Monday, April 28, 2008

Trip to Switzerland

I returned from a trip to Switzerland yesterday night. I had gone there with 7 other friends for a 5 day trip. We left from Paris for Basel on Tue morning, then went to Lucerne and finally Interlaken before returning last night.

Now I realize why Switzerland is such a popular tourist destination. It is so beautiful and awe-inspiring. I ran out of adjectives to describe the beauty of the places we visited. Every other place evoked a "wow" from us. The clear skies, snow-laden Alps and crystal clear lakes were a treat to the eyes. The weather played spoil-sport on both the occasions we went up into the Alps - first at Mount Pilatus and then at Jungfrau. It was cold and cloudy and prevented us from getting a clear view from the mountains but still it was worth a visit. At Jungfrau, the temperature was -11 degree C and wind was blowing at 40 kmph. Needless to say, it was freezing and I don't remember the last time I had weathered such cold.

We were also lucky in some respects. At both Lucerne and Interlaken, our hostels were at amazing locations; in Lucerne it was in front of the river Reuss, in Interlaken it was in front of lake Brienz. In Interlaken, I used to get up with the sun beating down on my face from the Alps! It is difficult to describe the feeling.

As I said before, words will not do justice to the beauty of the places above. One thing is for sure, I will definitely go back to Interlaken at least once more.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Visions of Leadership

Last week, we had Visions of Leadership week at HEC. It was a week full of conferences and workshop dedicated to Leadership. Speakers were prominent leaders from industry and government. Some of the people were:

Gerogia Garinois ( President Beauty Care Strategy and New Growth, J&J)
Avivah Wittenberg-Cox ( CEO, 20-first)
Jean Rene Fourtou ( Chairman of the Supervisiory Board, Vivendi)
Henri de Castries (Chairman of AXA group)
Jean Paul Agon (CEO, L'oreal)
Theodore Zeldin (Philosopher)
General Jean-Louis Georgelin (Chief of the Defence Staff, French Army)
Valery Giscard d'Estaing (Former President of France)

Each day had a different theme - leadership perspectives, change/crisis management, decision making etc. The speakers talked about their experiences w.r.t to the particular theme.

The opening session was a talk by Mr. Theodore Zeldin. He exposed us to some very basic and probing questions about life and existence and about priorities in life. Time and again, I ask these questions to myself and I think I need to answer these questions again at this point in my life. The last session was by our Dean - Mr. Ramanantsoa. He talked about the power games in an organization and about the different perspectives of managers and leaders. My favorite session was the one by Mr. Jean Rene Fourtou, where he talked about how he turned Vivendi around from the brink of bankruptcy in 2002. The session was full of anecdotes and made us laugh by the way Mr. Fourtou described the series of events during his tenure.

One common thing that almost all leaders talked about was the importance and role of intuition in their decisions. This is an important takeaway for me who always tries to get a detailed analysis of every situation and wants to have an extensive look at data before taking a decision. But as they said, intuition comes with age and I guess as I grow older, I will trust my instincts more often.

Tomorrow, I am leaving for Switzerland on a 5 day trip. Can't wait to get to the Swiss Alps now :)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

End of second term

My second term at HEC ended this week; We had 3 consecutive exams - Economics, Corporate Finance and Strategic Management and each exam tested us thoroughly.

In Economics exam, we had 2 cases apart from the usual MCQs. One of the cases was on LM/IS schedules in which we had to present a complete analysis of the economy which was depicted by those schedules. This made it quite challenging.

Corporate Finance was by far the most difficult exam at HEC. Each of the three sections of our class had a different proffesor and the paper was also different for each section. But after the exam everyone was unianimous in the view that the paper was long and difficult. There were angry protests from some people that the proff did not cover all the topics in depth and the questions required a much thorough understanding of the topic. I partially agree with this opinion but then you shouldn't expect spoon-feeding in a top school.

Strategic Management was a different story altogether. The exam duration was 5 hours!!! Before the exam, most of the people were of the view that 5 hours is too long and one should finish the exam in 3 hours. After the exam, people were complaining that even 5 hours are insufficient to solve a strategy case and submit a report in the form of paper based slides. I guess most of the people (including me) mismanaged their time and 5 hours were definitely enough for the case.

Now that the exams are over, I have some time to relax. Next week is going to be interesting; It is the Visions of Leadership (VoL) week at HEC. VoL is an integral part of the HEC MBA program in which leaders from leading companies are invited to talk about their leadership experiences and challenges. In the next week, we will have sessions by CEOs, a workshop by Mckinsey and a group case where we have to analyze a situation and submit our findings to a leader.

After the VoL week, we have a 10 day break; I am going to Switzerland for 5 days with some classmates. Looking forward to that trip.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The month gone by

The past month has bene very hectic. It has been full of fun activities, academic pressure and internship search.

We truly celebrated HEC Paris' diversity in March by celebrating India Week, Africa Week and China Week. For three consecutive weeks, we had some or other events to showcase the culture and diversity of our participants. These events were not just fun; Every week had a roundtable event in which there were discussions about doing business in that particular region. Finally, one common event that marked the culmination of every event was a fashion show where our classmates walked the ramp showcasing their colorful cultural diversity. These events were fun and informational.

On the academic front, we are close to the end of 2nd term here. We have already had final exams for two subjects and with three final exams next week, we will finish the 2nd term on 10th April. After that, we will have one week for Vision of Leadership events. More on that later.

The past month was also stressful because of summer internship/elective related work. I interivewed with DHL for a Corporate Strategy profile but did not get the position. So as of now, I don't have any internship offer and as things stand now, I will take electives till June end and will spend Jul-Aug in India. But it was good to see some of my classmates get internship offers although not everyone got what he/she wanted. Overall, this has been a tough time, especially in the financial sector. Not more than 5/6 people have landed with core finance profiles for internships.

I am leaving for London tomorrow for a career fair exclusively organized for HEC MBA students by JP Morgan. There will be close to 20 companies present and I am interesed in 3-4 of those. Lets see how this event goes.