Reflections on EPGP V – Week 1
As I sit down to jot my reflection on the two weeks I have spent with IIMB, I can’t recount a more eventful and contrasting two weeks in my life. After 12 years of chasing the cheque and climbing the corporate ladder, I came here with smug assurance that I have seen it all. I had the fortune of working in different countries and interacting with people from different walks of life. Surely, I thought, there shouldn’t be much to learn. The most complex mathematical operand I had used in my work life was division. That’s what life at work is like; and the EPGP programme was supposed to be a preparatory programme for higher management roles. I guessed there would be a bit of addition at most. Boy-oh-boy.
The last week when we were asked to briefly write up our “experience so far” in IIMB, it was good thing that my inborn and insurmountable natural laziness came to the rescue. In retrospection, it’s a good thing that another week has passed by before I have sat down to crystallize my thoughts. But since I have waited for one more week, the “experience so far” has got a bit longer (thanks, but no thanks, laziness). Without further ado, let me describe the two weeks from my point of view.
Week One (9th to the 13th of April): Non Academic
Most of us had planned to work till the 2nd of April so that we could be in Bangalore by the 9th to start the EPGP programme. Day 1 centered most on the registration formalities and we were done in quick time. The settling down in Ajmera and Bangalore seemed like the most critical problems to take care of. With the very able and efficient Mr. Manikyam at the helm, this was well taken care of. The niggling affairs were noted down and arrangements were made to fix them at the earliest. 10th was the official inauguration of the programme. There was the photo shoot also planned for the day, so all of us were in our formal-most attires. This was the first time as a batch that all of us were meeting each other. While the friendly banter was missing, everyone politely got introduced to each other and had sociable conversations. The inauguration function promptly started according to plan with His Excellency Dr. Linus Von Castlemur, the Swiss Ambassador to India and Bhutan lighting the lamp along with Prof. Pankaj Chandra, Prof. Devanath Tirupati, Prof. G. Shinesh and Professor Jayadev. Dr. Linus Von Castlemur addressed the assembled with an in-depth interactive discussion on “The new phase and the new challenges of globalization: Swiss answers and strategies”. This was followed by lunch and case readings. The case readings gave a glimpse into the pedagogy of the programme. For the 1.5 hrs. Debating and wrangling with Prof. R. Srinivasan to crack the case, no opinion was safe… worse was the fate of the ones who presented their points of view. At the end we closed the discussion on a pragmatic view that there are no right answers to most of the business problems as not all the information presented could be considered as complete. The next day, post a few more introductory sessions about “How we learn” and the institutes stand on “Plagiarism” we packed up for a 2 day ice breaker session to Pegasus.
The facility is about 2 hours’ drive from IIMB campus in the hinterland of the state. As we were intimidated about the outbound learning experience, we were packed the usual necessities for the trip. By the time we checked in to the “camp” it was reasonably dark. The friendly attendants and faculty explained the general guidelines and conduct to adhere by and let us be for the night. Dinner and soft drinks were served early and there was enough time to catch up with the batch. By now, we had a fair idea about the names of few of our class mates and where we came from. As a group, we managed to play a very interesting game to get to know each other by naming an adjective starting with the first letter of our name that identifies us well. By the end of the hour, we had a few hilarious names to go around. The location being so removed from urban center ensured that there was next to zero noise, air and light pollution. As it was a new moon night and with no other source of ambient light we could cast a fresh eyes on the dark sky and see starts like we haven’t seen for a long while. The chirping of crickets was also very apparent and was only drowned by the conversation and laughter of the assembled group. The next day was due to start at 0630 hrs, but the conversations and socializing went on to very late in the night.
The next day started with introduction to the faculty and division of the assembled groups to various teams. As a start we were given a task to move 3 drums and a plank across a distance of 75 odd meters without touching the ground. This required immense team work, planning, adaptation and ability to work with limited resources. Through the course of the two days the teams were constantly broken up and reconstituted and put through varying challenging tasks with a valuable lesson at the heart of the activity. Most notable for many of us was the rappelling experience. Many of us had fear of heights or fear of letting go from a cliff. To conquer this fear was to most an enriching experience in itself. There was also a very interesting task which required teams to identify the shapes and colors of random plastic objects within a span of 30 minutes while blindfolded. Despite the fact that all of us had an opinion on how to go about this, we managed to work as a team and guess the answers correctly. According to the faculty we were the first batch to have consistently crack the problem in all goes in all the years they have been conducting this task.
But the two days session really proved to be an excellent platform to bond with the class and get to know everyone much better. There were many more tasks that required us to exert our physical strengths to accomplish the goals. Nonetheless, by the end of 2 days, we were acutely aware of all of the major muscle systems of our body. Some of us conceded that our bad karmas on the dinner table has caught up with the waistline and some serious effort has to be put in to get back in shape. Thankfully Ajmera happens to have a good gym and swimming pool to make a difference. By the end of the two days, we came back much wiser and ready as a group to pick up the challenges the course had to throw at us. Weekend was spent more or less gearing up for the start of school after a break of a decade on average.
Reflections on EPGP V – Week 2
It was very unusual for us to know of the exam dates before the commencement of the course while we went to school. To realize that the first term mid-term exams is on in 3 weeks even before the class started came as a chilling reminder that we had to hit the ground running day 1. Under normal circumstances, this would have been the duration of the study leave after the course had completed and before the exams were due. But that’s how things are here.
Most of us had endured hours of boring meetings in our previous lives as employed professionals. That was not enough to sustain us through the first few days of school. Although the professors made it a point to make the classes as interactive as possible, there were numerous instances where ideation caused us to doze off. The fact that much of the batch have international experience in lieu of working for North American, Australian, Asian and European clients meant that we were “Late starters” by choice and the 7 am schedule didn’t help a bit. Luckily, subjects like FRA and QAM which had a lot of application based learning helped alleviate the situation. By the time C&S and BL started by the middle of the week, we managed to turn a corner. The structure of the course is rigorous. By the 3rd day, we had already been exhausted by the overflow of information. It came as a relief on the Wednesday that the mid-week change of subjects meant that there was no backlog pending to wrap up for the next day. The drill was no different in the 2nd half of the week though. I for one felt like I had come with a glass to collect an ocean.
The class was already been directed to form into groups to work on case studies which were to start in 3 day’s time. By the time the first week had been over, we had on an average finished 2 chapters in 6 subjects. Apart from this, we had also arranged a seminar conducted by eminent Hindi professor from DU. Every day, course material worth 1000 pages were handed down by the EPGP office and I saw where the adage “Back breaking work” could have originated from. I for one felt the idea of 24 hrs in a day is a flawed one. There are in fact 30 hrs in a day, if you can cut down on your sleep. The week had taken a lot from everyone in the class. Sunday really came as a welcome relief and seemed like a vacation.
What the intensity of the first week also meant was we ended up spending 12 to 14 hrs in the campus. It is impossible to not to appreciate the architectural marvel of the campus complex. The interplay of granite and creepers is reminiscent of the works of renowned sculptor and artist MC Escher. The fractal design of the complex, the perfectly chipped columns and the pergolas must be a great case study for perspective art and architecture in itself. In every aspect of our interactions and experiences within the institute, we have felt excellence; most notably from the quality of the professors and support staff. The infrastructure and resources available at our disposal are practically infinite. Naturally, you feel privileged to be here, almost to the point of telling yourself that you are probably not worthy of this. Every day you have to work hard to justify your presence here. Yet, the ecosystem and environment of the institute helps you along the way in finding your footing. The experience of learning couldn’t have found a better setting than this.
Relections on EPGP V – Week 3
After the rigors of the 1st week, one thing was very clear… you had a lot more complicated operands to use than the humble addition. By the time standard deviation and his close buddies made an entry, I was lamenting why I didn’t flip coins or played with dice or playing cards for a hobby. Of all the unexpected places, in the ME lecture, Newton’s parting gift the “Integral” and its partner in crime “Derivatives” also made a special entry. These terms were vaguely familiar, but there was no time really for formal introductions. To compound the matter, it has been made clear that we cannot use computer or mobile phones in the exams; this is akin to taking your cutlery knife to fight in the world war.
Though the good thing from our point of view is that the pressure is now manageable as we are settling down reasonably well. For most of us, the opportunity to spend more time in the campus is an added incentive as dinner could be knocked off in the campus before returning home. Now the courses are also reaching a point where we can see how they form the jigsaw bits of a bigger picture. There is always a temptation to go home and indulge in some good old-fashioned sleeping binge, but the group work ensures that the ones falling back are accounted for. As more and more cases are discussed in every class, there is a much larger participation from everyone in the class.
For all the years I was tormented by the quality department of my organization to show improvement in quality and reduce the defect density in my project, I now have the answers (or at least the questions) to have a meaningful discussion. All this while I wondered why the HR in the organization seemed to be devils own kin, now I can understand the tight rope walk they have to make to ensure things don’t fall apart. For years I have tried to “play” the stock market without giving the slightest of thought to the underlying financial details of balance sheets, cash accounting and P&L. In addition to this, there was never a thought given to the competitiveness of the firm in the respective industry it functions in. You muddled around the market as part of the susceptible and vulnerable heard. I could have used “Curve of indifference” to explain my reaction to a lame argument. Now I know better. I never had good faith in law and felt it was an instrument to serve the powerful and condemn the weak. The lectures in BL have been an eye opener.
In a matter of three weeks, I can say with assurance I understand things much better and can look at situations vastly differently. I’m confident that much of what I have learned will not be retained for long as my scores will superciliously highlight. Even so, I would know what I don’t know rather than not know what I don’t know. To find out is surely easier than to figure out. Moreover, it’s just been 3 weeks, there are still another 40 more weeks of learning in the offering. My only wish is that this experience stay with me to come back to.