Aug 20, 2008

Bubble Revisited

One of the drawbacks of INSEAD, particularly if you were a die-hard Fonty resident like myself, is that you could never escape the bubble. One of the advantages of INSEAD is that, once you graduate, you can always return to the bubble and even take it with you in a handy carry-on case whenever you wish.

And so it is that over the next few days, some favourite alumni of mine will magically materialize here, in the balmy south of France, from various corners of the globe, to eat, drink and be rowdy in true bubble style. Summer adventures will be told and retold, gossip poured over with glee, and more than a few ear-splitting renditions of Mika will be sung around the pool. I can't wait!

For those of you who are starting INSEAD now, or any other business school for that matter, this is what you have to look forward to. I envy you these next 10 months during which you will discover and build friendships that, come graduation, you'll wonder how you ever lived without. So, leave the stress of grading and exams behind you for a moment (I know from my keyword statistics that these are your principal concerns) and imagine all those people you do not yet have the pleasure of knowing but who you will be spending your next summer holiday getting happily tipsy with. Before jobs and other grown-up things pull a Jonah and the whale on you.

Aug 13, 2008

For the Glory

Once every four years I get the chance to indulge in one of my favourite activities, namely becoming a couch potato, regardless of the weather outside, to watch the Olympics. From judo to swimming to fencing to archery to kayaking to whatever else the television programmers decide to throw at me, I watch and enjoy it all. I can't help thinking that here are the real athletes. It's one thing to dedicate yourself to your sport, with all the training and risk of injury that implies, when you make millions in endorsements and become a world-wide star. But for the athletes at the Olympics, there is no money or fame on the line (with the possible rare exception of Michael Phelps-types). They all have other jobs to pay the bills, no one will recognize them in the street, and they will never peddle sodas, shoes, cereal or razors on national television. And still they train, sweat, and suffer just because they love their sport and that's what they do. It's a beautiful thing. And so, despite the paucity of medals on the French side so far, I remain glued to the screen to catch their 15 minutes of glory.

This is my last full day of indulgence however, as tomorrow I head south to witness (literally) another impressive display, namely one of my best friends getting married. Despite the massive writer's block which refuses to lift and threatens to cause me great embarrassment when it comes to the speech-making, I am happy to participate in another joyous event involving one of my close friends (all of whom have recently either gotten hitched or procreated, in a kind of avalanche of growing up which so far has passed me by).

Then it will be time for a final two weeks of holiday in the sun on the beautiful Côte d'Azur before C-Day, i.e. the day I launch my attempt at becoming a consultant.

Aug 6, 2008

Serious Politics

I love to talk politics. I could do it all day. Glossing over the fact that I am incredibly ill-informed by employing sly litigator tricks, I can go 15 rounds if need be (and provided I've had enough coffee) to support, defend, humanize, glorify my favourite candidate or - as is more usual - villify my least favourite one. I have spared you all of this, dear readers, as I have made the conscious decision that this blog is not the appropriate forum for an airing of my political opinions/whims-of-the-day.

But this was an opportunity I could not miss, a gem of political debate of the highest order, one that had me floored (as in, rolling around on the floor in laughter). I have newfound respect for Paris Hilton, or whichever clever little person saw the original ad and convinced her to do this. Enjoy.

See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die

Aug 4, 2008

Restoring Order

My attention has been drawn to the fact that I have committed a grave dereliction of duty by failing to post my summing-up of courses for both P4 and P5. I will therefore rectify the situation post haste. Apologies if my memory is not as fresh as it would have been had I posted in a more timely manner. Now, let me see, I know I took some classes having something to do with business at some point...


Negotiation Strategies - Ayse Onculer: The famous Negotiations prof at INSEAD is Horatio Falcao, who apparently is amazing. I didn't take his class (taught in Singapore) so I can't compare, but I was perfectly happy with Ayse's class. First, it reminded me how much I like arguing with people (no surprise there). It also showed me that if people are nice to me I'm a complete pushover (that was somewhat surprising; must learn to keep that in check). While the lecture part of the course was average, the exercises were occasionally stressful but usually good fun. Especially the mediation exercise, which felt like the good old days...

Industry and Competitive Analysis - Karel Cool: It's a toss-up between Markus Christen's class and this one as to which was my favourite out of the entire INSEAD year. The two profs have completely different styles (Mr Cool, despite his name, is a bit of a stickler for old-fashioned discipline, and unlike Markus would never be caught dead sharing a beer or two or three with his students) but both manage to fill their course with such passion, enthusiasm, relevance and content that even if these were the only two courses all year, the hefty tuition would be worth it. So, future students of the Business School for the World, I beg of you, please don't miss this class (and if you need any tips on Michelin, drop me a line).

Advanced Game Theory - Timothy van Zandt: I was very excited about taking this class. In an ultra-geeky way. I was so excited to take this class that I decided to forego Advanced Corporate Finance (which had a schedule conflict). This was probably a mistake. The exercises amused me (full of fun algebraic equations and things that poor, lowly, non-engineer me had a bit of a struggle with) but the lectures were painful and I'm not sure I took much from them. In fact, I think I probably learned more about (applicable) game theory... euh... theories, from Karel Cool.

Political Risk Assessment & Management - Michael Witt: P4 was all about blast from the past for me (enciting me to search high and low for interesting ways to get back to being a lawyer, which I ultimately failed to do). First, with Negotiations, and then with "PRAM", where I got to brainwash an entire assembly of fellow students that the most important thing to remember when investing abroad was to hire a good international arbitration lawyer and get that dispute resolution clause airtight. My work here is done, ladies and gentlemen. In all seriousness, this was a fun class and a much more interesting way to approach the interrelation between politics and business than what we got in the core.

Psychological Issues in Management - Fernando Bartolome: I think I've probably posted about this class on numerous occasions, as have some of my fellow bloggers, so by now you should know that a) Fernando is a rude, obnoxious, insufferable, pain-in-the-whatsit and b) this class is a must. Bring tissues.


Dynamic Pricing & Revenue Management - Ioana Popescu: I took this class because it was taught by my P1 Statistics prof and because the issue of pricing seemed interesting to me. While the lectures were at times slow, the questions raised provided plenty of food for thought, and I was lucky to have fantastic groupmembers who knew what they were doing and were kind enough to pretend that despite my shocking lack of Excel skills I actually added value to our various projects. Bless them.

Brand Management - Pierre Chandon: For those who enjoy marketing (like me), this is a great class, full of fun examples and very hands-on case studies. The professor is entertaining, his French accent comprehensible and his inclusive approach to teaching a delight. I will carry with me fond memories of hour-long, coffee-fueled debates with my groupmates about the best way to market Russian vodka to Americans and the fashion faux-pas of Diesel.

Environmental Management & Corporate Responsibility - David Vogel: My mother (or someone's mother, at any rate) once told me that if you don't have anything nice to say, it's best not to say anything at all. I did enjoy writing the final paper on L'Oréal and the organic cosmetics trend, though.

Global Strategy & Management - Subramian Rangan: Winner of the "best teacher" award (category: Electives/Fontainebleau), Prof. Rangan is a gem. He has no gimmicks, no loud, imposing voice, no "hey-I'm-one-of-the-kids" jokes, no snazzy slides. He's just a very, very good professor. Now why on earth is this course a mini? Dear new Dean of the MBA, please look into this matter at once.

Well, folks, that's it. I have now reviewed all of my classes at INSEAD. Some I have loved, some a little less so, but all taught me something and somehow managed to make an "ex-lawyer" out of me. And that's saying a lot. So it is armed with this bag of tricks that I face my future career as a consultant, due to begin in less that four weeks. Stay tuned.

Aug 2, 2008

Think you can navigate Fonty?!

Because it is charitable to help those less fortunate than ourselves (...), I post below an advertisement from one of my fellow alumni. If you're interested or want more info, please leave me a comment and I will transfer to the relevant person. Watch me play message board.

We will return to our regular programming in due course.

Imagine: It's some god-forsaken hour when you land at CDG. You head over to the Europcar/TT lot in Terminal 3 to pick up your sporty 13 horsepower Citroen and start winding your merry way down to Fontyland and all of its delights...
Only to find that you have absolutely no %#^$# idea where you're going, and that French roads signs aren't all-too-easy to follow, what with the jet lag and your lack of French and all.

Fear not, fellow INSEADers, I have the solution for you, in the form of a sleek, stylish, German-engineered piece of ingenuity known as the Navigon 3100 GPS system with all the fancy bells, whistles and doohickeys you could ever hope for.

  • 3.5" Color touch-screen LCD? Check.
  • Ability to switch from robotic male American voice to svelte Russian female voice? Check. Czech, too, if you want it.
  • Best suction dashboard mounting mechanism I've ever seen in a GPS? Check.
  • Scratch, stain, dust free unit that was gently and lovingly cared for throughout the year? Check. He even has a name. Fritz. Don't make fun of him; he's sensitive.
  • Car charger cable? Check.
  • Original packaging, CD, manuals, even the plastic baggies everything came in? Check.
  • This one's a zinger: warnings for all of those damn speed cameras on the roads scattered throughout Europe. Trust me; this alone will pay for the unit many times over. Check.
  • FULL EUROPE MAP! Many vendors charge an exorbitant amount for this option, but since I love you, I'll throw it in for free, along with the 2GB SD card that I bought to put these maps on. Check.

Bonus items:

  • Add-on cable that picks up traffic reports from high-tech French radio signals and re-routes you in real-time, avoiding the heinous Peripherique? Check. (Note: this item was not included in the original retail package and was procured through the aid of an Austrian classmate with "connections.' Thanks, Wolfie.)
  • Many of the big (and not-so-big) houses already mapped out in the GPS memory so you don't have to bumble around asking French villagers how to find Villecerf parties. Seriously, this is probably the best bullet point in the list.

If you're a tech nerd and want all the specs on this bad boy, just Google "Navigon 3100."

Now for the deal of the century part. I paid 240 Euros for this gem. I'm willing to let it go for 200. Yes; you read that correctly. For the low, low price of 200 Euros, all of this can be yours.

But wait, there's more! If you live in N. America, I'll ship it to you tomorrow and you can have it before you leave. If, however, you reside somewhere else in the world and are headed to Fontainebleau, I can deliver it to you during the first week of September for the price of a return-RER ticket from Paris. And a beer. Maybe lunch at the cafeteria, too. But no more than that.