Classmates: They make life easy and fun!

“It is not a sprint, it is a marathon.” We were told this on the very first day of the ESMT MBA program. I do not like to compare the MBA program, or for that matter, any educational program, to any sort of race or competition. However, I agree in this case. Like a marathon, it is long, exhausting, fun, and finishes soon. However, there is more to it. There is no competition in this one; everyone is on the same team, and that makes it special.

By now, you would have guessed what I will be talking about in this blog post: yes, you are right — my class! I came to ESMT for its unique approach towards MBA training through excellent facilities, top-notch professors, modern curriculum, and various networking opportunities, which are the essence of business and management studies. However, I believe the learning experience is enhanced further with diversity; ESMT is truly international. With 67 classmates representing 34 nationalities, I am learning as much from my classmates as I am from my professors.

ESMT Full-time MBA class of 2018

So where do I begin? There are so many amazing things that have happened in the past five months that I fall short of words and time to describe everything. Nevertheless, let me start with the studies so that we can go through the fun part later and end this on an eventful note!

Not everybody comes with the same knowledge and experience so it becomes utterly important to collaborate to excel. For instance, I am not good at finance but I managed to sail through because of the support from my study group and classmates. Similarly, when someone lacks the required skills, a fellow classmate may help. As I said in the beginning, there is no competition; and even if there is any, it is healthy. We all know we are in this together and together we will succeed.

Getting too serious? Okay then let’s move to the fun part, because that’s what we do when it gets too intense in terms of assignments and projects. Now that we have spring (although some would like to call it summer, given the temperatures) the ESMT gardens serve as a football ground. We have a lot of football frenzy people in the class so who would stay back indoors after a full day of class! (Me, yes, I don’t play the game but my love for it is eternal!) Or maybe ping pong!

But what rules here at ESMT is kicker! Being a school based in Berlin , “the party city”,  it is no wonder! And once the game is on, it is the best thing ever. And, trust me, we have quite a few terrific players in the class. Don’t believe me? Well, two of my classmates were the champions of the MBA Tournament (MBAT) held at HEC Paris in May. So yeah, we do rule the kicker scene among business schools!

MBAT Auction

Speaking of MBAT,  ESMT was the smallest contingent at the tournament but did win a lot of hearts. Apart from kicker, we took third place in poker and two wins in swimming! Here as well, the school and the class supported the team. There was even an auction held to raise funds — everything from martial art to Bollywood dancing session was up for grabs. Kudos to the MBAT team who made us proud!

A few of my classmates also participated in the yearly finance competition held at SDA Bocconi. Others are working on some cool and innovative ideas and are planning to represent the school at various events. With so much enthusiasm around, as a student and fellow classmate I feel inspired.

Hotpot with classmates

As a class we do a lot of things, but I would commit a big mistake if I don’t mention the most important part: food! Really, what’s life without delicious food? We live by that mantra. Until now, we have had so many cuisines, sometimes in small groups and sometimes almost 30 to 40 of us showing up at the restaurant. Again, kudos to my fellow classmates who like to share not only their professional experience but also culture through culinary heritage. From Italian to Chinese and a Brazilian barbecue coming up just before we go on our summer break, we have enjoyed it or will enjoy it all!

Well these are just some glimpses of life at ESMT made easy and fun by the cohort! I will leave this for now, but will come back soon to describe more of my time here in Berlin!

I changed my mind about my MBA school

There was pin-drop silence for a moment and then everybody was on their feet, clapping and cheering. He had delivered his last one! The claps did not stop until he himself stood on the chair and thanked his audience for their support. More claps followed. I said to myself, “How humble! Appreciating others for his hard work!”

It wasn’t a normal performance though. It wasn’t delivered by an actor from one of Berlin’s many theaters. Rather it was our last class for Managerial Analysis and Decision Making (MAD) with Professor Francis. He was no less of an artist. He showed the same conviction in the class as artists showcase in their performances. He practiced what he taught, too. He even shared an instance from his personal life where he applied what he was teaching. Above all, he was all about the fun of learning. Never did I imagine that this so-called intense MBA would bring me so much joy.

What made the experience special was that this was one of the early classes of the MBA 2018 program. It made it evident that what was going to follow would be good. And that did happen. Generally, all of the classes I have had until now have been good learning opportunities. I had never imagined that a quantitative methods class could be taught simply and without involving a lot of numbers. And I dare not miss the unique, elementary-school-like experience of learning financial accounting.

I must elaborate on this! Having just two accountants as students and another 3 to 4 students with similar work experience out of a diverse class of 67, the professor had to teach accounting basics. How did he do it? He got us handouts for every topic and went through each of them like one would do in a school! Today, if you give me any financial statement I can explain it with ease. If anyone would have asked me to do so a month ago, all I would have said is “Are you kidding?” Maybe all the B-schools have this pattern or maybe not, who can tell. All I can say is that, as a student, I can vouch for ESMT.

Another standing ovation to the professor, Financial Accounting class, MBA 2018

With such an intense curriculum, there have been several occasions when I was not prepared for the class or was not very interested. But I never missed a class. I was always sure I would learn something new or have some new experience every day. Did I mention that we toasted to our successful completion of marketing classes and the beginning of spring break with some Irish whiskey, courtesy of our Irish professor?

Marketing Management class, MBA 2018

It is not just about learning but about celebrating this year. Three months have already gone by. I hope that the rest of the year passes by slowly because I want to enjoy every moment of this adventure to the fullest.

Prof. Francis said in one of the classes, “Deciding is to give yourself a true chance to change your mind.” Yes, I did change my mind last year and decided to come to ESMT Berlin. Do I need to say it was one of the best decisions I ever made?

Building a business isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon

The work of an entrepreneur is never done. Since I started selling awesome paper wallets as BERLIN slim, I’ve realized that what I really signed up for is a never-ending list of tasks. Everything needs to get done yesterday.

After a brief honeymoon period, it dawned on me that if I didn’t start making money soon, I wasn’t going to make it. The pressure Beautiful slim paper wallets from BERLIN slimslowly began to mount. I found myself working longer and longer hours, in a vain effort to finish one more thing.

It sounds a lot worse than it is though. Honestly, I love it!

I want to share some of my observations on starting a business. I went in with a few misconceptions and my own personal blind spots. I hope to spare you from some of the problems I’ve had.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. I’m also going to explain some of the reasons why I think it’s a great adventure and why you might also want to inflict yourself with the same pain. Continue reading “Building a business isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon”

The Room with a View

The walls are rising, rising very fast. A little more than 11 months have passed since the day I arrived in Berlin, and the view of the Berlin skyline from Auditorium 1 at ESMT was an integral part of my classroom experience. The historic Berliner Dom, the Altes Museum, the E&Y building on a far corner, the moving arms of the cranes carrying steel rods, frames and what not and the Berlin skyline in general, were the unnecessary but often unavoidable distractions to many of the current students of the full-time MBA class (if not many, at least for me). The “Berliner Schloss” coming up right across the street is unknowingly taking away the view that once had offered me an enjoyable momentary distraction.

Schloss_construction_2014

Change, they say, is the only thing that is constant. At this point in time, I could not agree more. I was a stranger on the 13th of January this year—to the city, to the 61 other colleagues of my class—but not anymore. The MBA journey has been filled with memories, both sweet and bitter, memories nonetheless. There have been moments when the case readings seemed never-ending, assignments stretched late into the evening, and work in general seemed overwhelming. There were deadlines one after another after another. One of my biggest learning experiences this year is that precisely during such moments, I should not ask for the rush to pause, for the flow to slow down; since such a wish is akin to wishing for death. There will be work, there will be change. The best we can do is to stay prepared and face it head on. As long as we breathe, at least minimally, life moves.

Why do I bore you with philosophy on change right now? Did I run out of topics to write, and is it the usual non-coherence of my thoughts? Well, we graduate today. I could not think of a better theme than “change” to write briefly about.

Life ahead is interesting, full of opportunities, I believe. Some of us head back home to take a break before we restart the job search, some stay back to look for opportunities, and some others are all set to start their new career. All the best to everyone.

I will miss the view, I will miss the class, I will miss ESMT.

Graduation_pic

First snow of my life and more…

“Look deep, deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better” said Albert Einstein. The faculty at ESMT seem to have taken inspiration, as we found out on our way to Schloss Boitzenburg for our two day outdoor leadership workshop. The hour and half journey northwards from Berlin has a calming effect on you as the hustle of the city takes a backseat and the greenery of Boitzenburg land comes in view. Every individual of the diverse MBA Class of 2014 was looking forward to the experience, and this excitement added a sense of inclusion and team spirit within the community even before we got started. Snow has a beautiful character to it; the softer it falls, the deeper it sinks. As we alighted the bus at the entrance of the castle, nature greeted us with soft white chunks of snowy advice, as if to remind us of the purpose of the workshop – to explore oneself and learn to team effectively.

Outdoor day team building
Outdoor day team building
We were split into multiple teams and the endgame was to find our way from the castle through the forest to the destination using only maps, compass and of course common sense. The four hour hiking trip into the wilderness on the first day had its similarities to an entertaining Bollywood movie. The script opened with a twist, when we were asked to exchange the maps we created with another team. It was a test of trust and confidence as we let go of our prime asset (this being the hand-drawn map) in exchange for another one created by our colleagues. It was a harsh reminder of the uncertain nature of today’s business and the need to place mutual trust & respect in our colleagues to manage crises. My team started well, or so we thought until we reached a point in the open field which diverged into three paths. Our guide Andreas Bernhardt’s timely advice (the guide’s role was to only monitor and speak if we drifted way too much from the intended route) and our navigators led us on the right route. Listen to experience, and trust in your colleague who is better equipped to make decisions at a given point in time are two key pieces of advice I drew from this event. It was getting dark, it started raining, and most importantly the wilderness was having its effect on us. We had each other’s back, motivated ourselves through the cold rain & snow and managed to reach the destination without compromising on any of the goals we had set ourselves before we started the trek. We, as a team, had told each other that we will enjoy the trek, ensure each other’s safety and finish as a team. As I said, like in a Bollywood movie, it was indeed a happy ending.

I could go on writing pages about the trek, the dinner at the castle, the events of the second day when we climbed trees, walked on ropes, built tents and much more. I will let you find it out by yourself, all it takes is to get admitted into the ESMT MBA Program.