Thursday, August 30, 2007

First case analysis: the airline industry and why it stinks

Classes have begun, and I have soooo much work to do. We did our first case analysis in my strategy class on airline industry as of 2004. It was a bit frustrating because this professor told us to take the case as is and not take into account current information. This is obviously to get us to focus on answering the basic questions and learning the analysis process, but some of the facts and airlines in the article had changed radically in the past three years. It was my group's first opportunity to work as a team and I think we were dedicated and efficient. The latter is one of my favorite attributes in a colleague so if the first meeting was any guide, I will grow quite fond of my group members the shorter our meetings.

I read an interesting article in the Economist today. It was a book review regarding a new publication about Ryanair. It was an interesting commentary rather than analysis but brought up an important note about firm culture.

Michael O'Leary, the boss of Ryanair, wanted nothing to do with the project. As far as Mr O'Leary is concerned: "Business books are bullshit and are usually written by wankers.”

The article talked about no matter how crappy the service and how... brusque the CEO, Ryanair continues to make profits. This can be contrasted with Southwest, the consistently profitable airline in the U.S. Southwest is known for their friendly, happy employees and customer service, even if you have to pay for the extras like food and beverages.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Fun from a fellow blogger

I thought this was entertaining: see if you can read it! I am of the opinion that this is just one of those things floating around the internet and not actually a "Cambridge University study" (note actual name: University of Cambridge. But it is a bit of distracting amusement nonetheless.

http://www.owenbloggers.com/isha/2007/08/only-great-mind.html

No thank you, I do not want to wear business casual today

And on the 7th day, I rested.
No I am not God, and therefore, I decided that after an exhausting one week intensive integrative where my group worked our collective butt off in a mock case competition and were beaten to the semi-finals by a team who proceeded to give a very weak performance, I decided I needed a break from all things Georgetown today.
So, no thank you, while I appreciate the 2nd years' career day internship fair, I chose to get a pedicure, have some wine, and spend the afternoon NOT wearing business casual in the 95 (heat index 110) degree heat.
OK, so that was a bit of a rant. I had a really interesting, challenging and fun experience this week. I also met a lot of really interesting people. Naturally!

Next week's challenge is the start of classes. We're off to a bit of a rough start. The strategy prof announced Friday afternoon that he had emailed us about an assignment we had to complete by Monday. We all trooped to the copy shop and the bookstore when we got back to campus around 5 pm to discover that neither were stocked. Also, I am disappointed, but not surprised that in my study group of five, I am the only woman. That is the sad reality of business school. It would be much worse if I was in Europe, so I have my- mainly American and Asian- women peers to thank for their drive to take on business school.
Upcoming moments of interest should be the careers extravaganza, consulting day, and meeting my second year mentor.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Where am I?

I haven't posted in a week. There is a simple reason for this. I am FREAKING EXHAUSTED. The Class of 2009 is currently at the National Conference Center in Virginia where we are being run (literally... more on that later) ragged. We are participating in a live case study sponsored by FedEx. The Georgetown MBA has several week long course called "integratives" where we are supposed to integrate knowledge learned in the classroom into a real life business situation. Later integratives include creating a new business idea and the global integrative consulting project during your second year. This is the international business integrative introducing us to a global business and each other! Now, before this week we have had three days of orientation and about half the class attended statistics class before that. We, as a whole, have no knowledge from the classroom. This week they threw us into the deep end with 7-8 other people, a life support kit, and a deflated raft. To follow the analogy- we have to figure out how to inflate the raft, use the life support kit, and help group members swim through certain sections. We have a few readings, lectures and talks by FedEx Kinkos execs to answer business questions and compete in an NCAA style case tournament. (We're not seeded!) My group is functioning well and got really intense and into the competition all of the sudden during our second meeting. As a group we have a ridiculous amount of energy and ideas, which we are learning/attempting to organize effectively.

Onto the running. This afternoon we had something called The Great FedEx Race. With your team (split up into twos and threes) you were sent all over the national conference center to collect puzzle pieces that eventually ended up being a photo of Georgetown and the Potomac River. The race functioned like the original hub and spoke model of FedEx where we had to come back to "Memphis" (a central lecture room) after each pick-up and show the puzzle piece before receiving our next geographic location. My team lost, even though we put forth a good effort of sprinting (ahem, I mean walking fast) around the NCC, turning in circles, stacking chairs, swimming across a pool while holding up a tennis ball and other such feats.

Tomorrow we pretty much work on the case presentation all day and the competition starts mid-afternoon. Tomorrow night we have a faculty-student volleyball game, which the faculty has won for the past five or six years. There is a trophy and much gloating involved. We had a random draw, certified by one of our classmates and one of the professors, who are both CPAs.

I am going to grab a bite before what I'm sure will be a long meeting session later this evening. And then, I hope, a few glasses of wine with my classmates!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Day 1

My overall thought at the end of Day 1 of orientation is: SO TIRED. I have not seen 6 o'clock a.m. in a very long time. There is the possibility that I had a very early flight to catch somewhere along the way, but that only requires me to be awake for a limited period of time before I can go back to sleep on the plane. Today started with registration (info packet) and breakfast (pastries and fruit) and then began a long day of lectures and discussion. The wise planners of orientation banned laptops. There were several moments where I would have enjoyed the opportunity to "multi-task" i.e. play games on the web, but alas, no computer. The morning welcome session was properly energetic. Our SGA president, whom I have met before is a five foot ball of freakish energy. I love it. The Dean has a great sense of humor that worked especially well towards the end of a long string of introductions.

Our theme (I cringed quietly when I heard the word "theme" come out of the orientation leaders' mouths) is "THINK BIG!" Such a motto can only appear in capital letters followed by an exclamation point. It is a necessary grammatical construction for such a theme. We got a book of inspirational quotes, which I appreciated as I have collected quotes as a hobby for over ten years. After the intro speeches we had a talk by the CFO/ Sr. VP for the Gap Brand, a 1988 Georgetown MBA grad. He had very useful, well articulated advice.

We then had a brief presentation by the head of facilities planning about the new building, which will be ready in January 2009. Supposedly.

After lunch, which was a bit food coma inducing, we spent the entire rest of the afternoon on integrity and professionalism. We broke into small groups and discussed various short ethics/ career development case scenarios. Most of the discussion was thoughtful and interesting, but a few people simply seemed to miss the point. Granted this was an academic exercise, so people were likely drawn more to extreme responses than they hopefully would if the situation actually presented itself. In many of the groups some individuals got caught up in debating the difference between a legal contract and just giving your word in a reneging your job offer acceptance scenario. The point of the exercise (apparently hammered home in one of the 4 groups by a careers rep) was that going back on your job acceptance will most likely hurt your peers and those who come after you at your b school no matter what your circumstance is. The case also covered several important points on handling career matters professionally.
After a few related integrity presentations and slides we finished the day and had a wine and cheese reception on the roof of the car barn.

The only things I did not enjoy about today were lunch, which was way too heavy, and the subtle yet present Harvard complex. Several of the second years during the opening presentations and a professor on the curriculum panel mentioned Georgetown's rankings and how we as individual students are supposed to compete with the top ten school students. It was not focused upon, but provided an unwelcome distraction from what Georgetown offers and what exciting things OUR program does. The Dean, from what I recall of all the speeches, did not make mention of any other schools by name. This is an excellent little example of his extreme professionalism and focus on Georgetown, which is an inspiring thing to witness in your school's leader. I was also disappointed when the statistics for our class were posted and women only make up less than a third of the class.

We do have about a third international students from 33 different countries. I am continually excited about the upcoming year and the people in my class. There is a such a diversity of international experience which I hope will increase the diversity of opinion and contributions in the classroom. I better get some sleep so I can "think big" tomorrow!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Accounting: bleh

I just got back from my first accounting test. I think I passed it, which is all that was required this time around. Yesterday the program hosted a back to school welcome party complete with a food spread that brought us all back to the elementary school days- sloppy joes, chicken nuggets, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cookies. Very cute. A critical difference from school days of old was that the drinks selection featured cold beer instead of cold milk. The admissions/ student services also wisely scheduled the event at 4 pm, as the entire class had the accounting pre-test today.
Apparently about 150 members of the incoming class are attending stats camp. ($500 extra) I am not one of them. Last night people were bemoaning how they spent about an hour going around the entire room having everyone say their name. Being MBA students many calculated out how much the introduction hour cost them and discussed it with classmates. Estimate: $41.67.

A quite American method of meeting people is to have brief conversations in which we search for sometimes shallow commonalities, chat for a little, then move onto another conversation. International students I have spoken to find this a distinctly American and sometimes overwhelming characteristic of American university life.

Now that the accounting test is over I can start studying my statistics textbook. Yeah! (Note the dripping sarcasm...)

I love air conditioning

Air conditioning.
Lovely bursts of icy air.
D.C. heat loses.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Geography

I enjoy my sitemeter as a method of seeing where in the world my readers are located. Today I noticed I had a georgetown.edu ISP on my list of visitors and one in the Cayman Islands. The Cayman Islands sound nice, except for the fact that it's hurricane season. Undergrads have not yet arrived on campus so the georgetown.edu must be a grad student, faculty or staff. Hmm...

Cultural differences

I was out to dinner with the bf's family the other night and I happened to glance across the restaurant just in time to see a woman throw a glass of water in a man's face, pause, then pick up her other (alcoholic looking) drink and throw that in his face as well. No one in the restaurant, including the people at the two tables closest who definitely observed the incident, reacted. Everyone kept eating and drinking, choosing to be oblivious to what was going on around them. Similarly, I was at a bar (fairly nice one) when two men started fighting on the floor. Everyone briefly glanced at them, then turned around and continued to dance. The bouncers ejected the fighters, but everyone just kept dancing through the whole scene.
These recent experiences stand out to me because in India we could not get two seconds peace in public. Everyone in India is in each others' business all the time. At first I thought we were getting more attention because we were potential easy prey and the bystanders wanted to watch/ assist the touts in screwing us, but I quickly realized many people were just culturally nosy. It reminded me of one gigantic small town in the southern U.S. People swarmed around conversations and other minor incidents only involving fellow Indians as well. I eventually learned how to deal with the inevitable crowd by raising my voice slightly, which seemed to disturb many of the rickshaw wallahs and other bystanders. Several looked to my boyfriend and said things along the lines of, tell her to be quiet, tell her I am giving the best price, tell her to get in the taxi. To which he politely smiled and replied, I'm sorry, we don't speak to women like that in the west. The bf found it highly entertaining that many of the service industry men could simply not cope with an assertive woman.

Cultural differences often pop up in unexpected circumstances and I think that international student orientations can be critical times to ensure newcomers to the U.S. (or from the U.S. at other schools) are properly integrated into every day life. I noticed on the Georgetown calendar that my international colleagues have arrived on campus and have also noticed international bloggers have begun to appear in the U.S. for their respective pre-term activities and apartment shopping. As I said, these programs are important to allow students to take a bit of time to adjust to a new country and to get a firm standing before classes start. When I did a visiting student's program in London my junior year we had a two hour information session and were sent into the wild. I thought, well, UK, no problem, they speak the same language, I can read signs, I'll be fine. And within a few weeks, I was. However, information on the banking system, where to buy pots and pans, groceries, how much I should be paying for a pint, were all lacking from my orientation experience. U.S. undergraduate institutions and business schools seem to do a lot better in preparing international students for every day life in addition to coursework.
I hope my international classmates are enjoying the July/ August DC weather!