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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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