Sunday, January 28, 2007

Week Seventeen – Very Special

This week was special. Like other weeks, it too started with lectures and studies, but this week was different. The Friday in this week was 26th January. Before India gained independence in 1947, India’s freedom movement declared in 1930 that 26 January was the day for Poorna Swaraj (Complete Independence). Twenty years after that, on 26 January 1950, India ceased to be a British dominion, George VI King of the United Kingdom and Emperor of India was replaced by Dr Rajendra Prasad as Head of State, and the Constitution of India came into force. Also, in 1965, Hindi was adopted as the National Language of India.

Another special day was Tuesday 23rd January, when I was elected the president of the Cranfield University Cricket Club. Cricket is almost religion in the Indian subcontinent, to lead my university’s cricket committee is an honour for me. The club puts up teams for the Morrants Four Counties Cricket League and the students-only BUSA competition. I want a full and enjoyable season of Cricket this year, and I am working towards that.

Contributing to the “special”-ness of this week, it was also the International Week in Cranfield School of Management. A celebration of the 25 nationalities on campus and the beauty of all those countries. I prepared Aaloo-Chaat, it certainly was good. Actually, I asked many people and no one said it was not good. But seriously, it is hard to get aaloo-chaat wrong.

This week was also special for another reason – it snowed. The first snow is always a special moment, but here in England it seems it only snows for a day or two. Most of my local friends say this is all the snow we will get in this year.

One more first term result is out, I take pleasure in reporting that I have been adjudged good enough to meet and exceed Cranfield’s norms for Accounting. Not that I doubted, it is just good to know.

Coming to the end of the week, Saturday was Burns Night, the day London Business School comes to Cranfield for some muddying of clothes. Rugby and Football, I should have said. We did well in rugby (kicked their a&%!s really), but had the favour returned to us in football.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Week Sixteen - A bit windy

The week started with Business Law - a likeable old man talking about origins of law and taking us through to Tort - all in a neat, interesting way. He enjoys what he does, and it comes through in his teaching.

The next day - 16th January 2007, was our Project Management examination. One hour, multiple choice, involving creating timelines and questions based on what you did. It was a good paper, and given that me and my team had taken our eyes off the ball, this time I rechecked every step and still finished in time. Nobody told me project management teaches you time management, but hey, in a time pressure environment, I never would have thought that I would spend time on checking that I had laid down the basics correctly. I am confident that I shall not err, and the rechecking confirmed that I hadn't, but it still was worth the time.

We have moved on with the subjects, two weeks covers a lot of ground, and subjects like Strategic Management and Macro Economic Analysis are reaching points where I am getting more and more involved. I went through Maverick, Ricardo Semler's book on how he created what he calls the world's most unusual workplace. It isn't a course book, just interesting reading. Unusual it certainly is, and the concepts he puts forward add to the discussion during People Management classes.

Towards the end of the week, Europe was hit with a storm, I am sure you know about that. Nothing terrible happened (that I know of) in the vast open flat land that surrounds Cranfield, lots of strong wind, part of a tree was sheared that fell on the roof of a parked car near my house, but no serious damage. Just like the week was for me, fast, lots of work, exam in the morning, lectures in the afternoon... fast paced, a bit windy, just the way I like it.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Week Fifteen – Bring it on

This week started with us going back to school after the break. We will be studying Strategic Management (the good stuff – best use of brains I say), Macro Economic Analysis & Business Environment (why governments do what they do when they play around with interest rates), Managing Information Technologies (choosing which IT resource to deploy where), Financial Management (cash flow is the reality, profit only a notion), People Management (hiring and motivating those who work for you, depend on you, look up to you), Supply Chain Management (taking costs out of the supply chain – but I am not sure why not vertically integrate), and Business Law (the limits you can push ‘laissez faire, laissez aller, laissez passer’). The Spanish lectures continue, we have the Project Management class test this month – actually, on the sixteenth.

New subjects, new teachers, new learning teams – they merit new strategies. Each team is trying out variations to the three day cycle to better suit their situations. So are we. We are looking to incorporate some flexibility and the abilities of our team members to cover topics. It is a challenge – but we all love challenges, and we all believe in each other.

Some results for the first term are out, the rest will be out soon. I managed to astound myself in a few, disappoint myself in one, so overall, I will say I am satisfied. The team effort – Green 1 from last term – has also paid off, we turned out some brilliant group performances. In this context, I should thank my friends, the Green Stream Learning Team 1 for all their support.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Week Fourteen - Contemplation: The Sequel

Learning has many aspects. One learns from teachers, from peers, and also on one's own. I was thinking of what I have learnt – to date.

Some time ago – a long time ago in fact – I dabbled with entrepreneurship, where I learnt how to manage people - people who work for you, people who look up to you, and people who are your customers. I learnt to anticipate other's needs, and to convert that need into an opportunity for me. I learnt the importance of planning, and the critical role that people play – as executioners of the plan or as surprise elements. I learnt how to manage for such surprise elements. I experienced the practicalities of running a business in the dynamic Indian business milieu. I learnt that in an ever changing world, there can be certain constants, and the importance of these constants. I realised the limitations of being a tiny player in a highly commoditised market. I also realised that a great way of growing is to harness the ambitions and aspirations of others.

I had once aspired to be a bureaucrat – part of the iron framework of Indian administration – the Indian Administrative Service. While that dream was never realised, the preparation for that was a great learning experience. I learnt the different subjects that a civil services aspirant is tested on, and it is widely known that the examination tests you on any subject under the sun. I re-learnt the importance of planning and proper execution in an academic sense. I met some former bureaucrats, fabulous teachers, some dedicated people who now have joined the services, and also some who are diligently working towards that goal. The relations I formed then are some of my most cherished.

Later, I became part of the business process outsourcing boom – working in a big international BPO company for a bank customer service process. I learnt that most people – no matter which time zone they are in – share the same anxieties. I learnt what drives the young, upwardly mobile people of my country. I learnt about the aims, ambitions, desires and wants of this new consumer class.

Communication has always interested me, so I enrolled for a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism. I met some of the most wonderful people here. The course gave me my most cherished academic accomplishment. It also gave me the opportunity of getting to know a very unique mind – that of a journalist.

I became a journalist – working for the world’s largest selling English language newspaper. I worked with some great individuals, some brilliant minds. I learnt what goes into making tomorrow’s newspaper. Believe me, it is not just wire feeds and sensationalism and pictures. I learnt why something that is at first glance trivial is deemed newsworthy while some apparently interesting or drastic event is ignored.

Then, I became a business communicator, working with a group that has been the pioneer of industry in India. In the restrictive Licence Raj days of India, they were the first Indian multinational with manufacturing plants in four continents. I was now on the other side of the fence. I had started as a service provider, working to establish relationships with customers. Now, I became the face of the customer for a host of service providers. I learnt the drivers of what the service providers would perceive to be my organisation’s needs. I faced one crisis situation – and I was exposed to the knowledge in processes that has been built up over more than a century. As an internal service provider, I learnt how to manage sometimes conflicting demands, and to manage projects which depended totally on others performing their allocated tasks – tasks that may not have been as important to them as for me.

I felt I had accumulated a lot of empirical learning, I needed a framework to analyse and digest this. I came to Cranfield for that framework. I am now learning some things that I had never heard of, some that I had heard, and some I had practised too. There are some interesting twists to bits of theory I had once thought I had understood.

Classes for the second term start tomorrow; it will be a new class, new subjects, new issues and new learning. Bring it on!