Saturday, September 15, 2007

Sequence of randomness

I plan to make this to be as abstract as the title. This is as abstract as I can write. If you really deciphered this, you are such a geek. Just kiddin!

Beauty and the beast – Case method

So what has transpired that past 2 weeks. Well, we have mainly focused on classes and cases(not beer). Everyday we spend about 2-3 hours preparing cases on our own before we discuss them with our learning teams for 2-3 more hours. We take our learnings to class, discuss, agree, disagree and hash out all different perspectives of looking at the same problem. It is such a thrilling experience! Many a times I end the class with a ‘wow, I learned something today and I thought I knew how to do this’. So, what's so exciting about this? Imagine taking up a problem relating to xyz industries. You have some information on the problem and some data to work with. You run the numbers, think of possible scenarios and pros and cons. You get some great insights from your learning team and other ways to look at the problem and you are ready for the class. Now the fun begins. You start hearing about a different approach you disagree, you are challenged to reason your stand and listen to opposing viewpoints. You listen 20 different ways to look at the problem and understand it in its entirety. This is just the beginning. Add to that personal insights of people who have been in that situation worked in that industry or understand that function. Even more interesting is when you here from someone whose experiences are completely unrelated and looks at quantitative problem qualitatively or vice-versa. The professors run the class in very well planned and choreographed fashion. If you read carefully you would have found the beast as well. What can be exciting and thought provoking can also be little frustrating.

Caught somewhere in time

All the time classes and cases take, they are only part of our learning. To explore our interests we have joined various professional and affinity clubs. On average we are enrolled to 4-5 clubs. As club meetings start they take time off our calendar it becomes increasingly challenging to keep pace with all that is happening. We are also alerted on stuff we need to start working on and this starts eating into our 5 hours sleep. Drinking and partying 4 days a week doesn't help either.

One of the excellent opportunities ‘Darden’ provides is the ‘leadership speaker series’. Within a month of our first year we have already hosted top executives from companies such as Lehman brothers (Gary Weinstein) and Wachovia (CEO - Ken Thompson). The insights such top leaders provide from their experience are truly invaluable.

High hopes

Now to the career stuff which has been the real storm most of us. I remember being asked this question recently –

Q: So what do you want to do when you grow up?
Me: I guess I’ll only find out if and when I grow up!

We are in midst of deciding what career path to pursue after the Darden MBA. Our career development center has a very well planned approach to the problem– Understand yourself (through many self assessment exercises) list down skills, strength and interests, explore opportunities and see how they fit your life themes. Narrow down the function and industry before getting down to the actual job. Use resources available to explore jobs and skill sets required. Complete the picture and start preparing for how to target the same. Obviously it is lot more comprehensive than what I describe here and we have spent a lot of time at every step. I think this a great approach and is helping us a great deal to define our career paths. Oh did I mention we have Career discovery forums where alumni come to campus to talk about industry, functions and their everyday lives.

However, before all this started I found for myself that I get stuck on a more philosophical question.

‘What do I want to do with my life’

I can and have come up with many answers to this but if you test it further with a ‘why’ then it becomes little more difficult. In fact if you ask enough ‘whys’ to a question you can almost reason that nothing you do matters in the end. The question then is ‘why’ should you do it? Viscous circle, isn’t it?

I hear a song, I remember a prose

And no-one showed us to the land
And no-one knows the where or whys
But something stirs and something tries
And starts to climb towards the light

Why does everything have to be justified to be done? May some action precede reason? What if some instinct is a source of your action? Hmmm. That seems reasonable.
Okay, fair enough. I decide to pick a cause, choose a path and refine it as I go along. But why choose one thing over another? This is where pink Floyd saved me. At least kind of; Listening to ‘High Hopes’ I reflected on my childhood dreams, limitless boundaries of thinking; dreams lost in real world and I reflected

Beyond the horizon of the place we lived when we were young
In a world of magnets and miracles
Our thoughts strayed constantly and without boundary

Looking beyond the embers of bridges glowing behind us
To a glimpse of how green it was on the other side
Steps taken forwards but sleepwalking back again
Dragged by the force of some inner tide

Encumbered forever by desire and ambition
There's a hunger still unsatisfied
Our weary eyes still stray to the horizon
Though down this road we've been so many times

Apologies for the anti-climax but after all this I have decided to pursue ‘consulting’. I think it’s a great fit. Honestly it has come out after 3-4 months of soul searching, asking tough questions and looking blankly at stars in the sky (not exaggerating)

If you are looking for a good conclusion, let me tell you that in the end all this doesn’t matter. What matters is the Mexican party starting in 15 minutes and I got to be there for my friend and for the tequila shots. So let me buzz from here. My friend who is teaching me spanish will be proud when I say ‘bamos o tomar unos tragos’

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