Sprouting seeds

paradigm shift

Fooled by randomness

I am pretty sure someone searching for Fooled by Randomness on google or bing or any of the other web search engines isnt going to find this blog entry up there. So if you chanced upon this entry, let it at least direct you to two good books. I read the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell followed by the book Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

Both books got me thinking about success from a different perspective. Let me talk about what I got out of Outliers first. Malcolm Gladwell talks about hugely successful people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobbs, etc and point out how they could have become who they did because they were born around a certain year and lucked out on many instances. Similarly the month in which hockey players were born could have a more than expected impact on them being successful at their sport measured by having made the national team. I think it is probably true. The question is then, what can we do with that knowledge. Maybe learn to be humble, or think twice before we label someone as successful or unsuccessful.

Now fooled by randomness is also pretty informative. The book again talks about the role luck can have in success and how we label someones flawed strategy as successful solely based on the fact that he was lucky(survivorship bias). Another strategy, probably works better while working with financial markets than with real life is the following.

This is about how when you make a bet you shouldnt confuse probability with expectation. For example if there is a probability that you will make a small amount of money 99.9% of the time but will loose a tonne of money .1% of the time, then you should never make that bet. Because if you do loose you loose everything.

Anyway, both are good books and pretty easy reads.

August 16, 2009 Posted by | Informative, Thoughts | 1 Comment

Lessons from the past

I want to note down some of the fundamental lessons I have learned about life lest I should forget.

1. Success is defined not by what is happening in the world around you, but by what is happening within you. It is about the goals you have set out to achieve and the ones you have achieved. When I was young, growing up in India I wanted to do the things my uncles did. I wanted to travel to America. I wanted go for an MS from  one of the best schools in the world. I wanted an MBA from one of the top 5 schools in the world. I wanted to be well read. I wanted to be physically fit. I wanted to be able to speak well. I wanted to meet interesting and exciting people. I wanted to party like there is no tomorrow, I wanted to play a lot of sports. I wanted to be able to write well. I wanted travel to different parts of the world and meet people. I wanted to buy a car. I wanted to be loved and appreciated by others. I wanted to write business plans. I wanted to be accepted into a scholarship program. I wanted to do something good for the society. I wanted to work for the best companies.

At various points in my life I have thought that each one of the above statement was beyond me. But then through some miraculous intervention, I was able to do each of the above things. It has made be both happy and gave me a deep rooted sense of belief that if I keep dreaming and working towards my dreams, they may indeed come true!

The lesson here is that I should never  stop dreaming. Even if the goals seem beyond my reach at this point in time, if they are noble and earnest, they will come true and the experience will be rewarding and cathartic.

2. Once the goals are in place, whether they are material or spiritual in nature, accomplishing them requires discipline and help. Lets talk about discipline first. If the goals were set with your heart, making sacrifices to achieve them do not even feel like making sacrifices. In fact it is a full time job and you feel no stress, only joy and satisfaction when you strive to take the steps in achieving those goals. As you move along that path, you feel as though you have enormous amount of time to set aside, you find that you have all kinds of resources at your disposal and you amaze yourself by your capabilities. I still cant believe that I was able to do the things I have done so far in my life. I still have plenty of things to do, but 10 years ago I didn’t think that Ill be where I am right now.

Lets talk about help now. I remember reading somewhere that your life is defined by the people you meet and the books that you read. In life you always need mentors. In my case, growing up, I assumed my uncle as a mentor. I wanted to have the life that he had. He too grew up in the same surrounding that I did, but he was able to break free, go for an MS from one of the best schools in the world and then an MBA from MIT 17 years ago. I am amazed that after choosing him as a mentor, 10 years ago how much my career has resembled his. Now I think it is time for another mentor to model the next 10 years after. Mentors are critical in life. Following their footsteps is how you make key decisions.

The second aspect is about the books that you read. In life you have to learn the rules of this world. You need at your disposal various aspects of religion, psychology, philosophy, general knowledge, in addition to your basic skill set to succeed. This is because no one can be a recluse and be successful at the same time. Some of the rules and laws in life are broken, but you still need to play by them to appear normal and to gain others respect. Only after you have gained your coworkers, friends, families, others respect can you be an effective person that people want to associate with. Only through being an effective person can you achieve all the things you want to. People want to be able to trust you to solve their problems. Books help you learn these rules about life. Thats why it is very important to be well read across a variety of subjects.

3. The cycle of giving. Growing up I never realized about this powerful force. Accept whatever others have to give you and be very thankful about their generosity. Do not feel guilty about it, even if you are unable to repay that person, just pass it on to someone else when you get the chance. This creates a circle of goodwill from both the giver and the receiver that is very powerful and can help you out a lot.

4. It is OK to make mistakes. After understanding the consequences and with mitigation in place I should take risks. If it was a mistake, Ill learn a lesson. If it was not, Ill gain something. Either way, if that was a well thought out risk, it is worth the risk. There should be plenty of opportunities to make amends.

5. Finally, life makes a lot more sense looking back than looking ahead. At times you dont really know why you are doing something. But if that seems right even though it  makes no sense it is better to trust your intuition and do it. A few years down the line it will make sense. I have been amazed at how various whimsical things I have done at various stages in my life have found a profound place and meaning in my story so far.

6. Enthusiasm can make up for talent! I dont consider myself to be a very technical person, but I have worked on some of the most cutting edge projects in health care IT. I have worked with physicians, scientists, software engineers, hardware engineers, clinicians, researchers and physicists to design and develop some awesome software. If you are willing to learn and ask people for help and work hard, unbelievable things are possible. You just need to know very well what your strengths and weaknesses are and how you can contribute to the team in accomplishing its goal. All kinds of people are needed when as a team you are trying to do great things.

June 27, 2009 Posted by | Articles | 5 Comments

Bottom of the Pyramid: healthcare IT

I haven’t yet finished the book: Fortune at the bottom of the pyramid by CK Prahalad, but I have been so impressed by it that it warranted a post. More than the content of the book, what prompted me to write a post is that the book confirms something I have always thought was true, “it is possible to do well while doing good”. In the book there are various examples of MNCs, NGOs and local entrepreneurs who through innovative solutions have managed to achieve a profit and provide a much needed service or solution to the poorest of the poor.

So heres my two cents. I want to start looking at healthcare IT solutions in developing economies. Before developing a product or a solution, the initial task is to define the problem well. Identify all stakeholders and constraints. Once thats done its easier to sculpt a solution.

The actors

1. The poor both in rural and urban India(and other developing countries)

2. The physicians, nurses, technicians, pharmacists, and other supporting staff at Primary Health Centers

3. The government

4. NGOs with noble intentions to alleviate poverty, provide standard healthcare, education etc

5. Private corporations, companies that hope to make a profit

The challenges

1. Poverty, illiteracy,high population densities; harsh conditions like lack of infrastructure, media proliferation, etc

2. Corruption at various levels

3. Healthcare IT solutions such as EMR(electronic medial records), CAD(computer aided diagnosis), PACS(picture archiving and communication systems), decision support etc are targeted towards the affluent hospitals.

The vision

Why cant we innovate and build healthcare IT solutions that the poor can benefit from and at the same time enable the companies that build such solutions to profit?

So at this point I did a google search for “Bottom of the pyramid healthcare IT” and found this article . So if large MNCs have already realized that there is substantial profits to be made from designing medical devices for the bottom of the pyramid, the next step is in coming out with software systems that can connect all these disparate systems for a low cost. I bet GE is already thinking of such systems.

But the awesome thing about healthcare IT systems for developing economies is that the pie is so large that there could and should be multiple players for it to work. There are severe infrastructure problems that can be solved only if multiple players are interested and onboard.

Of course the barrier to entry consist of the challenges mentioned above and more. If any of my readers think of exciting healthcare IT solutions that are needed for developing economies please comment. I believe that over the next 20 years, we are going to see healthcare IT solutions targeted at the bottom of the pyramid.

May 25, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Entrepreneurship

Alright, in the last few posts I have beat this MBA admissions process thing dead. I cant think of anything more to write about the admission process anymore. I always have to pick up a new adventure to focus my energy on; otherwise life gets boring. So the new thing I am going to try and get a grip on is entrepreneurship. I am going to try and start a company. I am definitly joining the E&I track at MIT. E&I stands for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, its a certificate program in the same. Maybe this will be good education.

So here is where I am right now.

1. I dont have any experience in starting companies

2. I dont have a business idea; nor do I have a patent; nor do I have any cool technological innovation;

3. I am not rich; nor do I have any rich friends or relatives.

Here is what I do have right now.

1. I am 26, that gives me a lot of time to come up with something

2. I am going to join MIT Sloan, which gives me a awesome playing field. Boston is a great place for startups, MIT has plenty of neat technology brewing in various labs.

3. I know what I want to do. There is clarity and a strong sense of purpose. I am not afraid of risks.

OK, so where do I start? I think the first step is to find some mentors. People who have started successful companies and ask them how they did it. I should also probably start reading up about entrepreneurship and small businesses. Eventually I will have to find some awesome technology and come up with a business plan to address a specific market need. I probably also will need some rich friends or atleast associates, but I guess that can come later.

Ill write about what I learn and end up doing. I guess I also need to figure out if I want to build a self sustaining company or just set up a business with a vision and then figure out the best exit strategy.

April 21, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

MBA Admissions Interview

So this is the final piece. You have worked very had at your application. You have done due diligence in targeting business schools. You have written killer essays that highlighted your sense of purpose and accomplishments. You have awesome letters of recommendation. The moment you have worked very hard over the past few months(years?) arrive. You have received a call for an interview!! Congratulations! For most schools this means that they think you are a great fit and you have the necessary skills and capabilities to make the most of your MBA at a top 5 business school.

Being called for an interview from a top 5 business school is an awesome feeling. It means that you have already accomplished a great deal in your life and you should be proud of where you are and what you have achieved. But there is one more final step to fulfill your dream. That is the interview. The interview is where the admissions committee validate everything that you wrote about. That is when they evaluate your communication skills, your presentation skills and most importantly your people skills. The ability to WOW someone. The ability to impress someone so much that they want to see you again, they cant wait for the next meeting.

Everything that you worked so hard on is meaningless if you take the interview lightly. First of all do not wait for the interview call to start working on some of the interviewing skills I am going to talk about. These are not applicable only to an MBA interview. They are very useful in life and will definitely help during an MBA admissions interview. I will have a small section in the end that is specific to an MBA admissions interview. Everything else should be worked on much earlier. You cant pick these up in a matter of weeks. The final section specific to the MBA admissions interview can be learned and applied in a matter of weeks.

1. Spoken English

I could be wrong here, but what I believe is that your ability to speak in English is very important when you consider gaining admission to a top 5 MBA program. What does it mean to speak English well?

a. You do not make grammatical errors. You do not make pronunciation errors. This is generally not a problem for native English speakers, but for the rest of the world consistent effort has to be put in to be able to speak well. You may need to join a class to pick up this skill.

b. Communicating emotion. The ability to WOW someone is really about communicating emotion well. Picking certain words that strike the chords of your listener’s heart. This skill takes a while to develop. You may need to listen to great speakers and listen to the words they chose when they speak. Then you need to practice it in your daily life and gauge the effect they have on the people you meet everyday.

2. Structure

When someone asks you a question, how do you reply? Do you have a clear beginning, a body and an end? Most discussions in your daily life are really questions to which you need to answer. However, in your daily life you can answer without a structure because the listener may ask you questions to clarify what you said. But for an MBA interview, you get one shot with a question. Within 30 seconds to a minute you need to communicate a tonne of stuff. The only way to do that would be to clearly define a beginning, a body and a conclusion to every answer you give. This makes sure that the interviewer understands very well what you are talking about. Again the ability to structure your responses takes time and needs to be practiced. Joining a toastmasters club and practicing speaking will help. Or just go for many mock interviews and see how you are doing and work on the feedback.

3. Comfort

The interviewer will try and make you comfortable, usually by starting with small talk, things that are easy to answer to. But then there will be some tough questions. The only way to navigate through tough questions is by being very comfortable at the interview table. A few weeks of preparation will not be enough if you want to sit at an top 5 business school MBA interview, the biggest opportunity of your life,  and not feel nervous at all. You need to have been in such nerve racking situations before. My advice is to reach out to people, in high positions and talk to them casually. Interview with tough companies. Interview for positions that you know you are clearly not a fit for. Meet people you have never met before and try to impress them, get them excited about your skill set and what you have done.

This takes many years to develop. The ability to talk to someone you have never met before, feel completely comfortable sitting at the interview table, and for the most important interview you have had so far. But you absolutely have to have this ability! Because otherwise you may come across as nervous. Which could be interpreted as you were telling a lie. If you are very nervous, you may not be thinking straight and you may not say the right thing.

You also need to smile and enjoy yourself while you are there. The interviewer really need to feel that you are comfortable in such a setting. Here is the dirty little secret. The top business schools admit students that they know are already successful or going to be very successful irrespective of the MBA!!!

MBA admissions interview

This is the section that is applicable to MBA interviews. You already know this, but I have to repeat it to ensure completeness. Research the school very well. Know the clubs you would like to be part of, the professors whose courses you want to attend and the activities you would like to participate. Since I interviewed  only with MIT, their interviews are behavioral. They ask you about your accomplishments and situations where you exhibited certain qualities that they feel are required to be part of their program. The way I prepared for this interview is as follows.

On a sheet of paper I wrote down all the qualities that a leader should possess like: good ethics, perseverance, hard work, knowledge, leadership skills, managerial skills, personal strengths, awareness of personal weaknesses, people skills, communication skills etc etc. I also numbered these qualities. I had about 20 such points. Then I thought about the life over the last 5 – 10 years and thought of various incidents that shaped who I have become. Then against each of those incidents I put down the number(s) corresponding the qualities or skills from the above required skill set that I exhibited. For example during incident A in my life I exhibited qualities 1, 5, 6, and 10. It was essentially a mapping. I had about 30 such incidents that I could talk about.

Then I read through some commonly asked questions and tried answering them in my mind. My approach was essentially to try and understand what set of qualities the interviewer is really asking for and the best story to pick so that I can cover all the qualities and add a few more that she wasn’t expecting. It was an awesome approach because I had ready answers to all the questions she asked at my interview because I had performed this mapping. I knew which story would be most effective for which question.

Finally when she asked me if there was anything else I would like to add, I thought of all the qualities that I covered during my interview. I found out that I couldnt cover a couple of them because the questions that were asked did not demand I talk about them. So I picked these to talk about at the end of the interview. Now I was confident that it was my best performance because I covered every quality that they were looking for from a candidate.

I hope these articles help an aspiring MBA candidate, you, to present yourself better during the application process. Note that I haven’t talked anything about the content of the stories. Finally its the content that gets you in. The choices you made throughout your life and the things that you have accomplished is what is the most important aspect. No one can tell you what you need to do. That’s what makes you unique. I have just talked about a logical way to identify those incidents and present them well. Good Luck!

Finally don’t ever lie. It is not worth it. Just be yourself; that’s the most important part. Remember that this is a process of finding the right fit both for the school and for yourself. If you lie, you miss out on the accuracy of that vetting process and in the long run you suffer.

April 19, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

MBA Letters of recommendation

OK. So you want to get into the top 5 MBA programs in the world. I can assure you that you can do it. So the question is what do you need to do for that. The first most important thing is to target your school correctly. I have already written about how to do that here. The second thing that is incredibly important is your application essays. I have written about how to write good application essays here. Which brings me to the third pillar. A critical piece, I sometimes believe people take too lightly. I have been burned before here. So take it from me when I say “Your letters of recommendation are the third pillar on which your application stands.” It is a critical component, not a “nice to have feature”. If you do not have good and I mean fantastic letters of recommendation you are not going to be called for an interview.

Letters of recommendation is a seal of approval. How would the admissions committee of a business school know you are not a phony, the biggest liar on Earth? How would they know you didn’t just make up all the content of your essays. They haven’t interviewed you yet. So prior to the interview, just by reading your essays how can they make a call to invite you to come interview? Letters of recommendation does just that. I have a feeling business schools call you for an interview after they read your letters of recommendation.

OK, I hope I have stressed enough how important they are and how important it is that you take them seriously. Which brings up the next set of questions. Who should you chose as your recommenders, how many should you chose and what should they write about. Lets take each question.

Who should you chose as a recommender?

The first rule of thumb is to chose people who like you and are willing to spend 2 or 3 hours on that letter of recommendation. It is a lot of work and requires a certain time and effort commitment. The second consideration is their ability to write good letters. Some people have written plenty before and know how to write them. Others have never written a letter of recommendation before and you need to coach them. If they fall under the second category then you need to keep aside some of your time to coach them. Before I talk about how to coach a recommender, let me spend some time on the choosing it self.

If you read my article on writing essays, I talked about identifying blocks of your life where you did something substantial, which clearly had a beginning, a period of accomplishment and an end. My advise is to chose people who were with you in these periods of accomplishment. They may not know everything that you did but they clearly were there and their role can be proved by a common tie. For example if you wrote about an instance at work you may want to chose your supervisor. If you talked about something outside work, you may want to chose a mentor who guided and directed you. If you talked about an incident at school where you accomplished something, you may want to chose a professor or an adviser. Hopefully your essays covered different phases of your life and facets of your personality. If your essays did that, you will find that you have recommenders who know you at different periods of your life and can comment on a different aspect of your personality. Again the aim here is that the admissions committee gets to know you very well.

Do not bluff here. If you think that the business school is not going to call your recommender or Google their name and validate them you are dumb. They are going to do their homework, just like you should be doing yours. In short your recommenders also give the admissions committee insight into the kind of people you associate with and admire. So if your recommenders themselves aren’t accomplished or worthy of yours and their respect you have chosen the wrong person.

How many recommenders should you chose?

Well this is easy. As many as the school requires. But why did I call it out as a separate heading? Because some schools say 2 to 3. In which case my advise is to chose 3. The motto is always more, give the school more information about you. If given the opportunity have as many people as possible say good things about you.

What should they write about?

So this is a little tricky. You want the recommender to write a letter of recommendation in their own words, what they thought you did well and why they think you will be an asset to the school. But at the same time you want to make sure that the recommender covers all the key points you want the school to know. The key points could be but not limited to:

1. Validate what you have written in your essays and claim in your application

2. Important accomplishments, skills, personality traits that you could not cover in your application

3. A third party evaluation of your skill set

4. Insight as to why you stand out from others in a similar role with a similar skill set (more powerful if your boss of professor writes it)

5. Why they like you and think that you are special(an opportunity to personalize your application).

You get the drift. So you will have to coach your recommender if you think that the LOR may not cover all these points. The way I did this was to send my recommender a list of bullet points that I would like them to mention.  I did this because one of my recommenders knew my work a year and half ago and I thought he might have forgotten some of my accomplishments. I then told him to write it in his own words, adding or deleting what he thought was appropriate or inappropriate. This strategy made sure that the LOR would be in the words of the recommender and it would cover all the points I wanted to be covered. In then end of course I waived my right to the content of the LOR. So I am not sure what went in, but I am guessing they included a lot of what I suggested and then some. 🙂

As you can see a lot of thought goes into and should go into letters of recommendation. Make sure you put that effort in and take it seriously. LORs can make or break your application.

April 14, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

MBA application essays

I feel it is my responsibility to share with the world what I learned during the application process. I did learn a lot and I did do certain things right. In my previous blog entry I talked about how to choose a business school. In this entry I will talk about how to write essays.

The application essays are the single most important piece according to me. They give you a chance to tell the admissions committee who you really are. But, its not just that, the essays also in a way drive your entire application. Sometimes you may want to choose a certain recommender to corroborate what you wrote in an essay. Sometimes you may want to talk about a difficult period in your life and how it affected your grades. Sometimes the essays tell you that you are not ready this year. You don’t have a complete application yet and you may need to wait another year and in the mean time work on a certain weakness.

Anyway, essays are critical and you should give due diligence. So the first question is where do you start. Usually business schools have 4 -6 essays. Which essay should you start with? What personal story should you write for an essay. The first thing I would recommend you do is pick up a copy of the book “65 successful Harvard business school application essays”. It will give you an idea about the kind of essays people write. I read the book before I started my essays. It gave me the tools necessary to write essays. I had an idea of what is OK and what is not. Obviously do not borrow any line from the essays over there. It will burn you. Just casually read them and notice interesting styles of writing.

The next step would be to open a word document and write down the essay questions on one page. On the next page write down your strengths and accomplishments. Just jot down the points. If its a strength, how did you develop it or how did you realize it. How have you used that strenght and what was the outcome. What did you learn? If it is an accomplishment then why do you consider it to be an accomplishment, what core values did you use here? What obstacles did you overcome and how did you do it?

On a third page, take a look at your life over the past 3 years. Most business schools would want you to write essays that are recent. The business school admission committee also would like to see your different shades. So divide your last three years into pieces, usually demarcated by some fixed change of event. You started a new project. You left your job. You studied. You picked up a new hobby. You overcame a personal challenge. Whatever it is, it clearly had a beginning, a body where you worked at it and an end. These are your stories. Make sure they cover the entire 3 years. Do not leave any block of time out because that could raise questions and your reader may think you didn’t do anything then.

Now here is the challenging part. You need to flesh out your stories with the points that you jotted down on the second page and answer the questions on the first page. But at this point the fantastic thing is that you know what you want to write about and it will be very logical and convincing and impressive. To match fleshed out stories to questions try pluggin in different stories to different questions and see if they answer the question to a T. Try to put yourself in the shoes of the reader and imagine what he or she will be thinking. Will she think that you answered the question with a truly impressive story that highlighted your strengths/accomplishments and showcased a different period in time over the last 3 years?

If you do, then you have your first draft! Now you need real feedback. Send these stories to your friends and relatives who know you well. Ask them if you are telling the most important stories and you have highlighted all the great moments in the last 3 year? If not revise your essays and go through the above process of using those three pages. This is your second draft.

Once you have a solid second draft, send it also to MBA students and alumni you may know who do not know you well.  They know how to take a good essay and polish it to make it sound great. But do this only after you have a very solid second draft because at this point you are not adding any new content. You just want to give it coat of polish. 🙂

So you have your third and most likely final draft. Send this draft to someone who is very good with English. Make sure you don’t have any silly spelling / grammatical errors. And that is it. You have your final draft. Submit it and hope for the best :). It is a lot of work. I would give at least 3 months for the whole process.

April 10, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Which business school should I apply to?

So if you have been following my entries you would have figured out that I got into MIT Sloan’s MBA program. But what you might not know and what is truly remarkable is that this year I applied only to MIT for an MBA program. It does feel pretty good to know that I had a 100% hit rate. In this blog entry, for the benefit of my readers, I want to write about how to choose a business school. As always I have my own twist.

So why did I pick MIT and not any other school. First of all I started out by looking at the best business schools out there. What I already knew, I confirmed by reading through websites. The best schools are Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg, MIT, Chicago(Booth), Michigan(Ross). There are others of course, but these usually top the list.

Then I put together an excel sheet with 7 sheets. Each sheet bore the name of a business school. I had the following columns on each sheet.

Name, Location, Incoming class profile, Specialty, letters of recommendation, Average GMAT score,   essay questions, Deadline date, cover letter, resume, interview details, additional information.

I filled out all the columns be researching the business school’s websites. Then I ranked the business schools based on the columns I thought were important to me. For me Location was very important. After living in the US for a while now and graduating from Duke which was  located in a small city, Durham, I knew that I wanted to live in a big city for the duration of my MBA. Apart from the fact that there is so much going on in a big city, a big city has many industries, start up companies, conferences etc that was of utmost interest to me. So I ruled out Michigan and Kellogg.

I was left with Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, MIT and Chicago. I live in Philly and did not like the city much so I ruled out Wharton.

After location what was important for me was what I want to do after the MBA. I really want to start my own company or work for a start up.  This could of course change during the course of my MBA, but at this point I think that is what I really really want to do. So I wanted to pick a school which has a very strong entrepreneurial focus. A school from which many companies have spun off. That narrowed the list to Harvard,  Stanford and MIT.

Then I thought about about the strategy to apply. Which school do I have the best chance of getting in out of the three. I wanted to do a good job with that application and then look to the others. One of the things that has to be done is that you have to visit the schools. They don’s say its a must, but I highly recommend doing it. You will have stuff to write about in your essays/cover letter because of your visit and you also show the school you are serious about the application. Since I live in Philly, MIT and Harvard were just a few hours drive. Stanford would take a lot of planning. So I thought I would start off by applying to MIT and Harvard.

Once I started writing my essays, answering the questions for each business school, I found that I couldn’t put down or think about compelling reasons to apply to Harvard. MIT, on the other hand, made a lot of sense. I really found that the questions they asked on the essays were questions to which I had awesome stories to tell. So I thought I would finish off the MIT application first. I scheduled a school visit and got on to doing all the things that are required for a strong application: LORs, application, transcripts, cover letter, resume, fee, talking to current students, alumni, researching the school thoroughly, revising essays etc.

It took me over a month to do that. By then it was December 15th. Then I visited India where I spent time putting together my scholarship essay. By the time I sent in the application it was already the end of R2 for most schools. So I didn’t get time to apply to Harvard.  My plan was to apply in R3 to Stanford if I didnt get MIT.

So that is the scoop. The only school other than MIT that I would have applied to was Harvard if I had the time. But my chances of getting in would have anyway been lower. I have a very strong engineering background. Most folks who end up at MIT and Stanford, I would imagine, will have a strong technical background. Harvard I guess is more of the finance types. I am guessing here of course.

April 7, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

MIT Sloan

Alright. So I am pretty good with seeing patterns in life! 🙂 I have been accepted into the Sloan MBA program and intend to take that up.  The director of admissions called me yesterday and let me know. It was really neat. For once I cant think of any way to express beautifully in words what it means to be offered admission at Sloan. Many people asked me how I feel about it. How does it feel to have been offered admission to one of the top 5 MBA programs in the world?

Pretty normal actually. The feeling is not one of effervescent joy. Nor is it pride. If I have to pick an emotion, I would pick gratitude.  When I look at my life over the last 10 years I am amazed. I remember my English teacher at school writing on my answer sheet. “This boy has absolutely no imagination. It seems he cant think beyond a few lines for an essay.” I remember my Geography and History teachers telling my mother. “I pray that he takes his exam seriously, otherwise most probably he will fail the board exams.” I remember my physics teacher saying that “It seems that he has some sort of mental block”. I remember some members of my family telling my mother to take me out of school to an easier syllabus because I might not be smart enough for the ICSE standard in India.

I am grateful to my mother for never giving up hope in her son. I am grateful for her teaching me to spell. Trying to hammer into my thick skull the difference between “weather “and “whether”. I am grateful for her constant encouragement, her incredible belief that somehow at some point I will get serious about life and studies. Above all I am grateful for her being there when I lost hope.

I am grateful to my brother for thinking that his brother can accomplish whatever task he set out for himself. When someone as successful and talented as he thinks highly of you, you really start setting high goals for yourself.

I am grateful to my grandmothers for their prayer. I don’t understand  how the metaphysical world works. But there is something beyond what I can comprehend. Some strange and mysterious force whose power can be harnessed through prayer.

I am grateful to my family and friends for being there for me when I needed them the most. A kind word, a bed to sleep on, some food. At times some of my desires were very basic.

I am grateful to my mentors, professors, (ex)bosses and coworkers. I would never have had the opportunities I had, if they hadn’t prodded me in the right direction, written a letter of recommendation, answered a phone call.

I am grateful to my ancestors who lend me their genes and gave me a healthy mind and body. We stand on the shoulders of giants.

Finally, above all I am grateful to my father who, both while he walked among us and later, watches over me, introduces me to incredible people and finds me fantastic opportunities in life.

April 4, 2009 Posted by | Thoughts | 2 Comments

Angels and Demons

This is the story of AJ from the city Kani. Although, AJ was from the city, his ancestral home is in a village a few miles away from the city. His grandparents had lived there for over fifty years. Once his grandfather passed away, his grandmother decided to move into the city. The ancestral house remained locked for 20 years.

One hot and humid summer afternoon, a few years ago, his aging grandmother remembered an old photograph that she had in that house and wanted him to fetch it. He was in his twenties now and hadn’t been to that ancestral home since he was 5 or 6. He remembered the beautiful flower garden his grandmother kept with love and affection; he remembered the giant tamarind tree to one corner of the garden and the welcoming swing that hung from that tree; he also remembered how as a kid he sat on that swing repeating his abc’s while his grandfather pushed him to and fro.

So he thought that this would be a good opportunity to go back to that house and look at how things are and fetch the photograph for his grandmother. He set out on that journey which took him a few hours through a lush green countryside finally reaching that old lonely house on top of a hill. The road up the hill was narrow, steep and unpaved, lined with thick vegetation on either side. Once he reached the front gate, through the horizontal iron bars, he saw that the garden was no longer a garden. The roses and hibiscus had withered away and exotic wild flowers grew in their place. Where once was a well trimmed lawn, now lay a medley of weeds and plants he could not identify. The tamarind tree still stood there albeit without the swing.

He unlocked the gate and walked up to the front door. As a kid he remembered how he had to take his shoes off before entering. His grandparents were very strict about that. By instinct he found himself taking off his shoes and socks. He opened the door and stepped in. He felt the uncomfortable feeling of dust beneath his bare feet and saw the foot prints left behind as he walked. The air was thick and musty.

As he walked to the center of the house, he felt the presence of something else in that room. He felt his heart stop and then it raced. A cold shiver swept across his body. He felt his fist clinch. A sudden urge to turn back and run overcame him.

But he couldn’t. He felt as if his feet were chained tightly to a peg on the floor. After a couple of seconds that felt like eternity, a different feeling came to him. Now he felt like sitting on the floor and weeping. The feeling was not fear, nor was it comfort. The tears were not of sorrow, nor of joy. His life of twenty years flashed before his eye. He became aware of his failures and successes. He became aware of the people he loved and hurt and how they were usually the same.

While he sat there words of the the following poem came to him

In my mind he was born, a man who seldom’s worn;
With shining eyes and evil face, he grasped me by his deadly gaze,
Talked of ancient wisdom, been forgotten
He had me in his web so wide.

Angels weep and demons delight!
When he walks, or scriptures write.
Covered in gold and studded in thorn,
His words were vipers vile!

“Come with me”, he said;
“I’ll take you to thy bed!
Of what purpose is your day?
Of what purpose is this way?

Cowering, slithering, glimmering nil;
You live your life by someone’s will!
Where’s the glory, where’s the fame?
Soon you’ll find your head in frame!

Friends and foes will wait for none;
And then you’ll see you’re on your own.
Wasted are your days gone by!
Of what purpose is today?”

So I sat me down in thought,
(And these words here I wrote).
Then I saw at once he never spoke,
Of beauty, purpose or of hope!

Here’s the glory, here’s the fame!
In my mind, in my dream!

Then he realized with absolute truth that the angels and demons are inside his own head! He realized without a doubt that the presence he felt while he was in that room was a manifestation of his own thoughts. He realized that he could project his thoughts as if he were an angel or a demon. And he finally understood that he always had that choice. So he decided to leave the photograph behind, knowing well that the demon was by his side.

March 27, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments