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Posts Tagged ‘Stanford GSB’

On Monday, the Tech Club brought David Pogue to the Stanford GSB where he delivered a talk on failed consumer devices.  I had the pleasure of driving David from the city where he was keynote speaker at FailCon to the Stanford GSB for the talk.  The talk was exceptionally insightful and also funny in Pogue’s unique style.  I think his background as a Broadway guy really helps when he’s giving talks as he is able to make them very lively and entertaining.

David talked about his problems with the New Office for Mac 2011 (which I had a chance to quiz him on the ride in the car as well) and the first Blackberry Storm that was riddled with bugs.  It was a great opportunity to hear from someone who is an expert at judging the consumer experience on devices.  David seemed to have strong feelings about engineers not being well suited for designing products as well, I was not completely convinced by that argument.

He was gracious, took a lot of time to answer questions and was amazingly nice to every person who spoke to him.  I’m officially a fan.  A lot of things didn’t go super smoothly, we went a lot later than planned, food was late, etc. but David never complained about anything.

Talking about food, I actually served the 200 or so people who showed up Sri Lankan food from Kadupul (Lakdiva Foods).  It was good, only if they had shown up within an hour of the agreed upon time!

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It’s been way too long since I last posted on here. A lot has happened since February. I probably won’t remember a lot of what happened, but I’ll try to update readers of my blog about a couple of things that have been happening here.

First: you will probably not see me writing too much about two of the things that really interest me: the iPad and the Kindle.  This is because I was lucky enough to get a summer internship with Lab126, the company that makes the Kindle.  In order to avoid possible conflicts of interest, I will try not to talk about e-reading at least over the next few months.

The summer internship process went really smoothly (at least in hindsight). As a career changer, who had spent the last five years working in the Finance industry, to be working at the company that I really wanted to work for, in the role that I really wanted, felt like a dream come true.  It’s also I think a testament to the strength of the Stanford GSB.

Talking about Spring Break, I was on a GER (Global Experience Requirement) trip to Scandinavia (Sweden and Denmark).  It was a wonderful trip and opened my eyes to a region that I had known very little about before visiting.  We were lucky to be on a trip that included a trip leader who was very connected to the region. Because of this, the planning was immaculate, with the right amount of business meetings mixed with things like meeting the Crown Princess of Sweden or visiting the most exclusive clubs in Stockholm.  The most important part of the trip for me was getting to know a wonderful group of people.

At the end of the 2nd quarter there was a peak in terms of work, where both recruiting activities and class work and exams all increased about the same time. The best example was when I interviewed with Lab126, the day before finals at the GSB.  In my mind I think I was able to prioritize what mattered to me, but it was still a challenging time.

3rd Quarter, opens up a whole new world for 1st years because this is when the leadership transition happens for clubs and student groups.  Thankfully at about the same time class workloads get considerably less as well, allowing students to spend significant amounts of time taking meaningful leadership roles in student organizations.  For me, because of my interest in technology, this meant the Tech Club, and the IT Committee within the student association.  Organizing talks, lunches and other meetings with the tech club has I think taught me a lot in a matter of just weeks.  It’s not something that I thought I would really enjoy, but seeing the changes that we are able to make has really got me energized.

In terms of classes, I was sad to see the end of e-commerce, the wonderful class taught by Prof. Mendelson.  Thankfully, we were able to get him to agree to be our mentor for the tech club, which means we still get to talk to him and get his advice with tech club activities.

My dad visited me (all the way from Sri Lanka) over the last three weeks as well. He was amazed by the size of the Stanford campus and the beautiful walks by the dish area. It was great to take a couple of trips with him to hike in the Redwood Forest, down to Big Sur and then to Yosemite.  I realized there were a lot of things I could do in the Bay Area that I had ignored previously.

Lastly, it’s second round admit weekend again at the GSB. Unlike when I visited the campus last year, the weather is beautiful and I’m looking forward to meeting the new admits tomorrow.  I remember how I flew in from Miami last year without a coat and then had to run to buy one because it was a cold weekend.  It was a wonderful weekend though, and I hope the admits will feel the same way this year when the weekend is over.

If there are any specific questions you would like answers to about the GSB please post it on the Questions tab, and I will do my best to answer.

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I’ve neglected telling my readers  about life at the GSB, with a lot of my recent posts focusing on technology.  This is an attempt to tell you what life at the GSB is like on an average day.

6:30 AM: Wake-up, scramble to read case for e-commerce class and if there’s time left, read some Accounting too. No reading for marketing today because it’s Industrat day (I’ll explain below). hmm probably no time for accounting.

7:55 AM: Bike like crazy towards the business school, EV Studio where I live is just about 5 minutes away, if you bike fast enough.

8:01 AM: Arrive in accounting. Prof. Jagolinzer is amazing. The first accounting class that I have truly enjoyed. He starts by putting up the name of a student in class who is apparently getting married soon. Interspersed between the discussion of new accounting standards are funny videos and blurbs designed to keep students engaged and awake. Believe it or not, this accounting prof. spent 10 years in the US air force as a T-37B Instructor, Spin Demonstration Pilot and as an E-3 AWACS Aircraft Commander, BEFORE, he decided to study accounting, wow!  The material is about accounting for stock grants to management, a topic that many students have strong opinions about: class debate heats up and gets very interesting.

9:45 AM: Run through Arbuckle cafe for a quick breakfast. Yes, they have more of the breakfast burritos left!  Say hi to friends and classmates as they scurry through the cafe as well.

10:00 AM: Arrive at a room inside the Jackson Library for marketing. The class has two components. One is a case driven lecture and the second day is a competition of sorts. We use a simulator (Industrat) to compete as teams and test out our marketing learning and make our companies the most profitable. Let’s look at the stock chart: wow, our team is doing well and investors like our companies stock! Screen shot of that to look at it later? 🙂

Negotiate with other team that we have formed a joint venture with, discussing the use of research facilities to develop new products. Looks like we got the better end of this JV agreement that I helped craft last week. Scramble during the last few minutes of session to submit our decisions for processing through the Industrat system. Next week’s report will be an interesting read (we receive a company and market report some time over the week telling us home our company and our competitors performed).

12:00 Noon: Go into a classroom to hear founders of two interesting consumer oriented start-ups talk about their experiences. Recent grads who have built successful entrepreneurial ventures, they talk about how they approached initial vendors, how funding was obtained and what made their businesses successful. I have an interesting chat with a classmate about how it would be great to hear from failed businesses as well, but I can see how that’s hard to do!

1:00 PM: Arrive for advanced IT (e-commerce) with prof. Haim Mendelson. Wow, I’ve never been this early to class. Prof. Mendelson really cares about attendance and after seeing him ask a student to put down his name on the seating chart for being a minute or so late, I have not been late to class!

This is my favorite class at the GSB so far. Prof. Mendelson knows the e-commerce world like the back of his hand. What’s most amazing is that he manages to know the most recent developments as well and every case we read has been written by him and edited with the most recent happenings in that area. On some weeks he also brings successful leaders to class to talk about their businesses (including the president of paypal last week). Today is a case discussion on the gaming space: again a topic that I love. We talk about the evolution of the gaming industry, the battle for supremacy in the living room and Nintendo’s unique strategy. Class discussion is lively and interesting. Prof. Mendelson maneuvers the discussion expertly. Next week we will be talking about mobile gaming world and the future, nice!

4:00 PM: I have a bit of a breather. Check email, going to Tahoe this weekend?, hmm probably can’t make it, too many company meetings on Monday :(, maybe next weekend. Can I swap one of my interview slots with a friend who has a conflict? sure. Company A would like to interview me: great, accept interview invite. Any resumes due soon? Not for a couple of days: procrastinate.

5:30 PM: Meet Stanford GSB admit to talk about the school and answer questions. The alumni center is a great place for this type of meeting. Grab a coffee and tell the admit just how much I love the experience.

6:30 PM: Head to a small group dinner: an excellent system put in place at Stanford where students can meet up for dinner and have the school reimburse them for the cost of dinner, as long as the dinner is publicly announced and the same group has not had a small group dinner before. An excellent way to make new friends and learn more about classmates. A good way to meet MBA2’s as well since the small groups include members of both classes.

8:00 PM: Excuse myself to run home, I just remembered that I have an assignment due at midnight for the iPhone application development class that I’m taking: I love the class but weekly assignments are getting harder to get done on time.

An episode of Caprica to calm myself? I convince myself that it will probably make me more productive as I tackle the assignment! Wow, Caprica is getting really interesting, love this show.

8:30 PM: Can’t watch any more Caprica, get to work coding in xCode. I think it was really nice of my classmate to lend me the Mac that I’m using for the class (since iPhone app development can only be done on a Mac).

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The executive challenge which was held yesterday, was one of the most exciting experiences at the GSB so far. For those unfamiliar with the challenge, it’s basically the final exam for the “leadership labs” component of first quarter at Stanford.  Influential alumni from all around the world fly in to Palo Alto to serve as judges while students are paired up into two person teams and presented with a challenging assignment like pitching a merger opportunity or recruiting someone to a firm where the alums play the roles that you have to pitch to.

Although the assignments are done in two person teams each student is also part of a leadership “squad” who have been your friends and role play partners for the whole quarter in leadership labs. The squad helps each team prepare and supports their presentations.

It was amazing to see CEOs and heads of firms take the entire day to show up at the GSB and help out with the executive challenge: a wonderful demonstration of the power of the GSM alumni network.

At the end of the day, there were several hours dedicated for casual conversations and mingling with alums and awarding of prizes to teams that won. Although my team was not one of the winners, the experience of presenting to such a challenging audience and acting out the role of a CEO or a chairman in front of them was outstanding. Definitely a little scary at the beginning too but a great learning opportunity.

I was sad at the end of the day because that signaled the last formal event that our leadership squad and amazing leadership fellow would meet.

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I just got back from an exhausting event that basically involved a large number of companies that recruit at the GSB. The Company Networking Night (or CNN) which follows a day full of informational presentations from various firms involves moving from table to table, making introductions, exchanging business cards and at times handing over resumes.

Some interesting firms at the event were Zynga, the social gaming startup, Ideo, and because of my tech background Intel, Cisco and even HP. There were some particularly nice individuals at the HP table which luckily for me was the first that I approached. The nice lady from Zynga spoke at length about the pet friendly office, the many four day weekends, the frequent vegas trips, free lunch and dinner in the office etc until I was drooling.

There was one moment when after a particularly engaging conversation, an individual asked me my visa status, for a moment I stuttered before answering that I was a permanent resident. For a moment I felt the way I did when I was on an F-1 or an H-1B visa and every conversation about work authorization was dreaded. I can feel how hard it must be for students on F-1 to be out looking for jobs in the current environment.

There was some amazingly good food served too. I had made the mistake of having dinner prior to the event but I managed to grab enough tastings to still be impressed. Maybe two months of student life have lowered my standards on food, but it was yummy!

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I haven’t kept my promise of updating this blog more regularly and it’s been almost three weeks since I last posted.  What an amazing three weeks it has been. Mid-terms have come and gone, and the exclusive academic period is now just a memory. I’ve signed up for more clubs and groups than I can keep track of which I’m now realizing was not a great idea. Recruiting is upon us as well. Three-on-one resume reviews with peers looking through your resume, with a career center professional, were interesting. I was told that I need to structure my resume in a functional way so that as a career changer, my skills stand out rather than the various roles I have played at firms in other industries.

We’ve trekked to Cisco and seen their telepresence demo (quite interesting but more evolutionary than revolutionary I think). A group of students went to Sonoma over the weekend on two party buses that involved large amounts of drinking. Small group dinners (a recent student innovation where the school pays groups of people to have dinner together as long as the dinner is publicly advertised) have been really good for getting to know members of the class. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve had an amazing range of dinners from regular american fare to elaborate Singaporean food.

I was at the C4C (Challenge for Charity) formal and the Halloween party (that my wife joined me for as well). Both events were a lot of fun although the C4C event was my favorite because of the nice location it was held in, the less cramped space and the great music.

Today a couple of my friends came over to play Pro Evo (or winning eleven for those in Asia) on the Playstation 3. We have a formal competition organized by the high tech club in a few weeks which is exciting, although, I’m not a particularly good player. Playing on the giant screens in classrooms will undoubtably be fun.

This may be really early to feel this way but I’ve been increasingly thinking how wonderful the GSB environment and the life around it is. This optimism may have something to do with the fact that we’ve submitted our last CAT paper and the only thing left to write now is a group paper for global (where we will analyze the hypothetical entry of a US company into a foreign country of our choosing).

I love my leadership squad mates and my CAT group and I dread the day when all this comes to an end. The CAT and leadership squad is already pretty much done, which is sad.

We had some interesting (good) news on the curriculum front this week as well. The GSB decided to allow us a lot of flexibility over the next two quarters in terms of taking some electives instead of taking predetermined courses in subjects like HR. I managed to get through the data and decisions test too so I have another opening for a potential elective on my schedule. I plan to use as many of these slots as possible taking classes “across the street” in the engineering department.

This week will be a busy one with global papers and presentations due and recruiter day on Wednesday. But I look forward to flying back to Miami on Friday to spend some time with my wife.

Singaporean Dinner 003

Random GSB 013

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This has been a busy week for us with three different mid term assignments due and three mid-term exams early next week. Another issue that took a considerable chunk of our time was the reviews that we had to write for our leadership squad members assessing positives and deltas in their performance in leadership labs in significant detail.

I’m looking forward to Wednesday when exams end and the EAP (exclusive academic period) ends as well. This means that starting Wednesday we are free to sign up for clubs and societies at the GSB and be active in them. Recruiting officially opens to us then as well. I’ve heard things get a couple of notches more busy after Wednesday but as of right now, I’m not sure if that’s even possible.

Friday is the GSB Halloween Party as well, which should be interesting.

I’ve been using zipcar heavily over the last two weeks. It’s amazingly convenient for someone who doesn’t have a car, although there are limitations like the inability to get hold of a car on short notice (especially at dinner time).  My Sri Lankan friend Ranidu pointed me to a Indian Grocery store called Patel Brothers about 30 minutes from the GSB that carries a significant amount of Sri Lankan frozen food and groceries, a huge improvement over the situation when I was in Miami.

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