Dreams that come true

Have you ever had dreams – and I mean, aspirations here – come true?

Have you been passionate about something so much, that there wasn’t anything that could come in your way of getting it?

Have you achieved this something and felt – not exhilaration – but a strange sense of calm and satisfaction at the thought that it’s all worked out to be how you’d imagined it?

Well, I have.

TWELVE years after having first read about it and having a glimmer of a desire appear in my heart – I’m finally finishing PGSEM from IIMB.

* * * * *

If you ask me, I don’t still know what about it appealed to me – that one morning in 1999, as I sat reading in The Indian Express, Cochin, about a new course offered by IIMB for software professionals.

Perhaps, it was the thought that it was management for “software” industry people – and I fancied myself to be always a mix of both. Perhaps because it was from IIM, in Bangalore – the only IIM, I thought was ever worth studying in. Perhaps because it was a part-time course, and I knew I was *aching* to work after graduation, so I would never opt for a full-time course.

Whatever it was, it was a dream. And dreams do comes true, I realize.

Poetically ;), I would say that the universe conspired to bring it all to a reality. I landed up in Bangalore for my first job, I found that though I loved working in the industry, I still sustained my desire for the MBA experience. My parents for their part, thought I was loony :-). (Sample this: Why, just why, would you want to spend the first 3 years of marriage – supposed to be the best years in a relationship – putting yourself and said spouse, in intense pressure? Do you even realize you’ll have to spend ALL your weekends for THREE years, attending lectures in college? How would you handle work – esp. because you have to spend half a day on Fridays, IN class – and then spend the rest of your week worrying about what you’re supposed to do on Friday and Saturday? What about the travel that you’re supposed to do as part of your work ? And last but not least – just HOW are you going to be able to come to Kerala or go for any trips?). Can’t blame them, yes?

However, as all parents are – they did end with that one line: “If it matters to you so much, well, best of luck”. And for my luck, I passed the exam, and the interview, and got a call in 2008.

The past 3 years has been incredible – looking back, an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. Nothing that I imagined about it would come close to what it was really like though. PGSEM has always been about the extremes – as every PGSEM-er will vouch: Intense pleasure and intense pain :D. But above all, for me, it’s been a journey – a  re-discovery of myself.

* * * * *

Very soon, there will be a moment, where my past and future will converge: A moment when a thought that was born 12 years ago will come face to face with its realization: the day that I get my graduation certificate – a piece of paper, that will be a testimonal for the learning, the effort, the friends made, and the time spent over the last 3 years.

*My* universe will be smiling at that moment :).

Dreams do come true, Corolla, United States
Source: TravelPod
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Three Point Someone

(The tagline of this post goes “What not to do at IIM”) 

Yes, folks. It’s been over a year at IIMB;  my temporary *marriage* to PGSEM continuing quite successfully. *Wiping sweat off brow*. 

(Encore.) 

I can declare that I have not just been initiated to the world of management, but effectively tainted. I have  graduated to the stage where I can dole out valuable tips on: 

  • How to achieve a zen-like state of calm, when you have
    • 4 term projects (20 pages each) to write, 2 cases (30 pages each) to read, 1 mid-term exam to write for B-school AND
    • 1 proposal (40 slides) to submit, two teams to manage AND 1 cultural event to handle in office AND
    • Several other non-trivial issues to resolve at home (such as your maid doing a disappearing act for a whole week)

all in the span of 1 week (which effectively translates to a max of 10 potential hours that may be used – moral of the story being that no amount of worrying is gonna help you with your f%$#ing backlog) 

  • Which are the best TV shows that enable you to stay awake till 1.30 PM at night, so that you can simultaneously (attempt to) devote your attention to the cases/reading material/exercises/projects. (God bless the creators of Sex and the City, Friends and all T&L shows). 
  • How YouTube is such an incentivizing tool
    • Smart professors who know exactly what your weak points are, have liberal doses of youtube in the classroom sessions, so much so that you are running to attend class at 8 AM on a Saturday, because you get to see all those wonderful videos … *contented sigh*
    • You can devise unique You-Tube rewards to incentivize study hours … say every half hour of study entitles you to 15 minutes of youtube (or for that matter, twitter, google reader, facebook.. you name it ;)) 
  • How you can justify to yourself the phenomenal increase in weight, since it is directly proportional to the amount of MBA jargon that adds weight to your *persona* (take a load of this: “competitive advantage”, “strategic positioning”, “moving up the value chain”, “sustainable ecosystem”, “cost arbitrage”, “network/multiplier effect”… oh boy oh boy oh boy)
  • How time-travel is not a miracle anymore. The moment we 30-somethings step into the IIM campus, we zoom back in time, and are reduced to a babbling set of 16 year olds – yanking our book loads around the campus, furtively eyeing anyone who remotely resembles a prof, bunking classes and hanging around corridors whilst drinking tea and munching on puffs, whispering and passing stuff around in class, sms-ing each other making pointed jokes about… well, our state of stupor… I guess you get the picture :P.
  • How you can become experts at reading a 30 page case in half hour… the secret being that you never read line by line, you see. Train your eyes to pick up only the most striking of words per paragraph, concoct a story inside your brain that *somehow* links all these up, and then elaborately garnish and transfer onto paper. The likelihood of you matching up to what you would have done after an hour and half of intensive study of the case – is 100%. (Cardinal Rule: If you haven’t got it in you, no amount of breaking your brains is going to help!) 
  • How back-to-back classes are extremely useful opportunities – NEVER let them pass by. The second lecture is the most opportune time to
    • Decide on your dinner plans [you could actually spend some productive time romanticizing about how you could potentially go for a candle-lit gourmet dinner accompanied by soft music, with your hubby (no matter if the two of you land up munching on idlis in the nearby Darshini, despite all the day-dreaming) – the time is still well spent!]
    • Make your grocery list
    • Doodle on your/your neighbour’s notebook and draw a) pretty girls b) flower art c) ghastly ghosts d) amoeba
    • Write down the list of songs that you *must* download and save in your ipod
    • Let your mind walk free… and conjure up sufficient gossip or humorous (or humorous-gossip) situations that can be subject for the next tea and biscuits break
    • Feel hungry and grimace (or make going-to-die-of-hunger gestures) at your friends sitting nearby – indicating the tipping of a cup with your hands, as they return understanding nods.
    • (hmmm, … there are so many other productive pursuits…maybe I should make this the subject of yet another blog)
  • How Finance, Marketing, Operations, Strategy, Entrepreneurship, Organizational Behaviour, People Management, Cost Accounting, Economics and Quantitative Methods sounds interesting, only prior to your doing the MBA. Two years of going over the vast repertoire of these subjects , and you’re most likely to do an about-turn and run at the mere mention.
  • How the vast perks of being in an institute like IIMB is that you get to see Entrepreneurial masterminds, Ivy League stars, Political greats  and yes, Aamir Khan 😉

And oh, my list is not yet over, but you sort of get the point. I’m now truly feeling IIM coursing through my veins. 

But what are the real BIG lessons I’ve learnt in this one year (and a quarter that is ongoing…)? Well, that would be these three: 

  • Chetan Bhagat was right. Cooperate to Dominate or C2D as he puts it, does work. Although I haven’t implemented it exactly as described in the book 🙂 but today it inspires me like nothing else. Of the few thousand eureka moments I have had during the one-year stint, the most useful one was realizing that learning Macroeconomics and Operations Management on your own is like pulling a Vampire to your neck and asking him to suck blood. It was somewhere during the middle of quarter 2, when I realized that Macroeconomics was just not a subject you could cram in a day before the exam, while two-timing it with a movie. On the day of the mid-term, considering the (excellent) shape we both were in, one of my newfound non-chaddi buddy and me, decided to bunk a lecture hour and study together. That one and half hour duration may have been my most productive study session ever, because suddenly everything… GDP, GNP, Consumption, Fiscal deficits,  Investments fell into their place in a jigsaw puzzle in my mind, and I was beginning to feel like I had almost authored that book. Over time, the sessions became our most potent weapon. There were 4 of us most of the time, and we spent a bunked class or two or a couple of Sunday hours, to have an intensive study-workout. And the result? I graduated from being a 2 something pointer to a 3 something pointer [4.0 being the max btw :)] and an interesting sprinkling of A’s in my grade sheet. Now do you believe me when I say C2D works?!
  • Professors are precious gifts of humankind (No, I don’t know if any of my profs are reading this right now, and NO, I have not been paid to write this). If you ask me what makes IIMs stand apart, I would say it is the professors. Some of them are this unique combination of excellence, unparalleled dedication and pedigree, and yet totally grounded in their values – honesty, ethics and integrity. A few of our lectures are nothing short of near-theatrical performances that evoke thrills up your spine and leave you mouth-wide-open. No jargon, no bombastic speeches – just pure wisdom and insight. And the humanity aspect at the end of it all is what bowls me over at the end of the day.

I have a story to narrate here: One of my friends was finding it really difficult to manage studies, esp. for one of the conceptual subjects, since she was going through a very rough phase at work. When she got one of her papers evaluated, with the lowest marks she had ever got, and a note to “please call me” from the professor – it was like the worst thing to have ever happened. With considerable amount of trepidation, she called him up, fully expecting to be humiliated. The first thing he said to her is “What happened? Where have I gone wrong? And what can I do for you?”… the voice at the other end a mixture of compassion, sympathy, and deep humane understanding. He said to her – “The marks that you have got are not a reflection of your capability. I know you, I have seen you and I know you have it in you. These marks are a reflection of the fact that I haven’t been able to reach you through my teachings, and is just an indication that I need to try harder. So don’t for a moment take it as failure on your part. We will work through your problem areas, and see what we need to do …. Together”. 

That for me (ladies and gentlemen) was power. The capability of being able to pick someone up from their lowest point and give them a means to reach the top.. something only an educationist-par-excellence can do. 

  • And the final aspect. When I decided to do my MBA, I thought it would help me understand “business”… I remember reading the economic/profit/business sections of newspapers and wanting to know more – and MBA seemed the best way. But now that I have done a year of it all, I don’t think an MBA teaches only business anymore. The course has turned out to be “life education”. Every day of class, there is atleast one moment I wonder why my eyes and ears weren’t open earlier, for the kind of knowledge that I had just come across. I wistfully think of the countless years I spent not knowing so much … the way human beings thought and behaved, the way people survived in different parts of the world, the environment, the ethos of different countries, social responsibility, inspiring leadership, wars, movements, economic ups and downs. I can only say that I have a long way to go to make up for lost ground, but I’m glad I have started.

And I’m looking forward to a year and a half of this enormously exciting journey. It has been great :). Adios Amigos!

 

Back to school

Scene 1: Friday 06.09 a.m.

There is light…and it’s obtrusive.

An object hovers in sight and it takes some moments for the senses to realize that there is a perceptible sound. Strangely the sound seems coordinated with blinking lights. The music brings with it a vague sense of discomfort.

“6.10”.
“Huh??”

*Blinking, trying to focus*..”oh. Time. That’s it! Time.”
“Time?”…”Oh, ok. The blue annoying thing is my mobile”…. *Slipping back into oblivion*

“Its late”.
…”Wha…t”?

“Yeah, its late. You were supposed to get up.”
“Why?”

“You have to go somewhere..do something”
“What?”

“….classes. Yes, that’s it. You are supposed to go to class”
*Grimace*. “5 minutes. 5 minutes please”. *Hand fumbling for a flat surface to place the offending object in the hand*…

Scene 2: 07.50 a.m.

The silence is interrupted by the early-morning chirp of many birds. And the sound of my steps on the gravel. My lungs expand to experience more of the dewy fresh air flowing in. As I walk towards my destination, the grey stone walls and the accompanying peace seem like another world altogether. It is like time has frozen.

Scene 3: 9.30 a.m.

I walk outside the room amidst the crowd, going past others to a table where coffee, tea and biscuits are being served. Animated conversations surround me, … the otherwise peaceful environment becoming host to a cacophony. While I contendedly munch biscuits and laugh at my own predicament, my friends proceed to relate their own experiences. We’re soon aware of the time, and of a certain figure going up the staircase. As if on cue, we hurriedly gulp the last drops of coffee, shove the biscuit into our mouth and follow the path of the person who’s just walked past. The rest of the crowd piles back into the room, and the blue door swings shut. The mikes are switched on, and the russle of pages breaks into hearing.

Scene 4: 12.30 a.m.

The car comes to a halt outside office premises in Electronics City. I wearily walk towards the Siemens gate, my office identification card replacing the other one. I wave towards a couple of peers noting their quizzical expressions as I walk towards the reception. Finally at my desk, I plonk the heavy burden of my bag on the desk, and proceed to sit at my workstation, trying to come to terms with the number of unread mails in my mailbox.

Scene 5: 7.00 p.m.

I lug the bag on my back and run into the bus trying to find a seat next to the window. As the bus roars into movement, I pull out the heavy book from the bag. I struggle to see the words in the diminished light. Music from the ipod is flowing into my ears, and my mind starts to wander to the song every now and then. I try to rudely yank my mind back into submission, forcing it to take in the unfamiliar numbers and graphs printed on the book.

Scene 6: 11.30 p.m.

The pink highlighter hovers in mid air, poised to land on a smooth white surface. There’s a jerk and suddenly it crashes on the book, as my head snaps forward. The momentum wakes me abruptly, and my blurred eyes try to focus, without much success. Resignedly, I close the book shut, and fall back on the bed…within seconds, my mind goes back to the dream that it had just begun seeing a minute ago. Ah, back to oblivion.

—-

Having wetted your appetite enough ;-), I proceed to the explanatory part of my blog post now: What I’ve written above is just an excerpt from a Friday in my life these days… after a significant event that occurred about a couple of months ago.

I am now officially doing MBA, and am part of the executive management program conducted by IIM, BangalorePost Graduate Program in Software Enterprise Management or PGSEM, for short. The journey began on May 30th, when we had our orientation program. Classes began on June 20th and in most likelihood will go on for 2 and 1/2 years atleast, if not more :).

IIMB Campus

IIMB Campus (courtesy Guha's blog)

To say that the journey has been incredible is an understatement. How do you explain the awe that one gets being within the IIM Bangalore campus?  The campus is a contradiction unto itself – lying in the midst of noisy, choked and polluted Bannerghatta Road, but being untouched by the mania outside. A beautiful expanse of stone buildings, maze like roads and winding stone pathways amongst green courtyards – it puts to rest all worries you migh have and makes you want to walk around in gay abandon. Walking through the hallways, you almost hear whispers…stories of ageless scholarly wisdom. There are students around, some in the library reading or working on the computers, some emerging from the hostels animatedly in conversation, some seated with arms around each others shoulders around the amphitheater and some more, sipping tea and munching a snack around the many tea/coffee places. Its campus life in its virgin form; individuals of high-intellect who’re there for one goal, whilst partaking the many joys of the postgraduate education experience.

The PGSEM classes are splendid, the courseware enviable. How often does one get to meet professors who’re the best in the country – people who’ve achieved mastery of their subject and are contributing to the country’s future in many ways, not just teaching the next generation? During the orientation course, we had a couple of professors who’d come to talk to us about what they would be teaching. All 140 of us in the batch were awe-struck after each class – their passion and commitment to the subject was incredible. These weren’t serious lecturers; they were witty and brilliant – able to engage a crowd of anxious, accomplished professionals every minute. And the saga continues into the weekly lectures – the twinkle in the eye of my Microeconomics professor when he tries to show us the beauty of supply-demand dynamics is unmistakable :). These are people who’re not just committed to a cause. They are living it.

And as for us, the PGSEM students…Well, we’re one hell of a lot :). Experience levels range from 3-20 in the class; all of us are juggling work and life priorities already – some of us getting our fingers burnt in the bargain – yet out to add one more ball to our kitty. Oh, did I mention that we’re on a unicycle also? ;). The intellect levels in the class is high and usually there is no end to the commotion. Classes are never one-directional – almost everyone wants to speak into their mikes, and contribute to the thought process flowing around.

Of course, over time we are all facing stark reality. Having to read and understand atleast 2 chapters (40 pages) per course (3 in a quarter), prepare for a couple of case studies, and imbibe mind boggling concepts over a week is not a piece of cake. Especially when you spend 50% of your time per week battling complicated issues at your workplace. This is not just a course in management, it is a course in effective time management. I happened to realize how much of time I had in my life only after joining this course ;). It is also a course on sleep and fitness regulation. 8 hours of sleep is a luxury, and as they say, all work and no play makes jill a dull girl – so keeping oneself fit must also be squeezed in, as otherwise, the stress and late nights can play havoc with your physical wellbeing.

Yesterday was our first exam. As we spilled out of the examination hall, we laughed and joked about how we’d gotten massacred. It wasn’t easy… spending all the free time that you’d ever had, to go back to studies and fight it out – a battle of mental capacity as well as strength. It was sheer spirit that drove us to come to class at 8 in the morning, and stay till 3.30 on a Saturday. But we aren’t the first ones. The course is into its 10th year, and 9 batches have successfully passed us, so that thought does bring some relief when at times we question our own ability to understand the complex dynamics of business ;).

Jamming...

Jamming...

And yes, even after the strenuous burden of a test, and 3 one-and-half-hour classes, 2 of them being Microeconomics back-to-back!!, a smaller group of us didn’t haul our bags into cars and drive off. We stayed back, went to grab a cup of tea, and then collect around our canteen area. Two talented souls brought out guitars and started strumming whilst a few others started humming. The humming soon broke out into a full-fledged song, their voices booming and echoing off the walls. I looked around and giggled at some of their antics; at other times joined the fray. Some others came to see the jamming session and then sauntered out into another area, hoping to give vent to their theatrical artistry. What are we all doing? Practicing for Pehel, the first event we’re conducting as the freshers who’ve entered college :).

And so my description of my newest exploit draws to a close. As I stepped into my home yesterday evening, partly exhausted and partly on a high, I had thought – well, whatever happens a couple of years down the lane, this is one experience I am sure I will come back to many times in my life.

This is truly an experience of a lifetime. Wish me luck!! 🙂