Gandalf: A Quintessential MBA…

Gandalf. Mithrandir. Olorin. Incanus. Tharkun. Whatever you call him or remember him by, he is simply the MVP of the LOTR series. A tall, old wiseman with trademark old-age-badass hair-works, who smokes foot-long pipes to chill, wields a crooked magic staff and has a robe that changes colour according to the level of awesomeness can only be the result of some ancient, dark, Batman-esque history.

(He is so awesome that even Dumbledore copied his style *ahem*)

All along the Hobbit-LOTR series one can see Gandalf dropping words of wisdom now and then. I have always found those fascinating and I’m rediscovering them now as I am preparing to take on my own Balrog – THE MBA!!!

Here I am listing my take on a few of them and I think these make sense for all of us out there…

  1. Don’t Be Late.

1 Who can forget that scene when we see Frodo and Gandalf meeting for the first time on-screen? And that epic dialogue? A mental picture of yourself racing the clock in real life and be that ‘whoa-dude-you-just-made-it-(you-wink-and-whatnot)’ is all cool and ‘yo’ but seriously, DO NOT be that guy. Being in time means being IN time.

  1. Know. Period!

2 Gandalf always seemed to know. He was always full of ‘tidings’ and ‘counsel’. While in our case we have either delegated our knowledge to multiple storage devices or outsourced it to the internet, it would be wise to just know. Imagine a business case or an interview where others want you to deliver, and you go…”Ah! Wait my Google is loading”.

  1. Always have a plan.

3 Gandalf always had one. In Hobbit he pre-empts the competition (Sauron) by over a hobbit-generation by defeating Smaug (A shareholder in Sauron’s success). In LOTR he’s the one who drives the cause of destroying the ring (further weakening Sauron) and also planned for Rohan’s help to Gondor. He took little steps to defeat a much larger socio-corporate evil giant and was successful. Lesson: Be a meticulous planner bordering on OCD.

  1. Perspectives matter.

4 The fellowship made it happen, and it all began in Rivendell in Elrond’s open air conference room where everyone’s ideas were welcomed. The importance of various angles becomes clear when you ask “what if Boromir was left in charge?”

  1. Be honest about your weaknesses.

5 The movie could have done without that dialogue. He could have simply sat there not saying a word and the rest of the party would not have had a clue. The fact that he did utter those words is an ode to crystal clear communication. It builds trust in a team.

  1. Challenge the status quo.

6 Saruman was turning black and nobody batted an eye, except Gandalf that is (maybe he just badly wanted that white designer robe, and so kept a tab). What was true in the past may not be so in the future. Always be objective in your scrutiny and avoid biases.

  1. Face the unknown.

7 Age long piece of wisdom handed down from my dad, who got it from his dad and so on to the point when someone up along my line got it from Gandalf himself *wink*. One needs a lot of guts to navigate the MBA. But it’s exciting too. I bet if Gandalf wasn’t so tired after beating the Balrog he would have tweeted, “Whooooo! I just made free-fall cool”.

  1. Network network network!

8 The importance of networking is drilled into the MBA candidates’ psyche even before joining the program. It pays massive dividends I’m sure. Gandalf using his eagle-contacts to reap massive rewards is a lesson well taught in this sense! I believe in Gandalf.

  1. Learn to unwind.

9What with you carrying a blue-whale around on your shoulders for the next couple of years (and maybe beyond), the easy-going, fun-loving part of you can take a massive beating. Don’t get ‘KO’ed by ‘stress fatality’. Even with Smaug, Witch-king, Saruman, Sauron etc. Gandalf knew how to party. I bet your problems are much less of a life threat.

Now that you are a little wiser about Gandalf and all the hidden messages he ever meant to pass on, it’s time for you to make your own magic out in the world! Look at the world through a fresher glass if I may say so, and by that I do not mean “…use a Palantir”.

Let the Silmarilli shine ever so brightly on your chosen path wanderer…

Advertisements

So Where Was I?

Okay! So, as I was recollecting my travelling experiences and preparing a couple of blog posts, I stumbled upon…err no!…a friend stumbled upon me trying to pester him into taking the GMAT. By the time I ended painting the pretty MBA picture he had these words for me – “TLDR bro! put it up on your blog and gimme the link.” My face would have been a resounding :-/ for sure but well, I liked the idea. So here I am trying at it…ahem!

I have recently been accepted to one of the schools of my choice, and long story short, I feel that I have warped through the last year. Such has been the journey till date that for me MBA translates to Most Brain-racking Adventure, and I am yet to join the program. But, weirdly enough, it has already been a rewarding adventure.

First of all, MBA is not the end of this world. You do not have to be one to be successful, be happy or feel respected. So, if you are hell bent on getting an MBA, you should be able to convince yourself of why is it so. A good way to start doing so is to really introspect about what you love about your current job. Once you can figure that out you can unearth the strengths you use most of the time. Next think about what your ideal job could be and see how that differs from your current job. If the differences lie in maximizing or building on your current strengths, you may not need an MBA to start doing that. However, if you can identify elements missing in your skill set, you may need to develop new ones. An MBA can certainly help in that regard; if and only if what an MBA gives you and what you are looking for are a perfect match. Else it’s a futile effort of matching a triangle with a square.

Once you are convinced that an MBA is the way to go the first hurdle is the GMAT. I have heard people spending enormous amount of time not on the exam per se, but on a ridiculously high number of preparatory materials. The flow of action should be – get the basics right, practice until satisfied, take a few mock exams to see if you are where you want to be and minor tweaks thereon. This does not necessarily mean poring over millions of pages of practice material. Plan your preparation wisely. The MBA journey begins sooner than you think.

The actual task begins once you have a GMAT score in your pocket. The first thing one should understand is that GMAT is but one part of an enormous data set that any school evaluates. So there is no need to break your head over it. It should just act as a marker as to where you stand and which colleges you may apply to. The only consideration here should be that you should not apply to a college where the GMAT score will become an eliminating factor. As long as that is taken care of you should be fine.

So now, you have a GMAT score and you know a bunch of colleges you can/ may apply to. The most difficult part begins…

Read as much as possible about the colleges you are targeting. The sheer amount of information available through their websites is staggering and can get easily overlooked. Once you religiously go through them, you will start zeroing in on the colleges that really attract you. 20 or so colleges will quickly become 10. At this stage it is important to understand how each college is different from any other. Keeping a list of attributes/ things you like about a college will help with that. The subtle differences between the colleges are the basics on which you will start building your resumes, essays and interview responses. Colleges love to know that the candidate has done his/ her research.

A parallel activity will be honest and prolonged introspection. This takes a lot of time, and I mean…a lot of time. To answer simple questions like “why MBA?”, “why xyz college?” etc. you will end up spending days if not weeks. Do not rush through as this is critical to your success. Only when you are aware of the colleges’ slightest differences, unique strengths and your own purpose can you relate to each college meaningfully, and that attachment gets highlighted all throughout the application.

A few things to take care of at this stage-

  • DO NOT use the same resume or essay replies for all. Each college is unique and so should your responses be. Try and see which of your qualities/ accomplishments align to the values and mission of a college and frame your written responses accordingly.
  • Avoid redundancy – DO NOT repeat the same stories across resume, essays etc. unnecessarily. Try and give a fuller picture by sharing multiple experiences. Make it interesting for people who are going to read it, and do put in considerable effort on the resume – the first material they see. The first impression is a make or break for all.
  • Get your written stuff reviewed by a few people who can give ruthless, unbiased feedback. Small failures in front of them will translate into success in front of the admissions committee. In this regard seeking help from a professional consultant may be of help as he/ she has gone through this cycle many times in the past, and so comes equipped with invaluable insights.

Once, you have gone through the above stages the application is complete. Hopefully after a brief wait you will bag a number of interview calls. That means the colleges will be happy to have you – you have passed the minimum requirements. Now, the only catastrophe that may happen is you messing up your own opportunities – an admit offer is yours to lose at this stage. Be calm and confident, as in any interview, and continue building on your college research and you should sail through.

A few things to take care of at this stage-

  • Know your resume better than you know your own name. A resume is the foundation of all interviews, and so understand what you are trying to convey – prepare anecdotes and stories to corroborate and substantiate each point.
  • Know the college and its MBA program better than ‘them’. Your best friend here? Google.
  • Connect with current students and alumni to get their perspectives. Not all experiences have been captured digitally. A phone call can do wonders.
  • Keep your responses concise and to the point, however, do not be robotic. Engage in a conversation as you would with a friend. The interviewers are giving you time to let yourself in. They are friendly.
  • Know your interviewer before he/she knows you. This may not always be possible. But whenever it is, a little research can help you frame relevant questions to ask – makes the interviewer happy.
  • Do not panic. No matter what. A question has stumped you? Relax. The interviewer is not running away. Breathe, take your time and your brain will do the rest.
  • The interviewer wants to know you. And you know yourself the best in this whole wide world. So you will always have the advantage. Be confident.

I am sure there’s plenty more advice one can give to any aspirant. What I wanted to show is that the advice is more common sense than anything else. I hope they make sense and that they help you. Lastly, you managed to read all of the above. Ah! You have what it takes to crack the code – patience. You are all set 🙂

HomeComing!

Apologies are in order I suppose; firstly, to myself as I had promised to stick to this blog to record my own experiences and thoughts, and secondly, to all those fellow nomads who happened to stumble upon these nuggets of awesomeness (self-proclaimed).

Why is it that I am posting an update after such a long time? Did I forget my password? Or did I relocate to Pluto where, c’mon face it, WordPress is not exactly accessible? Or worse still, did I hit a traffic sign head-on, while navigating on my ‘smart’ phone, and lose all my memories?

Ah! No. I was simply putting my life in order. Considering the time it took me to do that, you may guess how important and how much of an investment it has been for me.

BUT NOW AM BACK IN BLACK! (yeah! play the tune in your mind to feel the moment)

In the time I was lost in The Matrix, I went on a trip to the Mecca of motorcycle touring in India: Leh – Ladakh, managed an iron-hold on my future and secured my MBA dreams in the US (more on that much later), crashed off my bike once more during a solo trip, followed the MotoGP and F1 seasons to the end and made a few new friends.

As this post is like homecoming to me, I am going to leave as I share a glimpse of what this blog will see in the days to come.

Adios amigos! Go out and make smiles.

Legend has it monks in ancient times had an extra monastery and lots of Super Glue___they used the glue and stuck the monastery to an abandoned cliff _P_PS_ Don't believe me _D

Our ride B-)_Phuentsholing to Thimphu (Day 2)

10372815_859509167394401_3870531837271296695_o

10380554_859506627394655_5374126984903323732_o

10428153_859509864060998_6871533982655978732_o  10428163_859511624060822_6334974129645456301_o

10275530_859512690727382_1545769315867412548_o

Aside

Problems For Yamaha?

Image

Following this year’s MotoGP session has been quite frustrating to say the least for all factory Yamaha supporters and more so for the fans of Jorge Lorenzo. Crashing out at the first corner of season’s opening race and the continuous tail-chasing of Hondas (and occasionally of Vale) race after race must feel like a hammer driving stakes in the resurgent souls of the Spaniard and his trusted steed – the M1. The few podium finishes that Lorenzo has had this season will do little to abate the restlessness that must be growing within him. It is a good thing that men like Lorenzo are moulded, beaten and tempered under such moments of earth-shattering pressure that helps them keep their head and not turn their brains into a boiling pot nonsense and misjudgement.

Image

Let’s just back up a little. Last year’s MotoGP saw the arrival of a certain Marc Marquez at the highest rung of two-wheeled wizardry, and the “rookie” captivated people all over the world with his perfect turn-ins, exits and arm-sliding cornering skills that made it look more like a well orchestrated performance than a gruelling physical race that it really is. As the season came to an end the “rookie” became the youngest champion of the sport but only after he has fought for the championship with none other than Jorge Lorenzo. Last season gave a glimpse of what this year’s MotoGP battle would be like and the fans could not wait to see what Lorenzo would do to challenge the young superstar. A number of nail-biting races made themselves at home in our excitable, adrenaline-happy sections of the brain.

The season started with a crashing disappointment. After a trademark Lorenzo start as he howled into the first corner in Qatar he lost traction and crashed out of the race and netted his first DNF of the season while a glorious Marquez notched his first win of the season. Since then Marquez has won all races till date (7 in all) and has gathered 5 more pole positions (6 in all) along the way. The Hondas have humbled the Yamahas this season quite comprehensibly and the only glimmer of hope for the latter has been our very own Valentino “Valiant Vale” Rossi who, it seems, has been able to squeeze more out of his bike than Lorenzo has. The Doctor has been doing his level best to challenge the Hondas and it would be an understatement to say that he has been successful in his endeavours.

Image

Rossi came into this season with a cloud of uncertainty over his racing future as he himself felt “…not competent enough” and decide to race a few races to see if he can change his mind. And change he did. With the results that he has been getting it is very difficult to see Rossi giving up on racing just yet. That is just another aspect of reality that Lorenzo has to keep up with – that Yamahas are capable of challenging the Hondas. To be honest that is not entirely true as the Hondas are superior with respect to straight line speed and perform better under braking. So, not only can the Honda drivers brake later and harder, they can sprint past the Yamaha’s on the straights with a 4-5 kmph advantage. A proof of this has been the race at Mugello where Lorenzo truly challenged Marquez for the first time this season. With his M1’s brakes performing much better than ever Lorenzo was carrying more entry speed into corners and catching up to Marquez but on the straight he lost out to the latter who slipstreamed past him on more than one occasion without too much of an effort. As a matter of fact Lorenzo exited the last corner of the race and raced to the finish line leading Marquez only to lose out to the Honda’s machinery. The next race in Catalunya saw Marquez back on top and Lorenzo making a sorry fourth. It seems the brilliance of Lorenzo is yet to shine through properly and he is yet to truly adapt to his machine.

Whatever may be the case, the season makes me remember an article written by Ed Smith about cricketers being in a “zone” when they surpass all explainable limits of excellence and reach the pinnacle time and again. It is easy to say that Marquez is well within the “zone” and may as well be having outrageous parties over there while in case of Lorenzo the door to his “zone” has a sign saying –

COME BACK LATER.

Later cannot come sooner for him and for many of us.

A Drama On Many Horses: A Take On F1 Season Till Date

Image

Anyone who keeps track of happenings in the world of F1 would be familiar with the many teams, the drivers, the “characters”, the team managements’ hotshots and with the eclectic mix of technical marvels that make each and every F1 car such a spectacle to watch. There are people who can go on for hours discussing chassis design, tyre temperature, downforce etc and if the beautiful new ad from Rolex is to be believed then we can be sure of discussions about the relentless polishing of bodywork too. While all of this is just everyday affair for an F1 fan, the drama that unfolds, more often than not off-track than on-track, is what keeps an element of uncertainty in an otherwise uber mechanical world; and the fans love it hook, line and sinker.

 The F1 season this year has reached a stage when it is probably safe to guess the top two places in the drivers’ championship and, it goes without saying, the top spot in the manufacturers’ championship… 

Champion & First Runner Up (Drivers): Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton (rank them as you like) 

Champion (Manufacturer): Mercedes AMG Petronas.

Such has been the domination of the silver arrows that one simply cannot imagine any other outcome at the end of this season. Starting their ‘merc’urial waltz for the season at Albert Park, the duo in their silver arrows has been relentless in setting the pace for the rest of the pack. They have topped time sheets during every qualifying session for grid positions and have repeated the feat on race day for consecutive one-twos, except for one occasion when Hamilton had to forfeit his race at Albert Park because of a technical glitch while leading the race from pole leaving Rosberg as winner and sole Mercedes man on the podium. More than the wins which Mercedes has enjoyed over this season what has grabbed many eyeballs is the usual margin by which Mercedes seems to be ahead of the pack; not by hundredths or tenths of seconds, but by seconds. A lot of them.

A new era of F1 rules, put into action from this season, brought with it the usual phase of technical migration and along with it the many questions of system reliability, response and adaptability. So, it was natural that the technical failures in pit lane or on the race track weighed equally on media coverage as that of actual race results and other analyses. However, at this point it is fair to assume that many of those issues have been sorted out and the direction of development is well understood. It is also fair to assume that Mercedes will continue to enjoy the luxurious buffer of multiple seconds throughout the season. A direct result of this is that suddenly the race for positions 3 to 10 are bound to be more nail biting and that it would churn out new names with points. It does not mean that the battle for 1-2 is any less interesting. While those positions could very well be painted in silver even before a race start the intense battle between the two Merc drivers makes it hard to predict what the order on podium would be.

Leaving Australian GP out of the picture, where Hamilton’s car stopped his chances of getting any points, every other race has seen a Merc driver winning the race from pole: 4 times for Hamilton and once for Rosberg. Only recently has the rivalry between the Mercs been blown out of proportions by the media when Hamilton did not seem to appreciate losing to Rosberg for the first time this season and made his displeasure quite conspicuous by not talking to Rosberg on the podium. Rosberg has played down any animosity between the drivers and has repeatedly referred to their karting days, when they were equally fierce competitors, and said that such things happen as the level of competition is so high but their mutual respect will make sure that the threads do not snap beyond repair. It is interesting to see how the drivers are handling such a situation and what might happen as the season progresses.

Image

Hamilton is a naturally gifted driver whose basic instinct is to go fast and not what you thought (wink). Rosberg on the other hand is a more systematic driver who reiterates his experiences until he finds his rhythm. While Hamilton’s approach is intuitive, Rosberg’s is methodical. So, while Hamilton enjoys a natural advantage over his rival at all tracks, Rosberg’s approach, thanks to Mercedes’ policy of data sharing between both drivers’ teams, offsets that advantage equally. As comparisons go the obvious question of “who is better?” is bound to arise. Sadly, the answer is yet to come because I believe they have not truly went up against each other yet. They have been close, yes, but not battling for places, not swapping places across a bend or slipstreaming each other down a straight. The pattern is: You get the pole – You win the race. Under such conditions qualifying sessions have virtually become the more important runs. Also, such a situation favours a driver like Rosberg as he can check and recheck data streams to determine exactly where he can improve and how to improve. And he works hard for it. The proof for this would be back to back poles for Rosberg in Monaco and now in Canada when he has been finally out of all sorts of technical mishaps that have been happening to his car since Australian GP. In the Free Practice rounds in Canada, Hamilton has set the pace for others to follow with Rosberg close behind. So the latter made it a point to go through the other’s data to see how his own timings can be improved and Voila! he is on pole now. It is easy to see why Rosberg’s strength is getting the better of Hamilton right now.

If this season is to be believed then Rosberg would go on to win this GP too putting even more pressure on an always emotional Hamilton for the drivers’ championship. While we crave for the outrageous overtaking maneuvers from either of the drivers to see a real battle, the drama that has been set in motion anyways is no less entertaining.

Maybe the balance between too mechanical (Rossy) and too emotional (Hammy) has been achieved by none other than Mercy. Shifu with his teachings of “inner peace” would be proud…

This Is Why I Ride

Harley-Davidson-Wallpaper

I remember going through an interesting article a few weeks back in Overdrive. It was named “This is why I ride” and has been typed in by maestro Shubhabrata Marmar. Although I have always appreciated every article he has put forth, I have probably never felt more connected to any other article before. I have been asked a few times by different people: “What is it that you love about riding a motorcycle?”, and surprisingly I have never been able to justify my emotions. As I read the article I felt for the first time that some of my thoughts and emotions are getting truly reflected in maestro’s words.

 Really, what is it about riding a motorcycle that I love?

 My problem in answering the above lies in the fact that as soon as this question comes a lot goes on in my mind which cloud the essence; things like learning, leaning, overtaking, crouching, weaving, speed, aggression, adrenaline etc. hide the facts like fun, experience, memories, freedom and many others. In retrospect I think the physical attributes of riding eclipse its not-so-physical side. It is true that the power and torque ratings of the engine, the balance of chassis, the setup of suspension, the riding geometry and all the physics that go into making a phenomenal accelerating and stopping mechanical beast is one indispensable side to a great riding experience, but it is JUST one side. The other is where one adds the human element to the engineering marvel. This tiny addition brings that all important “feel” to the equation and that makes such a world of difference. Even at the pinnacle of two-wheeled engineering: the MotoGP, it is well known that no two riders ride the same machine in exactly the same way. It stands true in the world of F1 too. Similary, no rider can ride two fundamentally similar machines in an identical fashion. This inherent mix-and-match characteristic makes each and every ride that much more unique and guarantees that every time I swing my legs over my motorcycle it will deliver a fresh experience. There lies no “beaten path” in the two-wheeled realm. Every inch of road that passes beneath those set of tires is new.

 And who does not love new things?…I hope I have feathered the answer to the question above. I definitely cannot nail it. It cannot be put into words. It is a “feel”ing.

 Now that I look back to what I have written above I can see that I have strayed a long way from what I intended to write. That probably sums up the whole what-I-love-about-riding thing. I never know what I will start with and where I will end up, and the road taken along the way may as well be a discovery.

 The world is still big for people on two wheels…