T minus 3

Three more days… just three more days to pack, unpack and repack. To decide how many pairs of shoes I really need to bring. And how many books. On Monday-morning I’ll take the intercity to Brussels and then transfer onto the Eurostar which’ll take me to Waterloo Station, right in the heart of London. I *LOVE* traveling by train, it’s so much more romantic than plane or car. The pace is different, so much more relaxed. Plus: no weightlimits for luggage :-)

On Tuesday morning the serious work starts: flathunting! I’m meeting one of my two flatmates on Tuesday and then we’ll head out apartment-chasing. LBS has a Portal site for all its students and staff, and on there, there’s a flatshare database for which you can register if your an incoming MBA of MIF student. I ended up meeting flatmate no1 during the Open Weekend and then we decided to have a browse through the flatshare-list where we found flatmate no2 (yes, we’ll have an odd number of people living in the house, so if we get into a fight, we’ll have a majority of people pro or con). We’ve got a clear image of what we want and where want it, and most of all for how much we want it, now let’s just hope we’ll find it!

Happy 100th blog-post!

Just as I logged into blogger today, I discovered that this is my 100th post on this blog! Time flies when you’re busy writing ;-)
Today was another goodbye I’d been dreading, taking leave off approximately 300 books that I sold off to a secondhand bookshop. Somehow seeing my empty bookshelves makes it all feel more real. I am really leaving (in a week’s time).
As I was pondering this, and filling out a evaluation form for my former project manager, I thought it might be good to write down some lessons learnt (yep, once a consultant, always a consultant) during this MBA application process, especially since the new batch of applicants is ready and rearing to go. [disclaimer: I’ve put down some more ‘wise’ words earlier on this blog, links can be found in the right column of this blog]
So here it goes:
* Weigh the different options: full-time or part-time, local school or faraway (maybe even online), US school or European or Asian. I wouldn’t rule out any of them until you know what you want (see next lesson);
* Figure out what is you want from an MBA. Do you need it to get ahead in your industry? Want to change careers? Want to work in a particular area post-MBA? Which schools best suit your purpose? Which schools are particularly strong in your desired field? Do you want to have the opportunity to do an internship or do you want to finish in one year?
* Research. Research. Research. Scour the web, read the forums at businessweek.com (but don’t get deterred by them), read the blogs that are out there, talk to people you know about your plans, contact schools you’re interested in to participate in admissions-events they’re organising or to put you in contact with current students, visit schools, visit MBA fairs, get some books on MBA, in short, do everything you can to find out more about the specific schools, specific programs and the MBA in general;
* Make sure an MBA is something you really, really, really want. Just the preparation for an MBA is both time-consuming and expensive and at some point your nearest and dearest will tell you to get a grip and talk for half an hour trying not to mention the M-word;
* Think about financing early on. The applications process costs a lot of money, not to mention the MBA itself. Get your credit in order and try and save up as much as you can, you’ll need every penny;
* Make a battleplan early on. If you want to visit some schools and MBA fairs, study for and take the GMAT, maybe even the TOEFL,
write your essays AND have a life, that’ll take time. So make a schedule (visit schools/fairs in autumn, take tests in spring, write essays in summer) and a budget and try and stick to it;
* Relax. I know, that’s hard. You’re putting so much time and effort into this, it’s just gotta work. And it will. Or it won’t. But like in life: it’s as much about the journey as it is about the goal. Relax every once in while. Create MBA-free weekends. No GMAT, no essays, just fun. Trust me, it helps and everyone around you will be glad too ;-)
As I’ve said before, I love self-help books (although I must admit that I’ve never read Men are from Mars, Women from Venus….and I don’t plan to), and read some of them once in a while, so I read this article in today’s Times with great interest. The author was an editor of self help books for 16 months and has gotten quite bitter. He’s got a point when he says that some of the books are pure and plain useless psycho-babble, but I wonder what happened that made this guy so bitter. Everyone knows that some books are useful for some people and some are not. We are all adults and it’s up to each and every one of us what you read and take with you from that reading.

Jackpot! Well, almost

I was this close. Literally this close. To taking home 50,000 euros. I went to the ABN AMRO bank this morning and had a chat. Turns out that I’m eligible for their Master’s loan scheme and the guy did a calculation then and there, filled out some details in the computer system (including my school name) and the computer nearly went bezerk. LBS means $$$$$ (or in my case euros, not dollars)! Who would’ve thought after my earlier negative experiences with Dutch banks! The ABN AMRO guy was suitably impressed with the schoolname, he’d done a few of these calculations before but had never seen the computer give back the maximum amount. I didn’t take the loan then and there, I want to wait and see what HSBC comes back with. But it’s a good back up option. And finally there’s a loan I am eligible for, since I don’t have the coveted US co-signor necessary for a lot of loans.

I don’t know if there’s any Dutch people reading this blog, but just in case, I’ve put down the details below:
* Dutch passport
* bachelor’s or doctorandus degree
* evidence of any loans at IBG (dutch government loans) from your undergrad years
* you have to be accepted at school
* you have to be able to show how much tuition will be (easy peasy)
* you have to have an ABN AMRO bank account (which they will arrange for you if you take the loan).

Minimum loan: 5000 euros, maximum 50000 euros, repayment over 10 years which start 24 months after you start. Interest is 8,7% per year. You have to be between 18 and 33 when you start your degree.

Pot of gold

[Warning: the post up ahead is about money, money, money and shopping. If you find this offensive, do not read beyond the full stop at the end of the sentence.]

Another morning of sorting out practical stuff had me at the local branch of the ABN AMRO bank to close down a surplus bank account I’ve had for ages but never actually did anything with. Got talking to the bloke behind the counter who was closing the account down for me and I enquired about the Master’s loan that I had been so disappointed in a few months ago. Turns out, there are no restrictions (anymore?) for MBA students, so I set up an appointment for tomorrow to go and talk to him in more detail. From what I’ve gathered up to now, there are two snags, 1) the interest rate is higher than HSBC loan and 2) I can only borrow up to 50,000 euros…. not nearly enough. But I’ll see what happens tomorrow, if HSBC will not show me the money, then I might have to use ABN as a (partial) back up.

On a related note (as in both are about money), I went out shopping for some utilities to help me move. Every time I’ve moved up to now the biggest things that irked me were all those loose odds and ends…. stapler and staples, warranties (that I never actually use, but am too scared to throw out), cables for every single appliance I own (and sometimes it feels like I own cables for appliances I don’t own), pictures I want to bring, you know, loose odds and ends. Soooo, I went out and bought see through zip lock bags (which came in pink!) and see through folders, plus some tupperware-style-see-through-boxes to put loose odds and ends in. So far I’m pretty pleased with my efforts… but the proof is in the pudding, or in my case in the move.

PS I’ve got a guy from de Slegte (a national chain which sells remaindered and second hand books) coming in next week to buy my 300-odd books that I can’t keep…. big sigh…. in a way it’s strange to part with books I’ve owned for 10 years, I’ve gotten so used to having ‘em around.

Press ‘1’ to read this post

This morning was spent trying to organise a heap of practical stuff that needs to be organised when you move countries. Convincing the mailman that he needs to send my mail to another address, ringing the cable company to tell them that I no longer will be using their overpriced services, closing bank accounts I’d been holding onto because you never know (and that was harder than it sounds), and to top it all off I had to call the phone company to tell them that I want to be disconnected as of late August. By the time I called the phone company I had already listened to four different computerized voices (all women) telling me that I need to press a certain number to perform a certain action. I know I’m not the first to say this, but why do companies have these computers? I so wish I could just call a number and talk to a real life person. But sometimes you have to be careful with what you wish for. The lady from the phone company was very friendly, but also a tad incompetent. I was on my best phone-Dutch (ie without the normal accent that’s a leftover from my childhood) but she just didn’t want to understand what I was saying. At the end of the conversation, I was longing for a speechcomputer!

[addition 1. About an hour later, and I finally managed to finish The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The Trilogy of Four (yep, being unemployed definitely has its advantages) whilst sitting in the evening sun on my balcony. As you’re probably used to by now, I don’t do blow-by-blow detailed reviews, but I will say this: I liked it. Not the like as in un-put-downable like, or like as in you-have-to-go-out-and-get-it-now like, but like as in you could take a random page and get a good quote (see below) and I love that in a book. And like as in if you want to read something which’ll make bring a smile to your face read this. ]

[addition 2. It’s only fitting that I end this post with a quote from The Hitchhiker’s Guide, from the book So long, and thanks for all the fish:

" ‘I have had a day’, said Arthur, ‘of extreme telephonic exhaustion’ "]

Proud to present…

Another LBS MBS2007 blog, written by Al Martine! Woohooo! It sounds a bit strange to me to call it a new blog, because Al’s been at it for a while, so he’s definitely not a new kid on the block, but I’m very glad to see another MBA2007, the more the merrier :-)

More great news: there’s a new Wallace and Gromit film coming out later this year. I love Wallace and Gromit, they’re so well made, and their

stories are hilarious. Last time I lived in the UK, the Shaun-the-Sheep backpack was the height of fashion (see picture on the left)…. Although I’m not a great movie buff, this is definitely on my go-see list.

I came across an interesting post at Joe Wikert’s blog about Bill Swanson’s unpublished Management Survival Guide. Bill Swanson, CEO of Raytheon, wrote this guide for his own managers, but it’s started to spread like wildfire. My favourite rules are:

       
  • Learn to say, "I don’t know." If used when appropriate, it will be often.
  •    

  • Don’t ever lose your sense of humor.
  •    

  • Have fun at what you do. It will reflect in your work.
  •    

  • Look for what is missing. Many know how to improve what’s there, but few can see what isn’t there.
  •    

  • If you are not criticized, you may not be doing much.

Learn more about Bill Swanson, or order a (free) hardcopy from here.

[add-on 1. LBS has been keeping us incoming students pretty busy… we’ve filled out 4 different surveys/questionnaires about management styles, emotional intelligence and creativity. And strangely enough: a 360 degree review which included one part you had to fill in yourself, but which was phrased in the third person (do you think this person has good management skills? Hey, they’re asking that about me to me???). Odd.]

Mixed bag

Lots of links I want to write about, but with no common theme but that I want to write about it….

Marshall Goldsmith, one of the management gurus, has created a website where he’s put a lot of his articles that have appeared in Fastcompany and Leadership Excellence. I think he’s got a lot of sensible things to say (a lot of open doors, but I think there’s a certain knack to kick open open doors succesfully) and I find it very interesting that he’s a practicing buddhist.

As I previously mentioned, LBS students can use the rooms at LBS in summer whilst looking for a permanent place to live. The EMBA’s who normally occupy the rooms aren’t around then, so MBA’s can use ‘em. Very handy I must say. However, for those of you who are not LBS students, there is a way to spend a relatively cheap stay in London by using the university accomodation that is not used in summer. If you go to this website, there’s a whole list of options, and the best thing is: you don’t have to be a student to stay there!

After reading Jack Welch’s autobiography (see sidebar), I read with interest this interview in Fastcompany with Jeff Immelt, Jack’s successor at GE.

Tate Modern, the immensely popular modern art museum in London, is featuring a new exhibition specifically aimed at blind people called ‘Raised Awareness‘. The Times has written an article on it, too. Many years ago I had the pleasure of accompanying a blind friend to a sculpture exhibition and the way she ‘looked’ at things completely opened my eyes to a whole new way of experiencing art. The exhibition at the Tate runs to 30 September, so I’ll try and catch when I’m in London. The Victoria and Albert also has an exhbition on which is called ‘Touch Me‘, fusing design and sensation.

I think that’s about it. The countdown has started in earnest now: in a week’s time from now I’ll be officially unemployed. I’m still coming to grips with that idea, although it’s pretty exciting too. I won’t have a car at my disposal for the first time in 5 years which’ll be odd. I won’t be expected anywhere for two weeks. Strange….

Thankfully

the bombs in London didn’t kill anyone this time around and life goes on, again.

Mave has posted a very good and detailed description of his visit to LBS, which comes highly recommended for anyone wanting to know what LBS is really like. And makes me ashamed for writing such sketchy reviews instead of thorough ones.

I’ve bought my tickets for the Eurostar trip out on August 15th, and booked accomdation at the school (the rooms which the Executive MBA’s and other short course students normally use, but aren’t used in summer and MBA2007s are allowed to use whilst searching for a permanent place to live). I’m busy packing my stuff (and I’m not the only one) and trying to find a good way of selling my books (can’t use Amazon in NL). Anyone wanna buy a stack of Penguin Classics or a set of GMAT prep material????

Completely forgot

I completely forgot to mention yesterday that there’s LBS news as well: yesterday we got our invitations for a 360 degree survey. Again for the GLAM (Global Leadership for Managers) course, this time we have to invite 1 supervisor and at least three peers to give a 360 degree review. In English. And that’s where my problem comes in: some of the people I work with are, even though their spoken English is alright, not quite fluent in writing English. So now I have to find a solution where I don’t have to get directly involved in translating (that feels like cheating somehow) but I get someone else in to do that.
This Friday we’ll get another two questionnaires we have to fill in ourselves. Yep, the self-help junkie in me is having a field day!

[addition 1: there was a great article today in the Guardian, about making London a bike friendly town… I wish they would, I love my bike and use it all the time in Holland, just wish I could take it with me and use it without being run over all the time]

All kitted out with somewhere to go

So, the great kitting-miss-N-out-for-bschool spree is over. Yes, I have bought the final item on my electronics shopping list. And it is [drum roll please] …….
An Apple 12 inch Powerbook
I know, read the last post, I had ruled it out but over the weekend I decided to check my top three out. IBM was out, it didn’t sing to me. That left the Asus and the Apple. I hadn’t seen the Powerbook (just the iBook) in real life so I decided to check that one out. And it was love at first sight. I loved the keyboard (the big downside on the Asus), the ease of use, got to play around with the new Tiger version of the OS (I’m especially looking forward to the widgets on the dashboard) which I loved and the specs were good too. So I decided to take the plunge. I know I’ll run into a few compatibility problems along the way, but I’m counting on my IT knowledge and Mac-friends to help me out. My new plaything will arrive tomorrow.
There’s a bunch of other things that I want to mention as well, so this is going to be a bit of a mishmash, my apologies.
* On moving to London: Jason Cook over at Judge MBA in Cambridge has written a good post on what to bring to Cambridge, which for the most part is also valid for London. Especially handy if you come in from the States or Canada.
* There was an interesting and amusing article in today’s Times, called ‘Why treat your staff like dirt? Because they are’, an antidote to the happy-clappy message that a lot of motivational speakers spread.
* Talking about happy-clappy, I just finished Glenn van Ekeren’s 12 simple secrets of happiness at work which I really liked. Essentially this is just a book of quotes and stories, strung together by the author and not just about work, but more guidelines for life in general. Quite dense, a lot of information in a small book, a bit on the happy-clappy side but I liked it. It made me think about my attitude to work and those I work with.
[addition 1. Just realised that today in 4 weeks I’ll be in London starting the househunt. And in 6 weeks time I’ll start school. Damn, time flies when you’re busy shopping ;-)]

Just to recap

It was like opening Pandora’s box… asking for advice/comments/rants/raves on the notebook-issue. Thanks everyone for your reactions!
To recap a little and answer a few questions:

* Dell doesn’t sell the 700M in The Netherlands :-( Thanks for the tip, though, KV!

* Apple… well, hmm… what can I say. If they made a prize for the sexiest computer around, the Powerbook (or it’s little cousing the iBook) would win it handsdown! And I like the fact that they offer discounts to students (God knows we can use ‘em ;-) But I worry about the compatibility with the LBS network (no support for Apple, although I’ve heard anecdotal evidence that there are students with Apple’s and they work fine) and with my current gadgets. So after much doubt Apple’s out.

* IBM — posters have commented on their sturdy-ness and robustness. True, true. But do they make me want one? No. And call me stupid, but for nearly 2000 euros, I want something I really WANT (part of my five-star theory that no doubt I will feel compelled to elaborate about at a later stage).

* External hard-disks: yes, most definitely! Although I’m not quite decided on which one, I’ll definitely get an external hard drive to make backups.
* Tablet PC: haven’t really looked into them, but that’s more my own personal bias than anything else. I keep on thinking that the less moving parts a notebook has the better. Although I am very interested in trying out mindmapping for which a tablet pc would be fab.
So, for now I’m decided on the Asus W5, and to my great joy, I saw a good review on Notebookreview.com (which I recommend heartily for a motherload of information on notebooks) today.

More news on the gadget front: after MBAEurope got his, I’ve bought myself a PDA too, the HP RX3715. I’ve talked to a few people at b-schools and most seem to be avid users of PDA’s and I’ve been waiting for 2,5 years for a good excuse like this. After watching prices for a while, I got one this week. I’ve already put some software on it (including Skype of course), but if you’ve got any tips for more stuff, please drop me a line.

On an LBS note, Businessweek has a special MBA section, of which I like the MBA journals best. They’re weblogs of a sort (weblogs avant la lettre), and provide a good insight into ‘real’ life at b-schools. For LBS there’s MBA2006 Martin Zalewski , who if all else fails (I doubt that though) has a promising career as a writer!

[edit 1. Still on track for my attempt to enter in the Guiness Book of Records as the one and only person in the Western Hemisphere who hasn’t yet read any of the Harry Potter books or seen any of the movies (there are multiple, aren’t there?)! Another Harry Potter coming out tonight at midnight apparently, wishing everyone who’s going to read it lots of pleasure!]

[edit 2. To bring a smile on your face, have a look at this post by Drifting Life.]

Taking a bite

out of this Apple
I’m trying to make up my mind which laptop to buy (I’ve long since passed the stage of asking myself IF I need a laptop ;-), there are apparently plenty of desktops on LBS campus, but I’m too much of a control freak to depend on those) and I’ve narrowed it down to the following (random order):

* Asus W5. Very sleek and sexy, with integrated camera, good specs, also comes in white, comes with mouse, memory stick and bag, only 1,6 kgs a bit pricey;
* Apple Powerbook 12 inch. Again sleek and sexy, not too pricey (student discount), good specs, good performance, 2,1 kgs, but will it be compatible with the LBS network (have heard anecdotal evidence it will, but I’m a bit hesitant;
* IBM T42 or T43. Good reputation, reasonable specs, sturdy, the heaviest of the three at 2,3 kgs.
Must haves:
* good specifications (Centrino processor, or Apple G4, minimum 40 Gb harddrive, 512 MB, bluetooth, preferably infrared, wireless internet, CD or DVD burner);
* reasonable price;
* trackpad (which rules out X40, I need a trackpad, can’t survive on just that red thingy in the middle of my keyboard);
* portability (preferably 2 kgs or less);
* screen size: 12 or 14 inch.
Where does that leave sleek and sexy (see the descriptions of asus and apple above)? Hmmm, it wouldn’t sway me to or from a machine, but I am a girl and I like stuff to look nice AND work well.

The specs that LBS gives as a guideline are pretty reasonable, nothing high end here (note: no special deals with companies so you can get discounts):

1.Pentium 4M Centrino processor for best combination of performance and battery life.
2.Minumum 512mb RAM; 1GB preferable
3.Wireless network that supports 802.11b and 128-bit encryption
4.Ethernet socket (to connect to School wired network – optional).
5.CD/RW+ – invest in a CD writer as a back-up tool.
6.Microsoft Office (MS Word, MS Excel & MS PowerPoint) – if this is not bundled with the machine, be sure to purchase at the education discount price.
7.Mulitple USB2 sockets – memory keys are an excellent way to transfer large files between machines.
8.International Warranty – be sure the warranty will be recognised in the UK and does not require return to the country where purchased.
9.Power transformer that handles 220-240 UK power supply.
I know I’m probably opening Pandora’s box here, but can anyone offer recommendations? Experiences with any of these machines above? Any good advice? Rants, raves?

On a related note, I envy you guys in the US… I see all these coupons for discounts flying around, good deals on US sites, and I can’t use ‘em. I *LOVE* the fact that on the US IBM site you can configure your notebook. Why can’t us Europeans have that????

[edit 1: forgot to mention: today we got our first ‘real’ assignment, a self-assessment for the GLAM (cool name! it stands for Global Leadership Assessment for Managers) course which is part of the core courses. I know that some people don’t really care for these kind of courses, which are labelled by them ‘touchy-feely’. I love ‘em. The same way I love self-help books. All excited now :-)]

I can’t decide…

If I like knowing that my first midterm of the year will start on 5.15 pm on November 9th 2005 (for those wanting to know, it’s Managerial Economics)… on the one hand I’m getting all excited by these practical details, but on the other hand even for me, the organization freak, this is *VERY* organized. No, the excitement is definitely bigger than the freaking out-bit!
Yesterday all the LBS MBA2007 admits received their first Programme Details email from the MBA Programme Management Office. Lots of practical information about swipe cards, when exams are, information about waiving core courses etc. Let the games begin!
[edit 1. On my way to the post-office in a couple of minutes to put the HSBC loan application in the mail… finally. I just hope that they will show me the money.]

Good things in life

Another day, another entry in my blog. Am feeling a slight tinge of guilt for blogging about ‘normal’ things, although I realise that life goes on and strangely enough, not blogging about the things that I’d blog about if London was hit by 4 bombs makes me feel guilty as well. Londoners are going on with their life, and thus so will I.
Did I say the band of LBS bloggers was complete? Well, we’re on our way to an entire orchestra! Gaurav, another MBA2007 R2 admit like me, is also blogging his way towards LBS as well. Great to have you!

One of the things on my 1001-things-to-do-before-I-die list is visit the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Hague, which is on every year in july. And this year I’m going! The festival started today, but I’m only going tomorrow. The line-up is fab: tonight Al Green and Chaka Khan amongst others, tomorrow Ian Siegal Band, Jamie Cullum and Solomon Burke (my musical hero). And the best thing is: I’m going with a dear friend of mine. So the best of both worlds, great music with a great friend.

The reading material I took with me has given me a lot of inspiration and for once I want to write a proper review, and not just my sketchy ones the way I normally write down impressions, but I’m too tired to do so tonight, will try and come round to it this weekend. One thing that I do want to share is Ramon Stoppelenburg’s website Letmestayforaday.com. I read his book accounting his adventures when he set up a website, asked people to have him stay for a day and subsequently traveled the world without paying a penny. Brilliant idea!

Another new kid on the block

A warm welcome to Rusgirl to LBS (LBA MBA2008 applicant)! Good to see some more girls on the blogging front, especially those applying to LBS ;-)
I’m happy to report that I’m feeling decidedly less cranky today, got some ice cream which seems to have done the trick. That, and kicking myself in the butt reminding myself that I’ll be lying beside a pool with a good book and a cocktail this time next week! The next items on my MBA to do list:
* write my official resignation letter
* send off the HSBC loan application (translation is due early next week)
* buy my train ticket for the London apartment hunt (shout out to my housie in NY!) and book hotel for the stay
* sort out which books to bring to London, which to sell, which to give away and which to store (it’s official now: I own too many books!)
* sort out what I’ll be wearing at my leaving party this Saturday.