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I, like most MBA students, am tired of asking and answering this question.  We MBA people need to think outside our frames and come up with new questions. But humour me for a moment by reading my rants around this topic which is so vital to the existence of the species –Studentea NoLifeus.

Like many of my peers, I’m still undecided. So I’ve signed up for almost all professional clubs and their events. I’ve been to events organized by the Innovation club, the Venture Capital club, the Media Club and the Consulting club. I missed out on the Finance 101 sessions, as I was too late in signing up (that’s what I get for not buying an iPhone!).  Over the next week, I am scheduled to make an appearance at the Emerging Markets Club, the Technology Club, the Industry Club, the Family Business Club and the China Interest Club. Sounds like a lot of information? Yes it is! But that’s what I get for being undecided.

The good news is that London Business School is very supportive of people like me. These club meetings tend not to clash with one another. So it is possible to attend all of them. Further conversations with career services, teaching staff, alumni, recruiters and fellow students help a lot in weighing the pros and cons of different career options. I am confident that by November I will have picked a path!

You may cynically comment, “In a month at the school you should have achieved some level of clarity!” Guess what, I have. The first thing “Self Assessment” told me was “Stay away from Finance!” And no, this does not reflect or imply a co-linearity (with or without the confidence intervals) between current market conditions and my professional values. I was told that I am more inclined towards a life of Entrepreneurial Creativity and Technology Focus. However the assessment did not say much about my analytical skills or how well I’d fit into Consulting. That was a little disappointing, since Consulting is high on my list of potential careers.

But all is not lost. I have attended 3 events organised by the Consulting club so far. And honestly, with every event I have felt that Consulting is a good choice for me. The first event was an introduction to the Club and its activities. The second was titled “What is Consulting”. The speaker, an ex-McKinsey consultant, gave a thorough analysis of the profession. The idea of working across industries, geographies and functional levels in the client’s organisation is very appealing to me. It is exciting to be involved in all the different parts of the process of creation, whatever might be getting created. And having worked as a technical-consultant (IT) previously, I can relate to most of what a management consultant would do on day-to-day basis. I can definitely handle the travel!

The third consulting event, which finished just 2 hours ago, was a presentation by A.T. Kearney.  They are corporate partners of the London Business School. What that means is that they work closely with the school in developing consulting skills among students, and in hiring consultants from the school. Every term A.T. Kearney hold an event at the school: The Global Prize (case study competition) in autumn, Team Dynamics in spring and KRISP on KAMPUS in summer. They hold a number of ad-hoc events like case-cracking and speaker series.

One interesting thing I learned from the A.T. Kearney presentation is that they do not send different types of work to different countries. This is great news for me, because I intend to work in India post-MBA. Many companies use India as a dumping-ground for back-office type work. It’s good to know that A.T. Kearney serve local clients and perform the full range of consulting tasks in India. In response to my question about this, they said that their premium fee structure is does not justify using countries purely as cost saving centres. The other bit of good news that I can infer from this is that most international strategy consulting firms in India would probably have a similar stance. I guess I will find out for sure over the next few weeks.

Besides consulting, I am inclined towards the Technology industry. Being a techy (almost) by birth, I have developed a passion for everything computer related.  Yes, I know, I am perpetrating a stereotype, but one has to be true to oneself! I found that what the Media club had to say overlapped a lot with what I imagine the Technology club would say (when I see them soon). So I might just remain a member of that club – at least till I pick between consulting and technology! In the meanwhile, to develop my knowledge and contacts in the IT Industry, I have joined the organising committee of the Global Security Challenge (http://www.globalsecuritychallenge.com/) – more about that in a later blog!

So, the next steps would be, 1) Attend more club meetings, 2) Form a team for the A. T. Kearney Global Challenge, 3) Meet a career advisor to discuss my thoughts, 4) Attend the “Networking Mindset” session tomorrow and 5) Buy Consulting Club Merchandise!!

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Melbourne is hot for Innovation

Posted by: Vipul
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The ingredients for innovation are: Openness, Collaboration, Multi Disciplinary thought, and Globalization. This was the central theme of a talk by Nick Donofrio, the executive vice-president of innovation and technology at IBM. On Sunday the 7th of September 2008, Nick spoke to members of the Innovation and Technology clubs at the London Business School.

Many years ago Nick estimated that we will live in a world where billions of people will use trillions of devices connected to the internet. Right now, two billion people are connected to the internet, but only about 200 million devices. So there is great scope for being innovative in creating and connecting new devices. Moving forward, devices will be connected in a “value-driven” manner and will largely be unseen. Your fridge might tell Tesco that you need more beer, and you won’t even know!

Another field of innovation is social programming.  IBM is a company of 400,000 employees. There are many efficient processes in place for managing them and the company is doing well. What happens when IBM expands to an employee base of 1 million? How do you manage a company that large? Topcoder (http://www.topcoder.com) employs the mmorg model for expanding its employee base. People from all over the world signup and compete for work. Their ideas and their code is compared against those of others and the best man wins! So, perhaps, in the future, the 1 million employees will be self managing, social beings. The gamers of today may well be the CEOs of tomorrow!

How does IBM capitalize on these innovative ideas? They have an executive VP of innovation! And they have a great focus on enabling innovation. For example, there is a program called the ThinkPlace. It is an intranet site that all employees have access to. Employees are encouraged to post their ideas there. There are full time moderators, who are responsible for assessing and replying to posts within 2-3 days. All this correspondence is visible to other employees, so there can be no cheating! Good ideas are passed along to people who can enable their implementation. The employee who came up with the idea, normally gets paid for it (if it’s good enough) and gets to work on its implementation.

IBM makes it a point to think laterally. IT consultants need not always be from an IT background. It is about T-shaped education versus I-shaped education. It’s about being able to think across disciplines, while specializing in one. And this T-shaped model has never been more important! IBM, like many big companies, uses its global wealth of intellect very efficiently. To do that, one has to be able to think outside one’s frames of mind!

The best part of the afternoon was when I introduced myself to Nick and told him that I used to work for IBM Australia. He said that he was pleased to meet me, and that if you want to be innovative, Melbourne is the place to be (note: NOT Sydney). So the message to take away is: think laterally, think globally, share your thoughts and move to Melbourne!

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Pre-MBA socialising

Posted by: Vipul
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Just a quick note on the social activities I was involved in within the London Business School community before starting the term.

Early April 2008, I posted a note on the discussion forum inside the portal. The title was "Are you in the Southern Hemisphere?". I got many responses from people in South America. I was a little disappointed by the lack of responses from Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Anyway, the point is, I was traveling to South America and NZ in June and wanted to meet fellow admits. This way, I got in touch with a whole bunch of stellar people!

Late April 2008, Al Danks (an Alumnus) organized a dinner for the London MBA community in Melbourne. It was a great way to meet 2 of my fellow admits from Melbourne: Pranav and Richard, and at the same time socialize with the Alumni community.

Mid May 2008, At the recommendation of Al Danks, we (Pranav, Richard and I) went to a talk by Dr. Lynda Gratton (http://www.lyndagratton.com/) on her thought-provoking new book "Hotspots". The main idea is that organizations tend to have areas (or hotspots) where creativity blooms. Have a look at her website! Met many other Alumni and industry representatives there.

Early June 2008, Juan Antonio, Juan Pablo and Adolfo (All MBA 2010 students from Peru) bought me the best pisco sours in Lima! Then we went to a concert by a Peruvian fusion band. All-in-all it was an interesting, pisco filled night. Juan Antonio still insists on reminding me of how much I drank!

Late June 2008, Luis (MBA 2010 from Chile) picked me up from Santiago airport and drove me to his family house in Viña del Mar (not to be confused with Valparaiso!). I sampled Carménère – a very smooth wine produced largely in Chile (originally from France) and Abalone (called ‘Loco’ in Spanish) – an incredibly tasty sea snail which was, until recently, banned in Chile. Then we hit the casino and stumbled home at 4AM. Luis was nice enough to let me displace him from his room.

Next Day, Sebastian (another MBA 2010) met me in Santiago and gave me the grand tour of the city. We capped the evening with fantastic pizza and wine in Las Condes. Few days later, Sebastian took me to a trendy night spot, which served $5 martinis!!! Needless to say, I stumbled back to the hotel pretty late at night.

Just before the start of term, there was the Flat Hunters’ Pub crawl! The funnest event this side of Rio! And it actually works – I found both my flatmates there. Check out the website: http://londonpubcrawl.blogspot.com/

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G’day London!

Posted by: Vipul
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It’s surreal. I’m finally in London! And right in the centre of it all! London Business School gives me easy access to the following famous landmarks:

Walking Distance:

    * The (fictional) home of Sherlock Holmes on Baker Street
    * Madam Tussaud’s
    * Lords Cricket Ground
    * London Zoo
    * Paddington Station (Paddington Bear? Harry Potter?)
    * Marylebone Station (yay for Monopoly!)
    * Regent’s Park (of course!)
    * The (non-fictional) residences of Sir Paul McCartney and Kate Moss – not that I’m a celeb stalker.

5-10 mins on the Underground:

    * Buckingham Palace
    * Westminster Abbey
    * Hyde Park
    * Bond Street
    * London Bridge

Now that I’ve found a place to stay, I have time on my hands. Perhaps I’ll walk around and check out some of these places, about which I’ve been hearing since the days of nursery rhymes!

Besides famous places … I’ve been enjoying warm beer, £3 meal-deals, and Peruvian cuisine (mmmm Ceviche and Cusqena!!! *drools over keyboard*). I’ve been exploring the underground system and will make sure I ride a red double-decker bus today.

Next week is orientation … and the weekend is a long one. I already have tickets to a concert (to celebrate the fact that London got the 2012 Olympics) and plans to visit the Nottinghill Festival! … London will be fun!

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Some tips, tricks and warnings:

  • If you are an overseas student, chances are you will be asked to get a chest X-ray done at Immigration in Heathrow. It took me 10 mins. There was no queue. For me, it was less trouble than dealing with New Delhi traffic to get an X-ray done before leaving Delhi.
  • Carry your university offer letter with you in your hand baggage. Immigration officials at Delhi and at Heathrow demanded it. (I was not carrying it, but they let me through after I made an innocent face and pleaded with them).
  • Carry at least £3000 in travellers cheques (or cash – though that might be risky). You will need ready access to cash when signing a lease on an apartment. You will typically be asked for 6-weeks rent as deposit (refundable) and 3-months rent upfront (non-refundable). Rents, as of August 2008, within walking distance of the school range from £180 to £300 per week per head.
  • To travel from Heathrow to Central London, Dot2Dot is a good coach service. They have a counter in the arrivals hall at Heathrow (its near the car rental counters in Terminal 4. Pretty sure that other terminals will have a counter too). Check out: http://www.dot2.com
  • Go to the Flat Hunters’ Pub Crawl!! Its a great way to meet class mates, make new friends and find flat mates! See: http://londonpubcrawl.blogspot.com/
  • It can takes weeks to open a bank account. So come prepared! Make sure your overseas credit card will work in the UK. Make sure you have ATM access to your overseas bank account. Make sure you have enough cash readily accessible. My Australian credit cards DO NOT work when buying something on-line or over the phone in the UK. They do work in shops. My Australian ATM card works fine.
  • Oh, and, even though cars drive on the left, pedestrians seem to like walking on the right here (unlike in Australia or in Asia!). So stick to the right on footpaths and escalators!
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