Wharton, where are you?  

Posted by Dino in ,

Rocky, so excited with his interview invite, has decided to train for it up and around Philly. That will impress the adcom!

Wharton interview invites opened for business last week Thursday, Oct 23rd. They close Thursday Nov 13th. Anything can happen in the next two weeks, but the longer I wait... the more I get that sinking feeling. I hate waiting.


Exchange Rate Havoc  

Posted by Dino in ,

Ever seen a grown man cry?

People talk about what an awful time it is to graduate from an MBA degree. For an international applicant, it is surely an awful time to start one too!

Firstly, the price of my MBA education has skyrocketed over 20%. This means a bigger amount to pay off and, in this credit crunch, a bigger headache.

Secondly, in many an MBA application it asks for your salary in US dollars, but does not ask you to state the exchange rate. Given the drastic exchange rate changes over the last few months, even people applying from the same country are going to give wildly differing accounts of what their salary is in US dollar terms. I wonder if the adcoms realize that they just won’t be able to compare applicants’ salaries!

Thirdly, what if the dollar strengthens further over the next two years? Will I be able to get a high enough paying job to pay off this headache? How long will the coming recession last? Will I be able to get a job? This has to one of the worse years to apply to business school.

It looks like the hey days are over.


Kellogg Interview Completed  

Posted by Dino in , ,

I turned up for my interview with the Kellogg alum at the pre-arranged venue. Unfortunately, he was not the hot, young girl the adverts promised.

I've had my Kellogg interview. Overall, I am satisfied with it. I want to shout out thanks to HappyBunny and Soni for posting their experiences. The themes were similar to what they mentioned, but the questions were quite different. In fact, I think it is the type of interview where you can not really prepare a huge amount, even if you know the questions. You really just need to know who you are and have some stories to tell that are anchored in your resume and consistent with your application.

The first half of the interview was centered around walking through the resume. The interviewer asked very specific questions on this and various experiences I mentioned on the resume. The second half consisted of more generic questions that were very much in line with the original Kellogg essay questions from this year and previous years (look them up). If anyone wants to discuss specifics, punt me an email.

I think I rambled in several places and my delivery could have been much, much better. If I am fortunate to get further interviews, I will definitely have to work on this.

Best moment: He starts the interview by saying, "you have a very interesting resume". [This was a confidence boost for me].
Worst moment: "Is the colour of the tie you're wearing Harvard red?" [*cringe*]


Harvard Banter  

Posted by Dino in ,

Will this election see America's seat of power passed from a Harvard Business School grad to a Harvard Law School grad? Funnily enough, the guy I met on Saturday bared an uncanny resemblance to Obama.

On Saturday night, I was at a party and met a guy who was a Harvard undergraduate and Yale Law graduate. We spoke a bit about business school. He had some definite and strong views, which I have recited below. As always, controversy and emotion are never far away when Harvard is concerned. Remember, these are not my views, but his!

  • "If you get in, you'd have to be an idiot not go to Harvard".
  • "Walking around the Harvard Business School campus, you can just smell the wealth, the $3 billion dollar endowment. You can feel it in the strength of the floor as you walk around." [He mimed the smelling and walking as he said this]
  • "No matter which part of the world you go, whether it is the outer reaches of Cameroon, Mongolia or where-ever else, they know what Harvard is. It is the only international brand". [Interesting, since it is considered to have a weak international curriculum].
  • "Harvard just emanates power".
  • "The kids at Harvard Business School won't be any smarter than the ones at London Business School; in fact there will be some real idiots at Harvard. But they will think they are smarter. And so will everyone else."
  • "Harvard Business School is so beautiful and just has such amazing facilities and resources... it will amaze you. There is nothing like it."
  • "There are some top private equity and hedge fund firms that are full of Harvard and Wharton alum, and they will only hire from these two schools as well. They have nothing against the other schools. They just like to keep it in the family."
  • "You're not applying to Columbia!? You have to apply there! People walk straight out of there into Goldman Sachs."


Kellogg Interview Invite  

Posted by Dino in , ,

It's crunch time for my Kellogg application.

Over the weekend I got my interview invite for Kellogg. I looked up the interviewer's name on Google. I'm sure everyone does that. I think the school has picked someone who has a background similar to me in at least some ways. Interesting! I got in touch with the guy and we are meeting on Thursday. It's strange to think that, after Thursday, it will be the end of the line for my Kellogg application. It will then all be down to the gods, or at least the Adcom, to decide my fate...


Who reviewed my essays?  

Posted by Dino in ,

Before the schools get to review your application, it's probably wise to hand pick some from your own gang to unleash your essays on. Just be wary of what you are letting yourself in for...

As I started churning out the essays over the last few months, I called on a number of people to review my essays. I asked maybe a dozen people. Of these, only four consistently read everything I sent them. Strangely they were all girls. I thought I would write a little bit about these four...

My Sister:
Why she was great: Because she knows so much of my life in bits, she has a second view on some things in my background / life.
How she helped: She really helped draw out a personal story or two that I might otherwise not have given a second thought to.
Best feedback: Brought to the fore two stories that I would otherwise not have emphasized.

The Corporate:
Why she was great: Been around MBAs, and so has a feel for what the typical MBA applicant might say...
How she helped: Spotted at least one blooper that could be embarassing in a business story.
Best feedback: "Surely work-life balance is most important for you?!". Errm. That's what the other applicants are writing. So, no.

The Impact Receptive:
Why she was great: helped me push my stories to create more impact / drama / interest.
How she helped: Helped me spot the bits that were boring versus interesting. After reading the same essays / stories over and over, this can be very difficult.
Best feedback: There is half-story about my life at university which she thought was not very impressive. Her insistence on removing it forced me to reframe it in different ways until she did find it impressive.

The Grammarian:
Why she was great: She writes legal articles for some US legal publication.
How she helped: did a final check on my essays against US grammer.
Best feedback: You haven't changed the 's' to 'z' here, either!


Entrepreneurship at Wharton  

Posted by Dino in , , ,

According to Wharton's alum, corporates like these will tempt you away from making the entrepreneurial commitment.

I watched the video Wharton posted on entrepreneurship today. I highly recommend watching it if you are interested in entrepreneurship. Before looking at this, I was a little anxious about how committed Wharton was to entrepreneurship, but I can see they can definitely produce enough interest and offerings in the area.

I took a few notes while watching it. For the lazy, I've included them below...


I was very impressed with the talk given by Seth Berger ('93 grad). He told a great story covering the temptation to going into investment banking and what swayed him to start a company. He said something surprising - he said he got rich very quickly after selling his company to a VC; in the end, he earned at least as much as those traveling the slow upward career path.

Irene Susantio ('08 grad) talked about how she won the Wharton Business Plan competition. She talks about how having their small team (her and Brian) meant they made decisions quickly, and the advantages of her non-biotech She mentions a few things that she learned: In the reality of starting a company, you are not going to be dealing with millions of dollars. Being humble about amounts of money is important. Secondly, you learn a lot from creating a company while at Wharton - it is not the same as learning in class. However, you need an obsession to do it; don't do it half-heartedly.

Greg Neichin ('08 grad) says he lives and breathes tech start ups. He gave three messages (also blogged here):
1. Starting a company is normal (and sexy). This is important to remember, because you can be discouraged by the perceptions of other students. Wharton grads have started some of the hottest startups around at the moment, e.g. PlaceVine, admob, Bazaarvoice (and more).
2. The most important thing you can do is commit to starting a company. If you hedge your bets with the corporates, you will fail. You have to commit to researching and knowing your idea. You have to commit to yourself. Committing with someone else (i.e. a partner) that this is what you want to do will encourage you more. If you are not committed, everyone you ask for help will know that you are not committed. e.g. professors are used to having hundreds of students contacting them about their business plan, but then seeing these same students going for interviews with corporates.
3. Execution is what is most important in making the company successful. You won't learn that in a class room. Entrepreneurship programs are obsessed with business plans. In reality, you have to get down to executing. If you commit, you don't even have to worry about executing - it will happen by itself. Smart people with backs against the wall will commit to making it happen.

Uri and Mike, two 2nd year students then speak about the Entrepreneurship Club. Uri started a luxury handbag company through the VIP program. Mike says he is planning to something similar with an energy efficient light bulb company. They said the Entrepreneurship club help create a community for like minded entrepreneurial individuals. Secondly, the club organises events, like alum talks. They also organise career treks to VCs and the like. Their key event is the Entrepreneurial Conference. A lot of VC and entrepreneurial alum will be at the conference, so it is a great opportunity to network.

A few responses from the alum to questions at the end:
- People are obsessed with raising money. At least in the Internet industry, you should be able to scrape together a prototype with very little money. To get ideas, read around. Proably the real reason you want to raise money before doing anything is because you are not willing to work for less than $100k.
- The notion of protecting your idea is a fallacy; the truth is unless you are a real rocket scientist, your idea has been thought of before. It is all about execution. Who can move fast enough and really moves on that plan?
- If you are having fun, you will work and keep pushing. Figure out how much money you are aiming to make before you start - make sure you remember that number. When you get to that number or when you figure that you will not be able to grow the business, sell out.
- There was a great final question: If you are committed, and you are smart enough - what is the value of coming to Wharton? What is Wharton going to give you? This produced an even better answer from Seth: When you go to raise money, when you go meet with partners, when you go talk with customers, they ain't going to remember your name. They are going to remember the guy from Wharton.


Round 1 Submission Bliss  

Posted by Dino in , , , ,

 Stop postponing the agony.

In the midst of Max and Tieny's admissions adventure rewarding them early victories, my small personal victory pails in comparison: I have now got all my Round 1 applications in. Better still, my recommenders have all done their bit too!

I'm feeling like I'm in a state of bliss. It is a big weight off my shoulders. Nevertheless, it feels like it's going to take an age until I hear the outcome of my applications. I'm just going to have to play the waiting game. Will they like me? Will I get interviewed? Maybe I should have used an admissions consultant after all... Oh well.

What is most amazing about this whole process is that each of the schools has managed to get something different out of me. Although I've drawn on the same set of stories across the schools, the flavor and essence is slightly different for each one. With most of the schools' essays, the stories have just gotten better with each retelling; I have then reworked the improved stories back across the schools. The exception to this is MIT. For MIT, I've had to write completely new essays. Because these essays are so different, there has not been much of that refinement. This worries me slightly, since this is one of my favorite schools. In all, I think Stanford has got the best out of me. In the end, the questions just seemed to perfectly tie in with my stories.

In the meanwhile, following their R1 deadline, Wharton sent a prompt email detailing their schedule of interview invites and decision points. I am impressed with how specific their dates are. Though there are still deadlines left, I think R1 application processing is beginning in earnest. Let's see what the dice rolls.


Red October  

Posted by Dino in , ,

Everywhere you look, things are turning red. You may think it's because of the Autumn / Fall season. But it's actually nature's way of signaling 'danger', get your ass into gear - your applications are due this month.

I've had a horror story this week. I went to submit my HBS application last night. It was late, and I was tired. I was physically tired, but also tired of this whole arduous process. I checked everything on my application and was was about to bid it farewell. But then I got a phone call and got distracted. In the end, I did not submit. I got into work today and decided to print the application out and read it through during lunch hour. You'll not believe it, but I had uploaded the same essay for two different questions. AAARGH! What would they have thought if they had got that?! Needless to say, the shock has set me back and I will be taking a few more days to fret over this one.

As a 2001 graduate, based on their stats, I'm not sure I will get into HBS. I wonder if it is my mind unconsciously wreaking my application. It is telling that MIT ask for number of years of work experience on matriculation, whereas HBS ask for number of months.

BTW, in London things don't turn red in Autumn. They just turn cold, wither away and die.


What Matters To You Most And Why?  

Posted by Dino in , ,

Over the last 30 days, about 20% of visitors to my blog have come through search engines. Starting with the most popular searches, that 20% breaks down as above...

I've managed to get something together for that darn'd Stanford question. Despite previously coming up with a few different approches to cracking this one, I have since found some better approaches that I thought I would share. Evidence suggests there are people out there still struggling with this one. Here some different ways to think about that question...

Find the closest child you have in your family, perhaps a son, niece, second cousin or similar. If  you were going to die tomorrow, what single important advice would you give them? I got this idea from a video I was watching on YouTube. Two world-champion public speakers were giving advice on writing speeches. Those interested can find it here.

If you were to take one thing away [from you], what would happen, and why is that bad, according to you? — It reveals something very inner-core. This idea come from this interesting blog entry.


Wharton Is Done  

Posted by Dino in ,

While some of Wharton's alum have gone on to own vast business empires, others merely own a slab of pavement.

I've submitted Wharton. I did it earlier this week in fact. It feels good. Not just because I have submitted it, but also because my recommenders for Wharton have also done their bit. I have one whole application in now.

Unfortunately, for the other schools the recommendations still need to be sorted out. Argh! One of my Kellogg recommenders is finding it painful. Two of the four questions are on weaknesses / areas for improvements. I've bounced him some ideas. Hopefully he'll work something out.

Fortunately, I can see the end in sight. Those school deadlines are on the horizon. Not long now...

I am just oh-so-glad to be applying to five schools with that oh-so-huge increase in applications. Someone has to let me in, surely.