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Friday, March 24, 2006

Book Review: Freakonomics

Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
By Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

Rating: 1* out of 5* Business Student
3* out of 5* Amusement

Crisp: Book is for timepass. You are not supposed to learn anything or get newer ideas rather just be amused of what actually happens around the world in field of economics and more. Author, like many others, believes that economics is percieved as a boring subject by most mortals. However twist is that author have found few very interesting aspects of this subject that he wants to share with the reader. Book is about how economic fundamentals could be made of more practical use to people and how certain events and things impact people at large. It is intersting to see how useful can economics be in a normal person's life.

PROS: Author, by book, explores territories which are generally not explored in reference to normal (non-academic) people and certainly never in the way author has explored in this book. He talks about as how can a certain small thing can bring vital changes. He tries to clarify that most of "traditional knowledge" is nothing but just an urban legend and tries to build a perspective in which these "traditional knowledge " should rightly be understood. Book talks about, How people sometime do mistake of interpretting correleational-relationship as cause-n-effect-relationship. And how sometimes people just make a mistake to identify the cause and the effect properly in a cause-n-effect relationship.

Author is successfull in demonstrating how could information is another kind of power. It explains by illustrations as how this information is used by experts to create edge for themselves. Book also explains the process of recurssion and how it can effectively be used and understood by normal people. Most importantly, book does all the above in a way that it amuses reader and tries (but fails) to keep things in perspective that are of interest to normal people.

CONS: The book can be categorized as frivolous. I won't mind to read a frivolous book but then it is just too frivolous with the kind of subject [economics] it is dealing with. The writting style pretty.... different.... and could have been much better. It keeps on digressing from one topic to another without any smooth transition between the them. It becomes very verbose at some places without providing any real content. It talks about things (except few) that are totally irrelevant to reader. I also felt that author is trying to say that,"do-you-see - most economist are such a bore & wrong and how interesting & different I am?". It streches certain topics so long that reader looses interest in them.

Readers will find this book amusing and different. Though lots of words and statements with very little content makes it dull, yet it is an interesting read because of the very difference.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Book Review: Execution

Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan

This is the first book I read when I decided to bring a twist in my life of being a Maggu (A studious person). Actually you see I am going for MBA from ISB so I thought let us just change some trends in life to do something different. So I decided to be Maggu and read many many books and post a review over here. Here is first one.

Rating: 2* out of 5*

Crisp: Book is about the discipline of getting things done. Yes that's what it is. It tells the difference between individuals/companies/organizations which makes things happen and the ones which only plans. So it basically assumes that there are many capable people around who know that times are changing faster than ever and are ready to put efforts to build/sustain their organization through these difficult and dynamic times, but somehow they are not just able to do the very thing. It focuses on the gap between the great plans/strategies and the actual implementation. And it tries to identify the difference between planning and execution.It further tries to define skills for a great executor and essential tasks for the successful execution. Finally it ends with the processes that you would like to setup to build an organization that executes well.

PROS: It talks about the basic principles in the most simplistic manner. It defines some ground rules which are easy to understand even for an apprentice. It insists on fundamentals and focuses on very limited but essential qualieties of a successful leader. It starts with first defining what is it that book would be about and then goes on explaining why it is so important to study the idea. It gives many examples of how many companies have fallen and many others have risen based on these fundamentals. Number of illustrations is a big plus about this book.

Book talks about keeping things simple, straight and open. It shows how an open culture and robust dialogues can promote growth of the company. Leaders are advised to move closer to the people who are actually on the front line and delivering results. Leaders are requested to be clear and simple when they talk about their expectations and results. Follow through and accountability has been identified as a key activity that has to perculate top down in an organization. It demonstrates that how organizations are nothing but the people and cultures which are behind it. It shows how effective could a cross-unit conversations be when you are coming up with a strategy.

CONS:Book is not meant for everyone. It has a very limited audience. Though it talks about things that could be effective to people at any level in an organization but it continue to focus on the people who are at the top of corporate pyramids. It is blunt in terms of defining people characterstics. It also assumes that people are very easy to be classified as doers and non-doers. It leaves little space for human psychology and preaches on ideal paths which may not be so simple to follow as simply said in the book. Book is probably most effective for people who are really good and having nothing to hide or afraid of and thus it will loose impact on most people as most people are not of that kind. Another important aspect that book missed totally is how do you handle the situation when people are not responding to your initiatives. Only solution it provides in this case is of fire and hire which in my opinion may not be in the best of the organization but book pushes the opposite opinion. Another negative thing is that book become very repetetive after a while and a show case of you-see-how-i-do-it. It presumes whatever author (with 4 other people) is doing, is the best of getting-things-done. It is very dictative in narration and leaves little scope for independent thinking.

It is a nice book and would be a good read if you find some extra time. It is always good to know multiple ideologies and this book comes up with one good ideology. The examples included are really good and it scores for its simplicity.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Book Review: World is Flat

I recently read the book "The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century" by by Thomas L. Friedman, Oliver Wyman (Narrator).

It basically is about what are the major changes/innovations happened which have changed the world as we percieve it today. It also explores that till what depth these innovations have already impacted our day today lives, and it goes a step further in trying forespell something about where we are headed with this kind of environment.

It starts with talking about the fall of berlin wall and its impact on global economy. It then covers the important aspect of America as a nation/community which made it the strongest economy of the world. It very well defines what (and how) America did to stand where it stands today. It sums up American economic strength in terms of meritocratic setup, innovation and research oriented environment and market based economy. It then goes on identify the ten strongest innovations happened since fall of berlin wall that have changed the face of the world and the way businesses are run today. Though most of us are well aware of most of these innovations but the book makes a sincere effort to bring all the information together in a comprensible and packaged manner.

Outside America it talks about the how much the lowering trade and political barriers and the exponential technical advances of the digital revolution have made it possible to do business, or almost anything else, instantaneously with billions of other people across the planet. It gives ample number of examples of companies that have used this setup to create competetive advantages and have shown their competetors the door for getting acquired or bankrupt. It shows what kind of role can now be played with 3 billion people in developing countries to make a mark on world economy.

Another good part about the book is that It gives a significant portion to the kind of tensions that are arising due to this kind of global environment. It relates that how september 11 is nothing but another aspect of these innovations. It tries to identify means to create a global hormony in this kind of environment without overdoing it. It also defines the kind of strategies nation leaders need to define in order to enable their countries to make powerful statement in the world affairs.

It is very pro-American in nature. I think it exemplifies the role America played to create the world as it is today. It takes no account for indentifying other global firms (only very few have been mentioned) for their contribution to the world economy and how they have created an edge to curtail American firms' influence. It goes on admiring the American firms in all the corners and their methodologies till it actually becomes an overstatement and more. The book firmly creates an opinion that America has been a major global leading player (and economy) and will continue to do so in centuries to come only if Americans understand the change in the role that they need to play. It eliminates all possibilities of other countries rising (above America)in the world and lead the world as America did in last century. It actually goes to state that America should take a lead to define which countries should have what kind of power and restrictions. But since the Author is very much American I guess it should be acceptable to us (non-Americans).

I would say it is a must read for anyone who wants to make a mark in this very dynamic economy. It increases the readers enthusiasm by stating that the individuals today are more powerful than ever before. You should read it.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

I am bored

I am bored. I have got nothing to do.

5 months earlier from now, my daily schedule was this:

Get up at 6:30 AM
Reach TIME coaching center at 7
Class from 7-9
Reach home 9:30 in bangalore traffic
Reach office by 10:30 AM
Stay in office till 9:00 PM with office work as my project was on full swing
Do research on MBA schools deadline and procedures, write US application essays etc. 9:00 - 12:00
Come home at 12:05 thanks there are so many less people driving at night
Have dinner and TV news till 12:30
Do some self study and finish the assignments by 2 AM
Sleep soon as I got to get up at 6:30 next morning

And now?
Wake up at 9:30
Reach office by 10:30
Leave office if I am bored because of no work say 9:00 Release is done and no work for next few months
Watch TV till I am tired enough to sleep say 12:00
Sleep till I am tired of sleeping say next morning 9:30

As I have already resigned, even my office doesn't expect much work to be done by me.

Don't feel like watching movies as I haven't watched any in last 8 months. Don't feel like reading newspaper and novels as I have read so many of them in last 8 months. Don't feel like watching TV as it is so dumb. Don't feel like going office as I have already resigned and there is no work for me. I don't feel like reading magazines as there are no interviews to prepare for. Don't like surfing net as I have forgotten for what else I can surf other than MBA schools or sample application essays.

Please don't tell me that I can't even write such blogs here. But if you do all I will say is "fine... let it come".

Monday, March 06, 2006

My Quest for MBA

It started on a rainy night. I and Karan Singhal (my collegue in Qwest) happened to go to my home to share some thoughts and have dinner together. He told me that he is looking out for MBA and working for it. He shared his views on US schools, IIMs and ISB. He was conviencing. When he finally left at about mid-night, it just occured to me that I wanted to do MBA when I was in college. And I was no more pursuing it because everything around just got settled. I was in a good job. Job was interesting, challenging and well paid. Yet I knew that I wanted MBA, though I was doing nothing about it. After 2 hours of considerable thought process I decided to meet Karan again in the same night at 2:30 AM. It was raining heavily outside but then I had to meet him. So I called Karan and asked him if he is still awake. As I hoped he said yes and since I didn't know his home we agreed to meet at a circle close to his home. I took my roomy's bike and reached the circle while rain was still heavy. We had another hour of talk where I gathered lots of information about how to begin Quest for MBA.

In next week I found about coaching institutes in Bangalore. There were three major players; Career Launcher, IMS and TIME. I gathered some more reviews and finally decided to go with TIME Kormangala, Weekdays morning batch. Another collegue of mine also started his preparation along with me. I also found about the coaching institutes for GMAT and Essay consulting services. I made few visits to Princenton Review but found the deal too expansive. So I was at my own for GMAT. In next week I registered myself for GMAT date, for August 4th. Next two months I dedicated to prepare for GMAT. I started with Barron, moved on to Kaplon and finished with ETS official guide. ETS official guide is costly but it is worth. I scored 700 in GMAT. That was the first milestone.

For next two months my days were dedicated to CAT preparation (other than office) and nights were dedicated to research on US schools. I spent considerable amount of time to select universities. I was able to develope an algo which can help one select the universities based on the profile. Do contact me if you need the algo or just join Weekends were for Mock CAT preparation and analysis, strategy rework etc. And then about a month ago I finished my US applications and submitted them. Last before CAT was only for CAT. I finished all the TIME material and some other books also. Finally wrote the exam. Resuls were OK I got 99.77 percentile. Yet I got calls only from Indore, Lucknou and Kojikode.

I also got interview calls from McCombs, Kellogs and ISB but I could only convert it to ISB. I decided in favor of ISB between the options that I had. Now the quest is over and I am going to ISB for MBA. It was a very difficult year and very challeging one. I am happy to get results and I would soon be a MBA.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I resigned

March 1, 5:38 PM I resigned from the position of Software Engineer, company - Qwest Software Services. At 9:43 PM I am sitting in the office. A release got over 3 days back, so there is no work. There are couple of people sitting around but I feel like I am alone. It was the same office, same area I was coming daily for last 2 years, well almost 2 years. There is still some time left before I finally leave but I am already feeling detached. Looks like something just got ended, I feel like I have written the last exam of last semester of my college, though still some time was left, but I was already feeling detachment.

I remember, I first came to this office at 9:30 AM, 26th April 2004, Monday. I wore a provogue shirt, a provogue trouser and redtap shoes. First seat, I took was in training room. The office was blank (almost). Only half of the area had furniture. There was no cafeteria and other half of the floor was used by less than 40 people to have lunch. No evening snacks were available then. It was as if the big place and the huge space was available for us to hang around. My first training session was on .Net. There were 9 people in training room includig people like me who had no software experience and people like Raghu, Sajal having 4 years of industry experience. It was good to feel that I was not totally alienated and concepts are quite acceptable. I started my software career.

There are so many memories of people. people that I never appriciated, people that I never thought I will ever appreciate, but when I am leaving today I see how much I have learnt from the company. I appreciate how much I have learnt from the people with whom I have worked. I actually liked my job and never really complained about the work. Yes I never complained about the work, unbelievable. There are people who have made my stay most comfirtable. Some of them would now be life time friends. There is so much I have learnt from the in terms of work and people management. There is something I guess I will never be able to learn. Everyone, I worked or roamed around with, knows that.

It is so weired the thoughts that come to your mind when you leave a palce after two years. I remember my first dinner in Bangalore. It was a glass-walled restaurant on the top floor of Bangalore's highest building (Utility Building). I thank my IITK gang for making my entry to Bangalore such a great occassion. We lived together in a really small house but it was fine as long as we were together. I remember eating choclate fantasies at cafe coffee day and watching movies at Cauvery theater. I remember playing scrabble at 3 AM and shouting at milk man at 7 in the morning. Alok helped to get my first (and only) car. And I went with him to buy a bike. What a trust we share.

It was 10 PM, first week of May 2004, when I was shifting luggage from guest house to my new house in Sadashiv Nagar in Auto with Hitesh Shah. It was all dark and I though how will I ever remember these complicated roads. How will I ever trust Autos and take a ride alone with confidence of not getting cheated.I had a hard time to remember roads to Majestic, Jaynagar, BTM, Bannarghatta, ITPL and all. Today I can draw the map of Bangalore.I can tell you the number of signals that you will face on a route. I know where I can get choclate excess at 2 AM and where I can get a Smirnoff at 3 in the morning.

And time has come. Soon I will be gone, detached from Bangalore, detached from Qwest, detached from company friends and detached from IITK gang. I feel alone, but I am moving to a new place with same excitement that I had when I came to Bangalore.