Sunday, September 19, 2010

Kellogg Convocation for 2nd years

This Thursday, I attended Kellogg’s convocation event for 2nd years, hosted by the KSA and by the Dean’s office. The convocation was held to welcome students back to school for their 2nd year, and the event was followed by welcome reception, giving us a chance to catch up with our peers over friend chicken and brownies (that’s what I ate).

KSA president Zach Hollander kicked off the event with a welcome from the KSA, reminding us of our responsibilities as 2nd years, to help and guide the first years. I think that atleast 90% of Kellogg 2nd years would end up helping 1st years in some way or another. Why? Well, quite simply put, we received an amazing amount of help from our seniors. And we are going to give back. For me, that means leading the Public Speaking Club, helping with the High Tech Trek to the west coast, and helping students with case prep as part of the Consulting club. And helping in any other way that I can.

Zach’s speech was followed by the customary look back at the 1st year through a slide show of pictures with some irrelevant music playing in the background. One good think that they did this year was to crowd source the selection of pictures, by letting us upload pictures to a Google document. As a result, we did not end up with 50 pictures of the KSA leaders and 20 of their best friends. Well done KSA!

Dean Blount took the stage next, and updated us on all the work she has been doing since she joined Kellogg. It’s quite remarkable how much she seems to have achieved in a few months. Her key message to us was – take some time off the self-reflect. Some of the most successful people that she knows achieved the success because they took the time to listen to the voice inside, which was telling them what to do. She suggested that we spend 5 hours away from all phones, people, email, Facebook, twitter etc. – at which we all gasped. 5 hours? I mean if she had said 30 minutes, I might have been OK, but 5 hours? Such is the level of addiction with all these gadgets, social networks etc., that I am struggling to finish this bog post without checking email or updating my status to ‘writing a blog post.’

After a few more updates from Dean Roxanne Hori from the Career Management Center and Professor Michelle Buck, Kellogg’s director of Leadership Initiatives, we got some invaluable advice from Professor of the Year, David Besanko. He had a very simple and inspiring message, “Learning Hurts, Embrace the Pain.” He explained that he meant the following: We all have a tendency to self-select courses, teammates, situations that are within our comfort zone. It takes effort to step outside the comfort zone, and to do activities that will truly develop us. Professor Besanko said that his is most likely the last 9 months we would have dedicated to our learning, and to take full advantage of these, we should try to do the following:

  1. Take courses outside your comfort zone. So if you are a marketer uncomfortable with numbers (I am totally stereotyping here), take Financial Decisions. Or if you uncomfortable with speaking in public, take a course which will force you to voice your opinions, or join the Public Speaking Club (blatant advertising for my club, of course).
  2. Build teams from people you typically you do not work with. I noticed that several of my teams from 1st year largely consisted of Indian guys. Not that there is anything wrong with Indian guys, it’s just that we lose out on the variety of opinion that a more diverse team might bring. So this year I am consciously trying to team up with people who I have not worked within the past.
  3. Take a principled, fact-supported stance on issues being discussed in class. Debate, express your opinion, even if the majority is against you.
  4. Last, but not least, build some work product that you are proud of. This might be a case that you write with a professor, which gets used in subsequent Kellogg courses.

I left the convocation really excited for the 2nd year. One of the things I am really looking forward to this quarter is the Venture Lab course, through which I will be working with OCA Ventures as an intern. So here’s to the 2nd year, and beyond.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Is the Web Dead?

In one of the most fascinating articles about the Web I have read in the recent past, Chris Anderson, the editor-in-chief of Wired magazine and the author of the book/concept the Long Tail argues that the Web is Dead. The title of the article is quite catchy, but as the Web would say,"The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."Instead, Chris explains how some essential characteristics of the web are changing:

1. There has been a considerable change in traffic on the internet; from FTP and web being the majority in 2000, to video and peer-to-peer dominating in 2010.

2. The larger websites have become the media giants of 2010. Look at Facebook, Apple iTunes and Youtube; in 2001 the top 10 websites accounted for 31 percent of pageviews in the US. Now, the top 10 websites account for 75% of page views. And these larger players are likely to encourage closed gardens to monetize to the maximum, rather than make it all open and completely accessible. A case in point is iTunes.

3. The way we access the web is changing; more and more content is being consumed through smarter, thick clients like apps, on smartphones and tablets vs. the browser. A large part of this is because these thick clients offer much better user-experience. As a result, the internet is being used as a dumb transport mechanism.

4. The big web properties are acting more like all-or-nothing media giants, vs. what Chris calls the 'come-one-come-all collective utopianism' of the Web. Chris compares this to the natural path of industrialization: invention, propagation, adoption, control. Very strong argument!

5. Other than search, the web has not proven to be a great mechanism for advertising. A case in point is banner ads; they have always suffered from low CTRs, and are generally ignored by users. However alternative advertising mechanisms presented outside the pure browser-page based ads could be pretty attractive. This could include advertising mechanisms like sponsored social goods, banners in social games, mobile app based ads, video ads etc. While all of these are available on the browser, they are increasingly being used outside the browser.

In some sense, I do agree with Chris; especially since tablets and mobile phone based apps often provide a very engaging user-experience, far better than a general purpose browser. But there are several reasons why the web is far from dead

1. The web remains the largest source of information, and the currency of exchange of information - web links - get more and more important as this information is spread across the web rather than concentrated at one place. Even large properties like Facebook and Twitter rely on the exchange of information through links. In fact, as soon as I complete this blog entry, I will post it on facebook and twitter, which is probably why you are reading it.

2. App traffic is growing because of video, but is traffic the right measure? It takes several times more bandwidth to consume an hour long video, than is needed when keeping the user engaged for an hour with a traditional web page. So the metric for comparing is not exactly fair.

3. There are several innovations in web browsers - particularly from Google Chrome - that might help bring back the browser.

4. The B2B web is likely to remain on the web as far as I can see - I mean how else could you write something that can easily be used within and outside an enterprise, than as a web application. In fact, enterprises are still in the midst of completing the transition to web-based applications, so the thought of moving from the web to this new app based web is hard to think of.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


At the end of a recent MMM event, I found myself surrounded by 5 to 6 incoming students, all of which had tons of questions for me. What should we take in the first quarter - Turbo Finance, Finance I and II or Marketing? Who is a good professor for Marketing? How was recruiting last year? I was like - woah relax, so many questions! Why are you so anxious? And then I realized - they were exactly like I had been one year ago - eager, anxious, full of questions, and ready to take on the first year of MBA.

One topic really stood out. I told the first years that in order to do well in recruiting, it certainly helps if you network with the companies ahead of time. Which immediately created fear and apprehension, especially in some of the international students. What is networking? How do we network? What do we say to the recruiter? I assured them that Kellogg does a fine job of preparing you for networking via sessions, workshops etc. Which was of course, the wrong answer.

So what was the right answer? What the first years were doing right there and then, was in fact, networking. They had done their research about Kellogg beforehand. They were asking me intelligent questions. They were enthusiastic and interested in Kellogg. They could easily share what they did before Kellogg in a concise manner. There is nothing else that they really need to do with recruiters - in fact, trying to impress recruiters might be counter productive. Of course you need a pitch ready for the interview, and perhaps, also for the networking session. But in the first session, all the recruiter is likely to notice is whether you are like-able, interested in the company and job, and have done your homework.

I have found one book particularly useful when it comes to networking (and have mentioned it on this blog before). Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. It doesn't offer that many tips and tricks about networking - instead it gives a holistic view of networking, of looking at networking as something natural you do to build relationships and help others as much as to help yourself. It has certainly helped me relax at networking events and not be worried about trying to dazzle others at networking events (instead, i just underwhelm them :)). But seriously, the book is worth a ready for everyone. Just do it. And add your feedback to this post.