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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.


Chinese curses and perspective

In blah, ISB on March 5, 2009 at 12:32 pm

I wonder what those in the ISB class of 2009 have been feeling, ever since the world went to hell in a hand-basket, or so it seemed starting September 2008. If they’re like me and my peers from the batch of 2006, most of them took a break from their in-progress careers to “upgrade” their qualifications, to potentially change career tracks and definitely to improve earning potential in the medium and long term. Some, with very specific thoughts on where they wanted to be, others, with a much foggier idea, looking to ‘sample the menu’ as courses unfolded and options made themselves available.

The challenge, I clearly remember wrestling with, was to show patience and refrain from the temptation to latch onto whatever job opportunity came along first. Seniors philosophically remarked how a large percentage of the batch would’ve switched jobs come month two, so it didn’t even really matter what you picked on campus anyway. Wonder how I would’ve reacted to being told that the challenge wouldn’t be “which” but “if”. The atmosphere in a highly competitive environment is brittle at the best of times, with CTC comparisons and “sexy” industries or job functions causing people to fret about the appointment letter in hand just because “so-and-so got offered xx” and “the other got into that much vaunted field of xxxxxx”.

As those who’d “been-there-done-that”, most of us would nod/smirk knowingly when hearing about the current batch talk about the nightmare that term 2 was or how sleep-deprivation was so big a deal. It’s been almost three years since I graduated. I know a lot more now about my career preferences than I did while handing over the key to my room in SV2-H12. Yet, I’m glad I’m not answering questions about how to deal with the scenario that seems to have paralyzed so many companies into freezing recruitments.

Logic suggests, its temporary. Logic suggests, only businesses operating out of 4 X 4 Sq feet and selling crushed betelnut with an assortment of flavours and wrapped in betel leaves, namely corner paan-shops can afford to not continuously induct fresh managerial talent, and expect to grow and satisfy investor expectations. Logic suggests that the great Indian middle class that has got its first taste of Mcdonalds, Playstations and Power-steering will want more, much more. Logic suggests that this phase should be a very short-lived hiccup in an otherwise upward trend. That come 2012, those of the current batch will be a more sought-after battle-hardened group of professionals than those preceding them.

Logic, struggling at the best of times to explain the gaps in the actualized versus the expected, is going to be even short-handed now. It’ll be a challenge to take the measured decision rather than the convenient one. Here’s wishing them all the ability to maintain that elusive animal called perspective in times, that the Chinese, call “interesting”.

On never losing teammates

In ISB, life, sports on August 25, 2008 at 8:48 am

Passion. It’s a lot rarer than we might think. Most often its mistaken for Drive, of that there is plenty. The professional who puts in 90 hour weeks, the sportsman who trains for the better part of each day, they’re all driven. Passion is so much purer. The pursuit of an activity or an endeavour, not because of what it leads to, but for the sake of the pursuit itself. The means is the end, in fact, there is no end. We come across it all too fleetingly in our daily lives. At the time I write this, I’m having a hard time thinking of any everyday examples from my personal encounters that can be categorized as passion. And it was one such clear example that got me started on this post.

L Rama Krishna (RK to us) had it. He one of those I made acquaintance with at ISB. I first met him during one of the dinky little indoor cricket matches played with a tennis ball and a couple of bats that had seen better days and also during ’07 application-review sessions. A rake thin structure, a bushy moustache, any guesses on his age would fall in the 40 – 50 bracket. It was his enthusiasm that you noticed, be it when he batted, bowled or even more when he fielded.

It was later, on seeing his email addressed to the student group id, inviting those interested in playing for the ISB cricket team, I realized, his interest in the sport was combined with significant talent and experience at the club level. As is my wont, I set aside brightly burning assignment submission deadlines, trooped off to tear around a mostly grassy field, lobbing a 165 gm leather sphere, waving a block of wood and called it therapy. My cricketing endeavours are all well-documented on this blog, a little too well-documented for some. We played half a dozen games against teams from various companies, lost all except one. But, dang, did we have fun. The game we won was our last at ISB.

Placements rolled by, term 8 parties did too, the next ISB batch moved in. Over 8 months after graduation, RK sent an email talking about his new role on the office of admissions and financial aid. I congratulated him and asked him how the cricket was going, for good measure adding in brackets “(was part of the 06 cricket team)”. His response was a good 1-page long, talking about how good the current team was and how they’d won 3 out of 4 games that season.

What will always stay with me is his chiding opening to his response “How can you think that I’ll forget you? A cricketer doesn’t forget his teammates.” As if to prove his point, he went on to recount, in commentator-detail, a couple of shots I’d played in one of our games.

RK passed away on August 13th 2008. Rest in peace buddy. Here’s to always being teammates.

placements 2007

In blah, ISB, life on February 23, 2007 at 11:26 am

The 3rd week of february has got to be without doubt that time of the year when the ISB is at its worst. Stress, insecurity and self-doubt hit record highs and there is a nervous tension in the air that would need nothing less than a chainsaw to cut through. Slight deficiencies in EQ all but completely overwhelm way-above-average IQs into having otherwise level-headed individuals fervently hunting for shortlists, even for jobs that they couldn’t care less about. Sanity takes a sabbatical as the evil twins (not the ones in the Coors commercials)…brand and CTC wreak havoc on peoples equilibriums as the desperation to find that role that can be appropriately flaunted (to ex-colleagues and friends) for fear of being asked the question…about why the expected quantum leap on both fronts ended up seemingly as a stuttering step?

Was there for placements and needless to say, being on the other side of the panel was a revelation…to see one after the other individual…sporting impressive CVs…but for those few minutes, concerned about making an impression and trying just that bit too hard. Been there, done all of that, got the t-shirt and yesterday, got the helicopter view as well. Finally made 5 offers, which is substantial for a firm this size. More importantly, hoped to have atleast conveyed that none of those designation/company combinations were the ‘be and end-all’ and that things were only getting started for each individual of the batch of 2007

And even with the high level of stress and the higher pulse-rates of all the impeccably dressed individuals out there, the ISB environment, even at its theoretical worst… what an environment to be in!

Of arrogance…

In ISB, life, opinion, work on June 11, 2006 at 7:00 pm

You guys are arrogant“; words from one of the Delivery Managers who was giving us this presentation on a certain business unit at my new job. The ten-strong batch of inductees (6 ISB, 3 IIMC, 1 IIML) into the Business Analyst track looked at each other, with some incredulity. He went on to add how management grads from the premier institutes tend to have little patience when working with people of ‘conventional’ and ‘ordinary’ caliber (both his words not mine!) The problem he said wasn’t limited to management grads and was present in engineering graduates from the illustrious IITs. Quoting himself as an example of the latter, he explained how ‘we’ (apparently we were the latest additions to the fraternity), join any organization with expectations of revolutionizing the way it conducts its business, making sweeping changes to its strategy working in teams with other like-minded individuals. The reality, however, hits when your job description is anything like the expectation and your responsibilities are almost identical to those being handled by that deadbeat who graduated from <gasp> a tier-II college! Indignation turns to disillusionment as your performance on the job seems to be no better than his and you reason that the mechanical nature of the job shackles you from unleashing your true potential (” even a monkey could do this job!“). The true challenge, he said, was to work with people, and get work done, not judging them by the names on their degree certificates (in our case diplomas).

Well-intentioned advice all of it, in fact would serve us well to keep in mind some of that. A year and a half ago, when my peer group was mainly engineering graduates from various colleges affiliated to Mumbai University (not too favorably compared to the Carnegie Mellons of the world), I would’ve been inclined to agree. Just look at those schmucks in suits with fancy titles who seem to do little else but attend meetings all day! The proverbial shoe’s on the other foot and I find myself protesting that very idea, so energetically propounded by the DM. I only speak for those of us who, after not insubstantial experience in various lines of work, set out to obtain that management degree. By no means is it a slur on fresh graduates, but I think as individuals, the former group puts more on the line. Putting careers on hold, be it to attain incremental growth or to switch tracks altogether, is dicey business. Its only during the course that does one realize that its much more than an additional qualification to add to your CV, its a completely different way of looking at the business of running a business. So, I think its completely fair that we then come out of B-school demanding more from our jobs, in some part in how big the figure on our paycheck is, but more importantly in the exact nature of work. Exposure to the different facets that go into running a successful business means that you have a much better idea of what you’d be good at doing and anything different is just a waste of everyone’s time. I think its this finickiness(sometimes confusion?) about what you want to do that comes off as arrogance.

So, no, we’re not arrogant, but we sure are proud of our alma mater and there’s nothing wrong with that…

deja vu..all over again

In ISB, life on April 26, 2006 at 9:08 pm

It’s official…Ya Ali is the Kajra Re of 2006! Ok, for those who’re wondering if I’ve completely lost it, had been to my first party post-ISB. The open air, the man-sized speakers (and i’m not alluding to individual organs), a DJ who ‘seamlessly’ shifted between trance and the latest hindi hip-busters, a booze counter that was easily the most popular area…and get this…a tiled dance-floor…u know..the kind made up of infinite tiny pieces of bathroom tiles?! weird…but for some of you reading this, the resemblance to any ISB party would’ve jumped off the screen to make itself obvious. Except there was only one ISBian around…ok…maybe a couple from the IIM’s but since when do they count! 😉 Was still fun…some very old friends…some brand new ones…Another distinct difference was I couldn’t keep raiding the booze counter (it was free of course), simply coz I’d then have the unenviable task of explaining to mom why I was weaving to and fro on my way to bed. But, fun nevertheless. No such qualms starting tomorrow for the duration of the weekend…especially on the various roof-top restaurants in the city with the surprisingly beautiful but deserted beaches (well, as of four years ago)…zubhaan allah…blame fm and all those fanaa promos

G(6-1) Reunion

In ISB, life on April 20, 2006 at 8:07 pm

The first G6 reunion in B’bay was all of the things every G6 meet in Hyderabad was…good food…even better conversation. Except that it wasn’t quite all of us and hence can’t be called an official reunion, therefore the title. K was missing (latest reports from campus suggest he really wasn’t missing anything ;). S and I met up to pick S at the airport, needless to say the wait for him to emerge was probably longer than the duration of his flight from Pune. He was to spend the night at his friend’s place, and hence we decided on early refreshments at this mexican sounding lounge. Its gonna take me longer to remember all the new places in B’bay. C and V joined us as S shopped for a suitcase big enough to hold the contents of his ‘carry on’ (talk abt understatement!). The usual banter as we looked to convince C that Chennai was more happening than B’bay cud ever hope to be and why he should take the Citi Ops role there. Finally deposited S at his friend’s (for what was s’possed to be a dinner outing) and meeting adjourned with future meeting dates specified…’Solstice’ and the Dubai Shopping Festival…There’s a reason why leaving that campus for good sucked…just had dinner with a large part of it…

G6: The Code

In ISB on April 15, 2006 at 12:03 pm

As we speak, a horde of fresh-faced newbies is registering at the LRC counter and trying to distinguish between the identical looking Student Villages and looking hopelessly at the rather unhelpful towers to find the way to their allotted quads. To think, some smartass would be shamelessly intruding in the 2nd village in the 12th room in H-block. The runt might even be walking around that quad with some sense of ownership by now! In fact, its possible that all four occupants might now be in there thinking G6 HQ actually belongs to them! Only if we’d followed through on my idea to booby-trap the place when we left! Darn it!
Come to think of it, one glaring error on our part was to not have nailed a ‘Code of Conduct’ to the living room wall. Guess it’d go something like…
You have been bestowed with membership to an elite cabal and your conduct should at all times be fitting a member of this group

Acad Centre

  1. One of your primary duties on campus is to make sure the catering outfit (Sarovar in our case) remains profitable always. You will use any and all means necessary to ensure this, be it by spending approximately 4-5 hours in the cafe ordering beverages and food. Quality of food is never to be questioned
  2. You shall be the good samaritan who allows his batchmates to obtain morale-boosting points on the CGPA curve
  3. You shall not spend inordinate amounts of time in your room (this ties in with #2 above). Any time available should be spent in the cafe or other locations as will follow


  1. Turn up at every party, be it an elaborate GSB shindig or a beer ‘n’ chips, BYOB affair. This is non-negotiable
  2. You shall stay till the last song has been played and leave only when the DJ has disconnected the speakers
  3. You shall make every attempt to use up the entire stock of alcohol available at the bar. Your batchmates will help, but take responsibility.
  4. No amount of booze in one party excuses you from being absent or late for the party the next day. In the event of parties on consecutive days, prepare in advance with ample sleep, cutting classes is one way of doing that

Hyderabad City

  1. Hectic schedules aside, you will make weekly trips to various establishments in the city; BnC, Liquids, Waterfront…to name a few
  2. Your responsibility to Hyderabad’s economy is second only to your duties to Sarovar. When not in the cafe, you should ideally be in the above mentioned joints

The less-important stuff

  1. Submissions happen. You can either start worrying about them a week before they’re due or 7 hrs before. As G6, you shall follow the latter, Always.
  2. You shall not get your knickers in a twist over assignments, individual or group. Its not an offence punishable by death to get an answer or two wrong
  3. You will not attempt suicide on learning that you took the wrong discount-rate in the Corp Fin end-term problem though many around you will convince you otherwise
  4. LCM is a valid major

War and Peace

In ISB, life on April 13, 2006 at 6:27 pm

I think of this as my first post as a civilian. Makes sense, considering I’d first started blogging from SV2-H12 in the ISB fortress. The similarities are uncanny; demanding and regimented schedules, the mess food in the dining hall and the casualties (well, shouldn’t really count the odd nervous-breakdown as those).
Have gotten over the ‘jet-lag’ of moving from ISB time to the regular 24-hr day and long snoozes and leisurely meals have helped make that transition. A few trips around the ol’ neighborhood, meeting friends I hadn’t seen in a long time, even enrolled in a gym. Was kinda bemused as my first workout was supervised by this trainer who wouldn’t let me lift anything heavier than a sandwich, atleast till he observed the thoroughly bored expression on my face.
Some other friends coming down from B’lore et al this weekend, so, looking forward to some catching up. From the interaction with a few batchmates, seems everyone’s struggling to cope with post-school blues. Guess its the drastic change of pace thats thrown everyone out of stride.
Guess it’ll all work itself out…soon…

April 8th ’06

In ISB on April 10, 2006 at 4:33 pm

Graduation day dawned bright and sunny. (add sweltering hot and the fact that it wasn’t any different from any other summer day but that wouldn’t make interesting reading)

I had to report to the hangar about an hour before scheduled start to be given specific instructions as ‘leader’. All that meant was that I was one of the corner seats and hence had to keep track of two things…when to cut into our row on the way in and to keep a tab on when our row had to stand and make its way to the stage.

Next was to assemble in our allotted classrooms from where we’d form the parallel queues that would follow the dean and school board into the hangar. All very meticulously planned. The excitement level started on a level climb as we started off towards the presentation area and was quite evident once we’d all taken our seats.

Inaugural address by the dean followed by Chief Guest; Ratan Tata and then Rajat Gupta, chairman of the school board. Best thing was they kept their discourses short and sweet (and made sense too!). But this was all ho-hum compared to the general feeling when asst. dean announced…”Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the class of 2006”…damn! It was happening!

The dean’s list followed by the rest of us in order of last name, the reason I was in the last row. But it turned out to be just as well…coz there was the increased excitement of watching good friends walk up there to receive their degrees and the anticipation of your own turn. Finally, it was our turn, and before I knew it, was back in my seat with the ‘fake’ degree – apparently the real thing was too precious to let the chairman of the Tata group to handle J

The biggest round of applause was reserved for the last name on the list…that was followed by a momentary pause…and then the most deafening applause that lasted a good minute…the batch of 2006 was applauding itself…and the sudden constricted feeling in my throat told me this was special!

A final address by deputy dean, don’t remember too much of that J and then we were out…340 odd crammed onto the staircase leading down into the atrium and screamed our throats hoarse “ISB rocks!!!”. You bloody well better believe it does!

A date 344 of us will never forget…
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