Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Shadowing project sorted out

It was painful but I finally managed to find someone to shadow. The shadowing project is a core project, to carry out before the beginning of the second year of MBA, where the student observes a manager performing his day-to-day activities over a 5 days period.

It's quite difficult to actually convince a manager to participate to this project because he usually sees little value in having a student behind his back during a week. However by nicely presenting him the project (ie: I would like to shadow you because I could really develop my leadership skills by observing you...") , he could be actually flattered and accept but my take is that he has to like mentoring people otherwise he won't deal with the hassle.

During the year, I've contacted 7 persons (the founder of a VC fund, the CEO of a French bank in the UK, the CEO of a medium size defence company, the founder of a startup company, a French Deputy, a MD with a PE firm, an associate within the same PE firm) who all refused or did not even bother to reply, before this eight person agreed. He is a MD with a major Investment Bank in London so this should be interesting, at least for the networking opportunities. I'm indeed not so sure that one can really develop his soft-skills by observing the work of a manager but we'll see after I completed the project.

A word of advice for incoming students: do plan you shadowing research early on (eg: first term) because it takes lots of time to identify people, contact them and convince them to participate to the project and time flies in year 1.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Ice pop goes down

Oh no, I missed it! One has to be really stupid to attempt breaking the world record of ice pop in summer time in NYC but I would have love to see this 35,000 pounds kiwi-strawberry bar melting away. One woman was hurt by slipping on the pavement and fire department was called to clean the street. Actually, in terms of marketing, that is probably a success since more people heard about this failure than if it would have been a success.

While in the US, I'm looking at digital camera since they are a bit cheaper and I'm considering the following models: Canon PowerShot SD500, Nikon CoolPix S1, Fujifilm FinePix Z1 and Sony CyberShot T7. My initial choice is towards the Canon but if you can suggest something else, please do so in the comment section. I will use this camera for day-to-day since I will keep my old 24x36 Nikon F401 of 4kg with me when going backpacking.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Second day...

... and I'm already exhausted :) The internship has started pretty strongly with a series of meeting with the CEO and the senior management of the company in order to understand a bit more the products and businesses this company is in. It's a bit complex and after two days, it's still blurry for us but according to a Wharton intern, who started a few weeks ago, this is normal and at least 2 weeks are required to understand the company.

I was very impressed by the organization and culture of the company. No offices not even cubicles, no secretaries even for the big bosses - the CEO (one of the richest man in the US) is seated in the open space like everybody - no strict dress code... It's strange at first but actually, it's the kind of thing I like because hierarchy is minimized and communication is very fluid. It's a bit like the "spaghetthi organization" model we studied in Strategy. All the people I've met so far have been in the company since a long time but they have constantly changed job and responsibilities over the course of their employment with the company.

It's a very US-centric firm but they are trying to expand on a global scale and as such, our internship's objective is to assess opportunities in Europe and develop a blueprint for evaluating new territories; however, we are still tuning the scope of the project and it could evolve a little.

Appart than that, it's funny to be in a small US city and enjoy a suburban life where everybody has a car and go shopping in huge malls although I'm not sure I could live there very long.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Internship begins

I landed a few hours ago on the US East Coast and after a short drive in a nice limo, I'm now in a company appartment that I'm going to share with another intern who is going to work on the project with me this summer. I'm a bit jet lagged and hungry but we've just ordered some pizza so things should be fine :-) I'm also glad we have the internet (well, I'm "stealing" a Wi-Fi from a neighbouring appartment...).

Real business is starting tomorrow morning with our first day for the both of us. Let's hope everything will be fine.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Latest preparations

I'm back in Paris for a few days, enjoying the great summer weather but I don't have much free time. My task lists looks pretty bad: finish a take home exam, prepare the full moving of the Paris flat to the London one, get ready for the internship, meet some friends... all this in two days. Well, it's not that bad actually once written down :)

I'm flying this week-end to the East Coast to start working next Monday for a US-based financial services company. I'll be working with another intern on a global business development project which seems pretty interesting and I can't wait going back to work and start making some money again. I won't be based in New York but plan to go there every weekends to enjoy my favorite city. The two years I spent there were fantastics and going back to the various bars in the Village and Soho will be great.

After a few weeks in the States, I'll be flying back to the Continent, work a few more weeks from there and finally, go back to London in August to finalize the work. Stay tune for more.

On a different subject, a new LBS 2007 has started blogging a few weeks ago (spotted by The Divine Miss N): the move from the US to LBS by KV (apparently another French!)

Friday, June 10, 2005

New model

France is looking itself a new social and economic model. After more than 20 years with unemployment at 10% and high social inequalities ("la fracture sociale"), I'd say it's indeed time to look for something new... Of course, there are a lot of divergences on which model to adopt or develop: the Left wants more social protection for workers and less capitalism and the Right promotes more liberalism. Both sides are looking at foreign examples such as the Danish flex-security model or the UK model.

In any case, if you want to become millionaire, don't come to France. According to Le Figaro, the number of millionaire has increased worldwide by 600,000 new entrants in 2004, up to 8.3 million people. France has enjoyed a rate of 2.6% whereas you have rates of 10% in the US and 8.5% in Asia. The EU average is 3.7% with the UK and Spain leading the way. Well at least, this is good new for the luxury industry which should help some French companies.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

I can't believe it's been a year

One more exam and then we're out. Like Guillaume was saying, we're half graduate now. Although we still have one exam, my mind has switched to business like with my internship starting on June 20. I'll fly to the US for a few weeks, then back to Europe and finish in the UK so I'm quite excited by this. I'm going to work in business development for a financial services company and all this is quite new for me (business development AND financial services...) But I'm pretty confident that this 1st year has given me enough tools to tackle any hurdles and my previous experiences will do the rest.... (or not:))

Apart from that, the Open Week-End went pretty well according to Miss N and MBA Europe. Guys, I'm sure you're going to love the School! However, get ready for a tough first term... Spring and Summer terms are a bit less heavy.

Finally, I was at the School's Technology Fair yesterday with a couple of Internet and Technology companies on campus. It was quite interesting to talk to Google, eBay and Skype and I might consider contacting them for the 2nd year project we have to carry out (ie: consulting type of work). But going back to Technology after the MBA is still an open question for me so we'll see.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Globalisation, 35h work week and India...

In an interesting edito, Thomas Friedman is attacking the European social model further to the French and Dutch referendums. Friedman compares the hunger of Indian workers ready to work 35h a day (sic) to French blue-collar workers who, according to Friedman, have voted 'NON' on the EU treaty in part to preserve their 35h work week and because of their fears of the "Polish plumbers".

Friedman observes that outsourcing is going to India not only because of low wages but also because Indian workers are ready to work much longer than their Western counterpart. He concludes by writing:
Yes, this is a bad time for France and friends to lose their appetite for hard work - just when India, China and Poland are rediscovering theirs.
Although I haven't been to India (yet), the fact that an Indian worker is ready to work much more than a French one does not surprises me. However, in his analysis, Friedman implies that by just working harder, India will produce more but what about productivity, what about diminishing returns when one works 100 hours a week? There is no magic formula to boost productivity otherwise the UK would have closed its productivity gap a long time ago. Similarly, it's pretty obvious that after a 20 hours of work in a single day, your productivity will be pretty low so Indian workers will at some point experience diminishing return if they go for the 35h per day.

I'm not saying "Old Europe" shouldn't reform its social system - it should and quickly - but I don't think Europe's competitivity is threathened yet by India's long working hours.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

I should be studying...

We have an exam tomorrow; the subject: Information Management. I must say I'm not a big fan of this class but I guess that's mainly because I have a background in software. I missed a few lectures and did not prepare any of the cases so the exam will be a bit tough but I'm feeling a bit lazy so let's cross the fingers and hope that my general background of the subject will be enough.

I'm also spending some time to compose my portfolio of electives for year 2. Since I'm not going on exchange, I have up to 12 electives to choose among something like 80. I'm going to focus on Entrepreneurship, Finance and Strategy but will take at least one class in Marketing and one in Organizational Behaviour. I'm not going for the too technical stuff - I can learn that in a book - but I'm trying to find courses that will really add value to my career in the long term. Among the ones I'm taking for sure: "Financing the Entrepreneurial Business" and "Strategic Innovation" which, I've heard, are awesome.

Since I've decided not to study for tomorrow's exam, I went to Sundowners and I've met with a French 2007 who is here for the Open Week-End. The French Club organizes an event during the Open Week-End for all French speakers - meeting on Saturday 14:00 at the Sainsbury reception - so do not hesitate to join if you qualify (ie: MBA 2007 and French speaker).

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

So now what?

After the resounding 'NO' vote from French voters on the EU constitution, President Chirac has appointed Dominique de Villepin as the new Prime Minister and Nicolas Sarkozy as number 2 (Interior). So we could call this game of musical chairs the change in continuity and basically not much will happen in France until the next presidential election in 2007.

How is the vote perceived by the foreign (European or not) students here? Some comments during discussions I had: "What's wrong with France?", "What's going to happen, is it the end of Europe?", "Villepin, it's the guy from the UN speech?", "Aren't you ashamed of being French? (but this one was to provoke me)"... It's fair to say that the result has generated indifference or incomprehension among the foreign student community. France was already not viewed as very business friendly (and that's an euphemism) but now, it's perceived by some as an ego-centric country, withdrawn into oneself and with a bleak future.

So what can the French do to change this perception? Not much I guess because the facts are here: Le Pen at the second round of the last elections, the 'NO' vote, 10% unemployment, 35 hours work week... Those points of course can be argued (ie: the 'NO' was not against Europe but more against the current government) but people have little time and just remember the big picture and honestly, it's not pretty. May be 2007 and a new president will change the foreign opinion on France but that remains to be seen and I'm not optimistic.