The Last Blog – Rebel with a Cause

In the academic circle last lecture is a tradition, where the professor delivers his final lecture to his students, but as a student you can give a lecture, but nobody will listen. Hence, I decided to write my last blog entry of the year. As I began to think on what I should write (in MBA parlance it’s called reflection), only one thought came to my mind and it was about the people, who shared this journey with me.

As I began the journey in January, I knew I will meet a bunch of individuals who will have a different perspective than me. At the end of this journey in December, I can confidently say although there were different perspectives, there was always a converging point. As every journey has its ups and down so did this one, however when you are with people who go the extra mile for you, even the failures were not difficult to accept and move on. The journey was crazy, freaky and even sometimes scary, but it was never mundane and it was this way because of the few noble souls who shared this journey with me. George Washington once remarked “Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.” and this year was the trial to find those rare few and I can proudly say that I found those rare gems.

As I now move on from the small world that we created as ESMT MBA 2011, there are bigger challenges and even greater opportunities and to both tackle the challenges and seize the opportunities, I know I have my friends by my side. Now what did I get out the journey, did I become wiser than I was before? No. Did I become a better person than I was? Maybe not, however what I did get out of this journey is a few friendships that will last a life-time and no one can better phrase it than the words of Albert Camus when he remarked “ Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” and I can proudly say this journey will continue as we walk forward continuously towards our goals as friends side by side. Finally, to conclude in a few words of what this year meant to me, it is okay to be a rebel, but find a cause worthy enough to rebel for. Carpe Diem.

(The last post)


Today I have come to the end of my MBA journey. It’s been a long, hard and good year. My dad, mom and family was here to see the end. My heart is smiling. For all the wonderful people who’ve made my journey this year a miracle, this is for you

Best of Times

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us” these are the immortal words of Charles Dickens and these words hold true today, as one year of learning comes to an end and a new year of experimenting begins.

There is an old saying that every year you have to learn something new. So what did I learn new in this year, one, it doesn’t matter how bad you screw up, people who care for you will always stand by your side. Two, every challenge needs to be faced with the same rigor and if you fall down, it is okay to have one hour of pity party, but the next hour start where you left off. Three, it doesn’t matter who runs first in the race, what matters is when you finish the race, you still have the people who love you at your side.


Back from Haiti

This post has been waiting its turn since November 20th, when we returned from Haiti. However, thesis submission pressures kept us from posting earlier.

The fieldtrip to Haiti was part of the IPSO practice project. IPSO is an international NGO working to relieve trauma in war or disaster-affected areas. The project had three main components: one in Afghanistan, one in the NGO head office and one in Haiti. While the whole team worked together for the Head Office component, John took the Afghan challenge to improve IPSO response to post-war trauma relief.  Julia, Michael and myself took the challenge of coming up with a plan to tackle post-earthquake trauma relief in Haiti.

Beyond the deliverables of the practice project, the trip to Haiti was a powerful growth experience in itself. Neither Julia, nor Michael or myself had travelled to a developing country before, and no amount of prior research could prepare us for what followed.

 Try and forget for a second that you are who you are. Close your eyes and picture yourself a small child, growing up in Haiti. See the perfect Carribean shores, feel the warm sun even in November, hear the French and the Creole spoken around you.   

See yourself playing in dust and mud, at the edge of what aims to be a street. There are holes filled with muddy water everywhere. The happy truck comes to deliver the goodies to those who can pay for them – the goodies are not icecream or candy, but small cans of drinking water. Drinking tap water can make you sick.

As a child, you can see your parents going to the public market every day, carrying fruit and nuts on their heads. They strive to make ends meet and you want to one day grow up and provide them with a better life. But that is for those who get schooling, and education is not free in Haiti. Every day you can see the children whose parents afford schooling as they go to school. They wear uniforms in the school colours, and girls have colourful ribbons in their hair.

You cannot go to school, so you spend the day helping around the house, or playing with your siblings around the remains of buildings which were destroyed in the earthquake. You can remember the earthquake, the earth shook many times, harder and harder, and houses fell to the ground. People ran outside, crying, and some people were hurt badly, and others never came outside of their houses anymore. You remember this well, and sometimes in your sleep you think it is all happening again, and you get frightened.

Your own house fell to the ground, and now you live with your family in a tent. Thankfully, the weather is never cold, and you can clean yourself using the public shower, right next to the street… 

Daylight is quickly fading, although it is only 6 in the evening, and the family gathers in prayer. Your parents teach you to be thankful that divinity takes care of you, and they call upon the help of Christian and voodoo deities to protect you and Haiti. There is no TV time, and no cartoons for you, as there is no electricity, so you spend the rest of the day around fires, or simply playing in the dark.

And now open your eyes to the miracle life that you have. Look around you at the safe and beautiful building you are in, notice the electricity powering your computer. Yes, you can drink the water, there is no sickness  in it. Yes, you can enjoy the salad bar, as it is also filled with life. You have the education and the resources to make your life into anything you want. It is ok to treasure all the things that surround you, just make sure you do not forget the child you were while you had your eyes closed.


The project introduced us to the realities of life inHaiti. Moreover, it revealed another rhythm, and in our search for partners we had a strong reality check of our pre-Haiti assumptions.


The trip to Haiti was a set of learning experiences all clubbing in at the same time. We were challenged on a personal level, we were tested as a team and delivered as professionals; we gained first-hand insights regarding the humanitarian aid world and until the final day of our trip were amazed at the extremes of Haiti.

Finally, we returned humbled by the experience. The project deliverables have been delivered. The personal impact, however, still unravels. Perhaps some years from now we shall have forgotten the nitty-gritty of the project deliverables, but for sure we shall remember the lessons of Haiti.


This is teamwork

After 6 weeks working together on our practice project, the team was in excellent form and « perfectly aligned » for the final presentation.

This was an inspiring project on changing mobility behaviors in Western Europe. For young people in countries like Germany, it’s much cooler to buy a smartphone than to buy a car and this is already a fact: young Germans buy 35% less cars than the previous generation. Instead, the new generation prefers to enjoy a range of mobility options including public transport, bicycle and car. For them, car is no longer an object bringing social status but a service that they use as a commodity. So what does it mean for the automotive industry and, more generally, for all the mobility service providers? Should we expect to see new IBM cases with total shift from products to services? What can we learn from the high-tech industry in terms of lifestyle and ecosystem business models? Google recently invested several million in a peer-to-peer carsharing company, this might be a sign that the frontier between virtual and real mobility is reducing.

Yes, it was definitely an exciting project.

The inception of something great…

With the Berlin start-up scene creating buzz in the continent as well with counterparts from trans Atlantic, it is only a great gesture for educational and businesses to take note. To start with, international faculty, MNCs and the entrepreneurial community are convening to bounce ideas, talk about theoretical concepts and share practical experiences at ESMT this week. An event of this scale not only generates buzz but also assists in building the eco-system that inculcates risk taking while having a support network, which is true for the Palo Alto, NYC and London scenes. The wheel is moving …

Best time to take GMAT is when you are an undergraduate

Interesting statistics out this week from GMAC (the people who run the GMAT test). The demographic segment with the highest average scores are Women under 20 (average score worldwide 607). The academic practice of undergraduate must be good training – my advice would be to take the GMAT while still in undergrad, you’ll never know when you might need it.

Other interesting statistics are the top scorers by citizenship: top of the pile are the 7 people from Monaco who took the test in 2010-11, scoring an average of 621. The next four (with slightly bigger sample sizes) are the New Zealanders (602 average), the Argentinians (598), Singaporeans (593) and the Chinese (592). The average German scores 565, with twice as many German men as women taking the GMAT in the past 12 months. More info at

Word of the day: ‘Thesisizing’

Last 11 days before the deadline for the Master’s Thesis.
‘Thesisizing’ is therefore the word in order, even though you won’t find it in any dictionary (I think…).
In between, also the practice project final reports need to be finalized and presented to the clients.
And did I mention the ongoing job search process?
No, the times are not easy around here…

IPSO Team off to Haiti

Tomorrow, our practice project will take a whole new dimension. The field component of the project is moving to the next level: Julia, Michael and myself will be in Haiti! We are very excited about it!


This is an opportunity in so many ways! Not only will we gain first hand experience about the real challenges NGOs face, but will learn about a very different culture in a very different location. I did some reading on post-quake Haiti and learned a little about the plight of the people. I think that being there and seeing how they cope with so many constraints will be a huge personal learning experience. I hope to come back with not only a plan for the mental support centers in Haiti, but with a different mindset and rich baggage of experiences.


Packing to leave, Laura Guillen (my thesis coordinator) comes to my mind and thesis pressure feels stronger. I saved what materials I could in my laptop (Thank you, Karen and everyone at Information Center for the valuable e-books option!). I took precautions to mitigate dangers like the cholera outbreak.  The question persists in my mind: if I need to take these precautions for just 10 days, how does one feel to actually live there?.. I guess I’ll have the answer by the time I get back.