Monday, April 13, 2009

An evening to remember; a day not to forget

It was around five in the evening. I was getting ready to leave for the railway station to board the train to Hyderabad. The train was at 18:10 hrs - Charminar Express. I was travelling light as I had moved most of my stuff to Chennai. Just as I was about to step out, I decided to look at my ticket...wanted to know my coach number. Coach S9, seat number 30. And then, for some weird reason, I took my ticket out once again to check the train number. I had a smile on my face for I knew that I wouldn't, couldn't, make the dumb mistake of mixing up my trains. That smile faded rather quickly. The ticket said Hyderabad Express - time of departure 16:45! I had never missed even a bus ever in my life and here I was, in Chennai, feeling stupid on the eve of my last day at my current workplace in Hyderabad. Absolute horror.

I rushed to the station in the hope that I will get at least an unreserved ticket on Charminar Express. I had no choice but to get to Hyderabad. Had to complete my last day formalities. My manager had joked on Thursday last week, just as I was leaving for Chennai, that it would be funny if I didn't turn up on Monday. What is she? Some kind of a fortune teller?!? :-)

There was a long queue at the station and only half an hour left for the train. There was no way in the world that I could have got the ticket. So I started thinking about other options. Option One - Bus. I have never been too fond of bus travel. I usually wake up feeling rather grumpy and with a bad back. Option Two - Air travel. Flights are expensive. Normally, I would have been pretty pissed with myself but not this time. I didn't mind spending the extra dough. I was actually happy doing it. It would get me to Hyderabad much quicker. So Option Two it was. I got into the nearest Internet cafe, booked my flight, and then headed out to the airport. On reaching there, I called up mom to tell her that I was going to reach Hyderabad after all. She seemed more worried that I will not be able to eat the parathas that she had packed for me! :-). So I first checked in, then ate her parathas (delicious ones by the way) and finally cleared security.

The evening had already been quite eventful. However, there was more to come. As I was waiting for my flight's announcement I saw a familiar face walking in my direction. His charismatic and beaming smile is quite unique. Lakshmipathy Balaji was on his way to South Africa to play in the Indian Premier League (IPL). He is a nice person and a cool customer. I had a pleasant conversation with him and wished him well in the most awaited tournament. My rendezvous with celebrities didn't end there. Actors Shriya and Vishal were my co-passengers! They were on their way to Hyderabad to shoot for their upcoming film Thoranai.

So, eventually, I reached Hyderabad - quite comfortably and happy :-). As mentioned earlier, today will be my last day at my current workplace and after three and a half years with the firm the separation will be a bit emotional. I have good memories with this company and have learned a lot in these last few years.

My next post will be from Chennai. So until then...Tc.

PS: Yaaaaayyyyyyyy...that was my 50th post!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Daddy...

"Darling son your dad praying for you. Wishing you all the best. Have a gr8 day. Love u vvvvv much. Miss u vvvvv much"
An SMS sent to me around midnight on January 25th, 2009. Dad, usually, sent such messages early in morning before I headed out to work or play. I found it quite peculiar to have received the sms that late in the night. I had told myself that I will call him as soon as I wake up next morning. It is something that I will forever regret. My beloved father didn't answer his phone. He couldn't. He had succumbed to a massive heart attack. I had lost the opportunity to speak with him one last time. The sms remained his last words for me.

Dad was working in Saudi Arabia at the time of his death. It took us eight days to bring his body back to India. The wait had been excruciating. The family, already in a state of shock, had to bear the agony. We were fortunate to have had the overwhelming support of our relatives and friends. They were there by our side when we needed them the most. My father's employers in Saudi Arabia did their best to ensure that he was brought back to us at the earliest. Friends, here in India, helped us complete all the formalities right from the airport procedures to the cremation rituals. Mere words cannot express our gratitude for the kindness shown by these wonderful people.

Life now has completely changed. There are enormous responsibilities to be shouldered. I have dropped my MBA plans, at least for now. Under current circumstances, it wouldn't be wise to take on the burden of a huge loan. I need to be with my family for I need them as much as they need me. I have quit my job in Hyderabad and will be moving to Chennai in less than two weeks. By God's grace I have found an opening that, to an extent, should make up for the lack of an MBA. I am joining a start-up. I will be playing a major role in helping the company grow. The learning curve will be tremendous and I expect to reap rich professional and personal rewards. It would be the ideal experience that prepares me for a future entrepreneurial role. As I embark on this new journey, I wish to state that life tests you in various ways and teaches you to be strong. I have just lived through the worst period of my life but at the end of it, thanks to tons of well wishes, I am going to do something exciting. I am going to be home.

There is so much more that I wanted to type in this post...so much more that I have to say. But I can't. Am not able to.

Dad, every time I write something about you my eyes well up with tears. You have done so much for us. You lived your life for us. Yet you left us before you could see us reach our peak. Why did you have to be so selfless? You could have easily chosen retirement over work but you always wanted to do that bit extra for your family. You showed us the way. You will always be our guiding light. You will forever live in our hearts. We love you...I love you.

LHK by the zillions

Friday, January 23, 2009

Do I need an MBA?

The following was a comment on the Stanford ding and other updates post. I couldn't resist responding to it and have decided to post my reply rather than leave a comment.

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"I am going to provide a different perspective as a sanity check.

Don't get an MBA. I just finished mine at one of the schools in your blog, and I can definitely tell you that it was not worth the investment of time, money, and the opportunity cost of doing something else with your life. I have a lot of Indian friends that have not found a job (or received a crappy job offer) that graduated. And the benefit of networking and "connections" is helpful, but it is also a lot of hype since your connections are worried about their own jobs.

You can get close to 90% of the MBA experience by going to your library to read a few books on corporate finance, operations, and marketing strategy. And you can make just as valuable connections by joining professional associations."
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Edit: Anon, would it be possible for us to touch base? Please drop me a mail (ashwanthp@gmail.com).
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Thank you for your comment. "Do I need an MBA?" is something that I have pondered over for many months and I can write my longest post yet as the answer. For now, I'll keep it brief. My reasons for an MBA-

1. New Challenges.

2. International exposure and outlook.

3. The networking.

4. Strategy Consulting. Hell, getting into consulting after an MBA is tough. Imagine trying to switch careers without a management degree. However, I don't intend to stick with consulting for too long. I'd like to start my own firm and the consulting stint will help in the preparation.

5. Above all, the BRAND. When I speak, I'd like everyone to listen. An MBA from a TOP school will at least make people stand up and take notice.

It is for these reasons that I have been extremely selective with my schools. The ones that I have chosen are highly reputed and have stood the test of time.

It may be true that the theoretical experience can be gained by visiting a library but I am not sure if professionals like us will have the time to do it. It requires dedication and a sustained effort. I'd be better off learning about corporate finance and strategy for 10 hours a day, in a classroom, rather than 5 hours a week. More so, if my intentions are to make a career out of them.

Yes, you can make valuable connections by joining professional associations but the bonding wouldn't be the same. The levels of commitment would differ. A friend, whom you have spent two years of your life studying with, will be much closer to you than an acquaintance from your "Round Table of Money-makers". I hope you get the difference.

There are pros and cons of doing an MBA but it is a significant investment, nevertheless, of both time and money. It is imperative that you plan well before taking the plunge. I wish you well and hope your friends find the jobs that they desire.

Cheers

Stanford ding and other updates

The big news is that the Stanford admission decisions for Round 1 are out and I, unfortunately, do not fit in their scheme of things. I am not disappointed though. A call from Stanford would have been a bonus in any case. I am, nevertheless, glad that I applied there. Their application process sure did make me think deep and hard and connect with my inner self. I attended the Ross Waitlist Online Chat today. It was hosted by Linda Abraham of the Accepted.com fame and had members of the adcom and current students taking questions. A nice initiative. The chat's transcript will be available online in a week's time. I'll post the link as soon as it comes alive.

Onto other news now. My team and I played in a soccer tournament a little over a week ago. We finished Runners-up. We did bag some of the big individual prizes though. My teammate won the 'Golden Boot' for ending the tournament as the highest goal scorer. Yours truly bagged the 'Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament' award. Then, on Sunday we played Satyam Computers in our first match of a corporate cricket tournament. We won quite easily but I didn't contribute much. Had an off-day. We are playing the State Bank of Hyderabad this Saturday in our first match of another tournament. Hope I score a few runs there.

Moving onto dance - I'll be dancing, with my team, on-stage at HICC Novotel, Hyderabad, on Jan 30th. Will be performing the salsa and the merengue. I'll try and upload pictures of the dance, if possible. Work has been rather hectic. I have a deadline to meet on Jan 30th (yep. same day as the dance). So you can imagine the kind of schedule that I have before me. I am having to balance work, dance and sports but the good part is that I am enjoying it. It has taken my mind off the recent disappointments.

Oh...before I end...did I mention that I am applying to a couple of European schools? More on that in a later post at a later time.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Waitlisted at Ross

It is, at least, better than a ding! More painful though :(.

I have already mailed the adcom that I'd like to remain on the waitlist and be considered for admission this fall. I don't have a choice. I haven't applied to any other school because I was quite confident about my chances at Ross and Darden. Darden, as fellow applicants from India would know, has hardly issued interview invites to Indian applicants - a terrible letdown. News from Stanford, though unlikely, will be a bonus.

The Ross adcom, along with current students who got admits after being placed on the waitlist, will be participating in an online chat (Jan 22nd 1 PM EST) where they will be taking questions from the waitlisted candidates - a terrific initiative. A Google group, for the waitlisted candidates, will be formed after Jan 20th.

It will be good to discuss plans and strategies with fellow applicants. Talking about strategies, I found this blog on one of the forums. It belongs to a current Ross student who converted the waitlist into an admit. Nice read.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Events this past week (MBA and non-MBA)

I was in Bengaluru these last couple of days. The Darden event was on the 17th and it was a different experience. Unlike other MBA events that I have attended in the past, this one had no presentation. In fact, there was no adcom member at the event!

It was conducted by two current students, Vinod Raman and Anand Rao. The session was quite informative, especially for those who are in the initial stages of their research on Darden. For people like me, it was a great opportunity to meet current and prospective students, discuss the case method, know more about life at Darden, and assess where we stand at this stage of the application process. Darden hasn't sent out invites to its Indian applicants yet and so "when would they" was a popular question. The decision deadline in on January 30th. So there is plenty of time left for the invites to be sent out. An interesting fact - 739 Indian citizens applied to Darden last year and 61 were offered admission.

Another important piece of information is that Darden will ensure that the admitted students get all the financial help that they need. There have been instances in the past when Darden has played the role of a guarantor for loans that require co-signors. Fantastic!

Now onto another event. I attended a charity show called "Hrudaya Spandana" (Touching Hearts), conducted by the Sahaaya Foundation, on Dec 13th. It had music and dance performances by visually challenged kids - some of the most amazing performances that I have ever seen. Here are children who, though blind, have the will power to not only be creative but also perform for charity. The event was a fund raiser for the victims of the Mumbai terror attacks. Quoting one of the performers, "We don't want your sympathy. We only need an opportunity." - touching hearts, indeed.

We had played Deloitte, in the semi-finals of a cricket tournament, earlier that morning and had come out second best. The charity event was the perfect solace.