Friday, September 26, 2008

The Beer Game

Just when you are beginning to tire of bragging to your friends about how hands-on the D curriculum is, you get hit by another of their brilliant teaching methods. Here’s why it’s brilliant. It makes you, the student, feel nice about having one, possibly two, less cases to prepare for the next day and it makes you learn something – in true D style – the hard way. The Beer Game is just the latest of many. I won’t go into the ones that came before the Beer game – my D classmates have done a great job of describing their experiences with those on their blogs – but I will go into the one we had today.

Titled the Beer Game and played very appropriately on a Thursday when a lot of FYs won’t be at TNDC (2 cases for tomorrow!), this was a simulation game played as part of the marketing curriculum. The motive behind the simulation was to learn, among other things, the Bullwhip effect and other typical supply chain problems. Four beer manufacturing companies fight to keep their production process lean and their inventory holding/stock out costs mean. Add some twists and complications to all of that and you have the perfect ale for a good two hours’ worth class time! Playing with my uber-cool section D buddies more than made up for having to stay indoors on a Thursday night and miss all the fun at the Buddhist Biker!

Something I’ve noticed about all the simulation games is that they’re very much like our cases. They give you the basic premise and instructions and throw you headlong into the game. The first round is basically a sadistic-professor-taking-pleasure-in-your confusion round where you screw up big time by making all the mistakes in the book and then some more. Then comes round 2, where you are allowed to strategize a little bit and you enter the game once more, feeling like the king of the operation. But in true sadistic-professor style, round 2 comes with its own little quirks and twists. You are left fumbling for a bit, but you pick up pace soon enough to recover and make some money. Round 3 is where life is good, all rules are relaxed and you are pretty much handed victory on a silver platter – and you still screw up, albeit a lot lesser than round 1. Then you debrief with the whole class. The winner walks away with a prize, in today’s case a tall D glass.

So when exactly did the learning curve go a notch higher in this entire sequence, you ask? That is the best part of it all. You realize you have learnt something new only when you are working on the next day’s cases and you find yourself applying what you learnt on the simulation. And that, my friend, is your aha moment! Mission accomplished. Cheers!

Addendum - 9/26/2008:

I guess I spoke too soon about the simulation games. Here's something I didn't think I would be doing in business school - playing with teddy bears in an Operations class! We were trying to simulate the efficiency (or the lack of it) in the operations of a hospital. In order to allow us to see more clearly and in real time, the challenges faced by a multi-discipline hospital, our professor brought in some teddies as patients and had some of us be the doctors.

Moral of the game: Operations need not always be about factories and machines, but can be cute too and learning is a lot more fun (and memorable) when it's hands-on.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Girls' Night Out

If you know anything about the D life at all, then you will know that Thursdays are our Fridays. Hence the TNDC – Thursday Night Drinking Club, is a big big part of the D culture and with good reason too! Every Thursday night, all of the D FYs and SYs (ok not all, but at least most of them), get together at one of the many pubs in C’ville to let our hair down, meet other people and generally indulge in a little madness, hoping to get featured on the next TNDC mailer.

This Thursday was a little different from the others. A classmate had invited all the women over to her place at the Downtown Mall for some wine, good company and an Alanis Morissette concert. After spending a good amount of time “drinking good wine and enjoying great company” and watching Alanis perform from JB’s rooftop, a bunch of us ladies headed out for dinner before TNDC. After what can be termed as the best 1 hour of the whole week- spent at dinner with the girls- we split, with half the crowd heading to bed and the other half hitting the Boleyn for TNDC.

It was madness in there! The place was swarming with the D crowd and there was loud music and no space to even walk up to the bar! I spotted the good doctor, a fellow Section D'er, who had decided to hit the nightspot for his maiden TNDC, and a bunch of others from class. A drink later I was ready to call it a night, my voice hoarse from having to speak over the music of the live band but in happy anticipation of having 3 whole days to catch up on sleep and food.

Having started out my Thursday in a pretty lousy frame of mind, I was quite uplifted by the time it ended. Cheers to the ladies who made it the best Thursday evening in a long time! You know who you are, and you rock!

PS. I watched Alanis perform Ironic live! Woohoo!

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Ever had a moment when you are suddenly shaken and woken up from a seeming slumber? When you feel like you can see more clearly? A time when you felt your life was spinning out of control and you needed a wakeup call? No? You must be doing everything right then. Good for you!

Well my answer to all those questions is a big resounding yes. I knew I was not doing things right at school. I was going into class with my cases on just done mode – I would stay up late or get up early in the morning to rush through the ones I did not have time for the previous evening – and would go into class and wonder how others had time for such in depth analysis on ALL the 3 cases of the day – all in one afternoon! Things came to a head when one Wednesday, 2 weeks ago, I just did not wake up in time for my first class of the day.

I had been up late the previous night trying to read up my LO case. I wanted to wake up early the next morning to review the DA case for the day (I had been planning to ask my DA professor to call on me that class - my class participation sucks). I wanted to be ultra prepared so that I did not end up looking foolish in front of my class. I guess my system protested the following morning and I don’t remember doing this, but I must have turned off all the 3 alarms I had kept on and gone back to sleep. Next time I woke up, it was 8:45AM, and I had just missed my first class of the day. I walked into class 5 minutes before first coffee. Of course I met with the professor at his office a day later to explain. And he was so understanding about it, that it made me feel guiltier! I felt worse as concerned classmates asked me if I had missed class because I was ill…

What I am getting at here is that it’s the hallmark of the Darden curriculum. It throws so much information at you and so fast that you get blinded with all that is going on. You find yourself scrambling to be at all places and finish all your work. You find yourself becoming myopic, with the only conversations you have with classmates being the cases of the day. Then pre-recruitment activities begin – tightening up your resume, getting you career objectives ready, meeting with SY coaches – and you are wishing you could be at two places at once. You push yourself so hard and then one fine day, your system revolts, like mine did. In my 4 years of undergrad and 2 and half years of work, never have I missed an appointment because I couldn’t get up in the morning. I was a little shaken, but a friend put things in perspective for me – he made me realize I was pushing myself too hard.

When I go corporate 2 years from now, I know that the one thing I will learn way better than even Crystal Ball or breakeven calculations will be time management. Darden’s rigorous curriculum and its forgiving teachers and students allow you to make those mistakes here (rather than in the workplace) without judging you. Though it does not excuse indiscipline, I think this once, I was safe.

Briefings begin and how!

With a bang, that’s how! Last week, briefings began at Darden for us privileged FYs. While the banking guys are definitely having an “interesting” time – BofA visited D on Black Monday – consulting opened with Deloitte yesterday. This marks the season of lunch briefings, cocktail parties, networking dinners and lunches. It also means I’ll be wearing those darned high heels of mine a lot more. Sucks!

As an international, the whole concept of networking is very new to me. I’m not entirely sure how it is done and how much small talk is too much small talk. The one thing I don’t think I will ever master is how to ask for a business card. Luckily for me the two companies I have attended briefings for, made it very easy to contact them post-briefing. Nevertheless, I would be really curious to learn how it’s done. Another important lesson I learnt over the week was to be organized – not in my head, but in my bag! Seriously. At one of the briefings I had to give my card and it took me forever to dig it up from inside my bag. The Monica in me revolted at the mess in there! It would not be the first time either. I’ve pulled out my kaajal pencil when I have been looking for a pen, more times than I care to remember.

Having said that, I will admit that the SYs and CDC have been doing a great job with trying to get us FYs to shed the gaucheness at these networking events. One of the more innovative things they came up with was a speed networking session open to the International Business Society (IBS) and the National Asso. Of Women MBAs (NAWMBA) members yesterday at the PepsiCo Forum. Think of speed dating but for a job, and you get speed networking. It was a great experience and by the end of it I could see my comfort level increasing at delivering my pitch without the umms and aahs.

On a different note, I finally managed to check off one thing on will-do-at-Darden list – write for the Cold Call Chronicle, our very own student run newsletter. It’s not a big article and definitely poorer in comparison to the quality of the other articles on the newsletter, but it makes me feel like I’m contributing to the Darden society and it’s a good feeling.

Spinning off a completely unrelated stream of thought, I had to go to UVA hospital yesterday to visit a classmate who’s been there all week. I looked around to see if it really looked like the hospitals they show on Scrubs and Grey’s Anatomy. It did really look like that, and had Doogie Howser look-alike residents walking around too! Get well soon, AO; Section D misses you big time.


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