Category Archives: This and That

All Around the World, We can Make Time…

… rompin’ and stompin’ cuz I’m in my prime.

I’ve come up with a travel bucket list, inspired by a conversation with a good friend (you know who you are!). The list includes places/events I would like to visit in the next 7-8 years, and when I hope to travel to each place.

  1. London (+Europe?) 2012 – maybe swing by a couple of other European destinations for 2 weeks or so before heading to London to catch a part of the Olympic action.
  2. Korea/Japan/Thailand/Vietnam 2013 – This might be a bit too much to see in a few weeks, but could be doable.
  3. Rio/Bolivia 2014 – Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia after World Cup action, cross two things off the list in one trip. If there’s time, maybe some exploratory trips in the Andes or the Grand Sabana in Venezuela.
  4. North America – mini trips over the years. Need to see New York, Chicago, Vancouver and Miami. Other potential places to visit include Boston, Washington D.C., L.A., San Fran, and Seattle. I know I’ll be visiting family in Portland at some point, so I could probably arrange some of these trips around those visits.
  5. India – visiting family/friends every so often.
  6. Africa – shouldn’t really be mentioned in the same breath as others because it wouldn’t be a vacation. I want to visit on a volunteer trip, perhaps even for an extended secondment/service with a volunteer organization,  something I’ve wanted to do for years, but always had things preventing me from pursuing.

I should print this and post it above my desk to make sure it happens now. Cuz life is beautiful around the world.


Destination Unknown

I bought Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson a few weeks ago. I finally got around to reading some of it recently, and I realized that I probably read at a lower level now than when I was 10. I remember reading this classic as a kid, and enjoying it immensely. Now, while it is still a good read, I don’t find myself getting through the book as easily as I would have imagined. I have to get back to reading at a higher level, if for no other reason than to satisfy my ego.

As a young boy, I wasn’t a big fan of video games or toys, but if you gave me a good book, I would get drawn in for hours. I used to love opening up a book and getting lost in its pages. I would come home from school, spend some time playing with friends, have some dinner, and invariably spend a few hours reading before bed. Yes, school work and studying took a back seat; in fact, my appetite for reading is probably what caused me to develop my propensity for procrastination and my willingness to prioritize my hobbies ahead of my work.

Armed with a membership to the local library, I devoured hundreds of books. My usual fare tended to be mystery novels and thrillers – an enthralling narrative tended to capture my imagination better than eloquent prose. I moved quickly from the Hardy Boys and Agatha Christie to Robert Ludlum and Tom Clancy. Doesn’t sound like the highest quality of books or the most challenging to read, but this was between the ages of 6/7 – 10/11. Along the way, I read some of the classics like Great Expectations or the aforementioned Treasure Island.

I was also a sucker for series which created vivid universes and a diverse set of characters. One such series was the Animorphs by K.A. Applegate. Those familiar with the series will agree that the books were fairly poor in the quality of writing, but were strangely addictive because of the plot. Each book was formulaic, and built up to a fast-paced climax. I would blaze through each of them in a couple of hours, and I would eagerly await my next opportunity to get my hands on another book from the series. My parents spent a fair chunk of change on these books, ordering them off those Scholastic lists we would get at school. Each time, my dad would roll his eyes and tell me how I was wasting my time reading something so bad, but he would never stop me from buying them.

I guess it was always my dad who encouraged me to read. I virtually had a library at home growing up because of all the books he had read and collected over the years. Whether it was through buying me any book I wanted, from Tintin and Asterix comics, to World book Encyclopaedias and the Childcraft series, or through giving me recommendations for more advanced reading, he developed my love of reading. For that, I have to say thanks.

I used to average about 40-50 books a year in my preteens, and that is probably grossly understating it. Granted, some of these were comic books, but they all count in my opinion. Over the past 5 years, during my university career, my average is probably 10-15 a year. Life gets in the way too often. The point of this post before I went on a completely unrelated tangent, was that I need to get back to reading. To that end, here is a list of books I plan on reading in the next few weeks, all loaded up on my Kindle and ready to go:

  1. Bossypants – Tina Fey
  2. Treasure Island – R.L. Stevenson
  3. The Dark Tower Series – Stephen King (mostly to see if it lives up to whatever hype it gets…)
  4. 1984 – George Orwell (for some reason I never finished this book my first time through)
  5. The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss
  6. Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift (don’t think I ever read the entire original)
  7. Moby Dick – Herman Melville (haven’t read this either… man I’ve skipped out on a lot of classics)
Other recommendations welcome!

How to Lose a Life

Sooo I’m beginning to panic a little bit. It’s starting to set in slowly as I realize that I might be taking on too much. More than I can handle. In the past I have done this a few times, and the end consequence is that I don’t do everything as well as I would have liked. I take on too many extracurriculars, watch too much TV, read one too many books, go out to one too many parties, and take one too many naps, resulting in my grades suffering. It’s always the grades that suffer of course, because studying was always the least interesting thing to do for me, especially considering that most of my school work related to accounting.

At least in the past, I managed to get through everything with minimal damage. Now I find myself wondering if I’ve really taken on more than I can handle. Here is a list of my commitments:

  1. GMAT studying – about 15 hours a week
  2. class time – 12 hours a week
  3. preparation time for class/studying (assignments etc.) – 15-20 hours a week (who am I kidding, this is gonna be all assignments and tests… I never prep for class…)
  4. Meals & daily chores – 20 hours a week (laundry + cleaning etc. included)
  5. Social engagements (family gatherings, birthday dinners, parties etc.) – 6-8 hours a week (conservatively)
  6. travel time (for when I go back home to visit family or commuting to and from school) – 6-8 hours a week on average
  7. Entrepreneurial ventures – 20 hours a week (target… this might take a hit based on other things)
  8. physical activity (intramurals/pickup) – 5-6 hours a week
That leaves about 60-65 hours a week to rest, including sleep time.  But then of course, I haven’t included any of my UFE prep courses. For those unaware, the UFE is the Uniform Final Examination to qualify for the Chartered Accountant designation in Canada. Writing the UFE is the last step for me in getting my CA designation, so I’m going for it. I’ve got training sessions on how to write the exam every week or so, sometimes just 2-3 hours a week, and some times for 20-25 hours a week. Soooo.. given the commitments above, something’s gotta give. I’m beginning to panic a little bit…

Defining Culture

I was talking to a friend of mine last night, who is in an undergraduate business program and will be entering recruiting season in the fall. Our discussion got around to “culture” within various firms and what it actually meant, and it got me thinking that maybe I should do a post on what “culture” means to me.

I’ve gone through recruiting processes for accounting and consulting firms – both, fields in which finding which firm is the “right fit” for you is emphasized constantly. In both instances, I neared the recruiting process with a strong preference for 2 firms; in both instances, I only received offers from one of the 2 firms, allowing me to avoid making a choice. My preference was based on a variety of factors, and ultimately reflected which firms I was most comfortable with.

What is Culture?

I like to think of culture as being analogous to climate: just as you cannot arrive at a conclusion that Toronto’s climate is rainy because you happened to spend one rainy day there, you cannot draw conclusions regarding culture from a small sample size of interactions. Culture, to me, is a pervasive set of attitudes and personalities among individuals of a certain group. Whether this group is defined by geography, race, employer, or educational institution, its culture is generally driven by common experiences and philosophies instilled in them.

In the case of employers and business schools, culture can be terribly subtle and difficult to isolate/identify. For instance, the general profile of an MBA student at a top b-school is someone who is incredibly motivated, determined, dedicated, intelligent and ambitious. Each candidate might demonstrate these characteristics in different proportions, but in general, most candidates possess some measure of each characteristic. So how then, can one distinguish between culture at b-schools if their students are so similar?

How to Identify Culture

As with anything, there are multiple approaches to identifying the culture of a group of individuals. One can simply amass as many interactions as possible with members of that group until it is possible to sufficiently distinguish what separates them from another similar group (even if one cannot adequately define what this quality is). Conversely, one can be more systematic in the approach, and attempt to track their interactions and compare the results.

The best way to track the latter is to list out the characteristics that influence “culture” and then to rate each interaction based on these categories. Once enough data is collected, a conclusion on the culture of the group relative to others can be reached.

For business schools, categories may include:

  • strength of alumni network (success as leaders in the future, breadth of industries etc.)
  • area of focus
  • teaching methodologies
  • class size
  • diversity
  • opportunities available upon graduation (various ways to measure)
This, of course, is only a rough list to give you an idea of what to think about. But it’s easy to see how after attending many recruiting sessions or reading articles, one could divine the strengths and weaknesses of a b-school, and consequently determine a clearer picture of its culture. But none of this is relevant unless you can relate culture back to yourself.

What is Your Culture?

The easiest way to find a good fit is just by the way interactions feel. We’ve all been to networking sessions and conferences where conversations get awkward. But if you find yourself consistently in awkward conversations with representatives from one institution or firm, regardless of where you meet them, then perhaps its indicative of a bad fit. A word of caution here that it could just be that your networking skills need a bit of polishing, or that the sample size of people you’re speaking with is small. Conversely, if you always have interesting conversations with people from a certain employer or firm, then it is likely to be a good fit for you.

Another key part of finding your fit, whether with an employer or with a b-school, is first identifying what you are looking for. This is often the part most candidates do not spend enough time thinking about. To really know where you would be able to make the most of your time, you have to know what your skills and preferences are. For instance, I identified that I tend to be goal-oriented, ambitious and opinionated. I tend to gravitate towards people with similar personalities who have strong leadership and communication skills and those who have a good sense of humour. So for me, a good fit would mean that in general, people from that organization are accomplished, have the demeanor of a leader, and are easygoing enough to have a light conversation at networking events. Once I recognized this tendency, I was able to clearly understand why I was more comfortable with certain firms, and finding my fit became a lot easier.

Last Words

If all else fails, simply use the airport test. Look at a list of individuals who attended the school – if you’ve networked well, you should know quite a few recent grads/current students – and ask yourself if you would mind spending a day with them at the airport (as in your flight is delayed and you’re stuck there, not as in you take a fun excursion to the airport). Employers do this all the time when selecting candidates; it works both ways. If you respect them, look up to them, find them easy to talk to, and generally enjoy their company, chances are you would not mind at all. If the majority of the reps of the school/firm pass this test, you have yourself a fit!

Whether you’re going into recruiting season, or applying to b-school, I hope this provides a little bit of insight into how you can cut through the constant talk about “culture” and find the right fit for you.


Intro to Life

I’ve always thought, probably conceitedly, that my rambling thoughts and perspectives would be worth sharing with the world. Here’s my attempt to put that theory to the test. This blog is to document things that interest me and engage me in my day-to-day, so that some time in the future I might look back and remember things as they were. Here’s hoping that when I look back, the thoughts that cross my mind are, “As a young man, I wrote adequately well and it’s not surprising that I was able to achieve what little success I have in life.” and not, “Oh dear God. How on earth was this person able to dress himself in the morning?!?”

So I just created this blog, and I’ve spent the last few hours fiddling around trying to set things up in some sort of order. I’m making random starter posts in some categories just to give a sense of what I hope to blog about. As I develop more entries, there should be better quality and consistency in my entries.

Enjoy!


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