Going, going, gone!

I’m happy to report that after being on the market for less than a week, my apartment is sold! I got a couple of great offers and accepted one today. A little sigh of relief knowing that is sorted and I can add a little money to the bottomless pit that is called MBA-financing.
On a different, but slightly related note, I’ve been thinking about buying an MP3 player. I am one of those people that have watched from the sidelines whilst other people pop white plugs in their ears. I can see the wow-factor of the sleek design of the iPod and I hear it calling to me, but I’ve also heard some negative stories. So far I’ve checked out a few websites and there’s a couple of things that I’m thinking about. My main reasons for buying an MP3 player are
a) a way to store all the music on my cd’s so I don’t have to bring my cd’s to London with me
b) as an extra storage device.
I’ve been thinking about buying a 20 or 30 Gb one, so I can do both, realising that they might be a little more bulky than smaller (say 4 or 5 Gb one). A few players I’ve been looking at are the Sony NW-HD5, IRiver 20 Gb, Samsung YH-920GS, Creative Labs Zen Xtra, iPod 4th generation (40 Gb).
Sooooooo, whilst I’m doing more research, I’d like to know your opinions? What should I look out for? Have you got an MP3 player and can you recommend it?

LBS interview tips

On the B-week forums there are a few staple questions: how much chance have I got to be admitted to X, do I need to retake the GMAT, what are the interviews like. I’m definitely not an expert, but having gone through the LBS interview process, I have written a few things down in the hope they’re helpful for future applicants. NB A lot of this stuff was originally written by me as answers on the b-week forums.

About the interview process
All LBS interviews are held by alumni, never by adcom. The procedure is as follows: once you are invited, they’ll start looking for alumni in the location you wrote down in the application, and after a little while send you the details. It is then up to you to contact the alum and make arrangements before a specific date (which’ll be mentioned in the email). Interviews last about 90 mins and consist of the regular MBA-interview questions (why now, why mba, why lbs, walk me through your cv) to specific ones about your app. To top it all off there’s a 5-minute impromptu presentation which you get a few minutes to prepare for. What they’re looking for is to see if you can express yourself eloquently and coherently. In most interviews there’s also room for you to ask questions.

About the preparation
I wrote 4 different applications, and although I did not use an admissions consultant to write the essays and I did not ‘fabricate’ a story (that is: I wrote down what I wanted, not what I thought adcom might like, I figured if they like the Suzy-flavour then fine, if not, then that’s not the school for me), it was hard to remember after two months what exactly I wrote. So for me it was crucial to sit down the night before and revisit what I had written, which also helped to get me all fired up again about LBS and how much I would like to go there.

My interviewer, who by the way is a great guy, knew my application inside and out, he quoted from it without having to open it. I suppose what it boils down to is: be yourself, relax, it’s supposed to be an enjoyable experience, and you get to talk about yourself for 90 mins! For some people it helps if they practice their interviews with friends.

About the specific questions
Walk me through your resume starting at university, tell me about your job now, why an MBA, why at LBS, what do you see yourself doing immediately after your MBA, how did you handle a difficult situation in a team you worked in, what is your leadership style, what activities would you like to be involved in at LBS and then some specific questions about the industry I wanted to move into. All this followed by the impromptu 5 min presentation. I think I’ve forgotten a few, my interview lasted about 90 mins, or else I gave quite elaborate answers ;-) In my interview there wasn’t one focus, it was sort of a long conversation which flowed quite naturally from one question to another.

Old romantic sod….

I am an old romantic sod…. today my apartment went on the market and I don’t know why, but this makes everything seem so…. well… real. It’s really happening. I’m moving to London to get my MBA. Wow. And it’s making me feel melancholy.
I’m making good progress (finally) on the HSBC loan, I’ve found a translator that hopefully is quick and not too expensive, and I’ve copied everything I need copies off. I think.
The Guardian ran an article about how supermarkets selling books doesn’t mean the democratization of publishing but the dumbing down of publishing. I sort of aagree with the author when he says
Moving on to the wider implications of our supposedly democratised culture, as a general rule whenever a participant is offered more "choices", whether in the number of book outlets, TV channels or radio stations, the end result will be to depress the overall quality of the available material
although I think that nineteenth century critics might have said the same thing when mass market publishing became available ;-)
With so many books around, this book called So many books: reading and publishing in an age of abundance might be useful. It goes on my reading list.
According to the authors of the Lonely Planet guide to Great Britain, the UK is born again and it’s no longer grim up north (see reviews in the Times and Guardian). What can I say? The UK rocks!
For anyone wanting to get an idea what London looks like or imagine that they’re there, have a look at the BBC London site, where they’ve put up some 360 degree photos. Good stuff.

I’ve done it

No, I haven’t finished my HSBC loan application yet.
And no, I haven’t found anyone who’ll buy my house yet. Nor have I won the lottery. Or have anything remotely related to my MBA to report.
But what I have done is sign up for the Hydro Active women’s challenge London edition, on September 4th, which is a 5k run. Last year I ran my first ever run, the Groningen 4 mijl, and it was such a high. Unfortunately, I haven’t been running for a while now, but I figure that signing up for the race will give me all the motivation I need to don my brand spanking new but as yet never used running shoes and get my ass in gear. I’m still thinking about whether or not I should try and raise some money for charity (no, not the help-fund-miss-n’s-mba-charity, but a real one) or just run. Cool, I’ve got my first real London activity lined up!
[edit 1 Talking about lining up activities, I found another interesting activity in the Time Out guide LBS sent: Tango Al Fresco. On Sunday July 31st, Sunday August 14th and Sunday August 28th there will be outdoor Argentinian Tango Party’s in Regent’s Park (same park as LBS is located in). From 1 – 2 pm there’ll be beginner’s lessons, and then from 2 till 7 pm it’s tango-a-go-go. Sounds like good fun!]

Show me the money

One thing that most MBA applicants (leaving out the independently wealthy, those with wealthy parents, those with company sponsorships, those with a rich husband/wife… hang on, so maybe not most MBA applicants, but a lot of them) worry about is money. I worry about money. Not all the time, but every so often (usually at the end of the month). I thought I’d write down some of the resources I’m using, in the hope someone else might find them useful as well.

General tips:

* Start saving. NOW. The whole MBA application process is not only time-consuming at times, but also can be expensive. Visit a couple of schools, an MBA fair here or there, study for (using a course or books, both of which will of course cost money) and take the GMAT and maybe TOEFL, and wham, there’s at least a couple of hundred euros down the drain already. Not to mention that each application costs money too. And then when you’re accepted, there’s the admit weekend, shipping stuff to your new home, finding a place to live etc etc. You get the idea.


* Start getting your credit up to scratch. Pay off credit card bills, outstanding student loans, etc. The cleaner your credit, the more likely you’ll be able to borrow more money.


* Start researching scholarships and other possible sources of money early on. There are numerous websites (see Nuffic for Dutch grants or have a look at this page which was created by Dave) which will give out information on grants and scholarships. Some of them have early deadlines, so it’s crucial to do this research early on.


* For people who live in a country of which the native language is not English, find an official translator, in all likelihood you’ll need one to get your documentation for the loan translated (see also MBAEurope’s blog-entry on this).

Some specifics related to LBS and money: have a look at this page for more information about fees and financing at LBS, this page for information on scholarships and this page for funding information (this also has some specific area-related information on funding for download in pdf). There’s a special pdf-file with information on the HSBC loan-scheme. There’s also a specific email address for finance related questions: financialaid at london dot edu. A last tip: all but one scholarship at LBS have deadlines before R4 decisions are announced, so if you want to join the lottery that is the scholarship-handing-out, you need to have applied in R1-R3.
[edit: this post by Poweryogi had me in stitches.]
[edit 2: Completely forgot to mention the commitment fee. All schools charge them, usually around 1500 or 2000 euros, payable about six weeks after your decision comes out, so long before your loan comes through and you need to make sure you’ve got it lying around so you can reserve your place.]

Sweet!

It is a universal thruth that all girls like to get gifts. Even if you’re paying for them yourself. I came home today to find a fat envelope from LBS, which on opening revealed the latest Time Out for Visitors London edition with compliments of LBS. Sweeeeeeet! Miss N is very pleased, she likes being woo’ed like this. There’s so much good stuff in there, I can’t wait to get to London! (for those wanting a taster, see the Time Out website)
The Times ran an article today called Forget self-esteem and learn some humility which I read with great interest. The emphasis placed on raising kids’ self-esteem
‘has turned children who were showered with compliments into adults who crumple at even the mildest brickbats.’
But, don’t despair, new fads are on the horizon. An Florida based researcher says
forget about self-esteem and concentrate more on self-control and self-discipline‘.
How does this relate to the business world? According to the article
a survey for the Harvard Business Review found that humility, rather than self-regard, is a better predictor of who will make a successful leader‘.

The Holy Grail

What is it in human nature that we are always looking for the easy way out? Whole industries exploit this universal human characteristic of trying to find a shortcut, a surefire way to success without a whole lot of effort. Success in shedding surplus weight, quitting smoking, getting rich quick, you name it, and companies have created a million/billion dollar business around it. Sometimes I feel that the MBA-world is also affected by this. There are a gazillion posts on the Business Week forums about which schools to choose once the offers start flowing in. Don’t get me wrong, I was in the same position with LBS, IESE and possibly Wharton, and it’s a serious decision to make, which should be made based on serious research. But what some people seem to forget that although it’s serious business, it’s also about your heart, not just ROI, NPV or any other acronym you want to throw at it. And most importantly, it’s not the holy grail. An MBA is as much about what you put into it, than about the name or location. Yes, the location and name of the school matter, but why don’t applicants also take into consideration what they will put in instead of what the school will give them?
An MBA will open doors that would otherwise be closed, I’m convinced of that, but it’s not just the name of your alma mater that’ll do the trick. Or at least I refuse to believe it is. Or to paraphrase a famous Dutch commercial, ‘It’s a bit from LBS, and a bit from me’.
Enough ranting for now, there’s a few things on the net that caught my attention.
BritChick has written an interesting post on MBA-blogging and anonymity, which I wholeheartedly agree with.
Have a look at this blog, Your Daily Art, for a daily fix of art.
Another blog attracted my interest, Joe Wikert at Wiley and Sons is keeping a blog (The average Joe), with some interesting posts on the publishing business, including this one on improving the bricks-and-mortar bookstore experience.
The Guardian and the Times have been running articles on Nicholas Serota, the big boss of the Tate Modern.
Poweryogi posted an informative post mentioning some of the latest developments on the Internet, and I’ve decided to check out Backpackit. I’ve been using it for a few days now and so far so good. I like the way it allows me to store links I want to use on this blog (I use the notes-function for it) and keep track of my to-do list.

New LBS admits

I’m already starting to feel like a veteran in this whole MBA game, the LBS R3 results have started going out and people are getting excited. For any of the R3 admits who read this: congrats on the admit and welcome to LBS! I look forward to seeing you at the Admit Weekend or in August.
For those of you whose native language is not English, have a look at a very helpful post by MBAEurope on the topic of translations for the HSBC loan.
On a different note, lots of people at work have started asking about the MBA-thing. All of them are very enthusiastic, without fail, which is nice, but what I found strange at first is that the two questions people ask most are ‘What does your mum say?’ (dad somehow is never considered) and ‘Aren’t you scared?/That’s a very brave thing to do’. That last question/remark got me thinking. I suppose I’m a bit nervous about the whole thing, but not scared. Then it struck me. I’m more scared of staying where I am than doing my MBA and whatever will follow after that. Not that I’m terribly unhappy now, I’ve got a pretty good life and a very decent job I’m reasonably good at and on the whole enjoy doing, but there is more. Somewhere out there. I don’t know what yet, but it’ll come to me. And so this MBA doesn’t scare me (although the debt occasionally does). It’s an opportunity few people create for themselves. And I’m going to enjoy and savour every single second of it (in fact, that has already started!).

To end on a lighter note: have a look at Loesje, guaranteed to put a smile on your face. My favourite Loesjes are Dutch-language ones which roughly translate as ‘Don’t read everything you believe’ and ‘Happiness is a direction, not a point’. Lots more to be found in the archive including the very topical ‘Don’t let school get in the way of good education’ ;-)

What does a good day at work look like?

For me, it was a day like today. I read somewhere (I think it was a Fastcompany article, but I lost the reference) in an interview with some exec that one of the questions he asks during a job-interview is ‘Remember the last time you had a great day at work. Now describe it to me’. Well, today on the way home from work, I kept on thinking: this is the day I would describe. I love working together with a team and try to get the best result possible and some days it’s just so so easy. I’m so lucky that I work with a really good team, motivated and fun at the same time, and I so enjoyed working with them today. This beats sitting behind an Excel-spreadsheet any day!!
Fastcompany ran an interesting article called ‘God and Mammon at Harvard’ which it’s running with this headline Harvard’s B-school has some competition across the Charles River: the divinity school, which is turning out a new flock of spiritually minded business leaders.
Fellow bloggers have been writing some interesting stuff. See Bloghorn8’s blog for some good advice on the whole admissions process, and Poweryogi‘s very interesting account of the latest new fads (or not) on the Internet (are we on the road to a new boom??).
[edit 1. Anyone who read Simba and Poweryogi’s blogs and wants to do some more tests, have a look at tickle. My favourite test is on the British site of tickle, ‘What’s your signature British city?’ (extra brownie points for guessing which one it is. A hint: it’s NOT London).
[edit 2. Yeah, I know. I edit way to much, I should organise my thoughts a bit more…]

Why didn’t anyone tell me?!?!??!

I thought that the application bit, followed by interviews, were supposed to be the hard part of this whole MBA thing. Sweating over the GMAT prep, then some more sweating on essays, then some more (proverbial hopefully this time) sweating at the interview. Handwringing whilst waiting for the results. And then: aaahhh, bliss. A few more months of work, selling the house, coming up with good thank-you prezzies for the recommenders, throw a goodbye party and then I’m off!
NOT!!!!!!!!!!! WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME ABOUT THE HUGE, AND I MEAN HUGE, AMOUNT OF PAPERWORK REQUIRED FOR LOANS???
Honestly, they want to know everything, in triplicate. Bank statements from the day I was born, salary slips from the first ever time I got my allowance, every single penny I ever used of my overdraft and why I used it. OK, so I’m overreacting just a tad, but the amount of paperwork astounds me. Honestly, it is going to take me more time to get the paperwork organized for the loan than crafting the whole MBA application ;-)
For all of you able to get BBC2 on their tellies, a new series called ‘How art made the world’ is starting tonight at 9 English time, it promises to be quite interesting.
Plus, the Muppets return!!! Disney, which has bought the rights to the Muppets, apparently have big plans with the Muppets, amid widespread concern that Disney and the Muppets are just not going to be so funny a combination.

It starts with a “P”

and ends on ‘rocrastination’. I thought I had it under control lately. Hey, I hold down an at times busy consulting job with a fair amount of travel, studied for my GMAT and did reasonably well on it, finished 4 b-school applications on time, did three interviews in three different European countries AND got accepted into two schools. Not bad. So how come I just can’t seem to get started on my HSBC loan application????
….
I know why, really…. I’m scared. Of the huge amount of debt that pops up in my Excel spreadsheet when I do the numbers. I know, I know, I keep on telling people ‘don’t worry about the money, it’ll come to you’, but right now it’s my turn to be just a tad scared. How on earth will I recoup that money? I’m giving myself until tomorrow to be scared, and then I’m just going to go for it. Sort of a ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’-thing. Besides, money, or better yet, a lack of money haven’t deterred me from doing the stuff I want to do so far in my life!
To redeem myself, I did get started on Accounts demystified (see previous post), and I remembered more than I suspected from secondary school’s Econ II classes.

It’s amazing what you can do

without a little effort…. Since today is a bank holiday in Holland, I’ve got the day off, and I’ve done seriously little. And I mean very seriously little. And just for the day, it’s great!
Tomorrow (yet another day off) I’ll start on the HSBC loan application, and start reading/working through Accounts Demystified. How to understand financial accounting and analysis (Anthony Rice). There seems to be a minor debate on whether or not to prepare before starting b-school, most people say ‘don’t do it, you’ve got plenty of opportunity to learn once you get there’ and then there’s the lesser well-established view that I’m taking ‘might as well try and learn some of the basics ahead of time so that once I get to school I’ll have more time to enjoy all it has to offer’. 
Congratulations go out to the Tate Modern, which celebrates its fifth birthday this year; a feat discussed in this article from the Guardian.
For anyone looking for a cheap airline ticket within Europe, have a look at Wegolo, a search engine that lets you search for cheap airline tickets from/to a host of European towns.

Random acts of kindness

On the way home from work tonight I stopped at a petrol station that I often use, to fill up the car. You know what it’s like, long day at work, couple of free days ahead, but also a couple of kms of traffic waiting for me. I walk in to pay, all absent-minded and all, and the guy behind the counter says ‘hey, you’ve got a new hairdo!’ (which is correct, had it done since the last time I was there)… ‘looks nice!’. Wham, there it was. He made my day. He didn’t have to be nice, but he was. Without any other motive (or maybe it was a clever crm-ploy…. nah, it couldn’t be, could it?)(no, he was DEFINITELY not hitting on me. Trust me.). Random acts of kindness. Bless ‘em.
On a more practical note: research on b-schools. I’ve used several methods to figure out more about the schools I was interested in and thought it might be helpful to share them.
 
* MBA Tour: every autumn and spring the MBA tour hits the road. A good way to gather lots of brochures and talk to adcom people. Downsides: lots of elbow work required, can get quite busy, not all schools go to all locations (but it’s hard to find out which schools are where from the topmba website).
* Visit the school: every school offers a more or less formal way in which you can visit the school. LBS offers prospective students class visits and hosts information sessions both on and off campus (check the LBS website at www.london.edu for details), IESE offers Open Days on campus and hosts information sessions in Barcelona and European cities. Wharton offers a whole host of on-campus sessions, including class visits and lunches with current students.
* Read all about it. Books like Richard Montauk’s How to get into the top MBA programs and Symonds’ How to get the MBA admissions edge can help you get a good feel of what each school is like. Other reading material: schools’ websites, blogs (of course!), Business Week forums (take some of what’s on here with a big pinch of salt though).
* Hear all about it. Most adcom’s will put you in touch with current students or alumni who are usually happy to answer your questions. School clubs host a plethora of conferences, attending them is a good way of finding out about the school. There’s usually a list of upcoming conferences and the clubs that organize them on the schools’ websites.

Stay with me

I’m in quite a pensive mood today. Partially because I’m tired and long for a couple of days’ rest (coming Thur is a bank holiday, so everyone’s got a long weekend ahead), and partially because tomorrow is the Dutch Remembrance Day for all the victims of WWII. I heard a piece on the radio on the bombings of Rotterdam which moved me a lot. You see, my grandfather served as a medic during the bombings and I cannot imagine what it must have been like and the horror he must have gone through. Mum tells me that for the rest of his life he wouldn’t talk about it as the suffering he witnessed was just too great to talk about. When thinking about this I’m always struck by the sheer senseless-ness of war. The immense suffering and loss. My thoughts go out to all the vicitims of war.
PS This post’s title is a hommage to The Faces ‘Stay with me’, my favourite song of the moment and a contender for the ‘best intro ever’ award.