Friday, September 10, 2010

Social skills, In-company & GiveBack project

This post has been long overdue.I am writing about three things together.

Social Skills:-
Social Skills seminar was a four days workshop in an exurb of Antwerp, call Korsendonk.This residential workshop included a mix of classroom lectures, group activities, outdoor exercises and loads of fun. The lectures were primarily about intra-personal and inter-personal behaviourial topics. The group activities included a smorgasbord of things such as designing a village from given set of things, labour negotiations to a rescue plan from airplane wreckage. Outdoor exercises were the most fun. It included a set of group activities that required great coordination and teamwork. After each outdoor activity we had an analysis session that was quite useful. Apart from all of these there was a 360 degree feedback session. The evenings were full of partying and merry-making. All in all it was a cherishable time.

In-company Project
In-company project was a 8 weeks project. I did my project with another colleague in Microsoft,Brussels. It was a Strategy project. It was a good learning experience. We had a mentor from school,however we were pretty much on our own. It was good to be back to work after a year. We received good support from our colleagues at Microsoft. Most of our MBA colleagues did their project in Belgium/Europe. I got my project through personal networking & my recommendation is to be pro-active in finding your ICP.Few of our colleagues got job-offers from their companies.

GiveBack project
GiveBack project was a 5 weeks project.We were supposed to work for an NGO in this period. I did my project for Vlerick. I worked on a study about the supply chain of Unilever from sustainability perspective. We were in a group of four. A lot of my MBA colleagues went to Asia,Africa, South America and North America for GBP.It was the first time that Vlerick introduced GBP and I think few changes are required in the format of the project for next time.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Entrepreneurship - A major takeaway from the Vlerick MBA.

After having finished my Business Plan course, I thought of reflecting about the specific focus on Entrepreneurship that Vlerick has. It was the longest project we had, it ran for almost 7 months although in the background.

Just to give a background on this, as part of the course we have to develop a business plan of our choice in a group of 3-6 students and finally present it in front of a jury comprising of professors, industry-experts and VCs.Vlerick has intertwined Entrepreneurship in its course, from having speed-coaching sessions for the business plan to doing a Marketing Plan to providing sessions on Entrepreneurial Finance, we got an all-round perspective on developing a business plan.

One of the plans from our MBA group has been chosen to represent Vlerick at European Business Plan of the Year Competition. I hope they do well there.

Now I feel more confident in starting a venture of my own, which I intend to do soon. Apart from whatever I mentioned, I feel Vlerick could have added more flavor to the Entrepreneurship course by inviting few international entrepreneurs/coaches to cater to the international group.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The China trip

The China trip, its hangover and the barrage of work that followed kept me from posting this so far. If I could summarize the China trip in few words they will be' I came, I saw and I am coming again'. One of my major reasons of joining Vlerick was the China module and I must say to the least it met my expectations in terms of its structure,line-up of speakers,industry visits, cultural trips & overall organization.

We started with Beijing. As I mentioned in my previous post that Vlerick has a sister campus in Beijing, situated within the Peking University. Most of our lectures & speaker interactions took place at the Peking U campus. We had lectures and speakers on a broad range of topics, to name a few; Jack Perkowski on his story in China, Confuscianism, IP issues, Starting Business, Business-Government relations.

We visited companies such as Tsinghua Science Park, Capital Steel Group,, Mengiu Dairy. The choice of companies was a good combination of State Owned Entreprises(SOEs) to Internet ventures. What was particularly interesting to me was the openness with which even the SOEs interacted with us. We also visited the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Hutong District and other places around Beijing.

It was my first visit to China and Beijing left a lasting impression on me, the sheer magnanimity of the city overwhelmed me.Beijing has this air of 'Political Authority' around it. Although the pollution bothered me initially but it was ok later.

Our next stop was Shanghai. In Shanghai we had lectures, guest speakers and industry visits too. Here it was pre-dominantly from the financial/venture-capital industry. Shanghai visibly has a different character than Beijing.It seemed more relaxed, easy-going and business-focussed. Shanghai has a better night life than Beijing. We did visit the Shanghai business district which was no less than impressive.We took a one day trip to Zhouzhang, a historical site close to Shanghai.

However I felt China has few challenges that would be fundamental for China's future:-

Gini Index
China has had its growth focused in Eastern and Southern coastal areas, this has been by design and not by co-incidence. This phenomenon has created a big income disparity between urban and rural incomes. The Gini Index is close to 0.5 in China today. China government is pushing for development in less developed areas, however this a big challenge for China's future.

Hukou system
This 'country within a country system' was promulgated to control the migration of people to urban areas,today this is creating a huge social unrest in Chinese society.

Media openness
Personally I feel the space for free media is still restricted in China. No Facebook, Youtube, selective access to Wikipedia among other things that made me feel the need for more media freedom.

Having said all of these, I have come to believe the West is misplaced in trying to transpose its presumed best governance model - 'Democracy' on China because Chinese society is fundamentally different.China has been a feudal society for centuries and the administrators realize this. Adopting democracy immediately may crumble China and that's why China is slowly opening up to it.It is a remarkable achievement to pull out more than 300 million out of poverty in a span of few decades and China must be applauded for this !!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The job hunt begins...

I am more than half way through my course, its just about time to start looking for a job. I am targeting Management Consulting or Business Development role in ICT(Internet,Communication,Technology)sector.To crack Management Consulting in Continental Europe appears a yeoman's task, contrary to my expectations all MC firms require knowledge of a European language. I am concentrating my efforts in the UK,Singapore & Dubai for MC. For ICT sector there are possibilities in Continental Europe without a European language, however the economy is still on crutches and things should get better in coming months.

Recently we had a workshop on 'Working in Belgium & Europe', I must say the taxes in Europe are quite high(close to 50%),however the social benefits are equally good.I don't mind staying in Europe if something like-able works out.

Vlerick has a good alumni network, but it is concentrated mostly in Western Europe. The school keeps organizing alumni get-together, company presentation & few career fairs, however I think Vlerick should put more efforts in attracting international recruiters.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The last day of classes and ensuing days...

We finished our classroom lectures last week for good,however we have other engagements till April end to keep us busy namely; exams,China Trip,module on 'Doing Business In Europe,Business Plan and few other things.

The last day of the classroom lecture left a bitter-sweet taste, on one side the joy of not attending long lectures anymore whereas on the other side the sadness of not seeing my friends in the classroom anymore. I know, it's not exactly the way I am making it sound that but still I had a feeling of partial 'Graduation' on that day.

We start for China one week from today, everyone is excited about the trip. Most of us are staying for few days in or around China after the study-tour ends.Our Chinese classmates have been quite helpful in letting people plan their respective trips,they are also conducting an orientation session for us. The schedule of two weeks of China study-tour is a mixture of classroom lectures, industry visits, networking events, historical tours and lot of PARTYING(unofficial).

After the China trip we have other engagements till end of April. In May,we start with our 'In-company projects'(internships) for two months. I have managed to get my project with Microsoft, Belgium office. In July, we have to do a six week long 'Give-Back' project, a CSR initiative from Vlerick. Have not finalized anything as yet on that.

Sayonara till the next post.....

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Crazy days of MBA

I have been inactive on this blog for last few weeks because of an insanely crazy schedule at the school. I have been spending all days of the week at the school with a maximum sleep of five hours a day.My puffy eyes could vouch for that.I am contemplating to keep my belongings in the school locker and be there 24/7. The amount of work has gone up through the roof, on top of that the pressure to look for in-company project, job-search(would write an article on this later) & give-back project has exacerbated the whole schedule.

At the end of March, the whole class would go on a two weeks study tour to China. Vlerick has a sister campus in Beijing, it's a tie up with Peking University. Peking University has a Full Time MBA course in collaboration with Vlerick called BiMBA.I am looking forward to the China trip, it would be a new experience and a good break as well.

The seniors warned me about the Spring term saying that I would be inundated with work in that term, but I shouldn't lose focus and try to priortize what is more important for me. I am trying to do exactly that, it's not easy but not impossible either. MBA definitely forces you to learn priortization of work.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sandi Cesko visited Vlerick.

Mr Sandi Cesko visited Vlerick last week.He is one of the most successful business entrepreneurs in Central and Eastern Europe.His best known venture is Studio Moderna,which is a leading direct marketing company and consulting service in CEE region.There is a case study written on Studio Moderna by Harvard Business School,which was interesting to read.

Mr Sandi shared his journey,challenges alongside and the anticipated future for Studio Moderna.He seemed like a very modest man with excellent understanding of the market in its context.Studio Moderna intends to expand globally now and it is the next big challege for Mr Sandi and his team.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Group on International Relations in Vlerick

Few of us in the IMBA class felt that we not only need our management knowhow but also good understanding of developments around us particularly geo-political to give us a all round perspective.We got together for the first time in the residential Social Skills Workshop and had our first meeting. We discussed about Afghanistan, Middle East and other issues.It was an enriching discussion.

We had our second meeting recently and seeing the enthusiasm we decided to make the meeting a weekly one.The group has members from many backgrounds such as politics, journalism, sales and marketing and technology and many countries that makes the discussions quite engaging.

We also intend to invite few political commentrators during the remaining part of the course to get more insights into current geo-political developments.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Post Study Visa for students in Belgium

I have been doing some research on Post Study Visa for students in various countries in order to understand it better because Belgium does not have any unfortunately. US, UK, France, Netherlands, Australia etc provide 1-2 years of "Post Study Visa" to all Masters students with varying degree of flexibility.

To my surprise this thought never crossed school's mind even when the school is pushing so hard for internalization.I am trying to speak to the school management and the alumni association to highlight and push this issue further. One of the reasons I see for this issue is the relatively small number of foreign students(non-EEA) in Belgium.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Negotiations - a different perspective

This has been due for a long time. We had an amazing course on 'Negotiations Skills' by our Program Director, Dr David Venter. Dr Venter was one of the twelve negotiators in South Africa to facilitate the transfer of power from Apatheid regime to democracy.

Before this course, I never thought that 'Negotiation' is like an art that could be mastered by practice. Dr Venter is an amazing speaker and with his real life examples he made the course very interesting and engaging.

Key learnings from the course:-

- Before the negotiation, do a through home-work on the problems at hand, other party(ies) involved and your own bucket of options.

- Enter the negotiation with your 'Aspiration Base'(Where to start the negotiation), 'Real Base'( upto what point can you go in negotiation) and 'BATNA'

- Make the first move.

- Approach it with the idea 'Win-more' 'Win-more' .

We practised many simulated 'Negotiation' problems and it was really possible to apply the above learnings in practice.