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This blog is for MBA applicants who want to know more about life as part of the London Business School community. The site is managed by the MBA Admissions Team with content provided by students and alumni.

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It's over...for now

Posted by Manish on 26 November 2006

310 first year MBAs are now past the most dreaded day of the first semester - the finance-1 exam. For a lot of people, including me, this was the first sit own 3 hour exam in many years. Our finance professor had been kind to us and spent 4 hours over 2 weekends going over some of the basics we had covered over the semester. That helped a lot in gearing me for the big day.

Anyways, a big percentage of us were out partying since the sound of the bell. There was even an unofficial competition to find out who gets to the windsor castle pub right after handing in the exam. I believe the winner got there in about 1hour and 30 minutes. I took my full 3 hours like a lot of others. The folks at the Windsor castle were probably aware of the exam and the potential rush through the doors at 1pm. A ton of us ended up there eventually. There were several parties on including a big party at On-Anon in Picadilly circus to celebrate a handful of birthdays.

I know a lot of folks are going to take the weekend off and do nothing to make up for the overload of finance we had this week. Thankfully some of our projects that were due on monday have been pushed out by a week to give us this much needed breather.

Feedback anyone?

Posted by Manish on 28 October 2006

How many times has your feedback gone into a blackhole ? I've felt that feedback is no more than a formality on many occasions.

London Business School has been asking us for feedback regularly. The programme office, the professors, professional and social clubs have all asked for feedback. We have been encouraged to be vocal about our thoughts on everything.

What stood out for me was how quickly our feedback was acted upon. Professors have now started asking for feedback every 2 weeks. One of them even asks for feedback at the end of every class. So the changes are taking place in real time. We get a summary of feedback at the beginning of the next class so we generally know where the class barometer is. Of course they can't act on everything right away and our expectations have been managed rather well.

Most often future classes will benefit from the bigger changes that aren't easy to make. That been said, our class is benefiting from the changes made per the previous class' recommendations (thanks 07s). One of them, I believe, is that out streams will not be shuffled around at the end of term 1. They had a hard time adjusting to the new dynamics at one of the worst times of the year( summer recruitment season). Lets see how that plays out for us.

The 'Real' Windsor Castle

Posted by Manish on 10 October 2006

What comes to your mind when you hear someone say Windsor Castle ? The British Monarchy? The Queen ?

Try this on anyone in London Business School and there is only one thing that comes to their mind. The Real Windsor Castle. Windsor

This institution is second home to most students at London Business School. It is a pub but, to most, calling it a pub is disrespectful. Now London has a massive pub culture. That can be a huge topic of discussion by itself but we'll stick to Windsor castle for now. Windsor castle shares a wall with the school building. There is a back alley from within school that has a 'private' school entrance to the pub. Now that's what I call customer service. (I'll try o get a picture of this special entrance soon)

After 6pm on most days people head straight to Windsor to chat with other students (you'll even find professors here). The ambience at Windsor is very welcoming. It's a small place but it has plenty of room for students. On any day you can find groups of people tucked away around small tables with tall glasses of golden lager or dark ale and the odds are high that the discussion centers around finance or accounting or some big investment bank or consulting firm (don't quote me on that though). People come to Windsor to eat, to drink and to have a good time. But a lot of people also come here to network. I won't be surprised if the best ideas for projects have been developed at Windsor. 

I was at Windsor with my study group the other day. We decided to head there to cool our brains off after a harrowing session of business statistics. See how an place like The Windsor Castle can offer so much more than beer. This is the de facto hang out for most study groups. People do venture elsewhere too (like 'The Volunteer' - a short 5 minute walk) but I personally like the cozier and cheaper Windsor.

Windsor is part of our world class institution. I think we should get a credit for spending a certain number of hours at the Windsor because you tend to learn so much over there anyways. I doubt if the programme office will buy that though.

Shrikant Shenoy, MBA2008, says

The Windsor Castle, with its combination of friendly staff, cosy atmosphere, and good food is a good place to hang out. But the fact that it is actually physically attached to the school, and usually full of school people means that it has an appeal and a pull akin to the gravitational pull of a black hole!

Why are good B schools expensive ?

Posted by Manish on 15 September 2006

So we are at the end of (real) week 2 of school. And now it is becoming evident that London Business School charges me a large sum of money for a (good) reason.

Our most recent super experience was a simulation. The school (as part of one course) arranged for a professional executive development team from the United States (i think!) to spend an entire day with us running a simulated industry where 6 student teams represented one company each. We had to come up with a business strategy (under defined constraints) and run our companies. Each person in my group assumed a certain responsibility (like marketing or sales or finance) and took decisions on a quarterly basis to move the company in the desired direction. At the end of each quarter our decisions were submitted and results were computed by the simulation to determine where our company stood.

I was the finance guy in my group (because i knew least about it and wanted to learn). Let me give an example of how real this simulation was. We received letters from our financers that we were in deep s*** because we went over a certain debt-to-equity ratio. They refused to lend us more money and we needed more money to fund out marketing, operations, and R&D plans. This was really real. It was our company and it was failing. That is exactly how it made me, the finance guy, feel.

We got our act together and cut costs, reduced budgets, put some bets on our decisions and got out of it alive.

All in all, it was one of the best learning experiences I have had. Replace this with 1 lecture each on the things we did and we wouldnt be able to come even close.

Now my point is that all this costs a lot of money. So you are really paying for these experiences. So when you pick your school, please dont pitch one school against the other based on how much it charges in tuition. Find out what your tuition is going to pay for and make an informed "investment".

(edited to fix typo) 

B-school and MBA: why is it different from other programmes

Posted by Manish on 09 September 2006

We have been through a week of classes and workshops (including a CV workshop in the 1st week - can you believe that!) and now some of the simple differences between an MBA programme and a traditional degree are becoming clear.

I'm probably going to restate the obvious, but for someone looking for a "What happens in b-school" primer, this could be a start. Heres 2 things that have stood out clearly.

We had 5 sessions of our General Management class this week. A comparable course in undergrad would have involved a Professor giving lectures week after week coupled with chapters and chapters of reading. I've had several of these in the past. The theme is "here is the concept, now ask me questions and go figure the rest out". In the MBA this pattern/theme does not apply. Our classes have been mostly discussions on some or the other case that highlights a business/management concept. We read the case before the class, prepare some notes on what we read, and show up to class. The professor then starts of by asking questions and highlighting some important points from the case. What ensues is a myriad of thoughts and arguments reflecitng the immensely diverse backgrounds that people come from. We were discussing a case on American Express yesterday (it was about their turnaround in the mid 90s) and lo-and-behold we had someone from AmEx in our class giving us first hand detailed "insider" views on things. That can't be beat by any amount of professorial lecturing. Note that the professor here is merely provoking our thought processes by asking the right questions. The mass of the lecture is left to us to take in any direction we want (albeit with supervision).

Now to my next point - Career development and Jobs. I have never been in a school or programme where this much emphasis was placed on the career development process. B-schools take this bit seriously. Very seriously. Of course they have worked hard and chosen a great bunch of talented and motivated people to become a part of their organization. But a lot of their success depends on our success. We are recreating our CVs, working on crystalizing our goals, and getting ready for some serious recruiting coming up in January '07. The % of students employed at graduation is one figure the career services guys think about morning, day, and night. Now would you want to go to a school where students are left off in the woods to figure out their employment situation? Probably not. So thats major difference number 2.

more later ..   

London calling

Posted by Manish on 04 September 2006

I can see that a lot of fellow bloggers have written about our first week at school and orientation and all that good stuff. Since it is the beginning of application season, I would like to demistify a few things about London that may possibly help potential applications.

1) People: Coming from the US, I heard all sorts of crazy things about people in the UK. I specially heard that poeple here are more rude than the general public in the US. NOT TRUE! London (can't speak about other places) has some of the nicest people. Agreed they wont go smiling at each other on the street (there are too many people out on the street to be smiling at) but they are kind and helpful and courteous etc etc. London is very friendly to immigrants and is amazingly multicultural.

2) Place (from the perspective of someone new): London is KEWL! I live next to Abbey Road studios (google it for best results if you dont know what Abbey Road Studios is) in a nice area called St. Johns Wood. Lords cricket ground is 5 minutes away from school (for all the cricket fans out there) and in general every street is a quaint street with a rich history. The food is good, the public transport is phenomenal. I think this is going to be a great city to enjoy two years of student life. More on this subject as this blog develops.

3) Cost: Ahem! Lets just say it is quite a bit, but lets not forget what this city has to offer. Also, you could cut fixed costs such as rent by living away from school etc. I'm sure as I get used to this city, I will normalize my expenses through cost cutting and efficiencies. Moreover, if you come from other expensive cities, it won't feel that expensive here. I must add that many day to day requirements are pretty reasonably priced here. So its not all bad.

4) Weather: Ok, It's gray for quite a large part. But again, it's not that bad. It doesn't rain all the time. But maybe im jumping ahead of myself. August is one of the nicer months here and maybe we are seieng the nicer days. More on this later.

5) Industry: you'll read a lot about this on the school's webpages but here goes. It is important to remember that as an MBA, jobs are an aweful lot important. The city in which your school resides is a huge factor in determining the job market available to you. London business school clearly has a tremendous advantage here.

So i am standing at the door step of a truly outstanding 2 year experience. The signs make it look very promising. I hope to expand some more on these topics as we get along.