Monthly Archives: July 2009

Reasons to Join a Cult in College

When I graduated from high school, one of my favorite teachers imparted some valuable advice about college life.  “Rule no. 1: Don’t drink too much,” she said.  “Rule no. 2: Don’t take No-Doze.  And Rule no. 3…  Don’t join a cult.”

After four years at Harvard, I’m sorry to say that I failed on 2 out of 3.  There were definitely a few times when I drank too much (sake bombing and my 21st birthday come to mind), but I think most college students can own up to failing on Rule no. 1.  So what other big rule did I summarily ignore?  Well, in my sophomore year, with several papers looming and a long night ahead of me… I innocuously joined a group called Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business (WIB). 

WIB logoUnlike cults that chase after alien spaceships, WIB had a far more modest goal.  Officially, the organization “seeks to empower a dynamic group of enterprising young women” (…which, like all good mission statements, is better when appended with “in bed”).  But all of us in WIB truly believed that we were out to achieve the greater good.  We were reaching for the top.  We were breaking the glass ceiling.  We were embodying the WIB slogan and “Making it Happen”.

WIB was no ordinary, podunk little student organization.  We were the largest undergraduate business group on campus.  We regularly hosted and sponsored events for hundreds of women at Harvard.  We published a nationwide magazine and took career exploratory trips to Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and New York.  We met leaders like Warren Buffett, Jeff Zucker, and Bobbi Brown, just to name a few. 

huwibbAlong the way, we led WIB to channel the best practices of our capitalist heroes.  We suited up for recruiting events.  We out-hustled everyone for business cards.  We put together Powerpoint pitches with the official WIB colors (Red 136, Green 0, Blue 0) that had been imprinted into our brains. I remember one night, we stayed awake until dawn, discussing the optimal WIB board structure.  One board member joked, “I don’t need a boyfriend… I have WIB.” 

For fun, we managed to incorporate “WIB” into everyday words, so that a whole new lexicon was created: “I finally got a WIBternship!… Oh, you are such a WIBaller!”  In our board photo (above, and blurred to protect the innocent), we made sure all our legs were crossed in the exact same direction.  It was very Stepford Wives of us, which of course we found very amusing.

Looking back, it is clear now that we were absolutely, positively, crazy.  But there’s something about cult-crazy that seems to justify all of it: the long nights, the email fights, the reconciliatory Sunday WIBrunches…  After all, we were championing women, and who can argue against that?  (OK, maybe those in Alaska can argue against women leaders… but then you probably don’t support the troops, either).

I often look back on my WIB days with awe and just a bit of wistfulness.  There’s a lot of “I can’t believe I did that”, and “Remember how intense we were??”.  But there is also a lot of pride that I had been part of it all, part of something greater than myself.  So yes, I’m proud I was a member of WIB, of that crazy little capitalist cult.  And still, even with so many long, sleepless nights of general WIBauchery, I  never took No-Doze.  Victory.

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Aliens for World Peace

I feel sorry for humanity sometimes.

tricycleI feel sorry when I hear that a Hispanic woman’s voice should only be used to enforce the “immutable” laws written by 300-year old white men. I feel sorry when I hear the term “world peace,” which now serves solely as a popular chant for beauty queens, and a punchline for stand-up comedians. I feel sorry when a tricycle needs to be locked up on the streets of New York City, because someone is afraid that it will get stolen.

I am sorry for all of these threats to humanity: for our divisive politics, for the wanton hate in the world, and for a tumbling economy that would drive thieves after three-wheelers.

But, I have a solution.  A solution that will boost our economy, bring people together, and elevate our relations with countries around the world:

Bring on the aliens.

Yes, aliens. Imagine flying saucers, little green men, and Joan Rivers’ face.

An alien attack on the White House brought people together in the movie Independence Day

I’m serious here.  It seems that most of the world’s troubles derive from our human nature to seek a common enemy.  So, think about it: The guys running Area 51 call up their alien pals and say, “Come on in!”  Thousands of alien spaceships fly through the hole in the ozone layer created by global warming. These aliens are smart (since they have spaceships) and angry (since they’ve been on a very, very long road trip with no rest stops).

Americans are soon alerted about the alien invasion, and boy, we are afraid. Afraid, and mad, because these damn spaceships are blocking satellite reception for DirecTV.  Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell immediately deliver a joint speech about togetherness in the face of adversity. Sarah Palin enchants us all with a story about how she can see outer space from Alaska. At the same time, a modern-day New Deal is put into place, creating thousands of jobs for ordinary Americans to build alien entrapment plants and spaceship bombers.

A U.N. coalition is quickly formed to fight the aliens, whose spaceships are now flying all over the globe.  Kim Jong Il offers up his arsenal of nukes.  Ahmadinejad  starts pumping oil to support a new military.  And given that America is still the global leader in science, technology, and alien objects (this is where Joan comes in), we are tasked with spearheading the charge.  After a rousing speech by Bill Pullman, Will Smith leads the first group of alien freedom fighters out in space.

Bound together by fear, and a renewed belief in our collective humanity, we shed our ideological differences and stand hand-in-hand with our human neighbors as we watch the fireworks above.

Of course, this is assuming that the aliens actually want to attack us.  Instead, if they are coming in peace, then it would seem rather inhumane to mercilessly eliminate them…  But if aliens can bring us (human) world peace, then I say, bring us the aliens.

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Cultural Learnings of Corporate America for Make Benefit All Those Not in Corporate America

Now that I’m two years out of college, I want to share some of my learnings from the glorious nation of corporate America.

With respect to my career, I have learned:

  • flamesThat in case of a fire emergency, my entire office building would burn down with everyone still inside…  But at least we’d be working until the very last monitor melts.
  • t-rexThat even though my boss could (hypothetically) have the management aptitude of a monkey, the social capacity of a deaf-mute hyena, and the brain of a T-Rex hopped up on acid, I would still have to answer to him/her.
  • cupcakesThat it is possible to eat an entire box of Cheerios, a pound of grapes, a cookie ice cream sandwich, plus four cupcakes, all in a day’s work.  As a snack.
  • bigwomanThat it only takes one time before you’re known as “that” guy, or “that” girl.  Trust me, you don’t want to be “the girl who eats meatballs for breakfast”, or “the girl who eats four cupcakes as a snack”.  Not that I know from personal experience…but I’m just sayin’.
  • circusThat sometimes you have to stick it out in your crappy job, because it’s a recession and some career dreams (eg. circus journalist) are just unrealistic.  And yes, in this economy, the unrealistic part is more “journalist” than “circus”.  So, if you know of any openings in the circus… hit me up.

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The Friend Bullseye

On this blog, we have talked about how important our friends are.  Well…actually, we have discussed categorizing our friends in a modern-day feudal system made up of serfs, peasants, and nobles.  Given that references to the Middle Ages may seem somewhat archaic, I have revised our friend-stratification strategy.   Introducing, the Friend Bullseye:

friendbullseye

As an example, I have taken on the patriotic duty of filling this out for President Barack Obama.  There were a few question marks on Barry’s bullseye: For example, is Tim Geithner a “work friend”, a “convenient friend”, or just a poor-performing “acquaintance”?  What about Sarkozy, whose overtures to Obama may signal a one-sided man crush? Where does Sarah Palin fit in (especially since Batshit Crazy is already taken)?

I find that filling out the Friend Bullseye can be a rather illuminating exercise.  Further, the bullseye can also serve as a gift-giving guide–the closer the friend is to the center, the more money you should spend on birthday gifts: inner ring $75, middle ring $50, outer ring $25… and if a friend misses the board completely, then a Facebook message shall suffice (or at least a Cabinet post).

So, get out your pencils, scour your old yearbooks, and start stratifying your friends.  Not only can this help you determine Christmas-gift-worthy friends, but you’re giving yourself a head start on the vetting process for 2012.  After all, buried deep in our pasts, we all have at least one Batshit Crazy friend that we’ll have to overcome in our run for the presidency.  Sarah, we’re looking at you.

obamabullseye1

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Wall Street vs. Main Street? I’ll Take Main Street

It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the hype. There’s the wining, the dining, the company-sponsored boozing, the free meals, the car service home, and most alluring, the potential of making six-figures right out of college. Of course, there are also the 100+ hour weeks, the requisite face time, the Blackberry taking over your life, the tacit no-vacation clause, and the fact that your six figures all depends on your bonus (and thus, the volatile market).

Ah yes, the life of an investment banker on Wall Street is a charmed one indeed.

The opposite of investment banking.

Yet, even with the soul-sucking work and grueling hours, there are still thousands of recent college grads scratching and clawing for i-banking jobs every year. Some may want to put in their two years to land a cushy PE/corporate job. Others may want to prove to themselves that they can survive the torture. Still others may just want to hit on girls with the line, “I’m an investment banker”… which, oddly enough, seems to work just as well as “secret agent,” and much better than “consultant”.

But now, given the recent financial crisis, many of the remaining investment banks are cutting their recruiting budgets and giving out fewer full-time offers and coveted internships. Plus, with the plethora of ex-Lehmanites floating around in the pool of unemployed, getting that entry-level banking job will be much tougher than in previous years. Unless you’ve spent your summers running DCF models or honing your valuation skills, you may want to abandon your childhood dream of becoming an i-banker. So, here are some (mildy exaggerated) tidbits about the Street life that may help you cope:

  • Accounting for hours worked, an investment banker probably makes about the same hourly wage as the IT tech support guy in Mumbai. With an annual coup of $120,000 a year ($60K base salary + 100% bonus), 100-hr work weeks, for 52 weeks of the year = $23.08 average hourly rate.  And this is before taxes.
  • On a related note, Brooks Brothers suits start at $898, and you’ll still look cheap compared to your MD, your clients, and the club owner at Lace.
  • At most bulge-bracket firms, Big Brother will be keeping tabs on your email and web searches for signs of insider trading. Swearing is strictly prohibited through email messages (but strongly encouraged in everyday conversation). Most websites will be blocked as well, so not only will you never get to see your friends, but you won’t be able to keep up with their status updates on Facebook either.
  • If you are female, prepare to enter a world where men are vulgar and crude by default. If you are male, prepare to enter a world where there are no females.
  • Asking about work-life balance is akin to putting on a tutu and galloping through the office singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. That is, it’s frowned upon.
  • You will likely spend the majority of your 15-hour days sitting in a chair, sitting in a black car, or sitting on the toilet from scarfing down your latest SeamlessWeb order. So, if you don’t gain at least 20 lbs in your first year on the job, then la cocaina must be working wonders.

Finally, one last reason why i-banking on Wall Street may not be the best move? Two words: job security.

Isn’t Main Street starting to look more attractive?

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