Saturday, April 12, 2008

2007. The year that was....

Blogging after a long time again. Just looking back at the year that went past by a long time ago.

Anyways with Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan starting to blog, I am not sure whether friends read each other's blogs anymore. Hence I will try to keep the 2007 blog short.

In a nut shell
CFA exam
My parents' trip
Job search
The GreenPoint Mortgage eposide
Out of Recoveries
My Friends Back Home

In a nutshell

Very uneventful and simple year this was. My parents visited me - that was the high. I was not able to go back home - that was the low. The Capital One role which I so excitedly enjoyed in year one did not charm me anymore. I looked hard for a change outside and was unsuccessful. One would imagine things would be easy with an IIT stamp on your resume, but with so many thousand IITans out in the market, it is not easy as it seems. Finally I changed and joined a very active and energetic team in Capital One. Things were going great when I finally decided that it was high time I move closer to my girlfriend, fiancee and future wife - Dina Thomas. I decide to call up Yahoo! who had offered me a job in October. After breaking my head over getting entry into various types of jobs with no success, it was ironic how easily I got a job with a Computer Science firm. They are right when they say: "Jeno kaam teno chay, biju kare so gota khaye" (One should do what one is supposed to do. If any Tom-Dick-Harry tries to do what he is not supposed to, he is bound to drown.)

Anyways how can I finish the summary of my year w/o mentioning the horrible credit crisis that hit the US financial markets. Three-fourths way down the year it gave me my first experience of a job-loss and by the end of the year it has reduced my net $ worth by a third.


CFA stands for the Chartered Financial Analyst exam conducted by the CFA institute. It is a 3 part exam and I cleared the first one in 2007 and have appeared for the second one in 2008. Now, I will not get the charter even if I finish the three exams because I do not work as a Financial Analyst anymore, but I still plan to pursue this program. It has helped me clear my financial fundamentals. I have gained a decent understanding of economics, accounting, and valuation of fixed income instruments, derivatives, assets and also helped me gain the introductory knowledge of Portfolio Management and Corporate Finance. I enjoy studying these subjects and since there is no material impact to my career at all, my claim is quite true.

Job Search

Henry Kissinger said: If you don't know where you are going, every road will get you nowhere.

Anyways, since I see this happening to many of my friends around me, I don't think there is any particular problem with me. And anyways, I don't want to match Mr. Kissinger in smartness and cunningness. 18 months in Capital One Recoveries had left me bored. The fervor that I had for the 'Unassailability' initiative was slowly dying. My first manager and a great mentor Vinayak had left the company and so did my first team-mate and friend Abhay Bhootra. Slowly the place had a very few known faces with almost all my same-age buddy group - Aman, Rajat, Nizar, working there no more. I wanted to move out. Either out of the group or out of the company. After a few failed attempts at jobs outside of the company, I was lucky to land up a great role with Capital One's mortgage subsidiary in Novato about 30 mins drive up San Francisco. It was a great team headed by company stars Vijesh Iyer and Senthil Subramanian.

The Greenpoint mortgage episode

Greenpoint Mortgage was a subsidiary mortgage originator firm of the NorthFork Bank which was acquired by Capital One. Thus with tremendous excitement I left for Novato in the San Marin county. The place was about 1 hr drive up north of Dina's place, hence my future was about to be long drives over the weekends. (Although I loved driving and still can drive long hours, I have started to love it less these days. And commuting is a totally different animal than vacation driving.) Anyways, I left with some fanfare. My Richmond-DC friends were really kind to gift me a full set of FRIENDS episodes - a gift that I cherish and enjoy atleast 4-5 times a week.

On Aug 20 2007, I joined GPM at 9:00AM PDT. Met my manager, settled down and left for lunch by 12:00 noon. Something surely was cooking, because Rob Finnegan the Senior Vice President (3 steps under the CEO) at Capital One was there on the visitor list. I came back from my lunch and at 1:00PM PDT which is 4:00 PM EDT our CEO Rich Fairbank announced that we were shutting down this business.

FCUK! What the hell was happening? I really didn't understand anything. But luckily, before I could fathom what was going on Ashish Masih my previous VP called up and said that I could come back. This was such a great relief! Couple of more folks mailed me saying that they were ready to have me on their teams. Then I met Rob on the hall-way and he exclaimed, "Hey Man, how are you doing?" He swiftly corrected himself. "Shit happens, alri'te. But dont you worry. I will come back and catch you at 3:00". Rob is SVP at Capital One and was representing the Capital One CEO and the Chief Risk Officer to structure the close-down. I made sure I was at my cube at 3:00. He took me for a walk and explained me the situation. Such a great guy. Some folks immediately under him have some issues with him, but I was so many levels below him that I was his instant fan. He talked to me as if I was his buddy. I noticed him snapping his fingers in his trademark way. To one of my curious questions he answered, "why not sell this? because no one wants to buy this shit anymore!". Anyways I was more than assured of a job in any team back in Richmond/DC, so my jobless feeling did not remain for more than a few minutes actually.

Anyways my close friends had a great laugh when they heard what happened. And I had to start planning for my next steps. It was sad to know that I had to leave California and Dina. Something that I had planned for and dreamed for a while. I made sure that I spent a lot of quality time with Dina and other friends once I was here. I decided to move to a hotel in Los Altos (near Palo Alto) and drove 1 hr both ways. This commute was the BEST commute in my life so far and I don't expect to be commuting over a better route ever again. For those who know the SF landscape: I used to take 280 from Page Mill to SF, take route 19 inside the city over the Golden Gate bridge and then take 101 to Novato. Can it get better?

Meanwhile, Vijay Krishnan a friend of mine who then worked at Yahoo! passed my resume to some recruiter. I didn't know then that this was going to be a successful attempt. ( I also sent my resumes here and there in SF. I dont even remember exactly where).


I interviewed Yahoo! and got a job from them. But I didn't accept it and decided to join the MainStreet Customer Acquisition team in Capital One instead. MCA team acquires customers in the Subprime segment. Although the subprime segment is the same as the 'subprime mortgage crisis', when it comes to credit cards this still is an extremely profitable business. The MCA team is responsible to acquire more accounts and quality accounts which produce minimal losses (charge-offs). I reported to Rod Fertig who was just 26 but 2 levels above me. Amazing dude. Extremely passionate, clear thinker and hard worker. Knows very well how to lead a team and knows how to cut through the crowds. He is sure to go great guns whereever he goes.

The 5-6 months that I spent in MCA helped me understand the core of the company's business. The work culture was inspired by a Toyota program called Work In Progress Cap or WIP-CAP. The idea here was that instead of people working on 10 things at a time, people should work on only one project at a time in a team. Thus in the entire MCA team there were just 7 projects but all were expected to happen 4-5 times faster than usual. This ridiculous work culture taught me so much about the business in 4-5 months that I could have taken an year to learn otherwise.

The group was split in Richmond and McLean (near Washington DC) and I had to commute 2 hrs once a week. I had fun commuting to McLean and meeting new people and also living in the hotel!


I had got a job offer from Yahoo! in October but I did not act on it. It was during my Christmas break to California I realized that I should relocate to the Bay Area. I contacted Yahoo! again and decided to leave Capital One. It wasn't an easy decision to leave MCA and Capital One.

I am currently working with the Mail and Messenger teams and do a lot of deep analytical stuff. The job is interesting. It is definitely more technical and deeper than Capital One (as far as analysis is concerned) but less of business exposure. And Capital One has a great associate-manager development culture which Yahoo (and I believe all the Silicon Valley companies) simply lack.

My Friends Back Home

Last year we started a small initiative called "My Friends Back Home". The idea started out with us contributing something to the education of kids back in India. The idea was simple. Many people contribute little and help raise some money that will sponsor the education of 3 organizations in India. I do not know whether to consider it successful or not, given that we had to suspend it because all our team members are in different regions of the world. But in a span of 6 months we collected and sent over $1200 to the three projects. They were Sshrushti and Sankalp (Asha projects) in Delhi and Disha a project in Thane. Although this idea did not reached its full potential, I think we did something small but nice.