Gunner get my MBA

Thursday, March 30, 2006

From Baku to Kyoto

Enough about football... as promised here are some pictures from Baku - Azerbaijan, where I just came back from a trip. For those who don't know, Azerbaijan was part of the old USSR, and now an independent state. It's located on the Caspian Sea and is brodered with Russia, Georgia, Armenia and Iran. It's part of the Caucasus. Anyways, it was freezing cold when I got there (it's supposed to be Spring too!)

Above is a picture of the Caspian Sea and you can see all the oil rigs (or whatever you call them). The country is rich in oil, and you can actually see these rigs all over the place - even near the airport.

A scene from the Pedestrian mall. In front of the big tall building in the background is a McDonalds, so I guess it is part of the "developed" world now.

A small picture of the camp site where I stayed. The vehicles are all for sale as the project is finishing, so those of you looking for a deal on a used Hilux pickup, head over to Mugan camp in Azerbaijan.

I won't post any more pictures as it's taken ages to upload these. I'm also going to Japan for a holiday with my wife and some friends. It's been a long time since I was last there (I think more than 20 years - except for a brief stop at Narita airport 8 years ago). It will be very exciting, and I hope I can post some pictures of the Sakura blooming when I get back. Will be flying to Osaka, then on to Kyoto, Hiroshima and finally a few more nights in Tokyo. It will be a whirlwind trip but made all the sweeter due to the good news that has come these past weeks.

I'll update on the trip when I get back. Till then my friends, Sayonara!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Absolutely Fab-ulous!!!

CESC FABREGAS!!! What a wonderkid. What a magnificent player. Last night, the decision to let Vieira leave us was fully justfied, with a performance which belied the kid's age. He was omnipresent, starting our counterattacks, and getting on the end of good throughballs to finish with aplomb. At 18, he is probably already one of the best midfielders in Europe. I shudder to think how good he will be when he turns 20 (which is incidentally the age which Vieira join Arsenal). If we get 9 more years out of this wonderful midfield maestro I think that the future at the new Emirates stadium will be very bright.

This is turning out to be a good year, but I would not want to presume anything until the return leg is done in Turin next week. If all goes well, this will be the Gunner's most successful season in Europe, and the prospect of playing Inter or Villareal in the Semi's definitely seem mouthwatering. The fact that we limited the best team in Italy, to a few pot shots at goal from long range showed the marked improvement in the team over the last few months. From a team in turmoil, to one which has kept 7 straight clean sheets in Europe. It was by no means a one man show though. A brief rundown on the performances as follows:

Jens Lehmann - dealt with what he had to do comfortably and wasn't really troubled except for one chip by Camorenese which went wide.
Kolo Toure - the rock of the defence and probably the second best performance in an Arsenal shirt. He led the young backline superbly, and often came up with important tackles to deny Trezeguet & Ibrahamovic a sniff at goal
Philip Senderos - the young Swiss centre half played well, and dealt with most that came his way. a solid game.
Emanuel Eboue - rampaged down the right wing countless of times and put in a few good crosses. Dealt with Mutu comfortably but sometimes too over-eager and did get caught out of position.
Mathieu Flamini - makeshift leftback performed admirably. Joined in the attack and hardly put a foot wrong. Showed us that we don't have to worry if Cole does leave as long as we have him and Clichy around.
Gilberto Silva - protected the back four well, and strengthened his claim against Emerson of Juve for the Brazilian team.
Alexander Hleb - a quiet game for his standards but played a superb pass to release Cesc for the second goal.
Robert Pires - he was determined to run the show and he did it really well, tackling hard and joining with the attack from the center. Winning the ball off Vieira to set up Cesc (via Henry) for the first goal was the best moment of the match.
Cesc Fabregas - simply superb. Good vision and awareness. Tackled hard. Scored 1 and set up Henry for the second. Man of the Match.
Jose Reyes - full of tricks, and caused Zebina plenty of problems. Sublime move to nutmeg Vieira and cause a reckless tackle which caused Vieira to be out for the return leg.
Thierry Henry - A good game as a captain, and his usual self at finishing. Left defenders for dead a few times, and highlighted against one of the best backlines in the world that he is definitely the best attacker in the world.

The sleepless night last night was well worth it. I can't wait to watch the return match in Turin. Till then - buona notte a tutti a Torino

Monday, March 27, 2006

It has finally sunk in

Whew.......It's been a whirlwind past few weeks, and I have to admit that the last weekend was a lazy resting session which was very very welcome. I got back from a week of travelling and had time to reflect on what has happened this past two weeks. I've finally logged into the INSEAD accepted students net domain thingy and gone through all the preliminaries. I also had to arrange for the funds to be ready for the deposit which is due on the 7th (they don't give you much time do they?.. not that I'm thinking otherwise but it does take time to organise these international transfers). I've also looked at the third language requirement in their language policy and I just realized that the standard required for the exit language is a basic level, so I don't think I need to do much more than brush up on my german. Now I can happily say that the 5 years of studying German in High School has finally paid off.

On a separate front, a lot of things have also happened at work. In a way, I've also started thinking of life away from my current job and by the time I leave, I'll have been on the job for more than 4 years. I'm not one for being sentimental, but it would definitely be a sad parting, as I felt that we've gone through so much together as an organisation, and I myself have learnt things which I never imagined I'd learn so early on in my career. Oh well, I guess life goes on, and there is always a possibility of me returning in the future so I shouldn't really get too bogged down. In any case, I will always reserve a special place for all my colleagues who've stuck with us through thick and thin.

But, as they say the show must go on, and I am truly excited with moving to a new country and experiencing a new culture. Furthermore, it'd be great to get back to student life after 6 years of working, and have proper holidays (albeit short ones), where I can travel around Europe with my wife. And I think what I'm most excited with is making new friends, especially with people from all over the world and from all walks of life. I know that in Malaysia, we are a melting pot of cultures, and probably the same can be said of Australia, but from the stories i've heard, the INSEAD experience will be something else. I also look forward to being reunited with some friends who've moved to London (I'm sure they'll be keen to visit us at beautiful Fontainebleau - *hint* guys).

ok then.. I'll write more when I get the time to catch up. Thanks again to all of you for your well wishes, and to answer the question on the last comment - I would definitely try and go for the Wharton exchange. despite the ding, I really have no hard feelings..... really guys! :)

Friday, March 24, 2006

Fonty here I come!!!

It's official guys... I'm in at INSEAD. I Actually received the email last Friday but didn't get it till late friday as it was sent to my Gmail address. It was nervewrecking as Gmail has this format where you see the first few words of the email. When I saw in my Inbox the mail from my INSEAD interview coordinator, and the words "INSEAD MBA Final decision - Dear Mr S, on behalf of" my pulse started racing. It was a week early and I certainly didn't expect it to come so soon. Once I saw the word "congratulate" I was over the moon. Had to hold back shouting out an emphatic "YES!".

I guess it took a while for it to register in my head that I could be going to one of the top (if not the best) European Schools really soon, that I would have to pack up my life and start a new fresh challenge in a foreign country (I don't treat Australia as foreign as I've pretty much grew up there). I'm sorry for not posting earlier as I mentioned in my last post about letting you guys know soon, but I just got back from a gruelling trip to Azerbaijan. In a way, I had plenty of time to reflect on this during the past week (I've been travelling since 5 am Sunday and only just got back to KL this morning) and the more I think about it, the more excited I get. In any case, there are a lot of other things to consider and write about. Also I would probably want to write something on my trip to Azerbaijan and perhaps throw in a picture or two.

anyways.. this weekend will be one to celebrate.


Friday, March 17, 2006

Insead Interview No. 2

This has been long overdue, but I can honestly say that things have been very hectic at work (and also with life in general) that I haven't managed to blog for almost a month. In any case I have a lot of catching up to do but first and foremost I owe fellow blog readers an update on my second INSEAD interview.

Like I said earlier, I was a bit more nervous for this interview as I haven't spoken to the interviewer before but only to his secretary. It became worse when she (the secretary) called to postpone the 11.30 monday morning interview (at 9.30am - which screwed up my plans for the day) and I had no choice but to accept a 4.30pm slot the next day (which was the 28th February - hence the last day to conduct the interview). Luckily for me I managed to finish all my work early and get to the meeting point on time.

The interviewer came down (about 15 mins late) to his office reception area and suggested that we go to a coffee shop at a nearby mall. As it was an order/pay first system, I faced a conundrum whether to offer to pay. I knew that for sure he would pick up the tab (it's only coffee and he's a high ranking executive) but I wasn't sure whether I should at least make the offer (or whether that would seem too over-eager), so in my hesitation he promptly paid which left me no option but to offer a sheepish "thanks".

We then moved to a crowded sitting area and it made me a bit uncomfortable initially. However like the first interview, our discussion went well. It was almost like a casual chat but more detailed as he had not read my essays (my first interviewer specifically asked for them). It started off with questions about my career so far, and where I see it headed. He seemed to want to find out more detail on my work ("describe how your typical work day is like" and "how have you progressed in terms of work over the past few years" or something along those lines). I guess he wanted confirmation that what I put down on my resume was true and not just some fabrication. One tough question he asked which I didn't expect was "how do you make money in your business?". I think I gave a fairly good answer which he seemed satisfied with.

He then went on to Why INSEAD type questions and also "Why Now" but thankfully the first interview prepared me for these and I think I gave out genuine reasons based on my personal circumstances. He mainly agreed that I had made the right choice and that my reasons were well based. He then asked about which other schools I'd apply to so I told him about the Harvard & Wharton dings (which I know was a bit risky - as I had applied to them first, but I had to show him that right now INSEAD was my number one choice). I Also told him that I initially had doubts about a 1 year program but upon further research and speaking to alumni I found out that INSEAD's program just crammed it all within a year and you don't miss out on much. In the end I think we finished off in a good note with him giving an account of his experiences in INSEAD. He graduated in 97 so his experiences were not too recent but nevertheless it again cemented my belief that the school is right for me.

Overall, it was a bit more formal than the first Interview (which was more like a casual chat about my life and also my goals). However it still had a very casual feel which I really liked, and it was over within an hour. I think I did an ok job connecting with both interviewers. Perhaps the first one was easier as we got along better being in a similar age group. I also left both interviews thinking that INSEAD graduates quite "cool" MBA grads. I really hope to be able to join their ranks. Decisions are due next Friday so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Finally - for those who caught the Arsenal v Real Madrid match last week, I'm sure you'd all agree with me when I say that it was a smashing game, probably the best 0-0 game ever. What I took from the game was the bright future of our team (which I've been harping on about for a while now), and I really can't wait to see the Gunners take on mighty Juve in the Quarters. Things are looking good this year, and hopefully it's a start of many good things to come.