Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Yesterday, one of my team member (supervisor), left the organizanation. She has been having problems at home since close to 2 months, and has come close to leaving more than once. Her's is a situation not unlike that of other supervisors. She's educated and a small town girl. Came to the city post marriage. She had never worked before joining this organization and had never ventured too far away from her home, alone. She joined the organization about a year back, as her posting then was close to her house and the hours were flexible. Since past 7 months she has been part of my team. She started complaining about lack of support from her parents-in-law (lives in a joint family) Her husband did not acknowledge or appreciate her work, her development, both professionally and personally. Though he did not seem to be against her working, per se, but for him, her job was a secondary thing. Something she did to please herself and of no consequence to him. However, when the work started getting demanding and her responsibilities started growing, he began urging her to leave the job. He made it clear that her responsibilities were towards her kids (she has 2 lovely daughters) and her family (read in-laws) Her in-laws did not make things any easier - according to her, they were completely non-cooperative and would complain about her lack of attention to housework and family life, to her husband. She has been trying to balance both part of her life (family and work) and do equal justice to both - but things finally got too much for her. The non-profit I work with is into education - but we believe that for us, education is a tool to cause larger social change. Empowerement of our own team is at the foundation of our efforts. Our team comes from a socio-economic context, that faces resistance and challenges at home and from the society to the changes they are trying to bring.. As they work towards changing the education scenario of the country, they are fighting a resistance to a different kind of change from their own families. A valuable lesson - To bring about a significant social change outside of you, it is imperative that somewhere along the way you see/bring a change in yourself. If you aspire to bring about a change in the status quo, it will necessarily entail a redefinition of aspirations, goals, sucess and expecatations, at a personal level. This, I believe, is one of the hardest part of being here. And one of the greatest learning... The leaving of my team member, might be ok in isolation - at the end of the day it is her decision. Howeve, precisely because it is not her decision out of volition but one that has been forced upon her, by the traditional structure of our society and one "we" tend to forget in the talks of the modern woman and the strides made by women of today... Kudos to her, for fighting it out hard and not giving up.. yet
Posted at 10:38 pm by mbagirl
Monday, October 11, 2004
Core Competency for non profits?
Came across this
article on non-profit management on the HBS Working Knowledge site. It has some interesting points made out by Jeff Bradach, founder of Bridgespan
(a non profit strategy consulting firm) The first is the well-known challenge for non-profits - impact analysis and measurement of the social value that these organizations create. This is increasingly important as the competition for funds grows, donor expectation increases and the accountability demanded from both, profit and non-profit organizations, sees a new high. The second point made, is the criticality of translating the often lofty mission of the organization, into a series of implementable goals and even more detailed action points. Bradach then breaks this into a series of questions that a nonprofit can ask itself, to get to the above points. Bradach goes on to make an interesting point regarding the need of non profits to identify and understand the cause-effect relationships working in its intended area of impact/change. This is critical, because whatever issue the nonprofit is working towards, in most cases, cannot be looked at, analyzed or solved in isolation. I believe that any social issue, whether its poverty, education, corruption, empowerement, child rights or women rights (to name a few) are going to be deeply interlinked and finding solutions to one, often necessitates having to work/collaborate in an area with the strongest interdependencies. To take an example - the nonprofit I work with; our mission is to have every child in the country enrolled in school and getting the best quality education. When I am interacting with our stakeholders (people from the slums that we work in and whose children are part of our programs) I come across families where the girls dont attend our reading classes regularly, cause they got to work at home or baby sit their little brothers and sisters. Here I have to acknowledge the social context which leads to certain situations. I have to figure out a way of how we will counsel, talk, convince the girls' mothers to let them come to class. Are we digressing from education? Another live example: We work in communities which are very communally sensitive and kids are being brought up and living in such an environment. Can we continue to ignore this facet of the community and if so for how long? So, do I get into working towards making the community communally neutral? But then am I into education or going into non-core areas like communal harmony, which has scores of organizations dedicated to the cause? There are tons of other such instances which work to showcase the interdependencies between education-gender equality, education-communal harmony, education-caste system, etc. Making a comparison to businesses, which talk about "core-competencies", how should this be interpreted for nonprofits and does the general stand/understanding have to be modified to take into consideration the unique context of the non profits?
Posted at 08:13 pm by mbagirl
Sunday, October 10, 2004
Came across this excellent read on "what is courage" from poweryogi's blog. Leadership thinkers from across the world were asked questions on different aspects of courage. Snippets of what these great thinkers had to say...
- Courage comes from the heart and the gut - taking a decision from your heart which says "yes", when logic seems to say "no", is a way of making a brave decision.
- Courage is a strong emotional committment to ideas - these would vary from principles to values to vision. "Courage of conviction" possibly stands for people who espouse an idea not because the idea is logically correct/good but because they are deeply committed to the idea.
- "Safe Risk" is an oxymoron. Courage necessarily involves risk
- If we don't think leadership is our job, if no one desperately wants leadership from us, and if society in general isn't beating on us about that, then what happens? We don't do much, leadership is not supported, and surprise, surprise, we don't develop much as leaders.
- Prepare for difficult times in the future by doing an "after action review" - both personally and professionally. Sit down at the end of th week and meditate about the decisions made, how they were made, what could have been done differently and what are the lessons.
- Put yourself in situations that are outside your comfort zone and learn to think and perform consistently in such conditions.
- Stress and courage have a parabolic relationship where performance increases with increase in stress until a "panic point" is reached. Beyond that level of stress, the performance starts going down. The challenge for a leader is to keep every member in the team hovering just below the panic point and at the optimum level of stress and performance.
- Courage is a function of feeling part of a social fabric, of a network that is working collectively to achieve something that has never been achieved or done before. Leaders have to articulate these goals and express the behaviour through a symbolic conduct to get people to follow. Getting people to march behind your ideas- thats courage.
- Calculous of courage is to understand what the potential network of support for the idea/decision is
- Create psychological safety for people to speak their minds, reward it and ingrain it in the culture..
- Courage is capacity to wait until you have learned all there is to learn and then take action. You will never be sure of the results until you do it.
This got me thinking on what courage means to me.. I couldnt come up with a precise definition, so I started thinking of people or situations that personfiy courage for me. The first example to strike instantly was the Indian freedom movement - Mahatma Gandhi. He was courageous because he dared to dream big and had a complete belief in his dream. He lived his dream and inspired millions others to share his dream and make it their own. An entire nation shared one dream - that is courage. On a different note, would Hitler/Stalin be called courageous? Is courage necessarily linked to the values/outcomes and its consequences - good or bad as judged by social values? Food for thought ...
So the above got me thinking whether courage one of the traits/ideals that schools look for in applicants. One quality all schools do want in their applicants is leadership - both, demonstrated and the potential for it. And courage is an intrinsic part of being a leader. So a leadership essay would do good to have incidents where courage of conviction was demonstrated.. Hmmm...
Posted at 09:38 am by mbagirl
Thursday, October 07, 2004
Hallelujah! I can see my updated blog entries on the main page... Since the last post, I downloaded opera to find out whether the problem was with my isp or with the browser...the culprit was found to be the isp ..seeing the site in opera did not make any difference. Today I open the blog page and voila! qu'est-ce que je vue? The blog is nicely updated - on both opera and IE. Not sure how it happened, but would be great if someone could hazard a guess or two?
The app front has not seen much/any progress. I had ordered the bible for applying - How to get into top mba programs by richard montauk and Admission Edge by Matt Symonds from amazon.. Both books arrived couple of days back and I have been browsing through both of them.. The good part, both seem to complement each other with different aspects of the same focus area covered from different perspectives.. The Admission Edge seems to be a great resource for researching schools, especially with its focus on the 10 odd schools while Richard Montauk's book covers all the aspects of applying, without focus on any one particular school. Going through these books has however, made me realize, not for the first time, how ill-equipped and under-prepared I am at this late stage in the admission stage.. For a serious applicant, I feel that certain topics of the book, like how to research schools, what to look for when researching schools, etc. should be read about 5/6 months before the apping season truly begins.. Anyways, couple of interesting take aways from the books:
For researching schools, a 3 step process can be followed:
- Isolate the qualities that are sought by a school
- Now, define each of these qualities in greater detail for each school
- Finally, rank each of these qualities(with the definition) on relative importance for each school
Step 2 is particularly interesting. The point made is, that each schools espouses, more or less, similar qualities that it looks for in prospective applicants, e.g. Leadership, Team work, Ethics, Analytical Skills, Diversity, Internationalism, etc. So how does one customize essays, when the qualities looked for are the same? The answer could be that, the attributes which define this particular quality would be unique for each school. So getting at this unique defintion of the ubiquitious "qualities" is what would seperate a "generic" essay from a "customized, fit" essay.
Going further from the above, once 3 key qualities are identified (for each school), their definitions (unique to each school) found and the qualities ranked in order of importance - the next step is to map experiences to these qualities. Sifting through a laundry list of experiences, the key is to come up with the experience which best encompasses the definition of the quality that is being projected.
An interesting point made regarding expressing of a particular quality, was to do it in a 3-step process (yeah the book is not endorsed by Mckinsey for no reason!)
- Define the context of your experience (this is key to communicate the difficult/or otherwise unique factors or environment in which you achieved something which makes it worth mentioning
- What was done? This could be a one liner, stating concisely your role
- How did you do it? This would list in some detail what key steps you took to achieve what you stated above and the process you followed
- Results - Here, list both hard and soft indicators - numbers (e.g. 50% increase in sales) and intangibles (e.g. pesonal letter written by X to appreciate the success
Good food for thought ... BW rankings are out tonite, its going to be an ungodly hour here, so will wait until tomorrow morning to catch the latest.. BW forum has been ripe with speculation on the rankings, with the shots ranging from the utterly unbelievable to the utterly precitable ones. Any guesses?
Posted at 09:31 pm by mbagirl
Saturday, October 02, 2004
Opened the blog page and was greeted by a sense of deja vu.. main page not updated but when I click on the permalink link, I see the udpates. Whats wierd is that the same thing happens when I try and view other blogs... I got to click on archives to read the updated entries. Is it my ISP or explorer is something I am trying to work out with a friend. The plan is to download opera and see whos the culprit, browser or isp.. will update soon.
Posted at 08:40 pm by mbagirl
Thursday, September 30, 2004
Wharton Net Impact Handbook
Came across www.whartonnetimpact.org/career/handbook.html
on BW Forum. Its an excellent resource on possible job opportunities in the field of social enterprise for MBA grads - from NGO's and International Development to CSR and Non-Profit Consulting. It also lists the various positions/functions under each broad area and expected salary range. Finally, there are links for job search guidelines in these areas. Kudos to wharton for coming up with this doc!
Posted at 10:47 am by mbagirl
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
From blogspot to blogdrive - Whats in a name?
Some explanation is in order.. I came across the world of blogging exactly an year back. At the time, I was in the process of considering an MBA and scouting for experiences, tips, info about the application process, b schools, etc. on the web. A google search, somehow, resulted in Tad Holbie's
blog and that was my first brush with the "weblog". Its an amazingly detail-oriented blog about the mba application process and a useful resource for prospective applicants. Tad's blog was the starting point and since then I have visited quite a few blogs and have a set of blog sites I frequent during the week - special shout out to futurembagirl
(your's was one blog I followed regularly starting this time last year), poweryogi
and mark and jie
. I started my blog on the blogger.com site and since the beginning have had problems with pages not getting updated (or atleast I dont see updated blog entries), dont see links added, comments not coming in, etc. A friend and I spent quite some time breaking our heads over it yday (he more than I as he was the expert) but no luck. So yday I finally laid to rest my earlier blog at blogspot.com and decided to try another blog service. After some searching on google and trying out a few sites, finally zeroed in on blogdrive.com. No blogger trouble, as yet (but these are early days - so fingers crossed) For starting, I copied the two earlier entries from the last blog and pasted it here. So thats the weblogstory.
Posted at 10:09 am by mbagirl
Slow progress on apps and Harvard Chat
Been a while since the last post and thanks to some pushing by a friend, am back and blogging. Got some blogger trouble - pages not getting updated with comments, can't put in links, etc... (grrr..) Hope to rope in a few techie friends and get it sorted out. Apping process has seen very little progress in the last 10 days, to the point that I question myself as to whether I am serious about applying this year or not. What I have got done since the last blog is mail schools about TOEFL waiver (banking on my postgrad studies in the US). And voila, except the Kennedy School of Government, have got waivers from Harvard, Michigan, LBS, Haas and Fuqua. Still to hear from Insead. So unless I app to KSG, I can safely cross my fingers that am done with standardized tests for the moment. I also spoke to my boss-of-sorts (being a non-profit we dont have a strictly hierarchical structure and the org is more flat than hierarchical) about my mba plans. I had already spoken to him about it earlier but was to concretize it post gmat. Was a good chat and am glad of his support. He's an alum from a top 10 Bschool and am looking forward to getting a good, value adding recco from him. We also spoke about a change in profile and responsibilities for me within the next two months and I have a couple of options to decide from. One of the roles is a program development one- to conceptualize, pilot, implement and scale a new program across the state. Would be a good conceptualizing exercise, I get to play around with how I want to go about it and the program has the potential to make a substantial impact on how quickly we reach our proposed goals. This is also more program-centric with a lot more social process involvement and hence the more challenging of the two. The second role is another role in concetpualizing a new program - but this one's already got a couple of people on the team.. This project is not yet on the implementation phase and again Id be involved in conceptualizing the program, reading through a lot of documents, etc. So got to make my decision in the coming month and its going to be a tough choice.
Bit of a dope from the Harvard chat at BW forum:
- Last year, 7,139 applications were received and this year the same number is expected
- from the last batch, 10 students were fresh out of undergrad, 11% (=100 students) of class entered from the non-profit sector
- The Early Career Initiative by HBS encourages applications from y0unger applicants - last year, HBS received 200 applications from fresh graduates
- Regarding essays, use them to convey goals, passions, intersts, experience and an overall sense of who you are. Take your time to understand the question
- Focus on conveying who you are, where you have been and where do you want to go
- For younger applicants, why mba now in the development cycle and where do you go now with this training are two important questions.
- school wants to know what the student has done with the opportunities she/he has got - academically, professionally and extra-curicularly
- Stick to word limits in essays. if you need to provide further info, use the additional info section of the application
- 3 recos - one from direct supervisor and 2 from a professional context
- 34% (=300 students) class is female.
- Womens Student Assocation doing good work in encouraging more women to apply and providing support to them
- 65,000 strong alumni network with 20k outside the US
Signing off now. Got an early start tomorrow. Until next time!
Posted at 09:21 am by mbagirl
Late entrant into the MBA Game
Finally finally am starting this blog. Restarting would a better word I guess. I have started it n number of times, racked my brains on choosing an apt title, on a few occassions written the first post too ... well that was the sorry end to most of my efforts.Something about what this blog is going to be about ... I am looking to apply to b schools this year. I have been in the due dilligence stage for over a year now and hopefully this year will be it.. I am an engineer by qualification and currently into the non-profit profession, a little by design and a little by default. I have little over 1.5 years of work experience and that puts me in the below average category as far as work experience is considered, for most b schools. But, as they say, you app when you are ready and so here I am. I took my GMAT couple of days back and scored 710. Am disappointed and considering whether to retake it. The general feedback has been not to retake it but concentrate on essays and the rest of the application. While I do agree that essays are one of the most critical components of your application - with my fewer years of work experience, a higher GMAT score, all other things being equal, would complement my essays better. Do I have the time to retake it, score better, work AND not compromise on the rest of the application? - I dont know yet. Something I have to figure out soon. I am still deciding on schools and thats on the top of my to-do list.
So, this blog is going to be my haven for the next 6 months - which promises to be definitive and action packed.
Posted at 09:18 am by mbagirl