appointment for June. This is kinda important. Dont forget it.
Year (200X)

January:
  • This is when R-2 deadlines are due.
  • So send in your R-2 application packets.
  • R1 and R2 intake are similar. It does not make a difference which round your apply for.

Feb-April: Do interviews, track status for R-2 apps.

April: Decide on the Bschool you want to attend

May- June: Prepare for visa interviews.

June:

  • Get Visa and then quit your job.
  • Book tickets. talk to people over the summer regarding career plans.
  • Talk to seniors in your university. Decide what you wanna do in summer.
  • If at all possible land up in bschool with 1 resume ready and polished.

Priority List of things bschool looks for to decide admission.( high priority ones to low priority ones in decreasing order)

1) Essay1
2) Essay2
3) Essay3
4) Essay4 - Essay6
4a) Interview (communication skills and expresson of items 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
5) Work Experience & Career Progression ( is part of essays, data form, resume)
6) professional maturity (part of essays)
7) Leadership track record (")
8) Team work track record (")
9) Business impact on your organization (")
10) Extra curricular activities (")
11) Academic performance GPA
12) GMAT (GMAT is not that important. Please dont worship it.)
13) TOEFL is not considered as a selection criteria. It is a self-elimination criteria. (The same rule some times applies to GMAT as well. )

Average Age of US BSchool Entrants ( a decent conjecture): 27-29 years

Average Work Experience: 4 - 7 Years

Average GMAT Score for Top 10 Bschools ( a decent conjecture): 690 - 720. This is speculated to be higher for the Indian/IT/male category. Although no one has data to prove it. It is irrelevant anyway. I at least was not worried about it.

Biggest Myth of the Application process, which are completely untrue:

  • You need to be rich.
  • GMAT is everything.
  • Essays are easy to write.
  • Indian/IT/Male is the most competitive

Percentage of Indian bschool entrants who are married : 50% or more :-) (This is just a guess but it seems like everybody are married)

will be continued...

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Examinations

There is a Seinfeld quote, about horse racing. He talks about the way human beings race on horses. They whip the horses and make it run fast. The horses think there is some kind of an emergency and begin to run really fast. Only to find in the end that when it has circled the field it has ended right where it started. So Seinfeld imagines what the horses would be indeed thinking - "we were just here. We were here 5 minutes ago. What was the point of the whole rush.". I think the Seinfeld discussion applies to exams also. I wrote 2 exams in the last week that evoked opposite emotions. In an exam, where you know stuff but think you may not have the time to finish the exam, you are racing against time, your heart is beating fast, you are rapidly calculating stuff. There seems to be an "emergency mentality" reigning in your mind. There is a rush and rapidness to everything you do. It is almost as if you are completely lost in your own world. Then the bell rings, time is up and the exam is over. You wake up from this event and look around you. You are still sitting in the same table, your shirt is not even ruffled that much. Nothing in the outside world has changed. But it looks as if you went through a mental journey of escaping an earthquake. You suddenly feel the sudden disconnect between the mention journey and the physical journey (or lack of it). You tend to think, "what was the point, I am here where I was 1 hour before. Nothing has changed. 5 minutes before things looked like an emergency. Every second was worth a million dollars. Now I have 6 hours to spare and a second is of no value"

The other exam reminded me of the Engineering Electromagnetics exam we wrote in our 3rd semester under grad. 10 minutes into the exam, most students started looking around the class with silly smiles. The whole exam was a "problem paper" as opposed to the tradionally expected "theory paper". We were caught off-guard, ambushed. Then began the process of putting together, whatever BS we could and throw it into that answer paper. The same thing happened recently. We stared into this thing called the "question paper" and didn't have a clue what was going one. Heads turned around and smiles were exchanged as if to say "what the hell...". Then the 2 hours looked like a long marathon. I was guilty to get up and leave. I felt the compulsion write whatever I could thnk of. So every minute looked like an hour. I waited for the clock to finally turn over and the invigilator say "time up".

Exams are funny!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Military Discipline & Mobile Phones (Edit)

The first thing that the presenter said in the career services presentation was the same as the first thing an Indian senior told us in the Indian Student Association career counselling presentation. Both were desparately begging us to do one thing. And they summed it up by saying "if your mobile phone rings when a company has come to campus for its corporate presentation, forget about the job. Don't even apply there. Coz' you wont get the job." Here is mobile phone etiquette. Edit: The link is newly added to avoid controversy. I forwarded an email or cut and paste from some web page to my blog. At that time I did not know who the author was. So I did not credit the author and that has upset him/her. Added to that I re-quoted and linked the blog. So this edit is to say "its him/her who wrote it and not me". My apologies to the original writer. As some well-wishing commenters have advised I am knocking off that blog and linking the "original" directly. Usually I am good at crediting the source (like the Ilayaraja blog) but there are times when I slip up, so I apologize for that.

I hate ring tones. Seriously my serious passion is to pick a person who is terribly excited about his/her ringtone and rip them apart saying that they aren't actually cool because of the ringtone but in fact they are very nauseating. Ringtone has become a nuisance to such a point that in my previous work place, I shifted from giving angry glares -> to saying "tch" loudly -> to saying "c'mon man! what the hell". While Indians aren't certainly the only offenders in the mobile phone etiquette, given the nature of the money that is in our hands now and our population, we could certainly be the biggest.

Imagine this! This is very common in India. In a meeting when somebody is giving a presentation or convening a meeting, it is very common for one or many of the attendees to (a) not put the mobile phone in silent mode, (b) pick the mobile phone when it rings, (c) allow it to ring loudly, (d) pick the phone up, bend slightly down, cover the phone with his hands and groan into the phone "haan bol...mgoandsns cacdjsk..edjda". The part where he closes the phone with his hand, bends down and begins to make funny growling noises is an indication that he is showing courtesy to the fellow meeting attendees. I'd rather that he just talk loudly into the phone. According to me he has no manners anyway. The growling with closed hand just makes it worse. Initially I thought, how the hell the presenters tolerated such in-courteous behavior. Then in one meeting the presenter's phone rang, he stopped the presentation and said "haan bol! koi problem nahi... I will be home by 7:00". This is so regular. I am not even exaggerating a little bit.

I have blogged about this before but nevertheless, I'll say it again. Loud ringtones of the latest songs is not cool. Its obnoxious and often irritating. I once asked a very offensive collegue, how different the loud ringtone was from bringing a stereo system to work. Seriously think about it. Cell phone play movie songs, they play them loud. Stereo system plays movie songs and play them loud. If the "time period" of noise is the difference, I can play my stereo system in short bursts once every 5 minutes. Furthermore, most of the idiots would leave the phones in their cubicle and it would cry and scream its heart out until the person at the other end dies.

I'll tell you why this is especially obnoxious. Let us assume you have invited me for dinner to a restaurant to talk about something very important. And exactly at that same time (as our dinner appointment time), I commit to another friend that I will call him and talk about Ganguly's captaincy issue. So what do I do? I bring that friend along to the restaurant, say "hi" to you and talk to the friend continuously. The friend doesn't eat, he just sits there and talks with me about Ganguly. You obviously can't talk to me because the other guy is there constantly yapping away. Now remove the cricket-friend and replace him with a mobile phone. I am still talking to another person and not caring about you. How does it make a difference if I am talking to an actual person sitting there or into an instrument. It is all the same. I am ignoring you in both cases.

Reminds me of a time when I was interviewing folks. One girl was partiularly nervous during her interview. But she was reasonably/hire'ably smart. Suddenly her mobile rang in the middle of the interview. In her nervousness, she did not know how to react, she literally tore open her handbag and some how managed to shut the thing up. Normally, I would have rejected her and asked her to leave right that moment. But I felt sorry for her and let it go. In about 2 minutes the darn thing screamed again. I told her "you might as well pick it up". She picked it up and it was her husband asking her if her interview went well. What kind of a stupid husband would call his wife at a time when he knows her interview is going on to check if everything was well. Anywho the mobile phone warnings has scared me suffeciently and i either (a) keep my phone switched off most of the time or (b) have put it in permenant silent mode, preferring to check missed calls and call back people later. You would think after all the warning, students would haave learned to behave. In a corporate presentation last week, I saw a person talking with a corporate recruiter, his cell phone rings, he cooly picks it up, stops it and continues talking. My eyes were popping out and so was the recruiter's.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Nothing in life comes that easy -- General Philosophy

This blog is so generic that it applies to all readers. But I wrote this with applying-to-MBA category folks in mind. I kind of tried to do everything under the sun last year. So the least I can do is give folks the timeline for the MBA application process. The most I could do is to urge people, who read this, to make up their minds (about just about anything they want to do) very early. In decisions on India Vs Abroad, 1 college Vs 10 colleges, or any other decision involving choices, it is better to be decisive early on. Otherwise its not going to be so much fun. The more number of things you put on your plate, the more challenging you make it for yourself. It may be worthwhile because challenge is always good but you get into a position where "end justifies your means".

Take my case for instance. I wrote the GMAT exam, applied to US Schools, attended IMS coaching classes for CAT (in Stella Mary's College :-) ), wrote CAT, got engaged, went around with my then-future-wife( blogged about it here, here and here).. oh .. yeah and then I also worked. And worked on a project that squeezed the last drop of blood out of my body. Apart from all this I was involved in a lot of other personal stuff too. I did not want to give up on celebrations like the ones mentioned here, here and here. This travel blog (which made many people literally gape) was going on at the same time too along with some funny confusions. It was as if I was competing for a guiness record on masochism. It was fun up to an extent and then it became a blood bath. By October, I was reduced to continuous 50 hours of no sleep per week, bad temper, cursing India's non-existent high-speed internet, dead-slow dial-up connection, banging my laptop at 3:00 AM in the morning, driving to work at 11:00 PM in the night(because home internet was not working) and submit an application at 4:00 AM in the morning 10 minutes before the dedline. Oh did I mention??? I got married in the same time period. Got up at 5:00 AM the day after my marriage (as I had done the whole week before marriage) to study for the Wharton Interview. The day after marriage, I Flew from Madras to Bombay to attend the Wharton interview. Came back, went with a gang of screaming relatives to Thirupathi. Walked from Thirumala to Thirupathi. Came back and attended the Darden interview. Next day flew to Switzerland for my honeymoon. Came back and found out that I had been admitted to Michigan. Only after seeing the admit, did I back out of the IIM corporate quota application process going on at work ( I had a pretty decent chance of getting in).

So I am not impressed when many people complain about lack of time (because of work) to prepare for GMAT. It pisses me off when many people complain that it is not an "ideal situation" in their life to attempt something of this magnitude. Let me tell you two things. Firstly, you will never have a lot of time for even the most important preparation in your life. Secondly, and this is something that I strongly believe in, mainly because I have been burnt by it before. And that is - there is never an ideal time to do anything in your life. There never is. There is always an inconvenience, a complication, an unforseen problem, a random change of plans. I personally had a million things like this. What the Sucess blog tried to do was to say that such things should not be looked upon as bad luck. But as evidence of your requirement to plan better and fight it out. Get the adrenalin flowing. Because fighting it out during an inconvenient time, is probably the only time when you will live life to the fullest.

The point of the whole thing is -- As I sat down to write a blog on MBA application process timelines. I thought it might not be a bad idea to set the ground for people to understand what "getting somewhere" should mean to them. And also talk about some of the philosophies around this topic. I wanted to inspire people ( mainly some of my friends who are currently confused) that getting somewhere, means risking what you have in hand now. It involves fighting, putting a lot of things at stake, and risk falling in deepshit. For a person who has been in deepshit a lot of times in life, let me tell you this -- there is nothing as satisfying as hunting and fighting for something. You will be in deepshit but it will be nice when you get out of it. If career is something you take seriously, MBA is a drastic change in your career, lifestyle and your conception of work. Above all - you don't have to do it to survive. When you know that you can shutdown all this, not do it, and settle for a 9-5 work life, it is so easy not do it. But when you still try and sweat out to do something (not just MBA but anything.. something like "making a movie" like my friend ozdude is considering) beyond your actual work and probably beyond what you thought you were capable of -- its a pleasure in itself. It makes living worthwhile.

Specifically, applying for MBA either in India or abroad, takes a lot out of you. When I was starting this application process and tried to scope the work involved various people gave me 100,000 opinions. There are some annoying people ( a very few) who apply to Harvard, Stanford and Wharton and get into all three of them without a sweat. A fraction of that chosen few will tell you that the application process is not a big deal. I was not one of them. So I wont tell you "it is not a big deal". Chances are many of you readers will not be one of them. So it will be a big deal for you. Many people who did not get into any school worth mentioning will also say that it is not a big deal. Usually I understood that as the reason why they never got in. Many people are destined to sweat, go that extra yard, and take the pain to extricate themselves from mediocrity. This process is frustrating and sometimes emotional. If you are pretty passionate about your career -the US MBA application process could be construed as a direct judgement about your life. In your essays, you write about your philosophy, your passion, your goals, your entire life's work. A rejection could cause you re-evaluate your estimation of your worth. Believe me there is drama in MBA application. I have seen quite a few people breakdown and cry during a rejection or when waitlisted. It is painful. All this transalates to hard work and attitude. So be prepared for some real hardwork. Be prepared for some hard core time- management. I wasn't good in either of them. Ask my friends they will tell you how lazy I am. To be blunt, if you want something badly -- do the hardwork. To be even more blunt, it is always easier said than done. If I can do it, I figure a lot of people can ( and I dont say such things lightly).

The month, preceeding my eventual Michigan admit, was so crazy that I had to write a blog to inspire myself. I wrote this three days before marriage because of my anticipation of the crazy schedule to come. Which reminds me of an other thing - This blog. Which I started in the most busiest period of my life. That my readers assumed (based on the fact that my blogs were yawn'ishly loong) that I had way too much time to spare, only made me smile wryly becuase the truth was that this blog was a way of ventilation. It is easy to say that a person must maintain his/her humor and balance in life during tough moments but one's got a find a way (a process) to express that. This blog was that process, that medium where I could let off steam. And what a companion it has been. Everytime, I wanted to scream, shout and tear someone/something to pieces - I blogged. It is frustrating and maddening to write essays with word limits. MBA essays test the limit of your capacity to write briefly, succintly. You have to say a lot in 2 words. It is a separate art in itself (more of that later). Everytime the 400 word limit in the MBA application essays made me feel constipated, taut, wound up and made me go mad, I'd write a freakishly long blog. When I was at the peak of my essay writing, I never wrote anything MBA. When my night dreams began to feature word documents be justified and edited, I knew stuff was wrong and something had to be done. This blog, even if it took precious time in my already crowded life, helped me focus on non-MBA things when everything in my life (including dreams ) was MBA. This is a screaming medium for which I am very thankful for.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Ganguly Asked to Step Down (Updated)

Its been little more than a year since I started this blog. Have done my best to avoid writing about cricket. I think this is my 2nd or third post on cricket. I, much like, Anti am afraid that this game, which I am totally crazy about, will eat into my life if I start thinking about it.

This is how I view cricket. Cricket involves batting, bowling, keeping and fielding as its main aspects. You do well at junior levels in one of the first 3 items and you get selected for the next level. You move up the ladder to play Ranji trophy and then if you do exceedingly well, you play for the national team. The bottom line is is you have bat, bowl or keep very well. This is an inescapable fact. There is also one other important thing regarding cricket. If you play very well there maybe a chance that you wont win the game. That is because (a) not everybody in your team plays well (b) the other team plays really well. But there is no chance of one of the following happening (a) playing very well contributes to defeat (b) not playing very well contributes to victory. This is really fundametal. It is almost common sense.

Ganguly has done something this time, that he has done more than once in the past, which completely irritates me. Let me tell you one thing straight. I don't like Saurav Ganguly. Not because he is arrogant, snooty etc. i don't know if he is or is not. I really don't care a rat's ass if he is snooty or not. I don't like him because he does not bat, bowl or keep well enough to deserve the place in the Indian team. It is as simple as that. I don't like him because he (or the state that he is in) relies on the " not playing very well contributes to victory" logic to maintain his place in the team. We know that not playing well cant lead to victory. He is not making runs and he is not playing well, how is he going to give a tangible answer to the question "what did you do to make the team win". How long is he going to rely on intangibles like , " I fought for xyz player in the selection commitee, I stood nervous in the dressing room when India was chasing a stiff target, I bit my nails in front of video camera to show that I really cared, then I kicked some object on the field to show I am angry and passionate". Well All we can say is "thanks gangls for selecting a person who can replace you spot in the team, Bye Bye" Let us say somebody says Ganguly is a good batsman. What do I do now? I go to www.cricket.org, go to player stats, select Saurav Ganguly's name and in Ganguly's page go to this link called Stats Guru. What does Stats Guru do? It will give you options to check if a player is doing well. So I selected the last 50 test matches Ganguly has played to check his performance. The last 50 test matches of Ganguly extends from 2000 till now. I see all his scores in 80 or so innings. I whittle away his nop games againt Zimbabwe, Bangladesh. Ganguly averages less than 30 runs per innings. Thats really bad. This automatically merits his exclusion from the team. He has hit 3 centuries in this decade. One against England (in England, result India Win) , one against Australia (in Aus, Result Draw), one against NZ (in Ind, Result Draw). Apart from the innings against australia, he has only 2 other innings that saved/won matches for India, a 70 odd in POS to win a test against WI and a 98 to win a test against SL. Thats it. Thats Ganguly for you.

I am a number's guy. I strongly believe numbers should be given more importance when it comes to selection. Not a big believer in chest thumping, stripping and pumping fists in the air. I completely do not care how many kisses a cricketer does to the Indian flag stuck on his helmet or his glove. throw me runs, I'll clap. Throw me emotion (without any runs) I'll piss all over you. I think we can safely say ganguly shouldn't be in the test team. Its almost a no-brainer. So somebody says Ganguly is a great ODI player. I didn't think so (10,000 runs or not). So I go again to Stats Guru and check Ganguly's progress in ODI after 2003 World Cup. I Cross out all the 100's ( there are many) againt Bangladesh, Namibia, Kenya, Zimbabwe etc. Ganguly has just 1 or 2 centuries outside these countries, no innings after the world cup that can be mentioned as a good knock. Get this. He has not played a good ODI innings in the last 2 years. While Tendulkar and Dravid have been either getting India to tournament finals or "choking" (that is the fancy term now) at some point or other during the finals, Ganguly has been DOA in all the final's that India has lost. He has been DOA in thournament games too. I am sick and tired of hearing that he is out of form for the past 5 years. He is an excess baggage, an embarassment, a liability. Now the thing I don't understand is why people think he is a good cricket player.

My conclusion is anybody who did not have Jaggu Dalmia and Sambran Bannerjee (the whole East Zone Quota thing) backing would have been dropped. I want to know from reader's who are interested in cricket and who believe Ganguly should be in the team one thing --
(a) Can you prove statistically ( by quoting his great innings etc) that he deserves a place in the Indian team?
(b) What has Ganguly done in the past 5 years (in test matches) in the past 2 years (in ODI's) that makes him selection worthy. We needn't compare, talk about other players etc? Just ganguly stand-alone, why should he be in the Indian team.

Now why did I write this blog. Let's say you are Ganguly and I am greg chappel. I come and tell you, " Mr. Ganguly, you suck! you have never been in form for the past 5 years please stand down". I, as a coach am saying a completely valid thing. Statistics and common sense shows that you suck. If you did not suck, you would have told me then and there " look Mr. Chappell, I have hit runs here, here and here, I have had some sort of form going on in the last 5 years. So I don't suck". But you don't say anything. Because you have nothing to say. Which is why you wait until you have a century against your name to do the talking. So what you do is go and hit a stupid 100 runs against a shameless team like Zimbabwe, pump your fists, remove your underwear, dance like a clown and go and claim in the press like a baby, " he asked me to stand down". To me the stupid century doesn't change anything. From reader's I want to know seriously the following.
(a) After hitting 70 ducks and scoring a century against Zimbabwe will the 70 ducks dissappear?
(b) Will this once century prove that all the past was wrong and the player was never out of form? Going by this logic, if in the next innings ganguly scores a duck, can Greg Chappell run around the field in his underwear and claim to the press that he was always right and Ganguly should be dropped.
I think Greg Chappel was (and still is) correct. Ganguly has not scored and should stand down. What do you folks think. While giving me the answer ( and I really want to learn if I am wrong), please do not use words like "patriotism, ganguly is true indian, greg chappell is bad aussie" etc. Anush pointed out that this could be considered as a denigration of my blog readers. But it seriously is not. People say things that are a result of past experience. My past experience has been very bad when talking about cricket. I found debators on Ganguly topic, less logical and more emotional ( read as more stupid). Generally comments such as these are used when you have no arguments to give and want to get down to stupid politics. As a captain, I agree Ganguly had (past tense) some value. But is he relevant today? Should the XI be selected first and then the captain or vice versa? If Ganguly is so superb as a tactician, to merit a place in the team even if he is not playing well, can you quantify and show in which matches and what instances, his team selection, field placings, innvoation led to that conclusion?


Edit: Here is an interesting article in cric info on Ganguly's stats. It does a comprehensive analysis on Saurav Ganguly. Crunches numbers on him etc. It does what I tried to do but eventually did not (lack of time). That article is almost damning on SG.

Monday, September 12, 2005

"Life After Marriage"

I recently read a blog on "life after marriage" (link provided below) and I was so impressed with the blog that I wanted to mention that here. After reading that blog I tried to wonder, how my life changed after marriage. Well..I can't touch Carbonated Soda Drinks anymore (Pepsi, Coke etc). That's because my boss and supreme commander (you know who?) has certain philosophical and health-related disagreements with Pepsi and Coke. After several threats and arguments coffee has been knocked out of the system. Now the potato-chips habit is under attack and unfortunately that will fade out of my life as well. So if you ask me, I'll probably say some superficial things such as this.

But if you ask a girl you may hear something radically different. I guess, in India, marriage impacts girls in a way that guys can't understand very well. In our country, a girl definitely seems to undergo a lot of lifestyle-related changes in the post marriage phase. If I should guess an analogy many guys can to relate to, it must be something like moving to a foreign country/new place, and starting life on your own for the first time. A better analogy or even a slightly crude one would be this. A girl getting married is like a heart transplant into a body. She is that vital to the body. When it comes to marriages in India ( 80% of the time), the heart is part of and controlled by the body/brain, which represents, metaphorically, the husband. The heart(as an organ) will / has to go where the body/brain takes it and will be forever be directed by the body/brain. Any person who thinks this is not true and believes that "today's women" have a lot of freedom and independence has a pretty limited view of life and also is pretty deluded. And I have talked to very deluded people in my life that its become kind of boring to discuss this topic. I have come to believe that the upper middle-class people(this includes women too) have a very superficial knowledge of reality and in their eagerness to project Indian Women as truly emancipated, often mis-represent the truth.

The pre-dominant truth in today's India is that a woman ( I dare say in 80% of the cases I have encountered) is still a second class citizen in her new family. I have seen too many women crying back on their visits to their mother's house to believe the opposite is true. When the boy's family are nice to the girl's family, it is projected as if the boy's family are doing the girl's family a big favor. Being nice is like a bonus, a gift or even a boon. The boy's family expect the girl's family to be surprised (and sometimes they really are) and extremely grateful because the boy's family turned out to be swell guys. The behavior of boy's family, in reality, is that condescending or that patronizing. I could never reconcile to this attitude. But on the other hand, if the boy's family were nice and made that niceness appear normal, several girls/women I spoke to thought (a) the boy had a defect or something he was trying to hide, (b) they were secretly asking for dowry, which the boy is trying to hide. This is the level of cynicism present in today's world. and that too this cynicism is commonly present among married women. To continue with my analogy, the girl, although she occupies the role of a "heart" is made to feel that she is an "appendix". She is predominantly presented an environment where she has to work her way up the corporate ladder. I am not saying she is treated like the way old B & W movies potray. But she is certainly made to feel that any privilege is "given". There is a subtle difference in something being "given" and "taken for granted". And that subtle difference symbolizes the difference between the parent's home Vs post-marriage-in-law's home.

The advantage of growing up in a large, large ( a very very large) family has allowed me to see a broader spectrum of how marriage works in India. My view on this is more skeptical and even critical at times. Most of what I am mentioning in this blog is not what/how I expect women to be treated but more or less a commentary on how I see them being treated. I'll agree that to an extent times have changed and woman are nowadays treated with respect and sophistication that is expected in an educated society. But it has not completely changed. Factors such as Caste, location, religion, economic and more importantly, education, determines how a boy's family welcomes a girl's family after marriage. So in many ways, I completely admire women who have strained, sweated and made a career and a family work. I am indeed grateful to know such women. I also completely despise women who claim to have done "hard work" or gained "more maturity" purely (and only) because they gave birth to babies. I reserve nothing but biting sarcasm to such women. In my opinion the latter section insults the former.

Why do women find this post-marriage change difficult. I have a theory for this. I guess each house has its own rhythm. Every family has it's own music. I call it the native tune of that particular house. This is the reason why people find it hard to adjust in an uncle/relative's house if they are forced to (or if they choose to) stay there for a prolonged time(say for a year or two) to study or work. While growing up in your parents house, you are an instrument that plays to a specific tune. The tune of your house. It is a different beat unique to your house. To adjust to the music of a different house is a complex and slow process. Sometimes it never happens. The new-entrant constantly trips over other house in-mates and the conversations does not flow smoothly( like - when A talks B is distracted and not listening and vice versa or view/opinion conflicts) There are million small habits that the new-house members (for a newly wed girl it would be the boy's family) have that is ingrown, esoteric, idiosyncratic (GRE word list anybody :-) ?) and familiar to members of the boy's family. Until the new-entrant recognizes and plays according to that tune, she is going to be out of sync and out-of-harmony with the house. While the first few days the house will play simple tunes that any new person can fit into, as days go by and regular routine sets in, the house begins to function like a full blown orchestra and the new-entrant has a tough job keeping up. So there ends my brief stint as K.Balachander :-). Then there is the question of the boy's role. I would re-iterate that a typical boy's behavior is much like the one I mentioned in the parent's blog. In the real world-India, from my observations, if the boy and girl live as equals, it only means that the girl moved up from a lower status to an equal status, and never vice versa. In a joint family this kind of equal status rarely works. In many castes, equality is seen as an irritating development. It causes so many problems that it is so difficult to encourage a girl, even if I believe that she has the potential, to go the distance. About 70% of the women in India cannot postpone having a baby even for a couple of years to advance their careers. In about 3 months after marriage they are asked the "vishesham" ("any special news" ?) question. It is a completely different scenario, if the boy wants to delay the baby scenario. Then it is perfectly acceptable, but never (okay rarely) the other way around.

So, in conclusion - yes! A women's life is certainly more complicated. I have a lot to say on this topic but unfortunately do not have the time to spare for it. Maybe some other blog. I had 20 minutes free time (which itself was totally unexpected) and decided to write this in a single go without any editing. Anyway the blog that I read was by a person called Swarnamukhi. This is an innocent sweet blog. Does not contain any of the serious stuff, I mentioned above. And I can't stress that enough. It is actually a cheerful blog of a person trying to make the career-newly-wed life balance work. If you scratch the wafer thin melancholy on the surface, you will find the real modern-Indian woman standing really tall. And that certainly makes me happy. I started to write a small blog appreciating her blog and completely digressed into this big blog. It is almost heartening and comforting to see such a wonderful expression of post-marriage life by a new blogger. I mention her because, I am so humbled by her talent and the way she expresses her thoughts so beautifully. I believe she has the potential to become a very good writer. And I strongly encourage her to do so. Her thoughts come out so very well and the words flow in such a style that makes you feel that the blog "blossoms" like a flower as it goes along. Simply wonderful. If you met her, you wouldn't believe so much talented resided in this introverted person. This is again one of my pet peeves about Tamil Nadu. There is so much latent talent but there is even greater shyness. Tamil Nadu seems to produce more people who prefer to be back-benchers that any other part of the world. I hope that changes one day! So here is a gem among blogs. Good work Swarnamukhi.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Case Based Method

What do the words "teaching" and "class" mean to us? We are traditionally accustomed to a teacher walking into class and talk to us and teach us about a concept or theory. And thats it. We are given homeworks and tests based on that. The case based method might be new to many people who have not done management studies. I have never been in a class, which taught a subject in a case based method as opposed to the traditional "I will talk to you and teach you". In the Case method, the whole class is assigned a case. The case involves a business problem, a CEO or a Planning Manager faces in a particular economic/competitive environment. The case will meticulously detail the companies philosophy and its progress in the past until the point in question. It will also elaborate the companies past decisions and the effects of those decisions. It will then completely decribe the business problem the company is facing right now and leave it to the reader to solve it. You have to solve it in a way which is in-line with the company's vision and philosophy.

The problem could be "whether to expand your business or not", "how to get back at a competitor who just took a load of your market share", "how to develop a strategy for global operations at a time when everybody is doing so". A lot of tables are given which gives out revenues, profits and all the other gory numbers. The biggest thrill in this type of teaching comes, not when you are preparing for this case before the class, but during the class.

In class, the teacher will come with a pack of cards and shuffle it fast. Each card will have a students name on it. He will pick a card at random, call out the students name and say " So Mr.Hawkeye, break down the case for me. What do you think the MD of Proctor and Gamble should do that this point". So you should at this point tell the whole class how you would make the decision and back it up with numbers. Then the class will have an opportunity to attack your logic. This is called as a cold call. If a professor picks you at random and asks you to break the case down - you have been cold called. If you haven't prepared very well and can't break down the case, as Hawkeye is gonna be this week, because of excessive fun and no study scenario, you could be cold screwed. There is not a single theory or a concept taught through an OHP projector like in a theory class. The whole course involves debating on 20 such cases. Harvard Business School and Darden (Virginia) conducts all 100% of their coursework through the case based method so that they teach students the real world problems. Most other schools have a mixture of case-based and theory method. Class participation does not merely involve providing a logic but providing it with the appropriate soft skills so that you don't offend anyone. Class particpation counts for 30% of you grade. The cards that the professor has in his hand, also has your photo on it. There is a name board in front of you and a seating chart is provided so that students only sit in particular seats. This way the Professor can remember you and grade you apprpriately. At the end of the class the professor will show, the real decisions the people concerned made , why they made it, and how it turned out. So that you will know if your logic made sense or not. Fun isn't it.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Statement of Purpose ( This applies to MBA folks also)

Catatonic: A state of coma. Almost Dead

"Fools Quote Others. The intelligentsia win bread by making up quotes" - G.B.Shaw

In the SOP

Applicant 1 writes: "I always wanted to be a ComputerScience/Mechanical/Signal Processing engineer".

Applicant 2 writes: "I noticed that I had good talent in Math/Phy/Chemistry. I stood 147th among 1 billion zillion trillion people who appeared for engineering exams in my 14 villages put together and I got selected on merit to a top-60 private engineering college in Ramnathapuram District. My quantitative and analytical skills led me to chose Electronics & Communication Engineering as my Major."

Admissions Officer 1 :: Rolling on the floor laughing her/his ass off.

Admissions Officer 2: In catatonic state because of extreme boredom caused by reading applications.


Rules of The Statement of Purpose

1) Don't start the Statement of Purpose with a definition from the dictionary. Like this blog has at the beginning. It is boring.

2) Don't start the statement of purpose with a fake made-up quote (seriously! I made-up the quote above myself. Shaw didn't say any of that. Its easy to make-up your own quotes and credit it to big names. Its probably as good as any other quote Shaw has out there). Like this blog has at the beginning. Seriously it makes you look like a fool. If you have anything to say - just say it. The Mark Twains and G.B Shaws have said a lot of interesting things. The admission folks know them already. They'll look at P.B.Shelly's work when he applies for Digital Signal Processing to University of William Mary Community College, Bloomington, Indiana. Right now - focus on what you have to say.

3) Never use the phrase "I Have always wanted to....". Nobody ever always wanted to do anything. Its not even a logical analysis of your professional goals. If at all this sentence says anything. It says that you have always wanted to Bull Shit. I have seen SOPs which said " Ever since my childhood, I have always wanted to work in Image Processing working on binomial filters....bla bla bla"

4) Okay the reason why you chose engineering. I know you chose it because everybody around you said its a cool thing. Your parents said its a cool thing. You chose it because it was reputed to be the best you could ever do. I understand you cant say this openly.But at least don't go and say the same boring stuff as to why your Math Phy Chem scores made you suddenly feel analytical/horny/logical and so among the 1 million options you had in front of you ran off and applied for Engineering. That too Electronics and Communication Engineering.

If you have started working on your SOPs and if you are still reading this blog at this point you might've realized that every Indian before you has thought of the same things you wanted to say in your SOP. You might've also realized that you could potentially send many admissions officers to an ICU like your predecessors. You would understand how patterned we are -- when it comes to presenting ourselves. Look at all the sample SOPs your friends/contacts/seniors send you. You will find one or all of the above BS in that SOP. But one thing is true. They (the seniors) still made it to M.S. So will you -- even if you write the drivel that I mentioned above. While you may make it to Morlockin Community State College located at the intersection of highway 133 and interstate 135 you maye not make it to the top 20 engineering schools.

As you talk to people who made it into the top schools ( dont ask me for definition of the top schools, I don't know. Just see the gzillion rankings out there and find out) you will find that the SOP dominates the admission decision and not the GRE. I have always felt :-) :-) that it is not worth going to a school which gives you an admission just based on your GRE score. While it may confuse some Indians who may think "score is everything". I think the right thing for a school to do (which the really good schools do) is to have a minimum threshold for GRE to determine whether the student will withstand the academic rigor and then focus on what the students has done/aspires to do.

In an SOP, start with a good opening paragraph that immediately makes the reader want to know more about you. Don't spend too much time reverse-justifying why you did an engineering. You are almost done with the B.E. Don't talk about things 4 years ago. Unless you have won some national math olympiad etc there is no point in trying to convince the admissions committee that you were "simply brilliant and totally fantastic" from childhood. The point is to try and be practical and realistic while at the same time hit the buttons (like PhD) an admissions committee is looking for. Except for coursework the only other interesting thing you have done in BE is your project. So it really helps if you have done(or going to do) your final year project in something related to what you want to do.

The essay should flow cogently from your learnings during engineering (these learning must be directly related to your goals). What you learned during engineering through paper presentations, reading stuff on the net, reading other IEEE papers ( again this should directly relate to your goals). You are writing a 2 page statement. So it is really wise to spend a lot of time on "what did I do in BE" in the first few paras than wasting on your fake "why engineering" story. So what you did -> leads to what you know about your field of interest -> leads to what you want to do in the 2 year M.S future. Here it helps if you have done your research of the university and know what the professors are doing. Don't list the things the university does and say - the university does research on signal processing, VLSI, high performance computing, automotive engineering by great professors such as mark, ben, axl rose, van halen, ross and phoebe and "I can do any of those if they provide me funding". You pick one field and stay with that field. Don't name professors if you aren't familiar with their work. If you have contacted profs and they have responded mention that as a re-affirmation of your credibility. Its all goals goals goals and your knowledge about the goals.

It helps to have a powerful ending. Try and mention that you are open to doing a PhD. Don't commit to a PhD if you aren't really interested. PhD is a big commitment. If you are doing it for the money think carefully. You may be offered a direct PhD admit -- if they decide to buy your lie. Then you could end up with a silly smile on your face or worse you could actually take up the Ph.D and go around lying "I always wanted to do a PhD". The SOP ending should have a vision of a thesis or paper that you will work on in your M.S. The kind of contributions that you hope to make at the research labs. The whole SOP depends on how well you know about the topic *you say* you want to specialize on. You can even hint that you maybe open to a PhD without actually committing to one.

Don't write sentences like " I aspire to enter the hallowed portals of the university and genvambobulate the manvostulerity of the vivaciousness moving forward". If ever there is a good time to forget your word list -- Its during the SOP. Don't make the admissions officer think that you wrote a normal SOP and you replaced every normal word in your sop with a super complex synonym. If you write "peter" English by nature then do it otherwise don't try and be someone you aren't. Be yourself (but be grammatically correct unlike this blog). Good essays were simple and straightforward. It cut off the bullshit and told the "matter" in a blunt fashion. That is business writing. Your SOP should be to the point, brief, and sentences should transition smoothly and professionally. If you know something about business writing - it helps. Also, if you can demonstrate your verbal ability (paper presentations - seminars) then show it. Always quantify - don't wonder. Don't Say "I am good in doing xyz". That's a conclusion. Admissions Officers want to make their own conclusions. They don't want you doing their job. Say that there was a competition on xyz and you participated in it and did abcdef and won an award. That speaks the conclusion for itself.

It is also a good idea to mail to professors and tell them about your interests. The mails should be 1 para long and should have your resume as an attachment. Your 1 para mail should contain a brief outline of your interests and your knowledge about that professor. Mostly the professor will shift-delete the mail before opening it when he sees in the subject field, " Hi! New prospective Student" or "Funding Opportunities". So have a subject line that actually relates to the research topic. I think what you would have found out by now is that your knowledge on the subject, which you say " is your passion" determines a lot of things. I am not saying that everybody who goes into M.S has everything sorted out and are "super dooper" folks. Ofcourse people who say one thing in the SOP do something else in reality. But the key is whatever you say in SOP, say it well. With the best knowledge you have about the subject and yourself at the moment. You may go into the university and find that something else interests you. That is normal. But Don't embarrass yourself by coming across as half-baked and superficial.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Tom Sawyer For A Day

Only that this time, I did not make people bribe me, so that I would allow them to do my work. Like undergrad engineering in India, the MBA class here is divided into 6 sections. The first year courses and timings for the entire section are the same most of the time. This, however, is uncommon at the M.S level, where you have more control of courses and timings. Therefore in M.S, you might not go through all your course work with the same batch of students. Here at Michigan, first year MBA, Section 1 folks are special in a way. Whirlpool (yes! The washing machine/fridge makers) and Habitat for Humanity ( a NGO company) are working together to develop a poor community/town called Benton Harbor, that abuts the Lake of Michigan and is 1 hour away from Chicago. I think the CEO of Whirlpool (or is it the other company?) is a Michigan Alumni and he was in Section 1 when he was in Michigan. So he set aside an endowment. This endowment provides money every year for section 1 MBA students to travel to Benton Harbor and do some community work. So this year 55 students went in 3 buses for a 3 hour ride to Benton Harbor.

I haven't been on a bus ride with a group of batch mates since 8th semester undergrad (where we made our Nth group trip to MGM ). So I was kinda of looking forward to it. In the bus ride to Benton Harbor, people had to start off the group activities, by saying 1 embarrassing personal story. The bus had a wireless mike and stuff. The bus was awesome. Never been on this kind of a luxury bus before. Anyway back to the story -- Hey! I am the king of embarrassments. I think in life I have had more embarrassing situations than the entire population of Korea did/does in a life time. Lets say my embarrassing story had people laughing until they (almost) wetted their pants. And I am quite popular now because of that. So the story more or less broke the ice (the way it got boys and girls talking during my undergrad 1st year trip to VGP). Now when I meet my class mates they ask me "are you the guy who told this story"

Michigan Lake is so big. You can't see land on the other side so its doesn't make a difference if you mistake it to be a beach/ocean. We had a American style 6:30 PM dinner and attended a Whirlpool corporate presentation. The gist of it is this -> It seems Benton Harbor was once a prosperous community but now people are unfortunately leaving this place. It has now become poor because of neglect, water contamination, crime and all the other bad stuff. Tax dollars are dropping and race polarization is happening. The business question was -> How to develop the place that's 1 hour from Chicago and 3 hours from Indianapolis and Detroit? They have devised a complex solution, that does not involve charity. They are doing community work with a business mentality. Jack Nicholas and Golf fields are involved in this business plan. The plan as such is too deep to mention in a blog. But the intentions are noteworthy. Bottomline -- if they build a golf field that's world class with J.N signature, it'll attract rich people to Benton Harbor and make them build second vacation homes here. This leads to employment and tax dollars. I think the presenters were happy that a diverse bunch of students had arrived and maybe thought that students from India and China would present their views on how similar problems were solved back home. However, I had never seen the marriage of educational institution and community work before. This is such a good idea that I can't understand why such activities cant become a separate course in every college in India. 1 course in 4 years. Doesn't hurt anybody and at the same time provides a lot of value. So we had nothing to offer but much to learn. So what was our role here? We, as future "business leaders" were being exposed to how certain problems were solved. If we built some houses in the community, we'd know how reality works.

Hold it!

"Building Houses" -- that translated to "real" work (with units like joules and equally nauseating things involved). I've done work where we typed a lot of characters into a keyboard, scratched my head, attended meetings where we talked a lot. That was the definition of work for me. Carpentry, hammer, building walls, where a lot of sweating was involved, just didn't make it to my dictionary. I wanted to raise my hand and say "ask my mom! I never do work.." Immediately my mind started working on the "Work" problem. As soon as the corporate presentation ended I ran to the sign up sheets and signed up for painting (that involved the least amount of work), thinking to myself, "Tom Sawyer! your story better be true".
Later, that evening, we spent the whole night in a nearby Karoke bar ( that's a tradition too). Students get to pick their songs and sing along. I didn't sing. Didn't come close. Slept at 2:00 AM and got up at 6:30. Not my cup of tea dude!. I was pretty groggy when I got to the work site. But painting was fun. I actually got to paint a picket fence white. I created a white picket fence. I am an artist baby!!! -- okay I'll stop now. Anyway, this was something I wanted to do all my life. So there I was (with another dude) painting the fence white with a brush. Super day. Not hot. Surrounded by grass and silence, we were painting the picket fence. We then were promoted to painting a shed. I have never painted anything before. Not even painted my U.K.G (Upper Kindergarten) class color book. So Imagine my excitement. We then were given rollers to paint the shed. Then after painting all the stuff we had nothing to do. Somebody spotted us idling around. We got busted and I was made to do real work like carry huge boxes here and there.
Meanwhile, you might be wondering what our spouses were doing. They had to participate in the Spouses Club, charity activities. My wife was driven to a village nearby only to find that except for her and a few friends, nobody else showed up. So for half a day they were made to cut shrubs and bushes and basically weed out an entire community. My wife is from Madras. I think anybody born after 1970's would not have seen shrubs, bushes etc in Madras . So not even cutting with huge scissor like things was new to her, shrubs were new to her too. Just kidding. To conclude, let us just say the husbands of the spouses who were made to cut for 5 hours haven't heard the end of that till now.

When we came back to Ann Arbor, what we didn't expect was the shock reception from the other section mates. We have a competition called SHOUT OUTS. Its like writing your own "cheer songs". We wrote stuff like "Section Ones!! Chosen Ones!!". The point is to write cheers (like the cheer squad does in basket ball games) that praise our section and demean the other section -- like "that's alright! That's okay! you will work for us one day". We shout these cheers/slogans on the road and public places against each other, as a group. While we were warned that the competition for shout-outs were war-like, I guess we didn't take em' seriously. When we got out of the bus, Section 4 and Section 3 saw us all semi-drunk, half-asleep and dead tired. They decided to be aggressive and just waded into us and started shouting slogans against us. We were ambushed, confused and began to throw out our slogans in random. The whole public was watching us. This was in the roads of the university and when we hit them with the slogan mentioned above. What we didn't expect was clever improvization. They shot back " that's alright! That's okay! at least we don't use the same cliche". With our important slogan shot down, we became confused and had to split and recoup. So we trudged to a far side of the field, amidst boo's and jeers by other sections. The public walking on the roads were watching us. Our initiative was positively screwed. In our defense we were really tired and didn't sleep at all in the night. We were the only section to go through this outside trip. We were, as I said, ambushed. But we will be back bigger, stronger and better. The other sections better watch out. We are the wounded lions.