Diwali at Cranfield

Diwali... the festival closest to my heart!! The lights of the diyas, the rangoli, the excitement, the preparations, the food... I love everything about Diwali!

For years, I have celebrated this days with the people closest to my heart...my family! And this year...I was miles away from them. Difficult!! The day was bad..homesick...which made me sick. :(

And then came the wonderful evening... when we were handed out the cases for an assignment.. 'Written Assessment of a Case' (in short: WAC). Tea, Toast and Tenacity! Sounds interesting! The agenda was: Read the case, re-read the case, discuss with your learning team, discuss in the class with the whole stream, have pizza which has been made available (courtesy: the social reps) so that you don't have to go home and cook, discuss with the learning team again, go back home, share notes with friends, say good night to friends and start working on your report, try to work but can't get your head into the report, try to get some sleep, have dreams about economics, wake up early (very unusual for me!), start typing continuously for three hours, go back to sleep, wake up after two hours and stare at the watch wondering where the time went, start typing again, finish by 4.30 pm and rush to submit it. Ahh.... those of you wishing to read more..that was the end of it! That's how I spent the diwali night...discussing and typing instead of lighting up the diyas!!

Well... saturday went by... Sunday was the Diwali celebration day for us at Cranfield! Delicious home-made food (thanks to the wonderful chefs in the cohort!), lots of dance and the pleasure of seeing everyone enjoying Diwali so far away from home! Diwali could not be as it always is at home but then... even a bit of celebration away from home is worth it!! :)

The AT Kearney experience!- the first round....

The ATK experience..!! Awesome!!

It all started on 5th October 2010... the ATK kick-off day. AT Kearney is a management consulting firm with strong ties to Cranfield. Becky Drinkwater briefed us about the A T Kearney Global Prize competition and its various steps. After an hour of presentation, we were all anxious to form our teams...the only rule: diversity!!

So, there we were in the forum searching for our prospective team members. After asking around, we finally made our team of four: Mark Grenfell-Shaw with has 25 years of experience across a wide range of sea-going engineering and strategic roles in the UK’s submarine force, Khanh Dinh with 11 years of experience in information technology consulting, Ilan Pragaspathy with 11 years of experience in North America working for both small and blue-chip companies and Prachi Khare with has 5 years of experience in Corporate Banking with expertise in business development, financial modelling, risk analysis, corporate and structured finance, debt syndication and loan documentation. 

Of the 24 Cranfield teams that took part in the competition 10 cleared the first round and we were one of them. Result date: 8th October 2010. Time to get the case and start working on it. Spent about a week trying to understand the case and forming questions to ask the team of senior officials during the simulation round which was on 15th Oct. 15th Oct was a great experience when we simulated a consulting case. Case submission day was near... good amount of work. Thankfully we had Ilan, our power point expert who did lots of work on the slides and they looked just perfect. Based on the submission, three teams were seleceted... 4x4 was one of them. The first reaction...more work? Oh no.. :( But slowly the reaction changed... we are in top 3..wow!!!

8th November..the D-day for the presentaion. We were all set, choreagraphy done, practices done, rules of the game: don't turn your back towards the judges, talk confidently, YOU are the consultant, tell them what they should do, and most imprtantly do not look at the slides. OK... so there we were. Once there, the choreography went hay-wire but thankfully the other things went fine. After the presentations there was a nail-biting time of about half an hour when we prayed... God let us be second, we don't want to come first and work more. The result announcement started with some briefings about each team. What we did well, we should have done well etc etc. Then came the announcements..third is ___, second is ___ and hey..that means we are first. The 'congratulations' started before we heard our names and it was unbelievable! I was shivering...not because of the cold but because I was so thrilled. I could not believe we did it!!

Now, though it looked like a hectic task to do this earlier, I am so glad that we did it. It has been such a great experience. And frankly, the more we have come along, the more we have nderstood what consultanc is all about! Looking forward to the European round on 19th November...and whether we win or lose.. this journey is worth a mention!! :)

AT Kearney..continued...the European round

I will start where I left off.... 8th November... a day to remember. My best buddies here were super happy for me and we decided to celebrate. We went to Nando's for dinner. It was awesome! :)

The next morning the team met at the Cafe Book shop to discuss what went well and what did not and what was the way forward. We were to have feedback sessions with all the judges for the local round. One by one meetngs were fixed. The next 10 days required superb preparation. And the struggle began... yet again... instructions said, ' you have now recommended a strategy. We would like to know how to implement it,, so here we had 10 days to make a new presentation and put in place an implementation. But hey, these 10 days were crucial. We had many assignments, reports and presentations to do for our course. A bit of an anxiety..how would we do it? Where is the time. The 10 days went by with 4 hours of sleep each night, lots of dozing off in the lectures and lots of reading, meetings with professors for their inputs. A busy week but a memorable one. Our learning teams were supportive, not complaining when we did not do the required in time, a big thanks goes to them. And how can I not thank the three musketeers (Sinchan, Rahul and Tanu) who did not expect me to cook and waited endlessly without complaints till late hours for dinner so that I don't have to eat alone!

Everyone around seemed so excited about our going for the European round. The competition was on 19th November and we had to report to the ATK office at 9 am. Sean offered to pay for our stay in London if we wanted to go earlier so that there is no rush on the D-day morning! Wonderful! Even more wonderful, ATK had arranged for dinner after the results and we thought we would not be able to attend it. Why? We had an assignment, WAC, to be submitted on 20th. But Sean was gracious enough to encourage us to stay for dinner and then submit the WAC on 21st!

So, we left Cranfield on 18th evening...8 pm. Reached our hotel in London at around 9.30 pm. Rooms were taken. Small cozy rooms. We spent sometime together at the lounge and then left for our rooms to have a good night's sleep so that we wake up fresh and active the next day. Went to my room, practiced my lines in front of the mirror some 3 times and then off to bed. And then came the D-day... when we would know the results of our efforts!! We reached the office at 9 am and were shown into a conference room right next to the conference room where the final presentations were being made. We started our practice. 2 hours to go... four rounds of serious practice and I started getting stressed... I was forgetting my lines! :(

The team told me to just calm down... Ilan said..ohh don't worry u made a mistake only once so you wont make it in the final presentation and moreover the judges know what you mean. Mark said... just calm down, we will do well. Khanh said..remember Rhino... (will write about rhino sometime probably), for now its just about being confident while making presentations :). So at 11 am we walked into the room, four judges welocmed us and as soon as we reached the end of the room, one of the judges started talking and setting the pace and before we were setlled, he said, you have 20 mins. While Mark started talking, Ilan put the set-up in place and handed over the clicker to Mark. The presentation went smoothly and none of us fumbled for words even once!! Wow! Then there was question round which we answered confidently.

Relieved after the presentation, we decided to have coffee and stepped out. We had a nice one hour walk around the area and then went to a nice little coffee shop. By then it was time for lunch so headed back to office and met lots of people over lunch, the judges, students from other schools. Lots of chatting and discussions. Then we checked into our hotel, Radisson, this one arranged by ATK. Freshned up and then we were off for another long walk, this time to the Buckingham Palace,Trafalgar Square and National Gallery. Quite relaxed initially but then as it started nearing 5.30 pm (which was supossed to be the result announcement time!), the pace towards the ATK office increased.

And then..there we were back at the ATK office at 5.15 pm, there was lots of hustle bustle at the office, all teams were there waiting for the result...anxiety, excitement, nervousness, I felt all of these and even more at that point of time. Finally at 5.30 pm, the judges came out of the conference room and we huddled together around the four judges to know our results. But wait... the judges wanted to keep us waiting. 'We will announce the results but before that the people who were involved in the case would discuss the case with you, then we will give each team a feedback on their performance and finally we will announce the result', one of them told us! And, there were sighs all around... the anxiety was killing!

When the judges started briefing on the solution, I was all too happy to realise how close our recommendations were to the real solution. I was confident that we had done better than many others, if not all. Then came the feedback session and there we got to know we definitely were not the best. I lost hope... we have not won any prize I thought. And then came the final winners announcements and what do I hear... Runners Up... Cranfield!!! Wow!!! I know being first would have been much much better but then... I consider this no less.

The journey has been a learning exerience and each and every stage of the process is a memorable one. These memories from the Cranfield MBA will stay with me forever!

Well done 4x4!!!!

First snowfall experience!

27th November 2010...my first encounter with snowfall. woooo hoooo...!!!

Snow covered path
I hate early mornings yet I could not avoid it on 27th Nov 2010 to wake up at 6 am since I had TO take a bus at 7 am to travel to Oxford for attending EMERGE (a conference on social entrepreneurship). I dragged myself out of bed and forced myself to get ready. Finally, I stepped out of my place at 6.50 am and as I stepped out of the building little snowflakes wished me good morning! It was still dark, the entire pathway was covered with snow and glowed in the light of the bulbs. The scene looked lovely! I felt the snowflakes on my face... that was an experience! I loved the view. I suddenly realised I was cold and so I rushed to the bus.
The road where the bus broke down... in the middle of nowhere!
We moved at 7.10 am and then may 3/4 miles away from Cranfield, the bus broke down in the middle of nowhere. If Cranfield is in the middle of nowhere, thiS was even worse!! Someone played with the idea of walking back to the University and I shivered with the thought of walking back while it was still snowing. Thankfully, the driver arranged fr another bus to come and pick us up and while waiting we enjoyed the scenery outside. The snow covered fields looked beautiful. I was thrilled with the view and the idea of having experienced the first snowfall! Wonderful!! Loved it. Though I know, this would not be the last snowfall I see in UK, the first one will always have its charm!! :)