Sunday, August 21, 2005

Time Off

I'll echo Preet's words about what I have been up to these past two months - a whole lot of packing, traveling, and farewells. And I just want to say that I think it is so beneficial to take time off between these two life steps (work and school).

Now that I just moved to the city that I'm going to be going to school in (Boston), I don't have the same kind of clarity and objectiveness about my life as I did when I traveled to places that had nothing to do with my day-to-day life... For me, my travels and time with friends and family where an opportunity to wind down, experience things I won't have as much time for later, and to really reflect on what I want out of classes, extra-curriculars, social circles, and, ultimately, my career. It was a time to put a lot of the larger puzzle pieces together and figure out which are the pieces that are still missing.

So my recommendation: take some time to yourself the summer before b-school - it's good for your career!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

It's been a while...but we're back!

Sorry for not blogging continuously...a lot has changed since the last time I posted - life changing actions that have had immediate impact:

1. I traveled throughout Europe
2. Quit my job
3. Said goodbye to everyone and moved to Boston

I am sure this is a great time for a lot of MBA students - since school is about to start or at least orientation is around the corner. I am getting nervous and excited at what the next two years of my life will bring.

As I am getting acclimated to Boston I will start to posting more consistently again. I have added a few other MBA students to the blog - who will also share their perspectives from their respective schools.

Just to reiterate the schools that will be represented in this blog:

1. MIT Sloan
2. Harvard Business School
3. Stanford Business School
4. University of Chicago
5. University of Michigan
6. Kellogg

Posts from students in these schools are coming soon! Feel free to ask any questions regarding the admissions process, gmat, the respective schools, interviews, essays, recommendations, classroom, culture, etc

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

More apropos: Why get an MBA?

I’ll echo Preet’s disclaimer that there are many many reasons to get an MBA. And it is so freakin' expensive to do so (not just the cost of tuition and books, etc., but also the opportunity cost of not being gainfully employed), that honestly, it is not worth it unless you are pretty darn sure that it will contribute meaningfully your career and your development as a person.

For me, the main reasons I want an MBA are:

  1. The opportunity to spend 2 years thinking about my work experiences to date, and figuring out how all the pieces fit together. I don’t think I have a crystal-clear vision of what my career will look like, so it is invaluable that I take a break and have some time to reflect on who I am as a person, what really gets me fired-up, and what I want out of my career at each stage.
  2. Meet amazing people who have varied backgrounds and life experiences. Part of figuring out what I want out of my career (and life in general) means broadening my horizon and finding out what else there is out there from people who have done different things. This is not just about building contacts with students, alumni and professors, this is about helping to define who I am and who I want to be through advice and learning from others. This is about taking the time to get to know others with similar goals and finding role models in every successful person I meet, regardless of what their specific success is.
  3. Taking a break from the real world to enjoy being a student again, getting to know a new city, spending time with friends and reclaiming neglected hobbies and personal interests. Also, this may be the last time that I have regular, long periods of time off for the next thirty-ish years. I fully intend to use up my hard-earned frequent flier miles (they are so key when you have negative cash flow) and see as much of the world as possible when I get time.
  4. Actually learning! Having worked in tech banking and now strat planning for a media company, there are a lot of skills I have never had to learn in depth. I would love to learn more about sales and marketing, general operations, manufacturing, building a team, trading, logistics, treasury/controllership, entrepreneurship, methodologies in different industries … this list could seriously go on and on. And I foresee finding out about a lot of these disciplines through the case method, with each case serving as a nugget of real world wisdom that I could never have assembled after two years of working in one job.
  5. And finally, recruiting. Something that I think numbers 1 and 2 imply, I want to go to school so I have access to its extensive recruiting apparatus. I want to learn what I can from HBS’s career center and I want the opportunity to learn about positions I had never heard of or considered applying for before. I want the opportunity to try for positions that I never could have gotten considered for before given my background. I want to have the freedom to make a career change if I so desire, or get to know the companies I already know even better and at a new, more senior level. Business school is the ideal place to get to the next step in my career.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Why get a MBizA???

People have been asking my why I want to go get an MBA - what will I get at school that I can't get if I continue to work...

This is definitely not a one conversation answer. In fact, I think my answer seems to get better every time time.

So what are my current reasons for spending a year and becoming broke for the next two years???

1. I want to make myself better. I want to have a brand. I want to be good in all areas of business not just my domain. I want to make better decisions.
2. In order to make it big - I need to be surrounded by people who want the same thing. Every has heard their mom's say - "your friends are a good indication of the type of person you are". I want to be around people who desire more and want new experiences. Right now I am surrounded by good people but these people aren't going to make it big - I mean real big. Everywhere you look there are smart people - but not everyone has the urge or desire to go outside of their comfort zone and hit it big time. I have bigger aspirations and want to be in an environment where I can make things happen. I think Sloan is a great place for me to meet people that can have an impact on my life, share ideas, learn from the experiences of others, and train myself in areas I have yet to uncover/face.
3. Money doesn't matter to least right now - seriously, I want to be rich - but I live by "If you are good at something...someone will pay you a ton of money to do it". (you have to quote me if you are going to use that...) . If you ever watch VH1's Driven (don't discredit the example) all the artists have been singing since they were like 3 years old. Tiger Woods has been playing golf since he was 5 or something. These people didn't just wake up and make it. It takes time and sometimes an "investment".
4. The timing is right. I have come to the point in my career (4 years of work experience) that I need these additional skills (in finance, marketing, strategy, whatever...) to really make better decisions. I will need to know all of these aspects when I evaluate my ideas - I need to know how to pursue and get funding.
5. The list goes on and on...but these were on the top of my mind for now.

Now I am not saying that everyone should get an MBA. People can definitely achieve success without an MBA. Like I said before, people need to be good at something and they will be rewarded for it. I definitely think an MBA will give me the tools necessary to be a successful business person both professionally as well as personally.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Attacking the apps

I’m sure we’ll talk a lot about business school applications and, in particular, the essays in this blog, but I thought I’d kick the discussion off with my two-cents on the advantage of doing the Harvard Business School application before that of other schools. I think the HBS app is instrumental in guiding an applicant through shaping her “story” – what she has done with her life, why she wants to go to bschool, and what her plans are for the long-term.

When most people first read through the applications in August, they probably don’t have all the answers to the sometimes broad and daunting questions (particularly in the Stanford application!), nor know how to frame anecdotes and ideas to make themselves the most compelling candidate. I know I was scared and overwhelmed and needed to just know where to begin last August. But the process of filling out the detailed HBS app and essays, while being limited to a certain number of words, made me really think hard about what my most pertinent messages are.

For those of you who don’t know, these were HBS’s 6 essay questions last year:
1. Describe a significant change that you brought about in an organization and its impact on your development as a leader. (400-word limit)
2. What are your three most substantial accomplishments, and why do you view them as such? (600-word limit)
3. Provide a candid assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. (400-word limit)
4. How do you define success? (400-word limit)
5. What are your career aspirations, and how can an MBA help you to reach them? Why now? (400-word limit)
6. What do you wish the MBA Admissions Board had asked you? (400-word limit)

The HBS app also has an online portion that asks questions ranging from your parents education to your job description and key accomplishments at each of your work places. It was exhaustive and, if you take the time to really think about the intention of the questions and the variety of answers you could provide, enlightening.

I feel that these essays and online questions really help guide you into framing your story. That isn’t to say that it helps you make stuff up to conform to the questions; it’s that it provides a format and a set of limitation under which I believe you can craft the presentation of yourself.

In my case, I started with drafts of a few of the essays early on (total stabs in the dark) and continued to write and revise each weekend. Only after a week or two of not looking at an essay would I take my refreshed eyes to it and amend/chop/supplement/add/replace/cut/copy etc. And though I sought editing help from a few close friends once I had a solid draft of an essay, I came up with each topic and each narrative during those caffeine-induced Sunday morning musings at the local coffee shop. Come October, I felt confident that I had pulled together a tight set of essays that made sense as a group and helped elucidate who I am in various aspects of my life beyond my 2-D resume. I focused on professional aspirations of course, but there was definitely enough room in some of these topics (by using different examples/subjects and different tones) to show who I am as a person. It was only after I honed this story that I was able to go on to complete my other applications – and had an easier time of it with each successive application as I had already established my key messages and my tone in my writing. I definitely recommend attacking the HBS app before all others.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Starting your own company

I recently have started my own company and have found it extremely challenging. That is one of the reasons why I haven't been able to post right away. The company I have started, AudioDize, deals with obtaining more content for your iPod - not just music. There has been a lot of movement in this area - especially with the recent hype of podcasting. We are planning on going live by Monday and will be conducting beta testing with a small beta group of users. If you want to know more or would like to participate in the beta test group leave me a message...

Well, this post deals with some of the lessons I have learned in this process. For some of these problems, I still don't have a good solution but hopefully business school will help in this area. I am excited about the entrepreneur curriculum offered at Sloan - I can't wait!

My purpose of starting a company was to
1. I really wanted to do something - I feel like I need to gain these types of experiences in order for me to be truly successful
2. I thought my idea was simple, decent and easy to get started - I have had more complicated ideas in the past and didn't have the resources to really start
3. I really wanted to do something

When I first had my idea, I shared it with a group of friends without knowing what their involvement would be. So here is a list of thoughts, experiences, do's don'ts, basically anything I can think that may or may not be of use:

1. Usually everyone is excited about a good idea
- the problem is that not everyone is a worker or has the ability to make something happen
- friendships can get in the way
- someone needs to "own" the idea in order to drive the concept
- someone needs to think about making money
- in my experience I find that most people can brainstorm and can come up with ways to make things better. However, not everyone thinks logically when trying to execute or knows what it takes to execute - in this case the leader has to step up - even if they don't know how to do it themselves - they just need to pretend just enough to provide direction and get people started

2. Need to cut down on scope and get specific
- For some reason when you start something the scope is always changing or being added to. Though this can be healthy - especially for ideas that haven't been fully developed, they sometimes can cause delays, problems between co-workers, and worst of all - the end of the project.
- By cutting down scope you aren't trashing the cool ideas - instead view it as phases, this way you can finish something and be excited about it - then continue to add new features and functionality

3. Motivation
- It's really hard to motivate people in general. In my case everyone that is involved in the concept has a full-time job. So when we get home on certain days - after spending all day in front of a computer - you really don't want to sit in front of the computer for the rest of the night. This whole process requires commitment, trust, and internal drive. You will find that a lot of people lack these qualities when push comes to shove.
- People are different - obviously - but you really need to understand that in order to get past certain conflicts, push people to do more, and obtain their respect.
- Friendships and work can get complicated at times

Again, these are just a few of my thoughts - I hope to add more thoughts as I continue to learn from this experience. I would love to hear the thoughts of others...

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Amrita’s Answer to the Obligatory “What Are You Doing Between Work and School?” Question

Working at Morgan Stanley and the Mouse House for the past four years has been quite a ride. And at Disney, I work on new business development in the Strategic Planning group at corporate where we have seen how top executives handle scandals, hostile takeover bids, deals gone bad, bad press, shareholder revolts, and company politics first-hand. Banking at Morgan Stanley was… well, banking. So what am I going to do to decompress, you ask????

I’m Eurailing-it for five weeks, baby. I’ve heard so much about treks in business school that I guess I just had to jump the gun.

I can’t wait: I’ll be in Europe this summer with absolutely no agenda other than to see the sites, taste (read: gorge on) the food, and maybe lay out on a beach or two in the Riviera. I’ll be in London for 3 days, Barcelona for 2 days, Nice for 1 day, Rome for 3 days, Corsica (hopefully) for 2 days, Florence for 2 days, Venice for 2 days, Paris for a whopping 5 days (!!!), the French countryside for a day, back to London for a 5 days for a cousin’s wedding, and finally the Lake District in northern England for 3 days. After which I’m back to the States to do some last minute prematriculation work and figure out how I’m going to buy furniture in Boston.

This trip should do plenty to replenish my energy reserves, help me regenerate some fried brain cells, and send me to school with a wider perspective on the world and what I want out of it.

Nothing like a little level-setting and soul-searching before the craziness begins.

p.s. Some other really useful sites that I've used to book my budget hotels/hostels thus far are TripAdvisor and Venere.