Monday, June 29, 2009

Times of India Piece

Just published (in case you're interested...)
Publication: Times Of India Delhi;
Date: Jun 29, 2009;
Section: Education Times;
Page: 57
A more liberal candidate

Among the countless sum of quantitative subjects MBA candidates are exposed to during the first term of an MBA, ESADE Business School’s class of 2010 embarked on a ‘Global Context of Management’ course about a month into the degree. After dissecting and tackling various issues concerning management practices in a broader social context, our professor left us with something to think about. He said, “The value of your lives can be measured in your personal relationships.” I loved this; it stuck with me.
Now, looking back at the first half of the degree, I would like to believe that this is the very reason I am working towards an MBA. Of course, there are the typical motivations — better career opportunities, higher salaries and a large number of additional advantages. Collectively, an MBA, despite the cost, makes for a relatively attractive option for any young professional. For me, an individual with a strictly liberal arts background, the appeal lay in fundamentals. I had the desire to fill the gaps in my knowledge so that I could do anything — run a business, manage a company or start my own enterprise.
My liberal arts background has not made the MBA harder; it has made it different. The way I learn, the way I think, and hardships and the things that come easy to me are all unlike that of the traditional MBA student. However, looking at the importance of interpersonal relationships, I am coming out of the first half of the MBA with a different ‘motivation.’
When researching MBA programmes, any prospective student takes the alumni network into account. These are the people that will open doors, offer guidance and essentially create a strong and influential group of colleagues and associates. Almost every MBA programme provides an opportunity for its students to create a useful network of contacts, including fellow students, professors, staff members and professionals who may be involved with the programme. In fact, most universities take action in order to promote alumni networking. And in addition to the vast alumni connections and associations, each distinct graduating class creates its own modest network.
The first day of the MBA, we are all strangers. By the first month, we knew each other's names, backgrounds and aspirations. We understood the strengths and weaknesses of our group members and were learning how to develop our collective skills and abilities. By the third month, we had become a family — undeniably stuck together and at times dysfunctional with the characteristic issues that any family faces. Yet all things considered, the levels of respect between my fellow MBA candidates and the amount of affection we have for one another is tremendous. Further, due to the fact that we (like any family) experience ups and downs, accomplishments and failures, we are undeniably fused together and, therefore, afforded the opportunity to learn from one another. I have discovered more from my friends than what 10 MBAs could ever teach me. And yet, without the MBA, I would have never met them. I would have never been placed in a single building, for hundreds upon hundreds of hours — to brainstorm, strategise, research, calculate, examine and sometimes even philosophise with these exceptional individuals.
I am paying nearly 60,000 euros for the MBA. I am paying this to walk out of ESADE less than a year from now with an esteemed degree that will, undoubtedly, open doors in the future. I am paying this money so that once these doors are open, I will have the knowledge and competencies required to succeed. I am paying this so that in the future, whatever I decide to do or wherever I choose to go, I will not only be an asset but a leader in my chosen activities and endeavours.
What I did not pay for, nor did I expect, are the people that surround me every day: individuals that constantly teach me, support me, push me and sometimes even learn from me. These people, this 'network,' of friends, classmates and colleagues are unlike any I would have ever met outside the MBA — all placed together in this 18-month experience. They are my inspiration, motivation and encouragement and they are defining my MBA. That, to me, is invaluable.
Morgan Witkin

Thursday, June 25, 2009

All I Wish For and All I Need

 “…caught in between all you wish for and all you need…” is the sentiment that has been lingering in my subconscious for days. These are the lyrics of a song that my i-pod appropriately stumbled upon during one particularly long metro ride, when I realized that the words reflected exactly what it is I have been feeling since the end of classes.

It’s an incredible song…listen: 

(this is the Michael Stipe and Chris Martin version…the best).

So that’s it- I think that I am, fundamentally, caught in between what I wish for and what I need. Maybe that's the human condition. Maybe it’s my condition. I suppose there are some fortunate individuals out there whose desires are consistent with their necessities. Lucky them. I, on the other hand, have entirely polar wants and needs- where the things I long for couldn't be more different from the things I require. I’m not referring to the “givens” as in- I need water but I want champagne…I need sleep but I want waking moments.

No, those aren’t specific to just me. (Trust me, I took a poll)

Instead, I boast a wide range of conflicting interests that tend to result in daily internal struggles:

I need calmness but I want chaos. I thought that the end of school- and the space between one obligation and another would be good for me- that I would finally be at peace after a long stretch of calamity. Instead, I find myself unsettled- frantically twitching inside my own head wondering how I found myself doing nothing and how to make it stop. I know I need still surroundings- serenity- to breathe and think and walk at a pace where the people behind of me start cursing under their breaths.

Instead- I want Bangkok in the dead heat of summer- I want Manhattan at rush hour- dirty metro stations filled with people, pungent smells and the sounds of bums singing and wheels screetching- back to back taxi cabs, feet pounding the pavement and the honking of horns. I actually like the feeling of fear in the pit of my stomach, sweat rolling down the nape of my neck- I want anger and love and hate and passion and desire all at once- traffic and noise and lights and the feeling that it will never end- that the pandemonium will continue for as long as I will…or as long as I can bear it. I know I require rest, my body knows it- sleepy afternoons with the shades drawn. But it’s not what I crave- It drives me mad.

I need a relationship with someone who can wrap me in his arms and shelter me from any harm that may threaten me. I should want a relationship that I feel safe in- that is comfortable and stable. I want to want devotion and harmony- peace and comfort. What I find myself craving- and subsequently seeking- is unrest…the dramatics and ups and downs- the passionate fighting and then if I’m lucky- passionate making-up. I don’t want to know how it will end and what’s around the next corner. I want to wonder- I desire the surprises and disarray. I make messes and if I can’t create them myself, I invite them in. I wait for turmoil to find me. The commotion is what I feed off of and when all that mess turns to something good- and healthy- and normal…I get bored and move on to the next fiery rapport.

I know this is not wholesome- that I should probably go for something more nourishing…but its what I do. It’s what I require.

I need to find myself a career path that is stable and comfortable and profitable. I should want a clean cut route- a 10 year plan. I’ve been making lists of attainable goals- 401ks and tenures. The things I want have no pension plans- no road signals- no straights and narrows. I don't even have a 10-month plan. And in the case that I did- I would probably swerve off the path at month 5, crash, and a little piece of me would die.

So what I NEED- is far from what I want. And now-in the serenity and long empty daylight hours that I thought I wanted…a time where I actually have a second to sit and look back on having accomplished a part of what I needed- I am slowly figuring out that what I knew I wanted has been the same all along. I’m undeniably caught in between all I wish for and all I need….and it seems like this is going to be a lifelong affliction. 

Friday, June 19, 2009


Summer is officially here and I’m not exactly where I thought I would be (in more ways than one...) But let's talk location:

I’m in Barcelona- carting myself to and from school, doing my best to irritate anyone I can find- requesting the various letters and documentation that I can't seem to get right on the first, second or third tries. And then rushing between the lawyers and the local authorities- in attempt to renew my residency card (NIE) and the one thing I have found is that none of the aforementioned bodies can seem to communicate on an adequately explicit level and therefore, a process that should take a few days has taken over a week. 

I HEART  Spain.

Good news though; the paperwork part should be done and I’ll find out first thing Monday morning if it worked- or if I have to start all over again.

In a few minutes, I have to register for the second time for next year’s elective courses due to the fact that there was a “technical glitch” that wiped out all the previous registration efforts. This little mishap has caused me to yet again question the classes I have chosen. As my friend mentioned, "I'm trying not to think about it but I'm not sure if I can trust the younger version of me." 

There are so many directions to go in- I could take all the things that come naturally to me and have a chilled out year with uncomplicated pressures. OR I could take all finance and econ and challenge myself by entering the 9th circle of hell. I could register for a bunch of management and strategy courses that I could then apply to almost any career I end up in, or I could mix it up a bit and keep it interesting. I have opted for the latter two options.

As long as I will never have to do Quantitative Models again- it should be smooth sailing.

Thus far, assuming all goes well and there are no more “technical issues,” I will be taking;

Strategic Business Simulation

Family Business Management


Corporate Citizenship

The Transnational Manager

Management of Cultural and Creative Industries


Corporate Level Strategy

Leadership Power and Influence


Sounds good, huh?

Additionally, I will be joining about 40 students on the one week China study trip in September in Beijing. I can't wait. More on that later…

In the meantime, I have to pray that the Catalan officials accept my residency for another year and then I can get a move on to the China Visa (seems I have sent a large part of my life applying for Visa’s). Once that is locked down- I’ll begin planning around Beijing. I’m thinking Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tibet (if there isn’t too much unrest) and possibly a beach in Thailand.

Speaking of beaches, between the bureaucratic b.s.- I’ve officially traded escuela por la playa and have spent a good few days picking the sand out of my wedgie with my classmates who are still around Barcelona. Between beers, paddle ball and rotating our bodies like meat on skewers- I’m actually getting to know my friends again- since I haven’t had the chance to talk to any of them since pre-term.

Once the official stuff is done and I get my passport back, I’ll be heading to Italy to get started on a few projects- and of course, to eat, drink and forget even more Spanish.

Here’s the official verano 2009 playlist:       

1.     Jason Mraz- I’m Yours

2.     Buena Vista Social Club- Clocks (Coldplay, Rhythms del Mondo)

3.     Oasis- Waiting for the Rapture

4.     Adam Lambert- Mad World

5.     Plain White T’s- 1,2,3,4

6.     Sum 41- Pieces

7.     Melendi- Caminando Por La Vida

8.     Alexander Rybak- Fairytale

9.     Jack Johnson- It Seems to Me that Maybe

10. Empire of the Sun- Walking on a Dream

11. Linkin Park- Shadow of the Day

12. Macaco- Moving

13. Parov Stelar- Kiss me Twice

14. S-Tone Inc- Con Mi Sombra

15. Thievery Corporation- El Pueblo Unido

16. Manuchau- Megusta

17. Brett Dennen- The One Who Loves You the Most

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The End of The Beginning

Summer began at approximately 12:30 p.m. yesterday.

It was the moment I have been waiting for- something we have all been waiting for since we began in September. Now that it’s here, I have to wonder- what exactly was it that I was hoping to reach? Why did I treat each day as if I was passing time, counting down the days until now- holding on to the notion that something better would arrive at the end of something already so good.

I seem to be infatuated with endings and new beginnings. I have to ask myself why I am always waiting to close a chapter- believing all the while, that whatever comes next, will outdo whatever it is I possess now.

I’m 28- and I’ve had more than a few chapters- probably a number of books to be honest. You would think that by this point- with all the volumes under my belt, I would have figured out that it’s obtuse to wait for the end of something perfectly fine. Just because it’s current, doesn't mean that it’s not valuable. But inevitably, I wait for the end. And then without fail, I look back with fondness…oftentimes I look back with sadness- longing to reclaim that which has already passed- reaching for something long gone.

Sometimes the realization comes weeks later...months…maybe years. This time, however, it happened about 30 seconds post-culmination.

We arrived at school at 9:00 am for the final portion of the strategy course- the so-called “awards ceremony.” (something- if truth be told, I wasn't too interested in, being that I more or less “resigned” from my team when I was unhappy with a not-so-strategic acquisition. So much for emotional intelligence).

Be that as it may- it was the last day of the last class of the first year of the MBA, so I was happy to be in attendance. The morning proceeded as normal: alarm clock, sift through clothes scattered around my floor, walk, bus, metro, walk some more, coffee, croissant, class, coffee break, conversation, class, and then it was over.

That was it.

“Have a great summer, see you next fall. Good luck on your internships and if you don't have an internship, enjoy Barcelona.”

Amidst chatter and footsteps, students filed out of the room. Before long- everybody was gone. Everyone had something to do, somewhere to go- whether it was to the café to grab one last muddy coffee, lunch at a nearby restaurant, home to sleep before the farewell dinner, or to the airport to begin the next phase of the MBA. Besides myself- the room was empty. I sat in my seat at the back of the class- books open, feet folded under me, completely still.

I sat staring at the front of the room for a good half hour. I sat and sat doing absolutely nothing. Had it been any other day, I would have been one of the first out of class- never dawdling…never having a moment to just sit and breathe and appreciate the time and the place and the people. Every other day, I always found something I would rather be doing.

This day, however, I didn't want to be anywhere else. I couldn't think of any place better than where I was. I looked at the board- dusty from the chalk, with quasi-indecipherable words that wont mean a thing to me come September. I stared out the windows that I have stared out everyday for the past year- in rain and shine- morning and night- through all four seasons- and before I even left, I missed those windows. I already missed the chalkboard, the sound system that never works, the desk, the chairs, the walls. I already missed my classmates. I know that we have next year- but things will have changed….some people will be off on exchange, many of us will be on totally different tracks- taking courses at different times on different days.

This really was the last time, until graduation, we will all be together. And I realized that I have found comfort in the people that have surrounded me this past year. That whether I was struggling with a financial ratio or coming up with some new way to increase the efficiency of a supply chain, I would look up and see the faces of the 60 people I have come to know and learned to love- each individually, and as a whole- a group who, in its entirety, has become a part of my family. And as much as I complain, I’ve had one of the best years of my life.

So eventually, after nearly an hour, I too- packed up my bag and strolled out of the same classroom that only a year ago, intimidated me as I perused the ESADE website. A room whose photographs appear all over the brochures, with its blue carpets matching its blue curtains, microphones peeking out from the corners of the ceiling, and professional looking students doing things I had never even dreamed of learning. Now, not am I only one of them, but I’m over half done.

It has only been a day since the final moments- it’s only the end of the first year- and I’m already wistfully looking back, full of nostalgia and longing, for something that has yet to end.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Candy is Dandy

Life is exasperating. Sometimes I think I have it all figured out and as soon as I’m about to sit down for one second, take a deep breath and slow down- another curve ball is thrown my way. I then realize that, in truth, I have absolutely nothing figured out. Nothing at all.

But then again- there are always the simple and uncomplicated joys snuck in between the worry and angst to lessen the blows. In other words- there’s always candy.

Exams are over. I don't want to talk about it. Or them. A friend appropriately mentioned to me over a mojito Friday night, “I passed until ‘they’ tell me I failed.” That works.

What I do want to talk about is candy. I love candy. Who doesn't love candy?

Despite the fact that our finals are over, and we made it through to the other end the notoriously killer “First Year” of the MBA, we have ONE LAST hurdle. It’s kind of sad really. Even though we knew this week was coming- the intensive strategy seminar to finish off before summer- I’m fairly sure that everyone was a bit shaken when their alarms went off this morning. I know I was.

Last weekend was one extensive celebration. It started about five minutes after our final final on Friday (breakfast beers) and continued through Sunday night.

Then this morning, just like waking up for a 6 a.m. flight after a weekend in Vegas (anyone who has ever had the misfortune to face this ghastly catastrophe will feel my pain), a morning where our bodies could barely take it- we woke up to our blaring alarms, packed our pens and computers and dragged our weary asses back to school.

The weather dropped five degrees, the skies were grey to match our moods- and everyone slowly lugged themselves back into class to tackle this final week.

Then, when almost all hope seemed lost- they brought out the candy.

Our dreaded Global Strategy course is actually about candy. woohoo.

Here’s the deal:

We are broken into about 20-odd teams of five. Each team represents a key player in the confectionary industry (I’m Mars/Wrigley). After lectures and research on the company’s position in the industry- and an analysis of the business as a whole- we develop a strategy (M&A, Alliance, etc…) and negotiate with the other teams with which we would like to partner or acquire. This morning was the introduction and a brief glimpse into the industry, then a Lindt presentation by Spain’s Managing Director.

Lunch passed slowly as we all talked about summer plans and ate our bocadillos at unhurried paces. The day dragged on…

As we entered the second afternoon lecture…something totally unexpected happened:


 Haribo’s GM actually brought us candy! Good guy…

We walked into the room ready to endure the rest of the first day of the long week…and the desks were strewn with candy. It was like a carnival threw up during Halloween. Every color of the rainbow of gummies galore…bears and fruit shaped sugary goodness, marshmallows, long stringy things flavored with coca cola and lemon and covered in sour sugar, candies I had never even seen before were all over the place. Willy Wonka would have been proud.

Clearly things were looking up. We spent the rest of the afternoon half listening to the lecture and shoveling scrumptious treats into our mouths while eyeing the other tables making sure our competition didn't make off with better bags than ours. But as sophisticated and mature MBA students are expected to solve potential discrepancies, we came to mutual understandings and made a number of trades. 

Candy makes everything better. Candy, as Warren Buffet stated, “is Dandy.” Four days left.

If we get more candy, I’ll stop complaining.