Why You Probably Shouldn’t Comment and Say Hi on LinkedIn

I think we can all agree that getting an MBA isn’t easy. It’s a massive investment and there’s always a lot of uncertainty associated with it. There’s a lot of pressure to do well and get a good job, with a solid pay package, decent work-life balance, ample opportunities to grow and what not! The list is endless…

This anxiety has indirectly lead to thousands of posts on LinkedIn such as the one below:

You’ll find hundreds of such people on LinkedIn who claim to be recruiting through posts like this  and apparently, all you have to do is comment ‘+’ or say hi to land the role. Always remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

I find it hard to imagine that any legitimate recruiter would scroll through hundreds of comments (saying hi), clicking through hundreds of links to profiles and then scan through them in order to hire someone. I could be wrong but it just seems extremely unlikely to me. If they wanted to look up a bunch of random candidates, they could just use the search feature on LinkedIn to do so!

What do these people gain through such posts? The answer is visibility. Every time you comment on such posts, there’s an extremely likelihood that it’ll show up in the feeds of all your connections. This just another form of spam that we all could do without. Break the cycle and put an end to posts of this sort.

And who knows? An actual recruiter might see you commenting like this and dismiss you as being extremely gullible or too lazy to actively pursue opportunities!

I’ve also seen posts in which people promise to send across PowerPoint templates or e-books. These posts are usually legitimate and I have actually received whatever was promised, in most cases. But if you think they’re giving away the books out of the goodness of their heart, then you’re mistaken. The hidden agenda, again, is visibility and building connections. Many of these people could also probably harvesting your email IDs and selling them off to spammers!

If you disagree with me and have proof that commenting like this actually helps, please do drop a comment below. As I said, I could be mistaken and don’t mind being corrected.

 

Please Stand in Queue!

I hate queues! The word in itself is hard to spell (for other people, not me), which is probably why they probably prefer to use the word ‘line’ in the US. If you are like me, queues probably weren’t your favourite topic from Computer Science classes back in school. Queuing theory from Mathematics isn’t particularly endearing either. And don’t even get me started about standing in queues. According to not-entirely-credible statistics available online, human beings spend approximately six months of their lives standing in queues, which works out to something like 3 days per year. They’re a glorious waste of time!

In an episode of the Freakonomics podcast titled, ‘What Are You Waiting For?‘ , Steve Landsburg (an economics professor at the University of Rochester and the author of the provocatively titled book, “More Sex is Safer Sex“) brings up the idea that ‘people are not fully accounting for the damage that they’re doing to other people when they make decisions. And likewise when you get into a line.’ You might think you’re doing other folks a favour every time you join a queue whereas you are actually imposing a cost on everyone who joins the queue after you – by forcing them to wait longer. Have you ever thought of this? No! You only think of yourself! I found this thought mind-blowing because of how counter-intuitive it seemed at first.

Indian moms, including my own, have perfected a strategy to game the system at supermarkets. The strategy is deceptively simple – my mom, my sister and I take our positions in different billing counter queues. In the end, the shopping cart is passed to whoever succeeds in reaching the counter first. Crude, but effective. I was under the impression that the underlying principle behind this strategy was, ‘Don’t put all your eggs in one basket’. After one year at a business school (during which time, I learned the importance of using jargon to look smart) I looked upon it as a form of hedging.

I reckon that people probably spend less time waiting in queues now than ever before due to advancements such as fast food restaurants, ATMs, services like Amazon Prime & BookMyShow as well as the ability to make medical appointments and restaurant reservations online. Waiting can be fun and even profitable sometimes. For instance, I don’t mind waiting for Domino’s, Faasos, Box8, etc. to deliver my food, as I keep reloading the delivery tracker, hoping against hope that they turn up a little late so that I can get a refund! Food always tastes better after a refund, I can vouch.

Back in November-December 2016, following demonetization, queues even helped significantly bring down India’s unemployment rate. People were being hired to stand in queues outside bank branches and ATMs, as reported in this article by the Indian Express. Take that, all you commie libtards! This is how demonetization helped increase our GDP!

You often hear that ‘good things in life are worth waiting for’, which is what Apple fanboys keep telling themselves as they queue outside Apple Stores days in advance. Royal Enfield enthusiasts can probably relate as well. Not to mention middle-class Indians who waited years to get a landline connection back in the eighties.

When I was younger, my father often told me that I ought to have more patience. Being an insufferable pain-in-the-ass even back then, I used to retort, “I don’t plan on becoming a doctor. I don’t need any patients!” (*cue canned laughter*)

I also learned from the Freakonomics podcast that, according to economics, queues are a very inefficient way of allocating scarce resources. A better way would be to let people pay their way out of waiting in line. The highest bidder at any point would be served first. However, this would seem inherently inappropriate for moral reasons. This is why there are waiting lists for organ transplants, instead of auctions. A queue seems fair, because everyone gets served based on the amount of time they are ready to invest in waiting.

To conclude, I’d like to introduce the concept of a last-come, first-served queuing system. It is a queuing system in which, in the words of Landsburg, “Each newcomer comes to the front of the line and pushes everyone else backward. What that means is that if you are more than three or four places back, you have no hope of ever getting a drink because newcomers are going to arrive at some rate. There is going to be some point in the line where it’s hopeless to wait for your drink. And therefore those people will give up, and that’s a good thing.”

“It means the line will never be more than a few people long. The fountain still gets used because the stream of newcomers assures that. And the few people who are willing to wait in line assure that the fountain will be used even at the moments when no newcomer has just arrived. But not many people would be willing to wait in a line like that. And we want people giving up, because we don’t want them wasting their time in lines.”

“Well, you say it’s not fair but the number of people who get served is the same number that would have gotten served under any other system. And you know, you might think, “Well, this way some people never get served at all.” That’s true. But under the current system some people never get served at all, namely the ones who are not willing to wait an hour. The same number of people are being denied service either way. “

“And the biggest one is that if we were to implement this system you would have to have a way of preventing people from leaving the line and then re-entering at the front. It’s got to be only the genuine newcomer who gets the drink, not the person who was waiting in line and got out and ran up to the front. Enforcing that, I think, would be a nightmare.”

I hope this post has piqued your curiosity a little. For more interesting ideas from the world of economics, you can listen to the Freakonomics podcast. It is available online for free and a new episode is uploaded every Thursday. I’d also recommend the various Freakonomics books, authored by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner.



(If you liked this post, do like and share this! If you’d like to see more such posts, please let me know in the comments section!)

Drive to Thangassery Fort Ruins

As George Orwell rightly quipped,  “All parents are crazy, but some parents are crazier than others.”

Parents are crazy, by definition. You’ve got to admit it! We all have this feeling, deep down inside, that our parents are crazier than those of our friends. Over the years, we have all come to terms with it. It’s akin to patriotism in many ways – it all comes down to the circumstances of our birth. We can’t help but love them despite all their craziness and idiosyncrasies. Now that I live almost 3000 kilometres away from home, I actually miss their craziness. They realize this too, I think. As a result, whenever I come back home, they try to make it up to me – mostly unsuccessfully.

As a result, they consider it perfectly normal to wake me up on a Monday morning and announce, out of the blue, “We’re going to Thangassery today to see the fort there.”

“But why?”

“Because it’s not raining!” (Parent logic at work!)

Click to access the route on Google Maps

We took the Kazhakootam – Perumathura – Varkala – Paravur – Thangassery route. This coastal route is extremely scenic, and doesn’t see too much traffic either. The road is mostly good as well, except a few stretches that have really bad potholes. You’ll pass through numerous beaches along the way and at certain points like Kappil, the road is flanked by the Arabian Sea on the left and pristine backwaters on the right. The funny part is that our final destination, the Thangassery Fort, wasn’t much to behold. It was slightly disappointing, to be honest, but sometimes, life is about the journey and not the destination!

To sum up, it’s an incredibly fun drive and I’d recommend it to anyone with time to kill in Trivandrum. Personally, I feel that it’s sad that I haven’t visited most of these spots despite living in the city since 2001.

Perumathura Beach
Perumathura Beach
Anjengo Lighthouse
Anjengo Fort
Anjengo Fort
Anjengo Fort
Anjengo Fort
Thangassery Fort
Thangassery Fort
Thangassery
Thangassery

CAT/IIFT/XAT Prep – My Journey (Part 1)

After the IIFT results were announced in January this year, I received a barrage of messages on Facebook from shortlisted candidates who wanted me to help them prepare for their interviews – turned out that all of them had read my answers on Quora.  I had extremely mixed feelings about this. At first, I was chuffed that these candidates wanted me to help them out. Later, I started getting a bit annoyed by the sheer number of messages but I’d still try to take out time and help everyone out nonetheless because I could empathize with them. I can still clearly remember how I used to scour through Quora, Facebook and Pagalguy in search of tips and advice of any sort. Somewhere along the way, I thought that writing a blog post about my own preparation for CAT and the ensuing interviews might prove useful to some candidates somewhere along the line. This is that post…

 

When did you start preparing for MBA entrance examinations?

Sometime in my fifth semester of engineering, I decided that I wanted to do an MBA straight after my undergrad. I joined TIME Trivandrum and started attending their CAT classes on weekends from November 2015 onwards (and wrote CAT/IIFT in December 2016).

I don’t think it is necessary to join coaching classes to prepare for CAT/IIFT/XAT and it can easily be managed on your own. However, I tend to procrastinate very often, and hence, decided that attending classes and having a peer group would serve as motivation.

Why did you decide to join TIME instead of X,Y,Z?

This ad!! Watch it!!

Honestly, it’s because there weren’t any good alternatives in Trivandrum. TIME Trivandrum had also built up a pretty good track record over the past few years. It’s always best to try speaking to your college seniors or other acquaintances who have already attended such classes to gauge how good they are.

Did you do extra reading of any sort to prepare for VA/RC?

Not really. I didn’t really feel the need to do too much extra reading since VA/RC was easily my strongest section.

I tried reading Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis but never managed to finish it because I found it boring and repetitive after a certain point of time. However, I recommend that you try reading it because it’ll help you to start thinking about words in a certain way. You can easily pick up second-hand copies from book stalls in your town. Or order one from Amazon!

I also used to read articles posted on Arts & Letters Daily (www.aldaily.com). Most of the articles posted there are extremely dense and long-winded, which is exactly why you should make reading them a habit. I strongly believe that if you can read an AL Daily article in one sitting without much effort, CAT RC passages will become a piece of cake for you! For this, you slowly need to build your endurance over time. So, do try and read one article per day – without fail!

It’s also very important to develop an understanding of what is happening in the world around you – and this isn’t just to clear the GK cut-off in the IIFT entrance examinations. This will be useful for all your interviews and group discussions for admissions as well as placements, and will stand you in good stead later on in your careers as well. Apps like InShorts and Knappily can help you get started, but nothing beats reading articles straight from newspapers and magazines. I personally like reading The Hindu, The Economist, The Washington Post and The New Yorker.

Did you attend all the CAT coaching classes at TIME? Did you adopt any strategy with respect to the classes and course material?

I tried being as regular as possible with the weekend coaching classes as well the mock CATs that were scheduled regularly. I made it a point to go over every question that was discussed in class or that came up in an AIMCAT until I was sure that I could attempt it if a similar question ever did come up. I felt that was the least that I could do since I was spending around 8-9 hours every weekend on CAT classes and mocks.

I believe that you ought to spend at least as much time analyzing your mocks as you spend attempting them. Go over the solutions to all the questions because you might find a better way of approaching even the ones that you got right on your own. None of the questions in CAT/IIFT/XAT are that hard per se, but what matters more than anything is speed and accuracy. Technique and practice hence become the most important aspects of your preparation. At one point, I even started playing Sudoku to improve my concentration skills.

I was almost obsessive about my performance in AIMCATs and I even maintained a spreadsheet in which I tracked my performance regularly. It helped me stay on course with my CAT prep, while simultaneously handling my undergrad college life. You can take a look at the sheet by clicking here.

(Subsequent parts will be posted soon! If you have any questions that you’d like to ask me, please do post a comment here)


Further Reading:
Reps. Reps, Reps (Of Dollars and Data)
Why Procrastinators Procrastinate (Wait But Why)

 

Uber Rides

*Unlock phone. Open Uber app. Set pick-up location. Set destination. Set payment mode. Pick UberPool, Go, XL, etc.*

After this, I usually spend the next few minutes wondering whether or not to call up the Uber driver. Some drivers here in Delhi have this horrible tendency of not moving an inch, until and unless you ring them up. In the end, I decide to muster up the required broken Hindi in my Mallu accent and  I call up the driver.

“Bhaiyya, maine abhi Uber book kiya tha. Aap aa rahe ho naa?”

“Haan ji, sir. Aap kaha par ho?”

* heartbreak *

* searching up the necessary words in Hindi to describe my place in the universe to him *

“Main yahaan Sitaram Bhartiya Hospital ke pass hai hoon!”

* Fuck this! *

“Haan ji, sir. Aa raha hoon…”

I scan the horizon for my cab, fervently hoping that he’ll be able to find his way to my location using (this-marvellous-new-technology-that-Uber-drivers-seem-to-have-trouble-using) GPS without my having to call him up again.

As the cab finally approaches, I put on my best poker face so as to discourage the driver from making conversation. In the event that he does, I try to explain… “Main Kerala se hoon. Mera Hindi utna achcha nahin hain.” 

As he pulls over at the drop-off point, he says, “Five star rating de do, sir.” I oblige, secretly hoping that I don’t get a low rating due to my abysmal conversational skills.

 

***

 
My Hindi is improving fast though. Here’s proof…

What does a homosexual farmer selling wheat by the roadside call out?

“Gay hoon, le lo!”

The Great Bank Note Exchange

It’s not every day that my father gives me a torn Rs. 2000 note and asks me to get it exchanged. In an attempt to be the ideal dutiful son, I agree.

It’s not every day that I walk into a public sector bank branch and ask the lady at the “May I help you?” counter for help. It’s funny how the people sitting at such counters never seem to be in a helpful mood.

It’s not every day that I wait patiently in line, only to be told by the cashier that she can’t exchange torn bank notes. Oddly, what she said seemed to be at odds with what my Google search results were telling me.

It’s not every day that I patiently try to explain RBI guidelines to an impatient middle-aged lady manning the cash counter in a crowded public sector bank branch. Or at least that’s what I tried to do, until she politely asked me to fuck off instead of holding up the queue.

It’s not every day that I ask the “May I help you?” lady if I can meet the bank branch manager. “Oh yes, I insist. I want to meet the manager now.” She gives me an ugly look and storms off, to summon the ever-elusive bank manager.

It’s not every day that Ms. Bank Manager is summoned in the middle of a lazy afternoon by a sweaty, but angry young man. She manages to make that very clear. She refuses to exchange my torn bank notes and proceeds to interrogate me much to the amusement of the other people in the bank:

Bank Manager:
'There seems to be something wrong with this note.
It seems to be fake.'
(holding it up against the light,
in an effort to see Gandhiji better)

Me: .....

Bank Manager: 'Where did you get this note from?'

Me: 'My father got it from an HDFC bank ATM.'

Bank Manager: 'Then why don't you go exchange it
at HDFC Bank? Do you have an account there?'

Me: 'No, I have an Axis Bank account.'

Bank Manager: 'It's not every day that big
private bank customers walk into a humble bank
branch like ours to exchange torn notes'

It’s not everyday that I find myself losing my temper, but I think it’s only natural to do so when someone mocks you in front of an entire bank branch. I try bringing up the RBI guidelines again, in an attempt to enlighten the bank manager, in a scene straight out of those irritating Idea! internet advertisements.

It’s not every day that Ms. Bank Manager has to say ‘No!’ twice before someone gets it. But this was definitely one of those days.

Me:
'Ma'am, in that case, may I have your name?'

Bank Manager:
'Why do you need that for?'

Me:
'I'll need it for the complaint that I'll be writing
to the RBI. And ma'am, I'm pretty sure that I can
find your name online anyway. Have a nice day!'

Bank Manager:
'Wait a minute! If you have valid ID proof, you
can exchange your bank note here. No need for any
complaint business!'

Like I said… It’s not every day that my father gives me a torn Rs. 2000 note and asks me to get it exchanged.

Q&A

The funny thing about memories is that they tend to fade away until you’re often left with little more than a feeling. Feelings stay with you forever, especially regret.
 
Being a quizzer, I’ve come to enjoy the glorious uncertainty that comes with hazarding a guess while you’re on the buzzer. I’ve experienced both the elation that comes with getting it right as well as the dejection that accompanies a wrong answer.
 
Ask any quizzer and they’ll tell you that the worst feeling is when you think know the answer to a question. You can feel it coming. It’s right at the tip of your tongue. You start explaining the answer. The quiz-master starts nodding his head, because you’re going in the right direction but then you see dismay on his face. You were unable to give him the answer that he was looking for. As much as he wants to award you points, he can’t because there are other people waiting with the correct answer.
 
I can still recollect the feeling of helplessness that engulfed me when my parents asked me who she was. They say that mothers know everything about you. If so, I wouldn’t have been asked this question at all. It was a sitter, way too easy. And the worst part was that I wasn’t prepared for this question. Deep down inside, I knew the answer though. I tried my best to put it into words but couldn’t do so properly. In the end, all that I managed to say was that I needed to talk to her, and that it was extremely important for me to do so. Unfortunately that wasn’t the answer that my parents were looking for.
 
Almost five years have passed since, and I don’t think I can answer that question any better now. I just hope that they don’t throw the same question at me again.

What The Book Exchange Brought About…

I received a bucket-load of messages on Facebook in response to one of my recent blog posts, The Facebook Book Exchange Scam. Through today’s post, I want to share what happened after a girl named Liz from Kochi messaged me. Here’s what she had to say, “First of all, I appreciate your concern. It was really kind of you to share this with everyone rather than keeping it to yourself. And to answer your concern, yes, maybe someone may get left out without any book. For all I know, it could be me but instead of taking it in a negative sense, why can’t you try and look at it positively? Maybe some random stranger will be getting the most advantage out of this chain, but apart from your little loss, it is only books that they are receiving. Therefore even if someone is lucky enough to get the most of it, it doesn’t cause any harm. Instead it causes only good. Remember you’re spreading an infinite amount of knowledge. You are gifting a book that will probably brighten the life of a stranger. I’d say that it is probably one of the best ways to start the new year. And in your post, you say that it is better to gift a book to your friend instead but kindly tell me how many of us would have normally gift a book to a friend? You have decided not to participate in this chain, which is completely your decision and I respect that, but I think it’s okay if we sometimes choose a path which is not so ideal to make someone happy. If we start reacting to each and every flaw that you come across then there will be no real existence for any of us. We live in completely imperfect world filled with imperfect people. So I request you to please focus on the bright and positive aspect of this activity. And I’ll admit that in my Facebook post I should have written that you ‘may’ receive 36 books.”

After reading her message, I was kind of shell-shocked for a myriad of reasons. For instance, I couldn’t believe that someone would actually take the time and effort to compose such a long, heartfelt message to a random stranger like me. I was also quite unsure as to how to respond to her but I guess it was the cynic in me who finally replied, “Since you’re happy enough sending a book to a random stranger and spreading knowledge, would you send me a book for Christmas even if you knew that I wasn’t going to send one back?” I was fervently hoping that she would say ‘No’ but she actually said that she would be more than happy to do exactly that.

For those of you who know me personally (and for the few of you who know me through this blog), you might already know that I’m extremely cynical at times. According to Wikipedia, ‘A cynic may have a general lack of faith or hope in the human species or people motivated by ambition, desire, greed, gratification, materialism, goals, and opinions that a cynic perceives as vain, unobtainable, or ultimately meaningless and therefore deserving of ridicule or admonishment. A common misapplication of this attitude involves its attribution to individuals who emote well-thought-out expressions of skepticism.‘ By such a definition, I really don’t know whether to call myself a cynic or a skeptic. All I know is that while optimists and pessimists might argue that a glass is half-full or half-empty, I’m the kind of person who thinks that it’s better to just chuck the glass altogether and drink straight from the bottle!

All the same, the manner in which I replied to Liz made me feel bad at first. It was only on the afternoon of December 30, 2015 that I started to feel downright horrible about it. That is when I received a package from Liz via post. It contained a copy of The Motorcycle Diaries by Che Guevara. In it, she’d written a quote by Che, ‘If you tremble with indignation at every injustice then you are a comrade of mine.’ I was absolutely shattered on receiving Liz’s package. There are a lot of questions that I need to ask myself (for instance, where does all this cynicism stem from?) and I am pretty sure that finding the answers to them won’t be easy.

Have you noticed all those memes that say ‘Faith in humanity restored’? Liz, I think that’s what you’ve done to a certain extent. Thank you for that. I really don’t know what else to say at this point of time. I still strongly feel that the book exchange is not a great idea but at the same time, I’ve decided to change my outlook towards life. Maybe tone down the cynicism a little bit… I’ll try to, but it’s going to be a bumpy ride…

Pensive

I first saw her on the opening day of school in seventh standard. Do you know that feeling when you feel like talking to someone the very first time you see them? That’s exactly what I felt as she walked into class that day. As always, she was late and you could see her go red as the teacher scowled at her. She meekly walked into class and took her seat somewhere behind me. During the English period, our teacher asked us to read the poem ‘Daffodils’ and try to make sense of it. As luck would have it, she didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘pensive’. She tapped my shoulder and asked me if I happened to know the meaning. Coincidentally I didn’t know the meaning either but I was never one to shy away from a challenge, nor the kind who admitted to not knowing something. She was looking at me expectantly and I simply had to give an answer. With an easy swagger that came out of knowing that nobody in class had a dictionary, I assured her that pensive meant solemn. I knew it was something close enough and that was all that mattered then, I guess.

*
You know how there is this certain point when someone goes from being a friend to a FRIEND? Sometimes the change happens so slowly that it is almost imperceptible but sometimes you just know when it happens. In our case, it happened one afternoon during the Biology period. Our teacher used to ask us to bring our workbooks once in a while and she’d go absolutely ballistic if anyone happened to forget. As luck would have it, I just couldn’t seem to find my workbook in my bag. I know what you’re thinking right now but honestly, I’m not as forgetful or absent-minded as Nikhil would like you to believe. I remember becoming extremely flustered as I went through the contents of my bag over and over again because I remembered seeing the book in there that morning. Nikhil seemed to notice that something was amiss and smirked. I could almost imagine him grinning while Anitha teacher scolded me and chucked me out of the class. Seeing that I was close to tears, he simply pushed his Biology workbook towards me… ‘Take it. I don’t mind getting kicked out of class. I’m used to it anyway.’ I couldn’t comprehend what was happening. For the life of me, I couldn’t imagine why he’d actually do something like that for me…

*
Sounds like a pakka movie at this point, na? Actually I just didn’t give two fucks about getting into trouble because I was so used to it by then. What difference would standing outside class one more time make? And besides, I knew that she needed that book way more than me. When you know that someone else wants something much more than you do, it’s so much easier to make that sacrifice for them. But in the end, she did find her workbook and neither of us got chucked out of class…