Thursday, August 21, 2008

Book recommendation du jour

.. The Manga Guide to Statistics will teach you everything you need
to know about this essential discipline, while entertaining you at the
same time. With its unique combination of Japanese-style comics called
manga and serious educational content, the EduManga format is already
a hit in Japan.

In The Manga Guide to Statistics, our heroine Rui is determined to
learn about statistics to impress the dreamy Mr. Igarashi and begs her
father for a tutor. Soon she's spending her Saturdays with geeky,
bespectacled Mr. Yamamoto, who patiently teaches her all about the
fundamentals of statistics: topics like data categorization, averages,
graphing, and standard deviation.

After all her studying, Rui is confident in her knowledge of
statistics, including complex concepts like probability, coefficients
of correlation, hypothesis tests, and tests of independence. But is it
enough to impress her dream guy? Or maybe there's someone better,
right in front of her? ..."

I'm buying this as soon as possible. Go here for more. Hat tip to Kuldeep.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Life at Tuck

A few months ago I wrote a short piece for a leading business magazine in India about what it means to live and study at Tuck. The text is reproduced here, for the benefit of prospective business school applicants.

I spent a few years in a relatively successful career as a software engineer, all the while knowing that I wanted to do much more with my life. Today, as a strategy consultant, I work with Fortune 500 firms helping them think through and solve critical business problems. Some day, I hope to be running my own startup, maybe in India. What enabled me to make the transition from one to the other is the two years I spent at Tuck – where I received a top-notch business education, developed skills that are essential to succeeding in a business career, gained entry into the tightest knit alumni network on the planet and had a great experience in the process.


The coursework at Tuck is rigorous and comprehensive. Tuck offers a challenging curriculum, and also places heavy emphasis on teamwork and leadership skills development, which are excellent preparation not just for a job after school, but for a career. The countless hours in study group provide a rich and diverse learning environment. The school puts a lot of thought into assigning study groups. My first term study group consisted of two bankers, a Canadian biotech entrepreneur, a telecom industry veteran from China, a family business manager who had been a missionary in the Philippines, and me, a woman engineer from Silicon Valley who grew up in India. Similarly, the variety of backgrounds and skills in the classroom is amazing. I benefited immensely from the experience and knowledge my classmates brought to classroom discussions.


Tuck faculty are leading researchers in their respective fields. They are committed to teaching, and weave key insights from their research into classroom discussions. These discussions – lively and animated, but never contentious – are actively encouraged, and contribute to a superior learning experience. At Tuck, the classroom is a place where you are exposed to the latest thinking in any field.

Teaching at Tuck is a combination of case-based discussions and lectures. There is plenty of opportunity to learn from the faculty and from classmates. The professors are friendly and always up for a healthy debate, very often over coffee after class. It is also quite common for faculty to invite groups of students home for dinner. These informal interactions can lead to discussions about their latest book or research, industry perspectives, the latest Red Sox game, or in fact, anything at all.


Many faculty members participate in student club activities. Extra-curricular activities at Tuck are organized by the clubs, and there were over two dozen active student clubs during my two years at Tuck. There are clubs for everything from career interests to wine to rock climbing. For a class of 240 people, already over-committed to classes, coursework, assignments, exams, meetings with faculty or visiting executives, and recruiting, that is a lot of extra-curricular activities to throw into the mix! Even if I had gone entirely without sleep for the two years, there would not have been enough time to sample all the opportunities available.


Tuckies are actively recruited by major investment banks, consulting firms, and blue-chip corporations. Top recruiters at Tuck include Goldman Sachs, McKinsey, Google, Lehman Brothers, PepsiCo, General Electric, Genentech, Procter and Gamble, and Microsoft. Some of my classmates also chose careers like marketing for the U.S. Tennis Association and advocacy at the Gates Foundation.

The Career Development Office (CDO) helps students pick the right career, in areas related to their background or otherwise. They organize workshops and panels on career management, offer individual counseling and collaborate with student clubs to organize Meet the Company trips, such as the annual Asia trek organized by the Asia Business Club.

The strong alumni network means that students have access to career advice from mentors who are at the top of their professions. Recruiters consistently speak highly of Tuck students not only for their business knowledge, but also for their collaborative approach to problem solving and for their leadership skills. It is not surprising then, that Tuck is consistently ranked #1 in terms of return on investment for students.


However, what really differentiates Tuck is the people – administration, alumni, faculty and students. They are friendly, helpful and amazingly loyal to the school, which makes a diverse, warm and tight-knit community. Being part of it means many things:
  • Emailing an alum and hearing back from them the same day
  • Having dinner or coffee with a professor or a visiting executive and gaining new perspectives on industry
  • Getting to know your classmates and their families
  • Making time to catch the latest in music, art or film at the Hopkins Center. Or to listen to some of the renowned speakers that the College sponsors each year.
  • Spending as much time as possible outdoors with friends. In warm weather, there’s golfing, hiking, kayaking, biking and climbing. And once the snow arrives, the ski slopes beckon.
  • Attending as many events as possible on the busy Tuck social calendar.

Would I recommend Tuck? Absolutely. It is a unique experience that has enriched me in so many ways. Having so many opportunities around me was wonderful. Having to choose among them, due to sheer lack of time, taught me to prioritize as well as to manage my time. Memories of some of the opportunities that I had to pass up left me with the determination to keep learning, and to keep seeking out opportunities. I left Tuck armed with a great education, wonderful memories, lifelong friendships and a can-do attitude. That was the prologue to a new journey that I am on – one that would not have been so rich and fulfilling, but for Tuck. I would like to sign off by sharing with you a few memories from my Tuck years.

A few Tuck highlights
  • Having lunch with Warren Buffett
  • Spending a month in South Africa with 8 classmates, working on a consulting project. Hard work on weekdays. On weekends, we hiked up Table Mountain in Cape Town, went wine tasting across Stellenbosch, attended a football game in Soweto (Indians vs. Chiefs. Crowd: 50,000), took a safari trip outside Joburg, and attended countless braais (barbecues) with new friends
  • Asking Ed Zander (CEO of Motorola) to donate a Q to the school’s charity auction, before the phone had been officially released. He did.
  • My dad and uncle (business geeks, both) are huge fans of Jack Welch. When Jack visited Tuck, I got signed copies of his book for both of them.
  • Mocha, my chocolate lab, was an integral member of the Tuck community. While I am a T’06 (Tuck, class of 2006), he is a Tuck K9’06.

Updated December 2009: Video tour of the campus

Friday, June 20, 2008

Location based services and GPS

Following my initial write-up a few days ago about consumer adoption of location based services, I've been doing some further reading and thinking on the topic.

For location-based services to be truly attractive to consumers, there needs to be technology that can accurately pinpoint your location on the map. Accuracy needs are different for different applications, but in an urban environment at least a 2 city block accuracy range is necessary.

There's an article on Venturebeat today titled Three Deadly Sins of GPS that covers this issue of location tracking accuracy. It's written by the CEO of Polaris Wireless, a wireless location company. The last three paragraphs of the article are a plug for Polaris's technology, but the rest of the article is quite useful as a primer on the shortcomings of GPS on the positioning accuracy front.

One last observation on this topic: When Google Maps launched their location tracking feature (beta) a few months ago, I enthusiastically turned on GPS tracking on my handset and waited for results. More than six months later, it's still off by several blocks. The point is, Google Maps is using hybrid technology, not just GPS, to locate my handset. And it's still not accurate enough for a pedestrian.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Dear Google, I am not Italian

Yes, I have shared an office with Italians for years at a time. I am addicted to coffee. I have even tried to learn Italian. However, I am not Italian.

Mystified? So was I, since Picasaweb decided a couple of days ago to start speaking to me in Italian. All other Google products seem happy to continue treating me as my boring old English-speaking self, but not so Picasa. It had invested me with a mysterious Mediterranean alter ego, with which it strenuously tried to communicate thusly: "Fotografiile mele". I decided to leave it alone in the spirit of "Picasa, heal thyself". The dam broke today. A friend, after months of procrastination, decided this morning to share pictures he'd taken over the last year or so. To view said pictures, I had to converse with Picasa. Which said: "Cine vede porecla dvs.?"

At this point, two things became clear:
(1) I was in for a small spell of diagnosis and (hopefully) fixage.
(2) This language can't be Italian. Exhibit A:"Ce reprezintă Căutarea publică?" Count the diphthongs.

Off I went, navigating by approximate translation of menu text, and hoping I didn't end up deleting all my pictures (and believing that dear Google would display large blinky "Are you sure?" dialogs before letting me do anything truly destructive). A short, but apprehensive silence followed. At the end of which I discovered that Picasa had decided to speak to me not in Italian, but in *Romanian*. I can barely pronounce Ceauşescu, and my idea of famous Romanians is Vlad III a.k.a Dracula and Nadia Comaneci. Oh well, I'm now back to speaking English with Picasa, which said brightly "Your settings have been updated!"

In the spirit of the day, here's a little more about Romania. Oh, and I don't think Google is mining my data to update my language settings.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Location based services and consumer adoption

I was recently part of a conversation about location-based services, and the cited "cool company" example was Loopt.

Loopt enables you to connect with your friends on a mobile phone, know where they are on a map (assuming they're letting you track them), send them photos or messages (and your location is automatically included), and look at your friends' recommendations for places to check out around your current location. This is a great start, but currently, the onus is on individual users to make the service useful. If you have a lot of friends on Loopt, and they are also active users, then there is value to be derived from it. If not, users who sign up for this service will be prime candidates for social media fatigue. Loopt as it stands today is a platform, but not quite a service. They are well-positioned though, to use the data generated by their users to offer a variety of interesting services. Before we examine that angle, let's take a quick look at another startup that is offering an interesting service.

Sense Networks uses massive amounts of real-time location data to provide aggregate consumer traffic trends. This can be really valuable for users if they're looking for something to do on a weekend ("hey, why's everybody in Golden Gate Park today?") or trying to discover the trendiest spot to dance the night away. It also offers a great way to explore a new city. One of my friends, on arriving in a new city, would go to city center and look for crowds of people to follow. By switching crowds every so often and spending the day doing this, he would create for himself a great walking tour of the city. I'm sure he'll appreciate the data Sense Networks' service can now provide him.

With enough traffic, Loopt could create more sophisticated variations on this approach (routes through the city by interest group, for example). It also has the opportunity to provide other relevant services, like:
  • Show nearest street corner with highest likelihood of finding a cab
  • Show "best bet" public transit stop, given a destination
  • A "remember your umbrella" pop-up message if it's raining outside and you're leaving home. Or a "10 minutes to next train" message as you're running out the door.
  • Automatic "shop together" invitations if you and your friends are in a mall at the same time.
All of these are relatively small services that nevertheless would provide value to the average consumer. These might be enough to keep users engaged and appreciative, but maybe not quite enough to generate revenue from consumers. What types of services might a consumer be willing to pay for?
  • Tickets to a cool concert (or reservations at a great restaurant) near your current location when you're looking for something to do
  • If you have tagged people on your "friend" list as "want to meet soon", proximity notification and suggestions on where to meet when they're near you
  • Pedestrian route recommendations that can be customized for weather or consumer preferences. There's a company in Japan, Navitime, that provides exactly this service. I don't speak Japanese, but the idea is quite clear from that page! Having said that, the US is not exactly pedestrian-friendly, so it is unclear if this will be a mass-market product here.
LBS can build and retain consumer traffic, assuming they don't emulate the social networks' stance of providing the platform and putting the onus on others to build services. Here's to consumer adoption :)

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Chart du jour

Itanium Sales Forecast History, courtesy Wikipedia.

Anyone think sales people are not optimists?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

How not to advertise your product

Today's advertisement brought to you courtesy of Facebook.

How many things are wrong with this ad?