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Archive for December, 2008

8 days to INSEAD

In preparation for France, I’m

– making a list of all the semi-affordable bistros in Paris that are open on Sundays

– learning to bike in high heels

– having limited success limiting facebook use 

– getting my fill of kimchi for the year

– learning to drive stick from YouTube videos 

– reflecting on what I want to get out of this next year

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Turns out, INSEAD has a Second Life campus.  Apparently it even got some awards for design.  I can’t decide if that’s really cool or really weird.

I’m pretty technology averse.  I don’t know the shortcut keys on my computer.  I borrowed an iPhone for a weekend when it first came out and got bored within moments of playing with it.  My iPod is 6 years old and I haven’t used it in 3.  I can’t work my parents’ universal remote.  My calculator has been with me since the 8th grade.  I don’t ever want to own (another) car.  Microwaves really bug me.  On mine, every time the power goes out you have to reset the time and DATE.  Why the hell does a microwave need to know the freaking DATE?!! 

My impression of Second Life was of a place on the interweb where lonely people – some 16 million of them according to the stats – went to create avatars so they could do things they couldn’t do in their first life: speak without sweating profusely, ask someone out on a date, leave the house, get some.  

But perhaps Second Life provides a platform for interesting interactions that you couldn’t have in real life.  I once heard a bit on NPR about some researcher using Second Life to simulate combat situations or help people get over trauma (something like that anyways) or architectures schools to using the virtual space and its inhabitants to explore building design.

And certainly a lot of people are making a bunch of real money from this virtual economy without any real products.  Though come to think of it… not so different from what was happening on Wall Street.  Actually, the banks in Second Life failed during the last week in January 2008.  The banks in first life followed suit just nine months later!

Or perhaps my instincts were correct.  In my research, I came upon this.  Linden Lifestyles is a comprehensive Second Life shopping blog.  Get this: you can take your REAL money – money you could spend on dinner with a friend, money you could use to buy a plane ticket to Bilbao, money you could donate to NPR – and spend it on a VIRTUAL boob job, some S&M gear or a ten pack of stilletos in different colors (2000L$ – just under a $10) FOR YOUR AVATAR.   

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So… I don’t know about you, but I’m already shopping for the scintillating lingerie I plan to wear to that Second Life Nobel Laureate’s lecture or that McKinsey recruiting event.

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On the plus side

If I’ve been overly harsh on INSEAD lately, it is because of my own anxiety about starting the school year in less than a month. I keep having a dream where I am lost somewhere (though it usually turns out to be the Mexico City metro) with 2 huge, unwieldy suitcases and unable to communicate to find my way around. I wake up nearly hysterical, with a pounding headache.

Instead of stressing about the school year or the recruiting season, I’m chosing to focus on the more immediate and tangible stresses. Should I buy a hairdryer or three ring binders here or in Fonty? Should I purchase a cellphone online now or wait until I get there?

So I’m going to stop the ranting, and do some rambling about what’s going well.

1. Despite being intimidated by the idea of living in France, I’m also anticipating the excitement of trips to the hardware store. What I mean is that everyday life in a foreign language feels so extraordinary. When living abroad and learning Spanish, I found that buying elotes on the zócalo or having a short chat with a papeleria owner when buying a pack of pens was the most rewarding part of my day. That challenge of daily life was a huge motivator for choosing INSEAD in the first place.

2. I’m spending NYE in Paris with the boy! I can’t freaking wait!

3. Another pleasant surprise is that I’m finding the Micro pre-reading much more engaging than I expected. Yeah, I’m being a nerd and doing the pre-reading. (You are being a bigger nerd and spending 1500 EUR to attend business foundations. So please…) I’m finding myself better equipped to understand Marketplace reports on NPR than I was two weeks ago. It’s rewarding to be able to make sense of my world from first principles, rather than nodding along with James Surowiecki because he writes so logically.

4. I’m also starting to discover the power of the network. Today, I had a wonderful chat with an alum about his sector, the recruiting process at INSEAD, and pulling off a career change – someone I found through one of these very blogs! He had some insightful comments. I wanted to share a mix of these insights and my own interpretations:

– Don’t get seduced by JP Morgan and McKinsey unless you’re really interested in banking or consulting. Recruiting for those roles can take up the majority of your time, leaving you with no time to consider alternatives.

– Set a goal for networking: talk to X number of people per week. Always follow up.

– Get together with people interested in your sector and share your contacts.

– Have a crystal clear idea of what you can offer a company. Be able to pitch it in 30 seconds.

– Join a club in your area of interest and take the reins; don’t wait for someone to plan the events that interest you.

– Prioritize. You’ll only be able to do a small fraction of what INSEAD offers – you’ll have to choose between parties, studying, recruiting, traveling, clubs, sleep.

Phew. That was way too positive. Hope I didn’t bore you to tears.

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Just in time for the most competitive recruiting season since 2001/2, INSEAD increased its class size to around 500 for the last two January intakes, up from ~450 in previous years. At the same time, the FAQs from the career services send a clear messages: lower your expectations.

I’m starting to wonder just how profitable business schools are. A case study might be in order. Will get back to you.

Q: How do you make a ton of money after bschool?
A: Start a bschool.

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I’ve been spending my last month before school in a semi-productive manner.  While my classmates are scuba diving in Bali and hiking the Inca Trail in Peru, I’m taking Career Leader profile tests.

Choose a statement: “The position allows ample time to pursue other important aspects of my lifestyle” OR “The position provides excellent opportunity for exceptional financial reward”  

Um… both?

Among my motivators, “Intellectual Challenge” and “Lifestyle” are high.  As is my need for “Influence and Power.”  

In one section, you have to compare yourself with your peers.  What ends up happening in this type of a survey is a Lake Woebegone effect – everyone is above average!

So I tried to imagine my future class of overachievers, and rated my Time Management, Work Ethic and Self-Control at the bottom barrel.  I guess you could say that I’ve gotten where I am by being smart, not by working hard.  (I know the pitfalls, and I’m currently reconsidering this strategy.)

AJ Jacobs tells a hilarious story during one of the Moth Storyslams.  An editor at Esquire, he was one of the first people in the US to hire a business assistant in India to handle his administrative work.  This went so well that he then outsourced his personal life to another assistant.  She did his online shopping, booked his reservations, and even resolved an argument with his wife.   The bit is hilarious – totally worth a listen!  

So rather than investing in improving my time-management skills, I’m wondering if this is the kind of outside-of-the-box thinking that I should be employing.  Does anyone in India want to write my resume?  Take my exams?  Conference in for my case interviews?

$300/month.  Anyone?

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from here

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Mmm… coffee

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“Here’s a chart that shows my coffee bias over the years.

For good measure I have added my bagel preferences over the same period. (1) Drip coffee(2) Starbucks(3) blueberry bagels(4) sesame bagels(5) poppy-seed bagels(6) everything bagels”

Simply brilliant!

From Christopher Niemann at the NYTimes

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