Monday, September 05, 2005

[Thoughts for Applicants:] The Pizza Pilgrimage

I've been meaning to post about something for a really long time, but it's never come together. It probably won't now either, but anyways.

Earlier this year, sometime soon after my Chicago admit, I went to Sugarbush resort in Vermont for a snowboarding weekend. Sugarbush is close to Waitsfield, among whose claims to fame is a converted horse barn where they are reputed to make some of the best pizza in the land at a restaurant called American Flatbread.

So we get there and turns out they don't take reservations. We put our names on the list and try to find a place to stand inside. Yeah, it was so crowded that they had a campfire for those standing outside. We eventually found a wall to lean against and the wait began. Minutes turned to half-hours which turned to hours. Serious. Two hours later, we were still not seated (well, we did manage to find a chair at the bar) and ran out of the energy to even talk. That was when a thought came to mind. This whole pizza thing was similar to my application saga.

Nothing I had ever done had prepared me for how long it would take.

I took my GMAT in August 2003. Was going to apply R1. Work got in the way. Applied to R2. Bad news flowed in. I went R3. Interview calls ! Ding. Then, a waitlist. Which turned into an agonizing summer waitlist. Which became a ding a few days before the next R1. Reapplied. R1. Interviews again. Sent in R2 apps just in case. Finally, I got the call. And in less than 8 hours I will be an MBA student.

If you are an applicant, this is something to ponder. All of you are successful people with a 'plan', but this entire process can be very, well, funny. Things usually, at least for me, have always had expiry dates. But, if you really want this degree, it can be a difficult beast. Please make sure you are prepared to deal with the uncertainities. Either with a better 'plan' or the right attitude.

The day after our pizza experience, I took the shuttle that goes in a long, slow loop around town. It was flagged down by a woman, and she asked for her destination. The driver told her that he could take her there but it would take a while. She got in. The same thing happened at the next stop. For some reason, I thought his 'line' was very interesting - it's gonna take a while. Not I can't go there. Or wait for the next bus. Nope. Just, It's gonna take a while. I think it is true of this process too. You just need to have faith and stick with it when the shit hits the fan. It'll all work out.

Just remember that It's gonna take a while.

But there is something else to consider too. We finally got a seat 2 hrs 15 min after we got there, waited another 15 minutes for a waiter and 30 mins for the pizza to be delivered. Was it really worth it? At that time, if you had given me a three day old pizza - cold - I would have told you that it was the best pizza I had ever had. One has to wonder if the reputation of the pizza has more to do with the starving partrons finally getting a meal rather than the pie itself.

Think about it. As you consider programs, and even the MBA itself, who do you get your inputs from ? I will, at the risk of heresy, suggest that current students are probably not a good source of opinion. They have recently been through a competitive application process and in some sense will justify both the degree and their school. Not exactly an unbiased opinion, in my biased opinion. I can't recall a single student at any school who told me this wasn't the best thing s/he's ever done. Or that it was the right step for his/her/my career.

Alumni, on the other hand, are a required source of perspective. I have found their advice to be reflective of the value of the MBA as relates to their more recent experiences back in the workforce. And, I have been told some pretty honest stuff too. My LBS interviewer told me straight up that he could have done his current job even before he went to school - except he couldn't have gotten the job without the degree. That was its main value for him. A Chicago alum I met had quit her job - and she was considering becoming a school teacher ! A Stanford alum I met had just joined a position in my company that one usually gets by doing the company sponsored part-time MBA. The point simply being, talk to as many alums as you can in your desired career field to get a more 'real' picture of what the degree you seek can do for you.

The best to both the applicants and the recently-applicants who are newly-students. Cool Runnings.
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2 Comments:

Blogger PowerYogi said...

yet another rocking post. wish you the best in school.
forrestgump | 09.06.05 - 6:28 am | #

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this is a fantastic post. i totally agree, especially about the part about situational context affecting how customers perceive a product. i've been tempted to write something similar about certain restaurants here in chicago that keep patrons waiting, seemingly more as a game or to get them hungrier than because there are no avaialable tables at which to seat them.
byron | Homepage | 09.06.05 - 11:21 am | #

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Can't agree more! But the answer for international students from India and China (and other countries as well) seem to be simpler: one kind of springboards to study, work, and live in the states. Well, I could have provided more justification, such as the opportunity costs of potential entrepreneurial opportunities in the emerging countries, if you own some strategic resources: network.
Clearly, there are some MBA students, even from top schools out there who do not have a clear goal or reason for taking the plunge…
Ricebaby | 09.06.05 - 2:26 pm | #

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very good post. Tell me about uncertainities. I went through a whole year of saga of applications and got into next year's MBA program at Mccombs.
isserializable | Homepage | 09.06.05 - 5:23 pm | #

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"My LBS interviewer told me straight up that he could have done his current job even before he went to school - except he couldn't have gotten the job without the degree. That was its main value for him."

The Yuppie Union Card Argument
Keven | Homepage | 09.06.05 - 9:18 pm | #

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simply beautiful comparison.
JK | 09.07.05 - 12:57 am | #

19 November, 2005 03:12  
Anonymous the daily travails said...

For 39002 (Strategic Leadership in Uncertain Environments), we were required to read a great article from the September 2005 HBR. It's called "Strategy as Active Waiting", and is by LBS professor Donald Sull. The basic idea is that much of business is navigating through the lulls, the periods of "business as usual" between the golden opportunities and "sudden death" threats. For the most part, managers can't really bring about these opportunities... the only thing they have control over is what the business does in the lulls. However, what they do in the lulls can have a great impact on the outcomes when they do encounter these opportunities and threats. I thought of the long period of waiting (what seemed like forever) between applications and when school actually started. I can't believe it's almost over.

25 January, 2006 07:02  

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