Parallel lives

657560409_283dc0af51Yesterday, amid the hustle and bustle of finishing up the MBA, I slipped into a parallel universe for an hour. You see, way back when, when I was even younger than I am now, I managed to get not just one but two degrees focussed on book history. Books are one the biggest passions in my life, if not the biggest. For reasons I’ve never really understood, I never ended up working in publishing, but ended up being a consultant. But the passion never died. So imagine my surprise when Jeremy at Penguin (*waving*) invited me over for drinks last night! That’s one opportunity I couldn’t pass up, so I headed over to Brick Lane and had a quick drink (Sundowners was waiting so I couldn’t stay long) with Jeremy and some other folks (I’m so sorry, I’m so crap with names). And it was like a parallel universe, in which people are passionate about books and literature. It reminded me of exactly how much I love books and how much I love talking about them. (If you’re in London and a literature-buff, you might enjoy the London Lit Plus festival about to start, something I found out about last night too). And to top it all off, they even gave me a few books (see pic on the left)! Thanks Jeremy, I had a blast :-)

On the way back I did my Superman act and quickly changed into my Class Gift T-shirt to head to the last Sundowners. It was a nostalgic affair, it was wonderful seeing so many of my classmates, but also weird that this was the last one. Sundowners was followed by dinner and drinks at the Windsor Castle which was packed. At least I enjoyed every single minute of it and have some great memories!

Now it’s back to the ‘laatste loodjes’ (sorry, it’s a Dutch saying, I have no idea what the English translation is, maybe something like the last bits and bobs?). I have plenty of work left on a part-time project I’m working on, need to figure out what shoes to wear to graduation, find wings and a halo for a skit tomorrow, work my way around some appointments today, go to a farewell party… Darn, I have a charmed life!

As an encore, here’s some Jerry Lee Lewis (actually it’s my favourite Lewis song). One of the books Jeremy gave me is Nick Tosches’ Hellfire, about Jerry Lee Lewis. I’m a big fan of fifties rock ‘n’ roll, so this is a treat!

Wow

Chocolate as far as the eye reaches… really, it doesn’t get any better than this in a supermarket ;-) I went to the new Whole Foods store in Kensington and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a temple of food (and I mean a temple… they’re very religious about their food), and I liked it better than the New York store I used to go to, although I struggle to say why. I liked the muesli bar where you can mix your own muesli. And the large variety of chocolate they sell.

This is the last week of term. My last term. Sigh. One more class to go, this Saturday, and then that’s it. Well, almost. I’m still working on a extra curricular project. And working as a student ambassador (I got to call new R4 admits today and welcome them to the School, which was a lot of fun). And there’s a bunch of farewell dinners and the last Sundowners this Thursday. And there’s Capstone week next week, where we look back on the whole course and are back in our original first year first term streams (go stream D!). And there’s there graduation. And the summer ball. And we need to distribute the yearbook. OK, so I’ve still got some stuff on my plate.

The beginning of the end

They’ve started building the marquee for the graduation ceremonies and summer ball. The beginning of the end. Sigh. Alright. Time to stop the drama queen act and get back to work. Before I graduate there’s still tons to do!

Now this is cruel

American Express loves me! Bear with me on this one, I know most of you must receive mountaints of direct mail, but since I’ve moved around so much in the past two years, most advertisers have lost track of me. So when someone sends me something, especially Amex, I tend to open it (beware advertisers, this is a small window of opportunity. If you all start sending me stuff, I will revert back to plonking it in the recycling bin again). But this was just cruel. They sent me an application for an Amex Gold Card. Lord knows I could do with a little credit, almost at the end of my student days I’m running seriously low on cash. However, I don’t think Amex would even let me go near any of their cards at this point in my life and any application I would put in would be immediately denied.

That brings me something else I was thinking about the other day. Why don’t brands do things to delight their customers? I fly BA to AMS from LON regularly, and although I know I can’t be their most profitable customer, I am a loyal one. Even though I know that the flight will only give me 250 airmiles, and to qualify for a free flight to AMS it will take me 4500 points (that’s 18 roundtrips!), I still like ‘em. It’s the hats I think. Or the fact they serve their tea with milk. But how much more would I like them if they would pay attention to me and try and delight me? And I don’t mean with freebies that I don’t want. Instead with something that would mean something to me (e.g. double the miles on your next flight. Or a nice thank you email for flying with us. Or something else, as long as it’s personal) and that says ‘we recognize you’re not our most profitable customer ever. But we still like you. Thanks for liking us too.’

Interesting2007 was useless (and that’s a good thing!)

And I mean that in the best possible way! I’d been looking forward to this conference for a while now, and was one of the lucky ‘first 50′ people to buy a ticket. What attracted me most about it was that it wasn’t going to be like any other old conference. You know, the boring ones, with the long list of speakers, where really the only thing you want to do is sneak off and play hooky. And boy, was Interesting2007 different! I sat glued to my seat the whole time, mesmerized by people opening their hearts and talking about what they were passionate about and the best thing: it was completely use-less. And I mean that in the literal sense. It had no use. I did not learn anything that I could not have lived without. No particular impact on my day to day professional (well, ahum, student) life. But boy did it have an impact on me. This is what life (and conferences) is/are supposed to be like. No big fuss, no big poo-ha, just real life people talking about real life things. Or in some case not so real. Or life. But incredibly fascinating, heart-warming, exciting and interesting.

Things I never knew: how to split a big log, how to change the world for a fiver, whether video games can be art, how post-modernist food can be, what Ibsen and the Muppets have in common, what pipes and tubes can do, how nice nice things can be, how to make a better erotic film, how the Oprah show works behind the scenes, how much work and thought goes into creating the Spy Exhibit at the Science museum, that Cezanne had a phobia for touching people, what parkour is, that you can really make a saw sing, how there is absurd in the everyday normal and vice versa, how everyone’s an expert in something, how you can analog blog, how physical becomes more important as virtual becomes more important, how comics have metatext and how wonderful it is to be inefficient.

The one weird thing for me was that I felt I was crashing someone else’s party. It was all planners, creative types and then ehm… an MBA student. I kept to myself a bit, not wanting to acost bloggers who I’ve been reading for a while (that probably because I still have admits weekend fresh in my mind, where I was very lost for words when people mentioned they read my blog, I didn’t want to do that to others) and in awe and kinda starstruck of other people. And had an acute attack of shyness. Anyway. Nice to see everyone anyway. 

Thanks Russell, for coming up with the idea and organising, thanks to all the speakers, you were all wonderful. A plethora of reports about, read reports here, and here, and here, and here and here and here and here. And on technorati here. And Flickr here

On the street today

547627149_bf9bfd2eeaWalking around London Bridge this morning and saw this. Nice. I wonder who made it? I think it’s gorgeous.

With two weeks left in this term, it feels like I’m going to finish my MBA with a bang and in a whirlwind. Which is kinda nice, because that’s what most of the rest of it was too for me! The yearbook, if all went well, is at the printer’s now, the class gift is still going on but less of a concern of me personally. What’s left is a few days in NL over the weekend to celebrate Father’s Day, catch up with my parents and get a haircut (I desperately need one); some more assignments for CPM which I’ve fallen behind on and then some more work on a part-time project I’m working on. And pick up in earnest the 10k training schedule. Get ready for graduation. Hang out as much as I can with my friends who are moving abroad post-graduation. And enjoy the sunshine. And try and fit in some cultural stuff. And figure out life-after-the-MBA.

Some things that I’m trying to make a little time for in the next few weeks:
The Grand Tour. The National Gallery has put up an outdoor exhibition of paintings in London’s West End, with an MP3 audio guide and it sounds amazing. I have a soft spot for the concept of a Grand Tour, it’s one of my areas of book-collecting. I’ll try and explore soon and will report back if I do.
The second thing is the How Are We? Photographing Britain exhibit at the Tate Britain that sounds interesting. And finally, Whole Foods opened a London branch, which I’ve heard is amazing. And last but not least: this Saturday I’m off to Interesting2007, which promises to be interesting (like it says on the tin, really!).

Several people have asked me what will happen to this blog post-graduation and to be honest, I don’t know yet. I never consciously thought about what to write (except for in the very beginning), it happened to be mostly MBA related because that was what was happening in my life. And I seem to still have something to write about now. So for now I suspect I might just trundle along as I have and see where I end up. On that note, time to head to the gym and get my running b*tt in gear. 

How to survive your application (well, kinda)

I hesitated tagging this post ‘practical advice’ since I’m not quite sure how practical the following will be. But here are some random pieces of advice about the MBA applications procedure (more on the MBA itself in a later post) that this soon to be ex-student has.

About figuring out where to go
Follow your heart. Everything else will slot into place. In general you make life easier if you take certain things into account (i.e. if you want to work in London, it’s easier to be in London) but I strongly believe that you make your own luck. Figure out where you can see yourself living for the duration of the course (are you a city person or do you want to live out in the middle of nowhere?). Try and work out if you like the people (students, staff) there. Visit as many schools as time and budget allow. Read the blogs. Talk to as many students and alumni as you can find (most of them do not mind talking about themselves if you ask politely). Send polite emails and ask questions. Try and work out what matters to you (certain electives, location, type of classmate) and judge by those criteria. Rankings are interesting, but do not mean that the top school should be YOUR top school.

About the application
Make it interesting. Adcoms all across the world read hundreds of thousands of applications and it makes their life nicer if they read interesting ones. Don’t show off but don’t hide information away. Be sensible about the balance of work and non-work examples. Have someone else who knows you well read it to see if it sounds like you. Submit it. Then stop worrying about it. And do not ask if if you should retake the GMAT with a score of 720.

About the interview
Be early. If you’re unsure of the dresscode, ask (there’s nothing worse than being over or underdressed to help increase nerves for no good reason). Think ahead and plan some answers to common questions (why the MBA? Why this school? Why now? What do you want to do post MBA? Why you? Examples of teamwork, leadership etc), but don’t rehearse them to the point where you become a robot reciting pre-rehearsed answers. Have something interesting to say (ideally, you’d be an interesting person so that shouldn’t be too hard). Prepare some questions for the interviewer and try to make them interesting (what did you like best of your experience? What electives did you particularly like? What is the one activity that I should not miss?). Do not drink during the interview (as in: drink alcohol). Know your application inside out and expect detailed questions. Don’t be rude or disparaging. Be honest. Be nice. Don’t slag off anyone (former bosses, other schools). See also this about my own LBS interview and trawl the other blogs to see what their experiences were.

In general
Relax. Which is the hardest thing to do. But try and enjoy the process. No matter how well you prepare, how many questions you ask and how much you read the blogs, your experience will be totally different than you think. Prepare a little, then relax. Be yourself.

D**n, I think this makes for good dating advice too ;-)

It’s spreading like wildfire

This t-shirt is spreading like wildfire at LBS, this is the second person wearing it :-)

These past few days have been… ehm… interesting. I visited the largest Hindu temple outside India (which is in Neasden, north west London, see picture, can highly recommend, I was very impressed), tested a computer simulation program for a prof at LBS, ironed out problems and outstanding items surrounding the yearbook, catch up with friends (hi Farhan!), become nostalgic about going to miss LBS, kicking myself for not sorting out my life yet followed by trying to sort out my life, working on my CPM homework. Oh, and trying to enjoy the lovely weather we’ve been having. And trying not to get buried in an avalanche of email that for some strange reason hit my emailbox in the past two days. And hearing complaints about not writing longer blog entries. I think it’s the phone. A picture is worth a thousand words. Or maybe I’m just too lazy. Or mentally-elsewhere-occupied to string together more than one paragraph. 3 more weeks in the MBA and I’m trying to squeeze it for everything that’s in there.

There’s a bunch of stuff in the pipeline for this blog, some wisdom, some lessons learnt etc. To follow when life is slightly quieter than this.

(waving my hand)

…to (at?) all the admits I met over the weekend. We hosted some 140 MBA2009s and 50 partners and the campus was buzzing! I really enjoyed myself, talked to a bunch of really nice people, ran around trying to help to make everything go smoothly (assisted by a lovely team, including my sidekick Al), danced my legs off on our LBS band, was stunned by the amount of people reading this blog (hello!). Especially that made a big impression on me. Apparently there’s actually people reading this. People beyond just my friends and family, people I had no idea existed. I haven’t quite figured out what to say when people say they read this though. Beyond ‘thanks’ I’m pretty tongue tied. You know so much about me. I know nothing about you. It’s kinda weird. I need to think about this. Anyway, lovely to meet you all. And fellow blogger M!

Yesterday we had some awesome guest speakers in our CPM class, I want to write about it, but don’t have time now, so I’ll save it for later. I need a hot shower. My body feels like it’s been hit by a truck. Maybe I’m getting too old for admits weekends ;-)

Alright, I promise

I’ll stop posting shots like the one on the left, if you’re not about to graduate from LBS, they must be getting quite old… but I can’t get enough of them! This one is from last night’s Sundowners, which we spent outside. I helped fundraise for the 2007 Class Gift campaign, caught up with my friends and escaped from the yearbook for 2 hour.

Tonight the Admits weekend kicks off, I can’t believe we’ve got the class of 2009 coming onto campus! And worse even, I won’t see them come onto campus in August and enjoy having them around. It’s weird. But the weekend should be a lot of fun, it’ll be nice seeing some people I’ve seen earlier in the year, and to meet the new admits.

Alright, back to the yearbook now, it’s time to put the finishing touches to it!