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Friday, July 16, 2010

Risk taking & winning-the Story of the IIM-A Beta quiz

Today was the annual Finquest(finance related trivia quiz organized by Beta-the premier Finance Club of IIM-A for the Fucchas(first years). The entries numbered about 100+ teams of 2 members each.

Naturally, so many teams cannot compete in the finals. They conducted a written elimination round to shortlist 6 teams. Myself and Miheer Desai qualified for the finals and sat as the third team.

By the 2nd last round end, we were at 85, the top team at 120 and third team at 65. The round had an exciting format that 6 areas were given(1 area per team) with the team getting to select areas in order of their rankings. I.e 1st team could choose area of questions and then 2nd ranked team could choose its area. There was an added twist of choosing points scheme BEFORE seeing the question(viz +60 -30; +40 -20; +20 -10). The first ranked team played safe, chose +20 -10 & secured 20 pts totalling 140.

Now, we could go for 60/30 option & try to get 145 and win. But if we lost, then we get 55 & slide to 3rd. We played safe; chose 20/10 and secured 105 pts. But then the team at 65 took 60/30 gamble and won coming 2nd!!!!

To compound it, we were told that it was the same qn for all 3. The qn format was designed to reward risk takers and we lost our oppurtunity at 1st place

Friday, July 9, 2010

Some phrases to use in any class participation

In my first 2 weeks here on campus, I noticed 1 thing irrespective of the class. Whenever the Prof would expound some theory/idea/concept, some smark aleck(s) racks up some CP(Class Participation) points by saying the following:-
-It depends on the Situation
-We cannot apply this in all cases
-We need a balance of positive/negative
-I agree with him
-.....(rephrasing somebody else points)
-Sir as you said.. Even if the Prof has not said anything like that, he can rarely say so(unless he is utterly wrong). And the person putting CP gets brownie points for hanging on to the Prof's words

These weasel words just add fluff/gas to the situation without contributing any new idea. But an unwary academic associate(the person watching class participation) may just count the number of interventions and award marks. Thankfully, both the Profs and Academic Associates are quite competent and experienced to observe such tactics. Then why they are still applied is a mystery to me.

12:00pm or 11:59:59-why IIM-A deadlines are the latter?

We like round figures but rarely trust/adhere to that level of precision. Tell someone to meet you at 2pm and s(he) turns up at 2:15/2:20 still early by Indian standard time(behind our actual time!).

This is not welcome in IIMA. Class timings are set at 8:44:59 meaning if you enter at 8:45 for the 8:45 class, you are 1.25hrs early for the next one. Most profs, and all campus clubs, enforce this seriously. After all, the future leaders of India should learn to respect their own and other people's time. And oversleeping is not an excuse for missing any deadlines.

After the initial culture shock, sticking to deadlines actually works fine. Because thats a good habit, also it brings in more seriousness.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Why do male engineers bag 90%+ IIM-A/B/C seats?

As a non engineer, I noticed that male engineers dominate IIM-A with around 95% of the batch. This inspite of the IIM's wanting more gender & stream diversity for better classroom discussions.

One reason maybe the online CAT of this year. We males love our gadgets(I'm just making a generalization here without any gender stereotyping so PL do not send me hate-mail) so perhaps the ability to crack a Computer based test(CBT) was better.

And then engineers have an inherent edge in CAT due to intensive MCQ practice, objective test experience and of course aptitude. Since most of them in IIT/NIT are male, this same ratio reflects in CAT.

So what is the impact? The quality of discussion remains high due to different insights, experiences, IQ but the sector diversity is somewhat missing(less finance, law, arts etc). Still, this has been the trend for quite a few years and things are working fine, so maybe this is not a real problem。

Why is IIM-A called hectic?

Even before I stepped into IIM-A, I heard/read stories about 4 hour sleep, 1 hour notice surprise quizzes spoiling lunch and generally about the hectic first year schedule.

Considering that the academic curiculum is (broadly) same across all IIM's in the first year, why does only IIM-A have such a rushed culture? One part of the puzzle lies on our dedicated Profs who prepare hard for the classes even to the extent of sending class materials at 2am for the 8:45 lecture(I'm not making this up!). Seeing their dedication, no one has an excuse for ignorance when s(he) is cold-called. And the classroom time: study time(pre/post class) vastly varies across students but is atleast 1:2. Multiply that into nearly 4 hours classes and you see why people joke that the A in IIM-A stands for Acads.

The second part of the puzzle lies in the various clubs in IIM-A nearly 40 at last count. Fucchas(first years) enrol generally in 1-5 clubs and a good chunk of time goes there. And then assignments, WAC, dorm parties, recreations(Frisbee, soccer, cricket etc), hanging out at eateries is all non(academically)value added time-but which prepares you for life.

Thirdly, punctuality is non negotiable here. Deadlines are given to the last second so 11:00am deadline is 10:59:59 with even 1 second delay not condoned. This of course prepares the student for real life & to discard the "Indian standard time" he is used to. But it is also a major cause of the "pressure".

It is upto the individual. If he just focusses on acads, a pretty relaxed life will ensue. But then, the whole IIMA experience will not just accrue. A fine balance needs to be struck between work and leisure here.

What makes IIM-A unique? It's the culture

A Statistics Prof got me thinking yesterday when he posed this question. The unusual replies like faculty, infrastructure, amenities, age came from all and sundry. Only one guy dared hazard that the students were the secret of IIM-A's success.

After all, the omnipotent Students Activities Council(SAC) runs a significant bit of campus life right from the students shop('Entre') to negotiating the canteen/other outlets T&C to scheduling lectures. Of course, the dorm culture plays a major role in the alumni bonding which really drives most B-schools to success including IIM-A.

But then, the reason person X is at IIMA with person Y at other Bschools is generally an "accident". Bad luck on either the exam day or interview day may make an otherwise stellar candidate lose out. So, quality of students remaining same across top B-schools, it is the institution that makes a difference.

In my 10 days here at campus, what struck me most was the dedication of IIMA staff-right from the contract housekeeping personnel to the administative staff and(of course!) the faculty who shame latecomers by reaching quite ahead of time. That, along with the culture of entrusting wide responsibility to students treating them as mature adults, certainly catalyses their metamorphosis from starry eyed MBA aspirants to the business leaders of tomorrow. The dorm culture not only ensures passing on knowledge, tradition, wisdom of the seniors(Tucchas) but also builds that much needed bonding across batches of the same dorm.

To conclude, the IIM-A culture though hectic at times certainly shapes the person more than anything else. After all, steel goes through fire to become forged steel. Credit should go to the institution for ensuring the 50+ year tradition