Archive for November, 2012

P4 Academics

Friday, November 9th, 2012

I spent P4 in Fontainebleau, which certainly had a different atmosphere than Singapore. In terms of academics, P4 was the first period without core classes, so all my courses were purely elective and chosen by myself. I was a bit more careful in P4 than in P3 with picking my electives, and the end I was very happy with almost all of them. Here is my short take on my classes:

  • Strategies for Product and Service Development (SPSD) SPSD, taught by German prof J├╝rgen Mihm (who like me studied in Darmstadt, and worked in strategy consulting for some time) was a class focused on R&D and how to manage the development of new products and services. The class was one of the most unusual ones I have attended at INSEAD, and included a week-long period of workshops in which all students had to develop a prototype for a shopping “artifact” (bag, trolley, backpack, or the like). I found the class very hands-on and useful, especially for anyone who wants to go into R&D or product development eventually.
  • Management Decision Making (MDM) MDM is a class focused on both psychological and informational aspects of decision-making. Led by Enrico Diecidue, a flamboyant (in a good way) Italian, the class looks at biases that decision-makers face and how to overcome them by using sound statistics and models. The class was certainly very interesting and engaging. In some cases, however, going a bit deeper into remedies for the biases would have been even better.
  • Advanced Game Theory (AGT) AGT was the class I enjoyed the least in P4. The topic was very interesting, but the class was a bit too slow (not “advanced” enough, if you will). Partly, that must have been because the Singapore starters like me had covered more game theory in their Prices and Markets core class in P1 than the Fontainebleau starters, so the first few AGT sessions that professor Vlad Mares taught were necessary to catch up with what I already had covered. In total, the class was still interesting and I learnt some things about game theory that might be useful in my professional life – especially everything relating to auctions.
  • Beyond Markets (half credit) Beyond Markets was my first half credit course, meaning a course that has only eight as opposed to the usual 16 sessions. Beyond Markets was taught by Sven Feldmann and essentially an extension of the non-market strategies already touched upon in IPA in P3. The class was centered around different cases, which were all very interesting and led to intense discussions (and potentially an increasingly cynical view of politics among the participants).
  • Economics and Management in Developing Countries (EMDC, half credit) EMDC was – like my Macroeconomics course in P3 – taught by Daniel Traca. The course was a mix of discussing the specialties of macroeconomics in developing countries as well as bottom-up approaches to facilitating development (such as for example microfinance). I found the class very valuable, especially after having witnessed myself in Ghana how difficult development aid is and how there is no golden bullet that will magically fix everything.
  • The Art of Communication (half credit) The Art of Communication, taught by Steve Knight, was a weekend communication training. I personally did not find the course very valuable, since I am a halfway confident public speaker. However, for those people who really have difficulties speaking in front of other people, this class made a lot of sense.

In the upcoming P5 (the last period already!), I will only have two credits left to be covered.

Porto (16 to 21 October)

Friday, November 9th, 2012

Over the P4-P5 break (from 16 to 21 October), we went to Porto. I had not been in Portugal since I went there with my family when I was six years old, and I had heard a lot of good things, so I was quite excited about the trip. And even though we had quite some rain the first two days, all in all it was a very nice holiday.

Thanks to consultant hotel bonus points, we stayed in a fancy hotel, which was quite conveniently located 350 meters from one of Porto’s metro stops (on the day we arrived, it was pouring and we were completely soaked by the time we got to the hotel… the 350m felt much longer than they did on the next day without rain). We spent most of our time walking around the city, tasting Port Wine in Vila Nova de Gaia, which is on the opposite shore of the Duouro River and houses a multitude of Port wineries, and taking a boat tour on the river. The atmosphere and scenery of Porto is amazing. The old town features lots of narrow, steep streets, which in comparison to many other old towns in Europe seems much more alive with “regular” people and less of a museum. Also interesting is the contrast between renovated, beautifully decorated small shops and restaurants on one hand, and many abandoned or completely run-down buildings on the other hand (even though many of these buildings have a beautiful architecture, lots of Art Nouveau and regionally typical tile-covered facades).

The Port wineries in Vila Nova de Gaia were also really worth a visit. The first one we visited was Ramos Pinto, named after its founder and a relatively young Port winery (established in 1880). The tour through the museum comprised not only a visit to the cellars in which the Port is stored in barrels while aging, but also to a small museum which displayed especially lots of the marketing material used by the company especially in its early years – they had to be quite creative since they had to prove themselves against the established Port companies. The second Port winery we visited was an older one, so the tour was less about interesting marketing and more about the history and theory of Port wine. After our visit to the second winery, we took a boat tour on river Duoro, which took us upstream a bit and then down the river to where it enters the Atlantic ocean. When we reached the ocean, the sun was just setting – a very beautiful sight!

Another highlight of the visit was the food – we had quite some interesting dishes. Most notable was the local sandwich specialty – one could call it the mother of all meat sandwiches: The Francesinha. It is basically different types of bacon, ham, sausage and beef between two buns, covered with lots of cheese and swimming in beer gravy… Delicious, but certainly not something to be eaten every day! The next day, we opted for vegetarian food instead to counterbalance all the grease in our blood…

Some pictures follow.

© 2012 – 2018 JF Goetzmann — Impress