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 :)

1 comment:

Sasi said...

All I'm thinking as I read your strategy for Nokia is, what the heck was I doing during my last 2 years of Rotman?!