Angel’s Landing – It would be… if you miss a step!

Utah has all sorts of surprises… Today we hiked a short but steep trail called Angel’s Landing within Zion National Park.  We were all proud of ourselves and I was especially proud of Niki for doing the hike.  But we were humbled…Hiking amongst us was a 67 year old lady with her daughter, 9 year old twins, a family with one 2 year old and one 2 month old baby in harnesses and get this – a lady who was 6 months pregnant!  And there were 2 rock climbers climbing up the rock face.

The hike had spectacular views and there were portions of the trail which perched us rather precariously about 6000 ft. above sea level.  The fall would be cushioned by jutting sandstone!  However there were chains to hold on to in some areas.  The day started off very cold with freezing temperatures but as we hiked up, the  sun warmed up the day and so did the exercise.  We were boiling!

Here is the last ridge that we crossed to get up to the top of the trail..

We have been doing some exploring in Utah’s national parks.  Bryce Canyon is a small but beautiful national park with a landscape scattered with ‘hoodoos’.  Elevation of the park ranges from 8000 – 9200 feet.

Our day today ended with some wildlife viewing.  We saw a family of big horn sheep.  Though they are elusive creatures, they were not shy posing for our camera.

The best part about these national parks – no cell coverage!

A first for me was star gazing.  The sky was dark and littered with billions of bright stars – brighter than anything I have seen ever before in my lifetime.  We saw 5 ‘shooting stars’ within a span of 2 hours – quite amazing!  I thought it was a feature of being in the back country but have since learnt that the skies over Utah are exceptionally bright.

Sad to say but we missed the lit up sky which was caused by a meteor hit.  Per the astronomers at Utah State University, the rocky meteor was traveling at 80,000 miles when it hit the earth’s atmosphere about 100 miles above us.  A big miss but I remain contented with my star gazing experience.

Relax, Renew & Find an Adventure

Let me admit – the title of this post is a bit of plagiarism on my part – borrowed it from a magazine on the coffee table of the house we are staying at.  But what the heck, it is apt to describe the current experience on our trip this Thanksgiving week.

The setting is Utah – Zion National Park and the area around what is called the Grand Staircase – represents fascinating rock formations through millions of years of erosion.  The highest point of Zion National Park is 7800 feet (vaguely remember the shuttle bus driver mentioning this).  What she also mentioned is that every 13 – 14 inches represents approximately 1000 years of erosion.

Our first adventure was yesterday – it started with a ~60 mile road trip (42 of which were semi off-road) to a place called Willis Creek Slot Canyon. My description of the ‘Slot’ canyon would probably be inaccurate or let us just put it this way – difficult for me to explain what it is. So here is a picture that speaks for itself..

We hiked through these slots and what made the hike more interesting (besides the drive there) was the shallow frozen and sometimes flowing river at the floor of the canyon.

Utah has some of the most amazing geological history and this canyon is a small example of the transformation this land has experienced over the millions of years.  With 5 national parks, the state is America’s National Park capital.  With Zion and Byrce Canyon on this trip, we will have covered 4 out of the 5.

As we hiked through, we came across spots which were tricky to navigate – wet, slippery and sometimes a little dangerous.  Some of us climbed up some rocks and validated that going up is the easy part, coming down can be problematic..

On the hike, we did not see much wildlife to speak of except for the dead deer which probably fell prey to a mountain lion. The carcass was hollow – so I am sure vultures might have enjoyed a pick too!

We all enjoyed the hike but I would have to say Amaan had a blast.  In his view, we only had one choice while traversing the canyon – Get our feet wet! and I think he got his wet even before the hike started.

Here are a few more pictures…

Mehboob and I climbed up near a newly formed arch.

Entry to the parking lot of Willis Creek..

Evolution of the mobile beyond ‘Apps’

My 8 weeks at Harvard compelled me to use an Apple iTouch.  There was an application on the iTouch which provided a ‘mobile’ course platform including audio cases, presentations, alerts and schedules.  Being a heavy user of email and browsing on a smartphone, the Apple devices felt a little short of providing a true ‘on-the-go’ platform for me.  However with 2 months of use, I did appreciate the ecosystem created by Apple and the inevitable ubiquity of these devices.

Hats off to Apple for creating a disruptive force in an established business.  With the iPhone came challenges of user uptake, deals with network operators and the ‘killer’ app which would compel users to buy the iPhone.  It may be Steve Job’s magic or culmination of artistic & engineering brilliance but the iPhone has been a roaring success by anyone’s definition.  On the heels of this success, Apple created yet another ‘business’ – the business of Apps – applications that provide ‘uses’ to a variety of users.  Ranging from applications like iPint (yes all you iPhone users download it) providing useless ‘nuisance’ value to Epocrates, a medical application that allows users to view continuously updated medical data or LifeScan’s diabetes monitoring app (I let you judge the value), the Apple Appstore boasts 2B + downloads.  While not all of them are paid downloads,  this is still a good source of revenue for Apple.

Kudos to this success and good luck to all that are trying to ape the Apple AppStore model but I have a prediction – Appstore(s) may be history in a few years..

Now I may be getting a bit geeky here but I cannot help see the progress being made by mobile platforms and more importantly browsers on mobile devices, the richness of functionality on these mobile browsers matches Internet Explorer, Safari or Firefox.  If you have a Nokia or a Windows Mobile phone, check out Skyfire, a new functionally rich browser.  If you are an Android user, check out browsers like Dolphin.

So now to my point – I liken the Appstore apps to the ‘client-server’ applications used as recently as 3 – 5 years ago.  It was common to use an application on your desktop for expense reporting, timesheet management or even managing things like Sales opportunities pipeline.  Over the  last few years, pretty much all of these ‘enterprise’ applications have moved to browsers – accessible from any laptop, PC, Mac over the Internet.  In my view as mobile browsers like Skyfire, Dolphin etc. get mainstream use, the app store could be a thing of the past for ‘useful’ applications.

Now only if one could have decent keyboards and screen displays for our mobile phones.  Solutions in that space are also coming out in droves.  I sat next to this guy on a plane ride – he is working on a display screen which can be rolled like a sheet of paper.  Companies like Microvision are already working of small devices which can project displays from PDAs and mobile phones over any flat surface.

The word of mobile devices is changing…. and fast….Obsolescence for the laptop?  I would love to get rid of mine!

Days 53/54 – Who will miss you when you are gone?

The program has ended. Hugs, handshakes and promises to stay in touch dominated the last day. The last two lectures by Vietor and Yoffie were truly deserving of standing ovations. Not only was there summarization of the course, there was quite a bit of new material covered in these lectures.

I am sure all of us in the program are going home wiser and thanks to Shad Hall, most of us are healthier. All of us will go back to what we have missed for these past 8 weeks – time with our family, our favorite hobby and our homes. For me, it was back to mountain biking and what made it more special was having my daughter join me on my bike ride. Thanks to Nidhi, she has certainly improved her bike riding skills in the last two months – pleasantly surprised. Other thing I noted again – The San Francisco Bay Area is truly the most beautiful place I have lived!

I will be back at work on Monday and am struggling to see how I have apply what I have learnt during the last 8 weeks – not because of lack of ‘material’ but more because I have not had the time to prioritize what is applicable to my business.

As I go back, I cannot help remember a statement made in the last lecture ‘Who will miss you when you are gone?’ I know who missed me at home and I will find out on Monday if anyone missed me at work…

This post wraps up my 8 weeks at Harvard. I will continue to blog but will not have much to say on a daily basis – so when I come across something interesting, I will be sure to share it with you.

foggy morning ride dad and daughter

Day 52 – Standing ovations…

The HBS faculty is superb.   That is a rather benign statement till I add …however we need to identify with and show favoritism towards the ones we really like.  This last few days are about ‘wrap up’ lectures.  For some professors, there is unanimous opinion of favoritism but I am sure that for others there are some divergent views. Guess we are all polite enough to oblige the folks who feel compelled to offer a standing ovation – Net result everyone joins in!

I looked up standing ovation on GOOGLE and found this on wikipedia..

Some have observed that the standing ovation has come to be devalued, such as in the field of politics, in which on some occasions standing ovations may be given to political leaders as a matter of course, rather than as a special honour in unusual circumstances

Call me old fashioned but I still believe in standing ovations being a mark of special honor and while I do join in every time, I must say that I have my favorites.

Sessions today were focused on ‘re-entry’ into the workplace.  I don’t like that term re-entry.  Regardless, I reflect upon the last 8 weeks and feel fortunate to have experienced them.  As I get back to work, I have to evaluate how I take things forward, apply what I have learnt in these 8 weeks and figure out how best to give credit to the folks who have been managing the show brilliantly in my absence.

Tomorrow and on Friday,  we have a series of final lectures and I have no doubt that the faculty will have an impressive summary of the course.   As one of the professors said ‘If you have been sleeping the last 7 weeks, this is the class to attend.’

I start packing tomorrow and look forward to heading home!

Day 51 – Boxes and shipping labels..

Packing away cases, books, and all the shopping hauls; I am sure most of the AMP participants thinking about what they are packing away for the future – What is truly been the take away from the last 8 weeks?  I am sure there have been different take aways for everyone – some disappointments, some stellar moments, some ah-ha moments.  For me personally, it has been a mixed bag but a rejuvenation of sorts…

As I get back to work after these 8 weeks, I hope to evaluate the learnings from the program, my living group and changes in myself in light of their applicability to my professional and personal life.  Needless to say, these 8 weeks have been invaluable.

At a personal level, it has meant a lot to have new friends for life.  We are already talking reunions and visiting each other.  I am confident that the living group mates will be a good sounding board in future decision making, career choices and more trivial things like vacation destinations!

Day 50 – Every country has problems..

The global economy is in the toilet as Prof. Vietor would say and there is truth to his statement.  To date in the course we have studied several countries and they all have problems.  Today, we talked about Japan – one of the world’s largest economies.  Japan boasted the world’s highest economic growth at one point.  Unfortunately the country has been experiencing growth problems for last decade.  One thing unique to Japan is the aging population.  With low birthrates and life expectancy as high at 88 years, the employed Japanese is responsible for funding the pension and healthcare for the retired elderly!

One of the most shocking statistic – average hospital stay in Japan used to be 31 days compared to 7.5 days in the US!

Tomorrow we study about the tax cuts in the US made during the Bush administration.  We will also learn a little bit about the challenges and the action plan of the Obama administration.  We also have a case about Carlos Ghosn – the man responsible for Nissan’s turnaround.

The ‘IT Services People’ in the class went out for dinner today.  Nice dinner at Rialto’s (Charles Hotel).  Living group 33 is hosting a party tonight – so we took a ‘detour’ back from dinner…. It was fun listening to some tunes Neil played on his guitar.

Tomorrow is the last day for case reading. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are lecture days.  The international attendees packed and shipped their boxes today… the end of the course in near.