Friday, June 6, 2014

New website

I stopped blogging here while I was in business school.  Now two years have past, many things have changed in life and I started blogging again!  Here is my new blog and I look forward to reconnecting!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Two years have gone by fast...

I never thought I would return to this blog since I abandoned it so long ago. It is not that I dislike the idea of blogging now, it's just that once you leave something for too long, it almost feel wrong to come back, to disturb a piece of history.

Yet, I felt compelled to come back today. I just had dinner with a first year Kellogg student who has been my Kellogg-buddy since his admission days. I mentioned I used to blog. Surprisingly enough, he had followed my blog during his applicant days. I did not know that after I left the blog, it was still making some sort of influence on people.

Now, after almost two years at Kellogg, I came back to where everything started. Reviewing my old posts triggered all kinds of feelings: nostalgia, a sense of achievement and satisfaction, a sense of peace and determination. It's funny to look at my old DAK post, because just last weekend, I was hosting DAK I as a section leader. I was standing at the podium where my old DAK leaders did. How time flies.

Many things have changed during the two years, yet many things have not. I have grown yet I am still the same DreamChaser determined to define my success and happiness in life.

Maybe it is a good time to come back to this blog, to write something about my past two years and give this blog an official closure.

Just maybe.

Winter on Northwestern Campus, overlooking Lake Michigan, with downtown Chicago in the distance

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Step Forward

This weekend I did something that I have never done before, I joined a 52-hr (which turned out to be less demanding than it seemed) start-up competition in Chicago called LeanStartupMachine. The event was geared towards the entrepreneurship community in Chicago and was advertised through the Kellogg community through the Entrepreneurship Club newsletter. I knew this event would be one of those opportunities for me to meet interesting/entrepreneurial people outside of the business school sphere and possibly learn bits and pieces from working with individuals with a designer or developer background.

Attending an event like this might not seem that much of a big deal to many of my readers. However, it was quite a substantial step for me. I have been liking the idea of joining a startup for awhile but never took the first step to try start something. I came to Kellogg with the expectation that I can meet people with exciting ideas and possibly dive into some entrepreneurial activities quickly. Although Kellogg provides excellent resource for this to happen, for someone without a particular idea in mind, it wasn't that easy. I grew anxious about what I should do about my desire to do something in this space and then I saw this event. I took a step forward. Joining this event and emerging myself in a short but intense startup experience is really my first taste of the whole startup thing, and I honestly did not know what to expect.

The details about event has been documented pretty well by my team leader Obie Fernandaz's live blogpost . The cuban descent developer/entrepreneur who had led a successful career in the web design field pitched an idea which he was passionate about, got a team together (including me who was intrigued by his idea) and started the process. The team was composed of an eccentric group of individuals. Me and another Kellogg student were the traditional "business" folks, and then we had two guys from Sears holdings who were both involved in the eCommerce division and were quite familiar with the product development process. Then there was your stereotypical geeky developer and a girl with consulting/banking background who wanted to become entrepreneurs.

It is probably good to mention that the LeanStartupMachine event is a testing ground for trying out the Lean Startup model which has been pioneered by Haas lecturer Steve Blank. The whole idea is about fast cycle of customer development, changing your assumptions and pivoting your product before actually building something in full-blown fashion. It's about getting close to the customers early through your prototyping phase and constantly modifying your prototype. I thought the idea was quite relevant for early stage startups but probably wouldn't be able to create the next revolutionary product such as the Ipod.

Given the scope of the project, we followed the steps of the LeanStartup principles and constructed our working days around conducting customer surveys, testing our assumptions and pivoting our ideas going forward. It wasn't so much of building the site out, in fact, we only built a landing page so far. But the customer development process, although at times painful and unclear, have led us to focus on the most important aspects of the project. And this first hand experience of struggling through the first stage of starting up an idea was well worth my precious weekend time.

I think I will summarize some of the lessons learned tomorrow after we do our 9min presentation. As much as I don't believe this idea will turn into anything fruitful in the future, I am excited to see what we can come up with as MVP (minimal viable product) and what other teams have done.

Lessons learned:

Monday, October 18, 2010

the Social Network, Startups among other things

I watched "the Social Network", the Facebook movie, two weeks ago. It was a movie of particular interests to our generation because so many of us are hopelessly addicted to Facebook, especially since coming back to b-school. In addition, one of the characters, Divya Narendra (the partner of the Winklevoss brothers), is currently a JD/MBA student here at Kellogg. You can read an interview of him regarding this movie here.

The movie was executed beautifully and funny at the same time. It triggered a lot of discussion afterwards among my friends about how to successfully assemble a team to execute an idea. To me the biggest lesson learned was that it was crucial for a start-up team to have a trusted developer who has vested interest in the product and company. It is true that during the product development stage, you desperately need developer talent and sometimes you just don't have that talent in your circle. That's why you hire outside help, and unfortunately that put you in the risk of hiring the next Zuckerberg. You can certainly have them sign legal document, but as a starving entrepreneur, you probably don't really have the money and time to protect your idea with a wall of legal documents.

One of the recent trends that I have seen startups do (especially startups coming out of business school) is that they outsource development work to India and maintain "long distance relationship" throughout the product development and even post product launch period. I consider this even a worse idea than hiring outside developers, especially for products that are targeted for the US market. Just talk to anyone who have experience working with outsourced companies, then you will know why.

The bottom line is, developers are crucial for tech start-ups. They are the one that hold the biggest "added value" (what you bring to the table), to use the jargon I just learned in business strategy class. And rapid turn-around and proto typing is key (hence, outsourcing to India doesn't work).

One solution to this developer power problem is actually at the source of the idea. Use Divya Narendra as an example, the idea of Harvard Connection was copied because it was a replicable and simple idea. You only really need one good developer to copy an idea like Harvard Connection. Divya's latest venture, SumZero, is an online platform for hedge fund, mutual fund and private equity analysts to share propriety information. And that, is something that requires domain knowledge, and something that is hard to copy. It serves a smaller community and has a niche market. Therefore, the developer next door who is a computer geek probably would not really be interested in copying this site. I would say Divya had really applied his lesson learned from the failure of Harvard Connection.

On the topic of protecting your ideas. I also want to share another school of thought. We just had a guest speaker for my Operations class today. Sunil Hirani, the founder of Creditex (acquired by ICE for over $500 million) spoke to us about Process Innovation and Entrepreneurship. What I took away from his talk is that ideas are best shared. In reality, once you talked to the first customer, your idea is out anyway, so you might as well talk to as many people as possible, to hopefully 1) attract the best people to your team; 2) to refine your idea. I am definitely a strong supporter of idea sharing. After all, most successful entrepreneurs will tell you that "execution is more important than ideas". But I think what I said about "easily replicable ideas" vs. "niche ideas" still hold true here. In the end, Mr. Hirani's venture is a financial service company rather than another social network site.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Back to Blogging

Sorry I ate my own words when I posted in my last post 5 months ago about being more motivated to blog....The reality was, I was too occupied with life disconnected with the real world during the summer and life became insanely busy the moment I landed back in America. I went on KWEST, met many people during CIM, found friends and non-friends in my section, transferred to the MMM program, had my first class at Kellogg, had my first final exam soon after, applied for a bunch of student positions, went to millions of study group meetings, got myself involved in too many things and found little personal time to even video chat with my fiance.

Yet, I decided to start blogging.

I am not sure how I am going to shape this blog. But I realized that I desperately need to take time out of the swirl of business school and reflect on life. It is the only way that you can escape the infamous "Kellogg atrium effect" and chart your own course in the right direction.

I don't know if people still read this blog, but I hope my reflection will also give you a glimpse of what life is like at Kellogg, albeit it's just from one person's perspective.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

BoB Awards

I was genuinely surprised this morning when I saw the ClearAdmit tweet about the winners of their annual Best of Blogging Contest. I won? really? seriously? I felt a little embarrassed since I haven't posted anything since early April...not to mention all the wonderful blogs out there in the MBA blogsphere. I admire the focused content of MadBubbles, the sleek design of a beautiful mind, the extremely informative blog of Hari's. How on earth did I win among all those dedicated and talented bloggers~

Interestingly, my post "Don’t Let [the B-School] Application Defeat/Define You" won the best single post. I think for many reasons, this message really resonated with us MBA applicants and probably won me the BoB award in the end. So thank you all for reading my humble post (and voting for me). I am just glad that some folks took it to heart because I really believe that neither the application process nor the result define who we are.

I think getting this award is a really good thing. It gave me the extra motivation to keep blogging at just the right time. As life becomes tedious again with all the moving to school preparation, I needed the extra push to produce meaningful posts. And this award gives me just that :)

So congrats to all the bloggers! and a big shout out to Orlando, a fellow Kellogger (do they actually call it that? I will find out this fall I guess~ ) who won the student blogging award and whose blog is of top, top quality. Also, if you haven't noticed, there is quite a large number of Kellogg bloggers on the list, which, in some way, demonstrated the Kellogg community/sharing culture. Or, as my friend puts it, we are just a chatty bunch :)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Kellogg Class of 2012

I am happy to announce that it's official that I am going to be a member of the Kellogg Class of 2012! It's been a long journey and I feel so lucky and thankful to be able to make it in this competitive application season and become a member of this great school. Evanston here I come!