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Fast Times at NK High

Recent visitors to A110 must have noticed many a furrowed brow among the residents. First we had to divine meaning from our profs’ T2 midterm feedback. Not too tricky when you get a 2-page essay stuffed with specific citations of your classroom contributions. But some instructors kept it so brief (that’s one word or less) their top students were left wondering how the heck they managed to nail a top-quartile review after 13 holes of chip shots from way off-fairway. At least RC is free of those tricky class choices. Who’d have thought picking EC courses … la carte could be such a nightmare? Hours spent flicking through the menu have got you nowhere. After all, you’re too honest to take Marketing – but too corrupt for the Moral Leader. You’re too bright for Customer Behavior – but far too dumb for Corporate Strategy. Leading Change? Beware the fluff factor. TOM electives are reserved for the clinically insane. That leaves Finance.

Ever wondered, as a non-banker, what it might be like to join an EC Finance class? A smart career move to round out your expensive business education? Consider the grim reality. Mute with fear, you slump ever lower in your seat as razor-sharp I-bankers and cocky VCs trade seminal insights about the trillion-dollar transactions they pulled off last year. If the pinstripe types drop their hands at all, it’s only for a momentary moan about the poverty of the class’s analysis: “this is trivial; it just wouldn’t cut it in the money markets.” All the while, your prof (a Nobel laureate) stalks the aisles, cold-calling at will. Sometimes his aim is true. The sniveling victim spews a stream of patent nonsense, the calculus of the kindergarten. The callee’s scarlet meltdown concludes and your pupils dilate. Color drains from your cheeks. You could be next – HBS profs can smell fear at 100 paces. Best sit up and keep nodding sagely at the pros’ remarks, lest you too are revealed as an amateur unfit to join the Masters of the Universe.

Soon it’s time to contribute. But which option to pick? The protective poser (a.k.a. technical question) carries little downside risk, but lacks attractive upside. Maybe better to use put-call parity to reconstitute your ignorance into a synthetic chip shot that mimics the performance of a genuine insight, albeit with the risk of professorial wrath inherent in any highly-levered classroom tactic. Timid souls prefer the synthetic “build on” for its risk-free participation returns.
We’ve lately had a foretaste of this nightmare scenario as EM and FIN2 have turned technical, stimulating the pro financiers of A110 to showcase the enormous size of their “knowledge” before us all. It can all get a bit confusing when VC vets like Radhakrishnan, Rogers and Rousseau get animated about their stock-in-trade (convertible preferred?). But thanks anyway to the lads for trying to make the venture world clearer for the rest of us – especially to Alex, who generously staged a special lunch to help his sectionmates read the tale of the term-sheet.

The VC boys aren’t the only entertainers in class these days. Rejji “Pele” Hayes has the gift of clairvoyance. If only the rest of us could come up with an answer before the prof has even asked the question! Rejji is currently refining his technique and is confident he’ll soon be able to answer the right question. Carl Harris continues to attract faculty attention with his unique full-body signaling technique (a wickedly co-ordinated four-limb thrust). But it’s only right Carl gets to talk – he’s run the numbers, after all. Topping the humor stakes is Brian Connell, for his illustration of the everyday uses of put options to FIN2 prof Ron Moore: “What kind of car do you drive? OK, suppose I were to run you off the road and turn it into a smoking wreck…hope you’ve got insurance.” And Moore thinks Meg Stern is the cold-hearted capitalist! Wonder what kind of car she drives? All these incidents are faithfully captured by our spot-on SkyDeck team, who have a few in-class tricks up their sleeves too. But how come no Mexican Wave on peso crisis day?

Final word this week is reserved for Catherine Olson, who earns our congratulations and best wishes on her engagement to Scott. The news brought warm smiles all round on Monday morning – and not a furrowed brow in sight.

STOP PRESS: Killer K slays Incompetent I in Annual Huw Pill Soccer Shocker! The score ended NK 5-4 NI – and that’s including the free goal we spotted them to make up for our team of all-stars. Scorers included “Italian Stallion” (and soon-to-be Dad) Francesco Cardinali, and Tony “Le Click” Deifell, our Co-Historian. Gasps of amazement rippled round the stands as Professor Pill himself turned out in NK colors. So who says NI ranks first in his affections after all? Could it be Pill sees us in a new light after the exploits of the faculty dinner at Pho Republique?

July 16, 2001
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