December 1st, 2008

Climb the Summit

Darkest hour is just before dawn

The sun is slowly sinkin'
The day's almost gone
Still darkness falls around us
And we must journey on

The sun is slowly sinkin'
The narrow way leads home
Lay down your soul at Jesus' feet
The darkest hour is just before dawn

The darkest hour is just before dawn
The narrow way leads home
Lay down your soul
Let Jesus in
The darkest hour is just before dawn
The darkest hour is just before dawn

- The Birdwatchers

I sure hope this is the darkest hour - I await Dawn.
With the international politico and media taking so much interest in the event, there seems to be some hope of things improving - dawn is not sunlight, but at least there is some light.
The Wall Street Journal is covering the attack as its headline since Thursday, and the New York Times too is taking no respite. Having followed these news media for years now, I can assure that no other event has been so continually and thoroughly followed by either of them. Not even the US election was covered so continually.
Now to hope that out of this rises a need to 'do something' and not end the matter by passing the buck. Being so close to the elections, it is all to simple to say 'it was their fault' and end the matter till another event.

Sure there is major political upheaval taking place, with some people being asked to leave politely. However, is a change in administration the only, and only immediate answer? The people presiding till the moment were useless, but making them go is not the answer to all ills. Whoever is new has to amend the system - and that can be done only after s/he knows the system. I wonder how long that will take - not less than a couple of months. Sure, common sense if (thankfully) present will make Chidambaram take some immediate measures, but they are likely to be effected by the decades old bureaucratic requirements. To circumvent those Chidambaram will need to spend time learning - and its going to take time. Perhaps time till next elections?

There are people paid to do their jobs. Paid much more than you or me - but they are not doing it. I will not even imagine the scenario where I am incompetent about my job - because then it wont exist. Why then is it allowed in the most important posts?

Early in my childhood I remember the Emergency. This is almost time for that. But there is no one to spearhead the emergency.
Unity amongst Indians they say. Sure. The best way is to target the hatred outside. Where? I dont know. Attacking Pakistan is not the answer. But someone needs to provide a punching bag - one that is logical and really, the cause. And that punching bag has to be outside the country.

If the darkest hour is before dawn, I await it eagerly. Because if this is not the darkest hour, then it surely is a minute away from it. And i sincerely hope the darkest hour is not an hour, its a moment - because we have just spent 50 years (since Kashmir began) in the minute before the darkest hour - its time for Dawn.

Join the Masses

An MBA - what it really is

There is something Seth Godin has written in his latest blog post about an opportunity to do a 6 month learning stint with him - what he calls an alternative to an MBA.

Forget about his pitch. His program. It is not for everyone. Plus he is a marketing guru, so the program makes sense for those who intend to be marketing people managing marketing companies...and live close to NY.

But I would appreciate if you read the post.

The post talks about changing your life. The point of the post is what he says about jumping the track, about the Stanford MBA giving him a chance to do something different.

I know Rex who took the chance and did an MBA. He still preferred what he had initially and returned to it - he is happy that he jumped and took the chance. Now he really knows what he likes. I know many others who loved the life post the jump. It did change life for them.

Overall, its reassuring and it reconfirms what I say about an MBA - an MBA essentially is something that gives you the fillip to move to something you otherwise could'nt have. An MBA may not be everyone's answer to a transition, or a change - or what my father called 'entering with an advantage'.

I did not want to be an Engineer or a Doctor. My parents wanted me to be both. I did the next best thing - gave an entrance exam and got myself into the best Science college of its time (and second best now) in India - Presidency College, Calcutta. Sure, I did Botany. But I enjoyed every bit of it - OK not every bit. I loathed Taxonomy. I just cant  memorise names of plants given by fancy by an old now-dead scientists. I envied organic chemistry but then Zoology gave me hope. They simply dont have a nomenclature system. But I veer off-track.

At that time, in my house there were only select few career options open to me. On my fathers side, every single person is an Engineer - it was unimaginable to my grandfather that I was not going to do engineering. My other grandfather is a doctor. Everyone wants a doc at hand - so I was the choice. 
But I did Botany.

There were a couple of choices open to me after that as far as my family saw it. The most obvious, and the one followed by my classmates was masters followed by a PhD. Most of the people who did graduation with me are submitting theses now. I could also get into IAS, but I dint want to.

The only thing that could change my life at that point was an MBA. An MBA was something general enough to give me a spring board to get into any industry I wanted, into a job. I never wanted to do commerce. I did science in school and I loved it. I did Botany in my graduation and it was amazing fun. So I changed my life after that to get a good job. I changed myself from becoming a scholar - though many of my professors lamented (and still do) at that. But then I did an MBA. And enjoyed it. Actually, I enjoyed it more than anything else I had done till then.

But the MBA prepared me. It changed me from what I was. Nothing intrinsic, but it gave a perspective. It channelised what I had. Like Seth mentions, an MBA is a finishing school, really. It teaches you how to work in groups, clearly, and be good at dealing with people. It enhances your skill at doing work fast. I met 160 people whom I would meet for the rest of my life - while I was not being judged. I learned how to understand people and figure out how to make them work. I saw some stalwarts manage people naturally and envied them bitterly.

Sure, when I went to work I was still a novice. Sure, I learned commerce and economics and finance and marketing and strategy and human relations management during my MBA. But what I really learnt was not there on the textbooks. It was an experience. It was a chance - it changed my life. It gave me a platform for easy entry into almost any industry, into almost any profile. From a Botany graduate struggling in work life with limited options and low pay, two years made me eligible for any industry I pleased.
Some of my college classmates are working now, after their MSc. However, their work is related to what masters they did, and they never really had an option when they started working. They dint change their life by one fell swoop, they changed it day after day working away at it. Nothing wrong with that, but its the hard way - or the easy way whichever your point of view is. Hard because it takes long to reach a level which can be reached in two years. Easy because then you dont really have to take a call as to what you want to do. Doing an MBA is taking a conscious decision that you want to change your life and that you want to do "x" thing, and that you need a platform for it. Its a smart choice.

There are some lucky people who know what they want. They don't need platforms and change their lives. But an MBA is a spring board for those who want to, smartly.

Of course, a lot depends on the institute and also depends on the country. In India now, its almost necessary to get and  MBA - ts like an engineering degree - everyone has one. But when I did my MBA it was rare. How things change in 6 odd years!
It is also enlightening to see how perspectives change. How little I knew when I did my graduation - how few avenues were open. Computer Science was cutting edge and I almost joined it. There was a college offering a diploma in Advertising and it was a thing of awe.