From smack-bang in the middle of the bell curve

What to expect when you’re expecting: Life at ISB

In blah, ISB on April 15, 2013 at 3:56 pm

“ISB is not a swimming pool. Everyone who dives in won’t come out wet” – 2005 visiting professor of long forgotten elective.

This slightly cryptic and in hindsight, surprisingly insightful quote is an apt introduction to this post, which is meant for the new class, as you settle in and start finding your way around campus. As my twitter feed shows references to the brilliantly named #OWeek, I wondered about the few mostly useless and some douchey things I could share with the incoming class of 2014.

A disclaimer: A specific percentage of this class, will be those who know exactly why they decided to do a business degree, have already had “informal” coffee chats with  alumni in their target shortlist, are on the 4th revision of their elective bidding strategy and have just locked down their “extracurriculars” for the year. This post is a waste of time for them.

It’s more for those who were only now starting to be less wistful about their last job, its comforting security and are now lightheaded from trying to commit all the name-face associations to memory. Relax. It get’s worse. Well, before it get’s better.

1. Block out the advice: Yup, oxymoron right off the bat. Right from the infamous “alum in my room” email incident of 2005, incoming classes have shown tremendous propensity to gather spoilers about what to expect at ISB.  The ISB alumni body now has about 3,000 members and roughly the same number of “how-to’s” and “do’s and don’ts” for an incoming class. “Start your interview prep early”, “Definitely do an ELP”, “The lounge behind SV3 is an excellent makeout spot”, “Forget about grades!”, “Focus on grades!” You’re likely to hear all of it. Let it all wash over you but do what makes sense. To you.

2. Don’t check that box: “Co-founder of blah-de-blah association. Organised event raising funds equivalent to the GDP of Estonia. Envisaged fantastic new mortgage-backed product injecting phenomenal liquidity into markets.” When shortlisting from a pile of 300 resumes, I’ve tended to make a mental note either “prone to delusions of grandeur” or “plays fast and loose with the truth”. If you’re signing on for any event for the sake of the resume bullet point, know that it takes all of 2.7 seconds for it to become apparent in an interview. Find a subject that intrigues you, put together a team, do some research, take a provocative stand, write a paper.  Thumb rule is: If you’re not equipped to have atleast a luke-warm debate on the point, skip it.

3. The “aha”s have it: Every now and then, you’ll find yourself clicking ‘Send’ at 3am on an assignment, then rushing to attend a group meeting to decide on your markstrat submission, returning to start another assignment due by 7am while fretting about the case prep you think you’re 2 weeks behind on. In your caffeine-fuelled stupor, have a part of you monitor your effort. Pay extra attention to the subjects you find yourself doing the optional readings on. Find yourself wondering where the night went as you ran Monte Carlo simulations on inventory planning? Immersed yourself into writing an impassioned paper on the promotion strategy for an underdog brand of grinders? It might be time to get out of the bathtub and streak around campus because you, my friend, might have just discovered your calling.

4. Forest for the trees: Now for some doucheyness. If y is the phenomenal day 1 job with stratospheric pay you applied to ISB for, then  y = Bo + B1X1 + B2X2 + R. Bo is the default you can end up with (read worst you think can do),  X1 and X2 are your academic performance and “aha” insights into self-awareness respectively. And R is the residual, the macro-economic environment you graduate into. Based on empirical evidence, R (the part you/ISB/anyone has no control over) can be several orders of magnitude higher (positive or negative), compared to B1 and B2. Inference: Not that X1 and X2 don’t matter, but don’t confuse the job you think you’ll get on campus with how you perceive your time at ISB. (To the quaddies of the smart-ass smugly asking about R-square,  dunk him some more will ya. To those who didn’t find the use of a regression equation funny, give it a term)

Wishing you a year of terrifyingly abundant possibilities.

  1. Very well written. Thank you for the insights.
    I can appreciate the quote at the very start.

  2. hilarious yet very informative! thanks!

  3. Thank you for the advice 🙂
    So what was the “alum in my room” incident again?

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