Archive for November, 2008

Take that, HBS

My undergrad institution always felt itself to be in competition with Harvard.  We’d hiss at any mention of Harvard during lecture.  We’d make jokes about how the only hard thing about Harvard was getting in.  We’d gossip about how little they had to study and how nice their dorms are.  We cheered at the scene in Good Will Hunting where Matt Damon puts the douchebag Harvard dude in his place.  We’d revel in the stories about our drunken frat boys pissing on the statue of John Harvard as part of their induction rituals.  We looked to the story of a Harvard girl who killed her roommate as evidence that everyone at Harvard was unhinged.  We were bitter when they stole our finest professors – the joke went that when a prof left our school for Harvard, the IQ at both places went up.

In reality, we were terribly jealous.  We were jealous that we didn’t have private bathrooms as undergrads.  We were jealous that they had the Harvard Yard while we had a sprawling urban campus.   We were jealous we had to pull all-nighters and didn’t have grade inflation.  We were jealous that their school had instant name recognition even among the rednecks of Missouri.  Even though our school regularly placed in the top 5 in all of the ratings, sometimes above Harvard, our midwestern friends’ moms would look confused and ask, “Oh, is that military?”        

Looks like being across the ocean might not change things much.  Maybe sometime next year, I too will work out my insecurities by poking fun at Harvard in a snappy, witty video.  

There’s legitimate reasons a plenty to choose INSEAD over Harvard.  For one, Harvard is in Massachusetts whose residents are deservedly called (M)assholes.  Boston/Cambridge has terrible weather, food (by metropolitan standards, not by US), and low standard of living for those on a student budget.  BUT the symphony is amazing.  (I know… it’s a top priority for all MBAs!)  

INSEAD is in France.  While the French are not known for their helpfulness or friendliness, I forgive them in favor of the most amazing jambon and cheese in the world.  The students live in drafty, overpriced chateaux instead of in drafty, overpriced Cambridge apartments.  The relative isolation of the forest allows the year to be spent focusing on networking and friendships within the class, instead of picking up easy BU girls at the Kong in Harvard Square.  The campus exchange allows one to study on three continents in the course of 10 months. 

The class at INSEAD is truly international.  Check out the recently published Business Week profile of Harvard’s class: [in %]

Africa  1, Asia 10,  Eastern Europe and Central Asia 1, Latin America and the Caribbean 4,  Middle East 2, North America 71, Oceania 1, Western Europe 10

And now, INSEAD’s:

Africa 3, Asia 26, Eastern Europe and Central Asia 7, Latin America and the Caribbean 6, Middle East 6, North America 14, Oceania 1, Western Europe 37

Harvard is two years instead of one.  My friend Jon (not to be confused with  Jon the Pervert or Jon the Douche) lamented that after a year and a half, he was still bleeding money, but no longer learning anything.  That’s true for any two year program.  My friend Sandy mentioned that after one year at Stanford she was ready to get back to doing something productive.   

What matters is what’s important to you.  And you can justify just about anything to yourself once you’ve made that 30K EUR payment.  

I guess in bothering to write this post, I’m sub-consciously admitting to still carrying that chip on my shoulder.  Somehow I doubt anyone at Harvard is making videos or writing blog posts about how Harvard is so much better than INSEAD.  They don’t seem to need to prove themselves to anyone.


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The art of the resume

INSEAD publishes a book of 450 resumes of each intake and I’ve spent the good part of the last couple of days browsing through them.    

Each resume is a work of art.  In the class of December 2008 there are concert pianists, Himalayan trekkers, certified sommeliers, published authors, fashion photographers, triathletes, Indian classical dance choreographers.  My future classmates have started telecom companies, managed million dollar budgets, lead teams of hundreds, volunteered time in Somalia, and commanded army battalions!  

[NB: this is my expressing awe.  For once, I’m not being sarcastic.]

Writing a resume always feels like an exercise in wordsmithing and utter immodesty.  Kind of like the application to INSEAD itself.  Most of our mothers have taught us not to brag, but the resume is not the time to listen to your mom.  You have to use verbs like “led” and “managed” instead of “participated in”; “designed and implemented” instead of “worked on.”      

I hope that when I’m done with mine, it will also look all formidable, impressive, awe-inspiring, but at this point I’m quite intimidated.  

Here’s a thought: I’m gonna quit blogging and get back to working on mine.

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In the same way that I can’t not pick a scab, not reread a love letter from 10 years ago, not reply to an e-mail to which I absolutely shouldn’t reply, not engage in verbal sparring with a telemarketing agent, I can’t not continue to check the EUR/USD rate.

Too many double negatives.

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I feel a little numb, but at least I’m done checking the exchange rate every minute.  I’ve just wired 30,000 EUR to INSEAD at the last possible moment.  I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have noticed until a month or two later if I hadn’t paid.  And then I could have spent another month or two running them around before I did finally pay.  

For a while, I kept up this little fantasy where I don’t wire the money. Instead I move to London, take The Knowledge and drive a black cab around.  Cab drivers in London are badass.  They have to take a ridiculous exam – according to Wiki, it takes some 34 months of preparation and an average of 12 attempts to pass the exam.  

From Wikipedia:

The 320 main (standard) routes, or ‘runs’, through central London of the Knowledge are contained within the ‘Blue Book’. [...] In all some 25,000 streets within a six mile radius of Charing Cross are covered along with the major arterial routes through the rest of London.

Okay, it would be badass to pass The Knowledge but not actually to drive a cab.  I hate driving, and I’m not very good at it.  In fact, two of my previous relationships had ended over my driving style.  I believe one of the exes actually said, “Your driving style reveals that you’re a bad communicator.”  Jerk.  

The other ex and I are back together.  Once, we ended up getting in an argument over something completely stupid in the middle of a Whole Foods, and I only later found out that what he was really pissed about is that I cut a corner through a gas station instead of waiting at a red light to make a right turn.  Who’s the bad communicator now, huh?

Right.  What’s I’m saying is that I’m trying to justify feeling so nervous about spending this kind of (borrowed) money and not knowing what’s on the flipside, especially in this economic situation.    

But it’s done.  In the process I learned a little about how Forex markets work and what drives exchange rates.  See, the bschool education started way before setting foot on campus!   

For your Forex transfer needs, here’s a good site with a low spread:


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[from geekology]


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I really don’t like costume parties and masquerades.  I’m not sure why this is.  I have this group of friends who lives together.  Every year start planning for Halloween some 2 months in advance.  They send out elaborately designed invites, and spend months shopping for the costumes that they keep secret until the big night. 

This year I was out of town and so happy to go to see the Traviata at the Met with a like-minded friend rather than dress up for Halloween.  

For girls, costume parties are all about how slutty you can possibly get.  Girl costumes aren’t supposed to be funny or original, unless they’re a package deal with your boyfriend’s costume.  Like, you’re Jeff Goldblum and his dinosaur.  Or a tiger and that guy who got mauled by the tiger.  What the hell was his name? 

When I first heard about the INSEAD dash – a Singapore campus running-across-town-in-costume tradition – I made up my mind that I wouldn’t go to Singapore.  I’ll write more on that sometime, but I’m pretty sure watching the Dash on youtube and checking the pics on facebook will be plenty entertaining for me. 

I know I’m probably making myself sound super lame.  I’m not lame.  I’m ridiculously fun; I just hate costumes.  I hate when the conversation starter is “so, what are you?”  It’s almost as bad as, “so, what do you do?”  [Apparently, this is bad form in the UK.  Bless the British!  How delightful that social protocol dictates what makes for bad small talk!]  And really, there’s only so far a conversation about that Male Camel Toe or Dick in a Box costume can go.  Once you establish what the costume is and share a chuckle, you’re just standing there with a guy with his shorts pulled painfully high up his crotch or a gift-wrapped chorizo attached to his belt.  And that’s awkward.  [Why did he do that costume this year anyways?  That’s so 2007.]

And the worst thing about a costume party?  I’ll tell you: it’s that you can never tell if you’re flirting with an ugly dude because they’re dressed up as ZZ Top or have a lampshade on their head.  


DTLF tells me that you don’t get your degree without attending at least 78 of the total 135 costume parties held throughout the year, and I might be in trouble.  

Here’s why:  The week and a half trip to the old country revealed that the Mrs degree may be in-sight.  That sounds tacky.  What I mean is that the boy and I have decided to make it work long-distance during this coming year.  I’m pretty excited about this.  It’ll be nice to have a lifeline, an outside perspective, an escape when my life is going to get otherwise swallowed up by the forest.  Apart from that, it’s nice because he’s just an amazing guy.     

I’m starting to wonder what an LDR (that’s how the kids say long distance relationship) during INSEAD might look like.  I’ve never done long distance.    Prioritizing a relationship during INSEAD might involve being organized about getting work done during the week so I’m not working on the weekends, not using being busy as an excuse not to see each other, figuring out the most flattering lighting for using Skype video and skipping the costume parties in favor of trips on the Eurostar.  Yep, sounds doable!

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Sin Título

Please note that if we have not received this tuition payment by 28 November 2008 INSEAD will immediately allocate your place to another participant.

Dear Ranie Krishnan,

I find the threatening tone of your e-mail disrespectful and insulting.  I expect better from the administration to the “business school for the world”.    

When the scholarship committee didn’t bother to get back to anyone when they said they would, I do not recall receiving a single word of communication from you or anyone in your group, letting us know when the decisions would be made or offering an apology for the [month] belated responses.

It appears that the financial administration of the school does not hold itself to the same standards to which it holds its MBA participants.  Threatening students with the revoking of their place in the class does not go a long ways towards building good-will and respect between the students and the administration.  

Sincerely yours,


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