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

Monday, January 28, 2008

To Lille and back in a weekend

Well before I set off to England for my IPP, my wife and I sat down and discussed when and how we should meet and where. We figured it would be easiest to meet in Paris but, for the first meeting, we wanted to visit some place new, and halfway. So, we picked Lille, the old capital of Flanders. With the new line from St Pancras, the journey only took 90 min or so for me and an hour for my wife and son. Three weeks, yes, three weeks I have not seen my son and even though we videochat everyday, nothing could have made my son jump the way he did when he saw me at Lille station! :-) In that fraction of a minute, I knew it was worth all the planning and preparation. And, the expense! :-)

The weather in Lille was very agreeable with no rain or chill as here in England. We spent the first afternoon sitting and chatting in a restaurant, then checked into our hotel and spent the evening shopping. Oh yes, no escaping from that...and more good food at dinner! The next day, after checking out of the hotel, we did more sightseeing, walking around the old part of the city, visiting the old baroque style stock exchange built by a Spanish king to trade clothes (for its textile industry, Lille was the Manchester of France), the river, and just wandering around before lunch...and catching our trains back. The place is a seamless blend of the old and the new, with a very young and hip crowd - bet they are students from all the grand schools and universities there - and local delicacies to devour in the restaurants (but no mussels for me). Below are some pictures to give you a virtual tour - hope you like them.

In a post dated May 25, 2007, I said how one could end up bumping into interesting individuals on the Eurostar...and this last visit was no different. On the way out, I met a gentleman who proclaimed hiself as a "failed artist" who was on his way to the art museum in Lille for the we chatted all the way about various things like how a friend of his, starting from nothing, had made his way up the insurance industry and now funds art galleries in the US. On the way back, I sat next to an Investment Banker from one of the banks that took quite a hit in the recent, and ongoing, sub-prime crisis. She was returning from Brussels following a short home visit and was nervous about future prospects in her current bank. So, we settled that, worse comes to worse, her boyfriend would have to value more artwork - something about art and the Eurostar to/from Lille - to meet their expenses and he would also have to get used to seeing her more often! :-)

So, Lille was a short, sweet, trip and it was nice to see family again. Now, I am waiting for next Wednesday when I will be returning to Paris for my IPP lectures and some quality time with my family.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Getting into rhythm...

Hello! Helllloo! Hellloooooooooo!

Hello from this tiny little Berkshire village! So tiny, you almost know everyone...or you shut yourself out so that no one knows you...that is, except for the postman and the local corner shopkeeper, who, by the way, also runs the post office! And, if you miss the 'regular' bus service, you are in for a long walk home or work. Or, for some reason, the bus does not come. Like on Monday two weeks ago, my first day at work, when the bus showed up an hour late because the bus driver didn't know the route. The only consolation came in the form of two elderly ladies giving instructions to the driver. I bet that was his first and last day at work. I thought nothing else could beat that until two days ago - yes I know, another Monday - the bus driver didn't see me waving at him in the dark and sped off. The next bus being 90min later, I tried hitching a ride with no success until someone from work recognised me. Now, I wave my flourescent yellow jacket. No missing that one, eh? :-)

Despite all these small hiccups, I have had a fantastic start. Being prepared means I hit the ground running and, by the third day, having sorted out the admin issues, I was talking to various individuals across business units collecting information and data. Yes, I am being a bit like a consultant, who's come in with a fresh pair of eyes, plus two add-on lenses, to scrutinise current business practices and identify opportunities for synergy. Ah, there I said it, the 'prohibited' word! A word often used by management, or so they are accused of using, as a sophisticated lingua franca to describe things when they are not sure what they are describing. At least, in my case, it has a genuine meaning. You can trust me on that otherwise I won't be spending my days gathering materials and sinking in an ocean of numbers and notes. All this work has also made the days since I left Paris, armed with eight packs of noodles for dinner, go so fast that I need to slow down and absorb things in. BTW, lunch at work is sumptuous and people are friendly and helpful.

And, I am travelling to Dusseldorf, Hamburg and Chicago, not to mention frequent trips to Paris, pretty soon so no need to worry too much about missing the bus and wishing the car was here and not parked in the garage back home. So, even in this remote village, I am still holding on to my optimism...and, if need be, London is less than 30min by train. But, only if the connecting bus service has a driver who knows the route!

Au revoir mes a bientot!


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

Here we are, at the dawn of a new beginning for many in my class as we set off to different parts of the world. I wish everyone a very happy New Year and hope everybody will get his or her dream job in 'any' land of opportunity!

As for myself, having flown 13491 miles over the last few weeks covering four metropolitan cities in India (and an official visit to my sponsoring company's site in one of the metros), part of it with my son, I am now back in Paris and getting ready for England where I will be based during my IPP. Looking back in retrospection at the year that has just gone past, I believe I made one of the best decisions of my life by choosing to pursue an MBA, especially at HEC. The course has sharpened my understanding of businesses and the program has been flexible enough for me fine tune it to my needs. In doing so, I have effectively completed my MBA in 10 months; I consider my IPP as a full-time job as, afterall, the plan is for me to join the sponsoring company soon after I complete. Ditto for some of my classmates who have already found jobs. So, I have learned and gained a lot from the MBA, made some good friends and can look forward to a career that will be more rewarding, fulfilling, and challenging. I only wish I had time to get more involved in clubs and societies on campus. It would have also been nice to have the time to get to know all my classmates at a much more personal level. The course has been exciting but it has also been tough at times to balance family and work. And, I did not make it easy on myself by taking on a property development project (the India trip was partly to research investment opportunities in its booming real estate business so I am not done yet!). But then again, would life be as much fun if it weren't as challenging as it is today. Bonne Annee et Bonne Chance! May the New Year bring you all that you wished for! :-)


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