Friday, January 29, 2010

Could a class be so much fun ?

It was Fall 09 that I enrolled myself into a course called Engineering Administration taught by Dr.Zerda. The first day I entered the class, I saw this well dressed lady commanding enormous respect and exuding confidence. She has a very positive aura. She detailed us on coursework and plan for rest of the semester. I liked having one of my courses to be non-technical and value-adding in nature. This class delivered that and more. Have you felt that you don't want to miss the class not because you will not understand it later, but because you will miss out on learning, miss the wisdom sharing and most importantly miss out fun?

I looked forward every Monday and Wednesday to be there at the discussion. Time flew by and we hardly knew. Dr.Z never stopped anyone from speaking and never reacted to occasional class chatter. It was such an adult environment, she would encourage views from every single person plus she would treat everyone with respect and demonstrated professionalism in her interactions. That's a rare find in any school setting, rare especially for someone like me who comes from a country where teacher student relationship is sometimes more master-slave type even into graduate school years.

One of the important events in the course was to get Mr.Jonathan Moody to speak to us and share his experiences as Engineering-Manager. It was one of the kind experiences. Mr.Moody gave us an impromptu talk about his career and life. He talked about his subordinates, people he had interacted with and companies he worked for. For the first time after coming to this country I felt how similar all of us are, operating with similar needs, emotions, fears, expectations, insecurities and hopes. Also I saw how unbiased and welcoming Americans could be.

Another significant memory from the course was the book ' Leadership and Self Deception'. When it comes to books, unless it's a fiction, some of us need increased impetus to finish the book. Dr.Z planned a quiz in order to make us finish the book. This book transforms you. I learned lessons for life.

Further the Game Simulation simulating business environment was an experience which makes me look business news in CNBC in a more informed manner. I can finally understand terms and appreciate how businesses are built. The class coincided with CNBC's great shows like Executive Vision, Biographies, Stories of Walmart, Google, Interviews with Warren Buffet etc.

The final business presentation was a hit for our team. I got to work with wonderful team-mates with inspiring work ethics.To wind it all up nicely, Dr.Z planned a dinner potluck at her residence and most of us were there. Dr.Z was a warm host. She is young at heart and very active for someone of her age.

This class would be one of my important classes in my program and I would recommend it to anybody from any background. At personal level, EA would stay in my memories for days to come.


Elephants and Dragons

For me holidays mean resting, relaxing, reading and learning. I recently borrowed an audio book( audio books work best with me these days, given my 10 month old who would tear books to pieces. At our home the digital version of anything is more invincible than paper.) by Robyn Meredith called 'The elephant and the dragon. This was long overdue given that the book came out in 2006. It has been by far a very popular book in " India China Economy" domain.

I have just read 3 chapters amounting to 2 CDs in a set of 8 and loved it completely.
Ms.Meredith is a foreign correspondent for Forbes in India and China. She has managed to paint a realistic ( in my view) picture of what's happening to India and China and what it means to the world. This book is an absolute read for all Asians, Indians and Americans as well.

Since she is a news correspondent, through an audio book, she has taken us to the roads, airports and cities in India and I could also completely visualize her descriptions about Beijing, Shanghai and many other Chinese towns. You can relate the audio book to NPR broadcasts if you ever heard the public broadcasting station at 87.7 FM.

The verbiage excellently captures the actual feelings of post-globalization citizens and benefactors. Interestingly you do not get bogged down by statistics and appreciate what's happening in the East comprehensively and clearly. As a 20 or 30 something you may not have witnessed the reforms that were executed in both the countries ( 1978 - China 1991 - India) and how it changed the way things were done forever.

As a Easterner living in the West, this book led me to imagine the amount of opportunities these countries have in future and to sustain a 8% plus GDP growth given the enormous investments, labor and other resources going into the system.

A part of book tells why it has been easier in China to implement the infrastructure and not in India. Politician Kamalnath has attributed this to the Authoritarian rule in China where things happen at snap of the finger, as opposed to India where the government is decided by the people (Democracy) and thrown out of control if reforms are seen as some threat. Additionally corruption and red tapism slows down the process, making India an Elephant and not a tiger. Atleast it's progressing steadily like a druken man as the book quotes. China is ahead of the two and the Infrastructure is extremely modern and fast growing with newer technologies. A trip to China from India is like a trip to Singapore - a treat to eyes as I can conceive from Meredith's viewpoint.

Also this book is in sync with "my dreams for my country". Better roads, better facilities, better planning, less waiting and an Internet based living. Sitting in 2010 one can imagine more realistically about how India is going to change. A change that is inevitable, given that people are starting to believe in open competition, hence making voting decisions and older generations that are bein g replaced by better salaried young people who are receptive to new ways of living, giving rise to a less conservative and more modern culture.

A farmer's son is no more a farmer, he is sitting in air conditioned rooms with coffee machines and other amenities beside him at work. This boy wants to build a bigger life for his parents, wants to buy a microwave, AC or Flat screen TV, things unimaginable in his father's days.
Or take a girl, who if she was out of college ( provided she even made it to college) looking for jobs before 1990 would have landed on a clerical post, irrespective of her skills, but now is capable of supporting a whole family because she is a part of 2010 India. This has happened within my family.

Elephants and dragons were created when the east opened it's doors to the prosperous westerners. Suddenly East is a fertile land for young, energetic entrepreneurs.

Undoubtedly there is more to happen, newer challenges with free market, but it's all exciting and promising ! !