Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Kiswahili Speakers in the USA???

It has always deeply impressed me when I come across a westerner who can speak a basic level of Kiswahili to get by as a tourist. Then sometimes you’ll meet the odd British who can speak excellent, if not perfect Swahili, in part due to their colonial links with the East African region. But I never thought I’d meet an full on red-blooded American who can speak perfect Kiswahili in the Pacific Northwest until today. Just when I thought I’m all disconnected from home, you end up meeting someone who can speak my own mother tongue better than me! Pretty amazing… She should work for, the microfinance organization I raved about in the fall quarter that one of my classmates is working on, I think she would be a huge asset, speaking of, Kiva has been doing a super job of getting into the news recently, check out this businessweek story- those guys have become masters of generating good PR for their business and on their way to scaling up...

My view of Americans is changing- when you look deep enough, even a the ordinary non business school types, there are some real gems. May sound strange, but I sleep better at night knowing that one more American can speak really good Swahili and one more American is micro-lending to a poor entrepreneur in Africa.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

First Year Evaluation

One way to summarize my 1st year experience at Stanford GSB is go back to a list of expectations I had about the experience and to see how it turned out…

People & Social



1. I will meet some amazingly talented people who are either amazingly intelligent and/or have worked to get to their positions from all walks of life. There will be no slackers.


Derrick Bolton and the admissions team do a fantastic job of a hard task of putting together a diverse and talented group of 380 or so students. It hugely shapes the experience, there's a ton of learning that occurs offline.

2. All the students will be willing to help one another out and in general there will be no selfish or self-centered MBA students (at least that I have to deal with).


War-rooms work really well, study groups can be painful but a necessary part of the experience to learn to work with diverse talent.

3. I will get to know pretty much all of the students in my class (yes, all 380) by name, and have a core group of friends, however, there will be no particularly strong cliques (e.g. by nationality, career function, age etc...) and it will be easy to drift into and out of different core groups in time in order to really get to know the few who meet my diverse criteria and will become my best friends.


On the surface, but I wish I had enough time to learn more about people- the MBA is so fast paced and busy, unfortunately there is not enough time get to know what seems to be a small enough class to get to know everyone

4. There will be beautiful girls, both on campus and across California (sorry, had to slip that one in... It's California!) and they will love my British accent. Otherwise, at least, my mates who have promised to visit me, will be disappointed.


Brainmater is negatively correlated with attractiveness, need to pursue off campus avenues.

5. I'll be able to find classmates who will appreciate a variety of social activities ranging from clubbing/raving, visiting pubs/bars to the occasional quiet nights pretty much on demand. In other words, I will not feel like I'm constrained into social activities by my immediate friends/classmates.


Small class and people being busy means a feeling of working on a tight schedule

Location/Environment & Lifestyle



1. The campus environment will be vibrant, buzzing during class time, but at times, will be the the quiet serene and spacious campus that it appears on the brochure.


Stanford campus is a busy and intense place.

2. I will be able to achieve a great work/party balance at my will. In this sense I don't strictly mean, 50:50 of course, but I can imagine for instance in the 1st month or so, having partying a lot, and at times, needing to do some serious cramming for exams etc... All driven my behaviour and discipline, and not so much dictated by the school or friends/classmates


1st 2 quarters were tough- once internship was secured, both academic involvement and amount to relax dramatically increased

3. I will be able to maintain and improve my general fitness and improve my tennis game and yet eat a pretty fun diet (yes, some American fast-food here and there without getting fat...)


Terrible- I've put a significant amount of weight- will need to work out and go to the gym.

4. Facilities and service (academic, sports, accommodation etc..) will be world class compared to what I've seen at other academic institutions so far.


Excellent access to tennis court and other facilities. Schwab is the bestr= dorm one could ever construct- I think pretty silly to have exec education students in the same complex!

5. The weather will be amazing 5 out of 7 days a week. "Amazing", means, good enough to play tennis.


Between Dec-March, more rain that I would have expected.

Academics & Workload



1. I'll spend on average about 50-60 hours a week on academics (here's hoping!).


There is significant variation. I did not realise how much I needed to work on weekends!

2. Mathematics/Quantative work required will not be harder than engineering mathematics (2nd year level at Bristol). However, I expect to initially struggle but ultimately get by in courses requiring statistics.


Engineering quant background was invaluable! Stats, stats and more stats...

3. If I'm disciplined and consistent, I can at least spend one and a half complete days away from academics. I am able to devote a complete whole day away from the Stanford GSB environment to visit external friends in San Francisco .


Looking back, I had enough time to explore and get to know the area.

4. To obtain a 2nd Master's, e.g. in Engineering, I will need to sacrifice a great amount of my social life in the second year, but I should not have to become a complete hermit to obtain it.


Not a chance… Might take Comp science not engineering courses.

5. The teaching will be exceptional and focused and I will receive suitable attention in areas I struggle, better than in my days in public school in UK, Bristol or at my last job training courses.


I'm a firm believer of paying for exceptional education with aid and financial support for the talented and less well to do. Generally the courses are well taught with some truly exceptional- I loved the E-commerce class the taught by Prof Haim Mendelson the best.

Career management & Jobs



1. I will be able to explore initially, a diverse set of careers through career management and advice from other students, but very quickly hone into one or two career options and will receive enough support through clubs and seminars. Management consulting in Strategy & Technology areas will remain my top career choice throughout the two years.


Club support has been quite weak- consulting much tougher to get into.

2. I will have to work reasonably hard to gain an internship, by reasonably hard, I mean I won't expect to get one just attending seminars or career fairs, I'll need to put some work, but not to an equal or more measure as the amount I put into my academics.


More than you'd know, surprised that I did not miss more classes.

3. I will get at least 2 job offers on graduation. At least one of those I will be within the United States.


2 for Internships

4. Hi-tech jobs in the Silicon Valley/Bay area will be the easiest for me to access whilst finance related jobs will be the hardest.


Goes without saying given my background and the area.

5. The MBA will categorically provide me with opportunities that I would have never accessed without it.


Both in corporate for profit and in the non-profit world, not to mention start-ups, it’s the most confusing time in my life- there's so much out there! However, there where an individual can make an impact does help funnel downthe choices.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Growing up American?

I’ve been taking some time in the evenings and on weekends to catch up with my old life and old friends in the UK by e-mail and various calls. One question I often get is whether I have yankee accent yet. Am I speaking Americanese English yet? Well, I have a few friends at the GSB who update and watch whether I’ve begun to lose the accent, and so far, not so noticeable- it’s hard to change an accent that has been built up over 11 years from the age of 13. I am beginning to speak Americanese, there is no way I can say words like ‘Bathroom’ here without referring to the right accent tone.

The biggest change for me in the last year has definitely been in my behaviors- yesterday on my way into work, I had a huge craving for Starbucks coffee, and as I self-reflected in the queue, I realized that I had become one of them- a serious coffee drinking American machine! I should start to be conscieous about whose coffee I drink to ensure I support third world coffee farmers…

All this means a confusing time for me, as I approach my 25th birthday, I start to wonder about what my real identity is. I would describe myself as a Tanzanian at heart- generous, simple , quiet and cooperative- or am I a guy who prefers to sit in quiet pubs by the fire in winter and in the beer garden at night sipping ale or lager that gets all exited and disappointed by the England football team like a true brit? The other day I found a drum and bass club in Seattle and I was sooo excited, as drum and bass is a music genre I’d grown to love in my time in the Southwest of England- do I still appreciate this music or am I increasingly becoming addicted to commercial hip-hop?

Clearly, like I morphed into the British culture beginning some 12 years ago, there is a level of Americanism that that will be part of me now and moving forward. It’s also easy to forget, how diverse America really is, more diverse than the UK in many ways and it is hence more tolerable and accepting of diverse people. The march to Stanford GSB begun a while back now, and I don’t think I really put much thought into how much the American culture would influence me- although I was well aware that I would go through one hell of an experience.

Yesterday, I ended the day with a talk Microsoft arranged on house buying should we return to the area full-time. Yes, it is premature given that I haven’t even reached my mid-point review to receive the ‘on-track’ signal, but so was going to Bill Gates’ house on Day one … The housing talk was a good info session, but I felt pressured into action- “buy, buy, get into the property market! Settle down- You’re Growing up!’’ Decision, decisions, I’m a small boy entering a grown up world…

Friday, July 14, 2006

The internship

I’ll take this post to describe my internship, 3 weeks in. Well, I am working for the Information Worker Product Management Group, specifically on the Office Team. We are working hard to launch Office 2007. I am specifically working on marketing a new product known as Groove that is being added to the Office suite. It’s a going to a available generally as part of the Office Enterprise suite. The software is a peer to peer like collaboration tool that allows one to create workspaces and invite users to work on it in the face of corporate firewalls, team members working offline/online- it also has some contextual features like instant messaging, discussion boards, meeting and issue tracking etc…

Groove is a tricky product to sell because it is highly experiential, most don’t understand its value until they try it. For instance, I have used it for the obscure application of collaborating with myself- I use it to synch My Documents folder on my personal laptop with the work one so I can work seamlessly between the two machines at home and in the Office.

The most fascinating aspect of the internship so far, is the insight into the effective marketing machine at Microsoft. The general public view (and the anti-trust authorities) on the success of Microsoft is predicated entirely on exploitation and tying of products with the Windows Operating System, what they don’t see the importance and scale of the partner community, particular the strength of the sales force in the field. Microsoft’s partner network is simply key.

Outside my marketing role, I am also attending the Executive speaker series arranged for MBA interns, which I treat as an extension of Stanford View GSB’s From The Top. I really appreciate these as they happen pretty regularly and provide an insight in the direction of the software giant. This week we had Head of Business Division and Kevin Johnson co-president of Platform and Services. In the next few weeks we should get to hear from Robbie Bach , president of Entertainment and Devices Division, not to mention the CEO Steve Ballmer.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Thoughts on New Curriculum

I wanted to offer my thoughts on Stanford GSB new MBA curriculum starting with the entering class in 2007 (Class of 2009)- well I have to say it is definitely a big departure from the traditional MBA curriculum, having spoke to my other peers here in Seattle from other top business schools, Stanford already had a more customizable curriculum than others- allowing you to exempt or turbo (take a more challenging flavor) of courses. The new curriculum extends the customization- not only making a lot of sense for the extremely diverse academic and work experiences, but putting the student more in charge of developing their management education. The drive to become more global has been extended by requiring students to go on study trips, international internships or going on a student exchange with Tsinghua University’s School of Economics and Management in China. I do think they need to definitely spend a significant amount of time globalizing the cases. There is also a drive to increase more international applicants by extending the testing requirements to include GRE test takers- this definitely makes a lot of sense in lowering the total cost of admission to would be graduate degree applicants- particularly for those who can’t afford to take more tests. I don’t think the comparing ‘’apples and oranges’’ part is that important- it’s simply a practical step in widening the application pool - yes, the tests are different, but in my mind it’s just a discipline test.
I like the leadership part- effectively emphasizing the importance of personal development and organizational behavior- no surprises, since time and time again alumni have said that courses such as ‘’touchy feely’’ (interposal dynamics) are the best thing they have ever taken at Stanford- its natural that they make that a core part of the curriculum.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The best Internship deal ever…?

So I already talked about going to Gates’ house on day one of my internship, and the wonderful apartment Microsoft is subsidizing in downtown Seattle. In addition, we get access to the top class fabulous pro-club, possibly the best service in a gym I have ever seen in my life! Last and I’m sure not least, is the Microsoft prime card, an employee discount card that works on everything from 2 for 1 meals, i-max tickets to 10% of BMW parts. One thing is very clear- Microsoft values and looks after their employees. Of course some of these perks are unique to summer MBA interns, but regardless, its enough to make you really appreciate working for Microsoft- I suppose in this highly competitive knowledge intensive industry, every little benefit counts.
The biggest treat for me is the spectacular summer weather and environment in the Pacific Northwest- being a bit of a nature lover, tree hugging Stanford GSBer, this is prime. On Sunday, I went on a hike near the Olympus Mts, close to the border with Canada with some other MBAs to catch some amazing views:

And I know that this only lasts for the summer- Seattle is pretty grey outside this season. Happy 4th of July.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Day One at Micorosft- Bill Gates' house...

Straight from an e-mail I wrote to some friends:

Yes- so I’ve got to brag about this one. Had my first day of my internship at Microsoft, and although there must have been some cruel joke or test for interns to get up to speed with the computer and networking- was on the phone for almost 2 hours trying to get logged on (never got logged on!)… This was more than made up by the invite to Mr. Gates house in the evening for a BBQ with another 300 interns ( as a sense of scale, there are a total 1200 interns this summer from high-school to graduate student level).

So the house is pretty modest in size, packed with some stylish/strange use of technology- like the music that plays through the jetty as you wonder near his speed boat. We had 90% access to the fantastic garden. However, security to get in was tight- no cameras, phones etc… and took up an hour.

Won’t go into detail- but lets just say the highlight for me was sitting on his personal wooden garden chair, beer in hand, with the perfect sunset overlooking Lake Washington… A momemnt to take in the personal achievements of a man with great vision and leadership...

I managed to get in two questions- one about the competitive threat of Google which he sidetracked and another about his work on the gates foundation- have to admire his commitment to funding drug discoveries that Big Pharma would never go for due to low/nil return on investment. He rattled off his commitment on malaria vaccine and on some diseases in Africa that I’d never even heard of…

Off to bed- but settling in well in area for the summer.