I will never… ever…

… be a bond trader. Not that I had any plans… but this Finance exam confirmed it. It was alright, and I’m hoping I’ll pass, but I’m no finance whiz. Ah well, I suppose my talents lie in a different area! Now if only I can find a way to make money out of those talents.

The picture on the left is one that my mum sent me, it’s been snowing like crazy where they live in the Netherlands, and the whole of the area they live in has ground to a halt. I remember it snowing when I was younger but not 40 cms in 36 hours…I’m so glad the power didn’t go out where they live and they’re alright.

We’re going into our final two weeks of the first term and they’re gonna be hectic. I had the weirdest experience whilst sitting and writing the Finance exam. You know how exams always make you feel like… well… exams? You have to study a subject, not because you’re interested or the material is exciting, but because it’s an exam. And that makes all enthusiasm you might have had once disappear, since you’re sort of forced to learn this. But as I sat there trying to figure out what the h**l to do with forward rates that are going down (I know there’s a way to make money out of that, I’m just not quite sure how), I looked up, gazed over Regent’s Park and thought [with apologies in advance for the multitude of expletives that are following] ‘bloody h*ll, I’m here. Right where I wanted to be a year ago. S**t. I’ve done it’… I’m such a lucky girl :-)

Ready for battle

Finance 1: bring it on! Tomorrow morning 10 o’clock. You and me. Lecture Theatre 10.

OK, so maybe I’m not as well prepared as I’d hoped I’d be, life sort of intervened this week as I was doing my revision. But I’ve got my trusty calculator, my cribsheet (first time using one ever) and my brain/common sense. Let’s see how far I get. Please keep your fingers crossed for me (and the other bloggers)!!
Finance 1 kicks of the serious exam season (we had one mid-term, but that was sort of to warm up), in the next 2,5 weeks we’ll have a take home exam for Strategy, another take home exam for Managerial Economics, and two more exams, Financial Accounting and Managing Organisational Behaviour. Plus, classes run for two more weeks, so all the studying is done as we’re taking regular classes.

When it rains it pours, so not only do I have exams, but the Global Social Venture Competition, for which I’m involved in the marketing with two classmates, is organising a Social Entrepreneurship weekend next weekend. On Friday Dec 2nd there’ll be two visits to social enterprises in London, and on Saturday Dec 3rd there’s the Social Entrepreneurship symposium. If you wanna attend (both events are free), drop a line to gsvc at london.edu to get some more information and sign up. It’s gonna rock!

Luckily, between all this hectic to-ing-and-fro-ing, there’s time to meet up with friends. PY is in town, and it’s great seeing him again (hiya sweetie!), and next week a good friend from the Netherlands will be in town.

Amsterdam and London Info session

I have no clue how many Dutch people or people located in the Netherlands are reading this, but just in case [warning: shameless plug for my school coming up]:

London Business School is holding a reception/info session in Amsterdam tomorrow night. Info sessions are a great way of finding out more about a school, especially when you’re making your initial longlist of schools. To sign up, go here: http://www.london.edu/programmes/informationsessions/global_europe.html

On a related note, next week Monday there’ll be an MBA info session at London Business School itself, to sign up, visit this page: http://www.london.edu/programmes/informationsessions/uk_mba.html
The programme for that night (taken from the school’s website):

* A presentation by senior members of the MBA Admissions Team or Faculty, covering the admissions requirements, course content and career benefits of our MBA
* Hearing from current students and alumni about their personal experiences at the School
* Questions and answers from the audience
* An opportunity to meet and talk with students, alumni and admissions staff over drinks at the end of the evening.

[end of shameless plug]

Wild and WACCy

I’ll be honest and admit it… there’s little at this point in my life that’s wild. Or wacc’y. That is, if you do not count the Finance exam which is coming up this Saturday. I dunno why, but everyone (including me this time) is freaking out big time over this, so there’s little else in my life right now than Finance. It’s CAPM for breakfast, discount rates with a little EAC on the side for lunch and NPVs with roasted portfolio risks for dinner. And frozen cash flows for dessert. I organised a study session (aptly called ‘Finance for whizzes and dummies’) for our stream yesterday, which helped a bit (if nothing else in realising that I’m not the only one who’s got FINANCE DUMMY stamped on their forehead). But now I’m up against the next problem: which of the truckload of cribsheets that are doing the rounds do I choose? And how come no one else is in stitches when we keep on talking about our wacc (I just want to go out and wacc someone…)? Ugh. I do sound really obsessed, don’t I? At times like these, I get fed up with myself. My poor housemates.

Luckily, there’s some distractions on the horizon. There’s a finance studying session with KV (with apologies for neglecting you the last weeks), a housewarming party this weekend, and all the way from Chicago Poweryogi is coming to visit. Michael Grade, chairman of the BBC, is coming to visit tomorrow lunchtime, and next Monday the CEO of Expedia is going to come. I got a letter (yes, an old fashioned handwritten letter) today from a dear friend. And on Sunday, there might be a slight chance that I’ll actually get to start on my xmas shopping (aaaaaahhhh, shopping. I miss shopping. Gone are the days of sauntering out and spending too much money on stuff I really didn’t need or in some cases necessarily wanted. The seductions of the xmas window displays. The smell of too many people’s armpits as you stand with too many bags in the tube on the way home, wondering who the hell you’re going to give that inflatable beerglass to for xmas…. ok, miss N, get back to the story now). Such is MBA life. Little things that signify normal life start meaning a lot.

Back to wallowing in my pool of darkness called ‘self pity because i’m paying good money to learn something which is interesting but by virtue of having to study it for an exam becomes horribly burdensome’ now.

[edit 1 on Nov 22nd: tomorrow the R1 applicants for London Business School will find out if they’re getting an interview. If any of you are reading this: my thoughts are with you, good luck and I hope you get the interview!]

KISS

Keep It Simple Stupid! That seems to be the theme for today. Today was official de-stress day for the fulltime MBA’s, put on by the Programme Office. On the schedule were free chair-massages, dvd’s and chocolate fondue and english tea with scones. It was a wonderful initiative, but I’m not quite sure if a lot of MBA’s took advantage, being too stressed out ;-)

Before I had some of the wonderful de-stress day goodies, I had my first tai-chi lesson. Again, the theme was KISS. I was trying really hard to think of how to do the exercises, until our teacher said ‘let it go, follow the natural rhythm and let your body take over and you’ll be fine’. Keep it simple again. And I loved tai-chi! What a wonderful way of waking up your body and preparing for the day.

At lunchtime I went to hear Jim Buckmaster, CEO of Craigslist, being interviewed. And this was by FAR the best talk I’ve heard so far at London Business School (although I lost out on the scoop on this one, see Al’s blogentry on the interview). Again, the theme was KISS. No board meetings, no worries about competition (they just do what they’re good at and respond to what their users want), no partnerships and no fuss. It was incredibly refreshing and it reminded me a lot of home and the lessons my parents taught. Keep it simple, no need to worry about everything. At the same time, hearing him talk worried me. Before I came to b-school, people would comment that I was good at thinking outside the box, and my reply was always that I was good at

that because I had no idea what the box looked like, or where it was, let alone if I was thinking in- or outside of the box. Now they’re teaching me what the box is (ha, and not just what it looks like, but who built it, how they financed it, what the box-strategy was, how the team worked that built it and why there is a demand for boxes in the first place), and I’m worried that I won’t be able to think outside it again. Which used to be my strength.

And after all this philosophical pondering, it’s time to hit the real MBA world again. I did pay 40,000 pounds for this, and I better pass my Finance I exam next Saturday.

[edit 1: Gaurav’s posted a great review of yesterday’s talk with Jim Buckmaster, you can find it here. And is that a real comment by the real Craig from Craigslist???]

Home sweet home

You know that feeling when you’ve been on holiday and you’re coming back all relaxed, only to find your mailbox overflowing with email, your workload seemingly doubled, and your colleagues still stressed? That’s what this morning felt like. I went to my parents for the weekend, left Friday and came back last night, and it was peaceful and relaxing. Being pampered by mum and dad, seeing my brother again, and meeting up with friends made me land on earth with two feet. Stepping physically away from London and the MBA made me rethink what I’ve come here for. And what I want to get out of it. And turns out that I’m reasonably on track. On a more practical side, I’ve used my visit to stock up on some foods that I can’t get here, and I’m looking forward to making proper nasi and zuurkool-stamppot. And I got a new haircut. Now, back to work, the MBA waits for no one.

 

Look who’s coming to town

No, it’s not Santa, at least, not yet. I think. I haven’t seen him yet…

One of the advantages of studying at London Business School is the amount of interesting speakers that come onto campus. A little taste of what’s to come in the next few weeks and who was here over the last few weeks:

* Next Friday Jim Buckmaster, CEO of Craigslist will be coming onto campus to speak to students;

* Michael Grade, the Chairman of the BBC, is coming on November 22nd;

* Sally Greene, who owns a bunch of theatres including the Old Vic (yes, Kevin Spacey), was here three weeks ago (and she rocked),

* The CEO of Starbucks (shame on me, I’ve forgotten his name) came round the week before that,

* and to top the list of: Jack Welch was here early October.

Why do I list these things? Well, first up, I don’t get overly excited about big names. Like my dear grandpa used to say ‘they have to go to the bathroom just like anyone else’. But, I do believe there’s some truth that if you pay attention, you can learn from example. And boy, are these some examples. Sally Greene was fabulous and so down to earth whilst being ambitious at the same time, AND wearing these hot red boots. Although the CEO of Starbucks wasn’t exactly wearing red boots, he was still interesting to listen to (felt like a 60 minute commercial break)(but well done).

Magic

It’s magic when
* you find out someone you’ve been thinking of right at that moment sends you an email
* you walk on Oxford Street at 10.30 pm as they’re hanging up the xmas lights (I love early mornings and late nights, the streets seem to reveal themselves more as they are, not as they are all primped (word??) up during the day)
* time seems to fly when you’re reading a good book
* a new recipe turns out better than you thought it would
* you hear a great song on the radio (latest great song, which is playing in my ear right now actually, is Herbie Hancock’s Stitched up)
* you have a really good conversation with a new friend
* I finally get Finance (that last one is yet to happen though…)

Sage advice

A lot of people doing an MBA want to change careers (including yours truly) and find it really difficult. I’ve been doing some reading on the subject, and found two great books I can heartily recommend if you’re thinking about changing careers and want a little back up/support/good ideas.

The first book is Po Bronson’s What should I do with my life? (see the webpage here), in which he talks about his conversations with people who’ve changed careers or who are about to change careers. It is not the usual 10-strategies-to-change-your-career book, it’s more a book that tells it like it is, the ups and the downs. It’s not meant to be prescriptive, but very much descriptive. I found it comforting that other people struggle as well, what can I say… misery loves company. Gave my copy to my housemate to read and he loves it.

The second book I recommend is Herminia Ibarra’s Working Identity. Unconvential strategies for reinventing your career (accompanying website is here). This is a prescriptive book, aimed at mid-career professionals, so slightly ahead of me, but I found some very useful tips in there. What I find hard with talks that Career Services give us is that the process of finding out which career you want seems to go something like this: you think a couple of days on what your passions are (introspection), a jobtitle you want follows from that, et presto: you can make a battle plan for getting to that job. I don’t know about you, but for me it doesn’t work that way. I roughly know what area I want to move into, but it’s by no means narrowed down yet, and I don’t think that’ll happen soon. The way I found out about the field I want to move into happened not by looking inward, but by looking at what I love doing without having to be prompted to do it, the books I love reading, the articles I will read in the newspaper. Ibarra talks about this and more, and if you’re thinking of changing careers I definitely recommend this one.

Some top tips from Working Identity:
1) Act your way into a new way of thinking and being. You cannot discover yourself by introspection.
2) Stop trying to find your one true self. Focus your attention on which of your many possible selves you want to test and learn more about.
3) Allow yourself a transition period in which it is okay to oscillate between holding on and letting go. Better to live the contradictions than to come to a premature resolution.
4) Resist the temptation to start by making a big decision that will change everything in one fell swoop. Use a strategy of small wins, in which incremental gains lead you to more profound changes in the basic assumptions that define your work and life. Accept the crooked path.
5) Identify projects that can help you get a feel for a new line of work or style of working. Try to do these as extracurricular activities or parallel paths so that you can experiment seriously without making a commitment.
6) Don’t just focus on the work. Find people who are what you want to be and who can provide support for the transition. But don’t expect to find them in your same old social circles.
7) Don’t wait for a cataclysmic moment when the truth is revealed. Use everyday occurences to find meaning in the changes you are going through. Practice telling and retelling your story. Over time, it will clarify.
8) Step back. But not for too long.
9) Change happens in bursts and starts. There are times when you are open to big change and times when you are not. Seize opportunities.

Blogging about blogging

Although this might be on the verge of being to navel-staring, I’m going to give it a shot and blog about blogging. Not my blogging in particular, but blogging in general, or more widely, user created content and can you make money out of it. The panel session I attended Friday afternoon at the Media Summit (which was too short alas) dealt with this topic specifically: is there money to be made from user generated content? The short answer is: maybe. The long answer is: we don’t know. One of the audience members commented on the semantics of user created content like blogging, defining user created content as voluntary, not expecting payment for it, and anything other does not fall under that header. I’m very interested to see how this subject evolves, since there are so many different aspects to this subject, and every argument you want to make can be supported or refuted by evidence. I suspect we’ll just have to wait and see.

One of the keynote speakers at the Media Summit was the CEO of Harper Collins UK, and I thought she was the best and most though provoking speaker at the conference. She touched on subjects such as ‘why hasn’t the physical format of the book not changed for hundreds of years’ (answer: because no one has come up with something that is more practical and convenient than the current shape of the book) and ‘what will be the role of publishers in the future’ (answser: intermediary between authors and publishers). My book-historian’s heart was warmed to see that my previous degrees haven’t been wholly unuseful: I’ve studied the future of publishing before, and this felt like I was coming full circle.

Overall impression of the Media Summit: interesting stuff, well organised, lousy goody bag, great desserts, too tired to get the most out of it.

Blogging from the summit

The media summit that is. The Media Club (one of the bigger clubs on campus) is hosting it’s annual Media Summit today and I’m attending. So far, so good. The speakers are interesting (the Minister for the Creative Industries was one of the speakers this morning) and I’m really enjoying myself. For me, this is one of the benefits of being a fulltime MBA student: I can go to as many of these conferences as I want, it’s sort of part of the job description of an MBA student. And I love it. There’s so many ideas out there, and I am equal parts interested and fascinated by them. One of the panel sessions this afternoon called ‘Is there a revenue model in user created content?’ is organised by RsR, I’ll be sure to report back on that later, it should be interesting.
Tomorrow’s all day of Strategy, everyone’s a bit worried about this whole day assignment (from 10 am to 10 pm) and yesterday saw our first mid-term followed by the weekly Sundowners in the Mbar (lot of people feeling grotty today….).

A thought just occurred to me

[just to clarify, thoughts do occur to me quite often, in fact, more often than I want them to, but this thought I decided to act on and write about]

… People reading this who are not at London Business School are getting a very one-sided view of school by virtue of me being the only author writing this blog. Yes, I know there’s other sources of information on the MBA experience out there (see the list of blogs I read on the right for instance) and by all means, use them, but I feel I maybe should be a bit more balanced. There’s a whole host of activities going on on campus that I’m not blogging about because they fall outside my personal fields of interest and since this blog is shamefully and egotistically about me and my experience I’m not talking about them. But readers, there is a whole flurry of i-banking and consulting activities. Not a day goes by with ‘a-day-in-a-life’ talks, introductions to the world of i-banking, crack-a-case sessions and whatnot. But because I’m trying (up to now quite succesfully) to stay out of the fray of i-banking and mainstream consulting, I’m not blogging. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. But I said that already. You’ll have to excuse my blogging today, tomorrow’s the first mid-term and our whole year including me is going slightly nuts since it’s our first mid-term. As I type, my housemate is sitting in our bathroom on the edge of the tub to study.

I’ve asked my housemates to be guest-writers for this blog at some point in the future, hopefully they’ll add the badly needed variety!

Some links I’ve found entertaining/interesting/good diversion from studying Managerial Economics:
* Experiments in anonymous kindness
* A list of remedies against procrastination
* "Art expands. Design connects‘, an article by Michael Cronan on the Apple website.