Friday, December 10, 2010

Lessons from Fall Quarter 2010 at UCLA Anderson

Einstein is quoted to have apparently said " Put your hand on a hot stove for an hour and it feels like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour and it seems like a minute. That's relativity". I could not agree more with him - this quarter has definitely felt more like the latter - the proverbial pretty girl being all my Anderson experiences this Fall. Looking back - I think I've learnt a lot in the classroom and outside of it.

Study habits: Trying to run a 26mile and 385 yard mental study marathon during finals week without any prior preparation is a sure-fire recipe of mental fatigue and collapse. Running those miles a few at a time during school days helps build up your stamina and by finals week, you're in great shape. However, as an MBA student, this has been a challenging task to execute. But with discipline, it can be accomplished.Treating school like a 9 - 5 job is a very effective way to improve your efficiency. Taking the time to study in between those classes during the day is a great way to make the most use of your time which frees you up in the evening and weekends for other pursuits.

Classes: All my classes this quarter were new areas of knowledge - from Accounting, Finance, Economics to Marketing and even Statistics (portions of which I did learn previously in grad school).

Accounting: While in consulting and pursuing amateur investing, looking at the financial documents felt like reading Greek. Some of this was demystified while taking this class. It was very interesting to learn how companies can use creative accounting practices to help their purposes and sometimes mislead the investor.

Economics: This was arguably my favorite subject since a lot of it followed logic and reasoning although somewhat artificially constructed with a number of assumptions. The concept of marginal analysis was my big takeaway from this class.

Marketing: Learning to think like a marketing person and getting a framework to do so definitely helps when you are developing a marketing initiative. Looking at the customer, the company, and the competition is key while developing a marketing strategy. Then using market segmentation, target market and positioning of the product to figure out key logistics are integral in developing action steps. Next quarter should delve deeper into defining the product, it's placement, it's promotional tactics and the pricing of the product.

Finance: This 2 credit course made you feel like a kid in a candy shop - exposing you very briefly to a number of interesting topics in financial markets. We learned how to price a stock, a bond, and were exposed to options and futures. However the most interesting concept was the time value of money and how money in the future can be converted to money today by discounting its value using a specific rate of return. Figuring out the rate of return is probably one of the most difficult tasks in finance.

Statistics: I came into the course dreading my second brush with probability - my high school experiences had scarred me with this counter-intuitive method of thinking.However, due to an excellent professor, some of the fears of probability were diminished and then we got into the intricacies of statistical hypothesis testing and regression analysis. All these topics will stand me in good stead in the coming quarters.

Social life: Business school social life is probably one of the most exciting ones you'll have because of the plethora of personalities and varied interests among your classmates. This was a quarter of board gaming for me where I revisited my old favorite - the Settlers of Catan and learned to love a new one - Puerto Rico.

Health - exercising and eating right: This did take a beating due to the intensity of the quarter filled with activities and trying to figure out what you wanted to do. However, the winter break was a pleasant respite and has helped me catch up on some much needed rest and exercise.

Extra-curricula: These were somewhat limited although the occasionally eating out, cooking, and movies were not missed. Club activities at HBA and EA are also scheduled to pick up in the Winter quarter.

All in all, it was an intense quarter and has set the stage for the rest of the two years.