Friday, November 12, 2010

The End of a Long Journey

... And the beginning of a new one.

I am writing this from LAX as I wait for my flight to San Francisco. Chances are I will continue this on my flight (yay for free wi-fi) and then continue some more from San Francisco. There is a lot to say, and I’m hoping to make up for the silence of the past couple of months. I board this flight today with some small degree of trepidation but also with a fair amount adrenaline rush that can only come at the beginning of a new adventure. I’ve lost of how many flights I’ve boarded in the last six months but I can tell you that this is the sixth city I will be heading to in as many months and hopefully I’ll stay here for a while. As I checked in my mammoth suitcase at the curbside check in a while ago I thought to myself that I’d feel very suicidal if I had to lug it through another airport any time soon! Thankfully it is the end of a long journey that began at Charlottesville and took me to multiple places and people… but it is over finally.

From having zero job-offers to finally getting something I was so passionate about (but didn't realize until epiphany struck), life has changed indeed! In my obsessive search for the perfect job over the past two years (and anyone who has been through the process will tell you it’s a two year process), I have discovered much about myself and not all of it has been flattering. But all of it helped me narrow and broaden my search as the situation demanded. That discovery helped shape my final decision and the subsequent move from the east coast to the w(best!

It is normal to be job-search-obsessed in business school. I thought it was just my class reacting to the havoc the economy wrecked on us. But as it turns out, it is an affliction of every bschool student no matter what the economic climate is. And dutifully job-search obsessed though I was, I will openly admit that it was not without a large dose of self-doubt and the road was not always clean and clear. I will also admit that my ultimate success was not so much hard work as it was just sheer luck. And that is what makes the “success” so hard to celebrate. There are others in my class – some close friends too – that still haven’t found their offers and I know that the difference between them and me today is just dumb luck, a fortnight and nothing more.

I was discussing with a classmate today about our respective job searches and while he has found success too, we both had to acknowledge that we owed our success and sanity to our network of personal and professional contacts. Our alumni base had been very generous to us during our search process, even if just with advice and words of encouragement. Our classmates at Darden have been great with all the support, the couch to crash on or even just over the phone with all the positive cheer.

While my life moving forward is very different from the way I had envisioned it during the summer of 2008, I am pleasantly surprised and very thankful for the way it did turn out. Don’t punch me in the face, but sometimes you just have to trust the process!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

On being desi

Earlier this year, I spent a weekend in DC with a couple my family knows well, who have been like second parents to me while at C’ville. Over filter coffee (Tamil style) one of the mornings, I got to talking about their story of how they came here so many years ago, met and married each other and now had a full, happy life in this country. I wondered who had been their support system when they first moved here, at a time when Indians in America were concentrated in the Universities and the Valley and were not as ubiquitous as today; I had them, and over my three years in America, various other people, who have been my support system to help me settle down. I wondered who was there for them, whether they brought a year’s worth of tamarind from India for sambar and special idli rice and even their filter coffee powder!

Since my move to Florida, I had not cooked anything Indian, and had survived on fruits and pasta and ramen noodles… nothing wrong with it, but when I started craving curries and rotis I knew I had to fix it. At one of my fruit-buying trips at the local Publix, I spotted an Indian. I struck up conversation with him and asked him to give me directions to the Indian store. And as a freebie, he threw in directions to the Indian temple too! So this morning I drove up to the Indian store and within ten minutes I had a basket full of frozen rotis and daals and spices. I got to talking with the store owner and she offered to give me ideas on all the spices and stuff I would need to get my kitchen started. As I browsed through the aisles (there were just two), I savored the sound of all the people shopping there and the various languages they were conversing in.

I have always believed that as someone who cooks a lot Indian food at home, I wouldn’t want to go to an Indian restaurant on the weekends when I eat out. By that same principle, I’ve always tried to get to know non-desi folk at school/work because I rationalized that I left India to get to know people of the world. But today, as I perused the aisles of the store, I savored the little India around me, enjoyed speaking Hindi with the people there and felt comfort and at home for the first time at an Indian store.

I guess no matter how much we try to acclimatize ourselves to our new “home” land – America or Argentina or anywhere else – we never really stop being desi… You could suppress the desi-ness but it comes out in the least expected places and times… sometimes all it takes is the sight of bhindi (okra) and you can almost smell it frying in your kitchen in India. To my desh on its 64th year of Independence, I hope you know that your influence stays strong even so far away.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

A Third Summer

This past weekend I moved to Florida to begin work with a company on a short-term basis. While the move proved more difficult that I had expected – more on that soon – I was struck by just how different the weather here is compared to any of the places I’ve lived at in this country. After a dry, hot start-of-summer at the Ville and a hot-by-day-cool-by-night summer at southern California, the heat and humidity and thunder storm filled weather of Ft Lauderdale is quite a change… and quite reminiscent of Madras.

The move here itself was very last minute – due completely to my own denial that the vacation with the sister had to end! – and therefore not as smooth as I would have liked. My achievement for the week would probably be successfully navigating from my hotel to the office without the GPS and without getting lost! Work, on the other hand, is pretty fast paced and energizing, which is great! I have been on the job for three days now and I am already staffed on an engagement and have deliverables due pretty soon! Work hours are long, compared to any of the places I have worked at before, and I am still trying to squelch the temptation to pack up at 6pm!

Personally though, the move has been challenging. For the first time, I am struck by how much I have relied on my social network and support systems in the past. I am not all alone here – MV, a fellow Section D’er, and her fiance – live/work in Miami and have been a phenomenal source of help and support, especially in the first couple of days after I landed here. But I miss my sister and miss eating healthy home cooked meals. But maybe I should use the time back on the east coast to do a spot of travelling… definitely something to work on.

(obligatory iPhone picture for this post coming soon - how about a thunderstorm?)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Lament on Leaving... and Arriving

Since I last wrote, I’ve disposed of more than eighty percent of everything I owned in Charlottesville – things known and unknown – having managed to fit the remaining twenty percent into two suitcases and backpack and made my way across the breadth of this country to California. I miss Charlottesville and everything about it, most of all, the comfort of putting one foot before the other and knowing exactly where I am going.

And then there’s California! Although it’s always great to go back to the Bay Area, SoCal’s a whole different ball game altogether. Hanging out with family is always great and is the reason I’m here to start with. I’m also having a ton of fun playing tourist and although I’m yet to spot a celebrity I take comfort in the fact that I wouldn’t be able to distinguish a celebrity if I sat next to one in a restaurant, since everyone here seems so umm… dressed up all the time! My need to disconnect (something I’d been wanting to do since I got back from Beach Week) has resulted in me not having contacted my friends in the area yet, but I’ll get to it eventually I know.

I’ve been trying to acclimatize myself to normal life, whatever that means. Actually that’s exactly my problem, I’m not sure I know what normal life means. I tried picking up my reading habit again, except that in the two years I’ve been out of the books-scene, it seems to have changed a whole lot. I am trying to get my hands on some fiction because I don’t want to read anything that reminds me of a HBS case, and I can’t find anything on the bestsellers list that doesn’t involve vampires and murder. I think I’ll eventually give up and read the Niall Ferguson book, The Ascent of Money, that’s staring at me from my sister’s desk.

I’ve enjoyed exploring Los Angeles and the surrounding areas and seeing a lot of places that are familiar from the movies. My Universal Studios visit is still pending (the sun here has been scorching), however I have enjoyed going to the Walk of Fame area immenseley (and went there more than once!). No prizes for guessing which star had the most number of visitors around it at any given time.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

(End of a) Beginning of the End*

For the past week or so I have been living the retired life right here in Charlottesville. Well retired might be inappropriate, more like the job-seeker’s life. Every day I drink my morning tea in front of my laptop as I catch up with email, make my incredibly long to do list and post something from my apartment for sale on craigslist.

I experiment with my breakfast – because it’s my favorite meal of the day – and a good breakfast of pancakes and fruit puts me in just the right mood to tackle the day. And then I come to my “office”. There is a bunch of us that comes to school every day religiously to hole up in an LT room and work on looking for work. It’s like going to the office – it builds the discipline of sitting in one place for hours to get the job done, and on coffee breaks I control the calories by walking past the classrooms and the tables laden with delicious food for the MBA for Execs people and hanging out with the other office-goers.

Allow me to whine a little please. I hate packing. Phew, there it’s off my chest. I love travelling don’t get me wrong, and I would happily brag that I can pack real quick when I have to do a trip. But packing for moving is absolutely a nightmare, no matter how many times you’ve done it before (and I have unfortunately done it too many times). I also have started to believe that perhaps my suitcases shrank while they were in the closet these past two years!

I leave C’ville at the end of this month because my lease ends and it doesn’t make sense to hold on to this place any longer. Everyone’s leaving and it makes me sad to watch them go… with some people I feel like I may never see them again and it’s scary and sad all at the same time. I am heading to SoCal first to spend some time with my sister and hope the family-treatment will help settle the chaos that my mind has been these past few weeks. I always have fun when I hang out with my sister and this time we’re planning a west coast road trip which will be great. I’ll move to the bay area next month and just take it from there.

But before all that is the mammoth weekend of packing that’s coming up tomorrow. Wish me luck.

*inspired by this Bon Jovi song called Welcome To Wherever You Are.

Monday, May 31, 2010

My own C'ville Goodbye Tour

In my last post I wrote about wanting to show my parents around C’ville and all the places I hung out at during my two years here. Last week, we did just that and then some more. I took my parents to eat at some of my favorite joints here, showed them the sights and sounds of some places that were almost second home to me and then also took them to a few places I hadn’t been to for lack of time. From favorite restaurants to hole-in-the-wall crepe joints to the vineyards and the caverns... it's been a week full of picture taking and playing the tour guide!

In addition to showing them around, I have also been doing a few goodbye lunches/dinners/coffees/breakfasts when I can, which has been difficult with them around but I still try. I think the one ritual I will really absolutely miss in “the real world” would be my Sunday brunch/breakfasts (not so much Sunday after school, since everyday has been Sunday!). Just like this morning, I had a wonderful brunch with Oren and some of my other favorite Darden ppl and I tried to stay in denial that I won’t get that again – unless we all turned up reunion (in which case, Oren, can we go to Blue Glass Grill please?) which is a year from now.

I always knew I was lucky to be here in this beautiful town but more importantly among these wonderful people… in fact, I have never found myself among so many like-minded, likable people and as Prof. John Colley told us on our last day of GMTA class, it doesn’t get any better than this. And as I show my parents around and try to relive my out-of-class experiences from the two years, I feel like this is my own personal goodbye tour of C’ville.

My parents leave for California in a week’s time after which I begin my own process of moving there, selling my stuff and emptying out my apartment into my two suitcases and a backpack. I want to keep everything, yet I know I can’t. I am yet to de-Dardenize my laptop – archive emails and documents – and honestly, I’m just procrastinating.

Here’s a picture of breakfast this morning before the Roots left C’ville – that's right, Mimosas with breakfast, because we can!

Monday, May 24, 2010


The view from the day after

600 cases, 8 quarters, countless cold calls, late nights and TNDCs later I am finally an MBA.
Yesterday the Full Time MBA Class of 2010 at Darden graduated, under the encouraging gaze of Thomas Jefferson’s statue at Flagler Courtyard and under a blue-gray sky that threatened to spill over any moment.

First we had the main graduation ceremony at The Lawn in Central Grounds (UVA) where the whole university’s graduating class (ie from all departments) gathered to take their degrees. After a lot of balloon-flying, clapping and hooting, we were finally allowed to shift our tassels from the right side (no degree) to the left (degree bestowed). It was a great feeling to be sitting in that historic place and to know that I will forever be an alumnus of this beautiful and historically and intellectually rich university. From there on, it was on to Darden for our ceremony and to receive the diploma. As I sat there and clapped for all my classmates getting their degrees and later walked up to take my own, it dawned on me that the umbilical cord was finally being cut, and we were free to go out into the world to do everything we dreamt of when we came here.

We went to the grand staircase outside Saunders Hall right after the ceremony to take our picture and then it was pictures time with the family, friends and whoever we could find. One last grand Darden bagged lunch later, I was home.

After a lot of confusion on rain or not, I was so happy that the rain decided to wait until after the ceremony. In fact, as we finished our pictures at the grand staircase, the first big drops of rain started to fall and by the time my family and I made it back to Ivy, it was pouring in earnest, as it can do only in Charlottesville.

I’ve had a night to sleep over this new status as an MBA and Darden alumnus. Somehow it refuses to sink in. I woke up this morning expecting to feel different, but I was disappointed. I was the same person, still unable to function without my morning tea, still basking in the wonder of having a United States driver’s license and still very much in love with Arch’s FroYo! Somewhere inside me I know I’m now different, much better than the person I came here as, two years ago. On the outside I am still me, cringing that yet another goodbye is here, wondering when the stability I have craved for but always avoided will come to my life.

This morning I earnestly missed my Darden friends, wished I had another day of trudging through the school for a class, yearned to call some folks for coffee at our favorite coffee shop at Barracks Road and as I type this out, I’d rather be hanging out at Italian Villa cracking jokes with the gang than in my room going to bed before midnight. Real life calls, but I will always treasure the friendships and adventures this place has allowed me to have.

This morning, as I drove my parents around my favorite places in C’ville, I couldn’t help but think about all the people in my life that made this incredible journey possible. From support, to essay reviews, to just their time on the phone/messenger/person when I needed it. The list is too long, but this roll of paper that is my diploma would not have been possible without their support.

Dear Darden, you will be missed, but I will cherish the title of being a Darden alumnus for as long as I live.

Beach Week at the OBX*

*post backlog - late post
I spent the last 5 days of my Darden life at the Outer Banks in North Carolina on the Darden week-before-graduation tradition known as Beach Week. The whole class heads down to Nags Head and rents houses by the beach. It’s a week of relaxing, partying, hanging out with classmates for perhaps the last time. It’s the last week of the crazy lifestyle that business school has been. And it didn’t disappoint. After the mad pace of the last two years, my five days at OBX were just the opposite, from early morning tea on the patio gazing at the sea, to late night movies and wine with breakfast!

I was in a five bedroom house with a few other people. We had a large living room, fully equipped kitchen, a pool, hot tub and plenty of great views of the ocean. We spent our time between the various houses, cooking and eating and hanging out by the water… One day we went to explore some sand dunes but for the most part we lay by the waters (pool, hot tub, beach) and hung out in other ppl’s houses playing board games or cooking/eating.

While the first few days were cloudy, rainy and gloomy – best way to enjoy a seriously dangerous LASA party – the last two days were beautifully sunny and going by the tan I returned with, we really made full use of those days. By the last night at OBX, my housemates and I decided to skip the last official Darden party at the Pit, and stayed home for a pyjamas and movie night.

We drove back via Richmond late on Thursday and stopped for dinner at the Capital Ale House – a place I highly recommend for their large variety of beers. We also decided to surprise a friend’s boyfriend at the airport.

My folks get in town Friday night, just as graduation festivities begin at Darden. Graduation! Can you believe it? I can’t!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Pearl Jammed!

In what has been a fantastic year – musically – for me, I managed to get another item checked on my wishlist! Yesterday I - along with regular concert goer and friend Nacho and a Peruvian exchange student - went to watch one of my favorite bands, Pearl Jam, live in concert as part of their Backspacer Tour at Jiffy Lube Live (formerly Nissan Pavilion) at Bristow VA.

Expensive ticket rates and a quickly falling cash balance had me wavering on the decision to attend this concert. Back in undergrad – which seems like a whole different era ago – I’d sworn to a friend that if either of us ever had the opportunity to attend a Pearl Jam concert the person would make it and send the other a picture of the ticket stub! While I have been out of touch with that friend, the temptation to experience something like this was too tempting. SO I gave up, asked the voice of good sense to shut it, and bought my ticket to go; and it was the best decision I could have made!

Eddie Vedder and his lead guitarist, Mike McCready, were on a roll yesterday. They played a lot of songs from the Ten album, which made me and the crowd really happy, in addition to some of my favorite tracks from the avocado album. Eddie Vedder talked about Haiti, Sean Penn, Goldman Sachs and aeroplanes in between the power packed performances. I think Mike McCready clearly stole the show with the awesome guitar solos. My favorite moments were when he played the guitar solo for one of the songs holding the guitar behind his neck… and the 8-minute rendition of Black.

I have to also touch upon the arena and the overall experience. It was the atmosphere I had read about and watched on tv. Tailgating before and after the concert, lots of colored hair, lots of alcohol (and some funky smelling cigarette-things too) and general rock-spirit. Although older now since my days of wanting to do this, it was great to just watch all of this first hand. The arena was smaller, with plenty of parking and vast expanses of grass.

The music enthusiast Pearl Jam fan in me was very very happy yesterday!

Set List: Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town, World Wide Suicide, Got Some, Brain Of J, Save You, Given To Fly, Present Tense, Down, Unthought Known, Insignificance, Even Flow, Comatose, Faithfull, All Those Yesterdays, Black, The Fixer, Do The Evolution.
Encore 1: The End, Just Breathe, Garden, Why Go, Wasted Reprise, Life Wasted, Blood / Atomic Dog.
Encore 2: Better Man / Save it for Later, Spin The Black Circle, Alive, Sonic Reducer, Yellow Ledbetter.

Red to Green

The importance of being idle.
It's been nearly a fortnight since I’ve been done with school. Last Monday I turned in all my papers and projects and finals. Last Monday, for the first time in two years, I turned my GTalk chat status to green. And that’s significant. You see, after being busy for two years, with always something or the other to look forward to, it is really weird to see nothing on my outlook calendar now (except golf lessons and social engagements).

I spent the first few days of freedom not knowing what to do and just really getting annoying with the slow pace of the clock ticking! A group of us have begun golf lessons but the rains have been ruining our plans for the last three days now. Several brunches, dinners, coffees later, I see my cash reserves depleting faster than I can control. I have also been trying to make sense of all the stuff I have collected over my two years here, all the way from the four foot stack of cases and course packs, to tee shirts to magazines and a bunch of other odds and ends. It’s unbelievable how much stuff I’ve accumulated. I discovered things in my closet that I had forgotten I had. Darden’s last Outreach program of the year was the clothes and food drive and I managed to give away a bunch of gently used shirts and sweaters away – I figured if I had not worn them in the last year, I probably was not going to miss them either!

This week a classmate organized what he called the Charlottesville Goodbye Tour – a week of dining at restaurants in the town that we have not been to in the last two years (mostly out of budget constraints). And although I couldn’t make it all the evenings, I had the opportunity to dine (maybe for the last time) at one of my favorite places at the downtown mall.

Ivy Gardens already seems quieter and lonelier, with the number of UHauls pulling up as people move. Facebook is full of people finding apartments and basically setting themselves up for the transition to the adult world. While I am looking forward to it myself – it would be great to have a paycheck – the weight of the job search and the uncertainty has been causing a good deal of stress.

The family arrives in town for graduation next week. I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with them this time around, showing them places of significance from my two glorious years here at the Ville.

The Veggie Tower dish at Bizou, Downtown Mall

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Last Day of Class

Today was my last day of classes at Darden. My brain refuses to process that the madness is over – no more three cases a night, excel models, hanging out in the LT rooms trying to hammer out a model worthy of a cold call. The ride’s been hard but boy has it been good! This experience comes highly recommended for anyone looking for a complete outside-the-comfort-zone experience in business school.

There will be room for reflections and wrap-ups later. I am on my way to the last Cold Call (social) of the year to be followed by the final deliverable of the Leadership and Ethics Through Theater class, which is a play they are staging this evening at Abbott Auditorium.

I couldn’t bring myself not to have this video from the Follies last week (by my classmate Shepro) on my blog. It was a great way to wrap up Follies and had many students in tears. Since then we’ve all watched that video on YouTube multiple times; today, as farewell to students in my General Managers Taking Action class, our professors played this video for us (and then took the whole class out to lunch at The Tavern!).

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Home Stretch - Last Week.5 of Class!

We’re on the last week and a half of classes here at Darden. And things have never been crazier! Trying to find time on people’s calendars for an hour long meeting to discuss our project has been impossible! We’ve come to the stage where we are – counter-productively perhaps – splitting up and meeting in batches to get our work done. It’s that insane out here!

Meanwhile Q4 – about which I haven’t written much lately – has been awesome fun from the academic standpoint. Yeah you’re thinking, who even goes to classes anymore in Q4. But trust me, all of us do, and all of us are engaged and MOST of us are reading our cases! I’m doing four classes – Data Analysis and Optimization (awesome!)with Casey,one of my favorite Darden professors, Marketing Analytics (love it!), General Managers Taking Action (carried forward from last quarter) and Hot Topics in Ops & Technology, which is another speaker class and is my third class with Prof Tim Laseter. I absolutely love my courses this quarter and I feel like I’m getting so much out of my ‘technical’ (ie spreadsheet) courses that I get a real kick out of ensuring I'm fully prepared for these classes! This quarter I have also officially relinquished all my club responsibilities at DSAS and the Blog Club making it hard to remain in denial about leaving this place.

Of course, since this is Darden, if you’re working your brain off at school, you’re also socializing like crazy and Q4 is the pinnacle of it all. Dinners and I-got-a-job celebrations are spilling over into the weekday evenings and the result of it is that every day I push the limit on just how late I can wake up in the mornings and STILL make it to my classes! And I haven’t been late to a single one of my 8AMs (although I did ‘forget’ to wake up for one).

The weather has been kind of erratic, oscillating between cold, rainy and sunny and the pollen count super high so Halls and tissues and sniffles are commonplace these days. I think we’ve all just decided we’re going to carry a jacket to school anyway, just in case! We have concluded our headshots for the Yearbook, pledges for the class gift (100% of our class pledged!) and ordered for our diploma frames – so yeah I guess we’re definitely getting out of here soon!

This weekend is the Alumni Reunion weekend and there’s a festive spirit going on in Flagler, with the tent put up and the banners up. Again, it reminds me of last summer when I watched the Class of 2009 gear up for graduation. And it signals to me that the end is near. In fact, same day next month I will be wearing the cap and gown and getting my diploma. And I still remember sitting on the other side of this great two year experience wondering if I would make it out of here in one piece.

I’m putting up these pictures I took on my phone a few weekends ago when the weather was awesome and I was sitting by TJ’s fountain and contemplating life, the universe and everything in between. That’s correct, I still don’t have an offer and I’ve hit the panic button.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Getting inside The Circle

Last Monday I did something I’ve never done before! I rushed home from class last Monday, ate a tub of Yoplait Lemon Parfait for lunch as I walked from my apartment to that of the Costas – I was a bundle of excitement, that’s for sure!

The Costas, Nacho and I were heading for DC to watch Bon Jovi perform at the Verizon Center as part of their The Circle tour. We recruited one more SY to come with us and headed to DC from Charlottesville. We parked close to the Verizon Center and the overwhelming majority of men in the group ensured we headed to Hooters for lunch – I’d never been there before and as the Costas like to joke, my American experience was incomplete without a visit!

The concert itself was fantastic. In fact I have no trouble admitting it was the best concert experience of my life! Jon Bon Jovi was my first crush – and I cannot watch the music video for “Keep The Faith” on YouTube without literally holding my breath and reliving that sense of awe I felt when I first saw it way back in 1992. Back then, Jon Bon Jovi and the crew – funky hairdo, pierced ears, superman tattoo, skinny jeans and Richie Sambora’s guitar solo on Brooklyn Bridge – represented everything cool in the world! That crush on Jon Bon Jovi stayed true despite the many hairdo changes, and evolution of their music from hard hitting head banging rock to ballads and back again to the guitar-resurrecting new album. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see these guys in flesh and blood, as you can probably tell by now!

Bon Jovi played in Milwaukee a couple of weeks after I landed in Madison a couple of years ago. At the time I couldn’t go for a bunch of different reasons – so I made sure I got inside the circle this time, buying my tickets well in advance! The venue was packed and the crowd was on its feet the whole time – Jon made sure they stayed that way. If there was ever a thought that they’d gotten old, I think this concert just proved it wrong.

I became a Bon Jovi fan all over again! The hair's still cool and so are the tattoos - what's cooler is the music!

Set List: Happy Now, We Weren’t Born to Follow, Bad Name, Whole Lot of Leavin’, Born to be my Baby, Lost Highway, When We Were Beautiful, Superman Tonight, We Got It Going On, Bad Medicine (with a Roadhouse Blues interlude), It’s My Life, Lay Your Hands on Me (by Richie Sambora), Hallelujah, I’ll Be There For You, Something for the Pain, Someday I’ll be Saturday Night, Keep The Faith, Work for the OWrking Man, Who Says You Can’t Go Home, Love’s the Only Rule
Encore: Runaway, Wanted Dead or Alive, Livin’ on a Prayer

And here's the video that started it all for me!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Passing the baton

A few months ago, a new club was born at Darden, the Darden South Asia Society (DSAS). It took over a year’s worth of work in petitioning and designing the vision and mission of the club; but finally the approvals were obtained and we held elections to determine the first ever leadership team of DSAS. In the few months that we have been in the team, we have tried to give more direction to the club by holding events as promised in our petition but by also involving ourselves closely with the Career center and Admissions.

And then a few weeks ago, we held elections to select the team we would hand over to as we leave Darden. This weekend IJ, club president of DSAS hosted the present and future leadership team at his place for a “retreat” where the current team appraised the incoming team about our workings, events and vision. Tomorrow, we will hold our first weekly meeting with the new leadership, as we begin to hand over responsibilities to them.

One of the things we struggled with in our brief stint as the leadership team was choosing what we could achieve in the limited time before end of the year. We wanted to do everything, but often times we had to reign in our enthusiasm for the sake of practicality. It was great to hand over those ideas to the incoming team – unlike us they have a whole academic year to take the club a notch further.

In passing the baton over to the first year students, we are giving away something we planned and envisioned for the South Asian community at Darden. We wanted to create a club that not only organized the famous annual Bollywood Party or inter-school cricket tournaments but also one that provided career and academic support and mentoring to incoming South Asian students. But this was not a club targeted solely at the South Asians, as our membership list would testify. With the region becoming the hot bed of business, we wanted to use the club as a platform to help the greater Darden/UVA community understand the intricacies of doing business in South Asia. In my admittedly biased opinion, I believe we have achieved everything we set out to, and we still have events in the pipeline!

Here’s a memento IJ handmade for us – needless to say, it has the pride of place in my room.

For information on DSAS, visit our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter or contact us at

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Raindrops on green

I guess it’s safe to say that spring has finally arrived in Virginia. There’s so much of the green that’s suddenly visible and it’s as though the leaves and flowers are poking their heads out in cautious optimism.

At Darden, I’ve completed my third quarter and I’m on the home stretch now, the last quarter before I graduate. I took a one-week course at spring break – no GBE for me this year! I decided to take this course on marketing called Integrated Marketing Communications – a grueling one week later, I have credits for one entire quarter-long course in my kitty, thus allowing me to free up some time next quarter where I just have to take four courses to fulfill my credit requirements to graduate. I’m suddenly struck by how the word graduate/graduation has already appeared in this post more than once! It’s funny how quickly time flies.

My IMC course was a week well spent and helped me cement some of the things I learnt during my internship last summer. Our final deliverable for the course was an integrated marketing campaign for one of two brands: Levi’s jeans and Silk soya milk. I was wonderstruck by how creative my classmates are and the quality of work I saw in the final presentations was just phenomenal! The course itself was really comprehensive and we had some fantastic guest speakers from the ad-world; the course itself was co-taught by ex-CMOs of big name CPG firms. We did an interesting case on a vodka company and also had a vodka tasting session for that, in addition to plenty of tins of peanuts and oreos being passed around!

I am trying to pick my courses for the next quarter and like a hoarder, I want to take everything! Unfortunately, I can do no more than four. I could overload if I wanted to, but I need to up the game on recruiting because being without an offer feels like a ticking time bomb because of visa stipulations. At this time I have three courses set and locked in, and I am trying to pick between three courses for the fourth one.

We’ve seen so much sun this week (and some rain too) and much as I love it, I can’t help but think about how the end is near. The sun and the warmth remind me of the end as much as they do of the beginning: when you come to C’ville in the fall as a first year student, you see the same brilliant blue sky as you do in the summer on the day you graduate.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The sound of the Stradivarius – Joshua Bell Live

A few years ago I posted this link on this blog. It was an article in the Washington Post by Gene Weingarten, columnist, who wrote a regular feature titled Pearls Before Breakfast. In the article he conducted a social experiment of sorts – if a world famous musician played in a public place – the L’Enfant Plaza at DC – dressed like any other mendicant, what would you do? Would you stop to listen? Would you leave some money? Would you notice at all? I loved the premise of the article and even more than that, I loved how the author used language to describe Joshua Bell and his performance. Since then I’ve wanted to watch the performance myself.

Joshua Bell performed at the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville yesterday. And I found out just by accident. But I went all the same, with SZ who’s a musician herself. Joshua Bell was accompanied on the piano by Jeremy Denk, who I’d never heard of before and was really really good! There was a lot of chemistry between the two men and their instruments conversed with each other, sometimes leading and sometimes following. Joshua Bell was every bit the way he was described in that article – he was spirited and animated in the way he played his violin, he rocked from side to side, stood on his tip toes, stamped his feet, plucked the strings of his violin… I don’t know a ton about classical music, but I loved how he kept the audience engaged by the theatrics. His pianist was much the same and they took cues from each other’s body language. And I learnt something new about performance etiquette – no one coughed/sneezed/sniffled while he played, saving it for the silence between sequences. The encore was a beautiful little piece by Fritz Kreisler based on a composition by Dvorak.

SZ and I grabbed some dinner at the downtown mall before heading in for the concert. All in all, a wonderful evening, with great company, and the excitement that comes with seeing the flesh and blood version of something I read about three years ago.

Update: Here's a review of the concert from a local newspaper, The Hook. I think the writer does more justice than I did with this post! Hat tip to SZ.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Guest Post - Michael Goff, D'2010 on Innovation

I’ve been meaning to host a guest blogger for some time now so I’m very happy to welcome Mike onto this space. I’ve long felt that although the 16 of us bloggers are pretty cool there are yet some other cool people we’ve known here that aren’t out on the blogosphere. It’s only fitting that my first ever guest blogger is someone I’m so fond of and so proud of. He's always sporting an infectious grin and it’s hard not to be impressed by his intelligence and his good humor. Mike thanks a bunch for doing this!

I know Mike through our one semester spent together in Section 5 in the first year. He’s wicked smart and always has great contributions in class, but he’s also a really cool guy outside of class. Mike’s one of the many double-Hoos at Darden, which means that he went to UVA for undergrad too. Before Darden, Mike worked for CACI as a technology consultant and come May, will move with Camden, his wife, to Washington, DC to join BCG. Mike matches his awesome in-class contributions with outside-class involvement in Darden Student Admission Committees, BGiA, the UVA Outreach Committee and several Darden soccer teams. In his spare time (and he has plenty), he likes to perfect his chili recipe… and run marathons, like this picture shows! Over to Mike!

One of the great things about business school is the opportunity to take classes outside your comfort zone and to expand your skillset beyond the traditional marketing, finance, operations, etc. functional areas. Last fall, I took a class called “Developing New Products and Services.” The goal of the class was to identify a market opportunity for innovation and then develop a prototype for a product or service to capitalize on the opportunity.

My team identified a gap in modern technology, which allows people to read news conveniently online or on an e-reader, but the decrease in circulation of printed newspapers reduces the opportunity for manufacturers and stores to put coupons in front of consumers. As a solution to this opportunity, our group set out to understand how people shop and use coupons and grocery lists.

I foolishly volunteered to develop and code an iPhone application that would combine the concepts of coupons with a grocery list that could be carried into a store and then scanned for a membership card and coupons. The idea was to keep everything in the one item we carry with us at all times: a cell phone. I don’t regret the task, but it was by far the most difficult task I’ve taken on in business school.

I learned several lessons through this experience:
• First, I’m no developer. I was never good. I proved to myself that I can figure things out, but that’s the end of it.
• The iPhone is an amazing device that can do some crazy stuff, and most of its power stems from some very basic tools and objects.
• There’s no substitute for effective project planning to predict issues before you encounter them. It also helps to know what resources you have available and realize they’re going to be insufficient. The key is the creativity to dig deeper in a pinch to get the job done.
• The secret to problem solving is breaking a system into its component parts and challenge fundamental assumptions that may be difficult to recognize.
• Any time you’re planning to innovate, it’s better to generate lots of ideas and test them as quickly as possible. It’s a lot better to fail early (maybe even often) to get where you want to be.

At the end of the day, we had a great time showing everyone our prototype. I think I showed the app to everyone I know. I’ve never shown my parents a paper or exam, but I was pretty happy to whip out my phone and say, “Ever wanted to search for coupons while you were shopping in a store? There’s an app for that…”

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

MBAs and the Movie-world

Today I sent an email to the South Asian Society here informing them about a course being taught at the main UVA grounds on Fact, Fiction and Film in India’s History, which took the form of a movie screening each week followed by a discussion on the movie in the context of the course. It seemed like an interesting way to study history and the part movies have played in the interpretation of historical events in the country.

This evening, Darden’s YouTube channel uploaded a video featuring a classmate of ours who worked in the movies industry before school. Ed (who is also from Section D - that's important... and relevant) saw an opportunity in the Cannes Film Festival for students like him, who were interested how the industry (and in his case, the independent films industry) worked. He organized a trip to Canne as part of a course and even interned on location, getting an insider’s perspective on the workings of the industry.

I thought this was important enough to write about because before I came here, I didn’t imagine the movies as a place an MBA would go to. My preconceived notion of the industry is that it is a place for the creative, and not necessarily the spreadsheet jocks. If I sat and thought about it long enough – and it’s fairly apparent from the fact that I am writing this post that I did – I find it fascinating how you can marry the shrewd business and strategic thinking with that of creativity and storytelling.

... some food for thought.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Think big, and then think small!

Last year, when I went to the session on choosing electives for second year, there was one class which consistently appeared on all the panelists’ (in this case the second year students of last year) list of must-take courses. A part of the Taking Action classes, this course brings back Darden grads (and some non Darden grads) to the classroom to take a class for the students and is called the General Managers Taking Action (GMTA). The case is supplied by the guest and we come prepared to discuss it with him. And since all the cases are real-life situations, and issues he/she faced, the discussion takes on a very action oriented path and we learn, literally, what he/she did in detail.

Today we had a 1986 grad who worked in investment banks come and talk to us. I was amazed by how “real” he was – we talked about the world economy and the banking industry and the housing bubble and BRIC among other things, and it was all in English and not banker-speak! I also thought this speaker was exciting because he was part of a firm that invested in Silicon Valley startups and technologies and his enthusiasm and appreciation for technology was very apparent. My favorite part of this class is the end, where two students ask the speaker for advice for our class and things he wished he knew when he was graduating. Today’s advice was “think big and then think small, do the little things, work hard because there is no fast and easy path. And don’t be in too much of a hurry.”

In my mind, there are two trends that are emerging from all the sessions I have had so far in this class: one, the higher up you get in an organization, the daily challenges and issues you deal with tend more on the OB and people management side of the spectrum (as opposed to the technical, spreadsheet model side); two, everyone talks about being in touch with the people we went to school with here… they wax eloquent about the intellectual pool in the school and some even talk about how the network is lifelong and helps them in professional and personal ways!

The more times I hear the second advice, the more I start to wonder if I am investing enough time and effort in building these relationships. I have come to realize that there are some fantastically interesting people here and I did not in the past and probably will not in the future have the opportunity to interact with such a diverse . There is so much personal growth I have witnessed from my associations here and I wonder how much of the iceberg I haven’t scaled yet. This year has been very different because there are people I haven’t seen all year – for reasons such as exchange programs or just taking a different set of electives. I go to a class with one of my learning team mates and I haven’t found the time to say hi in the three weeks we’ve been in that class together. There is a constant struggle to experience everything in these last few months, and yet this economy and my yet unsuccessful job search acts like the Sword of Damocles over everything I want to do. However, I feel better about it today because I am going to dinner with some friends I haven’t caught up with all year… I have to try to get more of these in before May.

Friday, January 08, 2010

SF again - Darden West Coast Job Trek

I obviously have some kind of major love affair going on with San Francisco! In just over a month of being here for Thanksgiving, I am back in the Bay Area, this time as part of a team of students from school doing our annual West Coast Job Trek. The trek is for students (FY and SY) interested in making a career in the Valley in tech companies and is our way to show interest and build relationships and contacts for our job search. Add to it the brilliant weather here after the bitter cold back east, and you have all the trappings for a great one week at CA!

This year we went to a bunch of really great companies and were hosted very warmly by alumni in most places (Darden and other UVA alums) and by non-Darden folks in others. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the majority of MBAs at these companies come from schools in the backyard (Stanford, Haas), but there are some people from east coast schools as well. From a chance to shop at the Apple store at One Infinite Loop to a gourmet lunch at the Googleplex, we had a host of experiences and had the opportunity to learn just a little bit more about what these fantastically interesting organizations are up to, from people who not too long ago were in our shoes!

I had a great time visiting companies and hearing about the work they are currently doing. I also had a really good time getting to know alumni from the Bay Area at a networking reception held in one of the pubs in downtown SF. The more time I spend talking to people in tech or visiting the Valley, the more convinced I am of my choice to head to this industry post-Darden… the internet and e-commerce space is exciting and there is plenty of opportunity to make lasting impact right from Day 1. In fact, I even mentioned it to an alumni, in response to why I wanted to settle down in the Bay Area, that I am so excited about the space that I am willing to go almost anywhere if the right opportunity came along, the Bay Area is just one stop.

It hasn’t been all work though! I took a day to spend time with friends here and among other things, had the opportunity to take a drive up/down Lombard Street! I have to mention that the best thing about this trip to San Fran has been flying Virgin America and having the wifi internet on the flight (thanks to Google!) I’ve managed to get SO much work done on the flights, especially since the alternative is to sleep (badly) and land at my destination feeling groggy, cranky and with a crick in my neck!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Do I dare look back?

Long post coming up...

I did not want to do the customary year-in-review, but then thoughts, they come and go and what is this blog for, if not to capture them before they run away? So I plod on, in a stream of consciousness ramble that is a function of a heavy tummy from too much food and heavy eyes from little sleep!

So I proudly celebrated a full calendar year of being vegetarian this year and I’m really proud of it. I am not counting in all those accidental meat tastings… the only half-full outlook to those incidents is that I am now super conscious when I am ordering food and make sure to mention my preference for absolutely no meat or meaty broth in my food. Technically I’ve been veggie for more than a year now, but one full calendar year makes me feel so good about myself, that I have decided to remain veggie for as long as possible. And it’s been easier than I thought!

I travelled quite a bit this year – maybe not as much as I would have liked but I did go to some really interesting places and that’s what counts, right? Right! So let’s see… Washington DC, India, Brazil, California – see it wasn’t much. But my trip to Brazil was most memorable and it’s gotten me on the track to planning another trip to the continent – more on that as it unfolds. Another serendipitously good trip was the summer in India. Weather aside – it was either incredibly hot or annoyingly wet! – I went to places that I couldn’t point on the map before the summer and all of it in the country I profess to have spent the first twenty something years of my life and profess to have travelled extensively in.

I spent a fantastically ups-and-downs filled year at business school… and since this blog has been all about business school for the most part, it would be unfair to talk more about it. It would suffice to say that I saw way too many ups and downs this year… there were times when I thought I wouldn’t survive and other times when I just wanted time to stop and hold on to the moments. I found out much more about my friends here and made a whole bunch of new ones too. Like a database keeping up with times, I purged and I added… and then some more. Over the months that passed, I saw different facets to the people I thought I already knew well, some pleasant some not so much.

One thing that I did consistently through the year was to look for a job – first the internship and then full time. I wish I could say I rounded off the year in style with a fantastic big bucks offer, but sadly I cannot. However, I have hope – green shoots and all that, so maybe in next year’s recap, I’ll be able to write all about what a fantastic journey it had been… and why not? Believe it or not, looking for a job – and the inevitable rejections that come with it – are enough to teach you a lot about yourself as it taught me this year.

Which then brings me to my things to do next year. As always, it’s to lose weight. I know I know, it comes back every year to haunt me, but this year I’m really going to do something about it – starting from January 11th (this is SO not a good way to start on a resolution!) - and since I've already begun last year, it's off to a start of sorts already! Other things I want to do are remain vegetarian, get a few more stamps on the passport, oh and get a job! Some other plans for the year are to experiment with cooking – especially baking – and to make sure that my experiments are all given away to others to eat! I also really want to get back to reading – and maybe once I graduate, I cannot cite the three-cases-a-day excuse for all the things I’ve missed out on and the people I’ve not given their due attention to last year. This year I just want to be a better, happier person... not such a tall order is it?

Oh and this year I also want to figure out what I want to do with this blog – that’s right, sweeping changes await this space. Happy new year!


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