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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Ahead of the curve ... A book review!!!

As I was chatting with Jo on a typhoon-hit lazy morning, HNY walked in with this book he’d just picked up from the book store on someone’s recommendation. The book – Ahead of the Curve was about a Harvard Grad and his life in B-School he said. I got interested and asked Jo if I could borrow it after he’d finished. Before I could finish that sentence, both of us realized, I was here at SKCC and Hong Kong for less than a week. It was obvious that some re-ordering had to be done and I was given preference. Thanks Jo and Yowie!!!

I quickly wrapped up my Noodles Brunch and started reading it in the Common Room which almost has become our day-long hang-out place if nothing else for the free AC there. Once I started reading the book, I just couldn't put it down and read it non-stop (excluding the dinner/bathroom/common room gossip/e-mail/phone call breaks) till about 4:30 am this morning. I finally decided to crash since I'd to wake up by 07:30 to make it on time to work. I finished the last two chapters in the MTR on my way to work.

Ahead of the Curve is overall a very nice read, giving us a good insight into life at HBS, the challenges faced by people and how most people cope with it and overcome the challenges that the school throws at them. There is still room for improvement in terms of the overall flow in the book, several gaps unfilled and efforts to hide the identities of his classmates making most of the characters almost seem fictional. I would still recommend this book as a must-read for any MBA (Past or Present) or any MBA wannabe.

This is a book by Philip. D. Broughton – the New York and Paris Bureau Chief of "The Daily Telegraph" of London about his tryst with Harvard Business School from 2004-2006 and his journey through the MBA along with the experiences of his classmates. Even though, I'm no journalist or writer, there are so many similarities between the experiences he went through and the ones I am going through here at HKUST that I felt for Philip, and I really felt a part of the story as he ran us through the entire two years and the experiences during the period.

Some things I always knew that got re-emphasized. Harvard is no different from HKUST

1.    The same or similar courses

2.    The same or similar cases

      *     The same debates

      *     The same conclusions

3.    Similar experiences in terms of faculty quality, reputation, experience and student respect

4.    Similar talks by industry leaders

5.    Similar events and programs - Industry Visits, Alumni Events, etc throughout the year.

6.    Larger class-size divided into sections of around 100 - but the section remains together through the core/required courses making it similar to HKUST's class strength of 75-80 per year.

Some differences:

1.    HBS is a longer program (2 years vs.. 16 months here at HKUST)

2.    Has a longer queue of IB/Consulting firms lining up to hire the students.

3.    Stronger Brand - Obviously resulting in (2) above and finally

4.    A larger Alumni Network to bank upon

But the pains are the same. Some bad courses, some classmates speaking in class just because they love listening to their own sweet voice, and the herd mentality towards Finance Jobs (Consulting is a little less in HKUST since HKUST is renowned as a Finance School) causing immense pressures and turmoil among the ones who are not initially keen on IB/Consulting but end up getting sucked into it.

Thanks to this book, I am under a lot less pressure to go for a consulting or finance position and continue to look for my passion. Also found Philip's profile on LinkedIn and a few of the characters as his connections - his title still says "Writer and Entrepreneur". Let's see how long it remains that way. Only regret is probably that I should have read this before my MBA and I could have wasted a little less time on some of the Bank Apps which I anyway sent in half-heartedly late last year.


  1. I'll buy you a beer for this post :)


  2. hehe!!! U have one week to do that!!!

  3. My Big Boss is going for a 2 month MDP program at Harvard. Hope his experience is different.

    Will try and catch this book