Feb 12, 2008

Turning that frown...

There's been lots of whinging on the blogosphere lately, including from me. Certainly, it's a good thing (and one of the blogger's responsibilities) to give future students and applicants a balanced view of life as an MBA, and life at INSEAD in particular. The trouble is, it's a lot easier to complain and criticise than to express satisfaction and, as all those in "media" know, bitching excites the reader/viewer a lot more than does praise. So, here's to a little less frowning and a little more smiling.

On that note, I'd like to express my own point of view on the "10-month MBA", in response to a recent post by a fellow student. Here's my take on the "serious disadvantages" identified by my classmate. Then it's up to you, future INSEAD student, to make up your own mind:

- "Shallow courses": Sure, the furious pace leaves us less time to absorb the material. But the courses are by no means shallow. The professors do an outstanding job getting to the very core of the material, skipping the fluff, and using simulations and exercises to have us rolling up our sleeves and getting our hands dirty right away. Also, to me the point of a generalist MBA is not to learn all the material, but to learn how to think, what frameworks to use, what questions to ask.
- "Shallow networks": This is all up to you. There are two ways of playing the network game at INSEAD. You can either meet as many people as you can, and make sure you have had some contact with anyone who may potentially be helpful to you in the future, or you can focus on the few people you really like and build strong relationships with those. It's go broad or go deep. Personally, I have chosen the latter option. One of the most enjoyable things this period has been the development of really close friendships here at INSEAD. Maybe I'm naive. Maybe it's a Fonty vs Singapore thing. Maybe it's a question of personality.
- "No time to spare career-wise": This I would tend to agree with. As I've already mentioned on these pages, it is difficult, with all the things going on at school, to really spend time thinking about what you want to do after INSEAD, researching the various options and perfecting cover letters, interview techniques, etc. I do know people who have managed to put the time in, though. As with everything here, it's all about prioritising.
- "No time to explore interests": Fair enough point if your interests are along the lines of learning Mandarin from scratch, becoming a professional rugby player, or running you business on the side. But if you want to dabble in a few things, be it sports, public speaking, travelling, or participating in a business competition like the L'Oreal game, then INSEAD is your oyster. Sure, you'll be running from one place to another and wishing you could sleep a couple extra hours, but the opportunities are there if you're willing to put in the effort.

Basically, here's my advice for those of you considering INSEAD. It's intense, crazy, and a bit of an emotional roller-coaster. But if you can learn to manage your time and your emotions, and establish your priorities, you're going to love the experience. I do.

On a totally unrelated note, check out the hilarious Ben Bernanke spoof video on Wim's blog!

Feb 10, 2008

White Spaces

At school, we are repeatedly exhorted to find the "white spaces", "blue oceans", "untapped customers" that are necessary to grow a business. What I wouldn't give for a white space of my own, where I might do some growing too. This period is the most challenging one for me, raising all sorts of questions: to what extent am I happy handing in sub-standard work in order to maintain my social life and catch a couple hours sleep now and then? What have the courses taught me about where my skills and preferences lie? How much of a radical change am I prepared to make in my life, career or otherwise? Rather than achieving any clarity on these issues, I get more confused the more people I speak to. And I just can't seem to find that little space in my schedule, or in my mind, to really sit down and think about it. Resorting to the ostrich method instead, I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hoping something good happens.

It's not all gloom and doom, though. I am really enjoying the social environment at school these days. It's much more relaxed than in the first couple periods, and everyone is focusing their efforts not on ticking off lists of names of people they've met, but on building real, solid friendships. Integration with our friends from Singapore has also been fantastic, and we've even managed to build some bridges to the new December class as well.

In other news, our team is into the semi-finals round for the L'Oreal business game. That means that we now have to put together a business plan outlining our vision for our little company and its promising portfolio of brands. A fake company, and fake brands, of course, but after almost three months it really feels like our baby. Here's hoping our baby impresses the L'Oreal execs.

I feel like I should close this post with an apology. I know I have not done a very good job this period keeping my readership informed of the goings-on in my life. In fact, I've done a similarly poor job maintaining communication with my friends and family. All I can say is, I promise to do better. And to keep looking for those spaces.