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Sunday, October 31, 2004

The best things in life are free 

Especially when they're weekends. After Friday's excitement/stress, I've a had a whole two days with no deadlines, nothing I absolutely had to do, and nowhere I had to be. I honestly can't remember the last time that happened. Bliss!

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Friday, October 29, 2004

Things are looking up 

Got a reply from the Stanford admissions office to say that as long as my application was in before the deadline (which it was) it'll be considered in r1 and they will make every attempt to match the late recommendation with it. Phew!

Many thanks to everyone for their good wishes. Hugs and warm thoughts to everyone else having problems.

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It really isn't my day 

Now I've just found a hole developing in the sweater I'm wearing. It's not a particularly special or expensive sweater, but it's comfortable, I like it, and I've only just had it dry cleaned :(

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Explanation 

When I gave my recommenders the deadline details I gave them both the details local to the schools and translated them to UK times. For Stanford, 5pm on the 28th in Palo Alto translated to 1am on the 29th in the UK. Ex-boss read this as 1pm, hence the late submission.

Everything happens for a reason etc., etc. I'm adjusting my mental timeframe to 31st March.

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Expletives Deleted 

Lots of them.

It looks like my third Stanford recommender (ex-boss) has submitted her rec AFTER the deadline. Why? How?

It's immensly frustrating. Not only does this mean potentially having to wait until March for a decision, it also means a bit of a waste of effort from my other two recommenders, who worked very hard at a time when they are very busy in order to meet the deadline. There's an outside chance that those nice people in Palo Alto might be being a bit lenient and let me into round one, as everything will be there when they get in this morning, but I'm not holding my breath.

B*gg*ring b*ll*cks.

I knew this was all going too smoothly.

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Thursday, October 28, 2004

Chatting with Wharton 

I finally made it to one of the Wharton Wednesday on-line chats yesterday. Generally on a Wednesday I've either been up since well before the crack of dawn and so am too tired, or I'm getting up ridiculously early on the Thursday and so need to get to bed. Yesterday I'd been up early but was still reasonably awake when 11pm (6pm EST) rolled around, so I made the effort. It was a pretty small group and I didn't manage to stay that long, but I'm glad I made it and will try to get there again. I didn't bother staying up for the lunar eclipse though - the sky was completely cloud covered when I went to bed, which meant sleep seemed the more sensible option.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Things are looking good 

The first of my Stanford recs went in yesterday evening, and the confirmation e-mail was SMS'd to my phone, so I'm now confident that the notifier is working and I don't need to continuously check my e-mails. The rec that's in is from my current boss, who seems to have found the process of the three recommendations really hard work. He wears another hat as a university professor, and so is quite used to doing academic references, but this has been his first experience of doing them for an MBA applicant. I know that he's also really concerned to do a good job for me, which is great. The peer reference is coming from a current colleague, and I know it's in hand and should be submitted later today. We were talking about it this morning, trying to identify some occasions where she'd given me significant feedback (which is one of the things Stanford asks about), and failing. The third rec is from my previous boss, who's got the other two recs in on time, so should be fine with this one.

Yesterday evening I did a quick on-line shop and sorted out thank you presents for all three recommenders. Colleague and former boss are getting nice scented candles from Jo Malone and current boss is getting a pen from Tiffany - he's one of those people who it's really difficult to think of something for and I decided that a pen was a. practical and b. easy to pass on to someone else if he wants to. I just need to sort my self out with some thank you cards and get a small thank you present for the friend who read through my essays for me (Theatre Tokens, I think) and then everyone should be taken care of.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Every man's death diminishes me 

I've just heard the sad news that John Peel has died. I think it would be fair to say that he was th UK's most influential DJ, and probably had a hand in shaping the popular music tastes of everyone in the country. His death is a tragedy for his family, and will leave a hole in British broadcasting. So sad.

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Small Success 

I seem to have got the SMS notifier working - really not sure why it wasn't before. A hiccough along the way (combined with an issue in the program which I don't think has ben thought through properly) ended up with me flooding my e-mail in-box with 1,000+ messages, but I've sorted that out now, got rid of the unwanted mail, and will e-mail customer service to let them know that there is a problem they might want to re-think.

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Return from the Twighlight Zone 

I've just spent an extended weekend in a town that would rank pretty highly in a 'most dismal place in Britain' competition. Got home last night to find two e-mails confirming receipt of my CPS's for Kellogg and an e-mail confirmation that I was complete for round 1. This was good news. Less good was the fact that I hadn't received an SMS notification of their arrival, which suggests that the programme isn't working - must see if I can find out why not.

I've still heard nothing from Kellogg about an interview. It's approaching five weeks since I got the confirmation that they'd received part 1 or my application, and interview information is meant to go out between two and six weeks from that point. So I'm geared up for hearing from them in the next ten days. I'm a bit surprised that it's taking so long.

S2S postings suggest that the Wharton invites have started. I really must get that SMS notifier sorted out . . . .

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Friday, October 22, 2004

Wharton in London 

Went to the Wharton reception in London last night. Getting there was slightly interesting for a variety of reasons (travel problems that meant I was late into work and therefore late getting away, trying to navigate a rather odd Tube route, door confusion when I got there) but I made it only about five minutes after the start time, and we didn't get going for another five, so I had time to get rid of my coat, get my breath back and relax. There were about 60 or 70 of us there, I think. Predominantly male, predominantly white (neither of which was really a surprise) and I couldn't tell what proportion were Brits.

The event was at Deutsche Bank's offices and the presentations started out with a Wharton alumnus from the class of 94 who works for Deutsche Bank. He talked about the fact that DB is the largest European recruiter from Wharton and that they regard the school as 'the greatest talent pool in the world'. He then talked about what he'd got from Wharton, focussing on the ability to manage change and the ability to learn. He said that the ability to survive depended on the ability to adapt, and that depended on the ability to learn. Despite the fact that he felt he'd forgotten lots of the detail that he'd learnt about areas that he now didn't use, Wharton had given him the ability to manage change and to keep learning, and they were the most valuable things in his career. He compared choosing a B-school to choosing a spouce, and sessions such as this one to part of the dating process, which I suppose is a pretty good analogy (although the anti-cultural imperialism bit of me objects to the fact that one no longer seems to be able to just 'go our with' or 'see' someone anymore on this side of the atlantic, you have to 'date' them, and my less than wonderfully succesful personal life makes me think it's not the most hopeful comparison, but however . . .)

Next up was Alex Brown, familar to anyone who frequents S2S. He talked about 'Why Wharton' and the Admissions process, highlights of which follow. I should add at this point, that I'd been up since 4.30am after not much sleep and my food intake for the day was instant soup and a raspberry bakewell tart, so I was not as alert as I might have been and therefore no doubt failed to write down /remember lots of what was said.

Why Wharton?

Size

Academics

Internationalism

Innovation

Student Culture

Philadelphia



Admissions

Alex is a great speaker and really had me enthused about Wharton by the time he'd finished, and the student panel that followed only increased that enthusiasm. The five students talked briefly about where they'd come from, what they're doing know and their Wharton experience. They were from the UK, the US, Russia, Argentina and France, and from classes ranging from (I think) 98 to 04. Unsurprisingly, there was a strong finance (of various sorts) representation, but also marketing, media, engineering and political advising in terms of both people's pasts and presents. The passion and ethusiasm of the panel really shone through. What came across to me was the international nature of the school, the importance of 'social enrichment' as part of the entire learning process, and the 'roll your sleeves up attitude' of students. Also, when talking about Philly, the British panel member described it as "like the North London of the East Coast". This probably doesn't mean much to anyone who doesn't know London, but I thought it was an interesting way of describing a city with a somewhat mixed reputation. And I kind of like north London.

A further twelve or so alumni then stood up and introduced themselves before we all trooped off to the lobby for drinks, nibbles and a Q&A session. I had a brief chat with Alex, for whom this was the last spot of three weeks recruiting in Europe, as everyone was getting drinks and fortified myself with some of the very tasty nibbles. The session started with the chair of the Wharton London alumni organisation talking about what they do, which I thought was an interesting element to include, and then we launched into questions. I must admit my brain is a bit hazy about the questions that were asked. One I remember was about the weaknesses of the school. I always think that the answers to this one are interesting and revelaing, and it's all too easy for them to end up being of the 'I work too hard' or 'I'm a perfectionist' type that we're warned against when answering similar questions as applicants. One of the alumni talked about the career centre and the fact that it hadn't really been geared up for the challenges of a recession, but how that had improved. Another made the point that the culture of the school was such that if students didn't like something, they changed it rather than just complaining about it. Someone else asked about non-profits and I discovered that there's a social entrepreneurship elective going to be introduced, which is interesting. When the Q& A broke up I spoke to one of the alumni who'd been involved in the International Volunteer Program(me), and then headed off in search of sleep.

I'd say this was the best of these sessions that I've been to. A nice building with an excellent auditorium for the main session, good alumni representation and tasty food. I'm very glad I went, and disappointed now that I missed the Kellogg one on Tuesday. I'm aware that it's all too easy to be more positive about one school than another becasue of the interaction you've had with them during the process, rather than because of more meaty issues. But until such time as I know whether anyone wants me, I suppose that's academic.


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Thursday, October 21, 2004

Trying to Manage the Waiting 

It's only a week since the Wharton deadline, and even less time since I did my final application submission, but already the waiting is getting to me. In an attempt to ensure that I do something more productive than check my e-mail several times a day for the next three months, I've set up an e-mail to SMS alert. If it works, it should mean that all admissions related e-mails get sent to my phone. So no matter where I am or what time of day (or night it is) I'll know that something's happening. In an ideal world I'd just like to shut off from things completely, give them no thought or worry at all, and be happy to hear whatever I hear whenever I hear it. In this less than ideal world, SMS seems like the best way to minimise the worry and maximise my concentration on things that I can actually do something about.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Yuck! 

I was meant to go to Kellogg's London reception last night, but didn't. A combination of low level bugs left me feeling far from wonderful, so I ended up working from home rather than the office, which meant getting to London in the evening wasn't an option. I'm still not feeling great, but I absolutely have to be in the office on Thursday and Friday, so will be making it to the Wharton session on Thursday evening. I'm not too worried about having missed the Kellogg one. I got lots of information when I visited the campus, and my applications in. I might have gained something useful for my interview, but I'm not going to stress about it.

We are now in my least favourite fortnight of the year. I'm not sure exactly why, but I always find the two weeks before the clocks go back really difficult. I presume it has something to do with the reducing daylight, although when we get to equivalent, and lower, light levels after a few weeks back on Greenwich Mean Time, I never feel as bad. The increasing cold and dampness that we get at this time of year doesn't help either. Right now, I just want to hibernate and eat chocolate. I find it difficult to get motivated to do anything and easily stressed when I try - you should have seen me trying to get the shrink wrap of a new box of chamomile tea earlier today. Still, knowing why I feel like I'm living on the edge of sanity makes it all easier to deal with and I know that in another ten days I'll feel fine again. Until then, I'll be doing my bit to ensure that chocolate manufacturers remain profitable, nd being ery thankful that I got my applications out of the way before this hit.

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Monday, October 18, 2004

Update and Important Dates from Wharton 

Thank you for submitting your application for Round 1. Here is some information to guide you through the next steps in the process.

Your online status:

- "Complete for Round One": means we have received all your application materials and your file has been forwarded to the Admissions Committee for review.
- "Received": means the Operations Team needs to process your hard-copy materials. After these are processed, your online account will be changed to "Complete for Rd 1" and your file will be forwarded to the Admissions Committee for review.
- no status appears: if you applied by hard copy, we are still processing your application materials. You will receive an email on how to access your online account once your application has been processed. Please allow operations until Friday October 29th before inquiring about your application.


Invitations to interview:

- we will begin releasing invitations on Thursday, October 21st and will continue until 5pm Eastern Standard Time (EST) on Thursday, November 18th. There is no particular order in which invitations are released.
- if invited for an interview, you will need to complete one by Thursday, December 9, 2004. Interviews will be available on-campus with trained 2nd year MBAs who are full members of the Admissions Committee or off-campus by alumni or staff. All interviews carry equal weight in the admissions process. There is no advantage to interviewing in one venue over another.


Final Admissions decisions:

- Candidates who have not received an invitation to interview by November 18th will receive a final admissions decision indicating that they are no longer being considered for admission this year.
- Candidates who are offered an interview will receive their final admissions decision by 5pm EST on Thursday, December 23rd.


Thank you for applying to the Wharton School. We look forward to reviewing your application.


Sincerely,
Wharton MBA Admissions Committee
Lauder Admissions Wharton MBA Admissions Office
http://mba.wharton.upenn.edu


So Thursday marks the start of the official four-week interview worry period.

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Looking back, looking forward 

A year ago I was in California. I'd spent a week in San Francisco, done a quick trip to Yosemite, and was fulfilling an ambition to see Sea Otters in the wild with a few days in Monterey. All the while, I was mulling over my recent decision to seriously look at doing a full-time MBA and to investigate doing it in the US. In the twelve months since then, the MBA application process has dominated my life. GMAT, school research, essay writing, form filling - they've taken hundreds of hours and a vast emotional investment. Now the applications are in, and unless something goes wrong with the outstanding recommendations, I'm just three months away from knowing where all that work has got me. I think three-months of waiting is going to be much harder than twelve months of doing.

In these last few days, since I clicked submit for Stanford, I've been reflecting on what I've gained from the application process. Like most applicants, I suspect, I'd read much about how writing an application was very introspective and a learning process. I think that it's once of those experiences that you really need to go through though before you realise just how true the statements are.

I've learnt a lot about where I've come from, careerwise. I've always had a good stock of what I think of as 'dinner party stories'. I can tell you about why you should never take a mixed drink from a certain bishop, my experience f dealing with an 'A-list' actor's stalker, and numerous occasions on which 've spilled coffee alll over myself at inopportune moments. The nature of my jobs has also meant that I've done lots of things which seem to be considered 'interesting', even if they didn't seem that way to me at the time. During the application process though, I've realised that there are alot of things thatI've done or been involved with that really are significant, even if only in a very small way. Things that have made a difference that matters. And I've realised how all the bits fit together into a career path. On the days when I quesiton what I'm doing, when I don't seem to be getting anywhere, when I wonder what the point is, it's good to remember those things.

I've also learnt a great deal about where I want to go. A year ago, I'd have said I had a pretty clear idea of my future career direction, but I know that it's a whole lot more sharply focussed now. I'm much better able to articulate to myself what it is I enjoy doing, and what I'd be glad never to do again. I know where I'm aiming for and why it is that I want to get there. I know the routes I can take, and the sacrifices I'll probably have to make on the way. So when the next job move comes, whether it's in four months time or a couple of years from now, I'm sure I'm goingto be making a better decision than I would have done this time last year.

Finally, I've started to understand more about who I am. The elements of 'me' that I've highlighted in my applications are ones which are really important to me, and writing the essays has helped me to remember their importance and understand the parts that they've played in my life. Looking at the topics that I've really struggled with has taught me just as much. Recently I've been going through a bit of a family situation and have been increasingly experiencing the feeling that I was dancing a dance that I'd danced several times before. While I was writing Stanford Essay 1 something clicked, and I realised that in fact I'd been dancing that dance nearly all my life, and for the frst time I recognised the reasons behind it. I'm still t sure what to do with that insight, but I'm glad I've had it.

So now it's three months of waiting. Come January 18th I might well be sitting here having just received my third ding. Of course, I'd much rather be receiving my third acceptance, but even if it's the former scenario I know that I will have gained an awful lot from the experience and I'll be grateful that I chose to put myself through it.

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Sunday, October 17, 2004

Relaxation? What's that again? 

I could really have done with a weekend doing as little as possible, but unfortunatley it wasn't to be. Yesterday I had an 'away day' with my church council, which was useful and interesting, but ate up a whole Saturday. Today I'm helping out with a children's instrument making worksop and concert. On Friday, the intern I'm managing said he was planning to spend the weekend 'sitting very still'. I envy him.

I've resolved to take Mark's advice, and stay away from the Business Week boards. I think any support they offer will be more than outweighed by the paranoia and panic they seem to induce, and at the moment I'm finding the various posts along the lines of 'If I miss a deadline, will I really be bumped to the next round' and 'Your application website says x, y, and z, do you really mean that?' rather annoying.

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Friday, October 15, 2004

And so it begins . . . 

The waiting. The buttons have been pressed, the credit cards have been flexed, and the journey that started a little over a year ago has come to a pause. It's out of my hands now. I've put the sum total of my hopes and dreams, not to mention hundreds of hours of work, into the hands of three Admissions Committees. With the exception of the Kellogg interview, which they'll presumably contact me about at some point, there's nothing more for me to do right now except wait.

And hope.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Finally 

I've managed a complete draft of Stanford essay 1. I need to come back to it at the weekend, and a couple of paragraphs in particular need some attention, but a least thoughts or now on paper (or hard drive). I know that the Stanford deadline is over a fortnight away, and I know other people are working towards earlier deadlines, but it is a weight off my mind. I've never been one for last minute rushes (I hate to think how many hours I've wasted waiting in airports, stations etc over the years, becasue I've allowed extra time so I wouldn't be late) and I know how busy I'm going to be in the next couple of weeks, plus I think I might have a cold coming on. So the knowledge that I'm really almost there with Stanford is comforting.

And I've just had a status change e-mail from Wharton, I'm now officially complet for r1!

Good luck to everyone else working towards r1 deadlines.

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And they're in 

Both my recommendations for Wharton are now in, and I've breathed a huge sigh of relief. Stanford essay one is still unfinished though. Aaaaaaagggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhh!

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Monday, October 11, 2004

People Like Us 

One of the things that struck me at the Forte Forum, but which I somehow managed to miss out entirely from my last blog entry, was the value for female propspective candidates of being at an event where they're in the majority. Personally, I've always taken a very 'ungendered' of myself and have been fortunate to have had an upbringing and a career-to-date where I've never really had a 'you can't do that, you don't have a Y chromosone' - type experience. But I know that's not the case for everyone and that for some women, being in an information session where 80% of the potential applicants are men can make them question whether B-school is the place for people like them.

My thoughts on this lastMonday night were leading into thoughts I've been having for a while about management education and the nfp sector. I think there's a culture in a lot of the sector, at least in the UK, that views managment education as 'not for the likes of us'. My guess is that anyone working in a marketing role in the sector will have developed a repertoire of ways of expressing the concept of 'brand', for example, without actually using the b word, because it tends to scare people. And too often things like planning, strategy, measurement and evaluation are seen as impositions from the private sector that get in the way of what the nfp sector is trying to do, rather than as tools that can help us do things better. So management education is viewed with suspicion. I wonder what can be done to change that.

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Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Forte Forum 

Yesterday evening I went to the Forte Forum in London. for those of you that don't know ( and don't want to follow the link), the Forte Foundation is a relatively new corsortium of B-schools, companies and non-profit foundations that aims to encourage and support women into business leadership roles. Among other activities, it runs a series of fora in various cities (mostly the US, last night's London event was the first international one, apparently) exploring 'The MBA Value Proposition'.

There were two main elements to the evening - a panel discussion and a 'B-school Fair' of the schools involved in Forte. The panel element was opened by the Dean of the London Business School (LBS were hosting the event) who spoke about the importance of developing and retaining female business leaders, and the fact that the proportion on female MBA applications plummets once you get outside North America. She said that the proportion of female students in business schools in the US pretty much mirrors the proportion of applicants, but there are many fewer non-North American female applicants, which makes it more challenging to have a good proportion of female students at schools such as LBS.

The panel comprisses an American Yale grad who'd been in non-profit before business school and had switched to financial trading, an American MIT Sloan grad who'd transitioned from being an economist with the Federal Reserve to brand management for Diners Club, a South African LBS grad who'd moved from corporate lawa to set up the Fresh! organic sandwich company (I highly recommend their sandwiches - not cheap but really good) and a South African LBS student who was just starting her first year. In addition, alumnae from various other schools were in the audience and chipped in with answers to questions.

It was interesting to go to an event that was focussed on the benefits of an MBA rather than on any one school of programme in particular. I also found it interesting that the vast majority of the questions were general rather than 'female focussed', much more so than at the Stanford information session for women a couple of weeks ago. Given that I'm already very much set on going to B-school, I wasn't really the prime target audience for this event and I didn't come away with any startling new revelations (although maybe some useful information to use in a scholarship application). I'd beenb tempted to bail out earlier in the evening - getting there had necessitated working in the office rather than at home (which is what I usually do on a Monday), and being able to get to the office in time to leave early enough had necessitated getting up at 4am, so by the time I was heading to LBS I was very tired and hadn't had time to get something to eat so was also very hungry - but I'm glad I went. There were c 50 potential applicants there, and I think the discussion communicated that an MBA is worthwhile investment that enables you to expand your horizons and opens new doors (and helps keep them open should you decide to have a career break to start a family). It was also heartening to see the panel so cheerful about taking on and paying off debt to finance it. (One of the panelists mentioned that when she graduated lots of people got signing bonusses which took care of a big chunk of the debt. I was sitting behind Alex Brown from Wharton, and his reaction to this suggested that it wasn't something that current applicants should count on, though.)

As I already know where I'm applying, I was less interested in the 'fair' side of things, which went on before and after the discussion. I introduced myself to Alex, to put a face to a name, in the early session, and then headed home once the discussion was over. All in all, I think it was a worthwhile evening. Some of the organistion could have been a bit better (clearer signage, better use of people to direct participants, more signing-in sheets, a less surly security guard on the front desk) but I hope it will have encouraged some good applicants. I also hope Forte consider doing some undergrad events in the UK. I was conscious that last night they were preaching to the at least partially converted (women who've decided that an MBA is at least worth exploring) but there must be a whole lot more who've never thought of it.


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Saturday, October 02, 2004

Ladies who lunch 

Had a good lunch with one of my recommenders yesterday (as in the discussions were good, the food was just OK). She'd looked into doing an MPA a couple of years ago but decided against it, and says she's very envious of me for taking the leap. (That's envious in an 'I really admire you way' way, rather than a 'how can I stab you in the back' way.) I'm now feeling much more settled about the rec's and that they'll all be in on time. I now need to concentrate on Stanford essay one, for which I still don't have a complete draft. 26 days and counting.

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