Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Written in the stars? 

When it comes to astrology, I'd describe myself as an open-minden sceptic. I'm not one to believe everything that's put in front of me, but 'more things in heaven and earth' and all that jazz. I once worked in a communications team of thirty, twenty of whom were geminis (supposedly the sign of communication). My knowledge of statistics isn't good enough to know whether this is significant or not.

Anyway, a friend of mine who is much more into this kind of thing, bought be an Astrological Locations profile, which apparently shows the best and worst places in the world for me in relation to a number of factors. Here are the edited highlights:

Uzbekistan is well-starred for 'personal realisation' (rather interesting as I've been visiting). Six of the top seven places for 'personal contacts' are francophone. There is a whole are of the US that is bad for 'a long marriage and good partnership' (New Mexico, both Dakotas, Arizona, Colorado), but California is pretty good, and Arizona is well-starred for sex (as are Utah and Montana). And the best place for making a career - the Midway Islands (yes, roughly in the region of Hawai, population 100, according to their website).

It's a good job I don't take this stuff too seriously or I'd be looking for a business school in the Central African Republic with an Eco-Tourism major.


The Beauty of Science 

How often do you see a business idea and think 'Why didn't that occur to me?" ? Well, here's one that I wish I'd thought of. The 'men's' silver necklace is very cool.


Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Kellogg Essay 3 

You have been selected as a member of the Kellogg Admissions Committee. Please provide a brief evaluative assessment of your file.

I remember reading someone's complaints about this essay. Their point, if I remember rightly, was that you were being asked to re-hash what you'd already spent several essays covering. In contrast, I'm finding it a really useful essay to do.

First off, it makes you focus on what the people actually evaluating the file will be looking for. I went and found the section on the Kellogg website that talked about how they evaluate applications and I'm using the criteria they list as sub-heads.

Second, it allows you to spot the areas where the rest of your application is weak. If I'm strugling to find something to write under a sub-head, then I need to make sure that I go back to the rest of the app. and make sure I'm addressing that area. I've started drafting this one early on in the process to help me ensure I cover all the bases with the rest of my materials.

Third, it allows you to anticipate adcom's concerns and address them. Lowish quant GMAT but lots of quant in you work? You can point it out without having to use an optional essay to do so, or worrying that the person reading your file won't make the connection. I'm taking the opportunity to put my career progress in context, on the basis that it's unlikely that anyone reading the file will know anything about the average career development of a fundraiser in the UK.

I just wish I knew what the 'choose 3 from x' essays are going to be, so I could get on and write them.


The little things that please 

The more observant amongst you might have noticed that I've added an e-mail link in the column on the left. I worked out how to do it all by myself and didn't do anything horrible to my fonts or other settings in the process. I feel so proud :)


Stanford Dates Out 

Spotted on Dave's Blog that Stanford has published its deadline dates for 04/05. The R1 deadline is 28/10 and decisions are on 18/1. By my calculations, they've shaved a whole three days off the turnaround time. Now I just need Kellogg to confirm their dates, and I'll have my calendar all mapped out.


Selling Tea to China 

I spotted in the news yesterday that a UK tea company has won a contract to sell tea in China. Some of it will be Chinese tea, that is sent to the UK for packing and processing, and then sent back to China. The company in question is based in the town where I grew up (and still consider as home, to an extent) so I do feel happy for them, but the environmentalist in me is screaming FOOD MILES!


Monday, June 28, 2004

The final episodes of Frasier were shown on UK terrestrial TV last week, and I got around to watching my video of them over the weekend. I was going to moan about American actors with terrible British accents, until I googled Anthony La Paglia to check how to spell his name, and found that he's Australian. (Before anyone else mentions it, yes Ewan McGregor's accent in Big Fish was appalling. And I will concede Gwyneth Paltrow and James Marsters as being pretty convincing playing Brits most of the time.) Instead, let me muse upon the seeming inability of someone involved in the programme to grasp the whole concept of regional accents. A woman from Manchester would not have brothers who sounded like they came from London's East End, Glasgow, and a Knightsbridge Finishing School. Would someone from Texas be portrayed with a brother who sounded like he was from Minnesota? I think not. We Small Islanders do get rather put out by thoughtless treatments of our shores and our people, and it really takes very little effort to get it right and keep us happy

I also watched my DVD of Macbeth. It was fascinating to see two productions of the same play back to back, comparing similarities and differences in the treatments. And, fitting in nicely with my rant about accents, it was interesting to compare how the language was treated, and how changing the melody and rhythm of the words can totally transform their meaning. The 'music of language' and of languages is something that has long fascinated me, and I think is one of the key elements of getting under the skin of a language (or an accent) and using it convincingly. It's also something to keep in mind when trying to write attention grabbing essays. On which note . . . .


Sunday, June 27, 2004

More work on essays 

I now have a Kellogg essay 1 that I'm happy with. Everything except the 'why here' section is also going to be used for Wharton essay 1, so I have a good chunk of that essay in a fit state for adcoms' eyes as well. I'm going to have to cut the Wharton one down a bit though. 10pt font and a slight narrowing of margins has enabled me to get 1,154 words onto two sides for Kellogg. Wharton ask for 1,000 words, so I don't want to go over 1,100. Also written is an 'ethical challenge' essay that might be used for both Kellogg and Wharton (three paragraphs for K, under 500 words for W). Where there's a choice of topics, I'm planning to write an essay for all the titles and then use the ones that work best within the context of each application as a whole.

My job involves quite a bit of writing - writing on a specific topic, trying to get the optimum blend of emotion and logic, with the aim of persuading people to give me a limited and much competed for resource (their money). The parallels with persuading adcoms to give me their limited and much competed for resource (a seat in the class of 2007) are many, so I consider myself to be at a bit of an advantage when it comes to approaching the essays. Even so, they are far from easy.

My advice to everyone approaching essays is, don't underestimate how much time writing, editing and re-writing take. And don't underestimate the difference they can make to the finished product. My first drafts of both essays would probably have been considered fine by many, but the third drafts are just so much better. The ideas flow more logically, superfluous words and subjects are gone, and it all feels much tighter and more focused. So, come interview and admissions decisions, when posters on the various boards are expressing their incredulity at being dinged when they'd written such good essays, I'd advise taking their self-evaluation with a large pinch of sodium chloride. Unless it's me of course!


What's in a name 

I saw Macbeth in Stratford-Upon-Avon yesterday. While there, I also bought a DVD of the RSC's previous production of Macbeth, and a book by Harriet Walter, who played Lady Macbeth in that production, about the play and her experience of creating that production. One of the things I love about theatre is the ability of actors and director to give us a fresh perspective on the text. The play may have been written four hundred years ago, but every production gives us something new.

While in Stratford I attempted to find a pewter shop that I'd visited about five years ago. I failed to find it (I think it's probably closed) but I did come across an antique jewellery shop with some realy beautiful pieces. Now, I'd automatically question the advisability of buying jewellery in a town where everything is priced for tourists, but, given that most jewellery is bought and given within the context of relationships, I'd especially question the advisabilty of buying it from a jewellers calleg Iago's. Not really the sort of association I'd want to have with a love token.


Friday, June 25, 2004

Itchy Feet 

I've been going through my photos from a trip I made to Bhutan a couple of years ago, trying to select some to enter in a travel photography competition. (I'm not a serious photographer by any means, but thought it would be fun to enter.)

I can feel the travel bug getting a grip and am trying to identify when work and applications will allow me to get away. Egypt and Uzbekistan are both enticing.


Assess v Describe 

I've had another stab at Kellogg Essay 1, and am getting towards something I'm happier with. Proportion wise, it's now roughly one third career history, one third future plans / why MBA / why now, and one third why Kellogg.

The actual title is:
Briefly assess your career progress to date. Elaborate on your future career plans and your motivation for pursuing a graduate degree at the Kellogg School.

I'm not sure exactly how I should be responding to 'assess'. At the moment it's very much a description, with a mention as I move into my future plans that I have progressed 'through the ranks' quickly. Anyone have any thoughts?

I also wonder whether I'm saying enough about my future plans. At the moment I say:

I have progressed ‘through the ranks’ of fundraising quickly and have now reached a natural watershed in my career. I am at a level at which many fundraisers choose to stay, some move into fundraising consultancy, others look for senior fundraising positions in larger organizations. I wish to move from being a fundraising specialist into more general management roles. I want to go on to lead not-for-profit organizations, and to be a role model for other leaders and aspiring leaders. In the shorter term, I would like to assist organizations to improve their effectiveness by working as a consultant within the sector.

Short and sweet. Given my career history, it makes perfect sense and I'm not really sure what more I can say, but is it enough? Answers on a postcard please (or by e-mail, or in the comments box:) )


Thursday, June 24, 2004


Today is an 'office' day, so I had a early start from home. In the winter early mornings are horrible - dark, cold and univiting. In the summer I actually enjoy being able to see the world when it is quiet and still.

The wind and rain of the last couple of days has done a surprising amount of damage near my home. Lots of branches have become detached from their trees. A flat three doors down from me is being used for filming scenes from a TV series this week. They were doing outdoor shots on Monday evening, and are doing more tonight. I hope none of the filming from the two sessions is meant to fit together or they are going to have major continuity problems with the natural environment.

One of the disadvantages to early starts is that I'm often going out just as late night revellers are making their way home. This morning I shared the bus with a bloke who was rather the worse for wear in the alcohol department and, on learning what I did for a living, attempted to tell me about some charity event he was trying to organise. This happens much more often than you'd think (the pitching of charity ideas, rather than the being accosted by drunks on public transport)which I suppose I should find heartening, people are maybe more concerned for others than one might expect. He asked if he could give me his number (qualified with a slightly slurred "this isn't a pick up, honest, I'm married") and, having decided that he was probably safe when sober, I gave him my business card. I suspect that he'll wake up later today and be utterly confused as to why he's got it, but if he does remember, it's possible I might be able to give him some useful advice.

Is the ability to network at 5.30am in unusual circumstances worth mentioning somewhere in my B-school apps, do you think?!


Wednesday, June 23, 2004

First essay drafted 

It's June and I've switched the cenral heating on. Hmmmm. Lack of sun and a reluctance to do anything that involves going outside and getting soaked / blown off my feet / both, coupled with a TV schedule full of sport and 'reality' shows, has helped me to focus on getting my first entire essay written. It's the Kellogg 'Why MBA?, Why Now?, Why Here?' one, a chunk of which is also going to be in the Wharton equivalent.

I'm not entirely convinced by it at the moment. Roughly 50% is taken up with 'career review', which seems like too high a proportion, but I really don't know what I can leave out and still have it make sense. There's very little that is specific to Kellogg. But I have laid out what it is I want from an MBA (which is common to all the schools) and demonstrated how Kellogg meets those needs. Maybe once I've done the second essay (what makes me unique), essay 1 will make more sense, or I'll see what I can lose from it.

I don't like the way Kellogg measures essay length. The main three are quantified in 'sides'. I'd really much rather have a word count. Sides are 'moveable feasts' - the number of words on them depends very much on the font size and the page layout. Not to mention that the standard page size in the UK is different to that in the US. Then there's how you present the text. There are some bits I could express much more succinctly in bullett points, but these take up more page space. Grrrrrrrrrrr.


I wish to apologise . . . . 

. . . . to everyone in the UK for talking (OK, writing) about Christmas and darkening evenings. The weather appears to read my blog and has responded by turning wintery. This time last week people were complaining that it was just too hot. Today we have gales and torrential rain, and putting the heating on doesn't seem like such a stupid idea.


The year of the applicant. Does that mean me? 

According to Business Week, this year has been the Year of the MBA Applicant, with the trend set to continue for the 04/05 application cycle. Still as Power Yogi points out, that doesn't mean it's plain sailing. Good schools are always going to get more good applicants than they can admit.


Tuesday, June 22, 2004

And the nights are getting shorter . . . . .  

With yesterday being the longest day (at least in the northern hemisphere) nights are now oficially drawing in. I love the long, light evenings of summer, they make all that dark in the winter worth it (as I constantly remind myself from November to February).


Monday, June 21, 2004

Only 180 days until Christmas 

Someone, I'm afraid I don't know who, opined that the ideal time to start one's Christmas shopping was at somepoint between the start of Wimbledon Fortnight and the August bank holiday (last Monday in August). Wimbledon starts today, so I guess that means Christmas shopping season is officially open!

I'm not in favour of the seemingly ever earlier start to the festive season(last year I received my first charity christmas card catalogue in July!) and was once moved so far as to write to a store manager complaining about the 'Season's Greetings' decorations that had appeared in October (I queried which season we were greeting - Autumn?). But I am one for advanced planning, in case you haven't guessed from my early start to the whole B-school thing. I'm also a sucker for nice stationery. So the recent business week mba e-mail, with a case study on an HBS alumnus' business , pulled me in, and I will admit to drooling over lovely holiday cards.

Oh, and 180 days to Christmas means, I think, 178 to Wharton round one decisions!


Saturday, June 19, 2004

One more thing ticked off the list 

Sang in a concert yesterday. It was a rather eclectic mix ranging from Bach to the Beatles and from madrigals to spirituals, all under the title 'Music for a Summer Evening'. Unfortunatley the evening was not as summery as it could have been, so we had to sing inside rahter than out in the garden, which had been the original plan.

Afterwards I met up with a friends from the choir who'd come to listen becuase they'd taken this term off from singing. Two of them, a couple, kindly agreed to read through my application essays, once I've written them. She is part way through an English PhD and does a lot of reading and marking of undergraduate essays. He is a barrister (one of the 'species' of lawyer in England). Both know me reasonably well, but not in a wrok context. Between them, I think I'll get some useful feedback on style, tone, how my arguments hang together, and whether I'm presenting a convinving picture of myself.


Friday, June 18, 2004


In the UK we are now in the full flow of 'The Season'. Debrett's, describes this phenomenum thus:

The Social Season
The Season is the name for the series of events that make up the British social calendar. The Season proper runs from April to August and includes such events as Henley, Ascot and the Chelsea Flower Show. There is, however, a wide range of events all year round, from carol concerts and balls at Christmas to summer exhibitions, Wimbledon and the Proms.

The Season has been an integral part of British life for several hundred years. The debutante season was central to this: young women made their debut in society and were presented at court. This practice was discontinued in the 1950s, but a scaled-down version of the debutante season survives.

Whilst traditionally regarded as the pursuit of the upper classes, with arcane rules governing dress and etiquette, the Season has become increasingly accessible. The growth of corporate hospitality has served only to make the season more popular. Very few of the events are closed; tickets for the majority of events are available to all who apply.

Not being into pretending to be 'upper class', the most significant point in 'The Season' for me is Ascot week, because that seems to be when the pollen count reaches it's hight. This has been the week, and I seem to have spent most of it either sneezing and itching, or so dopped up on anti-histamines that my brain struggled to function. So I've decided to call it a day early, and my weekend is starting here.

The next major event on the social calendar is Wimbledon, which starts on Monday. In true form the temperatures have cooled, the sun has disappeared and rain is forecast. As one of my university professors used to joke, the English translation of 'monsoon' is 'Wimbledon Fortnight'.


Keeping on moving 

My former boss has said that she's happy to do recommendations and let me know her travel plans for the summer so that we can timetable things accordingly. I'm really glad to have that sorted. I've also booked myself in the attend Wharton's London information event on July 15th. I'm glad that I'm going to be able to attend a Wharton event before I start on my application. The World MBA Tour doesn't hit London until after the Wharton deadline and I'm not going to be able to get to Philly before late September. The July event will mean that I'll have a bit more background information to use in my inital essay drafts, and I can then do final revisions after my visit.


Monday, June 14, 2004

I guess that was the weekend then 

We had an all day work event on Saturday. This involved eight hours or running around after various people and trying to co-ordinate everyone and everything. Being on my feet and 'on' for that length of time is pretty tiring, and then there were problems with the trains on the way back. Finally got home at 11.20pm, fourteen hours after I'd left. I could really have done with a nice lazy day on Sunday, but other commitments meant that wasn't to be. Still, it's now only four days until the weekend, and this time I should be able to catch up with chores / do some b-school stuff / relax a bit.

I've e-mailed my boss in my previous job to ask her if she'll do me recommendations. It's two and a half years since I've worked for her, but I think she'll be able to give a meaningful perspective, especially because of the differences between that organisation and the one I work for now. There we were a staff of 300+ and I was part of a team of 14. Here, the staff number 24 and I'm in a functional team that varies between 1 and 2, and part of a management team of 6.

Kellogg only needs one recommender, Wharton two (I think), and Stanford three. I'm going to ask my ex-boss to do one for Kellogg as well as my current boss. The admissions officer I saw when I visited said that this was OK as long as it added value to the application, which it will. My old organisation was much more team based than my current one, and given the importance of teamwork at Kellogg I really want to make sure that my strengths in that area come across.

I've found it interesting to look at the questions the three schools ask on the recommendation forms. Stanford asks recommenders to rate candidates on a scale from 1 to 5 on a variety of areas, with examples of the behaviours exhibited for each level. They also state that it should be extremely rare for a candidate to score 5 in all areas, and unusual for a candidate to receive all 4's or 5's. I can really see the value in this for trying to ensure that all recommenders rate candidates on the same basis, but the criteria used could favour people in some types of organisations over others. For example, having an impact on the whole organisation is rated more highly than having an impact on your direct area, but it's much easier to impact the whole organisation if you're in a small outfit (like mine) than in a much larger one. But then I guess no system's perfect.


Sunday, June 06, 2004

Busy doing nothing . . . . . .  

. . . . at least as far as MBA application are concerned. The week just gone and the two coming up are pretty full of work and non-work-but-non-MBA related stuff, so there's not much going on to blog about.

I did use a productive ten minutes a couple of weeks ago to write and request my transcripts, and these all arrived a couple of days ago. I figured it made sense to sort them out now, rather than risking missing a round deadline or having to do a mad dash to get one after receiving an interview invite (in the event that anyone wants to interview me). So I now have four sets transcripts for my undergraduate degree and for a post-graduate diploma, all safely tucked away in my filing cabinet.

I don't know what's pollinated in the last few days, but my hayfever has arrived with a vengeance. It's also got warm (by British standards) in the past couple of days. This has made for lovely nights of lying awake overheating and itching. I've lived in a basement flat for the last two years, and am really noticing the lack of underground cooling. Still, the sun is lovely, anti-histamines keep the worst of the sniffles away during the day and I might just break open the 'these tables make you drowsy' ones for dual anti-pollen and pro-sleep relief overnight.


Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Eat, Drink and Be Merry 

We've just had a three day weekend in the UK (Spring Bank Holiday on the last Monday in May), my landlord (who is also a friend)has been over from France and it was my birthday on Sunday, so it's been a very social time. Consumption of food and alcohol has been much higher than usual, and I seem to have talked about my MBA plans about a zillion times. Getting up at a normal workday time this morning, especially after beer, whisky and late conversation last night, was quite a shock.


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