Friday, November 28, 2003

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope everyone is having a great thankgiving weekend. I've been in the US for over 5 years now and this was my first real thanksgiving experience. My roommates and I had several friends over for dinner yesterday and spent the whole day cooking turkey, stuffing, pies and everything else that goes into a traditional thanksgiving meal. My brother was visiting and it was a great day spent in merriment and bonhomie with friends and family.

Lazy day today recovering from the effects of all the food and drink. Didn't do much toward the applications except for some planning for the rest of the weekend. I am aiming to have the Tuck essay first drafts ready to be sent out to reviewers early next week, finishing my research on Tuck's program - what courses, professors, clubs etc are relevant to why I want to go to Tuck. Also need to work on some guidelines for my recommenders and getting paper copies of the reco letters for their reference as they asked for it. And finally, get ready for my Tuck visit and interview. Just realized that it's been over 3 years since I wore a suit ! The good news is mine is still in wearable condition and it fits ;-)

Off to get some sleep now, have a full weekend on my plate.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

The BusinessWeek forums are a great, if often overwhelming, resource for MBA applicants. There's obviously a LOT of information out there and has to be often taken with a pinch of salt. A few months ago, there were tons of people posting their stats and asking for feedback on their chances from the AdmitCoach-es of the world. I did the same too, and I was advised that I had great stats, OK community service which could be offset/explained and that because of this I should take few risks on my essays. Fair enough.

Now, many of the posters have already applied for R1 and the discussions are focussed on interview calls and dings. One of the most fascinating threads is the Dinged with 750+ GMAT scores discussion. There are two things that interest me. Related to the advise above : many people are of the opinion that someone with a 750+ score would tend to go 'safe' on his/her essays whereas a 650 candidate would be more willing to take 'risks' increasing the probability of standout essays. I think it is a very valid point. Derrick Bolton of Stanford could not emphasize enough the level of introspection they expect to shine through in the essays. As I write my essays I find that trying to get a check list of qualities into an essay is very hard to do and is often a compromise with the spirit of the essay as originally envisioned and inspired. I have decided to give up on that and am trying to put down on paper what I really think and feel. There is the danger that I might leave some bases uncovered but if the essays can convey a picture of who I am, what makes me tick, where I come from, how I got here and where I intend to go, I hope to get the chance to interview to fill in the missing pieces.

A strategy shift from 'safe' to 'risk', if you will.

The other thing that I cannot understand is people's silly whining about being dinged from Wharton in spite of scoring 750+. How can one spend weeks or months researching a school, meeting students and alumni, visit campus, make a decision that the school's good for them and then take the effort to apply, turn around and trash the school as 'not-all-that' the minute they get a ding. I think a lot of it has to do with frustration at the wasted efforts, but this should be inexcusable of someone who seriously intends to go to b-school. As with other things, these people should have levels of maturity that are above and beyond their peers.

But again, will I have the same reaction the minute I open that ding email from Wharton. Simple answer - no, because I don't intend to apply to Wharton ;-). Jokes apart, there is no way for me to know until I get that email. Maybe I will understand the frustrations then. To all the people who got those dings I wish them luck in their other b-school applications.
Recommender woes fixed

Hmmm ... just noticed something. The blogger interface is completely different on Safari. I thought initially that they changed something, but realized that I've never used Safari to blog earlier. The Netscape/IE interfaces are unchanged. Anyways, as long as the blog is published alright, I'm happy.

Quiet day at work, so got out of work early without much stress and can start to put some time tonight into my Tuck essays. Had dinner last night with a friend who works in a firm managing investments worth a couple of billion dollars (his team of 6 does, actually). Very interesting to learn about the differences in IB, PE, VC, LBO. It's not my area of interest so I haven't had the time to research. The more I learn about the work, pressures, lifestyles of IB etc I don't think the hectic, though cash-loaded, world of this profession is my cup of tea.

But, Moroccan mint tea at Tangierino I highly recommend. And the filet mignon was to die for.

My final recommender is all set. It was the same person I had the awkward conversation with. Thought this through and decided that he is probably in the best position to judge me and my abilities. Had a conversation with him, and he was eager to give me a rec. Though he did say that it was a surprise to know I was thinking about an MBA. He said that it was because I was so good at what I do (not such a bad thing !) and asked me about my reasons for wanting an MBA. He said that he could see the reasons, and one feedback he did have for me was that I should learn to delegate more (it's an engineer thing I guess). He is aware that deadlines are end of the year so I hope the recs will get there in time.

So, I have three recommenders lined up
1> my current boss
2> an ex-boss who I have worked very closely with
3> a curious kind of reference - it's a manager of a group within my company who qualify our software. I'm hoping it is going to be kind-of a client/customer reference since we treat them as such and may be a unique perspective.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Recommender Blues

Argggh ! it's been a really bad day. Last night's late night essay session coupled with an early morning wake-up has me nursing a headache all day. And on top of that, had an awkward conversation with one of my potential recommenders that has me in a quandry.

There is this ex-boss of mine who I was planning to ask today or tomorrow for a reco. Turns out he wanted to go on a business trip abroad that I may be going on instead - and he wants me to tell the guy arranging it how he could do a good job on it and why he deserves to go. Apparently he thinks I am better suited for it than him.

Fuck. Excuse my language, but it's that frustrating. I did not know about the politics involved, and don't care a damn about the trip. The thing is - if I do ask him for a reco but end up sent on the trip I can't be sure what's going to be in that reco. Right now I don't know what to do. Got to sleep over it and start considering some others that I had ruled out.
First Steps

Something funny with the Tuck registration system for interviews. When I checked earlier today there were a number of slots open and I wanted to reschedule my interview which is for early next week. Then later this evening, I logged on, cancelled my appt and went back to the schedule and a lot of dates showed up as filled or waitlisted. Scrambled to get my original appointment back.

Now that I know I have to face an interview in a few days, I'm starting to get my act together. I don't know how everybody else starts to attack their essays but I've been having serious issues. Spent the weekend trying to work on Stanford's essay #2 first since it is so general and can be used as a base for the others but I had so much trouble getting my thoughts together down on paper. I've been thinking about this for the better part of last week - but it's like the thoughts were lost !

So, today I got home and after dinner started pacing around my room talking aloud simulating an interview response to a question. Pretty soon I was into it, and started taking notes. After an hour's talking, I have a couple of pages of notes. I was trying to answer one question in my imaginary interview and the 'conversation' went all over the place from there. As I read my notes back, I seem to have answers down on paper for what I want to do after my MBA, what the technology industry is going to look a few years down the line and why I should get an MBA now. Now I need to talk to (pun intended) why the choices I made have led to my position now and piece the career progression leading to an MBA part together. Have to meet some friends for drinks tomorrow night but hope to come home and start working on that. I am a night person - don't seem to get my brain fired before 10 pm. That would be swell if I didn't have to wake up at 7 tomorrow morning for work. sigh !

The other piece of research I need to do tomorrow is for the Why X ? part of the question. A student at MIT advised me to work on the Sloan app the second because the first app is always going to have some holes you can better the second time around. Wanted to start with Stanford and then go on to Tuck, but time, or the lack thereof, dictates that Tuck is the first one out of the gate. I should have an early draft of my FIRST mba application essay written tomorrow - that's my goal.

Buenas Noches.

Thursday, November 20, 2003


Time to get serious. Just completed a high-pressure project at work that I put in long hours for the past few months. Onto the next one but things shouldn't heat up until early next year. Started going back regularly to the gym this week, and will start playing squash again from next week. I can already see a spike in my energy level and a decline in my lethargy. I think it is essential to have an exercise regimen or some other activity to endure the pressures of the app process.

Signed up for a Tuck interview ! I am excited and nervous at the same time. It's in early december and I have yet to really work on Tuck's application. I need to have at least working drafts of the essays ready so that I know what I should talk about. Also, it's going to be my first interview after a really long time. I am planning on a dry run during thanksgiving with an MBA student friend of mine.

Looking back - i started this blog Oct 19 and it's been a month and my applications haven't really moved an inch along ! It's obviously procrastination, but it's also my way of doing things. I find that I need the pressure to really get cranking on anything. It was the same with my GMAT. I had over a month to prep, but it was not until the last week that I picked up my books. I'm average with regards to everything else but I think I am clutch when the pressure is cranked up. I really need for the adrenaline to flow.

So, that's what it's come down to. One of my biggest challenges yet, I'm late and I am betting on what (I think :) I know about myself to pull it off. Doesn't get better than this. I'm really excited and looking forward to December.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

10 School MBA Forum

Lots of silence of late on this blog - absolutely no progress on my applications :-(
Work, for one, has been killing me, but it shouldn't be an excuse. And I am feeling low on energy and not able to put the requisite efforts into writing my essays. So, over the past couple of days I have revamped my strategy hoping to get it back on track (hmmm, i sound like Kerry :)

Needed something to motivate me to action, and there's nothing like being in a roomful of fellow applicants. The 10 School MBA forum event in Boston was held across the street from where i work, and i stopped by on Monday evening. I ran into someone whom I had also met at the LBS infosession. Small world. My main interest in going there was meeting with Stanford, Kellogg, Wharton and Tuck. MIT and Harvard I've visited and the others I am not all that interested.

They had a couple of panel discussions where the MBA application process was de-mystified - nothing new here : don't get too worked up about GMAT/GPA, be yourself on your essays, there is no formula or weightage, diversity etc. Then there was an hour for meeting the various adcomms.

Derrick Bolton's the man. On top of everything else Stanford has going for it, there's Derrick. Stanford's AD was impressive. The only one there who took the time to introduce himself and get the names of everyone standing around asking questions, made sure everyone's questions were answered, and did a super job of selling Stanford. The application process has to be introspective. You have to go thru the process sincerely and that will show up in the essays, and that's the reason their essays are so open-ended. GSB is big on enterpreneurship, leadership, globalization and community.

Kellogg is another school that I wish I had the time to visit. Jill Clouse did a great job of articulating the general management focus of the school - of course, with a super marketing program - and the sense of community that pervades the place. She actually offerred to help connect applicants with alums or students to talk with.

Tuck - Stephanie McCaull was their AD at the event. I have an interview scheduled and she said that you don't need to have an application submitted or even started to interview. Tuck's close-knit community was also a big thing. Also, I have a friend who goes to Tuck and he's given me great reviews about the place - she said it would be a great thing to mention for the why Tuck interview. My interest in outdoor activities would be a good thing to talk about in the optional essay and why it's important to me. Looking forward to visiting Tuck.

Wharton was a little disappointing. The answers to my questions were of the 'of course we do so-and-so or you can do this-and-that, we are wharton' type. Wouldn't say the AD was cocky, maybe she had a long day ... but they are indeed wharton and people are going to apply irrespective :)


Thursday, November 13, 2003

London Business School InfoSession

I walked into the Infosession expecting more of the usual. A presentation about why the school is great, an overview of the admissions process and a Q&A with alumni and students. And it was pretty much on the same lines. I like LBS a lot and was seriously considering it to start with, and came away with an even better impression of the school. Reaffirmed my i-can-belong-here classification of the school in a big way.

A couple of things that David Simpson, the adcomm guy, talked about stand out for me as an Indian application.

First, TOEFL scores. I read about techiedude's issues in his blog with having to take the TOEFL for Berkeley. David said that he thought it was almost insulting to ask Indian students to take the TOEFL ! He said London knows about the standards of english education in India and Indian students are actually considered native english speakers. Finally, an adcomm who knows and understands our education system.

Second, I asked him about community service. Again he said that they understand that there are cultural issues around this. Someone educated in the US usually has some sort of CS experience because of its emphasis in school and college curricula, but Brits and Indians generally do not. They do not have the maniacal obsession that US schools do about this, and one can substitute enterpreneurial experiences in lieu of CS. Very refreshing. Also, talked to a couple of students and one had done some things with non-profits but the other said she had absolutely no experience (of course, they were european).

Was thinking about this on my way back to work and it struck me that while all the US' schools talk about diversity and global nature of their programs, nobody seems to think of student qualifications in the context of their backgrounds and cultures.

LBS has many things going for it, but is definitely not a school for everyone. For somebody who is interested in a global perspective on business, and is looking forward to an international career, it's an excellent place to be. Finding jobs in the US is definitely harder to do than from a US school. Excellent campus, superb location in the heart of London and access to all the resources that city and its business community has to offer, exchange programs with 27 schools as of now I think, unique projects such as a first year shadowing project and 2y paid consulting project, merit-based scholarships, are some of the plusses of this school. Of course, it has great brand recognition almost all over the world and has global alumni networks.

I am convinced I would be a good for the school, and it a good fit for me. Going to start working on the app soon.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Back in town after an amazing trip to Peru. Beautiful country, great people. Definitely worth a visit, I would highly recommend it.

I am slowly getting back into my hectic schedule here, quite different from the relaxed pace in south america. should start earnestly on my application process this week.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Hola from Peru !

If anybody�s been reading this blog and wondering about the sudden quiet, i�m on vacation in Peru for 2 weeks. Did not have time to update it before I left.

Actually blogging this from an internet cafe in Cusco - alt 11030 feet (according to my slightly off-whack altimeter). If you have never been to Peru - this is an absolutely fascinating country. I�m having a blast - riding in the trunks of wagons in Lima, shopping the markets of Cusco, just finished a 4 day hike to Machu Pichu and off to the Amazon tomorrow.

The whole MBA app process is the last thing on my mind, just hoping to come back all relaxed and get to the R2 deadlines. Back on Nov 10.

Adios !