Saturday, December 30, 2006

Week Thirteen - Contemplation

When I came to Cranfield, I thought being in a class with a group of smart, young, ambitious men and women will teach me about competition on a global scale. What I have learnt is about co-operation and team work - on a global scale.

For the first time in my life, I have worked closely with one Indian, one Britisher, one British - Nigerian, one Italian and one NewZealander - all as part of a team, dedicated to making the most of the effort, wanting to excel like none else, sometimes winging it, mostly working very hard. We are so different as individuals, yet so similar as leaders. Yes, we all have our strong and not so strong positives, we all have our own areas which we can work on, but the one thing that runs across all of us - pride in ourselves, pride in what we do, pride in what we deliver. We live up to our own pride. And we have our own ambitions. To end this pride filled paragraph with a cheesy line, we are - truly - a pride of lions.

As part of the Green Stream - the inhabitants of the penthouse - I have had the pleasure of sharing the same space with a few PhDs, career military people, high ranking former and current bureaucrats, lawyers, accountants, entrepreneurs, consultants, bankers, and managers. The diverse attitudes, responses and priorities made for a great learning experience.

Now we have been mixed up and formed into new streams. You already know that I am still part of the Green Stream - still living in the penthouse. The composition has changed ofcourse, so have the teams. I am sure, very sure, that the new Green Stream people will add more to each other's learnings.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Week Twelve - End of Term 1

There is a chaat (Indian fast food, spicy or sweet, hot or cold, but always delicious) joint on Fergusson College Road back home in Pune called Manmeet. The reason I am starting this post with reminisces of time spent there is because today I tried something I haven’t had till now – rice had with ready-to-eat Rajma Masala by ITC. It’s the ready-to-eat part that I haven’t had before. I always expected ready-to-eat stuff to have tonnes of preservatives. However, ITC uses some new technology developed by DFRL and DRDO to pack ready-to-eat meals without using preservatives. This dish of Rajma Masala and rice brought back memories of Manmeet and my favourite paani-puri and gajar-ka-halwa and jalebis and masala-doodh and of Mukesh Yadav – that fabulous cook who prepares those delicious jalebis.

Back to Cranfield – the first term of the one year MBA at Cranfield came to an end on Thursday 21st December. We had one week of Project Management which ended with a project management simulation. Remember
I told you about we going through this simulation with a new learning team? Well, my new team bonded well, infact very well. We were not bogged down with adjustment issues. This is partly due to the emphasis Cranfield places on team building, but more importantly due to the focussed and dedicated people who believe in teams and make my new team.

We came up with a great plan, the result of hours of work, and for the most part of the simulation, implemented it well. There was a last minute change in the scope of work – which we incorporated into our plan very efficiently. Two of our team (Adrian and Ravi) were taken away, substituted by two fellow MBA students (Kevin and Manish) from a different stream, and they were great too. We had established a system of double checking decisions and that had resulted in us being comfortably placed financially. Then we got complacent and made one tiny error – we lost track of how many workers we had on site and ended up firing all our labourers. This launched us into deep trouble orbit and we had to sit without work progressing for some time. We never recovered from this – we ended up making a loss.

Looking at the bright side of things, I believe we as a team learnt more from this simulation than others – we learnt the importance of keeping track of everything the hard way, and none of us are likely to forget the damage one tiny error can cause. We also learnt that we can plan very well, and when we keep our focus, we can be well ahead of the task. Then, after the simulation, we had to make a presentation – which ofcourse we did well. Although I must say that presenting to a class full of dead tired MBA students – and getting them to listen and clap and laugh with you – is a hard ask.

The presentation is also an important learning point for me – personally. For the first time in my life – as far back as I can remember, I was too tired and let that get to me. At the end of our presentation, Rohit, a fellow MBA student – whom I truly respect – asked a question. And I snapped at him. It took time for me to realise what I had done, immediately after which I apologised to him, but hey! What was I thinking? What had happened to me? He had a perfectly valid question, he had every right to ask, and I snap at him! I don’t do this – it is not me. The learning here is ofcourse something that I have always followed – treat other people as you would like them to treat you. Always, no matter what you think you have gone through.

Then in the evening, we had our Christmas party at the CMDC, most of the MBAs were in attendance, along with partners, a few alumni, teachers and the Grad Admin ladies. The Cranfield MBA band - The Oligopolists - made its first live performance. The highlight - for me - was when a fellow MBA student - John - sang (!) (tried to sing – but don’t tell him that), with Steve on the guitar, a song that summed up the first term in a humorous way – from the students point of view. We all said our bye byes for the Christmas break, and then, late in the night, I returned to my hired university accomodation to rest my tired self. It has been a great first term spent in Cranfield, and I have enjoyed every single moment here.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Week Eleven - Party time

Come Monday, 11th December 2006, and the morning found us - all the MBA students - at the Stafford Cripps hall, about to face our first term end examination - Accounting. We had two subjects each day, the exam was over in two days. Remember I told you about how assessment techniques vary from subject to subject? These four subjects had part of their assessments through term end exams... Tuesday 1600 hrs, we were free, so naturally the junta hit the Social Club...

Then on Wednesday we had our first day of Personal Planning and Development. And then, finally, we came to know our new team. Remember I told you about being split into different streams and teams? Well, the good thing - for me - is I am still in Green Stream, still in the penthouse, and Seni from my old team is also part of the new team. Oge Modie, Adrian DeCourcey, Zia Qureshi, Ravi Rebelly and David York come together with Seni and yours truly to make up Green Stream Learning Team 5.

Friday was the first day of Project Management, and the new team is all enthusiastic of making this first team task work. We also have to go through a project management simulation. I am sure we all will be able to bond well and meet the high expectations we set for ourselves...

But coming to the bright side of life... Wednesday was Green Stream term end party, Thursday was School Out party, Saturday was Chak-de-phatte Bollywood night. So much to do and so little time... :) Looking back, on a Sunday, it feels like last week was party week... Well, I will take your leave now, Rugby training beckons...

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Week Ten - Brake run

The compulsory core module of Operations Management ended this week with our presentation on our group report... remember I told you in Week Seven about us going to an Italian restaurant in Chelsea? We completed our report on that restaurant's operations this week, as well as present our report to our fellow MBA students on Wednesday 6th December - just the Green stream and three teams from the Red stream... As usual, Green Team 1 (aka my team) did a cracking presentation, so did Green Team 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6... and the Reds... we all are getting adept at presentations... very interactive, very smooth... sometimes humorous, but delivering the message. We also had to submit our individual reports on Operations management - what we learnt during the course - along with the group reports...

Term 1 teaching sessions - except for Project Management - ended this week too. We now have our term end examinations first thing next week (11th and 12th December), followed by two days of Personal Planning and Development, and five days of Project Management...

On examinations - Cranfield assessments take the form of examinations and assignments, with the proportion of marks divided differently for every subject. Some assignments are individual, some are to be completed by the team. They can be reports, presentations, WACs etc. This tests theory, application and presentation (stand up, or even writing presentable business reports), which in my opinion is far more effective than just testing for theory... which is really a test of your memory.

And finally, we got the SMS presentation grades... again, great work by Green Team 1... we never fail to perform...

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Week Nine - A roller coaster

After nine weeks of eating food I wouldn’t have touched once upon a time not so long ago, I finally gave in... No more slap stick Anglicised curry and boiled potatoes or fried chicken pieces, heated together for a few minutes and had with sliced bread; no more baked beans out of a tin and toast; no. Tonight, I cooked up for myself a proper Desi dinner. Chicken marinated for hours in mouth watering spices, cooked with Kolhapuri masala, had with Basmati rice prepared just right. Ummmm... the aroma and taste still lingers as I am typing this...

The week started with the usual… studies, studies and more studies… but on Wednesday 29 November we, Green Stream Learning Team 1, presented our Strategic Marketing Success story on Procter and Gamble. Remember I told you about it last week? The presentation was great, and Stephen Carver – the same who took Self Presentation sessions with us in week four – actually said ours was the best he had seen in this term! Coming from him, sure feels good.

Then on Thursday we had the introductory session for Project Management – remember I told you about this subject having its written assessment in the next term? We do the sessions this term, after term end exams… which are on 11 and 12 December. The difficult part is we will be all mixed and re-split into streams and learning teams… my membership of Green Stream and Green Stream Learning Team 1 is likely to last only for the next week. Even if some of us stay back in Green Stream, we will get partnered with different fellow course mates. All of us are upset about dispersing, we have just begun to instinctively anticipate and expect each other, and now this. We all had lunch together at the CMDC on Thursday 30 November… anyways, more on that later…

With exams closing in on us we are focusing on revising all the topics covered, but have to submit two assessed reports early next week and work on an assessed presentation. Those have to be done, so does the revision. Fun, isn’t it?

That’s what an MBA course is all about… lots of academic stuff to do, limited time, loads of pressure, plus family commitments, co-curricular stuff, your own things, friends, sports... The same applies for your career post MBA too. Just in case you are considering doing an MBA because you feel like it, or think it would look good on your CV, consider if you are really prepared for what is in store. I did my research before I decided, I would advise you to do the same. Even a half decent place will ask you to commit 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The real good places like Cranfield will demand – nay, squeeze out of you – 48 hours a day, 730 days a year. Now you begin to understand the rationale behind Work Hard Play Harder – you have to play harder simply because the time left for playing is so limited. Like it? Welcome to the party!