Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Champions of Cohort Cup

In a year of highlights, let's add another one to the list. My beloved cohort B - aka the Killer Bees - won the Cohort Cup. You might recall my earlier entry on Cohort Cup:


Cohort B has been a stellar cohort all year long. We sealed the deal in the last event of the competition - cohort relays. This event consisted of a free throw contest (basketball), a speed eating contest, several running relays, and finally, a tug-of-war contest. Going into the day, Cohort B was 5 points ahead of Cohort I. At the end of the day, B and I tied for first in the day's events. Thus, Cohort B won the Cohort Cup by 5 points over Cohort I. We did this with almost no support from the second years, unfortunately.

That night, we took the cup to Atlantic City to party.

Winning Cohort Cup has given our cohort immense pride and is likely to keep us close in our 2nd year. Next year, I think a lot of 2nd year Bs will take part in the events with the first years.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


This year I participated in a Wharton Leadership venture known only as "Quantico". Participants spend 24 hours at a Marine base in Quantico, Virginia, where they spend a day-in-the-life of Officer Candidates School. I won't go too much into the details of Quantico, because it's meant to be unpredictable and a surprise to participants. I will say, however, I learned more about leadership at this event than anywhere else at Wharton.

One of the key leadership lessons was the 70% rule. When you have 70% of the information you need to make a decision - you make the decision. Now, this doesn't apply in all situations, but it is a good rule of thumb and a good way to encourage taking action rather than deliberating. Course corrections can usually be made. For decisions that can't be undone, if there's time, then it makes sense to take more time on the decision.

The second key leadership lesson was leading from the front. Marine leaders lead by example. This is related to the concept of a servant-leader, a concept that the marines embrace. Servant-leaders try to serve the people they lead.

After the training on the base - which was more grueling and tiring than I expected, we had a reception at the Marine Museum in Virginia. This was an awe-inspiring museum. Below you can see some of the most famous quotes uttered by marines.

I came away from Quantico with more respect for the marines (and all veterans), and a desire to adopt a more decisive leadership style. I also thought that if I were 21 again, 4-5 years in the military might have done me well and taught me some key skills that would serve me in the rest of my life. But, at least I have my Quantico experience - something that you can't pay money to get. Semper fi!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Think Big

This year, my team participated in and won second place in the Wharton Business Plan Competition, winning $15,000 cash and $10,000 of in-kind services. This was one of the highlights of my first year in business school.

I worked with Marc Montserrat (my learning teammate) and Pitou Devgon (a physician and recent grad) to develop a business plan for a medical device known as PhlebCath. PhlebCath is designed to revolutionize the process of drawing blood from patients by eliminating painful needle sticks. By going through an already-inserted IV, the device will also drive efficiency gains by eliminating wasted time in finding veins for blood drawing. We named our company Next Generation Phlebotomy (phlebotomy is the process of drawing blood).

Over 300 teams submitting business plans in the first round. 25 teams were selected to proceed to the semifinals. 8 teams were then selected for the finals - roughly 4 health care and 4 non-health care teams. This was the first year in the history of the competition that the industry make-up of the final needed to match the industry make-up of the semifinals.

After submitting a 45-page business plan, giving a 20 minute presentation to the judges, and giving a 2-minute elevator pitch to the audience (something I did), we were thrilled to win 2nd place in the competition. We celebrated at Tiffin and ate wonderful Indian food.

See here for the award winners from the competition:

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Patagonia Days 5-6: Las Torres

If the hike to the French Valley was a day of reckoning, then my last day on the W trail was a morning of reckoning.

Day 5 was an easy 4 hour hike to Refugio Cuernos with good weather. But on Day 6, I got up at 4:30am to hike to the Base of the Towers to see sunrise on the three towers, the 3rd and final attraction of the W trail.

Unfortunately, none of my friends wanted to wake up this early, but I found two trekkers from Chicago who were intrepid enough to join me. It was just as well - I didn't have a head lamp; one of them did. The previous night we asked the staffers at Cuernos when we needed to leave to see sunrise on the towers. We heard a range of answers but we chose the earliest time to be conservative.

This was a mistake.

Though we reached the towers after a 2 hour pre-dawn hike before sunrise in which we hiked through snow flurries, we nearly froze to death while waiting for the sun to illuminate the towers. You see, sunrise doesn't necessarily mean that the sun's rays will be on the towers. Sunrise actually happens on the other side of the valley and it takes an hour after sunrise for the sun to shine on the towers. We waited, and huddled for warmth, at the foot of the towers for a hour for the light. The first 10 minutes were peaceful as we were the *first* people to the towers. We sat in complete silence, staring up at the towers, through the mist that blanketed the lower half of the mountains.

After a while, the next group of hikers joined us in the wait, and our peaceful silence was broken.

We continued to wait and freeze. The temperature must have been in the high 20s compared to 50-60 degrees the valley. I couldn't feel my fingers, then my hands, then my toes, then my feet. After an hour of waiting, though the sun's rays were not completely on towers, I decided to save my extremities and descend. Once I had dropped 500 feet, the blood returned to my hands and I felt searing pain. Only later did I learn that this was known as a 're-perfusion injury' - when the blood returns to vessels that have had low blood pressure.

On the way down, I saw my friends, who would get up to the towers at just the right time to see towers beautifully illuminated.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Patagonia Day 4: The French Valley

Day 4 was a 'day of reckoning for me'. It was the most challenging day of the hiking trip but also the most rejuvenating.

The plan for Day 4 was to travel from Paine Grande to Refugio Chileno, making a detour to visit the French Valley along the way. Day 4 would be our longest hiking day of about 10 hours of hiking. Doing this hike at a moderate pace would and getting to Chileno by dinner would require leaving Paine Grande around 8:30am. Because my group got delayed in leaving, I decided to do the hike alone.

To make matters worse, we had pouring rain and high winds most of the day. I was under-prepared for the rain. My pants weren't rain proof and I had no cover for my pack. It took me 3 hours to hike to the branch point (Campo Italiano) where hikers could continue to Chileno or take the detour into the French Valley. I dropped my pack, carried a water bottle and some Lara bars, and set off for the French Valley. The terrain was rocky and uphill and it was hard to see the path for most of the journey. The wind was also vicious - this was the windiest part of the W trail. Along the way, I stopped for shelter from the wind along with 2 Canadians. We sat and stared out at the canyon, marveling at the harsh beauty of Patagonia.

After a few more hours of hiking, I arrived at Campo Britanico, which was eerily deserted. Given the high winds and rain, all the campers at the this camp had descended to Campo Italiano. It was another 15 minutes to the lookout point, but I skipped this excursion because of the poor visibility.

I then descended to Campo Italiano and continued onto Refugio Chileno. I arrived about 1.5 hours after my friends who started towards Britanico but turned back with an hour to go. My clothes were soaked and I was in need of some hot food. Unfortunately, Chileno was our least comfortable Refugio with 8 people to a room and little heat.

At times the hike was lonely, but for the most part it was enjoyable and allowed me to reflect on Patagonia's grandeur in solitude.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Patagonia Days 2-3: Refugio Grey

The next morning we took an early bus to Torres Del Paine park. After lunch at Paine Grande lodge, we spent 4 hours hiking up to Refugio Grey. The picture on the left is of Glacier Grey and Lake Grey. Seeing Glacier Grey is one of the 3 highlights of the W trail (the other two being the French Valley and the Torres Del Paine). We arrived at Refugio Grey that evening and had the first of many fantastic Refugio dinners with ample amounts of Austral beer and Gato wine-in-a-box. Later that night, our trip mate arrived with new shoes and we had a surprise birthday party for another trip mate in the Refugio. We even baked a cake using the ingredients available in the kitchen and had all the guests in the Refugio sign a card. One of the guests was a German girl who is doing her PhD on 'High Mountain Geography' with a specialization on 'Glaciers'. So, she is studying Glacier Grey by making weekly trips to the glacier and measuring key characteristics of the glacier (rate of melting, etc.) We were almost able to arrange a hike on the glacier through her but alas couldn't get a permit. Is there any better way to celebrate a birthday then in the shadow of Glacier Grey?

The next day, we did a day hike near Grey. Our goal was to get to Camp Pass, 4-5 hours north of Refugio Grey. Camp Pass offers a stunning view of the glacier. Unfortunately, we left late and could not make it all the way. I separated from the group to try to push further to Camp Pass, but I realized that it was not going to be doable in one day. Still, hiking on the side of a cliff over-looking the glacier was a tremendous experience. On the way back to the Refugio, I spent a good 20 minutes sitting on a boulder and watching the glacier with a French family (mother, father, and son) who were camping at Refugio Grey. It was windy and cold, but it was just one of many serene moments on the W trail where I could silently enjoy nature's splendor. Afterward, I spent some time at the lake's edge where glacier pieces collect. Glaciers look like light, airy objects; but trying to push one with my legs, I realized they are not. I guess that's why they say 'tip of the iceberg'.

Refugio Grey was also the first place we unveiled our Wharton banner. Over the course of the week, we had the banner signed by fellow hikers, Refugio staff, and finally ourselves. Our goal is to pass this banner on to the next group who hikes the W trail in Torres Del Paine.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Patagonia Day 1: Endless Travel

My Patagonia adventure began promptly at 11am on March 4th. I finished my Business & Public Policy final at 11am and left for the airport with my trip mates. We raced to Newark airport from Philadelphia, parked in long term parking, and checked in for the flight. We barely were able to check in since we were just under the 1 hour check in time (fortunately, exceptions were made for us).

From there, things were fairly smooth for 4 out of the 6 of us. We traveled from Newark to Lima to Santiago to Punta Arenas. Then we took a bus 3 hours north to Puerto Natales. Unfortunately, 2 of our trip mates were on a slightly different flight path and got bumped off their flight from Miami to Santiago. Thus, they did not make it to Punta Arenas at the same time as us. They did eventually make it, but one arrived in Puerto Natales with duct tape on her shoes - wasn't going to work for a 70km hike. More on that later.

All told, we traveled over 30 hours to get to Puerto Natales, where we spent the night before leaving for Torres Del Paine the next day. The folks in the picture are a group of Swedes waiting at the Punta Arenas airport for the bus to Puerto Natales. They eventually became friends (and friendly rivals) on the W trail.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Wharton 54

I'm taking a brief aside from my Patagonia blogs to say a quick word about Wharton 54, Wharton's annual 70s party and generally acknowledged party-of-the-year. Like Patagonia, Wharton 54 lived up to its reputation. Don't ask me for details, you won't get any. Let's just say I'll be recovering for a while.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I used to think that nothing would eclipse my Macchu Picchu trip in 2004 in terms of stunning scenery, but Patagonia might have done it. From March 4 - March 12, I traveled to Patagonia with 5 other first year classmates to hike the W trail (of the Paine circuit) in Torres del Paine, Chile. Pictured to your left is the famous Glacier Grey in Torres del Paine.

Patagonia is a large region in Southern Chile and Argentina, comprised of diverse landscape that includes deserts, mountains, lakes, rivers, and the like. There was a Wharton Leadership Venture to Tierra del Fuego (in Southern Patagonia) that I was interested in doing; however, I and the rest of my travel companions were wait-listed on this trip. Given the difficulty of getting off the wait-list, we decided to plan our own trip to Patagonia - just a different part of it. Torres del Paine is the most famous part of Patagonia and highly doable without a guide; so we decided to go there.

When I think of Patagonia, I think of windy, stark, and diverse landscape. It's not uncommon to be standing on a ledge in 50 mph winds, seeing clouds and rain off in one direction and blue sky and sun light in another, while looking up at a mountain and down at a lake with floating pieces of glaciers. And, because we're so far south, the sun doesn't set until 9pm. My travel companions felt the same - hiking in Patagonia, it's easy to feel like you're on another planet. Does Patagonia live up to the hype? Yes - take it from a man who has traveled to 30 countries - it does so with ease.

Over the next several blog entries I'll describe details of our adventure as we spent 2 days getting to Torres Del Paine, 5 days hiking the W trail, and 2 days getting back to the US. Looking back at my pictures, I shudder at the raw beauty of Patagonia.

In Praise of Angry Birds

It's official. I'm addicted to Angry Birds. What's Angry Birds, you ask? Only the best game on mobile phones. You launch a variety of birds into structures to kill evil, green pigs that have stolen your eggs. I've beaten the regular game and gotten 3 stars on all the levels. Now I'm close to beating Angry Birds: Seasons. Seasons is a great enhancement on the regular game. The levels are harder and require more strategy. The scenery and music are also better with Halloween, Christmas, Valentines, and St. Patrick's themes. Angry Birds is the perfect mobile app game - it's easy to play and you can play in easy 5 minute increments. And, who doesn't enjoy the thrill of hitting a structure just right and watching the whole thing come tumbling down on fat green pigs? I always knew I was a military genius - Angry Birds just proves it even more.

I love this game.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Q4 Begins (where did Q3 go)?

I certainly won't miss Q3, which was the busiest quarter I've had at Wharton. I hit the recruiting circuit hard, going through roughly 16 first round interviews and 6 2nd round interviews (all for health care companies). During one particularly rough week, I had interviews in NYC, San Jose, Atlanta, and Minneapolis. Unfortunately, academics (probably) suffered as a result of the recruiting onslaught. Fortunately though, I have a job that I think I'm going to enjoy for the summer.

Q4 has begun and I think it will be much better than Q3. However, academics will probably take the front seat again unless it is displaced by something. My courses for this quarter are:

Global Strategic Management
Operations & Information Management: Supply and Demand
Health Care Entrepreneurship (we are in the semi-finals of the competition)
Health Care Field Application Project (we are consulting for NuPathe)

Not a light load by any means. But, besides academics, Q4 will be about fun. Spring is here and Philly is limping back to life. It's hard to believe that the 1st year is almost over, so it's time to get back on the social scene and party it's pre-term!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Avid Radiopharmaceuticals

Today's speaker in my Health Care Entrepreneurship class was none other than Dan Skovronsky, Founder and CEO of Avid Radiopharmaceuticals. I don't think we'll have a better speaker in the class.

Avid Radiopharmaceuticals is based on a molecule that Dan invented while doing his MD - PhD at Penn. This radioactive molecule, called florbetapir, is an amyloid imaging agent. When delivered to patients intravenously, the molecule passively diffuses through the blood-brain-barrier to light up amyloid plaques in the brain. These plaques often indicate the presence of Alzheimmer's disease. It turns out that Alzheimmer's is the #1 fear of the elderly, even more than heart disease or cancer.

Dan, who did not have any business training, founded Avid in 2004 and sold the company a few months ago to Lilly for $800M. Avid's acquisition by Lilly was one of the biggest successes in life sciences this year.

One of the most heart warming aspects of this fairy tale of entrepreneurship was the way in which the clinical trials were conducted. Avid recruited elderly patients near the end of their lives (these patients faced end-stage renal disease, cancer, etc.) for their initial testing. These patients knew they were dying and wanted to do something to help patients of Alzheimmers. They therefore agreed to donate their brains to Avid so that Avid's imaging agent could be tested on them. Avid used the brains of 1,000 patients for compound development and tested their compound on about 250 live patients in Phase III clinical trials. Avid later received the obituaries from the families of the patients who had donated their brains for the development trial.

There were two quotes that stuck out from this talk that I'll leave you with:

"Vision without execution is hallucination" - Thomas Edison
"Great companies position themselves to be bought, not to be sold" - Dan Skovronsky

Read below for the press release on the acquisition:

Semester 2 Begins

My friends, it has been too long since I last wrote. Semester 1 at Wharton is in the books, and Semester 2 is well under way.

I spent the first week of my winter break at home, writing cover letters for job applications. I spent the second week of break at school, taking an abbreviated Managerial Accounting class. This class was much more manageable than Financial Accounting.

Since then, it has been all about recruiting. I had 15 interviews during DIP (dedicated interview period) and am waiting to hear if I move forward in the process or if I'm one-and-done. Surprisingly, I'm not too worried because I know that something, somewhere, will work out.

I used to wonder why MBA bloggers went quiet from January - March in the first year. Now I know. Recruiting is a huge time suck. If Q1 was about academics and Q2 about Employer Information Sessions, then Q3 is definitely about recruiting. Maybe Q4 will be about fun?

Meanwhile, the most fun I'm having right now is submitting a business plan for the Wharton Business Plan competition. Get ready for a heart warming tale of entrepreneurship (not mine) in my next post...
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