My essays are (almost) published online here...  

Posted by Dino in ,

Reading applicant blogs, I have noticed that a few people are swapping essays to get feedback. I imagine this can be a double edged sword. Fellow applicants, particularly those researching schools in depth, will be able to provide feedback perhaps as good as consultants / coaches. On the other hand, I can not help but feel that some of your approach to the essays might rub off on others' writings. While I am more inclined to the latter view, I do feel I am missing out in all this loving sharing! So I have decided to go for a half-baked approach...

Using Wordle (though I had to screen capture and crop the output), I have pulled out the common words from some of my essays. Larger words mean I have used those words more frequently. I have also word-replaced company names and the like, because I am paranoid that some adcom will come across this and go crazy :-/ . I think the picture does, however, give a view of the themes of my application, while garbaging everything so that you really couldn't recreate the original essays. For example, looking at this, you might think I was a Director! LOL.


My academic transcript is too good to be true.  

Posted by Dino in

They say that one of the places where things could go wrong in the application process is in obtaining academic transcripts from your undergraduate university. Well, in my case everything was going well enough. I asked for them about a month ago and they arrived a week later. However, I've only just looked at them now and realised the following horror:

That's right: there is a typo. According to these transcripts, in my first year I scored more than the maximum possible mark. In fact, this is just one of the disappoints of my transcript. My first and second year marks are given as raw marks, while my third and forth year as percentages, confusing the readability. No where does it state that the marks in some years are weighted more heavily than those in other years, making the final average across all the years seem odd. The options I took outside my own department are listed as Outside Options rather than noting specifically the courses I did, History and English Literature.

Oh, what frustration. I've written a rant to this effect to my undergraduate university. Lets see what turns up...


When will the Recommendation questions be released?  

Posted by Dino in ,

There is a lot of excitement about the early release of essay questions. However, I can't help but feel that the most time consuming part of all this will be the recommendation questions. When are they going to be rubber stamped by the schools and ready for consumption? I am certain that I'll manage to get my essays in, whatever it takes. However, getting my recommenders to do whatever it takes is not easy for anyone, I'm sure. Just today one of my recommenders said, "I hope I haven't signed up for a lot of work!"

I suspect that we'll have to wait for the applications to open proper to get the final version of the recommendation questions to distribute to our recommenders. Because August is the month of summer holidays, some of my recommenders will be off. I'm thinking that my recommenders will really only have the month of September to get their writing done and ready. Thus far I have told them that I reckon they will need to write about three pages and then slice and dice what they come up with to the specific questions that each school asks. Are there any better approaches than this?

For those of you seeking that recommender from your extracuricular space, I've found the picture here for you.


MBA Application Status (12th July)  

Posted by Dino in

I've been thinking about putting together a schedule for my MBA applications. However, since so many things can be done in parallel, the the final version has taken more the form of a grid (see below) and there are no timelines per se other than, Get Everything Done ASAP! Submitting five applications for R1 seems like a lot of work. I don't want to compromise on quality, so I may just see how far I can get with each one in R1.--

Essayscareer goalsdraft 1pre-draft 1

2draft 1pre-draft 1

3draft 1

4draft 1



Recommendersprepare materialstarted

Recommender 1get support fromcomplete


submission status

Recommender 2get support from


submission status

Recommender 3get support from


submission status

Applicationfill in



How Microsoft Organises Itself  

Posted by Dino in ,

While the IE blog describes the lower level workings of PUMs etc, an article in Business Week describes how Microsoft's management have organised themselves:

Ballmer realized that Microsoft needed new methods to manage an ever-more-complex company. He first tried to organize around different kinds of customers. The idea was to get product-development groups more connected to users. But the reorganization didn't work. Decisions about such widely used products as Windows, for example, spread across too many of the new divisions. Not even a year into his new job, Ballmer was stressed out and looked it.

Now, Ballmer feels like he's on the right track. He has lost 52 pounds in the past year. He is tanned and clearly comfortable in his CEO role. A series of epiphanies brought him to this place--the result of reorganizational experiments, face-to-face meetings with execs at other companies, and thirsty reading of management books. Good to Great by management guru James C. Collins and Welch's Jack: Straight From the Gut got him to think about solving a wide variety of problems systematically, rather than trying to fix them on an ad hoc basis.

From this patchwork, Ballmer stitched together a quilt of management processes that, he says, especially suits Microsoft. Ballmer elevated the importance of something he calls the "organizational health index," a key factor in measuring executive performance. Taken from Procter & Gamble, the OHI is a survey of employees who are asked to rate their bosses on their leadership skills. By studying GE, Ballmer crafted a new system to identify and promote promising managers.

Perhaps Ballmer's biggest innovation is something called the Executive P&L, launched in April. It's a balance sheet that divides the company into seven distinct businesses and gives each unit's leader the financial tools to measure its performance. Ballmer hopes the device will empower execs who have long worked in an environment where everything was run by the CEO. In the past, managers would know the costs of developing a product but not the cost of selling it. Now, they can see their costs end-to-end, giving them the information necessary to make decisions about allocating resources without having to run it by Ballmer.

To some managers, it's liberating. On June 3, Senior Vice-President Doug Burgum walked Ballmer through his financial plan for his corporate-applications group for the coming fiscal year. Ballmer seized on an unusually large bump in R&D spending. In the end, he made it clear it was up to Burgum to decide how much to spend. "In some ways, the review felt like a really good board meeting," says Burgum, who ran Great Plains Software.

To make sure the new management system ticks along with Swiss precision, Ballmer has adopted a calendar with regularly scheduled meetings. The cycle, which Ballmer calls the "rhythm of the business," kicked off on May 29 with seven days of business-plan reviews. In October, the company's 21 senior vice-presidents will meet for two weeks with their staffs, analyzing their organizational structure and their development needs. A month later, leaders of the company's seven businesses gather for seven days of high-level brainstorming sessions designed to identify new opportunities. And in January, after the results of Microsoft's annual customer-satisfaction survey come in, the same execs meet for four days to analyze them.

Gates had his "think weeks," where he secluded himself at his family's retreat in Hood Canal in northwest Washington to ruminate on the Next Big Thing in technology. Ballmer has created "management sync weeks," weeklong events every quarter with day-after-day of meetings involving the executive staff and board members. The idea is to coordinate themes and strategies among the company's important decision-making groups. The first sync week begins June 17.


What matters to you most and why?  

Posted by Dino in , ,

While everyone else seems to be enthralled with the Scoretop controversy, I've been perplexing over something quite different. Stanford's hallmark What matters to you most and why? essay question is surely the most gut-wrenching question since the career goals question, which in itself took me several weeks to figure out for myself.The most useful advise I've been able to find on the internet seems to be this little segment from here:

    * What matters to you most and why? (Stanford's first question)
          o Apparently, the most common answer is 'balance in life'. Maybe you should try something different..
          o There are no right or wrong answers or approaches to this; it was my favorite essay question actually for this reason. You can write just about anything. However, I would suggest you look over the accomplishments that you want to talk about in your essays and you career goals. Then find a basic thread that can intertwine all of them. This will be something vague but poignant: 'helping other people' or 'taking on new challenges'. Then there's your essay structure: open with how you like to take on new challenges and use all of your essay material as proof of that. If you write something too specific such as: 'What's most important to me is bringing potable water to this village in eastern Africa' then a good part of your essays will probably be irrelvant to this thesis statement.

A second item which may help some is the following exercise from here:

As Stephen Covey says, clarify what is most important in your life. Decide what is most worthwhile to you. Knowing what is most valuable to you gives you direction in life. Rank each in order from 1-10 (1 being least important and 10 being most important).

* Career

* Health

* Home

* Family

* Spirituality

* Finances

* Leisure

* Learning

* Creativity

* Communication

This should give you a fair assessment of what your priorities are and where you want to be. Now what are you most grateful for? Make a list of 10 things and write them down. Finally don't forget how far you’ve come. Make a list of 10 of your proudest accomplishments for this year.

For me, simply thinking about other essay questions is giving me food for thought on this Stanford question. Particularly other essay questions from other schools. These ones in particular, all for 2008/9, might provide some areas of overlap:


1. What are your three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such? (600-word limit)

3.2 Discuss how you have engaged with a community or organization. (400-word limit)


2: Describe how your background, values, academics, activities and/or leadership skills will enhance the experience of other Kellogg students. (One to two pages double-spaced)

3: Describe your key leadership experiences and evaluate what leadership areas you hope to develop through your MBA experience. (One to two pages double-spaced)