Thursday, October 25, 2007

P1 Ended - Go P2

It's been awhile since I have last written in my blog. It's been really hectic around here. Now that the exams are over and I have some days off, I can tell you about some of the things we have done in the past few weeks.

I will dedicate this post to summerize the first period academically. Later I will post on some of the more interesting things that you need to know about INSEAD.

We studied 5 courses, and I also studied spanish. I can say that it was very busy. Here is what happened in all 5 courses:

Definitely one of the more difficult courses. The material is complicated, and in the 7 weeks we had to learn about the time value of money, how to valuate companies and projects based on NPV and future cash flows, and how to price risk.
We had some group work (somewhat limited), and plenty of exercises and readinings. I can say that this is the course where I heard a lot of complaints from the other students about the way that our professor taught it. I guess that like in all places some of the professors are not as good as the others.
The math requirement was limited, and the challnge was more understanding the concepts. Some of the students have a lot of experience in the area, so when they asked questions it was last Chinese for me. And there were some classes in which I felt completely lost (especially when the professor put some English letters on the slides without explaining what they were). But overall I think that I have taken from the course what I should have.

We had a great professor for that course. Every lecture was like a stand-up comedy show. It was a very basic course in micro economics. If you had seen supply and demand, monompoly pricing, and oligopoly games you should hae exempted from the course, because it was really slow. The professor was very afraid to confuse us with derivatives (of straight lines - it is very simple), so he insisted on explaining everything with "Marginal" this and "Marginal" that. For me it's more confusing, but the subject is easy to begin with.
I can say that I have studied a basic course in microeconomics before, and it had been much more difficult than our course.
The more interesting part was the Game Theory part. We learnt about Dominant strategies, Nash equilibrium and more. I will dedicate a seperate post to this part of the studies.

Financial Accounting
Here we arrived to the least pleasant course. Now I understand why I wouldn't want to be an accountant. The professor was very good, and he brought from his experience to teach us how to interpret financial statements, and how managers tend to manipulate them. The goals of the course were to understand company valuation and managerial decision making. The excelent professor made the subject interesting, but challenging. It is definitely not intuitive.
However, the professor uses cases and he cold called us on class - so we had to be perfectly prepared to every class. This was very tiring, and he managed to hijack our time form the other courses. Also he did not let us into class if we came late (even by 5 seconds). He said "You are late you have to leave), and then you had to turn around, no arguments, and walk out the amphi. He actually came to class 5 minutes ahead of time, stared at the clock, and the second it turned 15, he started the lecture and you could not enter.

This is a breeze if you have some background in probability and/or statistics. This is hell if you are a lawyer (ot have no background). It is a very basic course in statistics, but with a lot of material covered (binomial, poisson and normal distributions, hypothesis testing and p-values, and linear regression).
Some of us were bored half the time, while the other stared at the slides without understanding what's going on.
The professor did his best to narrow the gaps. The course material is very original. I don't want to spoil it for you, so I won't say much, but as an example they tried to teach us what is sampling, so they brought M&Ms bags, and we tried to see if the number of red M&Ms in the bag is indeed 1/6 of the bag like the company promised. So everyone got a bag of M&M and we actually counted the number of each color. Than with the data we assessed whether the company is not so accurate (and the company is indeed not accurate). A brilliant experiment to understand this subject.
Also the professor tried to show us how newspaper and other sources manipulate the data they present to us in polls. The most famous is what happened in Florida in the Bush-Gore elections, but plenty of other examples were given (there was a competition of who brings the most radical manipulation from the most well-known source).
Moreover, we did some surveys and the professor showed how he can bias our answers with the way that he asks the questions. Very intertaining. At one time he gave us a list of words such as "Probable", "Possible", "Likely", "Slightly", and we should have put a percentage for each word that an event will occur. For instance I said that if the event is probable to occur, it means that it will occur in 90%, and if there it has slight chances it means 20%. Other students gave completely different numbers, and the most extreme, a girl in my class gave 10% for probable, and 90% to slightly possible. Go figure! It is amazing how different people think differently sometimes.

Leading People and Groups
I looked forward to the leadership module (you can learn all the other stuff reading books, but this is were you can honestly improve), and came out somewhat disappointed. We covered conflict resolution, negociations, group dynamics, influence, cultural differences and more, but the overall feeling is that we only scratched the surface. We had to write two essays - one at the beginning and one in the end. What can I say, it is completely BS to write that you have learnt something in 1 and a half month. I had to write about my strength and weaknesses as a leader and show what I have learnt. Lucky for me, after 8 school applications (and one blog) I am trained in BSing for several pages.
The most interesting lesson was the feedback lesson. In our study groups each of the 5 of us gave feedback to the other 4 (and received feedback as well). I find it hard to deliver feedback , but I managed to do all right. The other people delivered me the feedback that I expected to hear, but it was an educating experience to hear from people I had known for such a short time about myself. I will definitley take their comments into account in the future.
There were other very fun experiments but I don't want to spoil them for you so I won't continue.

Several points:
  • The academic level is not of a masters degree. Each course by itself is an introduction to a topic.
  • The difficulty comes from the time pressure, and the vast information they bombard you with. You must learn these things very fast if you don't want to stay behind.
  • INSEAD structure the courses nicely, in the amphi, the readings, and all the courses combined, and by studying so much stuff hopefully all the important pieces of information got through (I will only be able to tell for sure in the future).
  • Although we have to invest time for our careers and socially as well, in the last few weeks I was more into the academics. It is hectic!
  • The atmosphere was excellent, and people are very smart. All the students came here to study hard and fast, and to have fun in the process.
Looking forward to P2. We will study Finance 2 and Managerial Accounting, but also Leading organizations, Proccessed and Operations, Marketing and Strategy. Should be interesting.

I will dedicate seperate posts to the exams, and the language courses.

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