Saturday, March 10, 2007

Is spring term really almost over already?

I have no idea how or why, but spring term is already drawing to a close. It hasn't really started yet and I feel we haven't done much, but it's over, and so is another chunk of my MBA. Time is racing ahead. How could spring term pass by so fast?

- Well, the first weeks were blurred due to the marathon of job interviews. We managed to squeeze in classes between one interview and the next, and half the classroom would be empty. Nobody really paid attention to classes. The only class we cared about was Finance, since we discussed Mergers & Acquisitions, Options and Foreign Exchange just in time for the interviews
- Then, the weather has also become quite mild and sunny in recent weeks. I went out a lot, running in Regent's Park, strolling around Hyde Park and walking around the East End
- Since we don't have classes on Fridays and had few assignments, many people went away over the weekends, so it has been quieter at school than in the first term

Wrapping up this term, I want to pick up on my first impression of spring term courses.

In classroom learning
Finance: as I said before, it was a great class and I look forward to Finance 2 next term, which will be more focused on options & futures, so it's a bit more abstract and I like that. Sometimes I wonder if I had been better of doing a PhD rather than an MBA since I realize I like the abstract stuff more than the applied practical stuff, but then I enjoy learning about a broad range of subjects, which you can't if you do a PhD

Discovering Entrepreneurial Opportunities
: the cases of start-up companies are great, since they give you a great feel of the insecurity surrounding entrepreneurship. I especially enjoyed the Spreadshirt Case, it seems to be a very cool company and I am happy they are succeeding. I am somewhat drawn to entrepreneurship, though I prefer to do it in 5 years rather than now

: I'm not sure how much I would learn in Marketing with an experienced professor due to the subject matter, but unfortunately I haven't gotten anything out of this class. My curiosity about Marketing may be of a more critical or sociological nature - I find it quite interesting to observe how advertisements reflect gender stereotypes, success stereotypes, how they promote "stupid consumerism" and so on. But this critical angle seems to be out of place in the classroom.

Managing Organisational Behaviour: again a course that could be extremely valuable but has disappointed so far. The cases are actually quite interesting, but the learning is a bit limited so far.

Decision & Risk Analysis: the teacher is quite good, but in the end the class is little more than applied logic and statistics, so if you know your probabilities and have worked with Excel before, you are unlikely to get much out of this course. One important learning I have gotten out of this course is the value of modeling in general though. Previously, I think I always considered modeling as a sort of lesser activity and avoided it whenever I could while I was working at McKinsey. In fact, I managed to spend two years there as an analyst without ever building a complex financial model. Whenever a new project was announced as "advanced excel modeling skills required", I would avoid it. Now, I really see the value in models, and believe they can actually be very useful for investment decisions. It may be obvious to most of you, but coming from a social science background I was quite skeptical about the usefulness of modeling before, and this has changed completely.

Out of classroom learning
I have enjoyed for the amount of spare time I have this term to pursue other interests and read myself. I am especially grateful to Patxi for recommending me the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad (Rich Dad). I wish I had read it 10 years ago, but it is never too late, and it is helping me tremendously seeing personal finances from a different angle. Since I know I will need to improve my financial modeling skills for the summer, I was happy to encounter the bookFinancial Modeling Using Excel and VBA (Wiley Finance) by Chandan Sengupta. It is one of the few books I have found that are actually useful for self-study, and I feel I can really use it to teach myself all I need. Another book that I would count among one of the best non-fiction books out there is Flow: The Classic Work on How to Achieve Happiness by Csikszentmihalyi.

Other than that, I enjoy lunching and dining with my friends from school. Now is a time that you know who your friends are and you have had enough time to get to know each other closely. I have a lot of friends from other streams unfortunately, which makes hanging out a bit more difficult. Additionally, we know that time is passing too fast and that we will
soon be working in different places over the summer and then many of us will go on exchange, so we don't actually have that much more time to spend together anymore, surprisingly. Luckily, some of the nicest people from my course are going to spend their summer in the same bank as me, and many more classmates will be somewhere in the City, so it will be easy to catch up over lunch and dinner :-).

What is left of spring term? Not much. We'll have three exams or so, but they are in the softer subjects, so there isn't really anything to do. My main aim for the next weeks is to get ready for MBAT in Paris in May, so I want to play a lot of Tennis in Regent's Park. I also need to get fit very fast because I will go surfing in Canary Islands over the Spring Break, and last time I did surfing I was horribly unprepared physically, as I underestimated how fit you need to be to surf a couple of hours per day. Now I have no excuse and really need to get ready.


RusGirl said...

Hi Angie,
As for Rich Dad, Poor Dad have a look at what John Reed has to say about the author:
Imho Kiyosaki has some interesting points and is enjoyful to read... but still his advice is to be taken with salt :)

angie said...

Hi, yes I have seen that link before. The guy seems to be a bit frustrated or at least envious to me, but I'm sure he's right on many points regarding Kiyosaki's history and some of his apparently fictitious claims.

However, I think the book gives an extremely valuable framework of thinking about how you spend/invest your money and how you build up independence, so I think John Reed really doesn't get the point (he complains in his post that people always say that but can't tell him what the point is, but that's one thing where I have the impression he is making false assertions...)

Yugs said...

Hey Angie,
Enjoy reading your blogs, its fun to get a fellow students perspectives on the same experiences. Am late on your blog bandwagon but can see myself becoming a regular..
Incidentally i might be joining you guys on the OTM trip

-tvu said...

Cross training exercise for surfing;
1) swim (helps paddle strength)
2) push up and sit ups ("pop up" onto the surf board)
3) skateboarding (for balance)