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"Full Time" MBA

Posted by Joyce on 21 January 2010

Family and friends like to scoff at my claim that I study full time. Glancing at my calendar, it’s not hard to see why. It's in stark contrast to Alex's calendar several posts down. Important to note is that I did NOT skimp on electives. I’m taking the maximum number allowed, and would take even more if the school let me.


I suppose one could view this as a testament to the flexibility of year 2. You see correctly—entire months of December and February completely open. And I’m especially tickled by the 72-day stretch between Jan 8 to Mar 22 where I have no classes whatsoever.

A question I sometimes get is "What’s up with your class selection? You’re attending one of the best finance schools in the world and I don’t see a single finance elective."

Consider yourself in the following situation: you majored in finance in undergrad, interned at a combination pension-endowment fund at 22, shuffled your feet for a few months at a brokerage before eventually settling into the world of corporate finance for 5 years. Then you come to London for your MBA and ace your mandatory core finance class without a lick of studying.

My question to you: are you still going to load up on finance electives?

Have I deserted finance in the manner of a burned-out banker? Hardly! I absolutely adore finance, and have every intention of bringing it with me to every new role I take. (Future co-workers beware; I have a tendency to preach the power of NPV like a missionary out for converts.) But I didn’t come to London to become deadlier in something I already do reasonably well. In stereotypical fashion, I was atrocious in strategy, hadn’t a clue about marketing, and networking? I’m that sorry person who walks past the business class section of a plane and wishes with envy in her heart to one day be able to comfortably strike up a conversation or exchange business cards like I always see them doing before take-off.

But anyway, in light of my featherweight schedule, what else do I get up to in between?

  • Technically still on my summer internship, but on reduced hours since Homeland Revenue restricts me to 2.5 days per week. The internship itself has been superb. I was curious about how “business” a work environment could be when the office is a congestion of 4-inch heels and fashion magazines—but oh do they know their business, and have the financial results to prove it. So, do keep your minds tuned to “business” when I reveal that one of my projects had me riffling through French lingerie catalogues for a week...
  • About 1 day a week on Second Year Project. We’re developing a business plan around the winning project from our stream’s Discovering Entrepreneurial Opportunities tradeshow—hot chocolate! (The good kind, not stuff that comes from a pouch of powder.)
  • Working on the novel / reading other novels. I’d like to say this is totally unrelated to the MBA, but part of it is because my brain screams for genuine fiction after reading yet another Harvard case. Don’t get me wrong, the content and intended lessons make the Harvard cases great tools, but the authors’ attempts to inject meaningless contextual drama is tedium. "Steve Smith admired the skyline from his office window before returning to the glow of his computer screen. He sighed. 11:47pm, 134 unread messages, and an 8 o’clock meeting tomorrow morning where he’d have to present the strategic future of the company. Where to start..." How about starting by getting to the point?
  • Catching up with classmates, getting to hear about everyone’s grand designs. Bonding with my wonderful flatmates Nicole and Don, and enjoying the best that British reality tv has to offer.
  • Lots of sleeping in. Loading up now in anticipation of a return to full time work life.

Sometimes I wonder if this jives with what most people expect a full-time MBA to be like. The only justification I can offer is that you get a lot of built-in “worry time”. In practical terms, that means a lot of time worrying about recruitment, worrying about the economy, worrying about classes, and worrying about how to distract yourself from worrying too much. I suppose those can *sometimes* be legitimate activities, but it’s pretty cool how much time frees up once you stop reading every article in the FT, or brooding over the postings on careers portal.

Oh, and if you had any lingering doubt about how much time you’ll have available for all of life’s little extracurriculars, have a think about how much time the average student spends on Facebook.

About LBS international spirit

Posted by Luiz on 19 January 2010

London Business School is recognized as a global school with many international students and faculty. But what’s so special about it? After all, there are other b-schools that have students from over 60 countries and that speak x number of languages. From my experience, what sets apart LBS’s international spirit is:

  • Since there is no major nationality, the mixing among students is very high.
  • Many students have spent a significant amount of time outside their home countries. For instance, on my study group six out of seven people have spent more than two years outside of his or her home country after their undergrad degree. Many even grew up on one country, went to University in another and developed their professional lives on a third country. This reflects on mature students that have a global perspective on business.
  • Students are proud of their culture and like to share that with colleagues. For instance, when the snow club organized a ski trip to Austria in December of last year, a Swiss classmate drove from Switzerland to bring fresh Swiss cheese and pots to cook traditional Swiss fondue for 30 of us; another colleague drove from Munich and brought us specialty local beer that is only sold on his home town of Munich. That is not to mention the now famous yearly spring break trips to: Japan organized by the Japan club, Africa organized by the Africa club, and to Thailand organized by the Sailing club. On top of that, there are country-themed parties during the year: Spanish fiesta (Spanish club), Diwalli party (Indian club), Latin American party (Latin American club), Beaujolais party (French club) and Carnival party (Brazil Club) to name a few. And finally, the mother of all country-themed parties: Tattoo, in which each country presents some of its food, drink, music, dance and other entertainments.

All that makes me feel privileged to be part of such a diverse and international group.

24 Hours of Exchange

Posted by Vipul on 05 January 2010

Disclaimer: I wrote this piece yesterday - but had trouble posting it. Here it is, untainted by my experiences of day 2.

It’s been 24 hours since I arrived at the Indian School of Business. The experience has been interesting so far – quite a contrast to London Business School. Here are some of the things that struck me.

All the support staff address me as “Sir”. This embarrasses as much as it lifts the ego. It’s like I’m a guest at a hotel. I went to boarding school in India and I have done project work with IBM in India – but never have I been called “Sir” except in hotels (and in airlines, but only when I travelled business class).

The infrastructure here is something to write home about. The campus is HUGE. I actually had to lug my suitcase for almost half a mile when the taxi driver dropped me off at the wrong “student village”. There is one excellent buffet-style all-you-can-eat for 90 Rupees (£1.20) restaurant, 2 round-the-clock cafes, and a department store on campus. I have heard wonder-filled stories about how nice the swimming pool and the gym are. In fact these stories have inspired me to set an alarm for 8 AM so I can go see the Gym. There is housing for all students (more than 600 I believe) on campus. I have a bedroom in a 4-bedroom apartment. It is air-conditioned and a maid comes every day to do the dishes. Getting my shirts ironed cost me Rs. 2.50 (yes, 2 rupees and 50 paise). I’m presently “connected” to a gigabit lan network, which unfortunately doesn’t work on my laptop any more. The bad thing is, I’m being forced to use Windows as my operating system. Overall the infrastructure appears way better than that of London Business School.

There were a few things that mildly annoyed me today, but I’m pretty sure I will adapt to those. In the lecture this morning, people would regularly interrupt others. In a networking session, people would literally shoulder me out of their way to speak to the visitor. Communicating with the support staff in English or Hindi is a slight issue – but sign language always works.

The on-campus company presentations (called “PPTs (Pun perhaps Intended) – Pre Placement Talks”) fascinated me the most. They were in sharp contrast to the presentations back at London Business School. The invitation email asked me to dress in “business casual”. This made me nervous already. I have been forcibly conditioned to wear a suit and a tie and look super sharp in all company presentations. But I felt very overdressed in a simple business shirt and trousers combination, when I saw people walking in wearing sandals, T-shirts and jeans. It turns out that due to low attendance at some of these events, these presentations have been made compulsory. Every presentation is mandatory for a particular stream of the MBA class, irrespective of whether they have any interest in the company or indeed the industry. No wonder, the enthusiasm levels were somewhat varied. Also the style of asking questions seemed a bit different. For example, the first question from the audience was “Locations?” That’s it. One word. Go figure. I don’t mean to bash ISB or its students – it is a great school with very bright students. All I am saying is that London Business School does a better job of managing crowd interest in presentations.

The people here are very friendly. Its amazing how many people I’ve exchanged phone numbers with today. One my first day at London Business School, I was definitely struggling a little more. Last night I had someone walk half-a-mile with me when she found me wandering around lost, and guided me to my student village. My neighbour showed me around the campus. Someone else kindly took me to dinner and gave me the low down on electives. Everyone is generally very keen to be helpful and friendly. I’m not saying that London Business School is not a friendly place – in fact it is a very friendly place and the people are very helpful. All I’m saying is that ISB is marginally friendlier. This is my first impression.

Now as I finish setting the alarm and plugging in the mosquito repellent, I look forward to another day of lectures, PPTs and meeting great people. Oh and checking out the fabulous pool.