Sunday 26 August 2012

Duke Fuqua School of Business - Bangalore Information Session

Fuqua School of Business

This Saturday (25th August 2012) I attended the Bangalore Information Session of the Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. At the outset, let me tell you this one great thing about the info session, everyone who attended the session can claim for the Application fee waiver. I found this a really great courtesy from the school towards applicants. So before I start writing my experiences, I would again request to take the matter below with a pinch of salt as the following experiences are my own perceptions and based on my career expectations.
So, the information session was hosted this Saturday (25th August) at the Vivanta by Taj Hotel, MG Road. The event was scheduled to start at 11.00 AM and was hosted by Dan McCleary. Dan is the Regional Director – India and has previously worked as the Director of Admissions at the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University. The session started with a brief presentation by Dan and various questions were taken during the presentation. The session started with a sense of the macro picture of Duke University. Once a student joins Fuqua, one becomes a part of the Duke University which is one of the finest campuses across the US. A new wing has been added as part of Business school, a new library has come up and the facilities at Fuqua are state-of-the-art. As per the discussions, following are the key differentiating features of the Fuqua Daytime MBA program:
         Teach as much as you learn:-

      Fuqua School of Business promotes Peer learning as much as it vouches for classroom learning from faculty. When it comes to peer learning, one has to get involved in the discussions and learns from others’ experiences. As part of the experience sharing process, one is supposed to contribute as well to the group and here comes the “Teach as much as you Learn”. This is where the work experience of the students comes into picture. The class is very diverse and hence enhances the peer learning experience. The business school has regional directors across the globe. They monitor the business ecosystem of various economies and this knowledge is also brought to the class to make learning a truly enriching experience where one learns business in a multi-cultural global perspective.

      See Around Corners:-

Dan shared his experience that most of the candidates who come to business school were more oriented towards short-term goals like function/industry change etc. The Fuqua business school prepares students to look at the bigger picture and prepare long term goals. They prepare students to look for new opportunities and pursue them and thus change the horizon of vision of one’s goals.

        Mastery takes Practice:-

The school is very much student driven. This opens a lot of choices for students to experiment stuff which will not be possible otherwise in a typical work place environment. One can practice different things without the fear of being failed.

        Duke as the Bridge:-

The business school acts as the bridge between one’s present skills and the skills required to excel in a typical dynamic business environment. The school provides various resources to do so.

        Global Competence:-

One learns about how to do business in today’s global environment.
As a matter of fact, the present CEO of Apple, Tim Cook is an alumnus of Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. Apple is a regular recruiter at the business school.

About the MBA curriculum, Dan informed that there are terms of 6 weeks each. Program starts with the Global Institute then there are Fall 1, Fall 2, Spring 1, Spring 2 and then the 2nd year. All the core courses are in 1st year with some electives and the 2nd year is completely electives where we can pursue among various concentrations. There are some off days between terms which are normally helpful for networking and recruitment activities like the week-in-city programs where students go to a city (say, New York) and stay there for a week. For international learning experiences, there are programs like GATE, GCP and Student Exchange Programs with various universities. For example, in GCP, students form a team and work for a project from a non-profit. Towards the end of GCP, students also get to visit the location of the non-profit and help them with their findings. Dan informed that this was a great opportunity for people looking at Social enterprise and Consulting. The presentation discussed about the small class size (about 440) of the business school. When asked about the typical number of students in each of these international experience programs, Dan gave the following details – Exchange (40), GCP (35) and GATE (almost 50% of the class). The business school gives OFF on Wednesdays which apparently helps in catching up with the curriculum and other networking and recruiting activities.
On Career aspects, almost all major firms recruit from the business school. The location of Durham is such that New York is almost ½ an hour by flight. The career management office helps in networking and facilitates other activities for recruiting. During the discussions, it came up that in the recent economic crisis; most of the affected people were those who did not have university degrees and not much the degree holders. On the Scholarships and Financial Aid front, Dan informed that the business school offers loans to international students which don’t require a US co-signor. The processing of the co-signor free loan can be initiated even before the VISA application process so that one can so the loan as the source of funding to attend the business school. All the scholarships are merit based and most students receive some form of financial aid. The process of scholarship decision is independent of the admissions decision process. Dan also informed that most of the scholarship money is distributed by Round 2 and hence very little is left for Round 3 applicants. The typical factors that may decide scholarships are GMAT, GPA, Demonstrated leadership, extra-curricular activities, Work experience etc. Scholarships may range from $ 7,500 to Full Tuition Scholarship. Dan informed that during the last year admissions an Indian had secured a Full Tuition scholarship. The Fuqua School of business does not offer any assistantship options and Dan told that it was not advisable too given the rigor of the MBA curriculum and other activities of the student community.

Few points from the Admission discussion were that the business school typically looks at the undergrad institution, the academic rigor of the undergrad program, GPA, GMAT, Work experience etc. A few myths of the admissions process were also discussed which are like this.

MYTH #1: Duke admits few students from India.
            Dan informed that the reality was that Indians were the second largest student community after the US at the Fuqua School of business.
MYTH #2: Indians need 750+ on GMAT
            Dan informed that the mid 80% GMAT range for the business school as a whole was 650 – 750. The same range for Indian students was 680 – 760.
MYTH #3: One needs to go to the campus for interviews.
            Dan informed that the business school understands that it is expensive affair for a student to travel to the US to attend an interview. Hence, they try to arrange alumni interviews in an applicant’s area.

To answer a question regarding the different grading methodologies of various undergrad institutions across the globe, Dan told that an applicant must understand that the admissions committee sees numerous applications every year from across the globe and have a fair idea of the grading systems in various countries. Hence as applicants, we must believe in the business school that they will understand our grading system and applicants must refrain from converting their GPAs to some other scale. About the application timelines, it was told that one must submit his application when one is best ready with the application. However, it is advisable to apply up to Round 2 as most of the class is decided and admissions decisions have been made by Round 2. Applying in Round 3 may have some disadvantages as the intake may go as low as 10 students from Round 3. On the Early action deadline, Dan informed that it was advisable to apply in this round only if one considers Duke’s Fuqua as his top priority school. This is because once admitted to Fuqua in EA, one has to withdraw all his applications from other business schools. Fuqua receives its almost 15% of the applications for the EA deadline and acceptance rate can be approx. 30% against the typical 25% acceptance rates for Round 1 and Round 2.So it appeared to me that it is definitely advantageous to apply in EA if one is sure to go to Fuqua as his top priority school. On the importance of International experience in the admissions process, Dan told that international experience counts if it fits in the context of our story. However, it is not expected as a mandatory requirement in the admissions decision. The formal presentation ended with this and we got into small groups with alumni and Dan for further discussions.

An alumni present shared his experience of him making a number of switches during and after the business school. He went to Fuqua for marketing and then later on focused on Finance, worked for a venture capital during the mentor-study program, worked for a finance firm post-MBA and is now working with a Venture Capital firm. The idea was that one should go to a business school which is equally strong in all areas because during the course of MBA one may realize that he wants to do something entirely different from what he had planned to do. In such cases, it is better to go to a business school which is equally strong in all areas. I think that this was the biggest take-away for me from this session. I will keep this in the back of my mind while finalizing business school to apply. Fuqua has a program called Mentor-Study program where one gets to work for a venture capital firm 1 day a week. This to me sounds a really great opportunity for somebody looking at a career in Venture Capital. The business school also has a program called Small-Business consulting where a team of students solve a business problem for a small business. This provides a great opportunity to get a feel of consulting in real time. When asked what their biggest take-away was from the program, the alumni told that it was the Network and Duke Brand. They told us that there are some cross-listed programs in the Duke University which one can take and gain knowledge in the areas of interest. The university also offers great Entrepreneurial opportunities. Alumni told that sometimes students from other schools of the Duke University come up with an idea and partner with a student from business school to help them in preparing business plans and the likes. The alumni informed that changing careers is tough and competitive but definitely happens. One just has to show the passion for it. There was lot of discussion on the Health Sector Management program too and it sounded a truly great program for someone interested in the area. When asked, “What is that one area where Fuqua is very strong in the sense that different schools are known for different concentration area like Columbia for Finance, so similarly what was Fuqua’s USP?”, Dan informed that concentrations were added very recently to the program and until recently Fuqua’s program was more of a General Management program so General Management is the strong point of Fuqua School of Business. When asked about one thing that the admissions committee will look primarily in every application, Dan told that it is evidence of Team work. The business school’s proximity with Research Triangle Park (RTP) was also highlighted.The session ended with this and we left the venue.
A couple of more business school info sessions are lined up next. Stay Connected...

Sunday 19 August 2012

Stanford Graduate School of Business (Stanford GSB) - Bangalore Information Session

Stanford GSB

This last Friday, 18th August, I attended the Bangalore Information Session of Stanford Graduate School of Business and let me tell you, I am truly in love with the school. Here are the details and my experiences of the school as I perceived it during the info session. The event was planned at the Zynga Game Network India Pvt. Ltd Auditorium, MG Road, Bangalore at 2.00 PM.
The session started with a presentation by Luke Pena from the Stanford GSB Admissions Office. The presentation revolved truly to the theme that Stanford GSB stands for i.e. Change Lives. Change Organizations. Change the World. Talking of Change, we were taken through a journey to Stanford GSB culture showing the way it will impact our lives. As per the presentation (and by the way I truly believe in what they said…) this change happens through Personal Transformation, Innovative Thinking and Global Understanding. Personal transformation happens by changing the way we think. At GSB you are pushed to ask a lot rather than know a lot. GSB pushes you for Innovative thinking. That is to say, don’t accept status quo, challenge everything. The Personal Leadership Development is very much integrated into the GSB curriculum. There are Leadership Labs in the first quarter of the first year where you are challenged to do various stuff including role plays. Then there is Executive challenge where each student plays a role of a senior executive and interacts with his peers in view of a business challenge. As it may seem, it provides for a huge learning opportunity for managing interpersonal relations in a business environment. Stanford GSB offers numerous opportunities of Global Understanding which I believe is very critical in today’s globalized world. To start with, the huge class diversity of GSB class itself offers great learning opportunities. Then there are case studies on global contexts, Global Study Trips, Global Management immersion and International Student Exchange programs.
Here are a few more of the Stanford GSB’s strengths that were discussed during the formal presentation of the info session and Q&A with alumni. GSB has an intake of roughly 400 students per year. This makes GSB a very tightly knit community. Stanford GSB has a policy of Non-disclosure of grades so there is no sense of competition among students. This also helps us to take challenging classes which we would not take otherwise. Non-disclosure of grades goes a long way in fostering collaborative culture among the student community at GSB. GSB also offers opportunities of Teaching Assistantships. The new Knight Management Center has been completed during March-2011 which is a state-of-the-art facility. During my and other prospective students’ interaction with the alumni, it was evident that Stanford GSB was truly a great place to be. Stanford GSB’s strong strength was also highlighted in the area of Social enterprise. Stanford GSB also offers Social Innovation Fellowship. The facilities, faculty and resources at GSB are too good. There were some nice stories from the alumni about their personal experiences at GSB and believe me, they were really great. According to them, Stanford GS was all about exploring connections, experience and being connected to ground realities. Some prospective students asked about pursuing Entrepreneurship while at GSB. The alumni told that the best thing to do would be to go to GSB with an idea and then pursue it rather that first going there and starting exploring options.
There was some discussion on Admissions criteria too, and I am writing the points that I believe are relatively more relevant. Anyways, much of information on Admissions is already available on GSB’s website but here are a couple of points that may be important. We have to submit Scanned copies of our transcripts during application and the original official is needed after the confirmation of admission. The minimum TOEFL (ibt) score is 100. GSB needs 3 Letters of Recommendations (1 peer and 2 professional). Out of the 2 professional recommendations, it was strongly recommended that 1 should come from our immediate supervisor. The 2nd one should come from a person who can comment on us and has been connected with us in a professional set-up. Recommendations from Professors were strongly discouraged as our relationships with Professors are mostly in an academic context rather than a professional set-up. However, a recommendation from Professor with whom one has done some research was welcomed. One great thing is that the questions that GSB asks our recommenders have been listed on the Stanford GSB website. We can have a look at the questions and then decide the person who is best suited to answer those. Admissions officer Luke Pena gave us a hint of the best LoRs. The best LoRs are those which not only give plain statements about students but back them with stories, descriptions, details of leadership, demonstrated team work. During the Q&A with Luke Pena, an interesting discussion came up. A prospective student asked him the following question,”Stanford GSB receives applications from different parts of the world. Now various regions have typically different average test scores (viz. GMAT, GPA etc.). Does GSB take into account the average regional scores during the evaluation of an applicant’s candidature”? Luke gave a very good answer to it. He told that applicants are much more than mere numbers a statistics. Each applicant has something different to offer and they view the applications in this spirit only. Since each person is different, there can’t be a uniform criterion for evaluation. So there are no regional evaluations of the student’s candidature. There was also a good question regarding the work experience required. A prospective student asked if students with lesser number of work experience were at any disadvantage during the case discussions and other group activities at GSB. To this, alumni said that what matters is the richness of the experience and not the number of work years. One alumni shared his experience where during a class he found that the people who had lesser work experience than him had much more to offer during the discussions than himself who not only did have the greater number of work experience years but had also founded a company during his undergrad. There was also a question on the placements scenario especially with respect to international students. Let me tell you, I’ve attended several admission info sessions and this question is asked almost invariably on every occasion. And to answer this question, generally alumni tend to calm down the apprehensions by citing examples and likes. But it was only at Stanford GSB where I felt that this question was not taken seriously. It was like; this is not even a concern. Alumni told us that just the brand name Stanford GSB is good enough to get the doors opened at almost any organization anywhere in the world. The great part about this is the very very strong alumni network of the GSB. Although small (because the class size is relatively small) alumni are tightly knit into the student life of Stanford GSB. Alumni narrated their stories where they got immediate access and scheduled interviews even in the toughest market situations with the help of GSM alumni which would not have been possible otherwise.
So that was it. After the info session was over, we were taken for a tour to the Zynga office. In summary, I have fallen in love with Stanford GSB. I hope the above information helps someone in their decision. Stay Connected…

Thursday 16 August 2012


This last month (June, 2012) I got an opportunity to attend COSPAR-2012 (International Conference on Space Research) as a delegate. I was representing my company at the Space Exhibition being organised at the venue. Let me tell you, it was truly an enriching experience where I got to sit through numerous paper presentations on all possible topics in Space Research ranging from Astrophysics, Space Weather, Orbital Dynamics, Lunar Exploration, Mars Explorations, Mercury Exploration, Solar Flares and the likes.

 Personally, I felt honored on having an opportunity to sit among the world's leading Space Scientists and Physicists. To add to the stay was the truly remarkable Infosys Campus in Mysore. Among my favorite papers were those related to MARS Exploration. There were some wonderful papers on prospects of long term Human Space missions of the likes of Human MARS missions.
And by the way, the MARS Rover, Curiosity has landed on MARS. I am very much fascinated by this mission. The successful landing shows the feat that mankind and science has achieved. This is specially in view of the challenges that were there for the successful landing of Curiosity. Here is a video from NASA that shows challenges of landing on MARS.

I truly hope this mission is a success. And I've heard that India is also planning to send an Orbiter on MARS.  I wish the mission materializes soon.
Next Venture Lab Opportunity Execution Project..!!! Stay Connected..

Wednesday 8 August 2012

UNC Kenan Flagler Business School - Bangalore Information Session

So as promised in my last post, here is my experience from the Bangalore Information Session of University of North Calorina Kenan-Flagler Business School. The event was on 27th July at Vivanta by Taj Hotel, MG Road. I had registered for the event via Facebook event page. The event was scheduled to start 7.30 PM. I left my office at around 5.30 and reached the venue at 7.15 PM, thanks to Bangalore traffic. A colleague from my office was also accompanying me as he is also interested in an International MBA. At the hotel, we had a little confusion over the hall where the session was being held but was sorted out immediately by hotel staff.
The session was being hosted by Dr. Sridhar Balasubramanian, Dean of Full-Time MBA program at UNC Kenan-Flagler. Dr. B (yes! This is what people call him on campus apparantely) is the Roy and Alice H. Richards Bicentennial Distinguished Scholar and Professor of Marketing at the business school. The session started right on-time. A great part of the session was that Dr. B started with taking questions from prospective students right away. He took questions from students for the first 10-15 minutes and then started with his formal presentation. The questions ranged from teaching methods (case vs. lecture), Business school’s proximity to Research Triangle Park (RTP), careers scenario for international students. Dr. B told us that one of the greatest strengths of the business school is its proximity with the RTP (Research Triangle Park). It is one of the most prominent high-tech research and development centers in the United States. The park is home to the second largest IBM operation in the world, dwarfed only by the one in India; the company has around 11,000 employees in RTP. The park hosts one of GlaxoSmithKline's largest R&D centers with approximately 5,000 employees. It provides with great opportunities to network and get internships.
Dr. B started the presentation and told us many great things about the business school, student life, career support and leadership development.  Kenan Flagler has a great reputation for leadership development. They have a dedicated Leadership course where you can have a complete immersion in Leadership. This course is so intense that once we take it, all other electives are waived off. Business school also has a dedicated fund completely managed by students where students make investment decisions. One of the highlights of the program is STAR (Student Teams Achieving Results). It is a hands-on learning program in which students learn by doing as they take on the role of consultants to real companies. Teams are typically comprised of 5-7 students, undergraduates and MBAs (with one of the MBAs serving as the Project Leader). All teams are guided by both a faculty advisor with significant business consulting/corporate experience and an executive from the client organization. Prof. Then gave details of the admissions criteria and deadlines. On financing the MBA, business school offers cosigner free student loan.
After the formal presentation finished, we made small groups for informal chat with Prof. B and other alumni present at the venue. I went to chat with a Class of 2009 alum Abhijeet Bharaswadkar. He gave us a good insight into the student culture at the business school. He was also the best person to ask about careers after the school as he graduated in 2009 i.e in the middle of one of the biggest economic crisis in recent times. Abhijeet told us the student culture is very collaborative at the school. Career Services is quite good and supportive. During his time at the school, Abhijeet told that he spent nearly 70% of the time in Networking and the remaining 30% on academics. He acknowledged that networking is not so easy stuff especially students from India but once you are there, you learn whatever comes your way. Not all companies sponsor work visas for international students but many do and the career opportunities are good enough to get what you want.
After this, I and my colleague took a break to have some refreshments that were being served and had a chat with a couple of prospective students on their goals, school selections, GMAT strategies etc. We then left the venue at 9.45 PM. Overall, it was a great experience. I feel that Kenan-Flagler may be a good fit to my aspirations. Let’s see where I land up..!!!
Some more information sessions are coming up this month. Will post my experiences on the same as and when it happens. Stay Connected…