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..