Wednesday, August 30, 2006
I am hoping interns make their final choices on much more than just on the surface notions such as the ones mentioned above- it reminds me of when I am trying to convince an Englishman of the value of an MBA with this all too common reply- “its sooo expensive- management is a load of cr*p”. Comparing that with what a phenomenon first year of business school has been and the number of opportunities that seem to be panning out- it turns out this could be a good year for MBAs, definitely on the cyclical up-turn. The biggest challenge I think for an MBA, is how to rationally choose a full-time gig without being paralyzed by choice, there a so many variables in the mix- age, marital status, career aspirations/ambitions, lifestyle choice, cost of living, friendship base etc, not to mention strategic career management… For me, geography was a big deal, do I stay in the US, go back to UK or Tanzania? That answer is seems to have been resolved- stay in the USA for the foreseeable future. There’s too much to see, too much to do, and many opportunities to develop. I was lucky that being in the UK allowed me to go back often to Tanzania, and I think those days of returning twice year are gone, and adding some distance will do me some good and make me appreciate Tanzania even more. In the meantime, I'm thinking of launching a non-profit in the near term to keep me engaged and making an impact at home- for those long time readers of my blog, it's obvious that this makes sense- when I blog, I blog about what’s on my mind- since there are fair share of my outside b-school posts are on Tanzania compared to say the progress of the NASDAQ- so its apparent that I try and juggle that avenue whilst pursueing a for profit career...
Sunday, August 20, 2006
The following story really grabbed my attention.
An Austrian filmmaker has been strongly criticized by the Tanzanian president for his the documentary known as Darwin's nightmare. The film shows the impact of globalization on a fishing region on western Tanzania near lake victoria. Nile perch one of Tanzania's biggest export earners whilst at the same time, this non native fish that was introduced in 1950s has dramatically altered the ecological balance in what is the 2nd largest lake in the world. If that's not enough, the film tries to make a link between the fishing trade with the wars in the Congo, supposedly the Russian pilots who fly out the fish on a regular basis to the Europe bring back with them arms and munitions... Being a curious Tanzanian, I was actually able to watch the whole documentary within moments after first reading the article (so is the power of YouTube!- see it here)- I was further shocked and reminded of the difficult lives that people in the region have to live- particularly not being able to afford the very fish that is so abundant in the lake, instead being restricted in eating the fish heads, bones and other left-overs from the fillet packing processing units. This scene repeats itself across many parts of Tanzania, and I understand how sensitive this must be to Tanzania as it may damage a very lucrative trade between Tanzania and Europe- the trade balances are already hard enough for African countries to establish without needing to worry about a filmmaker's "negative portrayal" of the region. And indeed, the claim that guns make it back to Africa through the very planes that export the fish is definitely the weakest factual part of the documentary- once again, many may people in the western world may automatically assume that this is true- hence the president's concern on damaging the trade and negatively portraying Tanzania, which has a solid record of peace compared to other African countries in the region...
It raises issues- I have recently finished reading Chris Anderson's The Long Tail, as a deeper dive into this interesting phenomenon that the Internet has unleashed. I won't go into details here- but please follow up if you have the time and are not familiar with it, I should mention that we are taught this concept in the E-commerce class at Stanford GSB. Anyway, the long-tail phenomenon allows stories such as the one I cite which would otherwise not make it to mainstream media to actually make it to someone like me living in the US who cares. Chris Anderson also makes a claim that as you progress down the long tail, it is likely that the stories are of "less quality", again, applying it to this story, it is becoming increasingly easy for anyone to create media, publish it and potentially reach millions of people without the story actually being factually verified, it simply becomes one viewpoint. I'm not trying to say that the film-maker is making things up, but highlighting the dangers of such media being misinterpreted as factual and making it into the mainstream (up the long-tail). Its interesting to see how far this story escalates...
If this post isn't crammed enough as it is- this raises the opportunity for me to explain why I blog. Its to get stories like these out to a wider audience and put my own interpretation on it- so beyond the materials on the GSB website and other publications about b-school, this and many other blogs will report things about b-school in a different light- its not official, but I'm hoping readers appreciate it.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
|One of the best classes for me at the GSB was international development. However, it was one of the classes in b-school where one could become paralysed by the amount of data trying to describe the state of poverty, the progress made in recent years etc... |
Hans, a professor from the Karolinski Institute does a great job in 20 minutes of making real sense of international development data to show real impact (http://www.gapminder.org/)... If only the data and decisions or other statistics or number crunching classes could be done in this way! Not only does this show the power of great data visualization, but how to be an effective communicator.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
A flurry of activity in recent weeks. Just past my midpoint review of my internship and I took the time to head down to Los Angeles last weekend to meet up with a few GSBers. I was so happy to see them! I was pretty excited to start my internship over a month ago, but it was nothing quite like meeting up with a bunch of classmates- some very interesting stories from those in consulting or tech as well as the more exotic internships stints such as in Vegas.
Resume drop deadline for 2nd year is tomorrow, and the reality of full-time recruiting has come into focus. At this point in time, I'm devoting my time on internships and enjoying Seattle than to really start giving much thought on full-time recruiting, but with the interviewers starting on October, I have no choice...
Closer to home, we had our final official MBA intern events on Thursday- yes a few people have actually finished their internships here at Microsoft, and as the weeks go by, we will see a steady trickle of MBA interns leave. Me and the other GSBer finish last about a week after the last interns.
So I turn 25 in half an hour's time... I feel old, certainly not for an MBA.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
One of the biggest issues I find I have to deal with whilst being a business school student is being at the young(er) end of the scale relative to my peers. To cut to the chase, in general 28 year olds behave very differently to 24 year old like myself- this behavior can be amplified when in an MBA environment, especially when trying interact with a predominantly American crowd. I find that my interaction with some MBAs tends to be rough- they tend not to listen to your arguments, discount your "lack of experience" heavily like you were born yesterday- essentially treating you in disbelief. Let me just get things straight here, I am young for the typical MBA not because of a freak of nature, I happen to be 4 years younger than the average through a cumulative saving of years and a strict family who have always wanted me to put my academics/career first, in light of their high investment in my education relative to western students, I obeyed in satisfying them. When I graduated from high school and people were taking gap years for traveling, I went straight to university (1 year saved), rather than take a year to "see the world", I took a 3 year Bachelors in Engineering the UK when most take a 4 year course in Engineering in the UK and 4 years for most degrees in the US (1 year saved). I did not waste any time with regard to getting a job post graduation- within 3 months of graduation I had started my first job (allow 6 months). And then got 3 years work experience, when most MBAs get 4 years (1 year saved) in what was essentially an excellent rotational program for a prestigious technology company that was a former government R&D agency that needed young motivated individuals to span the organization fast and take on a commercial savvy approach. This breadth of experience essential gained me another half a year or so with respect to most 3 year jobs. This is all in the face of being an international (work-permit & security issues), and what I would say are fairly mediocre grades at top engineering school- I would not call myself a boy genius by any stretch, and I'm not just being modest- I once had to repeat a class in digital electronics because I failed- my parents came down on me very hard for that blip in my academics! All I am trying to say is that there are a lot of factors that contributed to me being 4 -5 years younger than normal. I just applied to the business schools that I think would value me for who I am, and I was fully aware of the business schools that would not even take a minute to evaluate my applications. If any older MBAs are reading this from schools outside Harvard and Stanford- please, don't discount younger MBAs simply for their age- take time to get to know them, we may not bring what is classified as "normal" b-school career paths- some schools value a diverse student body- if you meet qualifying requirements and can contribute to the educational process and experience for the student body AND HAVE LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL, why not an MBA? The world of "time served" to earn a promotion has largely gone any place that has that kind of value system will not see the likes of Mbwana- I'll always navigate away from that no matter what- and explains my success in where I am now relative for my age now. Socially this can create some difficulties, it means that I tend to have two age levels of friends- friends who are 27-31 year old who respect me for who I am, in and outside the MBA, and I friends who are my age. Nevertheless, the two groups do behave differently and I end up being middle of the road, perceived or maybe even actually coming across as immature to the MBA crowd, and almost no fun or too career minded to my age peers who are just getting used to their first corporate jobs.