Vele discusses investing in Macedonia, technology, digital photography, business and international affairs

Day: December 15, 2004

Fall semester finals are almost over

I have 2 finals to go before this Fall semester is over. I had my best classes so far, including strategic implementation, marketing strategy, marketing research, problem solving and design, and new product management. The final case for strategic implementation was due today and our team of 4 did what I’d call an excellent job and submited the case yesterday. This was an outstanding class taught by Prof. Zbaracki, formerly of the University of Chicago. I highly recommend it to any 2nd years or even first years. Hugely important to understand what it takes to be an entrepreneur in an organization or politics and implement a strategy. This is essentially where typical consulting job ends and implementation of your ideas begins.

It is interesting how you can actually do a group project very well and write an excellent paper with 4 people. I used to think this was about your group, but the OPIM class by Prof. Ulrich taught me that this is more about how you structure and break up the problem and the tasks. Writing a good paper require thinking a lot about your ideas, hashing out a plan and then writing and revising a clear argument on paper. The writing depends on the discussion and the argument for the paper and can’t be broken up among participants. Everyone has to be on the same page and with the same ideas before you write your first draft. It is where hand waving, generating ideas and OneNote become very useful. I’ll talk about OneNote in another post, but all I can say is, I haven’t writen a single page of paper this semester. It’s all in OneNote.

It is very typical at Wharton, especially in 1st year classes to meet once or twice and break up a project. Usually, most everyone has a different idea of where you are going. Some even end up shirking their responsibility or not doing much because they are waiting on other to finish. This is very inefficient. However, once you hash out all your ideas, you can easily substitute people within the writing structure. It’s like painting a room: if someone leaves, just hand a brush and paint to the next person to finish the part, but you still need to decide which color you’ll use to paint the room. I know it sounds common sensical, but it’s amazing how often it’s ignored especially at Wharton.

Marketing strategy was another fun class. Prof. Christophe taught an excellent semester. His case selection was very good and the structure of the classes enjoyable. He did go into some very quantitative classes where we had to create market response models using exponential or Adbudg functions to determine sales given spending on advertizing, promotion or other marketing mixes. It was all a piece of cake for me and my team, small thanks to my 7 years as a expert “quant” at Citigroup. However, and this was truly important, Prof. Christophe didn’t dwell too much on the quant work but always highlighted the managerial implications of the modeling exercises. My biggest takeaway from quant modeling has always been to know where it breaks down, not how good it is. Knowing your boundaries can help you in your modeling to avoid becoming an LTCM. While it may have been a turn-off for some, I’d say this class got as close as possible to Technology Marketing as you can get at Wharton. The cases weren’t always about Tech, but we did discuss Lotus, Siebel, Documentum, and Xerox, while cases on Viagra, Telstra/Optus and Schwab had very Tech-heavy implications which coupled with the Tech interest and background from some of the students, myself included, made for a very useful class and after-class discussions. Considering this class went for about 150 pts I’d say this was a total bargain. There’s definitely a herd mentality at Wharton when it comes to bidding on classes and great classes are often available for close to nothing. This fall, I paid less than 1000 pts for all my classes.

Newly processed photos

It’s amazing how long it can take for me to finalize a photo that I have take long time ago and turn it into an image. I finally added a half-dozen photos to my Various… gallery on my website. I’ve been tinkering with these photos for ages. Some were ready long time ago and are sitting printed in my albums, just I never bothered to posted them. The photo of the water taxi in Elliot Bay, Seattle, took me quite a while to edit so it is just right. The quadtone of the moon over fields in Greece was taken in September 2001 while on vacation. I could never decide how to format it and frame it how much contrast was enough. This is really my best edit so far.

Couple of other photos took very little time to edit, for example. The photo of the twin triangular towers in Century City are probably one of the most filmed objects. Back in 1993-1994 while I attended Santa Monica College I used to live few blocks from there. The photo came straight from my Westin Hotel room where I stayed while on a tour of the UCLA Anderson School early last year. It was a lovely LA day in February with strong winds that left an unusally clear day. Only people who’ve been in LA will understand what I mean when you see the mountains behind the buildings — something of a rarity given the typical smog. The depth coupled with the strong shapes and the shadows left a strong impression on me.

The other image that I really like is the sunset over Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty. It was a very cold windy day after snowing. The sun light came out at the end of the day just peeking through the clouds and left a very beautiful light over the harbour and especially on the snow. Finally, the photo of the full moon over Philadelphia was a very lucky shot. Luck is preparedness in the face of opportunity — an often quoted definition by Michael Reichmann of Luminous Landscape describing the occasions that lead to some of the best photos from photographers. This was just such an occasion when I grabed my equipment and climed the roof of the Locust Point building where I used to live last fall and took this photo. Great timing combined with patience to finally figure out the proper blending for the moon and the cityscape.

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