Finished reading Snapshots for Hell – The Making of an MBA today. For the uninitiated, this is a book written by a Stanford Business School Gradaute based on his experience in the first year of the MBA programme there.
The initial part of the book bored me. What it was bringing out was essentially the difference between the “poets” and “non-poets” of the place. At some place like IIML “poets” will be roughly equivalent to those who have to attend the remedials for Maths and Computer classes. “Non-poets” essentially are the engineers and other Science Graduates. Why I am saying roughly is that it is clear that the profile of students there and those we find in Indian Business Schools differ very much. The average age of the students in the author’s batch was 27 or something. So, Non-Poets were Engineers as well as those who had worked with Investment Banks and other such firms for quite some time. The author belonged to the category of “Poets”.
Coming back to the book, inital descriptions of usual B-School affairs, the Non-Poets being able to get it all, Poets being unable to do so, the rush to get grades, the description of classes and exam papers bored me. Why? It was a Poet’s viewpoint, which I know of, but do not identify with. So, there was neither the joy of identification, nor that of knowing something new. In fact, I skipped several paragraphs where he had explained the questions and concepts where he found the Maths hard. To add to that, at times I felt annoyed realizing Non-Poets were universally being credited with certain attributes. For myself, I felt that I was neither a Poet, nor a Non-Poet. At least in terms of how I felt about the whole B-School affair.
Later on, certain things struck me. On the lighter side, the description of the BBLs (Equivalent of PPTs here) and resume writing was too real to not feel amused. To quote
“By the middle of the term I’d attended half a dozen BBLs. They were all remarkably alike.
“Thank you for joining me this afternoon”, a good looking expensively dressed young man or woman would say. “I’m John [or JoAnne] Smith, Stanford Graduate School of Business, Class [insert a year within the last five].” Then the presenter would hand out booklets about his company……. filled with the photos of young employees… who looked just like the presenter himself, shown engaging in earnest conversations at conference tables, barking buy and sell orders into phones on trading floors…. Each photo will carry a caption along these lines:
Jane Jones, Wharton Grad. “I find working here at [insert company name] endlessly stimulating. It gives me an outlet for my desire to operate at high levels, to make a real diference, and to deal with bright, determined people. And by the way, it’s also fun.”
And then all the comments on the resumes:
“If I were you, I’d put my name in fourteen-point bold typeface, not twelve-point italic. You want your name to look big and confident, not small and fussy.”
“Should I enter my address and phone number under my name? Or put my address flush with left marging and my phone number flush with the right? Hey, it matters.”
:)) – Yeah, for those intending to utter “What the hell!!”, well this is real and I vouch for it as “an about to become an MBA” 😀
The reaction to ranking by Business Week which suddenly put Stanford Business School at rank 9 was also so hilarious. However, the Dean’s meeting following it to “hear the students concerns” reminded me more of the director’s meetings at IITK 😉
Certainly the attitude of getting a job, making big bucks etc. is in common with what I see here. But there was one incident that struck me. In one of the courses, a student (depicted as the author’s flat-mate) was really frustrated with a professor teaching a course in Strategic Management. He found that the professor in the other section was good. He got the photocopy of the study material given by the other professor and borrowed class notes from the students in the other section to read it. I never did that here (while such situations were not uncommon) and I do not know how many of the others would have done anything even close to this either. They actually used to prepare for cases in their study groups (and what the hell – it seems the groups were actually useful!!!). The quest for learning was not entirely lost.
Ha! And there are other similarlities which I would have liked not to be there. Even they had a name card system wherein there were slots in the desks of the classroom so that each student can display his/her name card in that. Here it is supposed to help in evaluating Class Participation. I assume it was the system there too. Don’t know why, but I simply *hate* this name card thing. And yeah there also the recruiters coming to the campus were not allowed to ask about students’ grades!!!
Some of the parts I really liked were author’s discussion with professors. Taking a plunge into the reason for existence of the B-schools, of the courses etc. The problems specific to Stanford, the research vs. teaching debate… There were no answers, but it was comforting for me to find people wondering about some of these things. I am not getting into details, will leave it to you to enjoy when you read the book 🙂
All the epilogue about how B-Schools still help people was a drag I would have avoided. It gave me the same feeling that I often get when thinking about decisions like that of joining a B-School. It is as if every generation makes mistakes, but having made it and finding it difficult to turn back justifies it with things that may not be really important and preaches the next generation with the same justifications. Don’t know how to reason it out, but I think world would have just fine even without B-Schools. May be too exaggerated a statement, may be I would feel like changing it later, but then only thing I wish for is that if I do change it, it isn’t because I have also justified it. But because there is something in the argument which I am missing right now. I know its difficult. Right now there is a mail from a non-IITian friend lying in my inbox in which she has mentioned her struggle with GRE vs. CAT decision. There is only so much I can explain; I know that ultimately her deicision will not come out of her wishes, but the “practical” considerations (which essentially are expected, not necessarily real, outcomes) and then she will also justify them!! What do I do right now? What do I tell her? Most likely if she really listens to her heart, she would be choosing a risky path. Can I just push her to follow it despite the risks? Not really…
But today I am making an attempt to do myself what I have been preaching for long. Do what I feel like. I have decided to join a Software start-up (Before it gets mis-understood, it’s not my start-up. I am joining one). Probably I will be able to contribute there and make it successful, probably I will fail with it, probably that will be a bad beginning of my career, but today I am risking it. A risk of this level – almost for the first time that I am taking it by choice.
I also got this link in a mail today
Am putting the text below
Bangalore: Mani Ratnam’s Yuva is turning real, with five IITians, all in their 20s, deciding to join mainstream politics.
The party – Paritrana – which will be launched in Jodhpur on Friday and its members will then take its message to several cities in the country, including Jodhpur, Udaipur, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and Chennai.
Its core team comprises Tanmay Rajpurohit, a B. Tech (Aerospace) from IIT Bombay and national president; Ajit Ashwalyan Shukla, as vice president; Amit Beesen, vice president and B. Tech (Mechanical) from IIT Bombay and a law graduate; Chandrashekhar as National Treasurer) and B. Tech (Computer Science) from IIT Kanpur, Bharat Sundaram, PRO and B. Tech from IIT Kanpur and PhD in electronics from Melbourne.
“Giving up handsome pay packages, comfort of family and support of friends wasn’t easy,” says Tanmay, who has done his M. Tech from GeorgiaTech and is a double masters in arts. Shukla agreed: “But my inner voice told me I should invest my efforts in my country rather than making my pockets heavier. People think we are crazy so much so that our families have also failed to understand our motto but we won’t give up.”
Chandrashekhar said: “Paritrana means complete relief from various causes of distress and that is what we want to do for our people.”
Lack of funds has not stopped them from holding door-to-door campaigns in Gujarat, MP, Rajasthan and parts of Maharashtra. “We feel politicians of today are no longer the voice of the common man but instead they voice their own personal agendas through which they can fetch maximum votes,” said Shukla. “We are not here for the power game, as we know that money can buy it and we have had enough of it. We are here to deal with grassroot issues of each and every village we come across.
(Of course, all the stuff about how I feel about B-School is very personal. May be because of my background and past, I did not find much to interest me, which others would have found. So, please do not drag on those things).