Keeping up with the tradition, this essay is modelled after my Review of Term 4 courses at IIM Ahmedabad essay. I shall try to give you some background and then review each course, in addition to describing some unique aspects of my first-ever academic semester outside India.
Some people asked me if I dropped out of IIM Ahmedabad, or switched fields, etc. I’ll first give some background, so that the course choice don’t seem very random. I am in Vienna as a double-degree student. More specifically, I am pursuing an MSc in SIMC (Strategy, Innovation, & Management Control). But what is a double-degree? I am also enrolled at IIMA as a PGP student. I spent my first year at IIMA, and I’m spending the second year of the two-year program in Vienna. I’ll receive two degrees (an MBA, and an MSc) at the end of the two year period (sometime in 2023). So, instead of spending $(2+2 = 4)$ years to get these degrees, I’ll be done in $(1+1 = 2)$ years.
With that tiny background out of the way, let’s now talk about the courses at WU. The courses are more of less pre-decided (with a few electives). You can have a look at the double-degree template here in case you are interested. You can also look at the courses I took here.
As you can see in the table of contents, I took five courses during the third semester (Oct 2022 - Jan 2023). The difficulty level ($1-5$) is quite subjective, and solely based on my experience. $1$ represents a straightforward course while $5$ represents a challenging course.
I attended the first three weeks of classes online, owing to delays in my paperwork. Here you can read more about the lengths one has to go to get the paperwork. As a disclaimer, broadly, I found the academics in Austria to be less-intensive than the Indian system. I’m not implying anything by it, and you should not draw conclusions based on it.
Thesis Seminar: How to Write a Thesis. As the course title suggests, the course teaches how to write a thesis. Through combination of group work, and individual assignment, the professor tried to teach how to do research – conduct literature review, come up with research questions, form hypotheses, etc. The class did not meet very often during the semester – this I found quite opposite of what happens in India.
At IIMA, we had 10-20 lectures of 75 minutes each over the course of a term. However, here at WU, the classes usually last longer, and meet less often. So, instead of meeting for 15 times a semester, the class would meet only 6 times, but each meeting would be 3-5 hours long for instance.
Frankly, I did not like the paper I was assigned for the final assignment because it was from the Accounting area which is outside my interest. Okay, technically, I chose the paper myself but the papers in the option pool were more or less from the Accounting area since the professor belongs to that area. I believe my choice was the least Accounting-oriented paper.
The final feedback was useful. The professor pointed out a few shortcomings in my write-up, we had an informal chat about my interests and my thesis topic (yes, I’m required to write a thesis to get that MSc). He informed me that I got a Pass grade (it’s a Pass/Fail course), and that’s it.
Business Project. We got to work on practical problem with a real company in the course. The learning curve was quite steep with theory inputs, and as well as coaching sessions whenever we got stuck. It got quite boring in between but once we sort of cleared the roadblock, things got exciting again. Honestly, the course felt like a summer internship, it had everything – making PPTs, structuring an unstructured problem, talking to many people, and presenting the findings periodically.
They teach you some frameworks but more often than not they are not useful for directly applying to the problem at hand. However, the coaching time is quite useful, so are the interactions with various people. I usually prefer to work on my own, but the project kind of reinforced the idea that I need to start working with people. That has been the recurring theme ever since I started this MBA thing, and I’m getting quite good at it.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the course was the ability to package whatever little/too much work that we did, and present them as coherent useful solutions to the given problems. That is a skill that is hardly taught in the classrooms but quite useful in the real world.
Machine Learning for Business Analytics. As the title of the course suggests, we used ML approaches to look at business problems such as forecasting. The class met only for 6 times during the semester but each meeting was about 5 hours long. Needless to say, I learnt a lot from the course. I do not know if I’m going to apply the skills acquired from the course in the future but the learning process was quite fun. The professor explained each concept patiently without using too much math.
I got to write code after quite sometime, and that is always welcome. I missed writing small snippets of code to do useful things. There was a final project in which we solved a real-business problem for a partner company. Even though the course covered quite a lot of ground, I felt as ease from the first session – maybe being an engineer helped, but I enjoyed the course. If you’re at WU, and get a chance to study the course, you should take it.
Empirical Data Analysis. This course was focussed on statistical analysis of data. The course was originally supposed to be taught by a guest faculty but he could not for health reasons. After much delay, two other instructors taught the course. To be quite frank, the course was quite chill, and I’m happy that I have to do one elective less this semester.
In terms of coursework, the learning curve is quite steep, and someone who does not have a background in coding and statistics would have a hard time grasping the material. Perhaps, the highlight was writing and submitting the proposal for the final project on a Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul to Delhi. It was so cool – I felt quite good on the flight, and it helped that the airline served me a nice cup of coffee on the flight. So, I decided I’m going to study the willingness to pay for a cup of coffee. The course was fun overall, but the timeline was quite rushed for obvious reasons.
Value Creation and Value Capture in a Digital Age. The course is similar to Business Project, except that the partner company was from a different domain, and the domain of focus was also quite specific. The course was a mixed bag for me – there were some positives, as well as some negatives.
Speaking of the good things: the instructors appreciated whatever work we did and provided constructive feedback. I never felt like they were demeaning of our efforts, and they were honest when they felt we did not do a good job so that we can improve. On the negative side: I felt that the course can improve on the group formation aspect. Our group lacked cohesion from the start which affected the quality of our output.
I also realized that I really hated making PPTs, and populating slides just so that I can say something during the presentation. At one point I felt like the whole exercise was sucking out my soul, but I’m so glad that it ended well. I remember telling a friend, “I’m never taking another PPT course in my life.” Sadly, the reality is probably that I’ll have to keep making PPTs to earn a living. FML!
Difficulty: 1-4 (Depending on the group you’re assigned to)
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