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Greece: The Unabridged Version

Note: The post below was written almost five years ago, but for whatever reason I never got around to posting it. It's dated, but still relevant - and reading it was a sweet trip down the memory lane for me. This gets long, so you might consider the highlights post instead. For a day-by-day recount of the trip, read on.

A month after graduating with my Kellogg MBA (egads), I went with 6 Kellogg classmates to Greece. N, our gracious host and a fellow classmate, was Greek and classy, and thus hell-bent on showing us the best of non-touristy Greece. He succeeded spectacularly - it was the best Greece trip I could ask for. By the way - if any of you are thinking about b-school and specifically Kellogg, do that pre-school vacation trip (known at Kellogg as KWEST). I went to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, with a bunch of people who were then strangers, but are now some of my best mates. The people I was in Greece with, N included, all went on the same trip with me to Puerto Vallarta, and - as I've mentioned previously - they made the trip.




Kellogg MBA: The Aftermath (a.k.a. the “Was It Worth It?” post)

Yep, that's me during commencementSo I'm Pamela Ramali, MBA now - officially so since June 20, 2009. Kellogg was an amazing ride, and I will never forget the two years I had there. I learned so much, but as any other Kellogg MBAs would tell you, it's the people I got to meet that made the most significant impact on my experience. Not only do you have an amazing mix of nationalities and backgrounds, you also get to spend your whole days with the smartest, most intelligent, most personable bunch.

It wasn't all glitz and glamour obviously - I am significantly poorer, because the MBA didn't come cheap. I'm also significantly closer to developing an uncanny amount of gray hair, given the amount of stress and work over the past 2 years - not the least of which was the application process. Good Lord, even remembering the number of weekends I had to stay in to do essay revisions makes my inner socialite wannabe hurt.

So was it worth it?

I'm sure you can do all kinds of cost-benefit analysis to justify an MBA, and you can decide for yourself whether the financials make sense. If I could choose all over again, I would still do the MBA - yes, even in the current economic conditions.

  • It was a two year journey of self discovery. I was unsure what to do next, and where to go - all I knew was that I was getting lost in the daily grind. The process was a time for me to reflect on my life, my career, my relationships, and my person. The many different project teams and activities led me to knowing my strengths and weaknesses better than I ever had - and thus allowing me to work on them. There were things I wouldn't have attempted otherwise, but Kellogg was a safe place for me to experiment, try, and do - being crazy enough to offer up my arse for absolute kicking in Finance II, for example.
  • It opened up a whole host of new opportunities. I was feeling restless and - for lack of better word - stuck in my career. I wasn't unhappy, but I was itching to know what else was out there. I had no idea about the options that were available to me, until recruiting started at Kellogg. This is likely not the case for most Americans, but being from a non-metropolitan city in Indonesia, it was an eye-opening experience - I didn't know a single product manager or consultant growing up.
  • It granted me an amazing network of incredibly smart, talented, and good people all over the world. I had drinks with people of more nationalities in my first week at Kellogg than I had all my life prior! There are so  many countries I want to visit now, especially after the excellent trip to Greece hosted by a dear Greek classmate last month. Talk about a global perspective!
  • Then there was the academic learning. I must admit that the quality of teaching wasn't as consistent as I had hoped, but in any educational institution, I guess it is to be expected that some academics are better than others at teaching. The excellent professors were the best I've ever had - the access to such passionate teachers was just invaluable, and it made up for the poorer ones.

A few considerations, however:

  • Despite what a lot of people say, b-school probably isn't the best for extreme career switchers. I found that the jobs I was a great fit for had a lot to do with what I'd done before, i.e. tech, project / client management, etc. I attempted interviewing for a healthcare-focused company as I thought it was a good idea at the time, and boy, did I bomb that interview.
  • Funds are a great concern - and this is definitely as big an investment as I'd ever want to make in post-grad education. There are intangible benefits that you just can't calculate financially however (see list above), and there are always the loans. Yes, even for international students!
  • I'm not sure if it's a good idea to hide under the MBA shell for two years while the economy is not doing so great. The plus side is that hopefully, by the time you graduate, things have fully recovered, and you can go on your merry MBA ways. The danger, though, is that you may be adding a whopping $100k+ of debt onto your already-squeezed financial situation. An MBA is not a get-rich-quick scheme, and as thus doesn't guarantee you - or me, or anyone else - a fat paycheck and a secure management job upon graduation. As with any other path in life, you'll have to work hard for the gain.

I think I want to do an MBA. What do I do?

The biggest help I received during my MBA-exploring process was from alums - specifically this one Kellogg alum, but also alums from other schools I was considering. They gave great insights to the culture and selection process of the schools, and most were very willing to help. It was also very helpful for me to peruse the various rankings to see which schools would suit my personality and career aspirations best, as a lot of them (such as BusinessWeek's) had detailed information about the specific schools, e.g. academics, alumni network, career services, the split of banking vs. consulting vs. tech vs. marketing jobs, etc.

I've often been asked why I chose a US MBA program, instead of one in Asia Pacific, which would have been closer to Melbourne, where I was. The short answer is that the US ones are better. The longer answer is this: even the best rated Asia Pacific MBA program (which was, incidentally, Melbourne Business School when I was applying), was ranked around #40 in the global rankings - and it was dead tough to get into. Now, I'm not saying that rankings are everything - but I could have easily gotten into the  US school ranked #39, given the decrease in competition for schools outside the Top 10, yet I would have had no chance whatsoever getting into Melbourne Business School, given its reputation in the area and the competition from the whole of Asia Pacific. It made more sense for me to expend that effort on the US b-schools.


I didn't want this to turn into a "Why an MBA?" or "Which MBA?" post, but since the topic was something I struggled with prior to my b-school application process and starting Kellogg, this is my way to wrap it up, what with the supposedly 20/20 hindsight I now have. I hope this would be helpful to at least one of you 🙂

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Negotiations: Just Another Board Game

negotiation1Why do we negotiate?

  • Obtain favorable terms: you try to win the biggest share of the pie for yourself, e.g. buying a car for below market price, get an increase in salary or a better terms of employment
  • Build personal relationships: negotiation isn't always all about winning - it can also create win-win settlements, and develop mutually beneficial relationships

What? Building relationships and "winning" aren't necessarily at odds. This means that you don't have to be a stubborn son of a bitch to come up with an agreeable settlement.

Distribute vs. Integrative Negotiations

Distribute negotiations:

  • Focus on claiming value. It's usually a zero-sum game: what one party wins, the other party looses
  • Typically involve a single issue
  • Example: buying a used car: if the market price is $x, and you get it for $x+500, it means the dealer has a $500 surplus (or "win"), and you are stuck with a $500 loss.

Integrative negotiations:

  • Focus on creating value: enlarge the pie by adding more issues on to the table. Some of the issues may be distributive, but both parties might have similar interests for the rest
  • The negotiation as a joint problem-solving task
  • Opportunity to trade on issues that are more important to you, and less important to the other party
  • Example: job offer negotiation: housing might be a critical issue for you, but for your employer who is a real estate developer, they would actually prefer to have you stay in one of their condos.

The goal is to try and convert all negotiations you care about to integrative - integrative negotiations ensure that both parties maximize their share of wins, while not destroying any relationships. Speaking of wins, there are a few things one needs to keep in mind when negotiating:

BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement)

This is your greatest source of power. Your BATNA is your fallback plan: if the negotiation doesn't result in a deal, what alternatives do you have? For example, if you are negotiating a job offer with one employer, you are in a position of power when you have a good BATNA, e.g. a comparable job offer. In this situation, you are able to negotiate compensation, benefits, etc. - whereas without the BATNA that is the other offer, this discussion might not lead to such favorable terms for you. Therefore, while negotiating, it is in your best interest to increase your BATNA. Find other options that you equally like, may it be a second house you'd be willing to purchase, or a hoverboard when negotiating for a car.

Reservation Price

Reservation price is your "bottom line". If this price is not met, you do not do a deal - lest you are subjected to the agreement bias, where you go into an agreement just for the sake of reaching a deal, even though you will actually be worse off than you currently are.

Making the first offer

Usually, it's a good idea to make the first offer, because it anchors the other party on YOUR terms: research shows that final agreements are more strongly influenced by initial offers than by subsequent concessionary behavior. An aggressive first offer gives you room to concede and thus appear flexible and cooperative, while also letting you get a better deal. On the other hand, weak first offers tend to make you appear stubborn, as you do not have room to make any concessions.

The only exception to the "always make the first offer" rule is when you know the other party has a lot more information than you do, in which case you might make a misinformed - and hence dumb - first offer.

How aggressive should your first offer be?

  • “As high as you can go without embarrassing yourself in front of a respected third party” (Fisher & Ury)
  • Use target price to set your first offer
  • Use references (past prices, similar products) to rationalize the offer
  • Most important: ensure it is reasonable - especially when you want to build a relationship with the other party. An irrational first offer will set a tone of distrust.

Notes: I wrote this as a recap of my Negotiations class at Kellogg, to aid in my exam  studies and real world negotiation project. I hope this was as helpful to you as it was to me!


Gender Targeting in Advertising

655Gender targeting is one of the Kellogg topics that piqued my interest. Men and women are clearly different, but I found it interesting how some of the different factors of their personalities can be used in targeting a particular advertising campaign towards either gender. Men and women, apparently, differ greatly in how they make judgments - and, thus, their purchase decisions:

  • Men are more likely to:
    • Be quicker in making their decisions
    • More certain about their judgments
    • Be less easily persuaded
  • Women are more likely to:
    • Be slower in making decisions
    • Consider more details in their decision making process
    • Seek more discussion

Therefore, when making decisions,

  • Men tend to be goal-oriented, single-minded, and look for short cuts, such as prior knowledge or the first information presented.
  • While women will tend towards comprehensive information processing, and will tend towards products with more information, not less when making their purchase decisions

This means that, even though gender targeting can be easily presented through the use of obvious, everyday cues (the Heineken ad is a great example of this), the WAY the ad is presented can be just as important in improving the effectiveness of the ad for the target gender. This was a revelation to me!

Some ads try to appeal to both trains of thought - for example, the headline in this AMX ad might appeal to men, while the detailed information might appeal more to women.

I find that the print ads below illustrate perfectly the differences between the male vs. female thought processes. I've never seen them illustrated so well before! I love this campaign.

Print Ad 1 Print ad 2 Print Ad 3