Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Back in Palo Alto, California…

So, I left Seattle on Monday September 11th and missed 3 flights in a row due to security lines, boarding gate misinformation and good old getting bumped off a seat.. 4th time lucky, so as I was originally meant to depart at 7am, I actually ended up departing at 2:30pm! Not a fun day of travel for me, I can tell you…
Leaving the amazing downtown Seattle apartment for a spacious Californian Suburban definitely feels like a change. And changes to my study/activity-style will also be afoot- instead of the 7 minute walk to class from Schwab, where I had plenty of time in the morning to swing by to grab a coffee, print assignments and still manage to be late, I’ll now be cycling into class across Palo Alto at least 30 mins before class starts. Traditionally, I have always done a better job of managing my time both at work and at school when I lived further away- the separation helps me gain the relaxation when I need it, and the distance makes it less easy for me to want doze off for a siesta in-between those 10am-1:15pm breaks.
My 10 week internship at Microsoft was highly enjoyable- they treated us MBA interns very well, and I definitely felt that I made a contribution to this mammoth organization worthy of 2 and half months work - if I was to summarize what I am able to say more precisely- I applied what I learnt in marketing, data & decisions, Pricing and of course E-commerce to the Office Enterprise team to segment and identify opportunities for selling a higher SKU Office suite to be released this fall as well as ensure smooth migration of customers into the Office suite from a recently acquired company (Groove Networks). Whilst I was going about my actions, Iessons from the organizational change and both strategy classes were in the back of my mind. One of the most enjoyable parts of the internship was definitely the interactions I had with my team, the Groove team and the other groups I worked with- particularly communicating my analysis out to the sales field, a crucial lever in Microsoft’s success. I just loved how everything I learnt in the last year, plus my tech background came together very nicely in the internship and I felt like I learnt a lot, including the culture of working in Corporate America. I have transitioned out of engineering and into business- my view of product development is now at tension between my marketing vs technical disciplines- I can begin to make good sense of crucial questions such as do you just build gut instinct great products/technologies or do you spend more time listening to customers for insights and requirements? Do customers always know what they want? How do you go to market with them- do you start with early adopters? If so, when do you know it is time to move it to masses?
Other takeaways? I must brag- Going to Bill Gates’ House on Day 1 was a huge highlight, as well as the exec speakers series that I took full advantage of to hear insights into the strategic direction of such a successful company supposedly under immense threat and at a PR/media disadvantage to the new upstarts here in Silicon Valley. Also, it was great to hear from Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Tipping Point, at the Marketing Symposium that coincided in my last week. He left the marketers with a balanced view of decision-making (“gut/instinct” vs “analysis-paralysis”), work from his recent book, Blink.
I am now greatly looking forward to an 8 day road trip that fill in the gaps to my California sightseeing and culture- check out the side blog on this which will get more alive starting Friday. I’ll probably run into some first year MBAs tomorrow when I hit campus to do some chores- God, will I feel old!