Happy alumni day

1438341675_4db291070dAs you probably guessed by now by reading the blog (or if you’re a first time reader, it should become clear in the next few minutes), I love a good celebration. I think no occasion is too big or small to celebrate it. And you should celebrate as often and as much as you can. Makes life more fun. And you live longer. Well, actually you might not, but you’ll have more life in your life.

So tonight LBS was the excuse to celebrate: I attended my first annual Alumni Day reception (I call it the School’s birthday, but I don’t think it technically is) and it was a blast. All over the world there were LBS alumni shindigs today, celebrating I’m-not-quite-sure-what (alumnihood? LBS? Ah well, it doesn’t really matter anyway, it was a good excuse!). It was great seeing a bunch of my classmates (tons of them in suits having started work), admissions staff (you know who you are!), current students and meeting some alumns who I didn’t know yet. It reminded me how nice it is to be part of a community, especially one that I like as much as this one (yes, yuck, someone pass me a bucket, it’s all a bit sweet and sickly, but I do really mean it. I bleed LBS if you prick me. Which I prefer you don’t. Prick me that is). So far so good on this alumni-thing. I think I’m getting the hang of it.

A little envy is a good thing

1327008839_f27a60af32Yesterday, the blog (well, actually the other one) paid off dividends in a most unusual way: one of my housemates of 9 years ago whom I’d sadly lost touch with found me and we met up. It was as if we’d only just saw each other last week and we had a fab time catching up and then philosophizing about life (*waves at mr W*).

*Warning, the rest of this post comes with a minor mental health warning.* One of the things we were talking about was jobs/careers and how to figure out what you want to do and then figure out how to get there. On the way home I suddenly remembered a conversation (it must have been during CPM, if anyone reading this recognizes the gist of it, please drop me a line, I’d like to know where I stole this idea from) about envy. I think a little envy is a good compass in figuring out where you want to go. Think of who you’re envious off and why. What about them makes you think ‘darnit, I wish I had that job!’? What friend makes you green with envy because they seem to be having a blast/ton of money/good life/a constant smile on their face/handsome (or pretty, depending on your persuasion) partner/job that makes you literally green with envy? And how did they get what they have that you want? And then, and that’s the most important thing: draw a lesson, learn from it, see how you can apply it in your life and move on. Don’t get stuck in envy. Little bursts of envy are good, wallowing in it will make you unhappy beyond belief.

I remember that some people felt really uncomfortable about feeling envious, since it’s labeled as a ‘bad’ feeling. Envy = bad. I see their point, but think that it is a human emotion and it doesn’t make sense labeling it either good or bad. If you sense it, might as well do something with it and use it to your advantage. A little envy is not a bad thing.

After this train of thought I suddenly realised that if the current me talked to me 3 years ago, I would have been green with envy for my current life. I have a wonderful set of family and friends, a job I love, live in what is one of the best cities on earth to live in, in a nice flat in a nice neighbourhood, and I’m healthy and happy. Somewhere along the line I followed my envy and did something right ;-)

[edit: luckily my classmates have a better memory than me (see the comments), it was Alain de Botton who more eloquently made this point and from whom I stole it. And Fran, I do mean outright envy. Green in the face, damn-why-don’t-I-have-that envy. Ambition is what happens after envy I think.]

So if this is 30

15092007440… I’m liking it a lot! I had a wonderful birthday, both in NL with my family and in LON with my friends. I was so touched by the kind gifts and flowers (thanks for the flowers, mr P, they are lovely!) and emails, texts, comments on the blog, voicemails and cards , I felt like a queen. I can highly recommend turning 30 to anyone! And as all 30 somethings have been telling me, 30 is the new 20. Although I must admit that I’m much happier now than I was at 20, give me 30 anyday!

I’ve been thinking a bit about what the right questions are to ask. I’ll explain. I still get a bunch of emails from prospective applicants asking me all sorts of questions. I’m happy to oblige and answer to the best of my ability. However, after another one of these emails, I shook my head and said to my housemate, ‘the answers to these questions will not make the decision to pursue an MBA in general, and at LBS in particular, any easier. All I’ll do is satisfy a craving for what will turn out to be largely useless information. These are the wrong questions!’. Upon  which my very wise housemate asked ‘alright, if you know so well, then what are the right questions to ask?’. Ouch. She had me there. I don’t know. And although I’ve spent a few days thinking about them, I still don’t quite know. But I have come up with an analogy which might help a little.

See, it’s a little like buying a house/flat/piece of real estate. You ask what you think is important from the outside looking in. Some of these questions will be the right ones. Some of them won’t be. But you won’t know which questions fall into which category, until you experience it. And even then it might be hard to figure out what clinched the deal for you. If I think back on the property I bought way back when (my lovely 2 bed flat), I bought it after seeing it for 20 minutes, and having spent less than a day in that neighbourhood. It could’ve gone horribly wrong. But it didn’t. Did I ask all the right questions? Nope. Did I ask some stupid, inane questions that didn’t even matter to me once I settled in? Yep. And that’s what it’s like when you’re thinking about an MBA. I thought I was going to be active in the Women in Business club and asked questions about it, turns out that didn’t turn me on one bit and I wasn’t involved at all. However, if you asked me 3 years ago I would’ve said that mattered to me. I thought I wanted to go on an exchange and it turns out I did and I’m very happy with that choice. I had no idea I’d be involved with the Marketing Club or the Yearbook. I had an inkling I wanted to be a student ambassador. The catch 22 is that you won’t know what will matter to you, what will clinch the MBA deal for you until you do it. By which time obviously it’s too late to ask questions.

I’ve asked a bunch of people what types of things clinched the deal for an MBA/ an MBA at LBS for them and it’s rarely any of the things that any applicants asks me. It’s never about lecture methods, or scholarships or workload. It’s about atmosphere, great electives, your classmates, what you bring to the table, what opportunities you can create.

Alright, so I might need to develop this train of thought a bit more. Does it make any sense to anyone, this analogy?

Image top left: the box of the champagne for my 30th birthday.

New Year’s Eve (well, almost)

1355153367_cbc7e32fbc1Tomorrow is my own personal New Year’s Eve. Complete with champagne and new year’s resolutions. No, I’m not either celebrating the Jewish New Year (but if you do: happy new year!) or screwing up on my calendar-reading-skills, tomorrow marks the last day as a twentysomething. From Saturday onwards I’ll be checking the 30-35 category on surveys. And I wouldn’t be me (grammar?) if that didn’t call for a spot of celebration. I flew out to NL yesterday to spend a few days with my family, have a big birthday brekkie on Saturday morning and then fly back to LON to have a shindig over there. I do *love* a good celebration!

One of the coolest profs at LBS is professor Lynda Gratton, who’s just got a new book called Hot Spots out a few months ago, and has some very good advice here on video (with sound). I wholly agree with her idea of going out of your way to meeting new people, going to new places and putting yourself into new situations helps you become not only more creative, but also a better leader. And I think just a more interesting person in general. And you have more fun. You get my drift.

As a final note on this post, I saw this on Flickr the other day and couldn’t resist sharing.

[edit: photo taken at Last Night of the Proms in the Park last Saturday. And I promise I’ll go over the comments, I read all of them, but haven’t gotten round to saying something in return. But soon I will. After I hit my 30s.]


It was the amateur, in the library, with the candlestick

1313159917_04fa7f8d6dSubtitle: Is the amateur killing culture?

Farhan beat me to it (he’s more of a conscientious blogger than I am!), writing a detailed and very good report on the debate both of us attended on Tuesday. Andrew Keen talked about his book The Cult of the Amateur (which to be honest isn’t a very good read, but some of his ideas are interesting), whether the latest wave of internet technology is killing of large swathes of our culture such as professional journalism, music labels and bookstores.

Here’s my take on the whole thing (and bear with me, I trained as a bookhistorian a long time ago, so I’m trying to apply what I remember learning to this case. For once, being a bookhistorian is actually coming in handy in a practical reason!). History repeats itself over and over again. In the 15th century, when printing was invented, there was a huge outcry from people worried that the advent of printed books was going to destroy learning and cause all the wrong people to have access to all the wrong knowledge. Same in the 19th century. Due to the advent of the steam trains, the industrial revolution, and developments in papermaking and typesetting, the amount of printed matter exploded in the early 19th century. Again there was a huge outcry. Was all this knowledge falling into the wrong hands? And what kind of material would be printed? Vile novels that would destroy the morals of young women? Political works that would incite revolutions? Whenever a new technology is invented, it’s normal for people to denounce it, and prophesy doom and gloom. And then the technology finds its niche and the human race continues to live on, adapting to it more quickly than everyone thought. I suspect the same will happen with the internet. Let’s see what happens. Running around hysterically denouncing it will not do much good, though.

If you are now sad you missed it, MP3s of the debate can be found here.

It’s been an interesting and busy week. With the tube strike (Jubilee line kept on running, hoorah for the Jubilee line), work, leaving do’s, the above mentioned debate at the RSA and trying to figure out where I will hold my birthday bash next week, I’m glad it’s the weekend. I need some R&R!

What every MBA2009 should know

I was asked to be part of an alumni panel (alumni panel… oh boy. How do you know you’re well and truly not a student anymore? When you get asked for one of these!) talking about what things someone would have told us before doing an MBA, or more politically correct: what advice would we give to MBA’s just starting out. After much deliberating, and asking a few of my fellow alumni, I came up with the following short list and thought it might be helpful to put on here.

My list:
* Remember what you came here to do. I wrote down what I thought I wanted to get out of my time at LBS, and promised I’d try and fit as many things as I could in, and would only do things that I’d love doing and got excited about. It is easy getting sidetracked with everything that’s going on, and that goes in particular for jobs. I’ve been to Milkround presentations where I had no business going to, just because I felt I should go to them. Just because everyone else jumps into the river, doesn’t mean you have to also. Or something like this. You get my drift.
* Put learning before grades. LBS is a grade-non-disclosure school which means no one except for you will ever see your grades. Take advantage of this. Stretch yourself. I took electives which I otherwise never would have taken. An internship that was unpaid but was invaluable in figuring out what I wanted to do next. Learning sometimes doesn’t correlate with grades (and good internships don’t always correlate with earning lots of money), some of my classes where I got the worst grades I learned the most from. Always, always put learning before grades.
* Give back. I believe in ‘what goes around, comes around'; if you can help someone else, do. It’s good karma. If you are less altruistically inclined, remember this: it will come back to you in spades, but not in ways you can imagine now. If you trip someone up, they will remember and who knows, they might just give a negative recommendation to their friends who works for company X that you are just dying to work for.

I have since thought of a few more:
* Have fun and lighten up a little. Life’s not that serious. Neither is an MBA. Work hard, but also leave plenty of time to enjoy the good things in life
* Go outside your comfort zone in terms of friends. If you come to LBS, there will be around 60 other nationalities with you. And people from professional backgrounds you had no idea even existed. Don’t stick with what you know. Or who you know. Venture out, get to know different cultures and ideas.

I asked a few of my fellow alumni, and they came up with this (thanks to H, M and J and yes, the list is censored a bit):

* The best stuff happens outside of class
*  If you have never lived in England before, read Kate Fox’s Watching the English. It will make life a lot easier
*  If you are single, this is probably the last chance you will have to meet large numbers of people of the opposite sex.
* Only nerds, gifted individuals and private equity wannabes want to be on dean’s list. Nobody likes a wannabe. Everyone loves a nerd.
* Decide on your grading philosophy today.
* Try to focus on learning. Not grades. Learn to build your intuition, not memorize formulas.
* Don’t stare at the female professors. They will notice and they will remember (Natasja’s edit: huh? Ehm. I don’t personally have any experience with this, but will take my friend’s word for this)
* There are good cheap eats in London. You just have to find them. Asking helps.
* There is life beyond Marylebone Road. Not just at night and in clubs. Explore.
* Get involved in clubs.  This extends your network and allows you to apply the skills you are learning.
* Accept that the only way to make lots of money is to have no life.  Work-life balance mean fine tuning budget/expenditure balance.
* London is the world’s most expensive city.  Accept it now and stop whinging about it.
* Understand that this is an opportunity to learn about yourself and consider your next steps. you have another forty working years after graduation to work. Don’t fill your first year with too many electives as you will change your mind after your summer internship in any case.
* This is not your home and yes it is overcast here most the time – we all already know that, you’re not telling us anything we don’t know yet. Take advantage of the free museums, concerts, cheap arts and drama.

All of which I think is sound advice.