A Spade is a Spade

As life unfolds itself everyday ... this is my version ..

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The "X" Factor in consulting interviews ...

Great to see that Yash has taken this initiative to start a collaborative blog to help students prepare for consulting interviews - http://bigticketatisb.blogspot.com/

I am reproducing my first post on the blog here ...
So what does "X" factor mean? Essentially in the consulting context this has two dimensions -

first is the personality of the person being interviewed.
second is how has the person carries himself in the interview.

The first one is important because recruiters often ask the question - "Can I work with this person as part of a two member team in a remote location for six months?" The answer to this question is critically important and often decides whether a firm wants to hire the person or not. Having said this you cannot become a "fun" person overnight if you are essentially an introvert or do not like too many social interactions. So this part of the "X" factor is difficult to control and work on ....

The second one is how one dresses and carries himself when he is being interviewed. This variable is completely in our control. The points given below are specific to consulting interviews and may not hold true for a "IT services company" interview....every sector has its own requirements
  1. Make sure you have the right suit on. Borrowing your quaddies jacket is definitely a no no !! A black suit stiched to your requirements is the safest bet as far as consulting interviews go ... Blazers purchased off the shelf normally are not a good idea.
  2. A white shirt is again a safe bet..a double cuff shirt with classy cuff-links really goes well with a black suit..Also as far as shirt goes it makes sense to purchase a brand new one just before the interview season. Old white shirts beaten to death by the laundry guy are not ideal
  3. A plain tie or a striped tie goes well with a black suit and a white shirt. Mickey mouse motifs on the tie are not ideal for a consulting interview !!
  4. A black shoe should be combined with a black belt. The biggest goof up is a black shoe with a brown belt or vice versa...
  5. Those who wear specs may want to get brand new ones made - the type you see the "consulting types" wearing ...rimless with anti-reflection lenses et al

What does the above mean ?? Style is no substitute for substance - none of this will get you through a consulting interview. But does it matter - the answer is a resounding yes !! The people who come down to recruit also evaluate as to whether they can put you in front of the client on day 1 - having the right appearance helps...


So while you practice the case interviews and tear the wetfeet and vault guides apart, make sure you make the trip to the Raymonds showroom and are ready when the d-day comes...


The "X" factor counts ....

Monday, November 28, 2005

Making a discussion impersonal

One of the biggest challenges I face is how to keep a discussion focussed on the issues at hand rather than the personalities involved. The best debates (and the most passionate ones..) happen when the individuals involved can argue diametrically opposite points without any risk that the personal equations might get affected. In my last job this is one aspect I enjoyed the most - we will have raging discussions on a particular topic within the engagement team but will go out for a beer after that .. the next morning everyone is normal till we get into our next set of debates. Good ideas and output are very often not a result of a situation where ideas converge but clash head on. Let me elaborate on this - if four people in a group think alike all the time, the group is wasted. On the other hand if there is a clash of opinions, points and counterpoints are made and accepted in the right spirit - the best group outcomes emerge.

If the above is true, why is it so difficult to come to such a situation. There are multiple reasons but to me some of the most prominent ones are:
1. Inability to separate the "opinion" from the person. We often judge a comment based not on the merit of the comment but based on who is making the comment. In some sense we "personalize" the opinion and miss the wood for the trees.
2. Inability to structure the discussion. Random thinking is often passed of as creative thinking and inputs. Opinions and viewpoints need to differ within a given framework - if they do not, conflicts emerge and the "discussion" often breaks down.

To achieve the balance is very difficult - something I keep struggling with. However there are individuals on campus who are good at this and some of the best discussions I have had are with such inviduals. VB, YE and U are some people who I can think of ...

I will keep trying ... insulate the opinion or the argument from the person ..shoot the message if you have to .. don't shoot the messenger !!! this comes from practice and reflection... will make sure that i find time for the later as i practice it quite often anyway...

Apologies if some of this sounds a little convulated... i write as i think .. there are not too many filters in between.

Hedging risk is a "risk" by itself

Term VI began and I really liked the Corporate risk management class. One of the most popular perceptions about risk management is the "hedging" is equivalent to "risk mitigation". The point is that when one is hedging a risk it has to be evaluated against the opportunity cost of "not hedging" and the performance of the hedge has to be monitored as much as the performance of a naked position has to be ...Quite often I have seen corporate treaurers relax saying that there positions are "hedged" .. i am not so sure if that is the right perspective to have ...

I have a feeling the Prof is going to give an extremely relevant perspective on what "corporate risk" management is perceived to be and what it actually stands for .... the math of risk management is never the issue .. the issue always is the qualitative judgment on which risk is worth decreasing, increasing or leaving as is.... waiting for the remaining 18 hrs of this course to unfold ....i have a feeling this course is going to rock !!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Fun means working with a bunch of super talented people

So I gave in to peer pressure .... since everybody has a blog these days and not having one can mean loss of brownie points in a competitive situation ... i thought i must have my blog out before interview season starts .... on a more serious note I have been planning this for quite some time now .. as with other things I have been incredibly lazy with this as well.

Term V ended at ISB .. for me the highlight of the term was working with a bunch of super talented people at ISB. I was able to do this as part of my academic endeavours which in ISB means study groups as well as working on myriad b-school competitions ...

As far as b-school competitions go worked a lot with P and U...P is one of the most right brained people I have ever met .. the guy just thinks differently .. in the sense that we will be discussing a problem with a given structure and this guy will come up with an idea which is completely lateral. U on the other hand is more traditional as far as thinking is concerned but has unlimited reservoirs of energy .. the guy does night out after night out .. never complains about workload .. and is passionate about everything he does ... all in all awesome fun and great learning ...

Working in my FIRA group was another humbling experience. Worked with a new set of people for the first time. I was supposed to be the fulcrum of the group given my finance background. One day into group meetings I realized that my finance skills were of little use for this super talented group.. S rocked .. i mean the guy has no finance background but used to discuss valaution like a seasoned pro ... K also did an awesome job on the second assignment but to me the highlight was clearly working with S .. there is so much to learn from the guy ...

Why did I write about my friends whom I liked in my first blog.. well honestly to me an MBA means collaborating and working with some great people ... that was the highlight as far as my last job was concerned .. and that is what makes my day worth it in this MBA program... I think it is important to work with people who are better than you... they provide you with the benchmark you need to reach and constantly remind you that your good may not be good enough...

Thanks P, U, S and so many others ... the fee I paid is worth it because of guys like you .....