Friday, July 18, 2008

On leaving the real world on a high note……

As I shift gears into a student lifestyle, going from being intensely goal-focused to being slightly more activity-focused, I’ve been quizzing my MBA friends about how to order from the a la carte menu that is b-school life. The consensus is that it’s not what you choose to do in b-school, but what you choose not to do. I want to have my cake and eat it too, from a personal growth and professional standpoint, and I don’t want to forego an ounce of fun. So I’m structuring my MO around heavily sampling and filtering in the first few weeks of school.

I hope the more-than-the-norm-pre-MBA years in consulting have given me a different perspective on the learning process, making it more efficient. I’m certainly looking forward to outside-the-classroom-learning, having best learned in the past from colleagues and mentors, by reading (case-studies, the Journal, HBR, McK Quarterly, Welch, Kotter, Kottler, Porter, Maister) and by doing things, stepping back to examine the outcome, and asking for feedback. LBS should be a continuation of this with student clubs and conferences, the internship, the second year project and most importantly the amazing diversity of the student body (industries, countries and perspectives on the solution).

I’m also looking forward to not waking up in a different bed every morning (your mind is in the gutter, isn’t it?) that’s inevitable in consulting. This week was a classic example - three days in sweltering Phoenix, one in beautiful and surprisingly tipple-friendly Salt Lake City and one in NYC. I remember a two week period where I was in seven different cities spanning both coasts, not including Boston where I live. I joke about how I spend the first five minutes of consciousness every morning figuring out which city I am in and if I’m late for a conference call in a different time zone. However, in spite of this I probably spend less time commuting overall, than some of my friends who have a two-hour round-trip commute to work every day.

I’m also mapping my exit strategy from school - whether to return to consulting or head the i-banking route, my long-term goal being Private Equity (in that I am so very unique). I LOVE consulting, travel notwithstanding! It’s been the most intellectually stimulating and rewarding experience I’ve had (including school) and the people I’ve met (colleagues and most clients, heh!) were fantastic. You can’t rest on the laurels of a previous engagement and BS does not fly for long – someone eventually calls you out on it. The action is fantastic and the variety of work helps. One does need to have the right temperament, and a mild case of ADD helps.

When I revealed my B-school plans to the partners I work for, I couldn’t have been more surprised. Their counter offer was simply fantastic – a staffing in Toronto to help launch the consulting practice’s Canadian office, a promotion (I’m currently an engagement manager) and the numbers thrown out were very alluring. However, they encouraged me to attend LBS, extending the timeline on their offer, should I chose to return. They also offered to plug me into their professional networks, which include some PE contacts. I couldn’t have asked for a better conclusion to my consulting days.

My NYC trip was mostly to visit the Indian consulate and transfer Power of Attorney to my parents. I was reminded of the 20 years I spent in India. There were the usual annoyances at the consulate – people milling around without necessarily going anywhere or cutting in line, talking loudly on mobiles, kids bouncing in their strollers by themselves (and when I say bouncing I mean a full two to three feet in the air, think trampoline) and kids who, while otherwise perfectly able to say entire sentences, would unexpectedly break out into prattle-spells of gibberish. The environs are also classic India – the consular services office is a subterranean cave, with peeling paint and linoleum, service counters that have either no signs or really confusing signs and several plaques that beseech visitors to keep the area clean – except there is no sign of a trash can. There was also the usual "sepoy" at the main entrance who gave bamboozling directions (remember Life of Pi), which at times were exactly opposite to what the annoyed lady behind the counter wanted you to do. In the moment it was all very droll and amusing, until I was chided by the annoyed lady for having missed a shaded nuance of transferring Power of Attorney.

So today for the first time in many years I was a bewildered adult. I struggled to follow simple directions, felt silly for asking clarifying questions at the counter marked ‘Information’, stood in the wrong line and then hustled at the last minute to get extra photocopies and passport photos - the consulate website being inadequate at best in describing process (…. the whine you hear is my dentist drilling my molars).

At times I wonder to myself why I’m such a control freak and do everything I can to mitigate risk. I uncovered the answer to this today while alternately waiting and hustling at the consulate. It is the years of living in India under Murphy’s Law! In the India I remember, everything that can go wrong does indeed and then some! So Indians like me who left the country a decade ago tend to have developed an acute internal what-could-go-wrong thought process which factors in the most insignificant of possible risks, weighting them almost equally with the most probable of risks. It’s a regression analysis worth conducting.

The high point in my day however, was getting coffee with a college buddy who is a Cornell MBA and now works for UBS’s i-banking division covering the healthcare sector (I do love having to Never Eat Alone). I did miss the NYC LBS’ers Happy Hour at Union Bar on Park and 18th owing to my 7 PM Acela which unloads me two blocks from home in Boston. Tomorrow, I get my biometrics done for my UK Student Visa – a much simpler process.


Anonymous said...

Hey LBS. Great.

Vinay said...

Hey Novalphasierra

Good to see you back. Been following your blog since the beginning. I'm a fellow admit to LBS too, but going to another school. Will be nice to get in touch, let me know how!