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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