Of farewells and future

I observe that many farewells for me lately have been abrupt and sudden. I am already physically or mentally withdrawn from the place and situation by the time I am in a position to take cognisance of what I am leaving behind. It feels as if I subconsciously withdraw myself from a proper chance to pause and say my goodbyes to my heart’s content.

But then, when have goodbyes seemed enough and left you satisfied about leaving? In hindsight I am mildly relieved that I choose to leave hurriedly before reality smacks me on my face. That feels easier to deal with than the big emotional wreck I turn into, clinging on to the last shred of hope that it is not all over.

Today it has been two months since the course ended. I landed back to London from my internship in India two days before the end of course ceremony, and missed the Capstone entirely. My parents flew over too and I was glad to have them and my brother with me for the farewell. This has been a very special journey and it would’ve felt incomplete without my family by my side at the ceremony, for their constant support and unconditional faith in me shape the person that I am today.

The rigour of Oxford MBA, packed in a year of wanting to do more things than one has the capacity for, leaves with little time to sit back and reflect. For me, to now look back to the year that was, it feels like a time warp. We were transported in a safe cocoon, challenging our beliefs and ideas each day, learning to become better versions of ourselves, in a place more than thousand years old where countless faces came and went, each carving their own journey. The year feels as fresh as yesterday, but at the same time seems like a distant memory now.

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Farewell dinner, Oxford MBA 2015-16

 

So what next? Back to the real world, most of us are regularly asking and are being asked this question. While many peers have gone ahead to pursue their post-MBA goals, returned to their previous jobs, gone back to their home country, others have chosen to stay back in London and make their next move. With changing political and economic scenario in many countries, falling GBP, Brexit (and now USA elections), there is obviously a sense of uncertainty around in the batch that no one has definite solution to. The new batch has commenced their program <sniff> and are eager to know where we all land, prospective applicants have been approaching asking to share our experience. I hope to write more on that in future, and be more regular with updating this blog (now that being busy with academic rigour can no longer be blamed!).

For now, I have moved to my brother’s place in London and working on my ‘what next’ from here. I am evaluating the tradeoffs between finding the perfect role for myself and following my original plan of returning to India after MBA. Expect to read more on the employment scene in the coming weeks, and also on a few most commonly asked queries by applicants. So long!

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Back to the real life

I barely remember taking decent rest in the last 60 hours. It’s been relentless with submissions, birthday celebration, exams, vacating the flat, meeting people before leaving and of course the GTC ball – well all had to be accommodated and were non negotiable. 

Hopped on to the flight to Mumbai and finally managed to grab some sleep, interspersed with a couple of movies that were too tempting to resist catching up on! 

After a day at Mumbai for induction with 11 other interns from International B schools, I am now I’m Bangalore (what are the odds that I’ll be back to the same city!) to join Aditya Birla’s e commerce firm which was launched 10 months back. 


I’m excited and looking forward to the next two months of internship. However right now I’m still jet lagged and sleepy before a severe bout of Oxford withdrawal strikes me. 

Sigh. 

Hello, real life. 

Pause. Breathe. Resume.

6 weeks down Hilary and I am convinced why they call it Hell-ary. The term is a constant assault on the senses. As I write this post, my planner stares at me with reminders of  9 assignments that turn in the next four weeks. No longer can I use stunts from my undergrad days where I dunk in copious amount of caffeine a night before the deadline to pull an all nighter and manage to turn in my submissions on time.

We got our marks for three core courses from Michaelmas, including the GOTO module. Pleased to find out that I managed a distinction in two. Unless you’re someone who’s rigorously aiming for the Dean’s list, a reasonable amount of effort and preparation will ensure a decent performance in the subjects. Oxford average is around 62, and while reaching the distinction mark of 70 needs extra hard work, 50 or less means below the passing threshold. Keeping consistent with the course work and submissions is good enough to keep one afloat. One classmate put it brilliantly for me over dinner, this program is like a treadmill – you need to keep up with the pace else it doesn’t take much to fall off the grid.

The course is intense, the and there are just so many interesting events and activities happening all the time in the school and outside, that it is impossible not to fret on what you’re missing out on at any given moment. It is easy to slip into the abyss of being at a place and wanting to be at 5 other places that you’d rather be. FOMO is a real thing.

I often find myself in situations where it gets overwhelming for me to prioritise my tasks and plan my schedule. I have begun to relentlessly use a pocket dairy for jotting down every single thing that I need to do and calendar to block time for any activity that I know is happening around me. Going back to them every now and then helps me plan my day ahead and also reflect on what all I have done.

All said and done, it is essential to keep reminding oneself that there is much more to this one year at the city of dreaming spires than worrying about exams and assignments and jobs and unending social events. When the stress seems to be piling up and you see yourself slowly yielding to the pressure, pause and focus on the moment you are in and not the ones you’re missing. Realise that you cannot do everything and every one around you is scrambling through the same , if you look beyond their apparent comfortably floating selves.

I make it a point to take one hour out every Sunday for my yoga sessions, where I am able to switch off from all the chaos around me and declutter my head. It helps me to bring my focus back to the moment I am in and concentrate on breath, which is a liberating feeling.

Find that one activity, whatever it may be, that helps you to pause breathe and recharge before you get back for the next lecture….or assignment…..or a bop!

 

Matriculation and Week 1.

Time is running at a lightening speed here. I now realize that when seniors said the year will go by really fast, they meant it quite literally. Each day is packed with a bagful of activities, all of which need to be fitted around the seven hours of classroom lectures. And the classes have only just begun!

340 of us from 2015-16 batch, with 31% female representation, come from 54 different nationalities. This diversity makes up for a very enriching experience in the class and I am enjoying getting to know others from up close. Last week we were divided into 4 sections, and I’m in section B which I must mention is an extremely dynamic and energectic bunch. Each section is further broken down into study groups of 5 students each. My study group has (apart from ofcourse me, a Techie from India), a Financial Analyst from Michigan US, a Copywriter from Canada, a Finance major from Kenya and an entrepreneur from Australia. That’s quite an impressive mix, and I think I am youngest in the group.

Apart from Technology and Operations which is for 1.5 hours, other lectures (Analytics, Strategy, Business Finance, Leadership) are 3.5 hours long with a 30 min break in between. This Week (MT W1*), we also had GOTO Design Thinking workshop where we outlined and discussed the water scarcity problem, which is the GOTO topic for us this year (read more about it here). I gather that Dean Tufano is quite passionate about GOTO and the aim for including this as a subject in the term is to get us thinking about adressing large scale problems concerning us globally.  I’ll confess that getting back to the classroom rigor after years is not an easy feat, I am absolutely relying on the coffee to make it through (bless them for giving 10 free drinks per week!).

The high point for the week for me was ofcourse the Matriculation ceremony yesterday. Matriculation refers to the ceremony which marks the formal induction to the University records. This is in contrast to India where the term loosely refers to completion of High School! It also got a bit funny after all the pictures from the ceremony put up on Facebook, where my friends back home confused it with graduation (“but you just went there, how come you’re wearing the graduation cap already?“).

Going by the ancient Oxford tradition, we are required to wear the academic dress for all our exams and other academic ceremonies. The attire is called the ‘sub-fusc’ – dark suit, white blouse, black skirt/ trousers, mortar board/ cap, black ribbon / bow tie, black socks and shoes – alongwith the graduate gown which is longer than the undergrad (commoner gown). By rule we are not supposed to wear our mortar boards on our heads until we have ‘earned the right’ to do so upon graduation.


 The matriculation ceremony in itself was no more than a 15 minute affair at the Sheldonian Theatre, where we were led to by Dr Gerald Myatt (the Dean of Degrees) from our college campus (Matriculation takes place with your college, not the entire MBA batch) after group and individual photographs. Till now we were affiliated to our colleges, by matriculating we became part of the University of Oxford. This goes back to the medieval tradition where Matriculation was an examination conducted for students to prove their worthiness for admission to the University. Those formally inducted had their details recorded in a register, which also tracked their progress over their courses. Over the years, once the colleges and departments began to conduct their own admission process and with external assessments, the examination was done away with but the Matriculation remained the formal University ceremony. It is mighty impressive to see a University so soaked in history and equally humbling to be a part of the same.

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My view of the Sheldonian

I found a video from 2012’s matriculation ceremony, which will give you an idea of what the ceremony is like.

What made this cermeony the most memorable and special for me is that my parents were around too, although they weren’t permitted to see the ceremony from the inside. And that my big brother also matriculated from Kellogg the same day (he studies masters in Computer Science)!. I couldn’t have been happier 🙂

ps: *MT W1 – Michaelmas Term Week 1.

Michaelmas, Hillary and Trinity terms here are more commonly reffered to as MT, HT and TT in Oxford lexicon.

Launched, and ready to go.

Today was the last day of our three-week Launch, that ended on a high note with a drinks and dance reception. The class decided to shift the party outside of the school, while I excused myself to some quiet time in my room. As I reflect on the three weeks gone, my mind is getting overwhelmed trying to register all that I have experienced so far – met 350 future friends from 54 countries on the first day; interacted with an Olympic silver medalist (Said alumni); spent an evening with Dinosaurs; attended live Oxford Union debate (bucketlist item checked off); mastered an African hymn (also shamelessly sang the same outside the Oxford Union at midnight yesterday!); discussed the complexity of Brazilian indirect taxes with a stranger over dinner; pitched a business idea to the American Ambassador to UK; learnt punting from a high school student at Oxford; pondered over how a group of business students can help make a significant social impact– and many more.

My motivation behind joining an MBA program was much beyond the academics and recruitment. The idea was to spend a year on introspection and self-development, to push my boundaries to learn something new each day and to get a broader perspective of life. Three weeks of the Launch, apart from acclimatising us to the course, staff and the place also taught us to introspect and reflect. A few activities during the Launch made us sit back and think about why we do what we do, why are we here and what we hope to achieve. These are questions my mind often wonders about, or rather, wanders around. It would be unfair to say that I have found my answers already (as a classmate rightly joked about at the end of one such session “I find it hard to talk to myself!”), but I did find the sessions extremely useful in identifying and understanding various aspects of my personality to be able to leverage my strengths and work on my weaknesses going forward. 

Dean Tufano in his keynote on the first day mentioned that joining Oxford was a choice we made for ourselves. But I also strongly relate to what Dr. Kurt April pointed out to us during discussion on Leading from own Diverse Narrative – that it is a privilege to be here among the brightest and most talented minds from all across the world. Coming from a developing economy with an experience level below average in the class, I find it intellectually exciting to look through the narratives of others from the other end of the telescope that I have been accustomed to. What strikes me the most about my batch is, regardless of the personal accomplishments, the humility and enthusiasm with which each one of them comes with to learn and collaborate. The diversity in my class is incredible – teachers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, ex-servicemen, models, economists, journalist – which will make for a truly enriching experience. 

Before coming to Oxford, there was just one thing every body I spoke to from the school had to say to me, which is that time runs at lightening speed here and before you know it is over. It has been three weeks since I came here, which in hindsight would mean that roughly about 6% of my MBA is over. That really does hit hard, doesn’t it?

If the Launch is any bit an indication of how the coming year is going to shape up, I am excited to be here.

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Lets do this!

The day for which countdown begun 290 days back (literally), is now hardly 11 hours away! I’m going to take a moment to let that sink in.

I moved in to my accommodation at Rewley Abbey Court last night and my flatmate and I are happy with the location of my flat. The view from our bedrooms is of the magnificent school campus, and on the other side our living room makes for a nice hangout place with the Castle Mill stream flowing by. It feels good to have a nice cozy place to come back to at the end of the day.

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I took some time out from my unpacking to meet a few batchmates and also grab a quick dinner with some of them at a joint closeby. From the looks of it, I have a fantastic batch with a great mix of people, almost everyone I met so far has been warm and welcoming. It was great to finally have faces to all the names I had been interacting with over social media in the past.I was quickly filled in with stories of the previous evening’s invasion of the the Turf Tavern by the batchmates (a rite of passage for the incoming MBA class, I gather). This evening I also got a chance to attend the introductory session on the Oxford Women Leadership (OWL) community by the outgoing chairpersons and a co-founding alumna. The room was abuzz with women (and a decent representation from the men as well) from diverse backgrounds. There is so much to learn from each person and her story –  one thing I am incredibly proud of for being in an international cohort.

I went for dinner to Jericho Tavern with an alumnus who also happens to be a senior from my undergrad college. It was interesting to hear about his experience of the program and the university as a whole. One thing that I strongly agreed with him was on making a conscious effort to explore the university and get involved with activities outside of the business school that interest me.

While walking back towards my accommodation, I was mentioning to him about how awed I am of the place and intend to make the most of the time that I have here. He patiently heard me out and what he said to me in the end left me thinking about it for long. He told me – exactly in a year from today, you will look back and realise how it would seem like it was only yesterday that it all began, yet you will find a completely different person in you.

If the first day is any indication of the times to come, I can assuredly say that this is going to be a phenominal year. Said Business School, Class of 2016 – let’s do this!

Winding up at work.

I have less than 50 days left in the city before I wind up for my hometown. Last week I let the management at my office know of my Oxford admit and my decision to put in my resignation. It was harder than I was expecting, but the response I received from most of my seniors was very endearing. My Product Owner told me that they were anticipating such an announcement from me soon enough, but were hoping to find some means to retain me in the organisation. However, since they knew Oxford was my dream school, they were delighted to know that I made it and were supportive of my decision. 

Regardless, putting in my first ever resignation at my first ever job felt like a bit of a heartbreak. I have enjoyed my time here and shared a brilliant comaraderie with my peers and management. And I’m glad I will be leaving not on the note that I was desperate for an escape route, but that I have an opportunity I cannot afford to miss.  

We discussed my career plans and post-MBA interests. We also explored the possibility of me coming back to the organisation after the course ends, constraints being that the role is in accordance with the skills that I pick up over the year and of course that my loan repayment is managed comfortably. Unfortunately, there is no HR policy at my organisation for sponsoring my MBA unless I did it from one of the affiliated colleges in India after spending more than 5 years here. Great to know still that I can always return, an option definitely worth giving a thought over. 

I serve notice period of two months, during which I will help transition all the work I was responsible for, document critical information so it doesn’t get lost with my exit, and also help find a suitable replacement. It’s a bittersweet feeling in the team, after having spent close to 4 years with them. If only I could be at Oxford and YET hold on to the products and releases I’ve worked on, that now seem to be like my babies, which I do not have the heart to abandon! 

But the heart’s got to do what it’s got to do!