This weekend I finished reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, my favorite (so far) of the movies. It was a great read and I'm really enjoying the extra depth that the books provide--both of the plot and of the character development. Although it may sound blasphemous, I find that there are some scenes the movies actually portray "better" than the books, especially in Prisoner of Azkaban. Director Alfonso Cuarón really elaborated cinematographically on some of the J.K. Rowling's ideas to good effect.

One element that I enjoyed about Prisoner of Azkaban is that it is the first year that the students choose electives. They no longer all take the same courses and can now specialize in the subjects that interest them. In less than two weeks we will begin electives here at IMD as well. Only instead of "Divination" and "Care of Magical Creatures" our options are more like "Advanced Group Dynamics" and "Managing Change." They aren't quite as exotic sounding, but I'm still looking forward to them.

Following is a list of our available electives. The ones I will be taking are in bold:

Course 1:
Introduction to Advanced Group Dynamics - Jack Wood (our Leadership professor)
Economic Dilemma - Economic Opportunities - Ralf Boschek (our Industry/Company Analysis & Economics professor)

Course 2:
Entrepreneurship - A Longer View - Joachim Schwass
Business History - Lessons from the Past - Stewart Hamilton (our Accounting professor)
Global Corporate Strategy - James Henderson (our Strategy professor), Cyril Bouquet

Course 3:
Managing Change - Maury Peiperl (our Leading People in Organizations professor), Anand Narasimhan
Special Topics in Private Equity and Venture Capital - Benoit Leleux (our Entrepreneurship professor)
Turnarounds: Tools for Recovering Corporate Wealth - Jean-Frederic Mognetti

Course 4:
Advanced Supply Chain - Corey Billington (our Production and Operations Management professor)
Advanced Finance - Didier Cossin
Managing Information, People, and IT Capabilities for Business Value - Don Marchand

For most of the course blocks I was torn between two or more courses. Like Hermione Granger in Prisoner of Azkaban, I really wanted a way to take all of them. However, lacking a time turner, I've had to resort to more mundane methods to bone up on each subject. For example, in Course 4, I've been able to learn a great deal of the Advanced Supply Chain content during the ICP because Corey is our faculty advisor. For the other courses I may just procure the required readings and get to them when I can.

Regardless, there is still an ICP to finish before I can start really thinking about electives.


Phase IV

We have now entered the final phase of our ICP. This is where the rubber really hits the road and we focus on how to implement all of the grandiose recommendations we have made. For scheduling reasons with the client, our final presentation will be this Monday so we really only have half the allocated time to reach all of our goals. No worries, though; I'm sure we'll come through.

On top of this, we're operating a man down as Daniel's son is being born as I write. I hope all goes well with the birth so we'll have something even more important than the completion of the ICP to celebrate next week!

Last night I took a break from ICP, pre-reading for electives, and my career search in order to join 30 of my classmates at a dinner celebrating Randy's birthday. It was a lot of fun just sitting, eating, conversing, joking around, speculating about the future, and sharing good times. I probably haven't done enough of this socializing this year and it felt good to spend time with my friends as opposed to my colleagues.


Lausanne Marathon

Today I ran the most I have ever run in the same day, just under 9 miles. It wasn't all at once, though, because it came while running "bandit" for my classmates as they finished the Lausanne Marathon and Half Marathon. This means that I waited for them a few miles before the finish line and ran alongside them to help motivate them through the final and most difficult leg.

I first ran bandit for Katie Ban in last year's Houston Half Marathon. It was a good time and seemed to be appreciated so I offered it up to my running classmates this year. They enthusiastically accepted the offer and I managed to recruit a co-bandit in Mathias, my French teammate from my startup group.

We jogged out first to meet Max, our Russian teammate also from the startup group, about three miles from the finish of the marathon (in front of the Olympic museum). He was hurting so we tried to distract him with jokes and urged him on. He finished just under his target time of 4 hours.

Then we doubled back and met up with Sergei, my Belarussian teammate from the first building block, about two miles from the finish of the half marathon (also in front of the Olympic museum). He was in strong form so we just paced him and tried to spur him on at the end. He finished well under his target time of 2 hours.

We then turned around to go back for Alex, my Chinese teammate also from the first building block, who had expected to come in far behind Sergei. Before I could make my way through the throng, however, Alex had arrived, just over 2 hours, and apparently hadn't needed any additional motivation.

Even if our participation didn't make one iota of difference, it felt good to support our friends. We've all been through a lot together so supporting each other in our various endeavors comes naturally. I expect it will continue long after graduation in December.

Pictures are in my facebook album.


Google Interview

Yesterday morning I boarded the 8:20 AM train to Zurich. I've done this a few times before to go visit our ICP client. This time, however, I was going to interview with Google for a Product Manager position.

I arrived in Zurich around 10:30 and used the Google Maps Walking Directions feature from my mobile phone to find my way to the Google office. The office was fun and kind of over-the-top but not quite as much so as I expected. Perhaps my expectations had been artificially inflated by all the press this office received (at least here in Switzerland) when it opened back in January. Still, it was pretty cool: lots of game rooms, snack rooms, coffee bars, a fitness center, an aquarium-lined power nap room, all kinds of funky meeting rooms (with Star Wars-based names) and developer areas. I tested out the fire pole that you can take from one floor to another but didn't have a chance to use the slide into the cafeteria. The cafeteria was awesome, definitely IMD-level, and it serves three meals a day. I don't have to tell you how much I would take advantage of that benefit!

I had five interviews during the day, four with product managers and one with a software engineer. They were all very different, some focusing on product design, some on software technology challenges, some on strategy and management, and some on analytical brain teasers. Most of my interviewers were from different countries, they all seemed very sharp, and, best of all, I never really felt like I was being interviewed. Instead we had very engaging discussions about interesting and challenging problems. There was no "right answer" to any of the questions I was asked all day, just mutually participatory discussions, many of which left me feeling really excited. It really felt like the discussions Alex (or others) and I would frequently have about the future of products, technologies, and consumer behaviors. Sometimes those discussions would be about near-term ideas and sometimes they were a little more science fiction-y. Google seems like one of the few organizations with so much talent/resources/users that it can take real steps toward making the sci fi ideas reality.

At the end of the interviews I was informed that I had accessed the secret bonus round and would have two more interviews with Product Management Directors. Although I characterized Italians as lazy to one of them who turned out to be Italian himself (despite having a very German-sounding name!), I thoroughly enjoyed those discussions as well.

I stumbled a few times throughout the day. For example, some of my interviewers challenged me about my stated objective of helping to change the world of energy and how on earth working at Google would accomplish that. My responses weren't terribly eloquent or convincing there; shame on me for not preparing better.

Still, after seven interviews, I finished the day at 7 PM feeling very positive. These really felt like "my kind of people." In my experience there's a certain kind of magic that comes from a great team. Someone starts a discussion with an idea, others critique it, react to it, and add their own ideas. The level of frenetic excitement rises until everyone decides that the idea has to be pursued and then they all get down to business. This was the type of entropy I felt in my discussions all day, which was a very positive sign.

In many ways, yesterday was like my IMD interview day. I came in not really knowing what to expect. The day was set up to simulate some of the daily challenges encountered by the position for which I was interviewing. I had great, enlightening discussions with a bunch of really smart, diverse people. I left still thinking about the discussions and generating new ideas that I wished I had brought up during the interviews but feeling energized, able to visualize myself contributing to and benefiting from such an environment, and hoping they felt the same way. Oh, right, and I had an awesome lunch! So, we shall see!

After the interviews I met up with a friend of mine in Zurich for dinner (overlooking the city at night--beautiful!) and drinks at a cigar bar by the train station. Zurich seems like a really nice town that has the amenities that come with a major urban area (very international airport and accomplished arts, for example) without many of the drawbacks (high crime, for example). It's certainly not a cheap place to live but it also has one of the highest quality of life rankings in the world. Again, we shall see!

Pictures are in my facebook album.


Buffett and Google

My train for Zurich departs in 1.5 hours and I'm as ready as I'll ever be for a full day of interviews at Google. Guess who just performed at Google HQ yesterday? If that's not an omen, I don't know what is!


Solar-powered Clothing

Tuesday marked the end of Phase III of our ICP. The presentation went well and it felt great to move on to our fourth and final phase. Before that begins next week, however, we had the rest of this week off for recruiting activities.

I didn't waste any time and less than one hour after our presentation I was at the Laboratory of Photonics and Interfaces at EPFL. At the invitation of Carole Grätzel (Rice PhD in Physical Chemistry) and her husband, Michael, I toured the lab and learned all about Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells (DSC).

It is absolutely amazing what they are doing; I watched in awe as they showed elementary school children how to power a fan by shining a lamp onto layers of raspberry puree and pencil shavings. This simple process is at the heart of DSC and its implications are tremendous:

1.It doesn't use silicon so is impervious to price fluctuations and raw material shortages due to the semiconductor industry.
2. The photovoltaic medium is essentially an "ink" that can be "printed" on many different materials. This means that no longer are solar cells relegated to big, ugly, heavy panels. Instead they can be integrated into the windows of your house (transparently), the body of your car, or the fabric of your clothing.
3. The fabrication process is cheap and can leverage the skill/scale of major printers.
4. The cells perform well in diffuse light so you don't need huge arrays in areas with massive illumination; they work in the rest of the world.

Can you imagine the possibilities? Mobile, wireless power wherever you go. Self-powered houses, office buildings, and vehicles. Cars sitting in parking lots all day becoming net energy suppliers. That's all still out there a bit but it's not as far off as you might think. One of the companies that licences the lab's patents is G24 Innovations and they are already proving the concept. Very exciting! This is the type of game-changing technology I want to be part of.

Pictures are in my facebook album.



I feel good about the GE O&G interviews yesterday. The people I met with were smart, motivated and were working on intersting, impactful challenges. The company clearly has the potential for major impact on the world's energy supply and carbon footprint. Furthermore it is part of a corporation that also is doing more and more work in wind, water, and solar, as Alex commented on my last post.

The real question here will be fit. How does an entrepreneurial software executive work within the context of a huge, bureaucratic heavy industry company? How does he A. create value and B. not go insane? The answer is non-obvious but after yesterday's discussions I am optimistic. The best matches for my skills and experience seem to be in:

product management - managing the interface between engineering, marketing, and strategy to make sure the company is building products that serve customer needs and support the company's direction

strategic marketing - helping a company that is used to clients coming to it to place orders modernize and be more proactive about market segmentation and accordingly segmented sales processes

sales operations management - working with the globally distributed sales force to create processes and systems to support them for greater communication and efficiency

We shall see; they should be in touch within a week or so with feedback. If nothing else, I finished Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets on the trip, so on to The Prisoner of Azkaban!


Bella Firenze

I'm checked in at my hotel in Florence. If this if four stars--as advertised at hotels.com--then my middle name isn't Guido! Oh well, no worries; it's a fine place to hang my hat and lay my head for a night. It's not far from the airport or from GE O&G HQ, far northwest of il centro. Needless to say, this isn't exactly the Florence I remember from when I lived here as a student! It looks like there should be time after my interviews tomorrow, however, for a quick trip into town before my late evening flight back to Geneva. Gelato? Bistecca alla Fiorentina? Chianti? All of the above? Only time will tell!

I'm off to dream golden dreams of how I will help GE change the world of energy--then hopefully convey said dreams to them tomorrow!


Running in Cold Weather

I just went for a run along the lake and, for the first time since the early spring, it was cold enough to necessitate that I wear my long-sleeve, UnderArmour Cold Gear. The cold air felt good in my lungs and the crunching sound of fallen leaves beneath my feet was so loud that I had to turn up the volume of my MP3 player. Although I'm definitely a warm weather person, running in the cold always reminds me of late-season football practice in Virginia and brings back some great nostalgia.

The Career Search Progresses

It was another productive week for my career search. My plans with GE Energy were solidified and I will fly to Florence tomorrow evening for interviews on Monday. I'm not really sure which position(s) they have in mind; I think it's more of a "let's get to know you and then, if we like you, we'll see where we have a good fit for your skills, experience, and interests." My network has been helpful with GE Energy: a Rice alum in their Houston office helped me understand their product/solution offering, one of my interviewers is an IMD alum, and two of my current classmates have worked at GE and helped me prepare for questions I am likely to receive.

I had my third (if you include my first "fit" interview with a recruiter) phone interview with Google this week and it went well. This one was less about my experience and more about how I think. I had to design another product and work through a few brain teasers. On Thursday I received the news that I had "passed" and an invitation to interview onsite at their Zurich office. According to one of my contacts in Google (whom I know through the Rice alumni network) the economic slowdown has raised the "hiring bar" and making it to the onsite interview is even harder than it used to be so I am particularly honored to have made it this far. The interview should be next week.

The founder/CEO of Poken (IMD alum) and I met again and I remain very enthusiastic about the company. They have big, world changing ideas, cool opportunities for a product manager/COO, and a fun corporate culture. The CEO is becoming overstretched between product management, business development, investor relations, etc. and is looking for someone to share the load. Given that my background is in managing innovative teams of software engineers and working with the marketing and strategy interfaces to ensure that the product vision is headed in the right direction, the role would be a great fit.

I also had a first interview yesterday with Positive Energy, a Washington DC-based startup that builds software to help residential power customers consume less energy. They just closed a major funding round, already have some customers, and have a smart team in place. The VP of Product has a marketing background and is looking for someone to manage the more technical side of their software product. Even though the company is only 20 people strong right now they have a couple of TJ alumni on board so, once again, this really drives home the importance of the network.

This last opportunity came may way through CleanTechies, a cool new site for techies looking to help the environment. I'm doing some side blogging there about how technology can be used to help address the global energy challenge.

So, things are moving along with a few very appealing opportunities and I'm continuing to add more to the pipeline. I'm long overdue for a Board update so will write one soon and post it here.



Throughout this year at IMD I've done something that I used to love to do but haven't done in a long time: read books! I used to be quite the bookworm but, somewhere along the way, I guess I decided that I just didn't have time for reading. During this year of intense study, however, I've turned back to reading as a great, portable, convenient way to balance out my life.

There hasn't been too much time for reading this year (Sleep usually wins out in the prioritization battle.) but I've managed to finish a few books outside of the many books, articles, and cases required for classes and projects:

Harry Potter e La Pietra Filosofale, the first Harry Potter book in Italian
The His Dark Materials trilogy (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass), an epic fantasy/sci-fi series inspired by the work of John Milton
Three Cups of Tea, the tale of one man's quest to change the world by building schools in rural Pakistan

In the interest of full disclosure, I listen to some of the books in audio form so that I can multitask during my cardio, but I don't think that's cheating--it's just being efficient! Next up on my list:

The rest of the Harry Potter books in anticipation of the movie release (November)
The Catcher in the Rye, which somehow I've made it almost 30 years without reading
Tolkien's major works in chronological order (The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings)
Myriad business-related books and articles I've accumulated over the year but haven't yet had the chance to read

Any other recommendations?


Happy Rice Day!

Happy Rice Day to all! To commemorate the occasion I had dinner last night with 12 Rice alumni/friends in the area. We sat around fondue pots in the private room of a local restaurant exchanging stories for hours. As in Kenya everyone was amazed at how many Rice connections there were in the area and, as in Kenya, some of the people discovered they lived less than a mile apart.

I had a productive weekend working on our ICP, my career search, and catching up on reading. The weather was gorgeous so I even got some beach volleyball in. It wasn't exactly warm but it felt great to be out in the sun and the sand.


Some Good News

Monday I interviewed with Google for their Product Manager position. It sounds really cool--basically an internal entrepreneur/general manager with all the capital and smart people you could want to help make great ideas a reality. The people I know who are or have been Google PMs are really smart so I'm honored even to be considered.

My performance in the interview was OK. I suggested some product innovations Google might consider and was quickly shown that Google had already invented or acquired many of them. Oops--someone needs to do his homework better next time. I thought the open-ended question, though, in which I was asked to design a product, went well. In fact, if Google doesn't hire me, I may consider starting up a company to develop that product!

By the end of the interview I felt energized and excited, which is a great sign for me; I felt the same way after the IMD interview and I think it is indicative of a good fit. I don't know if my interviewer was as energized by my ideas as I was but he was at least satisfied enough to move me on to the next round, which will be another, similar interview with another Google PM. This was just a first interview in a process renowned for many interviews (up to 16!) but it still felt great to receive the thumbs-up today from the recruiter.

It's not the only good news I received this week, either. Yesterday I was asked to come to Florence for a second interview with GE Oil & Gas, which is making great strides at reducing the carbon footprint of oil & gas production. Furthermore, GE's renewable energy companies are taking off so they might be an option further down the road.

Monday I talked with a delightful alum from eSolar (Again, many thanks are due the most sophsticated woman at IMD for forging the connection.) and another with Planet Capital. Tuesday, I spoke with a good friend of one of my ICP teammates who has launched CleanTechies.com, where I will soon begin blogging about the use of ICT in sustainable energy. Wednesday I chatted with the Oerlikon Solar and E.ON Renewables. Today I met with another alum, the founder/CEO of Poken, a hardware/software service which will revolutionize the world of social networking. Finally my career search feels like it's really in gear!

Several of my classmates have either accepted job offers or received offers that they will accept. These mostly come from companies that did on-campus recruiting, in which I didn't participate much. Still, it's hard not to feel at least a little time pressure when others are starting to make plans for their living arrangements already! This is what I planned, though, to take my time through the recruiting process, to make sure I explore my options, and to make sure I make the best decision for me and my future employer--not one based on early deadlines or unexplored alternatives.

The distractions of the career search have an impact on our ICPs as well. It is becoming more and more rare to find all four of our group members in the room at the same time because each of us frequently steps out for career-related calls. In the meantime, our project has taken a major turn. It has evolved from a supply chain project to a change management project. The subject matter is still supply chain, but the obstacle between our client and the $100m+ they can add to their bottom line with supply chain improvements isn't analysis; it is implementation. That is now our focus: how can they conduct sweeping change in a way that works for all the varied (and often opposed) stakeholders involved? We are all very excited about it because it affords us the opportunity to learn and practice skills that transcend industry, function, and geography. But it isn't easy--real world, real learning!


Number One

You may remember my January post about IMD's MBA program being ranked #14 in the world by the Financial Times. Last week we were ranked #1 in the world by The Economist. This ranking should be taken with the same grain[s] of salt as the Financial Times but, still, it feels good.

It is humbling to play a small part in such a great honor and I credit our faculty, staff, and accomplished alumni for this feat. I'll do my best to go out into the world and live up to it!



Mom and I headed into Geneva today to tour around the old town. I can't believe I've been here for nine months and never been into Geneva except for the airport and train station! It's a pretty town, albeit clearly more of a tourist trap than Lausanne. Pictures are in my facebook album.

As it remained cold all day, we took advantage of the opportunity for some fondue upon our return to Lausanne. In between touring and dining I spent the day preparing for my Monday interview with Google. I familiarized myself with their product suite , business strategy, and corporate history. It's only fair that I bone up on them; after all, given that this blog site is owned by Google, they should know plenty about me!


It reached a low in the 30s last night! Don't they know it's only October here?! It's no problem, as I really need to be staying inside to work on my Leadership paper and career search anyway, but still, wow, I'm not used to this.

Mom is in town, which is a real joy. Wednesday evening she arrived, we had dinner at Le Pinocchio, and got her situated at her hotel. Thursday she toured around Lausanne and then I took her out for her birthday dinner at Beau-Rivage Palace, mmmmmm! Yesterday she went to some museums, met me at IMD for lunch, and then we made lasagne (Thanks, Lee!) for an ICP team dinner hosted by Felipe and his partner, Laura, both Colombian. It was fun to get [slightly] out of the IMD bubble and just relax and have a good time with my teammates and their partners.

I'm embarrassed to say that, after 48 hours here, my mother knows more about Lausanne than I do. I really need to get out more; this year will be over before I know it and, if I miss out on all that Lausanne has to offer, shame on me. In the meantime, Mom and I might head into Geneva today, depending on the weather. I'll be happy whatever we decide to do so long as I get to spend some time with her.