Monday, July 24, 2006

Management Science and Engineering (MS&E) at Stanford University

Many of my friends and prospective applicants for next year's graduate term have been quizzing me about my graduate major at Stanford University. My classes start in autumn this year so I don't have any first hand experience yet. I am summarizing here all that I know from the long hours of research I did before applying. I have also included information handed down by seniors already in the program. If anyone has anything to add about the program or feels that I have misrepresented any aspect of the program, please leave a comment.

It’s a tough job trying to summarize the Management Science and Engineering (MS&E) Program in a few words. I can boldly say that it is not perfectly equivalent to any of the programs found at other Universities. It must, therefore, be understood in terms of its constituent courses and the ultimate goal that Stanford wishes to achieve with this eclectic combination of Management and Engineering courses.

The variety of courses on offer makes the MS&E program highly customizable to suit the student’s preferred specialization in wide array of technical, management and techno-management fields. Each of these chosen specializations can be thought of in terms of the more traditional specializations such as Industrial Engineering and MBA programs. I will point out the similarities wherever applicable.

A high level view of the constituent courses taught can be captured through the seven concentrations of the program.

Decision and Risk Analysis
Economics and Finance
Information Science and Technology
Operations Research
Organizations, Technology and Entrepreneurship
Policy and Strategy
Production and Operations Management

A quick glance will tell you that it covers almost all of the Management streams taught in your traditional MBA program. Organization Management, Operations Management, Strategy, Economics and Finance – this list would lead you to ask why you need a separate department to teach you what is taught at the Graduate School of business’ MBA program in the same campus. The answer lies in the fact that they are taught very differently and with a very different focus at MS&E.

The MS&E program focuses on understanding the problems involved in the engineering aspects of managing systems. It aims to be at the vital interface between management and engineering, to enable engineers with their technical background and strong quantitative skills to be effective in management positions. The emergence of the field of Financial Engineering wherein finance problems are being solved using models related to engineering systems is an example of just how vital this merger of engineering and management is.

Some of the core management courses do have many similarities with MBA subjects and are meant to give the students a clear understanding of the management concepts. So it can be argued that MS&E is more than half way through to an MBA covering at least the core management courses in fair depth. In fact I am duly informed by a senior that if you consciously and carefully choose your electives you could get pretty close to covering all core MBA subjects. But it’s probably not the best idea and may result in you missing some of the strong points of the program.

Moving on, a further look at the other specializations reveals a wider variety of fields that are covered. The MS&E department was created by merging the departments – Industrial Engineering and Engineering management and the Department of Engineering – Economic Systems and Operations research. The specializations in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering related subjects are thus comprehensively covered. In fact if you are interested in doing a Masters in Operations research or Industrial Engineering at Stanford, you would be applying to the MS&E department. The program is thus highly inclusive and maps to more than one major that would be offered under traditional nomenclature at other Universities. As long as I’m at it, it’s relevant to point out that the Financial Engineering offered at other Universities is also covered by MS&E at Stanford. The Financial and Decision Engineering specialization is another of the many core strengths of this program and is very well known and recognized in the industry. If you’re looking for a career in hardcore computational finance, MS&E has the relevant courses on offer.

The concentrations that excite me the most are Organizations, Technology and Entrepreneurship, Policy and Strategy and Information Science and Technology. I would be surprised if the Tech-Entrepreneurship education can bettered anywhere else. Courses such as Technology Venture Formation cover the entire life-cycle of a start-up from idea to enterprise. The business plans developed by students are evaluated by the great entrepreneurs and venture capitalists of the Silicon Valley. What more can prospective entrepreneurs ask for! Also covered in these concentrations are the unconventional but immensely important courses for the business world such as Creativity and Innovation and Negotiation. Reading about these courses on the website really aroused my interest in them. The skills gained in these classes could prove to be the decisive difference between you and the crowd.

If some of the first hand reviews on the actual classes are to go by, the quality of execution of the courses is among, if not the best in the world. After all Stanford does have a reputation to live up to. The professors are supposed to be simply amazing, each one a legend in her/his field of teaching and research.

By now it’s probably clear why I started by saying it would be tough to summarize MS&E in a few words. I’ve used more than a few but am still not convinced I’ve conveyed enough. I hope this has at least given the reader a glimpse of the variety of great courses on offer in this program. More than anything I hope I haven’t misrepresented anything about the department. I only have a few resources to go by before I get to Stanford this autumn. Rest assured I will keep this blog updated on my own impressions after I start attending classes.

Links for further reading:

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Australasian Debate Topics

If you're organizing a debate, the number one concern is to compile a good set of motions for the participants to debate on. The process of shortlisting topics starts with a huge database of topics found on the web followed by painful hours of debating about which motions are "fair" and appropraite for your competition.

A good shortcut to this painful motion selecting process is to take advantage of the hardwork done by organizers of well known debates around the world.

I found the list of topics for this year's Australasian debates organized by the Victoria University of Wellington Debating Society in the "allasiandebate" yahoo groups list. The motion list, which I am sharing with you below, is accompanied with a breakup of the no. of teams that chose the motions (indicates the acceptability of the motion among the participants) and the no. of affirmative and negative wins for that motion (gives a fair idea about how "fair" the motion is). I think this will prove immensely useful to the oraganizers of future debates and make the job of shortlisting motions a fair bit easier.

The funny thing about this years Australs result is that the overall ratio of affermative to negative wins was about 60:40. What's funny is the fact that the overall all time ratio as per experts in the parliamentary debating field is about 45:55 in favour of the negative. It seems to me that most motions this year might have inadvertantly favoured the proposition.

The Motions:

Number of debates/Aff wins/Neg wins

Adjudication test
That we should uphold the right of Iran to develop nuclear weapons

Women’s debate
That we should have quotas for the number of women in national parliaments

Round 1
That media should be able to freely report suicides 7/2/5
That we should ban all advertising during children’s television programming 21/10/11
That we should ban the publication of political party support polls 11/3/8

Round 2
That ASEAN should sign a free trade agreement now 17/16/1
That we should disband the WTO 17/10/7
That China should move to float its currency 5/4/1

Round 3
That we should boycott developing countries that nationalize their oil companies 6/5/1
That we should support net oil-importing developing nations in building nuclear power plants 27/17/10
That governments should issue tradable quotas for air travel 6/5/1

Round 4
That the micro-states of the Pacific should federate 19/11/8
That Australia and New Zealand should actively uphold the result of the democratic process in Fiji 4/2/2
That New Zealand should become a state of Australia 16/4/12

Round 5
That all schools should have comprehensive sex education classes 16/11/5
That we should require large companies in AustralAsia to provide comprehensive healthcare for employees 5/2/3
That Catholic medical providers should be forced to provide preventative and emergency contraception 18/9/9

Round 6
That Pakistan should close its Madrassas 10/5/5
That Jerusalem should become a UN protectorate 11/9/2
That we should transfer military resources from Iraq to Afghanistan 18/11/7

Round 7
That we should abolish detention without trial for suspected terrorists 20/14/6
That we should abolish the imposition of custodial sentences on young offenders 8/4/4
That civilian victims of the war on terror should be compensated 11/4/7

Octo-Finals
That players and fans should be able to participate in ambush marketing activities 2/1/1
That iTunes music should be downloadable to any device 3/2/1
That we should force pornography websites to move to a .xxx internet domain 3/3/0

ESL Semi-Finals
That we should publish cartoons of religious figures 1/0/1
That sporting boycotts are a legitimate tool of foreign policy 0
That convicted criminals should be banned from running for public office in Asia 1/0/1

Quarter-Finals
That corporations should be held responsible for abuses committed by their contracted service providers 2/2/0
That the compensation of all executives should be pegged to the average wage of that company’s workers 1/0/1
That we should require companies to donate 5% of their annual revenue to charitable causes to be eligible for government contracts 1/1/0

Semi-Finals
That Australia should compromise the legal protections of asylum seekers to appease Indonesia 0
That East Asia should adopt a common history textbook 2/2/0
That politicians must relinquish all control over family-owned assets to global investment banks 0

ESL Final
That we should end affirmative action in Malaysia 0
That governments should fund development aid and not disaster relief 0
That we would introduce hard labour for criminals in the developed world 1/0/1

Final
That we should criminalise the payment of dowry 0
That it should be legitimate to use aid to buy votes in international organisations 1/1/0
That China should allow the internal free movement of labour 0

Monday, July 10, 2006

PhD - Piled higher and deeper!

Browsing through Facebook is now my number 1 pass time. I almost feel guilty at finding out so much about so many people I don't know yet. One things for sure - there are a whole lot of VERY interesting people at Stanford Grad school and I can't wait to meet them all! Here's a blog link I found on Facebook and it's authored by one of my friend's friend (on Facebook atleast) - Thoughts. Organised Chaos. If you get past the amusing nomenclature (url = esotericpandora.blogspot.com, blogger name = reluctant blogger) :-) it's actually a very candid and nice-to-read blog with great pictures of Stanford.

I am most thankful to the author for linking to one of the most rib-tickling comics I have ever read. It's a comic about the rig ma roll of grad school and goes by the name - PhD - Piled higher and deeper. It's pure genius, you have to check it out!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

"small business owner" Vs "entrepreneur"

I finally found out how different these two terms actually are. Till now I've been using the terms interchangably and was under the impression that a small business owner was very much an entrepreneur who failed to take his business to the "next level". It turns out I'm not the only one who thinks this way. As Karri Flatla writes in Small Business Articles-

When business people converse, the terms “small business owner” and “entrepreneur” are used interchangeably as if they mean the same thing........Is this a matter of semantics? Or is there an important distinction to be made?

So how is a small business owner so different from an entrepreneur? Seth Godin makes the distinction quite beautifully-

an entrepreneur is trying to make money while she sleeps, and does it with someone else's money! That she builds a business bigger than herself, that scales for a long time, that is about processes and markets. A small businessperson, on the other hand, is largely a freelancer with support, someone who understands the natural size of her business and wants to enjoy the craft of doing it every day.
The more I see both, the happier it appears that small business people are. They often make more money, take fewer risks, sleep better and build something for the ages, something they believe in and can polish and be proud of.
Growth for growth's sake makes less sense every day.


My father is a small business owner running a manufacturing unit that makes hand crafted teak wood furniture. He loves his business. It was hand built by him over 23 years and is very profitable. The clients love the products which are custom made for them. No one else in the market makes them as good.

But of late there is a problem. My dad has started getting frustrated by the fact that the size of the business is saturating and that it just won't grow fast enough. His pride in the business he has built is diminishing. He sees himself now as the entrepreneur who needs to build an empire. He sees that as the real sign of success in his career.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Got my F1 Visa!

I had my visa interview at the Chennai consulate
yesterday and got my visa approved!

It started off with a wait outside in the hot sun for
45 minutes although I arrived only 15 mins before my
interview time. One of the officials said that this
was unusual and that the number of interviews for the
day were more than normal. It took a further 3 and 1/2
hours for the pre screening and finger printing before
I finally had my interview. In short it was a breeze
(lasted about 1 minute) and I was surprised given the
way most students were being questioned. For those
interested in the details, read on...

Good evenings exchanged, takes my red folder(they give
you this at the pre screening).
VO: Your going to Stanford! (and looks at me
approvingly, I knew it would be easy from here) What
are you going to do at Stanford University?
ME: Management Science and engineering ma'am.
VO: What will you do when you get back.
ME: I will get back to work at Oracle.
VO: What do you do at Oracle?
ME: I am a consultant ma'am.
VO: Who will pay for your education?
ME: My father ma'am, the money $XXX is in the bank.
VO: What does your dad do? Show me the bank
statements.
ME: He is a <....>
(I give 4 bank statements to her and she seems
confused. Pretends to look at them but the first page
did not have the balance printed on it, Nevertheless
she is satisfied :) )
VO: Everything looks in order, you're all set.
Congratulations your visa is approved!

It was like a quick fire round with 3 questions, over
before I realised it started. She took my word for
both the fact that i'd come back to Oracle in India
and that there was money in the bank. Two factors -
Stanford and confidence!

Monday, February 27, 2006

Take the trouble of understanding your industry

Rajesh Jain writes for Tech Samachar about how he feels it is of utmost imporatance for entrepreneurs to understand the industry they are part of. Knowing the current trends in your industry enables you to realize and map the current trends and chalk out the map for the future, for as he says, as an entrepreneur you have to "Define what will be, define tomorrow, envision the future".

Take the trouble to understand the industry that you are part of and develop this thinking as if your life depended on it (because it does).

That's my take home for today.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Stanford entrepreneurship seminars online

A great boon for online etrepreneurship students like me is the Stanford entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar program. The program consists of weekly lectures held at Stanford as part of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program and the Management Science and Engineering (MS and E) graduate program (the seminar series is one of the reasons why I applied to this program) . The lectures are conducted by eminent entrepreneurs and VCs such as Guy Kawasaki, Vinod Khosla, Larry Page etc. The great news is that I recently found the videos of these lectures available online for free! How good is this! It's like attending a real Stanford class on the web without having to get admitted and whats more, you don't even have to pay the tuition! This is a great initiative from a great university that has been the breeding ground for the best startups in the world.

The videos available right now are of the lectures conducted during this year's winter semester only. The archives of the previous year's seminars are sadly taken off the site. Snippets of some of them can be found at the edcorner of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program website.

Brief comments on the seminars completed so far:

1. Tom Byers (Professor and deputy chair of MS and E) introduces the program and the speakers lined up for this year and goes on to discuss entrepreurship as an academic subject. Very informative from a conceptual point of view and a necessary lecture to set the stage for the series of speakers to follow every week.

2. Jeff and Bobby Beaver (Founders of Zazzle) talk about the Zazzle story, Bootstrapping, the Zazzle way and lessons learnt. Its a very well conducted seminar, excellent in its appropraiteness for a university audience (they attended the same lecture series as Stanford students 10 years back!) This is by far the best of the videos - an exciting story, inspirational cast and great pictures on the slides of their garage in which they started up.

3. Janice Fraser (co-Founder and CEO of Adaptive Path) talks about Adaptive Path, a company that does some really exciting work. Adaptive epitomizes what the web has come to be today.
This is a must watch lecture for 2 reasons -1-> its another great startup story and 2-> it gives a lowdown on the opportunities around web 2.0 that companies like Adaptive Path are exploiting. After watching it be sure to visit adaptivepath.com and read the case study on how adaptive made the registration process of this very web portal - Blogger so much more user friendly and got more people like me to start their own blogs!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Marketing for Bootstrappers - the low cost airline way!

The second speaker at the Deccan Herald Advertising Seminar was Warwick Brady, the COO of Air Deccan (India's first low cost airline). He spoke about his marketing experiences with Air Deccan and with his previous employer - low cost airline Ryan Air. The talk was very revealing and gave an account of how great advertising is possible even at no cost! For these low cost airlines, cost control is their lifeline and one of the big reasons why they succeed in undercutting the big established industry giants is because they spend next to nothing on advertising. Maybe a few good lessons for bootstrappers here on how to get noticed in the market, lessons from airlines that truly epitomize bootstrapping - enter an established market and bootstrap their way to grabbing good market share. Here is the summary of what he had to say....
At Ryan Air advertising would transgress decency and normal social behaviour simply to make a noise in the media. The ads displayed here are an example of how far Ryan Air was willing to go to get noticed. The "pissed off with Sabena's high fares?" ad was contested by Sabena in court. Sabena won and Ryan air was asked to take the ad off print immediately. You'd think this hurt Ryan Air. Think again. There were celebrations at Ryan, the ad had given them more publicity in the papers than they could have ever hoped for! They took a swing at British Airways(BA) in another ad which called them "Expensive Bastards!".

Again they were taken to court and again Ryan Air filled the newspapers. At Ryan Air, any PR is great PR. As long as the people keep seeing them in the news they are happy. Because their marketing has a single goal - to make people realise how cheap they are and as long as they can get publicity this cheap, they continue being the cheapest!


You're not going to be able to take on the big guys of the airline industry through the expensive marketing game played by them. You are a startup with not so much money and your biggest advantage is your low cost.

The other thing that Ryan Air and Air Deccan have are gregarious leaders. The low cost airlines symbolise an aggressive little kid pitching against the big men. Having a gregarious leader helps project this image and get noticed in the press events and media reports. These leaders are in the papers for every new trick or price cut that the company releases. They are bold enough to play the dirty game if required and take the big players head on.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Deccan Herald Advertising Seminar, Harvest 2006

I attended the advertising seminar, Harvest 2006 (held at the Taj West End Hotel, Bangalore on the 4th of Jan) out of pure curiosity about the Advertising industry. There has been tremendous growth and transformation in the media and advertising landscape in sync with India's rapid growth in the Globalization age. Not surprisingly, the theme of this year's seminar was "Advertising on the Global Stage". The event on paper had a decent line up of speakers, but their true quality was evident when they took the stage to deliver some very informative and inspirational speeches. I will summarize the 3 speeches that I believe stood out for their insight into the marketing and advertising industry.

1. Lalith Seth, Founder, Chairman and Managing Director, Raj Tours and Travels.

Raj Travels is the biggest Indian success story in the Travel industry. They hold a market share larger than their next 3 competitors put together and are all set to monopolize the industry in India. They also plan to get into aviation by launching their own airline very soon. Raj tours was rated as the no. 1 foreign tours and travel company in India by BBC last year. The speaker founded this company from scratch whose climb to the top as the most successful entrpreneur in the Indian travel industry is extremely inspirational. The sound bites from his speech follow:
  • Have an indepth understanding of what your competitors are doing and see where you can improve.
  • Do a lot of goodwill marketing - Raj travels provided free refreshments to the people waiting in queues for visa interviews outside the US consulate. They also pushed the government for the creation of a pavilion outside the counsulate to shelter these people. Great marketing at little cost for a travel agency!
  • Understand the consumer and all his/her intricacies.
  • Marketing is the whole package - The quality of product and service are part of the marketing package.
  • Respect and value your entire team - keep them happy.
  • Be proud of the Indian brand. We need to get over the myth that foreigners can deliver better than us.
  • Engage the best ad agency for you advertising but remember that no one understands your business better than you yourself. Therefore you should provide in depth information about it to the agency. The script of the ad should be written by you personally.
  • Remember that today's consumer is very smart and you should advertise nothing but the truth.
  • Always deliver more than your consumer expects. This will result in great mouth to mouth marketing.
  • Advice to youngsters planning to startup: Remember nothing is impossible, Read as much as possible and have a desire to better than the best in the world.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Must-hear Podcasts by the great entrepreneurs

Something special for all you podcast fans. Found a few amazing ones today - interviews and speeches by the great men of technology entrepreneurship. Truly inspirational stuff! enjoy.

1. Steve Jobs' Stanford graduation day address audio and video - http://itunes.stanford.edu open up stanford on itunes from this link, click on "heard on campus" and look under “Visiting Lecturers and Speeches”.

2. Joe Liemandt, Founder, President, and Chief Executive Officer of Trilogy speaking at Stanford's technology venture program http://itunes.stanford.edu/ open up stanford on itunes from this link, click on "heard on campus" and look under “Visiting Lecturers and Speeches”.

3. Guy Kawasaki interview on smallbizpod. Also check out the Guy Kawasaki blog for daily lessons in entrepreneurship through top-ten lists.

4. Audio of Paul Graham's presentation on itconversations. Check out the author of Hackers and Painters at http://www.paulgraham.com

For an great collection of videos and podcasts of presentations by the top entrepreneurs and venture capitalists check out the educator's corner at the Stanford Technology Ventures program website.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Presentation tips by The Great Communicators

Very useful presentation tips by the big boys and girls in business (published in Businessweek's Small Biz).

  1. Simplicity Tip: Eliminate jargon - Jack Welch, Former Chairman and CEOGeneral Electric.
  2. Charisma Tip: Create and articulate a bold vision - Steve Jobs, CEO and Director Apple Computer. Chairman and CEOPixar Animation Studios.
  3. Penchant for listeningTip: Seek feedback - Meg Whitman, President, CEO, and Director eBay
  4. Preparedness Tip: Review and rehearse your presentation - John Chambers, President, CEO, and Director Cisco Systems
  5. Responsiveness Tip: Be there for your employees - Michelle Peluso, President and CEOTravelocity.com
  6. Talent for storytelling Tip: Tell tales that inspire - David Neeleman, Chairman and CEO JetBlue Airways
  7. Passion Tip: Identify and share what you're passionate about - Howard Schultz, Chairman Starbucks
  8. Clarity of expression Tip: Break down complex information into easy parts - Suze Orman Author, TV Host
  9. Ability to make eye contact Tip: Spend 90% of the time looking at your audience - Rudy Giuliani, Chairman and CEO Giuliani Partners
  10. Facileness with optimistic language Tip: Employ powerful and positive words - John Thompson, Chairman and CEO Symantec
  11. Ability to reinventTip: Stay fresh, remain current - Klaus Kleinfeld, President and CEO Siemens
  12. Looking like a leader Tip: Pay attention to what your wardrobe says about you - Larry Ellison, CEO and Director Oracle
  13. Generosity with praise Tip: Lavish appropriate praise on employees, customers, and colleagues - Richard Branson, Chairman Virgin Group

But of course the best place to find the best tips on Presentation is at Presentation Zen. You have to check it out.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Who do I recruit for my startup?

I bumped into 3 blogs on recruiting for stratups today, all had their own good aspects to them. Recruiting is a topic that really excites me and there's no better way to vent all that excitement than to blog about it! My prospective partner - Akshat and me were on the verge of starting up last year (long story why it didn't actually happen) and recruitment was a highly discussed topic at the time since we had limited monetary resources and were probably younger and lesser qualified than most people we needed to recruit. We imagined the kind of person who we'd like to have on our team and the criteria based on which we would select. There were a hundred reasons why most people would laugh at the prospect of working for us. But there were a few extremely strong reasons because of which a few people would join us and they'd actually be a hundred times better than all those people who would laugh. That's the great thing about recruiting for a startup, you usually wouldn't want to hire the people who don't think its a good idea to work for you.

Our first project was estimated to take 4 months to complete and was during the summer internship period of all major universities in India. We needed 2 programmers to work for us so we decided to make a trip to a couple of the best engineering schools and sell our idea to the prospective hires. The great thing about hiring interns in our case was that 1. they are cheap so we could compete and outbeat most internship stipends, 2. we had probably the most challenging and exciting internship project work to offer in the country and 3. On successful completion of the first project, we have great people to make employment offers to.

We didn't actually list it them out at the time but I think the following are the top 3 recruiting criteria for a startup:

  1. Hire someone who believes in your idea. You are giving up a stable job, risking your career, investing a lot of money and time and still working your ass off for a reason - you believe in your idea and that your startup is the next big thing to happen to the industry. You need to have people on board who believe in it too. You most probably won't beat the big boys in terms of offering a better compensation or job stability but what you are providing is an opportunity to have a slice of the big success that your venture will be. As Guy puts it - the person needs to be "infected with a love for the product". If your employees can each carry a slice of the dream in their pockets, they will work for you and continue working for you no matter what!
  2. Look for "entrepreneural instincts". You need people on board who will be ready play the tough game when the crunch time comes. In a startup things aren't going to be hunky dorey every single day as in the case of larger corporations who have the ability to absorb the risks when things aren't going great. There will be times when resources and deadlines will be crunched and you need all your players to stand up and deliver. It is in times like these that true entrepreneural instincts come to the fore. Entrepreneurs, unlike those who aren't, don't point to the agreed upon hours per week in the contract when the situation demands the extra effort. They do what it takes to "get it done" and don't leave when the next client is hard to find.
  3. Hire people who are crazy about what they do - Someone who takes her/his work a little too seriously. As Paul Graham puts it, hire people who are animals at what they do! If your hiring a sales person, hire someone who never takes no for an answer, and loves selling so much that he/she will be willing and successful at it, even when when woken up in the middle of the night to sell to a client half way across the globe. "If you think about people you know, you'll find the animal test is easy to apply. Call the person's image to mind and imagine the sentence -so-and-so is an animal. If you laugh, they're not. You don't need or perhaps even want this quality in big companies, but you need it in a startup."-Paul Graham.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Hire a "blogrammer" for your startup!

A nice excerpt from a blog post relating to interviewing engineers for startups. The author has come up with the three top questions to determine whether to hire an engineer for your startup. Although I feel the other two are a bit much, I thought the explanation for choosing first question is interesting. Heres an excerpt:

"1. Do you have a blog?

.....The difference between a tolerable programmer and a great programmer is not how many programming languages they know, and it's not whether they prefer Python or Java. It's whether they can communicate their ideas.By persuading other people, they get leverage. By writing clear comments and technical specs, they let other programmers understand their code, which means other programmers can use and work with their code instead of rewriting it. Absent this, their code is worthless.

If someone has a blog, you know that they are starting to make communications and writing part of a basic set of habits. You know they value those habits enough to make time for them. A public blog improves the odds that the person sitting across from you (who has great coding skills) can also effectively advocate their ideas both inside and outside the company."

Fot those curious to know the other two but not curious enough to read the original blog, here are the other two questions:
"2. What's your home page?....3.Do you contribute to an open source project?"

Oh and by the way I have added a new link to this blog - The
Paul Graham web site. Excellent stuff for tech entrepreneurs. I was introduced to it by my good friend and to-be-entrepreneur Akshat Choudhary, a huge fan of Paul's.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

MS/MBA for a wannabe entrepreneur?

Still pretty excited about starting my own blog. Rest assured there are going to be many posts on this blog this week. A little more about myself first. I am a software engineer of less than a year and I work as an IT Consultant for Oracle Consulting, Bangalore. I took a major career decision six months back that did'nt go down too well with many (given my ambition to be a successful entrepreneur) - I decided to go back to school and get myself a masters degree. There is this ubiquitous notion that higher levels of education are not for entrepreneurs and that they should limit formal education and get "out there" as soon as possible and learn first hand from the harsh realities of business. I for one am an aberration.

The decision came about after some very hard thinking and was influenced by the fact that 6 months into my job I was'nt learning as fast as I felt I needed to. I was introduced to a couple of great programs by a class mate of mine - Rohan Khara, at my undergrad college (RVCE, Bangalore). These course, I felt, fit in nicely with the skill requirements that I had in mind. I have tried to break up the reasoning that formulated in my mind at the time into a (Guy Kawasaki style) top-10-list of reasons why an MS/MBA degree is a good option for prospective entrepreneurs. You must keep in mind that these are the reasons why I decided to go back to school given my personal background, some of the points may not apply to every individual. So here we go - the top ten:

  1. Picking up and strengthening technical skills relevant to the field in which the individual wants to startup.
  2. Picking up skills in management. As a purely technical person I find that adding formal management skills to my kitty would not only be useful but also necessary.
  3. Doing your masters steepens your learning curve. Most masters programs are very intense and the rate of learning is almost exponential. Much steeper than at steady job where it almost flattens after 6 months into the job.
  4. Exposure to newer cultures of people and practices. This is invaluable to a prospective Global entrepreneur.
  5. Building your network. The alumni and professors at good universities are great contacts to add to your personal network before starting up.
  6. Universities are breeding grounds of great ideas. The university environment is very conducive to fostering creativity.
  7. At university you also have a chance to deploy prototypes of entrepreneurial ideas. These maybe in the form of student projects or even the formation of clubs etc. where you get the chance to lead a group of people and learn in the bargain.
  8. There is always a good chance of finding great prospective partners given that the student pool is among the top percentiles in the world at top universities.
  9. Adds to your personal credibility. A higher degree at one of the better schools would definitely add brownie points to the way people perceive you.
  10. There is the chance to work at a better position after graduation and gain better practical exposure if you choose to delay the starting up of your own firm.

I must add that although I feel a postgraduation is highly beneficial, it is definitely not a necessity. I think that if you have the idea and the time has come for the idea and you're ready to implement it, then there is no better option than to go out there and get it done and be the entrepreneur. There is absolutely no better Trip!

About "On My Own Trip"

Its an easy Saturday morning and I have some good time to myself. I'm doing some blog surfing as usual and bump into some really good posts (there's a great one today on the ever so good Guy Kawasaki blog - "The art of bootstrapping"). After a few hours of reading some better than ordinary articles, I was inspired more than ever to start my own blog (my first one actually - better late than never huh!) and "ön my own trip" is what resulted.

On my own trip will revolve around my career and the road towards my ultimate career goal - to startup one of the better technology ventures of our time. You should find a lot of posts on entrepreneurship and on lessons learnt from the many virtual mentors I follow online. I am a software engineer and am pretty excited about software systems that run our everyday life. Thats another thing to look forward to on this blog - tonnes of news from the software industry. I hope the archive of this blog a couple of years hence will be an excellent resource for budding technology entrepreneurs and then who knows, a couple of them may end up as my partners to start one of the big success stories of the software industry.

As it stands my career path is quite unique considering the twists and turns its taken already in the last year and is due to take very soon. I guess every entrepreneur has a pretty unique career path. I hope that this blog will bring out the uniqueness in mine and that the uniqueness itself will make it an interesting read. Lets see how it goes...