Chance meeting

Afb040_1Afb041Whoa… It’s been a while since I’ve put thoughts to paper (or this blog’s case fingers to keyboard), so time for some catching up, with lots of pictures this time and I’ll try and go down my list of pictures chronologically. Top left a treat for all my banker-friends in the MBA, pictures of Wall Street. We went there almost two weeks ago, to represent LBS at a Forte Foundation event which was held in Deutsche Bank, which was a blast, despite the organisation losing our boxes with leaflets!

Afb043To the left of this paragraph is one of the typical cubicles that in US office/schoolculture seem to be normal (this one is in our Graduate Reading Room). There are walls on three sides, and they are so high that you can’t see anything but walls. I’ve seen them in offices here as well. So the Dilbert cartoons are right… I always thought they were kinda exaggerated!

Afb045These are the birthday cakes that I bought to celebrate my birthday, they come from a place called Patissier on Union Square and were reasonably good. Shout out to FL, who’s birthday it is tomorrow, happy new year’s eve, sweetie!

Afb049This is a picture of the Nokia concept store, which just opened in New York. Because the US is not on the GSM network (and I reckon because you also pay to receive calls), the mobile phones here aren’t as advanced on the whole as in Europe. So I went to the store to get my fix, and check out in the flesh my favourite phone: the N93, which I would love to get once I get back to the UK (although if it were up to the sales staff I wouldn’t get it. The guy who helped me didn’t really help me and was very very snooty).

Dscf0010On the left the venue for the Washington MBA fair I attended last week, which was very good. The building (National Building Museum) was stunning, and light and airy, and the people very interesting. I tacked on two more days in Washington, and I enjoyed my time there (the National Gallery of Art goes in the top 3 of most beautiful museums), but I thought the city felt cold and empty and arrogant. Maybe I am becoming a New Yorker, at least for a little bit. I’ve heard that ‘real’ New Yorkers hate Washington, so I fit right in!

Afb052This photo is for JeffD (shout out to our correspondent in Japan!). At the Washington MBA fair Brandeis was right next to us! So I couldn’t NOT take a picture to show to JeffD. The strangest thing happened on the way to the fair (yes, this is what the title of this post was alluding to… and yes, I am saving the best for last). I was sitting in the train, minding my own business, reading up on my Advertising Management textbook as a stranger sat opposite me. We got chatting and he looked kinda familiar, but I couldn’t place him. It didn’t take us long though to figure out that we knew each other! It was Alex, who interviewed me for Wharton, and who’s a legend in the MBA blogosphere (now with Clear Admit)!! We had a nice chat on the way down, and obviously I had to blog about this ;-) !! Great to meet you Alex!

10 top tips to have a great MBA fair visit

I’ve been to my fair share of MBA fairs, not so much as a prospective applicant (I hated them, they were too busy), but as a student representing LBS I’ve been to a few. I love doing them, but can’t help but think that a few hints and tips would help make the fair-experience a better one. So here’s the best advice I’ve got on attending MBA fairs:

1. Be on time. There’s a lot of ground to cover (unless that is, you’ve got your heart set on going to school X and don’t care about anything else), and you want to take your time. Some of the fairs are very popular and it might take a little while to get to speak to someone. Another timing aspect: a lot of people go to the panels that are organized, so those are great times to speak to some people at the booths in person.
2. Be prepared. The fairs only last a few hours, so you want to pack in as much as possible. Try and get an idea of which schools will attend, what panels will be given etc. Also, the fair is an excellent opportunity to find out more about Bschools, but only if you know what you’re looking for. A little preparation goes a long way. More on preparation in the following points.
3. Dress nicely, wear comfortable shoes and bring a bag big enough to carry a fair number of brochure. Don’t wear a suit (unless there’s a good reason to, like you’re coming straight from an investment bank). Business casual is fine. And wear comfy shoes, you’ll be doing a lot of standing/walking around. The bag thing only goes if you’re like me, a packrat. There’s tons of information brochures out there, so come prepared. Worst thing is lugging a stack around and feeling your arm go numb.
4. If you don’t know anything about a school, don’t make it up. It’s fine if this is your first fair and you have no clue and you just want to find out about this MBA thing. Or that you’re tagging along with a friend who had to go to the bathroom and now you happen to be standing next to me. But tell me. And ask if it’s alright you ask some more generic questions. Don’t pretend (I did this with a big US school and it didn’t work, they caught me out) to be highly knowledgeable if you’re not. It’s embarassing and awkward for the person you’re talking to.
5. Prepare your elevator pitch. Most schools are very busy, so you might only have a few minutes. Try and make the most of them. Think of a few interesting questions (and no, asking if you should retake a 720 GMAT is NOT interesting, it’s annoying), stuff that you can’t glean from brochures/websites. Something in the vein of ‘what do you like best about school X?’, ‘which club is the most active on campus and what types of things do they organize?’ and ‘what’s your favourite social activity at the school?’ or ‘what’s the one thing that will really help my application?’. When talking to students or alumns, you could always go the experience track: ‘what courses did you love best?’, ‘what’s the one experience that I shouldn’t miss in my time as an MBA?’, ‘what courses did you wish you’d have taken but didn’t?’.  You get the idea. Also make sure that you can explain your background in 30 seconds. Following on that…
6. Please be interesting and interested. Admissions people and the students that help out at these events speak to literally tons of people. They like to hear something personal, something that makes you stand out. An interesting hobby, an idea about a venture you want to start etc. Something your passionate about. Make it interesting. And be interested when someone tells you something. Please don’t be another face in the crowd.
7. Say thank you. You’d be surprised how many prospectives take the admissions officers and the students for granted. Say thank you. They just spent 15 minutes of their life answering your questions, and they do that because they want to help. Two words go a long way.
8. Don’t be rude or insulting. Yeah, kinda obvious, I know. But you’d be surprised how many people look at my badge and say ‘oh, no, I don’t want to talk to a student, I only talk to adcom’… guess how that makes me feel. Or stick a CV in my face. I don’t want your CV. 
9. If you like what you saw/heard, follow up. You’d be surprised how many people don’t. A short thank you email goes a long way. And you can ask a few questions that you might’ve thought of in the meantime (but always ask if it’s alright, don’t push yourself on the person). Even better if you have something to give back (in my case I talked to a girl in Marketing, who in her thank you email recommended an interesting book). Do it because it’s what your mum taught you (always be polite) and because you never know when you might need this person.
10. Last but not least: Listen! You’d be amazed how many people ask questions without listening to the answer. I’ve had my share of people insisting that LBS is a finance school (we’re not) and wouldn’t budge, no matter what I said. Remember there are people on the other side of the table, not just ‘admissions’ or ‘students’.

I hope these will help you get the most out of you MBA fair experience (and make my life a little easier ;-)

Ssssssh… strictly NDA

14375029_5d2c0ddba3Birthday came and went, and it was a blast! We had dinner in a nice Asian restaurant (although the service left a little to be desired, they tried to coax us into eating a two course meal and cocktails in a speed that would make the Guiness Book of Records… apparently this is very typical in New York) with a few friends, and then set off for drinks with the entire exchange student community at Stern (and some from Columbia). It was fab, and it took me a while to recover over the weekend.

On Sunday I went along to the Hilton (by the way, if all this sounds familiar, it’s because RsR beat me to it telling the story) to help the LBS admissions team out with an MBA fair. I love doing these (although I hated them when I was applying), I get to talk to so many interesting people, and the questions are so different over here from those in the UK. The biggest difference is that people kept on mentioning ‘international business’, and I couldn’t figure it out. No one I know at LBS ever says they want to do ‘international business’. And then it hit me. All business at LBS IS by definition international. But I guess that must be interesting if you live in a country where you can easily go days without hearing any news from outside the US (and I don’t mean to cause offense by saying that). 

Another thing I did on my birthday was start my shadowing project. Yes, I know that’s kinda late, but I was too busy trying to survive throughout my first year to really give it much thought. And then when I gave it thought, I wanted a really cool person. Luckily, a friend at School helped me out and put me in touch with my shadowee, and she’s everything I was looking for. She works in the online space (check), on the consultancy side (check), and is a very interesting person to observe and learn from, since she is not your typical cookie-cutter manager (check). Ticks all my boxes, and I am very happy with my shadowing project (but obviously, for Non Disclosure Agreement reasons, can’t reveal any more than this)(but I’m jumping up and down with luck that I found such a cool shadowee, although the location comes nowhere near the spectacular shadowing experience that Nick had). Three more days to go next week, and then a manic rush to finish the project and send it off before the October 2nd deadline.

The latest in cool

This is the coolest idea I’ve seen in a while… a company called Moo is offering calling cards/business cards (read up on your 19th century English novels if you can’t remember calling cards), made with your own Flickr images. How cool is that! And they’re using a nice Web2.0 interface (drag and drop all over the place). I’m in love. Now I just have to put up some more pics on my Flickr account and justify the $20 it will cost to print 100 cards! Check them out at Moo.com (found through Techcrunch, which has some interesting comments on the original post, apparently not everyone likes it as much as I do). I think one reason I’m so interested in this (beyond the fact that I think it’s cool, and I think PY will probably think it’s cool), is my Entrepreneurial Finance course. We discuss cases twice a week, talking about questions such as ‘is the proposed business in this case a good investment?’, ‘what is a good valuation of this company?’, and of course ‘would you invest in this?’. So, do I think the $5 million that went into this company is money well spent? I dunno. I love the idea, I can see a lot of people loving the idea, but I have no clue (and don’t dare predict) if this will take off.

New Year’s Eve

Afb060Today, September 14th, is my New Year’s Eve. In less than 12 hours I’ll turn … ehm, let’s leave that a secret. Let’s just say a year older. And like you do on New Year’s Eve’s, I’m making resolutions for the coming year. I am going to exercise more (signed up for 3 classes at the NYU gym that start next week, including yoga, which I’ve never done before and am really curious about), take more time to read and reflect (although I’m pretty happy with the yield of books read this year: the aim was 52 books, one for every week, and I’m already up to 50 books. That’s what not having a TV does to me.), and to keep up with my coursework. Enjoy my time in New York to the fullest. To graduate next July. And decide if I am going to start my own company and if so get started on it. And find the love of my life. Hmmm, maybe I’m becoming a bit too ambitious?

Spotted in the supermarket

Afb0363Chicken-feet. I’m not quite sure what to do with them though, I mean, I don’t have any recipes and couldn’t think of any, so I didn’t buy ‘em. But they were definitely worthy of a picture.

Last night I discovered that I’d only picked up the first half of the casepack that I need for my Entrepreneurial Finance course (which is going pretty well and is very interesting), so I trekked to the NYU bookstore again today. And discovered that I probably needed a couple more books for other courses (why they don’t have a checklist in the bookstore that you can tick off??), so there went another $240, which bought me a casepack, a CD rom, and 3 books (one book was a whopping $145, maybe I should reconsider my career choice and become a textbook writer!). One book that looks promising is ‘Truth, Lies and Advertising. The Art of Account Planning‘ by Jon Steel, which is supposed to be one of the best books in this field. I’ll keep you posted as I read it.

Summer has only just ended (weather wise, we’re still in summer in New York), and I’m already working on what I’ll be doing fulltime. I’m still undecided yet if I want to pursue an idea that I have for my own business, or if I want to go work for a company. Both have its own charms and I can’t decide between them, yet. But it can’t hurt to get my CV into shape, and keeping my eyes open for an opportunity.

Same language, completely different experience

Afb0342[on the left, a hotdog with sauerkraut from Nathan’s World Famous Hot Dog stand on Coney Island].

JeffD left a comment saying something to the effect of ‘it’s the same language, it can’t be that hard’, and to be honest, I sort of thought the same thing. But even though it’s the same language in both the UK and the US, there’s still a fair number of words/expressions/things that have me stumped. What, for instance, is bubble tea (they were out of it at the cafeteria, so I haven’t been able to try)? And what is french laundry? And why do they call the main course ‘entrees’ (which means ‘starter’ in French)? And what does a company called ‘Geico’ sell? It’s like being in a whole new country and city… hang on, I AM in a whole new country and city! And I’m loving it :-)

What I love about Stern is that it’s slap bang in the middle of the NYU ‘campus’ area. It’s not really a campus, but it feels that way and buzzes with energy. And there’s so many interesting stores around (including a Dean & Deluca… yummie!).

Afb0192Last Thursday my London housemate’s sister, who’s an artist, took a small group of us around Chelsea for gallery openings (there were at least 75 of them, of which we saw about 20… in 2 hours time!!), which was fabulous. If you like art and/or people watching, I can highly recommend trying to find the listings for gallery openings in Chelsea and coming along. Very very interesting.

On Friday, my co-exchange student from LBS and 2 other exchange students went to Coney Island, which was a bit deserted, but still very nice. The sun was out, the hotdogs (see top left) good and it was a great day to spend at the beach.

Yesterday, I trekked to the Whitney Museum of American Art, mainly to see the Edward Hopper paintings and I wasn’t disappointed. They did a great job in showing his drawings too, so you can see what happened before he painted the real thing.

Last, but not least, but for fear of sounding trite, it’s the 5th anniversary of September 11th today, and I watched (and shed a tear for so much unnecessary loss) the news of the memorials this morning. It’s strange being in New York on this day.

Humble pie

Just re-read my post from earlier today, and I think it’s time to eat some humble pie. I’ve started to do what I so dislike about people (and mostly in myself): I’ve started moaning about how everything is always better somewhere else. Preferably somewhere to which I’m used to. But that wasn’t the object of coming to a different place, to compare and contrast and find fault. The object, at least for me, in coming to NYC was to widen my horizons, and experience something different. And I conveniently forget that something new (a new country, a new language, a new situation) requires a stumble now and again, a little humility, and the realisation that new situations and people are scary, but possibly very worthwhile. The thing is, I won’t know if I try, get out of the comfort zone (oh, how I hate that expression) and experiment a little. I just hate feeling uncomfortable and out of my depth. And not going where I’m going. Or who I’m meeting. I’ll admit it: I’m a controlfreak. But I’m getting better at letting go. I think.

What triggered all this? A wonderful manifesto on Change This, called ‘Never the Same: How to create transformational experiences’, by Charles Halton. Check it out if you’re in need of a little mental shaking up.  Here’s a quote I love:

Embracing humility will give you freedom from this risk-crushing fear and will open you up to the wonderful vistas of creativity and change.

And best of all:

When you run out of things to say, quit talking.

First day of school

Afb0064In the Netherlands, we have a word for when you are in the first year of secondary school. You’re called a ‘brugpieper’, and are typically lugging around a backpack weighing almost as heavy as yourself, have a lost look on your face and feel like an idiot half the time because you everyone else seems to know what they’re doing and you’re not. Apart from the bag (I’m moved on to a nice stylish handbag which fits my Johnnie (*Mac laptop) and the rest of my bits and bobs), I feel exactly like that. Stern is very different from LBS, much less of a small campus where everyone knows each other, and more a place where people come in for lectures and then jet off again. Or at least, that’s my perception now.

Afb0153Alright, let me start at the beginning. I’ve had two classes so far: Entrepreneurial Finance and Advertising Management, both of which I really liked. Classes are pretty similar to LBS, no surprises there. It took me a while to find the classrooms (the grand idea behind the numbering is as of yet still lost on me… I still haven’t been able to find my locker, or toilets on the 2nd floor and I can’t seem to remember which lifts to to the 6th floor and up and which don’t), and there’s a lot of Americans in the classroom (duh, I know, but I’m used to a very diverse class nationality-wise, so that’s very different). Cases are NOT free here, I shelled out $240 for 3 casepacks, see the picture at the beginning of this paragraph). I’ve got most of the paperwork for the visa, immunization and health care insurance out of the way, and I’ve got a cellphone (very clonky Nokia). So I think I’m sort of set.

So here’s what I like so far:
* the city
* the classes
* my apartment
* some of the food (like the lunchplace across from Stern who do great soups)
* my exchange classmates

Here’s what I don’t like that much:
* the Kaufman Management Center building, whoever designed it should be punished by having to attend classes! The layout is illogical and there’s not a lot of common space to hang out.

The city that never sleeps

Big_apple_closeup And I slept my eyeballs out! I hadn’t realised exactly how tired I was (which explains the grumpiness of the last few weeks), the last few months have been quite hectic, all through my own doing, I admit that freely. I took on a little too much to handle and I didn’t realise it till it was too late (mental note to self: plan a little more free time in the weekends!). With the internship and traveling or having visitors every weekend, I was left with little time to reflect and sit back, and I’ve made a few stupid mistakes because of that. Ah well. Lesson learned.

Today’s my first day of school at Stern, and I’m excited about being a student again. The course I’m taking looks really interesting (Entrepreneurial Finance) and I’m curious to see what the courses here are like compared to LBS. I’ve settled in nicely, the housing situation is sorted, and I’ve done some of the essentials (get a mobile phone, oh sorry, I should say cell phone now, check in at the Office for International Students to be bored to no end about visa requirements, meet up with other exchange students and friends and visit 5 supermarkets in 5 days!). And I’ve slept. And slept and slept. So now I’m ready and rearing to go!