As I sip on a coffee and finally unwind for a bit on a warm Sunday afternoon in a café playing classic rock on Shattuck Ave, I realize this is a good time to reflect and pen down my thoughts on the past few weeks. It’s hard to believe that Orientation is over, classes have already started and we shall be approaching midterms in a matter of a few weeks!
As I was here for the admit weekend (Days at Haas 2) in April and arrived early for the summer workshop, it gave me a chance to settle in gradually and get my life in order before the Orientation week began. I can only imagine how overwhelming it must’ve been for students who arrived on Day 1 of O-week and were suddenly faced with the daunting task of getting to know 240 new people at once.
Day 1 began with a welcome talk from Dean Lyons. He gave a short but inspiring talk on transitions we (are expected to) undergo at Haas. This was followed by a lively Q&A session in which he answered queries from the class of 2014. Coming from India where the student-teacher relationship is more structured and formal, I am always a little taken aback at how friendly and accommodating the faculty here at Haas is. We were also introduced to our cohorts on this day (actually we already knew our cohorts because the allotment appeared in the Haas system a week earlier). I was happy to be in the ‘Axe’ cohort as we have a very enthusiastic bunch and had started making plans for the Cohort Olympics the week before Orientation itself. The best part of day 1 for me however, was a session on ‘Design Thinking’ by alumnus Tom Kelley, GM of IDEO. He gave real-life examples of how product innovations have been created by simply observing the world around us. I was enthralled by the talk and am looking forward to taking some electives on this subject next year. The day was rounded off with a welcome reception in the evening where a lot of us were meeting for the first time.
Day 2 was more activity laden than day 1 and was kicked off with a couple of sessions on building and running great study teams. I strongly believe that the biggest driver of team success is the chemistry between the team members and it is only when the team is in unison can the whole be greater than the sum of its parts. I am new to the concept of pre-assigned study teams and am looking forward to see how this plays out. I like the fact that we set out a collaborative plan at the outset and set ground rules from which we all agreed to operate on. We had a safety talk in the afternoon that resulted in one of the most popular memes in school right now (Call Bearwalk!). I also partook in ‘Tuesday Night at Bear’s Lair’, which is an informal weekly get-together at Bear’s Lair, a popular local pub on campus. I am now the proud owner of mug #1 for the semester and by David Hirsch’s analysis, I have to consume 14 drinks this sem to break even on my investment.
Day 3 was by far my favorite. We started the day with a visit to the Alameda Point Collaborative, which provides housing to homeless families and individuals. Our class was divided into groups and all of us were part of some volunteer activity. My group was in charge of clearing and leveling the community garden and installing panels to separate the plants from the walkway. I do not consider myself a handy person at all but had a lot of fun getting my hands dirty and working with rakes, shovels, drills and other tools. I think all of us felt good at having done our little bit for this worthy cause. But we were far from done for the day, because next up was the Cohort Olympics! This event is basically the first in a series of competitions between cohorts during the semester to determine who gets maximum points at the end and wins the ‘Golden Egg’. I don’t think that’s a real thing but at stake are bragging rights for life! Christine from our cohort had already ordered 60 Viking helmets (if you carry an axe, you gotta have a Viking helmet) and we were ready for the highly competitive sports of sloshball and cornhole among others. Long story short, we won soccer, football, and cupcake eating (!) and put up a spirited performance in other events, a feat that enabled us to win the overall event! We were super happy to have started off the cohort competitions on a winning note. This event also served as a personal reminder on the importance of flexibility in a team environment: I had prepared a script for the skit well in advance but after we were told that there was a theme in place for the skit, I had to dump the idea completely and we worked on a new idea someone else had suggested.
Strategising for the Cohort Olympics.
Day 4 was a little more career focused. We had a very interesting talk by alumnus Ralph Bahna, board Chairman of Priceline.com and also attended company workshops from Groupon, Clorox, etc. We were introduced to case-method based teaching wherein we discussed a case study on Virgin America and debated the pros/cons of its strategy. Then in the afternoon to our great surprise, in walked the CEO of Virgin America for a speaker session! It was a great experience to hear the story of the airline from the CEO himself and his frank responses to our very pointed questions about profit generation and financial health of the company. The questions never seemed to end, but the time did and he walked off to a well-deserved standing ovation from all of us. Thursday ended with another meet-up at the ‘Bar of the Week’ (At the current frequency, I reckon we should start calling it ‘Bar of the Day’).
That marked the end of the official O-Week. There was also an 80’s party on Friday but that is a subject that warrants its own post(s). Suffice to say, there is a costume shop on Bancroft that now has me on the list of VIP customers.
All in all, I think Orientation week was phenomenal and the perfect way to start my Haas experience. A huge thanks to EB, Kent and Chris – the O-week chairs, and other second year students who toiled for months to craft this marathon event. Many of you may have noticed that Haas keeps talking about its 4 defining principles. Unlike other schools or institutions where these are more or less ‘positioning statements’ to serve as market differentiators, I have realized that Haas sincerely believes in these principles and it is reflected throughout the curriculum, activities, faculty and the student body at Haas. In the past few weeks, I’ve met a triathlon coach, an improv artist, an astronaut, army veterans, and loads of amazing and humble, friendly people who have made my life seem very uneventful in comparison. I feel privileged to be a part of this institution and am looking forward to the next two years and sharing my experience through this blog.
P.S: As the number of classes and activities increase and my free time decreases in proportion, I expect subsequent updates to be significantly shorter than this treatise.