Oct 21, 2007

The End of Chapter One

Last P1 classes were held on Friday, exams start tomorrow: this is it. The end of P1. I won't bore you with additional grumblings about exam prep because a) I've already gone into that and b) my fellow blogging classmates have already given a pretty vivid portrayal of the the whole ordeal.

But I do want to give you a quick run-down on my P1 profs since only the E1/E2 profs have been mentioned by other bloggers and I think their E3/E4 counterparts deserve a little recognition (besides Nikos, the Athenian Econ legend of whom much has already been said, profs only teach two sections each.) So here goes:

Gianpiero Petriglieri (aka "GP") (LPG): This guy is awesome. Future intakes take note: no matter what your preconceived notions may be about the value of organizational behaviour classes, you are going to end up loving GP. He somehow managed to make an entire class of finance-obsessed geeks delve into their dark, touchy-feely hidden depths to the point where, by the end of the final class, half of us were actually choking up (and the other half were squirming uncomfortably). Group psycho-therapy at its best, led by genuinely nice, Burberry-wearing Italian. What more can you ask for?!

Ioana Popescu (aka "Yo-anna!") (Stats): Statistics is not funny. Nor is it an easy subject to get your head around, especially if you've never done it before. And then comes Ioana, and with a little help from inspirational music, a sense of humour, and some brilliant teaching skills, statistics actually becomes cool. Or cool-er than you thought it would be, anyway. Hats off to you, Ioana, you actually made me consider becoming "the statistician" for a brief second (but then I took the practice exam and realized my skills might be better used elsewhere...!)

Jean Dermine (aka "The Dreamer") (Finance): I came in not expecting to understand anything in this class. And indeed, at first, my expectations were verified. But then some of it actually started making sense, and now I can calculate a WACC and unlever a beta like it was second nature (well, maybe third or fourth nature, but still...) Jean has a more traditional, "gallic" professorial style than the other profs, which did not sit well with everyone at first, but I think he did a first-rate job. And his cracks about other INSEAD-profs and their obsession with EVA are the stuff of legends.

Steve Baginsky (aka "Budweiser Man") (Accounting): I like Steve, I really do. He's a nice man and he clearly tries hard. I just don't like accounting. I could fill reams of A4 double-sided paper explaining how much I don't like accounting. Sorry Steve.

But now it's time to say goodbye to these folks and move on to the next batch of profs and subjects. Coming up in P2: Corporate Financial Policy, Foundations of Marketing, Leading Organisations, Managerial Accounting (groan...), Process & Operations Management and Strategy. But first we have exams, and a four-day group trip to Morocco (Marrakech and Essaouira, about which more later) which will hopefully do wonders to relieve tensions, make everyone happy and love each other again, and provide us with some much-needed warmth.

And so, from the sub-arctic igloos of Fontainebleau, I wish you farewell, for now.

Oct 14, 2007

Positive Thinking for Dummies

MDS is right, positive thoughts can come in handy during hard times. So here's my brave attempt:

Bad Thing: The finance group project is insanely complicated, and we have spent hours working on it already, thereby severely cutting into our exam prep time.
Good Thing: Little old public international lawyer me has actually valued a company. Seriously. How cool is that?!

Bad Thing: I hate accounting, can't seem to put the time or energy into getting my head around it, and as a result may end up failing that class.
Good Thing: I can now definitively strike off "accountant" from my list of potential drastic career moves.

Bad Thing: I am so behind in my studying I feel I would need an entire sabbatical year (yes, another one) just to get on top of things.
Good Thing: One of the reasons I am so behind is that I was dancing the night away at the end-of-Lebanese-week "Absolut Beirut" party. Pretty good trade-off, in my book.

Bad Thing: I didn't get a spot to go to Singapore.
Good Thing: I don't have to stress and lose valuable social/study time trying to find a new place to live. And I get to go skiing while all my classmates are exploring the beaches of South East Asia. (I'm trying really hard to find the positives here...)

Bad Thing: Exams start in one week.
Good Thing: Post-exam exhilarating madness in Morocco starts in ten days.

Bad Thing: P1 is almost over.
Good Thing: P1 is almost over.

Oct 9, 2007

Contagious Panic

It is fortunate that we have the Lebanese week on campus to bring some much-needed cheer (not to mention free kebabs and beer) to this cold, rainy penultimate week before the end of P1. That's right, less than two weeks left before the dreaded exams. After a sobering talk about grading from Dean Fatas (I think he was trying to reassure us, actually, but had the opposite effect), stress about campus exchange (more on that in a future post), and an ever-increasing pile of group projects, essays, "games" and other assignments, I have come to the conclusion that the most attractive strategy is to hide under the blanket, screw your eyes shut really tight and wait for it to be over. Not necessarily a mature or effective strategy, granted, but definitely tempting right now.

Instead, being a super-alpha-high-achiever (like most INSEADers), I have been staying up late scribbling illegible finance notes, going to too many parties (how could I say no to togas in Chateau Fleury?!), and lugging around some very large bags under my eyes. This week will bring much of the same. Social activities on offer include a Lebanese dinner on Wednesday, two competing parties on Thursday, a Lebanese disco on Friday and the unmissable France-England semifinal on Saturday. On the slightly more academic side, there's the LPG essay to finish writing, two statistics group projects to prepare, one group project in finance, class readings to do and exam revision to get started with. Someone catch me if I pass out. Please.

PS: Apparently we J08 bloggers are scaring future intakes and, in particular, the incoming D08 class (welcome D08 bloggers, by the way). Well, all I can say is.... be afraid, be very afraid (and be sure to practice your not-sleeping, speed-reading and multi-lingual-costume-wearing-alcohol-consuming skills before you get here). You're going to love it.

Oct 2, 2007

Prices, Markets and Group Bonding

Prices and Markets is the name of our Micro-Economics course in P1, taught by the INSEAD Greek legend that is Nikos Vettas. And this week is definitely Prices and Markets week.

On Monday, we had our second quiz, designed to help us assess whether we've understood what's been going on so far, and more generally give us a first taste of exam panic (yup, those babies start in less than three weeks...) Despite counting for only 10% of our grade, the quiz kept my entire house up late Sunday night, frantically trying to understand why profit-maximizing output should be set at P=MC.

Also on this week are the "P&M Games." No, this does not involve our class stretching its collective athletic muscle to compete for laurel wreaths before our great Athenian leader. Instead, each of our study groups is matched against another group from Fonty, Singapore, or the Wharton MBA class (an example of the INSEAD/Wharton Alliance at work) as we set prices and quantities for products in an attempt to make more profit than the other guy. Every day this week, we input our decisions into the network and wait to see what the other teams come up with before moving on to the next round. While rather time-consuming (but hey, who needs sleep...) it's a fun way to apply all these nifty equations we've been learning, and also allows us to work more closely with our groups.

In a similar vein, the P&M Class Exercises also start this week. This is based on the same principle as the P&M Games, but carried out on a smaller, less high-tech level. First up, pricing pharmaceuticals when a patent is about to expire and a new generic brand wants to enter the market.

As you can see, slight Econ overload, but I actually really enjoy the subject so no complaints from me (all I can say is thank god I don't have to spend that much time doing accounting...)

Another feature of the week is frantic, generalized study group bonding. Our LPG (Leading Peoples and Groups) essay is due next week, subject: your study group, its mechanics and your role within it. This essay counts for 50% of our grade, and while it may seem "warm and fuzzy" compared to the heavy finance and stats stuff we have to do, it's slowly dawning on most of us that writing an essay like this will not actually be simple. So, groups that have until now been spending as little time as possible with each other are planning dinners, study sessions, drunken brawls, anything that will allow them to "observe" each other while surreptitiously scribbling notes in a little black book and gathering fodder for the essay. Spies are everywhere.

And with that I leave you to go meet my group for the next round of P&M Games. Shhhhh....