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Comparing notes... and everything else

Posted by Joyce on 26 August 2009

Things which are (apparently) humanly possible to accomplish during your MBA:

  • write a book,
  • get a publishing deal,
  • throw a massive launch party to celebrate.

Highlights from a friend who began her MBA exactly one year before me…Oh, and on top of that, she also started her own consulting company.

I couldn’t be more thrilled or proud of her, but given that we both started with identical resumes, it’s impossible to avoid feeling like I’ve squandered some of my time here.  She’s written a book while I’ve produced little more than a smattering of blog entries!

Obviously, the point isn’t to outdo each other tit for tat. But the fact remains: yes, I could (should?) have done more. You might console me by saying “But Joyce, everyone can always be doing more, even your friend with superhuman energy. This isn’t one of your beloved math functions which can be “maximized.” True, very true. But if maximizing isn’t an option, how do you know when you’ve done enough?

Crossing the LBS threshold is a bit like hitting the reset button. Whether your life before was characterized by an early start, false start, late start, or lucky start, everyone gets lined up at the starting blocks again. And with that kind of level-setting, suddenly there are no more excuses to fall back on; your performance is your performance. How will you feel when you see others pull ahead?

“Hang on, everything I’ve been told about LBS says that everyone helps each other and it’s less competitive than other schools. What’s with the race analogy?”

Perhaps no one orchestrates deliberate psych-out attempts, but consider these scenarios which arise naturally from student panic:

  1. “If I don’t get a blackberry or iphone, I’ll miss the sign ups for [insert: important networking event] and not get a spot.” 
  2. A friend confides, “I’ve sent twenty job applications and only landed three interviews” (Meanwhile, you’ve sent a whopping total of two—for positions you genuinely want, but now you wonder if you should have spent more time on Plan B.)
  3. Another friend confides “Man, I’ve been studying accounting for two weeks now, and I’m still not ready.”  (Meanwhile, the exam is tomorrow, and you’ve only just opened the text.)

I believed myself relatively immune to these insecurities, but they creep in regardless, if only to exist a few seconds in your head before being banished as complete folly. The good news is we all find ways of coping, sooner or later. The sooner you figure out how though, the less likely you’ll wake up one day wondering how you got suckered into following the herd mentality. The lure of sticking your foot (and every other appendage) into every door, window, nook and cranny can easily tempt you astray unless you adamantly resist.

It starts by being told a thousand times to “make the most of your MBA”. But it’s merely preachy prattle until you figure out what that actually means. Many will mistake it for not missing out on any job prospect they’ve lived their whole lives not knowing about, could probably happily continue not caring about, but will end up considering anyway because it’s the MBA and “I should make the most of it”.  Errr... right. And so begins the rigmarole of elbow jostling at Career Services events.

I guess that’s what I mean by finding ways to cope: remembering it isn’t a race, being confident about missing out, and stopping short of going overboard with your exploration. Keeping perspective doesn’t require anything grandiose. As far as superficial methods go, some folks like calendars with inspirational quotes superimposed on pretty landscapes. I’ve taken to filling the empty spaces on my formula sheets with pictures of Nobel Prize winners... mostly out of self-deprecating humour (it’s infuriatingly funny having the face of someone brilliant taunt you as you trudge through an exam), but it’s nonetheless refreshing to recall other achievements which are produced from dedication—beyond this MBA bubble of ours.

Anyway, time-management envy aside, I’d still consider MBA part 1 a resounding success. I haven’t a book to show for it, but it’s too early to call. An entire year of MBA part 2 has yet to play out and I’ll be moving to Lant Street in a few weeks—living in Charles Dickens’ old haunt might yield a surprise or two.

Top 10 Things...

Posted by Jann on 17 August 2009

A year and five days ago, I arrived at London and set foot, for the very first time, on London Business School's campus to get my welcome pack from the MBA Programme Office. My appearance that day was also immortalized on the School's database through what we call the Portal photo (They said there's no way of changing that photo, but let's see after n years).  The same photo is on my ID card so I'm constantly reminded of that fine day. It's not the best photo but it certainly also not the worst. So, it's all good!

Why am suddenly being all sentimental?  Maybe because the MBA Class of 2011, has now started to arrive in London and in a week will start their wonderful journey called First Year!  Of course, most (shouldn't it be ALL?) of the people are here to learn, but sometimes we also need a break from the hectic schedules and demanding core classes.  A fellow MBA 2010 of mine, came up with a list that I thought was a good one to share to prospective students or even first years reading this blog. 

The list is composed of things to do outside the classroom setting to ensure that your MBA experience will be as balanced as possible.  It's also a great way to get to know your fellow-MBAs and take advantage of this beautiful city.

I now present you with the list...(ala David Letterman)

Top 10 Things To Do Outside the Lecture Theatre (in your first term)

10. Explore London
9. Travel to nearby cities 
8. Find a flatmate at the Flathunters Pub Crawl
7. Organise a flatwarming
6. Get to know your classmates (through Stream events)
5. Attend (birthday) parties
4. Unwind at Sundowners after a stressful week
3. Learn about other cultures and share your own at Tattoo
2. Find out just how (strange) interesting your classmates are at Halloween
1. Paint London red at the Santa Claus Pub Crawl

Take note, this is only for the Autumn term (first term).  It goes to show that there really is a lot of activities that can be done in School and outside which would make your first year enjoyable and memorable.

Now, I'm off to make my own list for 2nd year Autumn term.  I'm thinking it will be a Top 20!

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

Posted by Rebecca on 11 August 2009

A classmate of mine sent me an email today with the following subject line: Ultimate Procrastination Tool.  The email consisted of a single link: www.wordle.net   Thanks Mirwais, you were right - I managed to waste a lot of time playing with this captivating site that creates visualisations from text. You can enter in text yourself or link it to websites and blogs.  The size of each word is determined by its frequency.  Being the nerd that I am, I played around with all sorts of texts - all the emails from an ex-boss (the words NOW and MUST were very prominent), an entire chapter of my favorite book (thanks Google!) and last but not least the LBS MBA blog.  I thought you might find the last one interesting so I've posted it here. I was struck by the size of words like "great" and "group". 

MBA Blog

Back to exams

Posted by Don on 09 August 2009

Hello there,
it feels like being back at school - just more intense. Our Global Markets training is being delivered by seasoned pros - the teachers all have worked in various roles in FX, FI, equities and so forth for all the major banks for at least 10 years each. So they teach us very relevant stuff - often from a slightly different angle than professors taught at school.
The workload is considerably higher than at LBS - training starts at 8.30 and goes through until 6 pm with an hour break. So we are filling a binder each week. And - we have an exam every Friday which we need to pass with 70% or above (no more the curve is your friend...).
But it is very good and interesting - especially to see how relevant the courses at LBS are. We have graduates from all the major US schools there and the training the three LBS guys received is clearly of top notch quality. So to all the second year students - look forward to an awesome, interesting and intense but worthwhile second year (especially in finance). To all new joining first years - you made a great choice. To all people contemplating about an MBA at LBS - do it. The academics are great, the city is superb and the people are fantastic.
Take care,

Mid-MBA resolutions

Posted by Nick on 08 August 2009

Well, I have accomplished exactly that which I set out not to do; I have gone many, many months without posting anything, either to the London Business School blog, nor to my own.  Shame on me.  I think its time to make some mid-MBA resolutions.

But first, before we get to that, I think I had better fill you in on the last two terms of my MBA life.

Some highlights:

  • Most of my classes were superb.  I am continually impressed by the knowledge level of the professors at this school.  While there were some exceptions to the rule, most of my classes were enjoyable, and provided me with a high level of learning.
  • Spring break was spent with a small group of my classmates on a certain Communists island in the Caribbean of the Southern coast of Florida.  Good times had by all!
  • The Managing Organizational Behaviour audit is a project that all study groups must complete as a part of their MOB class.  It is basically an outside consulting project, where the study group must source a client, and then perform some type of audit for them, looking at Organizational Behavioural issues.  My study group, C7, had what was probably the furthest client from London; we were hired by a small chain of kickboxing/fitness studios in Iowa, USA.  Myself and another study group member were flown out to Des Moines by the company, and spent one week there conducting our research.  The end deliverable was an academic paper to our professor, and a 23 page report to the company on what OB issues they are currently facing, what issues might arise with their expansion, and how they might resolve those issues.
  • The Market Strat simulation was great.  Each group was given control of a virtual company producing an imaginary type of electrial product.  Some companies started off as large, market leading companies, and others (like mine) started at the back of the pack; little money and few customers.  Over the course of a few weeks, we had to decide how much money to spend on marketing, what segments to do, what other types of products we would develop, etc., etc.  In the end, each group was judged not for its final position, but how it had performed relative to the other groups in a similar starting position.  Great fun, and a welcome change from sitting in LT9 all day.
  • Some classmates and I decided that we didn't actually feel like taking one of our finals, so instead we booked a week long sailing course down in Souther Portugal along the Algarve.  (Actually, what happened was that we booked this course months in advance, planning around our classes/exam, but after we had booked it, one exam was moved).  So, with two LBS chartered boats, 10 LBS students, and 2 sailing instructors, we spend one week in the sun and waves learning all of the basics of skippering a boat.  In the end, we each earned our RYA Day-Skipper license!  One of the best trips I've been on!
  • Our Operations and Technology Management course sent us down to Venice, Italy for a two-day long field trip to see a coal power plant and learn something about Lean Management (something I had PLENTY of in my last job).  Most of us extended for the weekend... so basially I got to explore Venice largly on the school's dime (they paid for our flights and hotel for one night, the rest was one us). 

Well, I know that those few bullet points can't possibly summarize the past 10 months of my life very well.  There is so much more to tell, but I will have to let it rest as is.  My two resolutions for the upcoming school year are:

  1. Read more case studies prior to class.  For those incoming 2011's... I can't stress enough how much better your classroom experience (let alone not having to worry about whether the prof will cold call you) will be if you just read your case studies!
  2. Blog.  More.  School & personal.  'Nuff said.
  3. Make more of an effort socially - during the past two semesters, I've become somewhat of a recluse when it comes to school activities.  I need to attend more Sundowners, parties, conferences, etc.  Shouldn't be a problem since next term I only have classes on Monday evenings, and all day every other Friday. :-)  I'm going to try to get a 2nd internship during that time to add to my CV, earn some money, etc.
  4. I'll be spending Spring term of this year (Jan-early April) in Barcelona on exchange at IESE.  I resolve to see as much of the surrounding area as I possibly can! :-)

Well, I guess that's it for now.  But how am I spending this summer, you say?  I am interning at Shell Chemical in London, in a strategy analyst role.  It is very interesting working in the largest company in the world (according to Forbes, July 2009).  I'm learning a lot, and have already been sent to Rotterdam, Netherlands once.  I'll be going back in a few weeks to present the findings of my project. 

Ok, now its time to end this post.  I've been putting off schlepping my bike across London to have it repaired, but I guess I need to get on with it.

Nice to be back!

MBA TV - Episode thirteen

Posted by Adcoms on 06 August 2009

The latest episode of MBA TV is here.
Any student at London Business School will tell you that their schedule is as hectic as rush hour at Piccadilly Circus, yet there is always one event which every MBA has in their diary.

During term time the ever popular weekly ‘Sundowners’ gives students the chance to meet up with fellow classmates and students from other programmes, whilst providing further opportunity to meet recruiters.

In this episode we speak to the team who make it happen and some the MBA students who’ve enjoyed Sundowners.

Visit our website to learn more about recruitment opportunities at the School.