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I remember thinking what a drag it might be to end with a course that required 8 cases, lectures till 6pm, homework, mind-expanding questions, business and academic readings, and a Sunday morning exam. But now I’m thrilled to have ended on such a positive and enlightening note, inspired by International Finance professor, Raman Uppal.

I think I finally understand the CAPM model. I learned how to hedge against currency exchange risk and country risk. I plowed through those 8 cases and became closer friends with four other stream B-ers. (I’ve also put on a couple of kgs snacking on cookies and Bombay mix to keep alert in lecture.) But what I’ll remember most is the way Professor Uppal closed each of his lectures with a little snippit of philosophy on life.

In is introduction email to the class, a couple of weeks before we started, he wrote:
“So, I now have two objectives in teaching the course on International Finance. First, I wish to imbed in your head a systematic structure for thinking about all issues related to international financial markets and international corporate finance.

My second objective is to help you to think about your life and to help you change it in a direction that you want.”

And he left us with a healthy reading list. I picked up “Leaving Microsoft to Change the World,” an autobiography by a former Microsoft executive that went on to start Rooms to Read, a dynamic charity that has built thousands of libraries and hundreds of schools for children in developing countries. I was reminded again of my original reasons for coming to do my MBA in the first place.

So with those snippits of wisdom (and a new list of book recommendations), I’ll be leaving London Business School with much of what I wanted to achieve, and a positive outlook on the new direction in my life post-MBA. “One step at a time,” I have to remind myself when I start getting anxious about those dreams.

Next step? Discovering the ancient secrets of Bukhara and Samarkand…Samarkand
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In the mood for Gelato Mio

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Tonight, the Film Club and the Chinese Interests Club put on a film event showing one of my favorite Hong Kong films: In the Mood for Love. They served Gelato Mio ice cream and pizza (from our very own MBA 2009 and MiF 2008 couple) – I intended only to go for a bit of Green Tea ice cream, but ended up staying to see the film again. It was refreshing to hear my native tongue, Cantonese, being spoken. Happy to see so many people had showed up for the event.

Every time I see this film, I fawn over the 50+ sixties-style cherngsam dresses Maggie Cheung wears throughout the film…

such romance…

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Happy new year! Starting with a block week

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As much as I was dreading having to come back to school again, and especially back to the 1 degree London weather, the block week in Bertini's Pricing Strategy has been a good one.

First of all, it's great to see old smiling faces from my stream-mates again. There's a good chunk of Stream B 09s in this class for some reason. Perhaps we all loved his Aqualisa case so much. (summary : target the plumbers, not the end users of UK showers.) We all caught up on each others' travels, especially since many people's plans had been changed due to the cancellation of the India Club's Yatra trip. Turned out, some people regrouped in China instead!

Marco Bertini has been just as lively as we had remembered. And the course, just as interesting. Though still slightly jet-lagged, I haven't had any issue keeping my attention throughout the 6 hours of class per day. He mixes it up quite well, with a break-out hour into groups to discuss the cases, and insightful guest speakers.

Today's case and guest speaker were fascinating. We started off the day, discussing the pricing dilemma that XM Satellite Radio faced: how to price their new service to the US market. The situation was pretty complex. We weighed the options around subscription vs advertisement supported revenues, and factored in the need to subsidize the radio units themselves. The decision has proven to be tough to make, as both XM and Sirius Satellite Radio have both been suffering heavy losses the past years. Which makes me wonder… was this business even viable at all?

In the afternoon, we discussed a live case on the pricing of the London 2012 tickets. Till this week, I hadn't known that the Beijing Games suffered from empty stadium seats, mostly, due to poor choices in ticket pricing and distribution. We were lucky enough to have Paul Williamson of the Games' Organising Committee join us as a guest speaker today.  With his previous experience in sports ticketing as a Director at Ticketmaster, he shared a lot of insight into the real-world uses of price segmentation. As the Olympics are a non-profit event, he has to juggle the financial needs, promote a positive image, and maintain the "fairness" and accessibility of the games to everyone. What would you pay for tickets to the opening ceremony? What about a handball match between Uzbekistan and Ghana?

So far, my first block week has been well worth coming back early for. Let's see how I feel the night before I have to submit all the assignments. :) 

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I came to London Business School wanting to pursue a career in consulting. But I also wanted to find a way to incorporate a way to “do good” in my work. Everyone kept pointing me towards a summer internship with Accenture Development Partnerships. (ADP)

After meeting the ADP interns from the previous year, and the Program Director and Strategy Consulting Partner, Gib Bulloch, I thought, “Wow, what an inspiration! A for-profit entity that’s figured out how to use their core competency to support the global community!”

Accenture Development Partnerships is a separate business unit within Accenture that specifically provides consulting services to Non-Profit organizations, NGO’s, foundations and donor organizations operating in the development sector, helping these organizations achieve their social and economic development goals. 

Through a first-of-its-kind business model, Accenture Development Partnerships, operates on a strictly non-profit basis."
Luckily I was one of two people selected for the internship, and soon enough, I was on a plane to South Africa for six weeks. Our client: The Global FoodBanking Network. My mission: To design a pilot rural food bank and the implementation plan. I would be based in Jo’burg, but the pilot would be in Maputaland, a region in the far northeastern corner of the country.

What is food banking? “The Global FoodBanking Network is a charitable organization that works collaboratively to reduce world hunger by securing more food and enhancing the ability to efficiently distribute food through food banks and food bank networks around the globe.”

Their basic model is to take good food from food manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to a food bank, which would then be redistributed to registered charities that can reach those in need.  The donations are usually un-sellable, but perfectly consumable food that would normally go to waste. (e.g. discontinued items , incorrectly labelled finished goods, leftover raw materials). This model has proven to work very well in urban, densely populated areas in the US, Canada, Argentina, Mexico, Japan, Guatemala, and Columbia.

But in South Africa – a majority of the country’s poverty live in the rural areas. In addition to poverty, these communities are heavily affected by the HIV/AIDs epidemic, leaving orphans, the sick and elderly, and child-headed households as the majority of the population. South Africa needed a Village Food Bank model to help their country.  My job was to help them plan out how to do this.

Two ADP consultants had already been helping the client on their sourcing strategy, so thankfully I had a support team. Over the first weeks, I met the client and many of the key players, interviewed 30+ subject matter experts, and made a whirlwind tour through Maputaland, Durban and Capetown to meet the people on the ground.  I learned that many of their struggles were linked with basic infrastructure issues that we often take for granted: broken water pumps, sandy and gravel roads, lack of electricity.






Back at the Accenture office, I drew together a detailed design of the project (using a creative five forces as a base structure), and a powerpoint deck for the implementation plan. The Village Food Bank would be supported through agricultural development, creating access to a larger market and sustainable feeding programs. Backyard gardening skills and agricultural scholarships would help them feed themselves in the long run.

The last weeks were filled will collecting the last pieces of data from Maputaland, and plenty of reviews. What inspired me was the vigour that these people showed in wanting to help themselves and their communities. There was hope in their voices because I had actually bothered to follow up on our meetings.
To my delight, the finished product was “dynamic” and more than what the client had expected! “You are the future of the world,” he told our team. The work we were doing was a good thing.

The whole experience with ADP was great. I picked up consulting skills, brought significant value to the client and to the community, and had an opportunity to see a bit of South Africa as well. Although ADP isn’t a full-time option, I hope to do similar work on my own in the future. A big thanks to Accenture and to Global FoodBanking Network for the opportunity. Dsc_0113 Dsc_0578 Dsc_0571 Dsc_0770

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The summer internship

Posted by: Melanie
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It’s been almost a month of summer break already and my life is so different now. I’m already a third through my internship with Booz & Company. They are the management consulting firm that separated their operations from the U.S. Government consulting business, Booz Allen Hamilton, earlier this year. There’s a lot of buzz around the change and they say there’s a different kind of energy now that they are an independent, more nimble firm. Either way, I’m learning loads.

The first week was a worldwide Summer Associate Orientation spent in the US. 7 from LBS (and strangely, 6 from Stream B) made it out for several days of training, networking with such a diverse & smart group of people, and relaxing in the warm NY sun. Since I’ve started working at the London office, it’s been non-stop. Coincidently, my team is made up of two other LBS alums who have been great at coaching me through the work. It’s amazing how much of an "expert" I’ve become in an financial services industry I barely noticed before. More importantly, I’m picking up and practicing the consulting methodologies needed to convey my message and sell an idea. The next steps after crack-a-case training.

Speaking of crack-a-case… despite the break, there is still activity going on with all the campus clubs. I’m signed up to get training to become a case giver for the Consulting Club next fall. Student Association has been quite good at making sure all the clubs are submitting their activity and budget planning for the year. We’ve got a lot planned the Responsible Business Club – let’s see how much we can get done!

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Bringing home the gold

Posted by: Melanie
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An LBS three-peat it was at MBAT this year – our annual European MBA "Olympics"

For me, the experience was not quite what I had expected it to be. The nine hour bus ride over wasn’t as long as I had dreaded. With stops before the border crossing (and almost leaving a couple people behind), a train container ride under the channel, some inter-bus activity (to be left unnamed), and lots of laughs.

The first night there, the teams all danced to the tunes of No Donuts for Hilda, our official band. I turned in early tBoozbuso make sure to rest up for the next day’s activities. Spent the morning watching the badmitton tournement, along with the basketball team (kick another school’s @ss), and the rock climbing team scaling up the wall of the gym. Around 11, I headed over to the lake, where the football, tennis and rugby games were happening. Also where our big red Booz(e) bus was parked.

The women’s football started playing our first game at 11:30 – two beautiful goals by the unstoppable strikers – our team captain, and our macroeconomics professor :)  A bit after half-time, I subbed in for who usually is my defense partner. Less than two minutes into the game, I found myself on the floor, having attempted to take on the opposition, holding onto a very sorely sprained left knee. That was it, I was out of the games, and out of the whole weekend’s competitions.

Heartbreaking to say the least. All those Saturday morning football trainings. All those 50 hours of salsa preparation. But after coming to terms with it, I realized things could’ve been worse and I should enjoy the good weather and the relaxation of being a spectator. I could even be one of the judges for the salsa competition.   

SalsateamLuckily, one of the salsaros’ girlfriend was a pro dancer, and learned in 4 hours what we learned in 4 weeks. No one could even tell she was the sub. And our team brought home the bronze! Tough competition, I’d say. I’m happy to see that the team did their best show ever.

FootballprepAnd the Women’s football team? The next games, they finished 9-0 and 6-0. 5-1 in the semi-finals. And 3-0 in the finals on Sunday! They brought home the gold!  And so did the men’s football team too!! 

Though I didn’t get to participate as much as I had anticipated, I know I have lots to look forward to next year. With Apples (my awesomest study group mate) and Stella (a fellow Texan) as the new Student Association sports reps, we’re bound to have an even better time!

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The Responsible Careers Conference is coming up!

Posted by: Melanie
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Our team has been working on this since September. And wow, have we come a long way since then. It’s going to be a great program, with attendees from the entire UK MBA Community. You can check out the agenda details and buy your tickets here:

People, Planet, Profits: How Responsible Business Impacts our Careers

The Responsible Business Club would like to invite you to its annual conference. The event is an opportunity to meet business leaders and learn how their careers have increasingly focused on issues of responsibility and sustainability. You will also be able to connect with many prominent organisations that are looking for support in responding to the call for responsibility in business.

Topics include:

  Business & Climate Change   Emerging Markets   Business & Government   Sustainable Finance   Careers Fair       

Organisations participating include:

ARUP, Unilever, Cadbury-Schweppes, Cisco Systems, Accenture, UNDP, HSBC, and Standard Chartered Bank.

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So tonight was the big night – where everyone showcased their work from the term, researching unmet needs in the market and coming up with viable products to meet those needs. Our group, having identified our tendency to develop good content but not deliver the best way, had made a commitment to do well on this project this term. But as the term went, with milkround and loads of other commitments, it had fallen by the wayside for sometime.  Amazingly enough, the last couple of days we pooled together as a whole team and created… the SUPASNACKA.

What I was most proud of was seeing our most quiet group member get passionate about the project. Though nervous about pitching to the angel investors judging our work, he mustered up that passion in his presentation, and it showed!  One of the VC guys even left his card with us. At the end of the night, there was a prize handed out for the best idea. Guess who took that prize home from Stream B. :)

Cheers to group love!Img_1553Dsc_0169

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Where Next for Corporate Responsibility?

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London Business School hosts a distinguished speaker series about every two months. This week it was the Chairman and CEO of Nestle, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe. (Concidently, he’s from Villach, a little Austrian-Dolomite town I’ve driven through many times).

Prior to the event, there was a discussion on the Responsible Business Club board about wheter of not we should challenge the him regarding the controversy around their baby-milk substitutes, which is related to a boycott since 1977.  Though not confronted with this particular topic directly, Hr. Brabeck handled the brand issue swimmingly well. Acknowledged the issues, apologized for their mistakes, and called for people to judge them based on what they are doing now. Perhaps, companies (and people) learn from hard lessons…what matters is the reaction, no? Are consumers forgiving if disasters are handled well? Are shareholders forgiving?

Snippets from his speech I particularly liked:

"… more and more people have realized that Corporate Responsibility cannot be an add on to the business, but needs to be a part of the core business strategy."

He covered a handful of initiatives Nestle is championing around water conservation and women empowerment in developing countries. Then went on to close with…

"Do we do all these things for a business reason? Yes.

Are we doing it in a way that bring poor people out of poverty, creates a sustainble environment, and brings about better nutrition? Yes

And what makes them sustainable is that they aren’t done with charity contributions, or grants, which always have an end point and often don’t reach scale. They are a part of a business process which can be sustained for decades without outside support."

That just sounds so right.

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As the world turns… we wait by the lines.

Posted by: Melanie
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Getting a call from "private no." has become the highlight, the climax, of the day. Watching classmates, friends briskly excuse themselves from the classroom is the excitement of the day. "Private no." is the HR manager calling to invite one to the next level in the interview process. Banks have been handing out their offers, the golden tickets to a long and prosperous career. Consulting girms have been a bit more dramatic; the added element of the wait. But thankfully it gives time to prep and decompress… sort of.

I have to agree with Scuba Don’s tips  – what I’ve gained the last several weeks, which I hadn’t expected, were friendships solidified by us supporting each other on CV & cover letter reviewing, case cracking, and morale boosting. I may not have had the invitation or offer by so-and-so firm, but at least my friends did. Awesome.

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