At HEC Paris, mvlti svnt vocati, pavci vero electi!

Friday, March 30, 2007

A reflection on cette semaine

What a week it has been! This has been one of the most astonishing weeks so far and, for once, it had nothing to do with exams. It was India Week and we had a great party last night which included an opening fashion show by HEC 'models', fine Indian food and the climax was the moment when professional Bhangra dancers arrived to energise the ambience, and got everyone to balle balle on their feet. And, as a volunteer helper, I spent nearly four hours limping around Hall d'Honneur setting tables up (whether it is the weather or not, my foot has been playing up!).

This week was also election week, as I mentioned in one of my previous blogs. We formed a team, as this is how we compete, and came up with some good ideas to start promoting the brand that HEC is, and on ways to improve the career services offered to MBA students. We felt these were the two major issues that needed the most attention and seemed most tangible because, if elected, we would only have about six months to materialise our goals and objectives. But, fate had other plans and we lost today! So, it is not 'El Presidente' but 'Rashtrapati Ji' and we also found out that our opposing team had around 20 members which, out of a class of 67, is a force to reckon with. Perhaps, we should have offered a position to half of the class and betted on getting one extra vote to get a majority! :-) But, the new president remains a friend and I wish him and his team the very best. At least, one thing I found out during the election campaign was the true identity of a unqiue visitor from HEC campus who has been often visiting my blog. Oh yes, I do keep track of anyone and everyone who comes to this site, including you! :-) As I am pretty keen to keep this blog anonymous, I have not mentioned one bit of it to my class. But, when one writes about the classes and life on campus in such great detail with a wide variety of unique identifiers, it is easy to guess. Not to worry...

So, now that I have said enough about fun and politics on campus, let me turn my attention towards my lectures. It has been a while since I last enjoyed a class thoroughly and I was not anticipating anything when I sat down for a three-hour lecture on accounting, the last in the series. We analysed the financial statements of GE using various ratios that we had previously discussed in class and analysed why GE is such a good company, so good that investors are willing to fund USD172bn that it needs. GE is of special interest to me as well because they once offered me the possibility of working in Geneva and, ever since, I have tried to keep track of what's happening to the company. I have also read a few of the management books written by Jack Welch and often had discussions with one or two of its employees whom I knew in my previous role. Coming back to the analyses, we managed to find out what the value for some of the key ratios of GE are and I will discuss more in greater detail in my next post. As we have an exam next week, I am going to practice on this by trying it out on the company that's sponsoring me and one of its major competitors!

Finally, on the way back from school, I listened to Dame Sandra Dawson's Podcast on 'Management and leadership in the global economy' and thought I should mention a few of the key points she highlighted. According to her, the global business future is full of opportunities but managers and leaders need to pay particular attention to:

* being vigilant about competition
* innovation
* collaborative approach
* participation in developing infrastructure, and
* being responsible.

Alright, I will stop here as I need to go up to watch a movie and need a good rest as we are viewing about a million properties tomorrow.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

HEC Paris Open Day (Portes Ouvertes)

Today was the annual HEC Paris Open Day during which we had prospective students, mostly resident in France, visit HEC for half a day of lectures, tours and interactive sessions. I was one of the many volunteer ambassadors who had agreed to spend a Saturday shepherding potential colleagues around campus rather than enjoy a lie in. I enjoyed it and had good long conversations about HEC and MBA with a few French guys, a Japanese girl de Londres and a Franco-Swiss couple (so keen were we that some of us even continued this exchange of ideas in a cafe in Jouy!). And, for my bachelor classmates who were also ambassadors, I was the point of reference for anyone who wanted to know about how to balance an MBA with being a father/parent! My advice was to find a good nanny or a garderie for the child to attend if the husband or wife is also a full-time worker. And, to surely let the Academic Affairs officers know that you have a family and that you are not going to be able to attend all the evening lectures and activities. This is true in my case and I have no choice but to miss some of the 'important' lectures. Otherwise, it will be all work and no life. Most importantly, wish that your group members would be understanding enough to schedule group discussions and exercises during the normal day. In my case, this turned out to be a fairly easy proposition as one other member has a family with an infant daughter. So, today turned out to be a much longer and interesting day than I had anticipated. All this for just one HEC polo shirt as a reward! :-) C'est pas grave!

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Marketing Exams Over, and is Negotiation an Art?

We had our last Marketing exam this week and so we have one more subject down! The only thing left for this course is the project on which we are currently working.

Things are also beginning to churn regarding the MBA student council elections. A good friend wants to run for it and we have thought about putting in a team together but it does not help that another good friend wants to run too! I think it would be a fun thing to do to work in the council and I think HEC has a lot to show to the world about why it is a great school to go to. The course is hard, tough and demanding but it is also very flexible which suits a student looking for change. Moreover, people are generally very cooperative and HEC needs to do more to advertise all these good qualities. Also, the career service group is evolving rapidly and we should see the fruits of their labour in a year or so. But, I still say that career is self-driven. The question is, what can the student council do to proactively promote HEC...I wonder!

Last week, just when I was beginning to think that all of my groups are working as fluidly as water meandering on its own course with great ease, a situation that reminded me of a book I had read a while ago popped up. I guess such a situation, where one diasagrees strongly with what has been suggested or, in this case, I felt imposed, is bound to come up at least once when one is working with a diverse set of individuals and in so many groups. I believe HEC does this on purpose so that we all learn something about working in teams. Coming back to the book, it is called "Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In" and, as the aforementioned situation was developing, I was desperately trying to remember one point from this book which was not to take a stand and stay glued to it - the solution is to be understanding, logical, and to come up with an agreement that is a winner for both sides. But, when pushed to a corner, especially when one is running out of time, it is very hard to not take a stand to get things going. And, this can be bitter! At least, we seem to have come out of it wiser and I bet the group will benefit from this in the long run. Time to have a drink together, I think! And, you ask why we have not been to the bar already!?!?!?! :-) If you have not read the book, do read as it is not only interesting but also useful.

Today is Friday and the last day of the week. And, there are no classes as everyone was supposed to be in London for a career fair which got postponed so, for those of us not going to London for a tour of the city, it is a day off. Actually, some students are going to visit BCG on a day-long fact finding mission. As for me, I am going to take my son on a tour of HEC and for lunch in our fabulous student canteen. Take this last part of the sentence with a pince of salt! :-) I am also going to meet my friend who wants to be 'El Presidente'! ;-)

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

A idea and a plan

Not that exams are that difficult but we generally have so many things to do simultaneously that our schedules have been packed for a while. Therefore, we never had the chance to go out to Paris and have a relaxing day. But, today, we took the opportunity and ventured out! :-) We started at Jardin Luxembourg followed by a break for lunch before heading to Eiffel Tower. Lunch was my treat as my contract with the company in London has finally been finalised and I have an internship this summer, an Individual Professional Project for Jan to May 2008, and a job once I finish my MBA. As for where I will be based, I am not sure though London is the most likely location, or may be Califronia. :-) Also, with an IPP and job finalised with the same company, I am going to be at HEC for only 10 months, 10 really exciting months to finish an MBA!

Last week, I spent a lot of time writing a business model for the Jungle Business Plan Challenge but eventually gave up. All the past winners were hi-tech projects and my plan is more of a social entrepreneurship model - though not exactly targeting C. K. Prahalad's 'Bottom of the Pyramid'. I had two business models and, even if I did not take part in the competition, I have decided to use what I learnt to go ahead with an import-export business I had in mind. I can't tell you how far I will go but I have had it on my mind for a very long time and I ought to give it a go...lest I regret not having done it in years to come. So, I am seeking help from my friends, who share the same vision, to start this. We will see what happens and time will tell if I really can pull this off. Note: In the meantime, someone sent a link to the video below. The speaker is Guy Kawasaki, a california based VC and former employee of Apple, and the message is quite appropriate for me!

As for next week, we have our final marketing exam on Wednesday and we are also going to meet the managaing director of the company for which we are doing a marketing project (as part of our course). All in all, a fun week.

Below are some pictures of Paris:

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Financial Markets Over!!!

NPV = No Potential Value!
CAPM = Calm Against Persistent Madness
IRR = Its Really Regurgitation?!
WACC = We Are Cracking Cases
YTM = Yours To Manage

Yippie! Financial Markets is all over! We had our final exam this morning - it was supposedly three hours long but I finished in less than an hour and that made me worried! Either I am very smart or I am so dumb that I did not understand the questions at all and answered just what I thought I knew! I don't think I am either so we will find out what exactly I am when we get the result. And, someone sent around last year's exam paper yesterday...let me tell you it was as useful as giving a computer to a monkey! The professor was smart enough to know that we will read last year's exam paper and so changed everything. But, he was fair. Everything he asked, from forward rates to bonds, from market return to WACC, from covariance to beta values, had been discussed in class - we just didn't remember to pay attention, I think! Thinking about it, I think I will be fine. See how much one needs to think!

Now, if you are wondering what I was trying to do with the abbreviations at the start, I was trying to make Financial Markets fun but it just does not work. Perhaps it is me, perhaps it is the subject, perhaps I am just tired! And, today is Wednesday so I am on childcare duty. After my French lecture this afternoon, I went to pick my son up from the nursery, and then to ATAC for some grocery shopping, and then to the playground for the boy to get some fresh air. It was good in a way to relax after FM. And, I acted as a guide today for someone who is interested in joining HEC in September this year. The reward for being a guide was a free lunch at the staff canteen where the food is better - yupe, you mention free food and I'm all for it! And, during discussions over lunch, I found out that the girl has a sister rather high up in Nicolas Sarkozy's camp! Isn't that funny? I hope she gets in (she seems rather smart) as it might do well for HEC's overall growth! :-)

Some of you also left comments so thank you. If you have specific questions about HEC, the exchange programme, admissions process, etc., please write here and I will put them together and answer in my next post.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Semi-Marathon de Paris

OK, so we have our final Financial Markets exam on Wednesday, and a few of us have decided to enter a business model competition, and I have a whole bunch of upfront market analyses to do for my marketing project but the weather has been really nice and I have had good reasons to be out and about that I have not put it as many hours a I had originally planned for this weekend. And, yesterday was the HEC gala event as well though I did not go. I had to wake up early today to go Parc Floral de Paris, Bois de Vincennes for the Paris Semi-Marathon. I can't even walk properly so yes, you guesssed it, the other half ran while the boy and I were cheering and photographing from the crowd.

The weather was gorgeous and the place was brimming with future Olympic long distance running champions. And Château de Vincennes was showing its full glory and might in the Spring sunshine. Have a look at the pictures below.

And, yesterday, we went to look for an apartment to buy and found one with a view of the river Marne on one side and Tour de Eiffel on the other side. Before you think we have deep pockets, the view of Eiffel Tower is only a speck in the horizon and that also because the apartment is so high up but to be able to say one can see the Marne and Eiffel Tower from one's residence would be great, no? :-) At the same time, we got news that someone is really interested in buying our house back in England and have put in an offer which we have accepted. Let's just hope it does not get bogged down in the housing chain. Voila, that's how I spent my weekend. Tomorrow, we have the first of a two-day seminar on "Career Design and Job Hunting" (to be conducted by Daniel Porot, a specialist in this field) for which I have just finished writing an unsolicited cover letter! I have addressed it to Mr. Withalotof Jobs, and called myself Want-a Job for fun! :-) And, while I have been writing this, the dish I started cooking is burning so I better run up. Au revoir et a bientot!

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Monday, March 05, 2007


The visit to IESE in Barcelona for the conference on SD and CSR went very well. I met and had discussions with a lot of interesting individuals and I think I will be working with some of them in the long run. Some of these indivudals are active promoters of renewable energy and social development causes - there was a very interesting presention when the speaker gave an unsolicited advice to stop working on 'Hydrogen Economy' related activities and to focus on wind and solar. He was of the opinion that we are going to run out of oil in the next five years and that we do not have enough uranium to keep our nuclear plants going to meet global nergy needs. He was convincing but I came across an article today which, I quote, said "Within the last decade, technology advances have made it possible to unlock more oil from old fields, and, at the same time, higher oil prices have made it economical for companies to go after reserves that are harder to a wide-ranging study published in 2000, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that ultimately recoverable resources of conventional oil totaled about 3.3 trillion barrels, of which a third has already been produced. More recently, Cambridge Energy Research Associates, an energy consultant, estimated that the total base of recoverable oil was 4.8 trillion barrels. That higher estimate — which Cambridge Energy says is likely to grow — reflects how new technology can tap into more resources." The article can be found at here. I believe the future is about working together using a multitude of clean, traditional, and new energy sources.

The conference was also a great oppotunity to meet and talk to MBA students from other schools and compare our schools, career choices, and workload levels. The conference was also an opportunity to see Barcelona, a city I had not visited before. It was hard work though to sit through a zillion lectures, go out for dinner, and then party from midnight till sunrise, every day! I wonder how IESE students manage. I have created an album with some pictures I took there and is shown below. Nightlife in Barcelona is fantastic and the city seems busier at 3am than at 3pm!

And, today, classes started again after a relatively quiet week or so and we are back to our usual round of financial markets (with exams next week), supply chain, French, statistics, strategy, accountancy, and all the rest.

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