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Wow time flies. It’s been a year since graduation – feels like it was yesterday when I was celebrating with my parents at the Windsor! (I can’t believe I actually took my parents to the Windsor – it’s the first English Pub that they have ever seen – talk about first impressions). So – what have I achieved in this last year? I have held 2 jobs, travelled to 8 countries, changed gyms (twice!), paid off 30% of my loan,  got married and sadly not been able to attend any LBS first-Friday drinks (is there a relation between the last 2 points?).

Work has been rewarding and frustrating at the same time. I am learning a lot of new skills – particularly around managing people and expectations (wish I had paid more attention to OB classes). I am also learning that real businesses tend to have bad or no data to aid marketing and strategic decisions. It was great to be all data driven at LBS, making pretty financial models and doing market research in the library. But here in the real world, it’s not so clear cut. I used to think that the cases we studied were vague in detail, but they were really good preparation for the vagueness in real world corporations. So – don’t complain and study those cases people.

Thanks to my new Smartphone (not an iphone – but a dual core high speed Samsung), I now spend my morning commute reading my old lecture notes from LBS. It is amazing how much of that makes so much more sense now. The first-year strategy slides have been great at helping me put a structured perspective on problems I’m facing at work. Besides, reading these slides is a great mental warm-up for the day ahead :-)

I have struggled to keep in touch with class mates. Some of my classmates work hard at this and ensure they invite everyone to drinks every month (first Fridays). But with work and with being recently married, I’m struggling to find time for socializing. I do meet some classmates for lunch almost once a month (I work in the City and fortunately so do many other LBS folk). Also, living in St. John’s Wood I frequently run into classmates on the tube and at local restaurants/cafes. It’s a good thing that many LBS folk love to continue living close to school!

It’s been an interesting year with its share of challenges and victories. Here’s to another great year ahead.

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Half a year on

Posted by: Vipul

Its been 6 months since graduation. I am about to wrap up a temporary project with the makers of a popular software product. The good news is I have got a great role with a publishing company that is going digital in a big way. It took almost 5 months to find this role – but I’m happy with the result. The sad news is that some of my classmates are still struggling to find a proper job (though the vast majority have jobs).

I spent the last 6 months in Internet marketing. I was supporting the marketing & products teams with data analytics. I queried the data-warehouse, extracted data, analysed it and presented it. I also built financial models and was involved in budgeting exercises. But the real challenge lay in managing expectations, and getting buy-in on financial accounting concepts from a non-MBA audience.

The next role is a ‘Management Associate’ role. It is a 24 month rotation programme. I will get to experience 4 different parts of the company, and possibly upto 3 different offices. I am hoping to get some Sales and IT Operations experience. But having to go abroad for one or two rotations can complicate matters for me now. I recently got married – and now I have more responsibilities. Here’s to convincing the boss and to convincing the wife (also read “boss”).

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Armed with the shiny new MBA degree (well not quite) marching we went into a world of dreams and opportunity (well not quite). But at least I have a visa and a temporary 3-month paid project.

The graduation ceremony was impressive. The champagne reception afterwards even better. And the summer ball was truly amazing. It was great having a jug of pimms with my parents and sister at the Windsor Castle Hotel right after graduation. It was also great taking pictures with my family and in-laws in LT1 and reminiscing about first year core classes. I was a bit surprised that we didn’t actually get any sort of degree/letter at the actual ceremony (they will mail the degree later). But our names did get printed in the Times that day :).

The lack of a job was closing in on achieving “emergency” status. To be honest I managed to get 2 offers within the month after graduation. But they either paid too little to cover my loan or required me to move to a country where language and taxes were a problem (more so than in Britain!). So I took up another short-term project in London, with an IT company that I liked. Hopefully within the next 2 or 3 months I will be able to land a nice permanent job. The market is improving, but its still not easy out there.

The other feared battle was the work visa. This was actually not bad at all. I managed to get it fairly soon, though it did cost a fair bit. Only wish I had known earlier that it was possible to get a premium appointment and get the visa on the day. But I was lucky and still managed to get it within 4 days (read more about my visa experience on my travel blog here).

It’s a little hard getting used to not being a student any more. Many of my friends are now moving away from London, and I’m busy with regular farewell parties. But I still go to campus once in a while for Gym and keep meeting with those classmates that remain! There is a lot of change and hard work ahead, but I am looking forward to it.

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Exchange – Half Way

Posted by: Vipul

I have been on exchange in India for almost 2 months now. It’s
been a very interesting and different experience. I certainly am happy that I
came here. My main aim in coming here was to look for work in India. Through a
reciprocal agreement with London Business School, ISB allows exchange students
to appear for placements. I have had a few interviews and am pleased to say
that I am treated as an equal here in every aspect. I haven’t found a job yet,
but that’s just a matter of time.

I have managed to squeeze in some travel. In a last minute
decision (90 mins before departure!) I caught a bus to Bangalore and spent the
weekend with an old friend. I was very impressed with the quality of life in
Bangalore. It’s a beautiful city. Then I spent 5 days with my family in Uttar
Pradesh. The work load here is heavy, but you can always find some time for the
important things. I even managed to see Ooty in the Nilgiris (Blue Mountains)
in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. There’s nothing like sitting with the
locals and eating curd-rice off a Banana leaf in a beautiful hill town.

The parties at ISB have been good, if a bit subdued.
Everyone is in placement-mode. Hence not many people actually turn up for
parties these days. Still, I have to praise the Student Life Council for a
stellar effort. The odd thing is that parties don’t actually come to life
before 2AM. Talk about culture shock! There was a huge party thrown by the dean
to celebrate ISB’s elevated ranking in the Financial Times. That was amazing!

I am staying in a 4-bedroom apartment or ‘quad’. All my
flatmates or ‘quadies’ are local ISB students. They are the best bunch of
people. I have done a lot of great partying with them. They are very accommodating
and very willing to help me settle in. They are excellent friends! I highly
recommend living in close-quarters with local students while on exchange.

Despite all the learning and fun here, I do miss life at
London Business School. I can’t believe I’m missing Tattoo!! I even missed the
Tech Summit! There’s nothing like life in central London. It’s such a lively
place – Hyderabad sure can’t match it. I really like ISB, but I can’t wait to
be back in London in April and hang-out with all my great friends from London
Business School!

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24 Hours of Exchange

Posted by: Vipul
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Disclaimer: I wrote this piece yesterday – but had trouble posting it. Here it is, untainted by my experiences of day 2.

It’s been 24 hours since I arrived at the Indian School of
Business. The experience has been interesting so far – quite a contrast to
London Business School. Here are some of the things that struck me.

All the support staff address me as “Sir”. This embarrasses
as much as it lifts the ego. It’s like I’m a guest at a hotel. I went to
boarding school in India and I have done project work with IBM in India – but
never have I been called “Sir” except in hotels (and in airlines, but only when
I travelled business class).

The infrastructure here is something to write home about.
The campus is HUGE. I actually had to lug my suitcase for almost half a mile
when the taxi driver dropped me off at the wrong “student village”. There is
one excellent buffet-style all-you-can-eat for 90 Rupees (£1.20) restaurant, 2
round-the-clock cafes, and a department store on campus. I have heard
wonder-filled stories about how nice the swimming pool and the gym are. In fact
these stories have inspired me to set an alarm for 8 AM so I can go see the
Gym. There is housing for all students (more than 600 I believe) on campus. I
have a bedroom in a 4-bedroom apartment. It is air-conditioned and a maid comes
every day to do the dishes. Getting my shirts ironed cost me Rs. 2.50 (yes, 2
rupees and 50 paise). I’m presently “connected” to a gigabit lan network, which
unfortunately doesn’t work on my laptop any more. The bad thing is, I’m being
forced to use Windows as my operating system. Overall the infrastructure
appears way better than that of London Business School.

There were a few things that mildly annoyed me today, but
I’m pretty sure I will adapt to those. In the lecture this morning, people
would regularly interrupt others. In a networking session, people would literally
shoulder me out of their way to speak to the visitor. Communicating with the
support staff in English or Hindi is a slight issue – but sign language always
works.

The on-campus company presentations (called “PPTs (Pun perhaps Intended) – Pre
Placement Talks”) fascinated me the most. They were in sharp contrast to the
presentations back at London Business School. The invitation email asked me to
dress in “business casual”. This made me nervous already. I have been forcibly
conditioned to wear a suit and a tie and look super sharp in all company
presentations. But I felt very overdressed in a simple business shirt and
trousers combination, when I saw people walking in wearing sandals, T-shirts
and jeans. It turns out that due to low attendance at some of these events, these
presentations have been made compulsory. Every presentation is mandatory for a
particular stream of the MBA class, irrespective of whether they have any
interest in the company or indeed the industry. No wonder, the enthusiasm
levels were somewhat varied. Also the style of asking questions seemed a bit
different. For example, the first question from the audience was “Locations?”
That’s it. One word. Go figure. I don’t mean to bash ISB or its students – it
is a great school with very bright students. All I am saying is that London
Business School does a better job of managing crowd interest in presentations.

The people here are very friendly. Its amazing how many
people I’ve exchanged phone numbers with today. One my first day at London
Business School, I was definitely struggling a little more. Last night I had
someone walk half-a-mile with me when she found me wandering around lost, and
guided me to my student village. My neighbour showed me around the campus.
Someone else kindly took me to dinner and gave me the low down on electives. Everyone
is generally very keen to be helpful and friendly. I’m not saying that London
Business School is not a friendly place – in fact it is a very friendly place
and the people are very helpful. All I’m saying is that ISB is marginally
friendlier. This is my first impression.

Now as I finish setting the alarm and plugging in the
mosquito repellent, I look forward to another day of lectures, PPTs and meeting
great people. Oh and checking out the fabulous pool.

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I can't help feeling a little nostalgic about one of the most
eventful years of my life. The first year at London Business School has
taught me a lot. I can now appreciate, a little more than before, the
vast diversity of the world around us. I have learned to look beyond my
first love, computer programming, and have discovered other very
interesting disciplines. I have discovered Europe through extensive
travel. I have made great contacts and awesome friends for life. I have
basked in the glow of celebrities. I have experienced the crushing
pressure of constant rejection and disappointment followed by the
supreme elation of getting what I really wanted!

My study group
has been the best thing about first year. We got along well from the
start: right from the time we were clinging on to each other for dear
life on top of a 20 foot pole. That was at "Away Day" in the first week
of school, in a team building exercise. In March, we attended the
wedding of one group member on an island off the Istrean coast in
Croatia. Then we went to run the Geneva half marathon together. The
icing on the cake, or should I say sugar on the pasteis, was the study
group (+partners) trip to Portugal. We stayed at a group member's
farm-house and thoroughly enjoyed his family's warm hospitality.
Besides momentarily being the "westernmost study group in Europe" (at
Cabo da Roca), we ate a lot of fish, swam the freezing waters of the
Atlantic, lazed about in vineyards and partied till 6AM in Lisbon. Oh,
and during the year, we did assignments together as well.

The
hunt for an internship consumed my life for most of this year. It all
started with crack-a-case sessions back in November. From just 3 hours
a week in November to 12 hours a week in January, I and many other
consulting hopefuls slogged through the Consulting Club's excellent
case book. Milk Round in January was a festival of day-long
back-to-back presentations, lots of fried food at networking sessions,
and flowing business cards. I have to admit I slept through at least 1
presentation :). Then came the applications: the most I completed in a
single day were about 5. After a few weeks of waiting, came the
rejections! And more rejections. And more rejections. All but 2
consulting companies had rejected me without an interview. The 2 that
hadn't, promptly did so after an interview. I had to fight hard to
convince myself that it was just the recession and not me. But it was
still crushing. So I decided to pin my hopes on Industry. My interview
call rate was much higher, but still no luck! After more than 60
rejections (yes, 60 rejections) came the end of the first year. Summer
holiday was due to start with no internship, but many interviews lined
up. To my greatest surprise, in the first week after final exams, I got
5 internship offers. At least 3 of them were roles I really wanted. I
was in a position to reject offers – the tables finally turned! It felt
great!

I was lucky enough to get an excellent role in an early stage company.
I couldn't have asked for a better role. I am doing a strategy project
in the IT&T industry for a start-up!! The job profile just couldn't
be better! I can now truly get my hands dirty! This will be a great
summer! What this experience taught me is that I don't want to stray
too far from the IT industry, and consulting is not the only role that
is fun! Not to say I won't try to get a consulting job for full time,
but I will do my best to stay close to my IT industry.

When I was about to quit my job as a tech consultant and join London
Business School, I was skeptical about the value of the MBA. I felt
that quitting a stable programming job (which I loved), a good salary
and a fantastic life in Australia for 2 years of studying
un-understandable business mumbo-jumbo and living like a pauper didn't
make any sense. I felt like I was "selling out" and giving up on a
profession I loved. But I'm telling you, subjects like Discovering
Enterpreneurial Opportunities, Marketing and Operations &
Technology Management completely changed my point-of-view. I can now
see that the MBA will truly allow me to leverage my tech skills and
take my career to the next level. I can see myself enjoying a full time
role involving formulating marketing strategies or managing technical
operations. In fact, I am thoroughly enjoying my current internship
project which requires me to formulate a business development strategy!
Besides, I'm getting a chance to improve my Mandarin and Spanish and
learn some Portuguese on the side! The academics at London Business
School are adding a lot of value to my personal development. I am very
glad I decided to do this MBA.

The other cool thing about the first year experience has been all the
famous, important and interesting people that I've met. The Innovation
Club organised a talk by Nick D'Onofrio (Exdcutive VP of Innovation and
Technology at IBM). The Aditya Birla India Centre at London Business
School brought in Nandan Nilekani of Infosys. The India Business Forum
brought in many famous and intelligent people for the annual summit,
including Dr. Rakesh Mohan (Deputy Governor Reserve Bank of India).
There have been talks by many other famous names, and I don't have
enough space to list them all hear. The entrepreneurship faculty
organised a dinner with members of the Young Presidents' Organisation
where I met the past president of the Richmond Tigers (Australian
Football club) and we made Boris Becker wait in line for a table at the
restaurant. And I queued up at the stage door to Oliver, stopped Rowan
Atkinson before he could board his taxi, and got his autograph (life is
downhill from that point).

After the eventful and exciting year, I now truly look forward to
second year. There will be all the fun electives, some spare time to
work part-time, second year project, exchange to Hyderabad in India,
and much more travel around Europe :)

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Fostering Creativity!

Posted by: Vipul
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Ding Ding Ding! No, there’s no ice-cream truck driving up
Sussex Place. It’s the sweet sound of … internship rejections. Surprised? I am
too. First, I was surprised that so many companies rejected me. Later, I was
even more surprised at myself for not feeling too bad about it. I was (and
still am) targeting consulting firms for the Summer. But all these rejections
mean that, if I don’t get a consulting internship, I can experiment with
starting out on my own. There will be no guilt for not trying to land a secure
job and there will be no opportunity cost!

London Business School is just great at inspiring
creativity. The first year core subject, Discovering Entrepreneurial
Opportunities (DEO), has really got me excited about trying new and daring
ventures. Yesterday the deputy chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi, Richard
Hytner, spoke to our class about creativity. We did a number of exercises that
forced us to challenge the norms. He introduced us to some fantastic tools for
fostering creativity in our study groups. I particularly liked De Bono’s Hats. I left the
class feeling very excited, despite having received two internship rejection
emails during the class. I was excited about totally wild ideas: “back packs
with beer warmers (yes, this is England)”, “flying without airports” – to name
a few. It was really cool to see how creative a bunch of accountants, bankers,
doctors and consultants can be.

How will I keep the creative juices flowing? Definitely get
my study group to do the Hat analysis of our DEO Trade Show ideas. Get the
innovation club to hold wild-idea brainstorming sessions (they can be hilarious
and can generate some awesome actionable ideas). Keep attending highly
inspirational classes like DEO and Managing Organizational Behaviour (MOB).
And, if I can find a good idea, start a company over the summer.

Now off to bed, to rest before my big consulting interview :)

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Managing Global Teams – insights by Infosys

Posted by: Vipul
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Today, Jitin Goyal (Vice President and Head of Banking & Capital Markets Group) from Infosys spoke to members of the Technology and Emerging Markets clubs about managing teams that are culturally and geographically disparate. He had some interesting insights and gave us a true feel for what it’s like to work across continents. This theme is very central to the diversity values that London Business School strives to instil.

What are teams at Infosys, and most global IT companies, like? There will typically be a large client in the U.S. or Western Europe. The client will be supported by CFGs (Client Facing Groups) and Consultants in those countries. The consultants will typically work in close contact with delivery teams in countries like India, China, Mexico and even Canada. This global model, along with its many advantages, creates some problems. How do you get people in Japan, Poland and California on the same conference call? How do you get Portuguese speaking programmers and French speaking consultants to communicate effectively? How do you break cultural stereotypes? I’ll give some examples here, but if you want the full low-down on Jitin’s talk, drop me an email.

What does “6 AM Pacific” mean to you? Jitin reckons that’s the best time for conference calls! Since it’s day time in most of the World, except for Pacific islands, people in all countries can join the call! This also means that people in Australia will have work pretty late at night, while people in California will have to brush their teeth while talking. Does this mean one has to work from 6 AM to 11PM? No, it means that work has to be divided into small chunks done throughout the day. You could take a call from 6 to 8, then go eat breakfast with the family, and arrive in the office at 10. Perhaps, leave the office at 4, pick up your kids from school, and get back to online meetings at 8 from home. Flexibility is the key!

Get a first life! Facebook, Myspace, Second Life, Skype, Instant Messaging – are all very central to our lives. Companies like Infosys are realizing the potential of these tools and are increasingly using them to encourage employee teaming and communication. But we must learn to take a step back from time to time.I personally get the jitters if I haven’t checked facebook for 2 hours! If we get too involved in virtual reality and ignore real-reality, we can get into trouble. Jitin quoted the case of the man whose wife divorced him because his SecondLife avatar was having a virtual affair!

In conclusion, Jitin pressed home the point that global teaming can be challenging but is being managed well by companies like Infosys. For those of us considering careers in consulting or even general management at global firms, the lessons from Infosys are invaluable. Infosys is a NASDAQ listed company with 100,000 employees across 26 countries. Visit their website: http://www.infosys.com. To stay up-to-date about more such events, bookmark the tech club blog: http://lbstechclub.blogspot.com/

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How would you like your November?

Posted by: Vipul
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Double-decker buses are honking, dogs are barking, cold rain is falling, study-group mates are wrestling in the courtyard, Airbus A3XX’s are mysteriously missing from London skies and Papa-Smurf is having a hard time washing off the blue body paint. Suddenly, a loud scream pierces the air. It’s an MBA student hurling himself 160 ft through the air, at the mercy of mother-gravity. Today is your typical November day.

My predecessors tell tales of November. This is the month when study-groups witness their members engaged in hand-to-hand combat over task allocations. Multiple assignments are due. Final exams approach. And, if you were smart (or stupid) enough to volunteer at a club, chances are you are organizing some conference or party. In short, November is a very stressful month.

As Jann said in her blog, the key is to take a deep-breath. To that end, November was welcomed by multiple parties. The Monitor group hosted Sundowners on Thursday (3 hours of drinking). The class of MBA 2010 hosted Halloween on Friday (4 hours + after party till sunrise). And the India club hosted a Diwali party on Saturday (4.5 hours + after party till sunrise). Hopefully these have washed away the cobwebs of October and we can start afresh in November (…yeah right! Talk to the guy with the nasty hangover).

More de-stress events are on in November! A de-stress day where the school is offering free 15-minute neck & shoulder massages has seen school servers experience a massive load of email requests. My study group (and I recommend every group does this) is getting together for a home cooked meal to kick off November and reaffirm our fraternal love for one-another. The Rugby club is going to INSEAD to pummel them on home-turf (together with a band of supporters who will, no doubt, increase the alcohol demand in that part of France). The women’s rugby team is off for a weekend in “sunny” Glasgow. Some of us might try and catch some sun in the Canary Islands (“sun” means any temperature above 10 degrees Celsius).

Despite the gloomy-omen of unseasonal snowfall in October, November won’t be as bad as we make it out to be! Just get out there and “take a deep breath” (–quote attributed to Jann–). Also, let me reassure you, no one has committed suicide – some of us went bungee jumping today

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Observations on the Indian skill shortage

Posted by: Vipul
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The UK India Business Council (UKIBC) aims
to promote business and professional ties between UK and India. Its members
include a wide range of business people from the two countries. The advisory
board includes our very own dean Robin Buchanan and other, dare I say less
famous, personas like Richard Branson and Arun Sarin. The council held a
session at the London Business School last week where the topic of discussion
was the skills shortage in India. We heard from a highly successful firm of
architects, a HR consulting firm, a social recruitment firm and of course a
tech-consultancy. This is a short summary of the salient points discussed.

There is a shortage of skilled labour in
India. Sure, colleges churn out hundreds-of-thousands of graduates every year.
But how many of them are architects as opposed to engineers? How many are
historians as opposed to MBAs? Even among the engineers and the MBAs, not many
are seen as being good communicators or creative thinkers. (Btw, I’m an Indian Engineer
reading for an MBA – so excuse me for using cliques). And to compound the
problem, there is a high rate of attrition. One of the speakers found that in
India people are often teased by peers for staying with one company for more
than 3 years. In my personal experience, 6-10 months seems to be the amount of
time most Indian IT workers at lower levels like to spend with one company.

Companies are realizing the ramifications
of this situation and are implementing programmes to tackle it. TCS and IBM,
for example, invest a lot in employee training & development and have
formal career advancement programmes for employees with different career aims. But
a lot more needs to be done at University level. Students, who went to intern
in India under the UKIBC banner, report that the Indian education system seems
to “knock creativity out of people”. Companies need to partner closer with
universities and make clear what they want in employees. Once the university
system adapts, high schools will also adapt their methods to produce the right
university students. Demand will ultimately shape the quality of supply!

The council is setting up a “Next
Generation” programme aimed at getting British university students involved
more closely. For us MBA students, this is something to watch out for! Check
out the council’s website: http://www.ukibc.com/
and join the India Business Forum at the School if you are interested in this
sphere.

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