Friday, November 24, 2006

70...75..80...100???

It seems to be a part of popular folklore that those in Investment Banking spend 100+ hours a week at work in the office - at least on some occasions. Having spent the last few years in the corporate world, I have often wondered how a 100 hour week in office must feel like.

A 60 hour work week is very different from a 50 hour work week. Somehow it feels a lot more than the 20% increase that it sounds like. If you are working 5 days a week, suddenly your leisurely 9am-7pm work days must now expand to 9am-9pm days - each day of the work week. I am talking in-office hours (discounting working remotely etc), and somehow that feels very different :)

Last week started as one of those weeks which at the outset sounded like it would be a somewhat tiring 60 hour work week. As the week dragged on, days inched up to 13 and then 14 hours. All of a sudden, 12 hour days started to sound like sweet luxury. Friday was not much better. Throw in a few hours on Saturday and a 'light' 10-hour Sunday, and that made up for my first 80 hour work week in professional life. Very reminiscent of the last week every semester during college and grad school.

Somehow though, work doesn't feel that tiring when you are enjoying it. The hours just go by. Days and weeks fly past as if you are on a swift conveyer belt. The real fallout however is the drastically reduced amount of time that you have for anything else - including family, friends and hobbies.

Now I *really* wonder how the IB dudes and gals clock those centuries on a regular basis while maintaining their sanity..

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Supporting a Cause

If you are reading this blog post, chances are that you live a reasonably comfortable life. You are educated, or are getting educated at a fine institution. You may need to think about where or when you'll have your next meal, but you probably don’t have to worry about how you'll afford it.

A big dilemma for many of us in this boat (a luxury yacht, rather) is, how can we best reach out and do something for others who have not been as fortunate. Those that can truly excel if only they were given a chance.

A great way to get started is to get involved with an organization that supports the causes that you truly feel for. But with the plethora of non-profit organizations that exist today, working on every conceivable cause from improving the environment to reducing poverty, how do you pick the organization that you will spend your energy, money and time (that you could have spent watching fine shows on TV) on?

Of course there are some basic things to look for in an organization that you want to support - the quality and nature of work, transparency, location, efficiency and sense of purpose. This filter will still leave you with many organizations, foundations and charities that are doing some great, solid work in an area that you are interested in ameliorating.

I use a few rules of thumb for picking out the organization that will let me make the most impact.

The organization needs to embody sustainability. What is sustainability? Here is a simple analogy - I'd rather support an organization whose purpose is to teach a man how to grow wheat, rather than one that distributes bread to the poor. The organization that teaches a man how to grow wheat is adding Value - it is making the man more competitive, and helping him and perhaps his family become self-sustained, without any further external help. Once the man is self-sustained, the organization can go on and help the next woman and then the next child.

I need my organization to give me a big lever to lift the largest possible load I can with whatever limited effort that I am able to put in. In other words, I need to be able to use the most leverage possible - the most impact for my puny efforts. So go out and find a role that makes the best use of your skills. You can go and tutor a kid in an unprivileged neighborhood - a fine proposition, and you may enjoy doing just that. But if you have the capability, why not go out and start or join a dedicated organization that enables the same amount of effort from you to facilitate tutoring ten, hundred or even a thousand underprivileged kids?

Finally, the organization's operating overhead need to be as low as possible. Suppose you donated $100 for helping Tsunami victims. Would you like $30 out of that to go towards paying for a First class ticket for your organization's executive to travel to Indonesia or India? Or worse, how about having $20 go towards grooming the executive's dog? If that sounds like exaggeration, you may want to check out the operating overheads of some of the world's leading International organizations!

One organization that I support is the American India Foundation. It fits the bill well on the above criteria. I will write about AIF in another post, but in the meanwhile, here is their Annual Report. Here you’ll find not the usual yada yada, but will find some amazing stories that show that where there is a will, there is a way to have high, sustainable impact.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Sailing on the Charles

Today I decided to put an end to winter hibernation, and went and joined Community Boating Inc (CBI), a non-profit sailing club in Boston. CBI is a fantastic place to learn and enjoy sailing, windsurfing and kayaking. I'd highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in these water sports and is going to be in the Boston area during the summer. I windsurfed at CBI for a summer, some summers ago, and had been hoping to go back and spend more time ever since. This year, I decided to get a head start before the ephemeral Boston summer gets swept into the fall.

It was a gorgeous day in Boston today, though the temperature barely touched 50's. The morning was frigid, but the sailing was very good. I got my "Solo" rating following a couple of classes and a couple of tests. This means that I can check out sailboats on days with low to medium wind. Next Saturday, I am planning to attempt clearing the "Helmsman" level. This level is the starting point for an exciting bouquet of sailor rankings that bestow the privileges to command different types of sailboats. Sailing is sounding pretty darn exciting again! At least till I can get myself on windsurfers in June :)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Art of the Start

This entry has nothing to do with Guy Kawasaki's namesake tome, except that the first sentence references it. It is not exactly the case that I wanted some cheap publicity and some free hits (though I wouldnt mind some) to my fledgling blog, it is just that I thought this would be a clever title for my first official blog posting in three years - last time I blogged was for a project, in the days of yore, when blogging was a novel concept fit to be studied as a part of projects on cutting edge trends and their applications. In case you are wondering (and still reading), this entry is about the art and science of why I have finally decided to jump into the blogging bandwagon.

In spite of my being a (largely self-proclaimed) innovation and new product buff, I have to admit that I am not exactly the blue-eyed customer who is every new product company's dream. As a fan and student of the innovation and entrepreneurial process, I tend to view early adoptors as guinea pigs, or sheep looking for a fleecing - hardly enviable positions to be in. I am usually very happy to wait to acquire a new taste or new product till it has officially relinqushed the 'new' title and 'crossed the chasm' (to old or plain boring?). To give you an idea - I have never bought anything for myself at The Sharper Image. I learnt about the existence of Sudoku just a couple of weeks back, and I acquired an iPod only a few months ago. I still need to figure out how the holy thing works. Sheer heresy, you might say. Hopefully by this time you are not thinking that I am as tech savvy as a cow ruminating happily at some Vermont pasture. The way I like to put it is that I let the bad ideas, products and trends weed themselves out before I write off some precious time (and sometimes money) to them.

Alas, I meander. So coming back to the moot point... why have I decided to abandon the camp that thinks blogging is only for Gen-Y'ers and sneak into the oh-so-happening Blogger camp? Is it that I am now planning to stake a claim at being a Gen-Y'er, or is it that I consider blogging to be old and stable enough of a platform for me to hop on? Well, neither.

Believe me, this is not another digression, but I just read the book Five Point Someone this weekend. The book, set in the college that I went to, is a fictional portrayal of four years in the lives of three friends (Can't resist saying that this makes it a total of 12 friend-years. geekspeak alert - RED). One of the things that amazed me about the book was that it touches really fine points about life at my college. Even though I graduated from college a good few years after the author of the book did, a lot of my memories about day-to-day life at the insti had become victims of memory leaks, with no way to directly access them (geekspeak alert - CRIMSON). I hypothesize that either the author of the book has much better memory management than I do, or he maintained a meticulous diary in the ancient pre-blogging world during his college days. Anyhow, bottomline is that I am inspired to document and remember more of my extremely happening and exciting life, and hence this blog.