Done a runner

Afb0012Well, not really, although this afternoon I felt like doing a runner (window display on the left is from Selfridges), I’ve been so busy and I just got fed up with it. So what did I do? Get a peptalk from Al (again, he’s becoming my resident shrink), and go shopping. Well, actually the shopping was on the agenda anyway, I’ve got a company presentation tomorrow and needed a pair of new shoes. We’re in our final two weeks of the first year and this Saturday we have a Information Management final followed by the Asian night (think sumowrestling meets karaoke, it should be a blast and I can’t wait) and next week Saturday the Management Accounting final. And then it’s off into the working world again (well, not yet for me, I haven’t accepted an internship offer yet).

I heard the MBAT guys and gals had a blast and best of all: they brought back the trophy to LBS! See the other 2007/6 blogs for more information (blogroll on the left, sorry, I’m lazy today).

Slowly but surely I’m also prepping for my second year. I’m trying to squeeze everything out of the elective portfolio. The idea is to go for equal measures of inspiration (design and innovation courses, and Creativity and Personal Mastery, more about that course soon) and practical application (how to write a marketing strategy, how to execute this strategy, how to write a business plan, negotiation skills etc) and I don’t have enough room in my portfolio! The second item on the second-year-to-do list is to get my paperwork fixed for my autumn stay at Stern in New York, with visa applications in the works, and my measly transcript accompanied by a horribly picture is on its way to NYC. Can anyone recommend a great burger place AND the best place to get cheesecake in New York?

From one event to the other: MBAT

Afb0102The campus has barely recovered from hosting the 2008s for the Admit Weekend or the prep for the next big thing is going on: MBAT. MBAT is the Olympics for MBA’s and there’ll be 400 athletes and supporters there from LBS (not me I’m afraid). Yesterday, as I was finishing up some work in the MBasement, they were handing out the sportsbags and clothes for the participants. Besides the usual suspects of t-shirts, baseballcap, poloshirt and jacket, there were also red plastic fake thingy wigs (look at the pictures to see what I mean). Ahum. Anyway, I hope everyone who’s there will have a blast, and guys and gals: bring back the cup to LBS!!!!! Go team!

Afb0113I’m taking the weekend off (well, more or less) this weekend. My brother is coming over, as well as friends of mine, and I look forward to what promises to be the last relatively quiet weekend in a while.

Last night I went to a talk organised by the Marketing Club, hosting Martin Roll, whose new book Asian Brand Strategy just came out (and it’s linked to a really nice blog, to be found here). I really liked his talk, it was good to hear about Asian perspectives instead of what we’re used to talking about: US and Europe. He mentioned a number of Asian brand examples I’d never heard off, such as Banyan Tree resorts, Vivienne Tam and Jim Thompson, instantly sparking the desire to travel there. Maybe I’ll follow Karibu’s example and head over after I graduate! I have long to go back to Japan and see more of it, and I want to visit India, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodhia and China (preferably before the 2008 Olympics hit Beijing). The Forbidden City is calling me!

Open Weekend (the second time around)

Afb0083Pfiew. You know that really satisfying feeling when you did something awesome, had a blast and only when you’re finished you realise how tired but satisfied you are? The Open Weekend was exactly like that. Awesome, tiring but fabulous. Friday night we hosted a dinner for 110 admits and 15 current students and that was great fun. It was kinda daunting seeing so many 2008s all together in one place, but they are such a friendly and interesting bunch and I ended up meeting loads of interesting people and putting my foot in my my mouth by saying horrible things about bankers to two guys sitting right next to me who turned out to be bankers… ouch ;-) Luckily they were very gracious about the whole thing. And I got some good tips from a New Yorker about where to get the best burgers in New York. I love being at a global b-school!

On Saturday I helped out all day, and it was interesting to see the other side of the Open Weekend. Last year, I just took it all in and was awe-struck, this year I’m rushing around trying to make everything work smoothly for the admits, trying to give them the best experience possible. At night, our own band, 1030 Dining Room (see also an earlier report on the band) gave an rocking performance, people were being tattoo’ed on all kinds of body parts, and the 2007 members of the Rugby Club decided to show the 2008s exactly who runs the School. AngelAngie is right, we have a lot of fun at School, and are quite a close bunch, odd how it takes someone else to remind me of these things that I’m taking for granted. That seamlessly leads me into the most exciting part of the Weekend for me: meeting the 2008 bloggers. I was bear-hugged by Wheels, met the very angelic AngelAngie, and saw Moe‘s head being turned into a LBS advertisement. It was great meeting you, 2008 bloggers! And like last year, I’ve gotta say, the rumour is still true: LBS is filled with handsome men!!

Fly away with me

Afb0051Very mixed feelings about this whole Airbus-visit. I loved sipping champagne on a beautiful square in the middle of Toulouse in a t-shirt, but the visit to Airbus itself was kinda disappointing. We got the general tour, and saw a few A380s (very very impressive), a couple Beluga’s (Airbus’ transport planes), but was that worth the 1,5 day it ended up costing me in the middle of a very busy time? Perhaps not.

This week is shaping up to be pretty busy (I feel like I’m one of those old grammophones that’s stuck and repeating the same message, I’m sorry). I picked up some part-time work, making it hard to balance academics, job-hunt (no news on that front yet) and work. And the upcoming Admits Weekend.

Tonight we hosted a very special visitor on campus: Mat Hunter, Global Director of Ideo’s Consumer Experience Practice and he was fab. People were even taking pictures of him, I’ve never seen that before at a speaker event! Mat talked about Design Thinking, a way of thinking that can help you solve problems and form a strategy for your business. I’m a strong believer that business people should be more like designers in trying to solve problems, and think with the customer in mind.

Come fly with me

Images18let’s fly, let’s fly away…
Tomorrow before the dawn even starts cracking (the hour at which we leave is so obscene, I’m not even going to mention it), I’ll be flying off to Toulouse with about 40 of my classmates to visit the Airbus factory, and specifically to have a look at the new A380 plane they’re building. How cool is that! I’m looking forward to it, even though it couldn’t have come at a worse time, with a full week of class (including a full day of Advanced Marketing Strategy on Friday), and the Admits weekend coming up next weekend. But I’m determined to have a good look around, and eat a nice French meal in the evening. I don’t think they’ll let us take pictures, but as always, expect a report back after the event.

Fly me to the moon…. tom ti tom….. let me play among the stars….

Oh goodie!

Afb0024I love goodie bags. They remind me of Christmas (or in my case of Sinterklaas, which is when Dutch kids get their presents from an elderly guy with a beard). Nothing beats getting presents, especially not when the goodie-bag includes chocolate!*

Let me start with the beginning though, otherwise I’d get myself all confused. Last night the Media Club organized the ‘Meet the Media’ event, a speed-dating event with professionals in media companies such as Sony, Time-Warner, WPP, CNN, Channel 4, BBC etc. Very succesful, loads of people turned out and I had a great time. Great way of finding out more about companies, I can highly recommend it to clubs interested in organizing networking opportunities.

Today I attended the Marketing Conference, which was the best conference I’ve attended so far at London Business School. Keynote speakers included Richard Hytner, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi EMEA (who talked about ‘lovemarks’, services or products that people love), Frank Mastiaux from BP and Mark Palmer from Green and Black’s. The panel discussion I attended included the marketing director of Innocent Drinks (a famous and cult smoothie brand over here in the UK), and he brought smoothies for us all! (including my favourites Passion Fruit and Mango and a dark one which includes blackberries and blueberries, I adore these). Again a great time, and the weather was so good that we had cocktails in the quad.

Tonight I’m out to a dinner with my studygroup mates for some catching up, am looking forward to that. And next week this time I’ll be at a nice restaurant in Soho having dinner with the incoming class of 2008! I can’t wait, very much looking forward to meeting the 2008 bloggers who are coming (it’ll be interesting to see how quickly they can find me!), and having a ball. It seems like only last week I was on MY Open Weekend :-)

* and, as in this case, a Jack Daniels t-shirt and a chili plant to be grown in a test-tube with gel (yes, this gets my vote as strangest thing found in a goodie bag this year).

The one day that I don’t have to bring a coat

Afb0112and I’m stuck in the library! The weather in London is very haphazard, one day it’ll be fine, the next rubbish. And today it’s particularly nice out. And I’m in the library working on assignments!

Last night I went to a talk organized by the Entrepreneurship Club by the guy who started the ‘Hedonist Guides to … [fill in placename]’. Very interesting. He had no prior experience in publishing, and is now building his succesful travelbook publishing business. It strikes me that a lot of the speakers that the Entrepreneurship Club gets to campus don’t have MBAs. So is that because if you want to be an entrepreneur an MBA is a hindrance? Do MBAs stifle entrepreneurship? Do ‘real’ entrepeneurs just go out there and start up their business, and do people who want to but never will go to b-school? I have pondered this questions a couple times now and I don’t know the answer. I am grateful for the tools that I’m taught to evaluate opportunities and write business cases, but at the same time can’t help but wonder if sometimes the creativity, inspiration and passion isn’t beaten out of people (or to be more personal: out of me) by analyzing too much. Or is that what being an entrepreneur is all about: doing all the numbers and still come out being passionate? And where do passion and tenacity end and turn into foolishness?

[picture on the top left is the St Johns Wood tube station, most beautiful tube station I’ve seen so far in London]

JP is blogging

16722478_120_120_ylzxI’m right in the middle of figuring out how Total Factor Productivity and initial capital to output ratios work, but I gotta write about this. Our prime-minister, Jan-Peter Balkenende, who looks like the older brother of Harry Potter, has started blogging! There’s this Dutch website called Hyves (now also expanding into the UK), which is becoming quite popular, a sort of combination of blogging, Friendster and Linkedin, and he’s on it. Tony Blair, eat your heart out!

I have a date!

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[on the left KV’s hands after he’d eaten the moshi, see also the previous post]

I’ve got a date. Actually, I’ve got four of them. All on one night. This Thursday. How did I get four dates lined up for Thursday you ask? I signed up for the Media Club‘s ‘Meet the Media’ event, which is a speed-dating-event for meeting people who work in Media. I’m pretty excited about it, there’s some really interesting people coming from Bertelsmann, WPP, Disney etc etc etc coming. Maybe I’ll find my Prince Charming ;-) And if I don’t find him on Thursday, then there’s always the Marketing Conference on Friday (I don’t need a reason to go, but if I did the presence of a Green & Blacks Chocolate guy is more than enough to draw me to a conference! I wonder if he’ll bring some goodies to sample…).

One of the banes of my academic and professional existence is procrastination. I’m a sufferer from this in a big way. Don’t get me wrong, I get stuff done, but it always goes something like this. Sit down to work on Macroeconomics assignment. But before I start, I’ll quickly check email. Reply to email. Open assignment again. Write for a few minutes. Check email. Read a chapter from the textbook. Check RSS feeds. Write something and check email again. Aaargh. So I’m trying to devise new and clever ways of fooling my brain. One of them, which seems to work quite well, is the 15 minute rule. I’ve downloaded a simple timer (actually, mine is quite cute, it’s a timer meant for mediation which sits on my Dashboard, but does exactly what I want it to do, if you’ve got an Apple, check it out). I set the timer for 15 minutes (slowly working my way up to 30 minutes) in which all I do is do the thing I’m supposed to do but have no appetite in. 15 minutes is not long, so it feels manageable. But in the meantime I’m getting a fair bit of work done! And yes, this post is part of the big procrastination to get out of doing the algebra-littered assignment for Macro.

Konnichiwa

Afb0023At the end of a long and hectic week, what’s the best way to unwind? With sake and yakitori at the Japan Night! The Japanese Interest Club organised a great night of entertainment including wasabi russian roulette, moshi (dunno if that’s the correct spelling?) making (see the picture on the left), and lots of sake, plum wine and yakitori. Great way to relax post Management Accounting mid-term held earlier that day.

Afb004KV decided to take part in the homemade moshi-making and here’s the evidence to prove it (although you can’t tell from the picture they’re KV’s hands, believe me, they are). Looks kinda sketchy if you ask me ;-)

I’m slowly getting used to the idea that the first year will be over in 5 weeks time. Wow. It feels like yesterday that I was preparing to go to the Open Weekend (coming up in two weeks time, see my account of it here) and now I’m on the other side. And at the same time it feels like I’ve been here forever. What a ride it’s been so far. Making friends with people from all four corners of the world, and having every stereotype I had about nationalities both confirmed by people and completely thrown out of the window by others. Learning about subjects I had no idea were so interesting, and how you can make money out of things I had no idea you could make money out of. Would I do it again if I had to make a choice again? H**l yeah :-D

RSS feeds can save your life

Well, maybe not your life… but they can save you time and effort if you know how to play the RSS-game. I wrote the piece below for a few friends of mine, but reckon that it might be an interesting read for some of the readers of this blog too. Apologies if you’re already familiar with RSS, just skip to the next post.

What are RSS feeds?
RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary, and they are like a subscription you take out on a website. It’s a push mechanism: you get notified of the changes instead having to check the website if there’s anything new. It is often used for websites of which the contents change frequently, such a weblogs, newspapers and magazines. 

What can RSS do for me?
Instead of surfing to your favourite websites, you have the latest news delivered to one webpage, making that page a one-stop shop. If you’re looking for a job, or trying to keep up with a particular industry, RSS can be your best online friend since it allows you to monitor the content of a large group of websites easily. According to the latest statistics a new blog is born every second, with a grand total of 37.3 million blogs out there in the blogosphere (37.3 million +1, 37.2 million + 2, you get the idea).

I like it. How do I set it up?
There are several simple steps you need to take:

1. Find a RSS reader. There are two types: the kind you read online (much like reading your mail online) or ones that deliver the feeds to your inbox (although I’ve yet to find a free one, so I won’t go into this in detail). I am a fan of online because it allows me to check it from any computer with internet access. I use Bloglines which is easy to set up and use. If you have a Gmail account, you can also use Google’s RSS reader. I’ve listed a few of the most popular readers in the Resource section at the end.

2. Find websites that you want to subscribe to. Websites that have RSS feeds often put a ‘subscribe to RSS’ icon (like the ones on the left)Small_rss_iconXmlRss or text on their websites indicating they offer RSS feeds. Almost all blogs have RSS feeds, and once you start reading one, the domino effect will kick in and lead you to other blogs. Use blog search engines such as Technorati to find blogs on topics you’re interested in. Don’t forget to check out trade publications, they often have RSS feeds. For a starter-list of webpages with feeds, see the Resources section at the end.

3. Subscribe to the websites. Open your RSS reader and copy the web-address to your RSS reader, it will then give you a list of RSS feeds that that page offers and you pick the most appropriate. Sometimes they all look alike: just pick the first one.

Where can I find more information?
BBC has a nifty webpage explaining all, as does Wikipedia, see the link below in the Resource section.

Resource section
Online RSS readers

Bloglines

Google Reader

Newsgator

How to find blogs
Technorati
Google Blogsearch
Sphere

Some webpages with RSS feeds:

Businessweek
Brand Republic
New York Times
BBC
Reuters
For MBA related blogs, check out
League of MBA bloggers or
Hella’s list of MBA blogs
and of course my own Divine Miss N

The sun is out!

Afb1451_1

Yes, that is news, the sun is out! London is a great city and I love living here, but the weather could be improved upon ;-) Yesterday and today the sun is out and the weather has been very nice, so we had our sundowners outside yesterday (and part of this blogpost is typed on my trusted Mac in the quad, sitting in the sun!). I took a couple of pictures to show you. I think I’ve mentioned before that there’s some building works around the School at the mo’, which explains the scaffolding (no, it’s not modern art).

Afb144This week has definitely been the busiest in the MBA so far, no need to bang on about that. But it’s also been one of the most interesting ones. Bertelsmann were on campus yesterday, presenting their company and I loved their presentation and their people. Today is our first set of classes for the Advanced Marketing Strategy elective and they are the best classes I’ve had so far. Prof. Roberts is incredibly knowledgeable and combines that with great teaching skills and self-deprecating humour. Golden combination. But, despite the sun and the urge to get some nice ice-cream and just sit here, I have to do some cramming for the Management Accounting mid-term tomorrow. Leaving you with one last picture of the quad side of the Sainsbury building all wrapped up:

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‘You want fries with that?’

Afb040The second win in a short time! Today we found out the results of our Markstrat simulation of the last 5 weeks. My studygroup-guys were incredibly fanatical, and we won (and learned a lot, I love this form of teaching where you combine the theory with the practical)! A nice bottle of champagne plus immortal fame was our share. On the left our team (without me, I’m taking the pic, just pretend there’s a girl in a pink top in the left hand side of the picture) with Prof Goldstein, our Markstrat Prof (who has a blog here with an excellent explanation (by which I mean that even I understand and saw the light, quite a feat for a math-challenged student like me) of regression analysis here).

This week is my busiest in the MBA yet (or maybe I just have selective memory?) and I have started dividing my calendar into 15 min intervals, so it looks like I can cram in more. Last night, Drayton Bird (an expert in Direct Marketing) came and spoke about Direct Marketing. He had great quotes, a few of which I took a note of:
* ‘Best way to make money: find something obvious, rename it, and write a book about it.’
* ‘The obvious is always overlooked’, quoting Mani Ayer
* ‘Something you know about the customer is more valuable than anything you know about your product.’
* ‘One of the most profitable things you can do is say thank you.’

Remember how I asked the Universe to throw me a bone? It has done since I asked. Loads of bones. Good things are happening and I am thankful. Life is good. Now, I need to get my a** in gear and work on our UEM assignment (due tomorrow) some more.

Just when you think you had it (part 2)

HappysmileyYes, the universe was trying to tell me something.

LIGHTEN UP!!!!

After writing the previous blogpost, I headed off to School to attend the Management Accounting class (vital, since we’ve got a midterm this Saturday). And we talked about retail banks, and why they love giving loans to MBAs, since at one point we’ll probably be very profitable. That sent me into a tailspin, nose down to deep pits of despair. OMG, what am I doing here? Was I nuts when I made this decision? I will *never* be a good customer to any bank, since I won’t be a banker or a consultant and pay off my loan in 12 months and then move on to buying a penthouse with an HSBC mortgage on which they’ll make buckloads of money, but paying back will take forever, till I hit the retirement home and and and and…[insert slap in the face right here, plus add a bucket of cold water].

Time to take a short time-out and talk to Al (thank you for getting me tea!) to screw my head on straight again (thanks for screwing my head on straight again too!). One of the things that particularly struck me was him asking me (on my rant about how it’s going to take 7 years of bread and water to pay off HSBC after I graduate so from now til 2014 I’m basically stuffed) ‘so what were you doing 7 or 8 years ago?’. Funnily enough, I was living in central London, was a graduate student with little or no money to my name and no clue about what the future was going to bring. Basically the same as now! But in between then and now so much has changed and I’ve done things I didn’t even know existed then. The one thing that has changed from 7 years ago and now is that I’ve learned to not be scared that much. Life is what happens whether I want it or not. And often I have no clue what’s good for me (although I think I do). Yet good things happen in my life. Fabulous things. So there I go. Lean back. Relax. And let the universe help me out a little bit.

That said, I’m going to make some quick sandwiches and work on various academic bits and bobs all night. I hope the universe helps me out a little bit on Markstrat too ;-)

[edit 1. Good news just came in: I’ll be part of the executive committee of the Marketing Club next year!]

Just when you think you had it

Images17… something happens to add to the stress of daily life. With a week that’s already gearing up to be quite hectic (Management Accounting midterm on Saturday, final Markstrat report due on Wednesday, Bertelsmann coming onto campus this Thursday, a submission for our UEM course and my first Advanced Marketing Strategy-elective class all day Friday, plus a stack of other work waiting to be done), our drains in the kitchen are going to the dogs, I spent an hour and a half of quality time with our doorman cum plumber cum carpenter with our hands in the crap that accumulates in drains only to find that there was dirty water gushing out of our washing machine. I think the washing machine has gone to wherever it is that washing machines go after they die. AAAAAARRRGH.

I’m trying to remind myself of good life lessons: it’s never as bad as you think it is, are you going to remember it in a year’s time (h*ll no), in the grander scheme of things it’s not that bad (and it really isn’t). And it’s sorta working. Well, kinda. But how come all I can think of is how it’s screwing up my schedule. Is the universe trying to tell me something?