Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Innovation at the Most Unexpected Place

A lot has happened since my last post, but somehow I never got around to blogging the events.

Some of the memorable events were:

  • Getting interviewed by an innovation consulting company - I paid $60 cab ride to get to the interview, because the CalTrain changed their schedule online, but my iPhone App was not updated. Hence, I missed the train. I must have looked really frazzled, because the cab driver charged me $60, instead of $80 and asked me to calm down. God bless him!
  • I made it to round 2, but did not get an offer. I felt that during the interview, there was a LOT of communication gap, which has taught me to add "By blah, I mean blah" after every sentence :) Regardless, it was a great opportunity to chat with some fantastic people.
  • I got a good offer for a contract position from a design consulting studio and I worked with them for a little less than 3 months. My contract got up, last Friday and am back to networking.
  • I joined Twitter and have been overwhelmed with media over dosage. This is probably the main reason as to why I haven't got around to blogging.
One particular incident was very interesting. I had to get my TN-VISA stamped at the border, in order to start working in October. I flew to Seattle and took the Greyhound to the Seattle-Vancouver border.

This is how a TN-VISA works - You have to fall under a certain category. Unfortunately, I fall under a very highly scrutinized category, called the Management Consultant category. I have heard some horrible stories about it. Therefore, an offer does not mean anything until you get the visa.

So, I show up at the border. I remember being very nervous. I go up to the counter and say,"Hi, I need to apply for a TN-VISA". The customs officer's eye brows arched up. He says,"Now, do you?". I am thinking in my head-> Good God, please let this go smooth. He looks at all my documents, asks several questions, and asks me to fill out what my roles and responsibilities would be, as a Management Consultant. Keep in mind that there is a letter from the HR that states the responsibilities exactly and explicitly, but oh no, the officer wanted me to write them down. Without any argument, I did.

He asked me who the client was, which in this case was Nokia.
For the next half an hour, he called me back and forth and asked a zillion questions such as :Why you? Experience? Background etc? Most interesting question was, "Would you present the recommendations to the client, or someone else from the company?"

Although, this particular question seems simple, in reality it is quite tricky. Had I said, the company would, he would have rejected my Visa.
I found it pretty innovative and thought in my head, "Wow! this guy is smart".

Finally, he calls me over and says something such as,"So, what would you do if Nokia were to hire you as a Consultant to change their processes?"
Here is how my thought process went: OMG, is this what I think, it is?
Is this a Case Interview?
I think it is!
What?!? They have started taking Case Interviews at the border?
I thought Case Interviews were meant only for B-schools...

And, boy! I started explaining how I would approach the problem. I started doing a competitor's analysis, company analysis, and applied many more frameworks. All this time, the officer was having a conversation with me. For example; he was asking questions such as, "What about a cost-benefit analysis", "How would you cut costs", "How do you envision their competitors (let's say Motorola) might react?"

I took 20 minutes to solve the case.

The key point (and passage to stamping of the visa) was the fact that I would only provide high-level expertise to Nokia's employees, and never try to take up their jobs!
The moment I said that, the officer gave me a big smile, stamped my visa, and was extremely friendly.

The experience was very interesting; interesting to the point where it got me thinking that innovative procedures have traveled even to the border. Gone are the days, when the border protection would simply run a check on you. They want to make sure that you ARE who you SAY YOU ARE.

Fascinating..ain't it?

I believe the border protection officer was possibly an aspiring MBA contender and was practicing his Case Interview skills with me :)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Interesting Conversation With Interesting People

My friend Claire and her daughter, Jenny visited us in San Francisco recently.

Claire is Chinese and came to live in Toronto when she started at Rotman in 2007. During my interaction with Claire, I have found her to be extremely open-minded and curious. She is also eager to learn about different cultures like myself. Jenny is an equally curious and a friendly child. Over the last 2 years, Claire and I have enjoyed mock interview preparation, Wii sessions, Sushi eating and discussions about future.

Other than the fun things we did together in San Francisco, two conversations stuck in my mind:

  • Claire and I were discussing the similarities in Chinese and Indian culture. Many things are similar and I couldn't help wonder how China has been able to contain their population over the years. I asked her to explain the strategy to me. Apparently, the Chinese government taxes people equivalent to about $2000 or $20,000 if they want to have a second child. Since not many people can afford high taxes, the problem has been addressed. This is a great strategy. However, it has a loop hole as well. Let's assume if a Chinese resident wanted to have a second child, they could live in Canada or United States and have the child there. They would be able to bring the kid back to China since that child is technically a non-Chinese resident. I think Claire mentioned that residents may still have to pay taxes. She also mentioned that there are clinics somewhere in the US, (she did not know where though) which Chinese residents have access to in order to have their delivery done at the clinic! The clinics probably cost an arm and a leg, so I am guessing they are only for an elite few.
I was very surprised by this revelation. But, there is a lesson here: The government was able to contain the population by enforcing strict laws. It must have been a hard transition, but it worked. I think Indian government should get inspiration from China.

  • Claire and I had this conversation about how her decision to stay back in Canada for another year is good for Jenny. She is learning a new language, getting exposed to all sorts of cultures, and good at several things (such as swimming, reading, piano, sports etc). Claire mentioned that hypothetically, when she and her husband die, Jenny will have no one to call 'family'. I agree, because siblings are your best links to your past and family. I cannot imagine having no one to share your memories with long after your parents are gone.
For most of my life, I have thought that one child in one household is enough. Perhaps, Claire is right - we do need a link to our past and parents.

I know that had the population not shot up in China, the government would not have enforced such strict rules. Wouldn't it be neat when the population goes back to normal in China, the government allows its residents to have another child?

I would love to get an older Chinese person's opinion on things when they were children. I am quite fascinated by Chinese culture. I hope I get an opportunity to visit my friend, Claire in China at some point.

Thanks Claire for sharing your thoughts with me and changing my point of view on children.

Oh, and the fabulous part of Claire and Jenny's visit - Claire taught me how to make Sushi! I can proudly call myself a 'Su Chef' now :)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Visual Way to Understand the US Health Care System

Dan Roam, author of 'The Back of the Napkin' is explaining the US health care in the recent posts on his blog.

Check it out:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I am Struggling to Understand the US Health Care System

An unfortunate incident in LA shook me and made me question the US health care system.

Part 1

A few of our friends got into a fight over a remark made at Hitesh. The events that followed thereafter made me realize that; a) Punjabi boys are quite stupid - all they need is a little provocation. It does not matter whether they are 18 years old or 30 years old, they have to fight, and b) They do not know when to pick their fights!

Let's focus on the not so stupid part for now...

The argument turned quickly into a fight in a parking lot with about 10-15 boys hitting three of our friends in their heads with knuckles! As a result, blood was rushing down their heads. The gangsters fled the venue leaving 3 people hurt. Imagine an inch deep cut on their scalps with their shoulders covered in blood. Dreadful..isn't it?
Oh no, wait..this isn't the dreadful part.

One of them went to the hospital. He had to get stitches done right away or rather he wanted to get the stitches done. The other two kept saying that they are okay. In spite of much convincing, two of them did not want to see a doctor that night. After some probing, I found out that they do NOT have health insurance! As shocked as I was, my obvious question was," Why do you not have health insurance?"

Fortunately, our friends worked things out through connections and had their stitches done in the morning.

Could the event have been avoided?
Yes, absolutely! Hitesh did not have to take the remark personally at all. He could have let it go.
Oh no, but his reasoning is that,"If someone says something to me twice, I will respond!"

Since, Hitesh could not avoid getting offended by someone who was present at the venue to make trouble, two of his friends (and one random person) got hurt.

I hope, in future he thinks things through (at least three times) before getting offended.

Now, could the 2 of our friends have avoided getting hurt?
Absolutely, yes! However, their reasoning was that they could not stand their friend getting hit/offended.

Well, I hope in future they remember when and with whom to pick their fights. Also, I hope they consider that not having health insurance could affect their "fighting escapades" in future.

It turns out they had fought with a well-known LA gang that night.

Part 2

Hitesh and I had this conversation a few days back about my being covered through his health insurance. After a few calls to his insurance provider, we realized that I can't be covered! This completely freaked me out. I asked him," Well, how do I get health insurance here?"

Hitesh's answer," Once you get employed, then you can have one through your employer".

Dude, what if I do not get employed for a few months, does that mean I am without health insurance??!!? And, the worse part is that my concern does not sound odd to him or to a lot of Americans! Why should I be without health insurance when I am a resident of US? I deserve it.

Hitesh dislikes our discussions about the US health care system. I have to admit that I do not understand it in depth. He says he has one and that is sufficient. However, he has never been to a dentist, doctor, dermatologist or eye doctor in the US in the last 7 years!

Weird..isn't it?

I have been covered 100% for the last 8 years during my stay in Canada. It did not matter whether I was a student, employed, or an unemployed professional. I have had regular check ups with my dentists, doctors, dermatologists, eye-surgeons, chiropractors, physiotherapists etc.

Kudos to Canada for providing a necessity to all its residents...for doing things the right way.

My biggest concern is that I may be without health care, starting September! I am not sure if US is really the "land of opportunities" when it can not provide basic necessities to its residents.

Part 3

Lately, I have been reading blogs and debates about Obama's efforts to fix the health care. I hope he goes far with the issue. Surprisingly, a few people do not want health insurance. The reasoning being that these people are quite healthy and do not need any sort of insurance. But, what about future? What if you get hit by a train or a bus and break your legs? Would you wish you had health insurance to cover the cost of your treatment or would you prefer to go in debt?

My question:
  • Could someone explain to me as to why do people in the US not have health insurance?
  • How does the health care work in the US (for those who have it)?
  • How in the heaven's name people live without one?
Part 4

I am trying to find a job in the design industry, where you deal with 'wicked problems'. I hope I get an opportunity to work on the US health care system - I do think it is a wicked problem, which needs a complete over haul.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

'Re-Thinking...Design' made possible by Roger Martin

Lately, I have been having a fantastic design time in San Francisco.

I have met several design minds...some through informational meetings while others through connections. The strongest connection with the design world was probably being able to attend the Design Management Institute (DMI) conference called,'Re-Thinking..Design' in June.

The ticket was priced high at $1400+ and well beyond what my pocket allowed.

Our dean - Roger Martin was one of the keynote speakers at the conference. I emailed Roger and requested whether he would be able to get me a student price. And, viola! He spoke with the conference lead and I was able to attend the conference for $500, which is the student price.

I was quite impressed with the fact that Roger is extremely collaborative and sees value-add in a recent Rotman graduate. He did not have to respond to my email, or accommodate my request for that matter. However, he chose to do so. I wish the entire Rotman community was like him. I also wish all the business leaders were like him i.e. see value-add in students, graduates, alumni, employees and collaborators.

The conference not only gave me an opportunity to network in SF, but it also introduced me to the fact that business will turn into design in future and vice-versa!

Thank you Roger for making the conference a possibility for me :)

So, how did all this happen?

  • Heather at Designworks casually mentioned in May that since I am moving to SF, I should check out DMI's conference.
  • I go online and check and price; Immediate reaction - forget it! too expensive.
  • I keep thinking in my head that if I miss this opportunity, I will regret it.
  • I talk to my friend Angela and mention the conference. Angela suggests emailing Roger and asking for a ticket.
  • I think,"Well, why would Roger answer my email? Oh well! I have to give it a shot!"
  • I email Roger and I am all set to go to the conference :)
While Roger's input was crucial here, I want to make a note of the fact that life is about availing opportunities (in a good way) and listening to people intently. Had I not paid attention to Heather's casual remark and Angela's advice, I would not have been able to become a part of the conference.

Like I said before, I wish the entire Rotman community was like Roger. I emailed Rotman's PSO (Financial Aid Admin) a few weeks prior to the conference. Usually, Rotman provides conference subsidies. However, my request was declined since I was going to graduat 3 days prior to the conference. The reasoning being that I was no longer a registered student and hence not value-add (implied).

PSO should really work on establishing and maintaining relationships with alumni. I may be unemployed now, but I will be employed in time. I am not sure how PSO hopes to maintain a strong alumni relationship if they find no value in a graduate just 3 days after convocation!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Empathy? Or, Perhaps Lack Of It?

A lot has changed since my last post - I convocated and officially am an MBA - yay!
I made a trip to Toronto and am back in SF now. Both, the events came with at a certain level of weird experience at the border.

I flew back to Toronto for 2 days in order to attend my MBA convocation ceremony. I had a strange feeling in my tummy the entire time I was there. I was nervous that I would be stopped at the border. I am not sure how, but I am always right about these weird feelings. And, bam, here is how the conversation went:


Officer A: How are you two related?
Hitesh: She is my wife.

Officer: What do you do in the US?
Hitesh: I am a consultant.

Officer: Why are you going to SF?
Hitesh: I am working on a project.

Officer: Please have your left index finger on the machine and take off your glasses for the picture.
Hitesh: Complies.

Officer: Stamps his passport and done!


Officer: How are you two related?
Shalu: (Thinking) "Didn't he just ask us that"?
Shalu: (Talking) We are married.

Officer: Are you on H1B as well?
Shalu: Um no.

Officer: Do you have a visa?
Shalu: (Thinking) "What?? I have a Canadian passport, did the rules change in the last 2 days...I don't need a visa..."
Shalu: (Talking) I don't think I need a visa.

Officer: (patronizing tone) Is that right?
Shalu: (Thinking) "Oh no!the conversation will go downhill from here"
Shalu: (Talking) Well, do I?

Officer: Do you guys live together?
Shalu: (Thinking) "OMG, trick question..trick not answer"
Shalu: (Talking) Well, I am going on a vacation.
Officer: You haven't answered my question.
Shalu: (Talking) I look at Hitesh, who gives me a very charming smile...I keep looking at him, smile, and answer,"Yes, we do!"

Officer: (Expressionless) -> makes a note and sends us for secondary inspection.

As expected, the secondary inspection officer was convinced that since my husband works in the US and that I am a Canadian Citizen, there was no way that I was ever coming back to Canada.

He asked me for a marriage certificate.
He made me buy a return ticket.
He stamped a return date on my passport. As a Canadian citizen, you do NOT get stamped ever. You can visit US conveniently.
He was super friendly after I bought the ticket and adviced me to go on H4!

Well, obviously I was upset. Anyhow, I came back to SF.

A few things happened in that experience that made me wonder whether the officer 's concern was accurate.
  • The answer to the question,"Do you two live together?" should have been,"Yes, we did in Canada, but not in the US". Perhaps, that may not have made me look like a liar! However, I felt that it was a catch 22 situation - had I said, "No", he would have argued that we are not married since we did not have our marriage certificate on us.
  • Later, I found out that the intent of an H4 and a Canadian visit's to US is pretty close. The officer's concern was that in order to legally stay in US and visit Hitesh many times, I should go on H4 rather than travel as a Canadian.
Perhaps, I should empathize with the officer. For his part, he was ensuring that the number of legal entrants in the US can be tracked down. For his part, he was also ensuring that he "protects" the border. I understand where he is coming from.

Question: Why does US have a NAFTA treaty with Canada and Mexico if it wants people to go on H4? Why is everyone viewed as a threat? I fail to understand how my visiting US as a Canadian citizen any different than being on an H4. I cannot work or do anything else in the US on either of the visas. On the contrary, an H4 encourages me to stay in the US??!?

I am confused.

My intention was to stay until the end of August. The officer was not accurate in his judgment.
I have until the end of July to decide whether or not I want to go on an H4. I wish the officer had empathized with my situation as well - Of course, Hitesh and I live with each other - we are married. Perhaps, a better question from the officer's part should have been,"Where do you guys live?" and not "Do you live with each other?"

Lessons learned from that experience:

A. Never travel without your marriage certificate - a ring on your finger is not enough.
B. Never look at Hitesh while crossing the border and get floored by his smile!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

On Leaving Toronto

I have less than 2 weeks left in Toronto.

Although I am sad to move away, I am a little excited to move back to the West Coast.

There are a lot of things that I will miss about Tdot - the hustle-bustle of the city, the eclectic food found in abundance in Toronto, my Rotman friends, being closer to my sister & being able to see each other regularly.....literally everything about the last 2-years of my life in Toronto.

But, you know what -> being flexible is great and being able to pack up your life in boxes is even greater, since success is 90% transformation and 10% luck/hard-work.

Friday, April 10, 2009

How to Increase Your Social Capital

In one of the courses at Rotman, we had a very interesting lecture - "How to increase your social capital". I thought of blogging it down today; the take aways still ring in my head and it will be worthwhile to look back and read the insights somewhere down the line in my career.

"What do you think of a person who dates Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, Louis Bertignac and Leos Carax?"
I recall answering that this person is on either on drugs, or in the entertainment business.

"What do you think of a person who modeled for Guess, Christian Dior, Versace and Chanel"

Well, this person must work in the fashion industry!

"What do you think of a person who dines with George Bush, Laurent Fabius, and Queen Elizabeth"

This person must be in politics.

It turns out it the same person, who fits the description of everything I just described

Any guesses?

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy!

It turns out that the First lady of France has significantly climbed up the social ladder since the age of 19. Oddly enough, once she became the First Lady of France in 2008, her social capital in the eyes of people went up by 80% while her husband - French President Nicolas Sarkozy's social capital went down by 65%.

The key take-away from the session were:
  1. We are recognized by the kind of people we associate ourselves with. In another words, we climb up the social ladder/ corporate world ladder due of our influential associations and not necessarily due to our hard work. It does not mean that we should stop interacting with our "not-so-influential" friends, but it does mean we need to "network" and therefore increase our social capital.
  2. The professor also showed us that people who took 15 minutes out of their busy lives to email friends a detailed 2-3 paragraph email did much better in the long run than people, who simply wrote a 3-4 liner email. Essentially, if you "connect" with your friends & family, you will have them around for a much longer time.

Fascinating...ain't it? :)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

My MBA Journey Ends Soon

I get done with Rotman on April 29th.

Last 2 years went by very quickly. I consider myself fortunate and smart to have spent the last 2 years in Toronto and at a very good school. We had our Graduation Ball last month - it was fun! Also, it served as a closure to my MBA life.

Someone asked me," Was it worth all the time & money you invested in yourself".
I answered," Absolutely, Yes!"

My personality has transformed at least 85% in the last 2 years. I feel as if I am a new person. I can do a lot of things personally and professionally now (much better than the normal population). Aside from the fact that the MBA has opened my mind, I have also made great friends; I hope to carry them forward in the future.

So what is next?

Our big move to California at the end of May! :)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Wired to Care

Recently, I attended another great Design speaker series at Rotman. Dev Patnaik, founder of Jump Associates spoke on two occasions:-
  • About his new book, 'Wired to Care', where Dev emphasized the importance of empathy in order to innovate in both, good and bad times. The book is a great read - totally recommended for every business and human!
  • A session geared specifically towards students, where students had an open conversation with Dev and Peter (Jump's media/communications person)
I must admit I have never in the last 2 years of my Rotman life felt after a session - "Yes, this is the company I would love to work for" so strongly except for this particular company. There were several funny and "aha" moments in that session. The energy in that session was so much cooler than at a cold informational session.

There were 3 instances, which completely blew me away:-
  1. Dev and Peter started the session with an exercise called "bam jump" or something with the word "bam" in it, where everyone gathered around in a circle and clapped their hands at "bam". This is pretty unusual in the recruiting world, but an excellent way to stump your audience and connect with them more. It sure made the students relax and connect with both, Dev and Peter. Also, everyone had to count down from 20 to 1 without overlap/repetition with eyes closed. As expected, we had to start from scratch several times, because of the competitive nature of the MBA students. The exercise made me realize, if you can learn to really listen to your audience, you can do wonders for your business.
  2. Dev and Peter also performed a 3 questionnaire game: a) Tell me one thing you like about me; b) Tell me something I don't know about you; and c) Tell me one thing you think we agree on - Although the game sounds trivial, it becomes harder after you repeat it 3 times and specially if you have known the person for long. Most importantly, you engage your audience/client through the game.
  3. Dev narrated a fascinating story about how he started Jump. He mentioned that he spent about 9 months working on his portfolio, because the company he wanted to work for was not hiring for another 9 months. Once he did interview with them after those 9 months, they loved his portfolio and hired him. Once he started working with this company, he hated them! He left and started Jump, because he felt,"damn it! there is no company around that I want to work for" :)
I was very impressed with the fact that both men were extremely transparent in their interaction; a very rare sight in business world.

The entire interaction/session said a lot about Jump's culture and values.
The entire session was also a great opportunity for a great conversation with some very fascinating people.

I am happy that I was a part of it :)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Design Speaker Series at OCAD - Part 2

I was fortunate to attend another great Design speaker series at OCAD on February 11th, 2009 - Larry Keeley, co-founder of Doblin spoke at the series.

Some interesting points that surfaced from his talks were:

  1. Innovation is not simply about products; it is about platforms.
  2. Build platforms that manage complexity.
  3. Designers should be good at cataloging the unfamiliar.
  4. Designer imagine and pursue what could be, instead of what is.
  5. Empathize with people and situations.
Most importantly, platforms transcend enterprises, industries, and political borders.

I enjoyed Larry's talk, there was another piece of information that raised my curiosity - OCAD is offering a Masters in Design, starting September 2009!

No-no, I am done with school for now (at least for this year), but I think if an opportunity presents itself in a few years, it could be worthwhile to explore a degree in Design - I wonder how my life would have changed had I been at OCAD, instead of at Rotman!

Design creates emerging possibilities - I hope to be a part of these possibilities through my future career.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Design Speaker Series at the Ontario College of Arts & Design (OCAD) - Part 1

On January 29th, 2009, Hitesh & I heard Jane Fulton Suri - Creative Director at IDEO speak at a Design Speaker Series at OCAD.

IDEO ranks high in my list of prospective employers. Jane was a very balanced speaker. She spoke about using empathy and a human centered perspective to solving problems in designing/improving:
  1. Product
  2. Space
  3. Service
  4. Strategy
  5. Organization
During the Q & A, she made a comment that echoed in my head - Hire Curious People!
Well, that certainly is true in today's world.

Jane's book - "Thoughless Acts?" is pretty interesting. It is based on observations on intuitive design.

Lately, I have been intrigued by Design, User Empthay, and User experience approach beyond my expectations. I strongly believe in," if you want something bad, the entire universe conspires in your favor".

Let's watch the rate at which the Universe will bring me closer to my goals :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I am Going To Stop Being a Vegetarian.

I have been trying to loose weight from very stubborn body parts. Luckily, my good friend Dave Chen is a work-out freak and has helped me loose weight in the past. In my opinion, Dave should pursue 'Fitness Consultant' as an alternate profession.

I turned into a Vegetarian when I met my husband. I had been a non-vegetarian (and I loved it!) for at least 25 years and gave it up without any qualms! This statement is actually for my husband's benefit (and knowledge:))
I occasionally eat fish (if my taste buds can remember the taste!). Let's say I am semi-vegetarian. Although, most of the times I cannot enjoy meat anymore. I have tried a few times, but because I am not used to eating meat anymore, I have been unsuccessful in the past.

I have to admit that I feel healthier ever since I gave up meat. However, at times I do feel that I am missing essential proteins in my diet.

I e-mailed Dave to seek help. I am willing to go to any extent to shed some weight. Dave's first condition is that I stop being a vegetarian. Once I agreed to that demand, he sent in a list of rules:
  • Rule #1: No food after 7:30pm - eat your dinner anytime before 7:30pm.
  • Rule #2: No carbohydrates after 4pm - you are allow to have carbohydrates for breakfast and lunch.
  • Rule #3: You can only meat and some vegetables for dinner.
  • Rule #4: Control your portion of food for each setting.
  • Rule #5: Drink at least 2 liters of water a day - must keep yourself hydrated at all time.
  • Rule #6: No junk food or sweets (anything processed such as donuts, cookies, chocolate bars and etc).
  • Rule #7: Consume only whole wheat food that contains high fibers.
I think it will he hard, but I think I do need to shock my body.

It is time I trusted a professional and watch the results. Let's hope this "stop being a vegetarian" works out wonders for me.

Do We Really Need to Wear Socks in pairs?

Yesterday, I met up with one of my favorite professors from Rotman - Alex Manu.

Alex Manu teaches Strategic Foresight, Innovation, and Business Design at Rotman. He is an unconventional business school professor. A few interesting facts about Alex:

  • Alex always (and read always) wore White - he taught us for 4 months and we always saw him in White clothes.
  • He did not stress on the usual "seek A+" trend - he always said," if I can have 1 brilliant (and practical) idea from this class, I have done my job". Essentially, he encouraged us to think in an unconventional way.
  • He was always friendly and un-intimidating - so much so that it was easy to forget that he is a professor.
  • His power points were stellar - he conveyed his ideas with pictures and minimal words - I mean a maximum of 3 words on a power point.
  • On the last day of our class, he served 3 types of wines - a) $20 wine, b) $100 wine, and c) $500 wine. The main idea being that he wanted to introduce us to good, bad, and fine wines.
As I was talking with Alex, I noticed that Alex was wearing a bright orange sock on one foot and a bright green sock on the other! I immediately started laughing and asked him why was he wearing different colored socks. His answer was that he always wears two different socks!

After another 5 minutes i.e. when I couldn't figure out why he would be inclined to wear different socks, I asked him whether there was a particular reason he wore socks in such a manner. Alex said that when his son was 6 years old, he asked Alex why did he have to wear socks as a pair? Why couldn't his son wear two different colored socks and head to school?

Alex had absolutely no logical answer for his son. Ever since that day, Alex has been wearing different colored socks. In fact, Alex suggested to retailers that socks should be sold as singles!

The conversation made me realize that there are so many things we do in our day to day lives without questioning their logical explanation or existence.

Perhaps, we should look for logical explanations rather than accepting things as norms.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Trip to Mexico - December 2008

Hitesh and I traveled to the warm and sunny Cancun, Mexico and Riveria Maya (~ half) in December 2008 to celebrate my birthday.

Mexico is amazingly colorful - houses, crafts, and clothes can be extremely colorful ranging from bright yellow to bright blue :)
Also, Mexico has the bluest water and white beaches. I have nothing but good things to say about the experience. People are extremely friendly and accommodating.

Although, Mexico is a part of North America, the culture is strikingly different than both, USA and Canada. In general, people looked much laid back and happy.

My top 5 favorite moments from the trip:

1. Walking the lost city of Chichen Itza (and trying to understand the Mayan culture).
2. Trying to the ride the waves in the ocean.
3. Boarding the local ferry in the night from Isla Mujeras to Cancun (and listening to the local music on the ferry).
4. Getting a beach massage at Playa del Carmen.
5. Getting the braids done in Cancun.

My top interesting moments from the trip:

1. Number of times we were spoken to in Spanish and mistaken for locals - ALL the time.
2. Number of times we had to haggle for a product or service - ALL the time.
3. Number of times we saw a family of 7 ride an open pick-up - ALL the time.

I had a fantastic time in Mexico and I hope to go back soon :)