Monday, April 27, 2009

A is for Awesome Weather

The weather in the Ville has been nothing short of brilliantly awesome this past weekend and spilling on to this week. While I chose not to go to the Foxfield Races, you can read all about the eagerly awaited annual rituals that took place this past weekend right here. Since I’m a spoilt bschool brat who can’t handle regular 2 days weekends anymore, I decided I needed to spend the weekend on my own terms (as opposed to the terms dictated by my calendar). So I chose to spend most of it at school, getting some work out of the way! This was also reunion weekend, so Darden alums and families were out and about the grounds. Whenever I would walk around the hallways to get my coffee, I would wonder if I’ll be back in school in five years’ time for my own reunion, what my life would look like, professionally and personally…

But I digress! This afternoon, Sania (who, by the way, does not think I'm crazy anymore), JD and I decided to catch some salad lunch together and sit outdoors to enjoy the weather. After we topped our lunch boxes from Abbott Dining, we headed out to Flagler Courtyard to sit on the grass under the tree. Great lunch and conversation later, Sania was sprawled out on the grass, just about ready to take a nap, her 2:45 class all but forgotten, JD had missed her ELA meeting and I had convinced myself that I did not care about the Marketing assignment that was screaming for my immediate attention! It was great to see students out and about, and to catch up with the girls.

But soon enough we had to move our lazy behinds off the grass and back into the student building to catch up with our schedules. Sigh, good weather or not, inside the student building, it’s life as usual! One week to go before finals and summer and I still don’t have an internship. Well, at least the weather’s in a good mood!

Monday, April 20, 2009

All about the people

There’s this adage that gets thrown at you ever so often: your network is a measure of your net worth. It’s a great little note to tuck away at the back of your head as you speed through business school and I guess life in general.

Last week we had to have an emergency phone call with our client for the Enterprise Leadership Audit (ELA) we’re doing for our OB (here it’s called Leading Organizations or LO) class. And we needed some help. Particularly, our client wanted to know what they would get out of our ELA since the project involved significant time investment from them. Our own LO professor was on leave that day and we did not know where to go. So we checked the faculty directory for the LO faculty closest to where we were standing and went to his office. Prof Quinn was not our professor, had never taught any of us, and he was just leaving for lunch. When he heard of our problem, he took a good twenty minutes to sit down and answer our questions. He made sure we did not leave until we were comfortable with what we needed to know. Needless to say our call was a success.

Last week, we had a session with some second year students on advice on electives for the second year. We got great and candid advice. We also got some very very practical advice. Some encouraged us to view the subjects as experiences, other made the case for ensuring we got all round knowledge – we were going to be in business school just once and we wanted to make sure we learnt all we could. For me the best advice came at the end – make sure there is time for recruiting because when you graduate you will value having a job more than you will value having an A in the most difficult course in Darden. At the farewell party the Indian FYs threw the Indian SYs, a lot of us FYs wished we had had more time to get to know the fun bunch that they were.

What can I say about this awesome support system I have in my section D friends that will possibly do them justice? All sections got together last week in their section classrooms to talk about how they can help those classmates that were still looking for internships. Although at first it was hard to raise my hand and ask for help, I’m glad I did it because I found so much support – not just hugs and we’re-all-here-for-yous but also contacts – I got a bunch of emails from classmates with contacts that I could send my resume to. For those that emailed me and are reading this: I will get back to you soon – I’ve been down with the flu all weekend and been pretty zoned out the whole time. But THANKYOU! Your support means a lot.

The best thing about this network from school is the extended network you get into by way of partners. I’ve met some fantastic partners – JFA’s wife is probably an honorary Darden student already and his super cute kid has probably already reserved his place in Darden’s class of 2035! I’ve been out of action this past weekend because of a nasty bout of flu and after a day of silence from sitting at home (that does not bode well with me), I had surprise visitors yesterday evening – AK and his fiancé, N, who had come over to make dinner for me, and Sania who came to add some much needed cheer! Gotta love the girlfriends!

To anyone who’s starting grad school this year: invest in the relationships, they make the ride so much fun.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Ghost of TommyJ

One of the best things about being in a university as old and as rich in heritage as UVA is all the folklore that goes with the history. I am almost embarrassed to admit that I have never been to the more famous landmarks of UVA like the Lawn or the Rotunda, but this morning in the UVA magazine email there was an interesting article about the residences in the Lawn area that are reserved for the exceptional members of the student body at UVA. There were some students that occupied the rooms that someone from their family had occupied years ago, others talked about opening their doors to curious tourists to talk about the history of the Lawn residences. Read that piece here.

One of the traditions that we were informed about in our first week at Darden was the “ghost” of Thomas Jefferson, the founding father of UVA and affectionately referred to as TommyJ or TJ, that roamed the grounds of the University. Apparently he had been spotted at Darden many times. In the last nine months, I’ve spent way more hours lounging in the Piano Room or Café 67 or the learning team rooms than I care to admit, but never had I spotted TommyJ until a couple of Thursdays ago. The ghost is not really a specter. He is a man (sorry to disappoint) who dresses up as TommyJ (and does a really good job of it if all the portraits of TommyJ do him any justice) and walks around the grounds. He seems to like visiting Darden on Thursdays when the lights dim down earlier in the evening as the school empties out after a Cold Call with people heading out to TNDC to begin their weekend.

The first time I spotted TommyJ, I was sitting in one of those oversized armchairs in the Piano Room and someone was tinkering with the grand piano, playing a tune I didn’t recognize but sounding good nevertheless. TommyJ walked down from the mailbox area, across PepsiCo, towards Saunders Hall and the entrance.

Jefferson lives among us and in every corner of this beautiful town. All the buildings here are designed in the same theme as Jefferson designed it so many years ago. Monticello, his home, is a huge tourist attraction. At Darden, we even have his statue over by the fountain on Flagler Courtyard, from where he observes the hustle and bustle in the student and faculty buildings.

I spotted TommyJ again last Thursday as a few of us were hanging out at the Piano Room after the Easter Cold Call. Secretly I was glad to discover he wasn’t a figment of my overworked imagination! I think it’s kind of comforting to know he walks around, watching over his University.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Building (more than just) Goodness in April

So it’s a Saturday and at 7:30AM when I should be fast asleep in bed, I was dressed in jeans, a bright blue BGiA tee and boots and was trudging up Massie Road towards JulyDream’s apartment. Not a dream this! I and 25 other Darden students were headed out to the house of Sally Burton for the annual BGiA or Building Goodness in April build day.

The BGIA is a voluntary foundation that partners with local contractors and students from Darden to help in community construction and restructuring projects. This year there were eleven projects in all – 2 parks and 9 houses. A few months earlier, house captains scoured the C’ville countryside to identify projects. A number of inspections later, they determined the scope of the operations for build day and identified the number of hands they would need, in addition to arranging for local contractors. The fund raising for this event took place a few months ago, with students auctioning anything from a self-affirming keg party to a homecooked Indian meal for four to a month of free coffee at Hot Cakes. Pre-build day evening, all volunteers met their teams to get on the same page for logistics and what exactly was expected of them the next day. We also got our BGiA tees and posed for pictures!

That evening, after the pre-build meeting, a few friends and I headed out for our backwards dinner – coffee and cake followed by dinner and then more coffee – and I turned in by midnight (my definition of an early night) in preparation for the work that awaited the next day.

On Build Day, we drove down to our site and began work at 8:30A. I started with helping rake the yard and collecting all the junk into the two large dumpsters we had – those were empty that morning but piled high by evening. Then we emptied the house of all furniture and artifacts, cleaned the outside and inside, installed windows, plumbing, bathroom fixtures, a porch, a deck and peeled off the paint on all surfaces. Then we proceeded to apply fresh paint and give the house some new fixtures. We also gave Ms. Burton a new bed! I also managed to paint over one of her chickens!

This was a humbling experience. Ms. Burton had been an analyst at Merrill back in her hey days and as we cleaned through the layers of grime and dust on what were once very expensive and tasteful furniture, we couldn’t help but wonder how she descended to the state of neglect that she was in currently. It depressed us even more to know that she had no family save for her chickens, dogs and horses. The irony of her previous occupation – something that at least 40% of my incoming class had aspired to do last summer when Wall Street still “existed” – was not lost on any of us.

We wrapped up operations by 8P and headed home for a much needed shower. Right after that we all converged at the Wild Wings Café for the after-party where we shared pictures and experiences over some Bud and Tostitos and brownies. It was definitely a day spent well…
Three cheers to PR, TW and MV, the house captains for our project, for the food, drinks, fun and for letting us help!

Here's a video:

The team and Sally on the newly built porch in front of her renovated house.

The BGiA team on pre-build day.

More pictures at JulyDream.


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