Sunday, April 19, 2009

Signing out

It's been a pleasure dumping all my thoughts/concerns/learnings over the last 9 months or so. Hopefully, this has been of some use to some of you. I will not continue blogging any more to devote time and attention to my personal blog.

So, good luck folks!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Top 10 Site Visits

Top 10 Google Searches that resulted in successful visits to this site

Loans for International Students at INSEAD

Wharton nailed it:

They are back with a bang as far as loans for International Students goes. They've shown us that they are indeed the premier school for Finance. I mean if you're a good school for Finance, you better be able to atleast finance a loan program for your students.

As far as INSEAD goes, still no progress on this front. INSEAD has teamed up with Prodigy Finance to offer some loans. And I guess, INSEAD does hand out scholarships to 20% of the students. Still, if INSEAD's a top 10 school, I have greater expectations.

I got my loan from Sallie Mae, but I had to scamper around like crazy. And no to mention the ordeal which several other people went through.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The 6 month plan

The INSEAD Career services team has been super supportive through the career search process. They organize a large number of events, do some good business development etc to get a lot of companies in the pipeline. Still, these are exceptional times & there's only that much Career Services can do. And the few companies (you would've never heard of them) that are hiring are so lame, that I'd rather be unemployed and wait for something good.

So, realistically, I'm seeing a 6 month window of lag to find something concrete. What are the things I can do? If you have any ideas do let me know..

This is what I'm thinking

1. Entrepreneurial pursuit
2. Some sort of certification
3. a) Paid Internship (but that's been pretty screwed too)
b) Unpaid Internship (work for food..)
c) Social/Non Profit
4. Take up lame ass job (if I get one)
5. Fart around at home with the parents
6. Join another education program (would need a scholarship to make this happen and its such a waste of time)

Many lame options :-)

Career Search at INSEAD

All the plans I had coming into INSEAD are down the drain. I had come in to make some sort of career upgrade. With the economy in tatters, I thought I would do what everyone else decided on, put all my eggs in the consulting basket. And for that I got screwed. I got dinged by 5 out of 6 (Mckinsey, BCG, Booz, AtKearnet, Roland Berger) consulting companies in the first round itself. I'm still awaiting Bain but there is not reason to expect anything.

The good news is that quite a few people got shortlisted by these companies. Usually, Mckinsey shortlists about 40% of the intake. This year it seems to be at 25%. But what's interesting is that the Consulting companies are no different from any other company. They're just as screwed and just as simplistic in their hiring process.

The PR machine states that they pick up only the best (as measured by their intellectual credentials) and don't go for anything shallow such as (location, experience etc). Personally, I find it rational that a consulting company chooses people for their experience and location skills (comfort,language etc). But the PR machine denies that..

I might be a bit bitter here, but from what I perceive from the shortlists, the following criteria are what gets shortlists in this economy

1. Intelligence: I have to say that all the people who have been shortlisted are super bright (just like 60% of the intake at INSEAD)
2. Location: This has been a big one. This is a matter of supply and demand. If you're from a country with sparse population your chances of scoring a shortlist are pretty healthy
a) Popular locations: Canada (for some strange reason) and Western Europe. And non-english speaking locations (Jakarta, Bangkok, Prague etc). As you can imagine, the demand has a fair chance of meeting or exceeding supply here.
b) Bad locations: US (seems like economy is indeed screwed, plus visa issues), India (excess cheap supply), Mainland China, Singapore.
3. Experience: Finance & Commercial (purchasing, supply chain, logistics) are entertained. Weak areas have been high tech, HR..

Ofcourse there are exceptions to all this, but this is just my pereception as an INSEAD student.

So what's next for me? Well, the good news is that the lack of consulting interviews has freed up some serious time to do something that I've never had the balls to do. I've been risk averse all my life and for once I'm being forced to take some risks. I'm thinking of doing something entrepreneurial. I've got a few ideas and have gathered a few friends around it. Time to rock and roll and make the most of it.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Networking @ INSEAD

I am no good @ Networking. Thanks to my career in software development, my social skills are really weak. Small talk is lame, and coming up with some BS questions to ask is way out of character. I met a friend who works for Temasek in Singapore who completely changed my perspective. I'm not going to reveal all the tactics, but will share a few simple learnings with 2 frameworks

Small Talk Framework (STF)
1. "So, what's your reading of these difficult economic times"
Good: Vague question, makes the other guy talk
2. "Tell me more about what folks do as Structured Financing expert"
3. "What do you think are the transferrable skills in a career in Private Equity?"

4. What's nice about working at BCG?
5. What's the hardest problem you've solved during your career at Mckinsey?
6. What makes INSEAD an attractive school to your company?

SOCIAL (so that you don't sound like a bloodsucker)
7. Do you'll have an ultimate frisbee league at Microsoft?
8. I heard you Bainies frequently meet over weekends?

Fishing for nothing (FFN)
FFN's main philosophy is take a worm, put it on a hook, dip it in the water but pull it out before a fish bites. The idea here is pretty simple. Everyone hates the guy who has an ulterior motive and talks to you only if they need something. Don't be that guy. So what can you talk about

1. Hey, I'm interested in this Web2.0 thing. What's the coolest thing happening in the industry?
2. I heard you're a serial entrepreneur. What's the next big area you're planning on funding?

Now these questions get you some information about what the person is doing. You can absorb this information, lay low and then pounce back when the timing is right.

I'm sure there's more to do. If you guys have any suggestions or frameworks for networking that is not taught in the real world, please comment..


A few 2010 students messaged me to describe the relevance of INSEAD post financial crisis. I think the best batch to get in right now is Dec 2010 (i.e. starting Jan 2010). When this batch graduates, they are going to ride the glorious wave of economic recovery. A number of economists are predicting a mid to late 2010 recovery..

For folks interested in a finance career, I have good news - INSEAD's got an extremely strong finance faculty - Pierre Hillon, Massa, Vermallen just plain rock. Very high quality faculty that really make you sweat, but it's a lot of fun!

Ze alumni

The coolest thing about INSEAD is...

.. not the courses
.. not the professors
.. not the parties
.. not the proximity to Paris
.. not the dual campus

it's ze alumni. Unlike HBS, Chicago etc, our alum is totally down to earth, high achieving and most important of all - eager to make it happen for you.

The school does an excellent job of developing the alumni and integrating them with the campus. We get access to a database of all the alumni and we can reach out to them for a conversation about their company or experience.

If I were INSEAD, I'd do a few things to improve the Alumni experience

1. Make career service support to be life-time. It's a great PR strategy and let's face it not too expensive. The alumni is not really going to put huge demands on the service
2. Make the INSEAD gym available to alumni. This will encourage more alumni visits to the campus and thereby increasing networking opportunities
3. Open up the library to alumni as well. Same reasoning at #2.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

If I were to do it again...

1. I would apply to LBS as well..
2. I would start in the January intake. September lacks an internship and that's really not so convenient.
3. I would start P1, P2 in Singapore. P3 wherever internship is. P4,P5 in Fonty.
4. I would spend more effort on Finance
5. I would have started networking earlier if I had known how... But I should've started a bit earlier
6. I would have not encouraged free ridership in some of my groups
7. I would have considered a private equity career strongly (although nothing major wouldve come out of it)

P4: In Singapore

I just did the campus exchange for P4,P5 in Singapore. The rationale was two fold

1. To get out of Europe as employment is fantasy around here.
2. Align myself with the PR process so that I can hook up with jobs in Singapore.

The experiment so far has had mixed results. I like Singapore as a city but I'm not sure of what's left in the city. Layoffs have been taking place fairly regularly and severely. Companies are coming on to campus but most of them are recruiting for China (which implies mandarin speaking).

For folks thinking of an exit language, please do consider Mandarin. It's useful and might be a good strategic move given that China is set to dominate the world at some point.

Pretty frustrating so far. A few readers have asked me to elaborate on "if i were to do it again, I would..." type of post. So that's coming up soon..

Saturday, February 21, 2009


One of the best courses I've taken at INSEAD is called International Political Analysis. The content was just okay, but the professor who taught it - Vinnie Aggarwal - a visiting professor from Haas just rocked the show.

The entire class felt like a story of countries, their manipulations and struggles. Just plain amazing..


I recently met a friend of mine in a Parisian Cafe. He's getting his MBA at IMD. I have to admit that I felt a little jealous about their program. While the overall prestige and reputation of INSEAD is greater than IMD, there are a few very cool things about IMD

1. Very small class size. Total class < 100, compared to 450+ for INSEAD
2. Average age is 31+, which means you have a more powerful network (powerful is debatable ofcourse)
3. Intense focus on group work - Everything gets done in a group. INSEAD does a lot of group work too, but we keep rotating groups quite a bit.

If I were to do it again, I'd do INSEAD all over for it's own strengths. But depending on your background, choosing IMD can be a good option..

Moving to Singapore

I'm out of Fonty and on to Singapore for P4,P5.

Why am I doing this?

I want to look for jobs in Singapore, HongKong & India. And despite what everyone states P4 must be spent where you're looking for a job.

Reading the FT or WSJ, you hear that Singapore is pretty much F#c@ed. Well, that goes with the rest of the world. For now, I'm hoping that a more urban environment atleast simplifies networking.

Finally, the insider view is that Singapore is the 'more fun' place to be at. The environment is supposedly more relaxed, people more friendlier etc etc. I honestly don't get how that could be, but I guess I'll just learn.

P3 exams are about to start in a few days now. The nice thing about P3 and forward is that there are very few exams and instead the focus is on in class participation and group work. It's more work in class but the learning experience is much better...

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Essay Writing

I got a few requests for tips on INSEAD essays. I had written about this when I started apping. Here's an easy link:

The bottom line is to think of INSEAD like a business. Imagine, you're running a school. Think about how the school makes money and how you play a role in it (Hint: Your tuition is just a small part of the whole story). Feel free to brainstorm on the comments and I can share my insight.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Is INSEAD that good?

Ranked 5th on FT. Higher than Stanford. Is the school that good or are these rankings busted?

Here's my take

Stanford is a better school than INSEAD. I have friends studying there and the kind of doors it opens are way way superior than INSEAD. Now, with the exception of Stanford, I think I agree with the FT Rankings. However, there's another element to interpreting rankings viz. who you are. So, we'll take a few parameters and assign some points

1. Your age
2. Your current experience
3. Your target industry
4. Your desired geographic location

If you're under 26, Assign 0
If you're between 26 - 29, Assign 50
If you're over 29, Assign 100

If you've got 0-2 years experience, Assign 0
If you've got 3-5 years experience, Assign 50
If you've got more than 5 years experience, Assign 100

Target Industry
If your target industry is completely different from your current, Assign 0
If your target industry is similar or closely related to your current, Assign 100

Geographic Location
If your target location is Europe, Assign 100
If your target location is USA, Assign 0
If your target location is Asia, Assign 50

Add up your scores. The closer you're to 400, the better INSEAD is for you and the more sense the rankings make. If you're young, have very less experience and are trying to make a career change, then INSEAD's the wrong school for you. If on the other hand, you're trying to nail a top notch job in Europe or Asia and are trying to make a transition from a promising manager to an executive, INSEAD gives you a lot of propeller fuel..

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Economy & Other stuff

I had the financial crisis explained to me real nice in my P3 Macro-economics course. The only reaction I had to it was, WTF! I understand that things look real simple in retrospect, but the sheer volume of greed that realtors and bankers engaged in just shocked me. I seriously began to question some of the principles of the capitalistic system we live in. I started reading some Marx just to get some hope that there may be alternate ideologies that are rooted in something more substantial.

Am I saying that an MBA is a waste? I am not sure. However, I feel that there are definitely some lessons towards learning how to make tradeoffs between pure financial gain and long term sustenance.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Rental Refund (a.k.a. CAF)

If you're renting in Fonty and are not a EU resident, then you're entitled to get a refund of the property tax paid by your landlord if your income is really low. If you're Indian, Chinese or one of the others from developing countries, then you're qualify for this. Here's how you get the refund

1. Visit: It's all in French, so you'll need #2 onwards..
2. Select on the left pane, "Etudiants'
3. Then on the same pane, Select "Aide Au Logement" Faire une demande
4. Scroll down all the way. Click Pursuivre
5. Fill up the form. Use bablefish or translator to make sense of the form. It's not too complicated. One note is to keep your salary equivalents less than 20,000 Euros
6. Print the resultant form, sign it yourself and ask your landlord to fill out a fields.. Landlord if french, should know what to fill out.

If you're in a fancy place paying 1000 - 1200, then you can get refunds up to 300 euros. The only catch is that you can only apply after you get Carte De Sejour. but nothing stops you from starting the paperwork upfront.

Reversal of Fortune

P2 results came out. Serendipitously, I squeezed into the Dean's List. What was more exciting was that, 4 out of 6 people in my study group made it as well. And the other 2 just barely missed. As I had mentioned in my previous post, I was not expecting this and feel somewhat excited.

Now back to reading...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

P2: Survival Tips

P2 is probably the most intense term at INSEAD. Just way too much going on, somehow. This is probably because of the number of group assignment. It just felt like I was with my group all the friggin time.. Once again from an engineer's perspective

Key Survival Lessons
  1. Don't skip Corporate Finance reading until the very end. You get screwed.
  2. Participate in club activity. For example, the consulting club organized the AT Kearney Strategy competition and participating in it was a lot of fun. Great learning! Pick one club and one event to participate in.
  3. Take the results in good spirit. There are clever people at INSEAD and many will do better than you.

P1: Survival Tips

I was just talking to a new P1 who was just asking me what the P1 landscape looked like. For me (a computer scientist with 5 years work experience), here were the main P1 revelations

Keys to Success
  1. Building a good working and personal relationship with the group. This saves a lot of time over P1 and P2. The way I see it, it's okay to burn some time initially working on building a good friendly relationship and tap the benefits of that at later stages. Successful groups had three main attributes - trust (that one of your team mates is capable of doing an assignment as good as you), patience (its okay if we bomb that one assignment, just move on) and a little unstructured (Let the free-rider in your team free-ride, he/she is sacrificing his/her own reputation and that's all).
  2. Focus on accounting, everything else is a piece of cake. Learning curve is steep. A little pre-reading would've been nice.
  3. Don't ignore LPG. Take detailed notes during the term. It can really boost your overall grade later.
  4. Decide if you want to be on the Dean's List or not. Sooner the better. Get it out of your system as soon as you can.
  5. Attend atleast 1 party a week (Depends on #4)

Dean's List

P1-P2 done. I will not be making it to the Dean's List (Top 10% of the class) despite an above average performance. I feel pretty relieved as I can now start seriously focusing on finding a job. A brief note on the importance of being on Dean's List

  • If you don't have a CV that stands out, this helps.
  • Auto-shortlisting by consulting companies
  • Some bragging rights
  • Really push the depth of your learning
  • You need to be clever or hardworking or both
  • Might distract you from the pragmatic needs of job hunting..
I would've liked to be on the list as I don't do too good on interviews, but that's that..

INSEAD to Paris

P3 just started and I still can't seem to figure out how to get from INSEAD to Paris without spending countless minutes waiting in bus stops and trains. So today, I finally got organized. I don't have a fancy phone, so I had to go with a low-tech organization strategy. The goal was to make sure that I got from INSEAD to Paris in the most economic way without having to wait much time

Step 0: Buy a mobilis pass in advance. A mobilis pass costs 16.40 Euros and it allows you unlimited travel by bus, train in the Ile-de-France region (includes Paris, Fonty but not the airports). So if you buy a pass in advance, you can ride the bus free while heading to Avon Gare (a whopping 1.60 Euro saving)

Step 1: Get a bus schedule from the Fontainebleau tourism office right next to the chateau: Print this out and post it on your door at home. The really cool thing about this schedule is it lines up the bus timings along with the train.

Step 2: Ride the bus. Get off at Avon Gare. Buy a mobilis for another day. Very important step that enables step 0. Pick up the small map of the Paris Metro area. You can do a lot of graph theory magic, figuring out how best to get back to Gare De Lyon. I personally, like to take exactly 3 trains from whereever I am...Just for Fun.

Step 3: Take the train. Make it to Paris happily.

That's pretty much it. Now that I write it all down, I wonder why the hell I was so lazy.