Monday, May 30, 2005

Canada trip - Niagara Falls and Toronto

We were going to Canada and I was very excited about it. USA was the first foreign country I visited and Canada was to be the second. A leave on Friday 27th added to the holiday for Memorial Day on 30th gave us 4 days for our trip. We started early on Thursday, renting a vehicle from downtown and we had departed from Minneapolis by 5 pm. We planned to reach Detroit early to get our Visitors Visas to Canada. We were carrying all the documents required with us. The trip to Detroit was uneventful but we didn’t get much sleep either, driving through the night. We were there by 7 AM having lost 1 hour by virtue of time difference. The consulate was right next to GM HQ , and I was delighted to see this magnificent building after having seen so many pictures of the same.

It did not take much time to get the Visa mainly because we had arrived so early and were ahead in the queue which built up by the time consulate opened. I happened to meet a guy from Kellogg and immediately let him know that I was intent on applying to Kellogg next fall. I got some very useful tips and advice. He mentioned that he could help me get in touch with 1st year students and with some other stuff. Its great to meet people from school as you get to learn some inside stuff about the school which also helps with your applications and gives you motivation you need to polish off your essays. Meeting someone from Kellogg was a pleasant surprise and just another perk of this wonderful trip.

Crossing over into Canada Posted by Hello

Visa formalities were completed by 11 am approx and we were on our way and into Canada. I didn’t expect Canada to be much different but there was a visible difference in roads, directions and we were also sensing a difference in terms of standard of living (Canada didn’t seem as well off and everything wasn’t as polished as on the other side) and more cosmopolitan nature. We checked into out hotel room in Brampton at around 2 pm and decided to take a nap as we were exhausted.

Toronto Downtown Posted by Hello

We got up lot later than we had planned it was almost 9 pm by the time we left our hotel and headed for Toronto. Driving into Toronto wasn’t the simplest with huge network of roads and highways with not so clearly visible directions. The traffic was fast moving and dense which didn’t help either. As we approached Toronto, the CN tower and Downtown skyline appeared and we overawed by how big Toronto really was!! (Remember we come from Minneapolis) It took us some time and effort to find a parking space. Once we managed that, we started walking around Toronto Downtown and took some pictures. We walked around the entertainment and Fashion districts and found many clubs there. I wanted to experience how the clubs were in Toronto but my fellow travelers weren’t really interested. So I decided to go in alone and entered a place called “Club Menage”. The music and crowd was good but I was expecting lot more as compared to the Clubs back home in Minneapolis. I had a lot fun and left around 3 am but the Taxi ride home ($62 Canadian) burnt a big hole in my pocket. Another observation about Canada was the people here seemed noticeably shorter than US. Don’t know if this was just a perception or actually a fact.

View from CN tower Posted by Hello

Next day we woke early and got ready even quicker. We headed off to Visit CN Tower and were there at around 9:30 am. After collecting our entry tickets we were taken to the observatory and the Glass floor which was around 2/3rd way up. CN tower is the tallest building the world but I doubt if it has highest observation point among other tall buildings. The view of Toronto from the top was breathtaking and we especially liked standing on the glass floor. We were down to earth after spending some time grasping the view from up there. We decided to eat our lunches at an Indian restaurant in Downtown. (Must mention that throughout the trip we were able to eat some delicious meals at few of the many Indian restaurants in Toronto and Brampton)

Straight Down from Glass Floor Posted by Hello

Next we headed to Niagara which was a 1.5 hr drive from Toronto. Niagara is awesome and I don’t have enough words to describe the view. Anybody in these parts of the world should visit it and preferably from the Canadian Side. Whatever you do, don’t miss the ‘Maid of the Mist’ boat ride which takes you close to the falls and gives you an idea of how spectacular the falls really are. After getting our full and loads of snaps we decided to visit ‘Casino Niagara’. The casino was bigger than the one I had visited earlier but I haven’t visited Vegas so ‘No comments’ on the casino. I played ‘Blackjack’ which I have some expertise at and made some dough on that. (I was to lose more than what I made the next day which was surprising as I am pretty good at Blackjack and it doesn’t favor Casino as much as the other ones)

The majestic Niagara falls Posted by Hello

We were actually planning to Visit Montreal next day but my pals weren’t up for the drive, so we decided to Visit Toronto to cover other places we missed. We had trouble finding Toronto downtown 3rd time in a row and once we got there we were stuck in downtown traffic big time. Toronto traffic is kind of free for all with Vehicles moving in every direction, nothing compared to India though. Finally, we reached ‘Casa Loma’ which a Castle built around 1910 but based on, medieval castles and if any one has played the game ‘Theif-2’ the setting is quite similar. I quite enjoyed touring the castle and exploring all it had to offer.

Casa Loma Blue Print Posted by Hello

We had lunch and headed back to ‘Casino Niagara’. We had checked out of our hotel room and planned to cross over back into US from Niagara. Spending some time at the ‘Casino’ and having lost significant amount, we decided that it was time to head back. We weren’t able to cross over at Niagara (closed suddenly due to some reason) so had to cross at ‘Fort Erie’ to Buffalo in NY. We covered 960 miles in 16 hours including few stops and were back home by 10 am thanks to gaining 1 hr on time difference. Overall, I guess, we drove around 2500 miles.

Great trip and I am especially happy about visiting Canada. Toronto seems a great place to live in and good place to visit. Just wish that we had covered Montréal as well.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

My target B-school List

My efforts on GMAT preparation as well as my MBA application have gained momentum. Following my Last post regarding career goals, this time I would be discussing the schools I am looking to apply for. I hope that I would get comments and suggestions from others on the appropriateness of my choices for my career goals, strategies and approach for each.
I would have liked a better response to my earlier post but I am grateful for whatever feedback I got. I have received some useful tips from Dave, Simba, axechick and Sorebrek and really appreciate all the help.

Before I begin I must mention that I have been reading lot of blogs and articles and visiting few forums too and I find that the most common question posted by Applications(including me) is “What are my chances”. I guess the reason maybe that people want some certainty and to figure out whether its worth the effort. The answer is invariably “Nobody can tell for sure”. After being frustrated by the responses, I later found that this is true in its entirety. The Best analogy I can think of for this situation is that a person wanting to walk through a long dark tunnel and he/she cannot see the light at the end of tunnel. He wants to go through the tunnel because he knows that there are better things waiting at the other end, but before he enters he wants to make sure that he’ll get through. So he finds people who made it through and asks them if he can do the same. Whoever made it know that it’s long and winding tunnel and it requires lot of hard work, commitment, perseverance and most importantly risk taking to get through. Whether this person has got what it takes, “Nobody can tell for sure”.
Well I think you got to believe that you’ll make it through and that is the first step into the tunnel.

My B-School list
After lot of research swapping, changing, Chopping etc this is how my B-schools List looks like. I would have liked to have kept it down to 5, but right now I have 6.

Program I am looking at –
As I contemplate a career in Management consultancy, I am looking for a program that stresses on Analytical Skills. I also want to learn lot more about Strategy. I am coming from an IT background with some exposure to financial services and Post MBA my interests in Management consultancy would be focused towards IT, Finance and Strategy.

(Brackets indicate 4 different rankings I obtained)
Outside the Bracket is consolidated ranking, removing the most out of sync
Followed by median GMAT score, Median years of exp, % accepted applications.

Kellogg (NWU)(9,1,8,5) – 4 700/4.5/13%
Reason- Kellogg is undoubtedly one of the best B-schools. It has everything from a good curriculum, diversity, focus of Academics as well as Leadership, ethics and team work. With a wide variety of majors and courses to choose from I am confident that I could tailor the program to exactly what I need.

MIT Sloan (15,9,9,4) - 7 710/5.1/14%
Reason – Another one of the best B-schools and my favorite because of their focus on Analytical skills and academics. I feel this best suited for my career goals and especially of my interest to move into management consultancy. However my maths score in colleges(59,56,91,60%) might just kill my chances. Not sure if I should bother applying.

Duke(22,11,12,11) – 11 710/5.3/22%
It has a flexible program i.e. no concentrations and available courses can be tailored to get exactly what I want. Overall I find that Duke is very balanced in its method but also flexible enough as and when required so if I want to focus more on analytical stuff etc I can. Hence it is on my list.

Stern(13,13,7,13) – 13 700/4.7/15%
Stern is known for its Finance MBA. It’s proximity to the Financial hub of the world is a major advantage. It also has a good IT program and major for strategy as well. All in all, a package that completely satisfies my needs.

Kenan Flagger(UNC)(8,16,11,21) – 16 680/5/30%
It has a concentration focused towards management consultancy. Program focuses on all salient points I consider important for my career and it has a mix of elective that cover almost everything I like to study. More importantly I also feel that I have realistic chance of getting into this program as compared to others that I am applying to.

Goizuetta(Emory)(18,20,16,18) – 18 675/5.5/27%
This is my Backup. But overall, I was very impressed with the school and the program, its curriculum structure and list of concentrations are also great and have everything I need. I’d be happy to go here if I get a chance.

I have made the choices based on what I think serves my goals the best and programs best suited and schools that I would be happy to study in. What concerns me is that all the Schools I have chosen are pretty hard to get in, Minimum Median GMAT score required is 675 which puts me under lot of pressure for my GMAT.
Not sure if I should replace one of the Schools by an easier backup option.
Comments & Suggestions very much required.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Career Goals

After lot of soul searching and thinking process that started more than two years back, my career goals are still at best vague. Things have become clearer, but the more questions I try and answer, more the difficulty I find in answering them and it seems like I am running around in circles. So in this post I am logically trying to evaluate where I am coming from and where I am headed, and hope that experienced bloggers and applicants comment on my goals.

I have been with an IT services company (Indian with >30,000 employess, >$ 1 billion in revenues) for the past 3 years and have worked as a software engineer. I am currently playing the role of Technical Analyst at client location and have had some Team lead experience for past 1-1.5 years. My domain exposure has always been with banking and financial services field, which in conjunction with Information Technology are my primary fields of Interest.

Post MBA, I have been looking at a management role that combines both these e.g. IT program manager for financial services working in either Finance or IT Company. All this while I have felt that this wouldn't truly give me an opportunity to do all I wanted in terms of involvement with Business and strategy.
So I explored further, putting my interest i.e. Information technology, Finance and strategy together with my skills Analytical, communication skills, some basic management and leadership ability (that I have displayed in work and extra-curricular activities) with solution oriented approach and good understanding of Financial services business, I found that a management consultancy position might be a better option. This would give me an opportunity to work in wide variety of projects and put in my cross functional skills (I am a mechanical engineer) IT and finance knowledge, utilize my analytical skills to help senior management take Business and strategic decisions. This is something that I would really enjoy doing and feel that I have the ability to take up such a role.

By working in such a role, over the years I would have gained substantial knowledge, skills and experience to move into a senior management position in a firm and take up a true leadership position. My ultimate objective being to lead an organization to achieve something significant, bringing it growth and respect and also contributing back to society in both personal and professional capacity.

Having said this I am not sure
1. If I could move to a management consultancy position post MBA. Would I get a job of my liking?
2. If B-schools would consider my application?
3. If my story and purpose seems logical enough?
4. How others approach this situation and move into role and work that I am interested in doing?

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