Hey everyone! So this is it — my last entry. Here's my top 10 for MIT Sloan:
10. Access to cutting-edge technology. I think my blog perpetuates the stereotype that MIT Sloan attracts people who are interested in technology. Not true. But, because my personal interests lie in tech, and (because I'm writing this :), ranking at #10 is MIT Sloan's access to cutting-edge technology. There are all kinds of academic speakers and industry leaders in technology who come through MIT touting the latest and greatest opportunities in tech.
9. C-Functions. As part of MIT Sloan tradition, C-Functions, our Thursday night gatherings, are organized and led by student clubs and groups. Throughout the year, each C-Function has a different theme — everything from the Japan C-Function to the Women in Management C-Function. There's good food, drinks, and entertainment that all fit the theme.
8. BVI! Another MIT Sloan tradition. Each year the graduating class takes the British Virgin Islands by storm for a week just before graduation. We rent 40 ft. boats and pod together along a float path. Our trip was awesome! Lots of diving, snorkeling, swimming, relaxing, partying, eating, pulling pranks, and just hanging out.
One of my classmates teaching a scuba class underwater in BVI
Part of our boat crew on the beach in BVI
Part of our boat crew at night in BVI
7. Top-notch professors. I was surprised by the quality of many of the professors. For example: my core account professor was great — who would've thought accounting could be so interesting?
6. Integration with the larger MIT campus. Like many other business schools, MIT Sloan is separate from the greater MIT, and I've spent so much time in the past two years hanging out with Sloanies both inside and outside school. That said, because MIT Sloan is on the MIT campus (albeit quite separated from the rest of the School), and has some joint events and socials, I'm really glad that I've also been able to have met friends from the greater MIT.
5. Sloan Innovation Period (SIP). SIP is a one-week break that divides each semester in half. During this time, we have no classes and take leadership workshops on topics that are completely unrelated to our coursework, and often times are not even related to business at all. I've mentioned in a previous entry that some of these workshops are simulations, where students form teams and are given a crisis situation that needs to be solved. Unique to MIT Sloan, SIP week is a great way to practice leadership and vary the semester a bit.
4. IAP and Global Entrepreneurship Lab (G-Lab). Also unique to MIT Sloan, IAP is a four-week vacation in January, making MIT's total winter break seven weeks! Woo hoo! One of the best ways I spent my IAP was by undertaking a G-Lab project. Through G-Lab, student teams work with startups around the world on strategy projects. We worked with a small spinoff company in New Zealand on their business strategy for the U.S., and flew to Wellington to work onsite with them in January. It was a ton of fun and a great way to see a new country from a business perspective. Many of my other classmates have done other IAP activities back at the main campus, such as creating chocolate sculptures or wine tasting. Other people spend their extra time doing mini-internships or traveling. IAP is great!
3. Entrepreneurship networks and colleagues who are also interested in entrepreneurship. For me personally, a big draw to this school was its entrepreneurship program. Although I've been in and out of startups in the Valley, the coursework has filled in a lot of gaps in my entrepreneurial education, by teaching me about early-stage capital and fundraising. The entrepreneurship networks are also great — my friends and I, who were pursuing a business idea earlier this year, found that it was very easy to access a lot of critical people.
2. Change and improvement. Because MIT Sloan's MBA program started less than 15 years ago, it's important for this school to constantly change and improve and augment its program at a rapid pace to stay competitive. The growth of programs at MIT Sloan is really amazing to me — within the two years I've been here, the School has expanded in variety of ways — in sustainability, in global outreach, in sales, etc. ... This is not a stagnant place; I think it's fitting that for a school that teaches so much in entrepreneurship, it has an ever-changing program itself.
1. And the #1 thing about MIT Sloan — the people. MIT Sloan, which was not at the top of my list when I started researching schools, propelled to the top of my list after I came to visit the School. Since I knew I would be hanging out with the same people for two years of my life, both inside and outside the classroom, finding a school-culture that fit me was very important. I think almost every Sloanie will tell you the #1 thing about this school is the people. People here are down-to-earth and accomplished, but humble about their achievements. The best way to get a feel for the culture is to visit.
As school begins to wind down, it is amazing to me that what I came here for is not all that I ended up pursuing. Although I never intended to pursue sales, lately I have become very interested in it. As a budding entrepreneur, I know that sales are really important, but quite frankly, it's a bit daunting. How do you sell? So even though I've had no prior sales experience, nor did I have any interest in sales prior to coming to Sloan, I've recently joined the MIT Sloan Sales Club. Through the club, I've been taking night courses on sales techniques and strategy, and at school I have been taking a tech sales class taught by Entrepreneurship Center lecturers Ken Morse and Howard Anderson. Recently, I attended the MIT Sloan Sales Conference, which brought in sales heads of prominent companies and startups to talk about effective selling. For Example, Tim Armstrong, president of advertising and commerce at Google, spoke about how he and his team camped out in a conference room of a potential client for seven days to convince the client to choose Google over a competitor!! Through sales courses, this year's sales conference, and speakers who have talked about sales, I have become really involved in learning about a skill that I never intended to pursue.
Yet, while all this may seem like a fairly exhaustive sales program, like many other business schools, MIT Sloan did not really have a sales program prior to this year. One of my classmates really pushed to have a sales conference — the first ever for a business school — and pushed to have night sales courses. So, it's amazing to me how MIT Sloan is always changing and improving since the MBA's establishment in 1995; this is truly a place of growth and change.
With graduation on the horizon, I'm off to the British Virgin Islands tomorrow on our class trip, which is a tradition for each graduating class. Take it easy!
Wow, it's been a long time since I've written here and so much has happened in these past three months or so. As my last semester at MIT Sloan comes to a close, I have been devoting the past months to a business idea, which will hopefully turn into a full-time career, post-graduation.
IAP (Independent Activities Period), which is essentially a full month in January of free time, is the perfect time to pursue substantial endeavors. Many of my friends used the time to participate in G-Lab (see the journals of Murali, Ilyse, and Alper) and travel or undertake mini-internships. This year, I spent IAP catching up with old friends and family and working on my business. Between February and now, I have returned to school but still have been plugging away at the business idea.
Although I wrote about entrepreneurship in my last journal entry, I think it's important to take a deeper dive, because this is one of MIT Sloan's strengths. Besides building a great product, startups have a much higher rate of success with solid mentorship. In my last entry, I spoke about meeting so many entrepreneurs who have graduated from MIT Sloan and have offered our team incredible advice. Today I want to focus on the number of outside-MIT Sloan entrepreneurs who have come to MIT Sloan events.
Recently the club I co-lead, the MediaTech Club, in conjunction with the Innovation Club, hosted CEO of Meebo, Seth Sternberg. This guy was incredible! He talked to a small group of us about the practical aspects of starting a Web 2.0 business. He discussed his decision to seek funding late, his team's decision to work on their business as a side-hobby, how they acquired so many users, and his decision to quit Stanford GSB during his second year to pursue Meebo full time. (Haha — well, I don't think I'm going to quit MIT Sloan before June!) With millions of users and Sequoia Capital backing them, Meebo seems like it's in an enviable position.
However, last year, January 2006, the MediaTech Club visited the Silicon Valley on its annual Tech Trek to the Bay Area. On that trip, my friend, who co-leads the MediaTech Club with me, met up with some Stanford GSBers to go to a sauna together. Seth, who was also there, announced to everyone that he was quitting the GSB to pursue his web idea. But at that time, which was only one year prior to his discussion with us at MIT Sloan, everyone in the sauna looked at him like he was crazy!
MIT Sloan is well integrated into the overall entrepreneurship community. Meebo is a good example of how the MIT Sloan community is even connected to entrepreneur-wannabes 3000 miles away, who become the next big things a year later. In other words, as a budding entrepreneur coming out of MIT Sloan, I have seen both the close alumni connections (which I wrote about in my last entry) plus these far-reaching connections to people within the greater entrepreneurial community help my team thus far. Talk with you soon!
As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, I came to MIT Sloan for its strong program in entrepreneurship. Two qualities impressed me the most: 1) opportunities to learn skills relevant to undertaking new ventures and 2) that students actually did become entrepreneurs. With the former, I was and still am amazed by the selection of entrepreneurship courses at MIT Sloan.
The range of entrepreneurship courses here covers every aspect of startups, including building a business plan, getting funding, and practicing entrepreneurship with actual startups. This past semester, for example, I took Early Stage Capital, a class devoted to learning about the VC world, term sheets, and generally what issues to analyze in raising money for a startup idea. The course, taught by Shari Loessberg, also hosted amazing speakers and lunches with VCs.
While I think MIT Sloan has perhaps one of the largest selections of entrepreneurship courses, it was equally if not more important to me that students here were actually practicing entrepreneurship, i.e., founding their own businesses. In trying to bring life to my own startup idea, talking with Sloanies who are currently starting their own businesses has been extremely helpful. They have recommended and connected me with people who they thought would be interested in my business idea. These new graduates have candidly discussed difficult issues they have faced in the past year and given my team and me advice on what to pursue and what to avoid. It is this practical wisdom from the field combined with classroom knowledge that is proving to be helpful in moving forward with my business. Happy holidays everyone!
We just wrapped up Sloan Innovation Period (SIP) week for this semester. SIP is a one-week period that breaks up the first and second halves of each semester. During this week we have no regular classes; instead, we choose SIP workshops that provide an opportunity to learn about real-world issues and allow us to utilize our leadership skills under a practical context.
I have made a conscious effort to pick primarily non-business related workshops to learn about topics I am unfamiliar with. Some of the SIP classes I have taken have focused on the environment, a hostage situation in Bosnia, and a bridge-construction project in Bangladesh. Many of these SIP courses are truly hands-on; for example, for the Bosnia-hostage workshop, I was part of a 40-person team who represented the United Nations. Our mission was to save Bosnian refugees from their kidnappers by finding them, guiding them to safety, and providing them with basic amenities. This workshop was a real-time game. We, as the U.N., had to strategize how to send our resources on our trucks, deploy our supplies, literally send people to negotiate with the kidnappers (i.e. other classmates who were pretending to be kidnappers), and do everything necessary to achieve our goal. It was extremely difficult for a 40-person team with no clear leader to work together, and time was critical. There were so many times when all 40 of us were running around our control room and some people were yelling through walkie-talkies, “Deploy these trucks! No wait, halt the trucks!”
This SIP was entirely about execution, something that you can only learn through practice and not through a typical lecture or class discussion. Other SIP courses I have picked have been similar in nature though on different topics. For example, I took a workshop on sustainable fishing, and with a small team of about five MBAs, we competed against other teams to earn the most revenue by catching fish. However, all the teams knew that the more fish we all caught, the fewer fish there would be for the overall fishing industry. Even though we were allowed to collude, in each round of the game, each team continued to fish until we depleted our ocean completely. This workshop showed us just how difficult it is to overcome “Tragedy of the Commons” problems, even if everyone is aware of the issues at hand.
SIP is not only a great way to break up the semester, but I have really appreciated learning about a hodge-podge of issues through many hands-on simulations.
Last month, August, was quite a whirlwind. I wrapped up my internship at Infosys' headquarters in Bangalore, took a brief vacation exploring India, and then finished up my internship project at Infosys' office in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Working for them in the U.S. and in India gave me a pretty good picture of the pros and cons of outsourcing and telecommuting. Thomas Friedman, in his NY Times best seller The World is Flat, highlights Infosys and its strong offshoring capabilities. While this is true, offshoring is becoming more of a necessity than a competitive advantage.
Electronics City in Bangalore is now filled with major high-tech firms who are all trying to leverage offshoring advantages of time and the low cost of labor. Although some companies are better at this than others, in the near future, every major tech company will understand how to utilize global resources well. In India, the cost of “computer science-labor” is already increasing significantly, because so many software firms are clamoring for the limited pool of engineers. So, it is becoming much more difficult for companies to compete on price alone, and many companies are forced to become more innovative and find other ways to differentiate their services.
Spending the summer at Infosys during these interesting times of growth and global change allowed me to participate in discussions about innovation and organizational strategy and allowed me to see what is happening in this industry. Combining these discussions with exciting bazaars and roads with aimlessly wandering cows, it's been an incredibly great summer!
Happy Summer! I've now been in Bangalore for a month, working at Infosys' headquarters. It has been an incredible experience and really eye-opening. On one hand, there is extreme poverty, marked by hawkers and beggars who wander through the main city just trying to make a living. (My first impression of Bangalore was seeing a man stand amidst a pile of garbage surrounded by stray dogs. He was licking a plate clean — presumably dinner that he had found in the trash.) On the other hand, there is Electronics City, a sector of Bangalore that is comprised of world-renown tech companies.
Infosys, for example, is a large, gated, private campus, complete with meticulously groomed gardens, golf holes, a swimming pool, restaurants, workout rooms, shops, and a guesthouse, where I stay. On the weekends, the campus becomes Disneyland, as employees bring their friends and families to spend the day snapping photos and using Infosys' recreational facilities! Some days I worry that the wealth disparity will drive this society to turmoil, but on other days, I can really see everyone improving his/her lot in life. For better or worse, it is amazing to be able to see a much bigger picture of India than if I were to just visit this country on a holiday.
Coupled with soaking in the culture and society, the conversations I have been having with the other Infosys interns is the best part about being here. Coming from all over the world, the other Infosys interns and I spend a lot of time discussing both what we see inside and outside of Infosys. From a business angle, we have had so many good conversations about Infosys' operations, which are so different from many U.S. firms. We debate the future of outsourcing, global business, and generally what makes a successful management team/company. It has been an unparalleled experience to be able to see the challenges of running a global company seamlessly and take part in such incredible growth.
Surf's up, dudes! My amazing year at MIT Sloan has flown by, and I've just started my summer internship doing business development at Infosys Technologies, Ltd., a software/IT consulting firm headquartered in India. This month, however, I am working at their U.S. headquarters, which is based in my home turf, the San Francisco Bay Area.
To tell you the truth, I had never sought to add three extra letters to my resume. As a budding tech entrepreneur who has grown up in the Silicon Valley, I have seen plenty of savvy tech-business people without MBA degrees build successful companies. In fact, many of these leaders are college or PhD dropouts — if anything, I thought, perhaps too much education might ruin my chances of success as an entrepreneur. ;) However, in this increasingly global economy, MIT Sloan has taught me how to navigate through cross-cultural business opportunities through hands-on projects. The most prominent example is perhaps my experience in New Zealand this past January with my Global Entrepreneurship (G-Lab) project. Through the Entrepreneurship Center at MIT Sloan, three classmates and I worked with a company in New Zealand, which was interested in penetrating American markets. In seeing the different perspectives the company and our team brought to the table, I knew I wanted to work abroad this summer.
And so, this summer is a good mix of old and new. Yesterday, I was bobbing in the waves on a long board next to sea lions and friends from college, reminiscing about old times. A month from now though, I will be working in Bangalore to learn how Infosys operates in a global economy. The world is small now, which has huge implications for our future — it means competition has increased and we can be taken further from home. But it also means that we can quickly come back to the ones we love and take the opportunity to innovate and make a difference more easily.