The ANALyst

Leverage, optimise, synergise

Happy Holidays

Apologies ladies and gentlemen for my unexplained absence. I have been battling various illnesses over the past week…well more the perception of illness rather than actual illness. Don’t ask what or why, it’s one of those stretches of insanity where you are convinced something is wrong even if it isn’t. And it wasn’t. What I ended up with was one very anxious week with many many visits to the doctors and a complete understanding of private healthcare in the Emerging Economy (let’s assume government healthcare does not exist).

Anyway, I am on leave from my employers for the next two weeks while I take the time off to check out the party places in the EE over the festive season. The people of the EE have got it completely right in one aspect. They have dedicated a state – yes a whole state with its large coastline- to just partying! That’s where I intend to be. I will travel to the financial capital first, where I shall rendezvous with the family (who have been kind enough to visit me at the EE) and then shall travel to partyland!

For the readers from EE, please do recommend things not to be missed in Party State, apart from boozing and chilling on the beach.

Wish you all a Merry Xmas and Happy New Year if I don’t blog before then.


December 20, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Do you belong here?

The situation described by Considering Consulting in this blog reminded me of a very similar situation faced by a close friend recently. So this friend F (who shall remain unnamed), applied to Toilette Consluting in the not too distant past. F is in the process of acquiring an advanced degree from one of the top 5 universities in the New World with grades and extra-curricular activities that are the envy of any potential consulting applicant (including the proverbial “helping poor kids in sub-Saharan Africa”). Given her impressive CV, she was granted an interview. As with most consulting companies, interviews consist of case studies, group activities and the personal/fit interviews.

Given her intellect and analytical abilities, she breezed through the case studies. Her charm and poise carried her through the first couple of rounds of personality interviews. She, then, got the call for the final partner interview. Although it differs between firms, if you make it to the partner interview,  you have more chance of getting an offer than not. As mentioned in one of my previous blogs, partner interview is more of a seal of approval from the person paying your salary than a test of ability. In fact, I even congratulated F and assured her that a final partner interview would ultimately result in an offer.

Only, it didn’t! The partner deemed her overqualified to receive a business analyst offer. In fact, the partner mentioned to her that while she was analytically and intellectually amongst the best they had interviewed this year, the nature of her academic work seemed to suggest that she would be unhappy in a consulting type of role.

Now, I am not suggesting that the partner was completely wrong. In fact she might be a hundred percent correct. F also told me later that she is happier immersed in the world of academia than corporate life. Yet, is it fair to make such a decision on one question, that probably lasted all of thirty seconds? When the person is intellectually and analytically perfect, along with grace and poise, is it not worthy of an offer in consulting? Do they not deserve the right to judge whether it is fit  for them or not after they have been given a chance? 30 – 40% of any batch recruited from campuses do not make it past the second year in the firm they were hired. This means that in spite of all the fit questions, interviewers, including partners, make mistakes. Why then not allow capable people the benefit of doubt?

I close this post by making an observation – Rajat Gupta, the former Managing Director of McKinsey from early ’90s to 2003, was initially rejected by McKinsey after his campus interview at HBS until his professors intervened on his behalf.

December 4, 2009 Posted by | Consulting, Interviewing | 2 Comments

The Strange Ways of the Emerging Economy

Every country, every region, every culture in the world is different and to be able to survive and thrive in a globalized economy one has to be able to adapt to and learn the best aspects of these differences in a nimble manner.

I think the above line sums up my learnings from the Emerging Economy so far. Leading a team in the EE has proven to be very different to leading one in my former habitat. What struck me as very odd was a lack of punctuality, a lack of general professionalism towards colleagues and work, an unwillingness to question authority and general chaos. Surely, that can’t be all there is to it. You do not become one of the world’s fastest growing economies by having attributes like the ones mentioned above. What then, is the truth? Is there something I did not see at first? Does something lie beneath?

‘The truth’ is something that I am still discovering. What I have learnt is that yes there is chaos, and a lot of it, but beneath the chaos, the system somehow just works. Let me explain with a typical general example:

Deadline for Project ABC is say 10th of December and the estimated effort altogether is 400 hours over 2 months. If you were to check the status of the progress of the project on the 1st of December, you would be shocked to see that the project is not even 20% complete. When questioned, the team members will give you an ‘it will get done, why on earth are you worried’ kind of look. There is absolutely no sense of urgency whatsoever. Schedule a meeting and I can guarantee, 20% of the team members will not turn up with no explanation given and the rest will be late.

Fast forward to December 8th – the situation now is completely different. The entire team is present, usually closed up in a meeting room with expressions on their faces that you could easily mistake it for a war strategy planning room. The work will continue nonstop until the last minute and 59th second before the deadline. And guess what, by 0 hours and 0 seconds, it will be complete. How? It is something that needs to be seen to be understood. What if unexpected events or challenges turn up? They do, and the methods, innovations and ‘work arounds’ used by the team members to resolve them can only be described in one word – brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!!!

Despite all the chaos, despite the lackadaisical attitude, everything just works. And the quality of the final result is at par with any I have seen anywhere in the world. The innovation used to complete 400 hours worth of work in 48 – unparalleled. The entropy extends far beyond the workplace to every aspect of life in the Emerging Economy – roads are completely broken, road discipline is not followed, yet the traffic flows; police is corrupt, yet crimes are largely contained; facilities and staff at educational institutions are woefully inadequate, yet the Emerging Economy produces the most number of engineers in the world each year; there is no infrastructure, yet the world’s largest (and smallest) corporations are setting up shop here; the cost of labour has increased manifold since outsourcing began, yet the companies haven’t left; the government is pathetic and spineless, yet the country strives forward; there are people living on a dollar a day, yet they have a smile on their faces.

This country fascinates and intrigues me everyday. I have never seen anything like it before. It can be frustrating, annoying, painful, stuffy, chaotic yet it is beautiful and mystical. I would never recommend the Emerging Economy’s style of work anywhere else in the world – it just wouldn’t work. Yet, when I see it here it is amazing. This is what makes the Emerging Economy truly unique.

It is the differences, not just the similarities, that we see in each other that make life beautiful. It is important for us to accept, learn and understand these differences in order to create harmony.

December 2, 2009 Posted by | Emerging Economy, General Rambling, Life | 3 Comments