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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

All set 

Have managed to make contact with both my allocated interviewer for Stanford and the Kellogg admisssions office. The Stanford interviewer is pretty local, which makes things easy, and we're meeting up next Thursday morning. The Kellogg interview's set for the evening of the next day, which means I'm going to have all three interviews over and done with within eight days of each other. So a nice concentrated burst of activity and then back to waiting.

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Wharton interview prep 

Various people have asked for details of what I’ve done to prepare for the Wharton interview. I’ve already blogged about some of them, but here’s a summary for ease of reference:

I haven’t done mock interviews or sat and planned out answers word for word. I’m told that I interview very well, so I’m not overly concerned about they physical aspects of an interview, and I’m more comfortable when I’m ‘improvising’ rather than working from a rehearsed script.

I hope people find this useful. I’ll let you know how useful I found it after Thursday.


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In demand 

Got up at an unearthly hour this morning in order to travel to the office, where I'm based for the next three days. Picked up my mobile (cell) which was charging in the living room, to find it flashing with a text message. It turned out to be a forwarded e-mail from Stanford inviting me to interview with an alumnus. Yeah!

Got into work, checked my e-mail for the details and found another e-mail waiting from Kellogg asking me to phone them to book a telephone interview. It's all go today.

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Monday, November 29, 2004

It is far on in the night; day is near. 

Yesterday was Advent Sunday. For those unfamiliar with the Christian calendar, Advent is the period leading up to Christmas and stars on the fourth Sunday before Christmas day. This means that all the readings and music are on the theme of waiting, and hoping and expecting, which just feels a bit too close to home at the moment. I've opted to have neither an advent candle nor an advent calendar this year, because I felt they'd only serve to remind me of the approaching decsion date and do little for my sanity.

I have stopped mythering about my Christmas travel plans though. Getting to my Mum's by 2pm will mean an early start, and as I'm going to be late home the night before that might not be fun. Planning to break my journey, given the usual performance of British trains, means risking that at 2pm I'll be sat on a train in the middle of nowhere, having not moved for the last 45 minutes, and slowly tearing my hair out. So I'm going to be staying at home until the decisions are out, and then hopping on a train shortly afterwards. I might even have time for a spot of good luck shoe shopping that morning to take my mind off things - I've got my eye on a rather spiffy pair of red boots.

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Sunday, November 28, 2004

Please don't let it get any worse than this 

Talk to anyone in the process of applying to an MBA course and chances are, whatever stage they're at, they're not enjoying it much. The GMAT with all the maths and grammar rules you haven't used for years is a slog to study for and an endurance test to sit. Then it's essay writing. What do you want to say? What do you need to say? How do you say it all in such a small number of words? There are the drafts, the re-drafts, the frantic spellchecking, the formatting worries, the hours and hours and hours of work. Then the essays are done, the forms are filled in and all you can do is sit and wait. And hope. And worry. Each stage seems worse than the one before, with the possobility that the final stage, decison day, could be the worst yet.

Well, I think I've just experienced my nadir. Worse than the GMAT. Worse than draft 27 of an essay. Worse than long hours of thumb twiddling wondering what the good folk in Philly or Palo Alto or Evanston think of me.

Trouser shortening.

Let me explain. I'm 5'3" and long bodied, which makes for pretty short legs. Trying to find trousers of any sort that are the right length is not easy. Trying to find some that are part of a suit is nigh on impossible. And yes, I know that theoretically I could wear a skirt, but if you'd seen my calves then you'd understand why that isn't really an option. So, I've spent this afternoon shortening my suit trousers by about four inches. If this were an admissions requirement, I think I'd be working on plan B right now. It's been a battle, but I think I finally managed to get both legs the same length as each other, and a uniform length around the hem. And I haven't cut off anything I shouldn't. At least, they'll look fine unless my interviewer decides to exmine them in minute detail, which seems unlikely.

Maybe it would be easier just to buy a rack and try to lengthen my legs.

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Montauk on Interviews 

I've been reading through Montauk's advice on interviews. Most of it is common sense, although it's always good to be reminded of these things. I have found a couple of his points amusing though. On dress for men he says:

"It should go without saying that your shirt should be 100-percent, cotton, long sleeved, professionally cleaned and heavily starched." Really? How many of you chaps wear heavily starched shirts on a regular basis? How many of you who don't would feel comfortable in one for an interview? How many of you, if interviewing someone, would be less impressed by someone in an un-starched shirt than by someone who was obviously uncomfortable and fiddling with his overly-stiff collar?

For anyone who's interested, I'm intending to wear a black trouser suit with a cream top (100% artificial fibres) underneath and black, heeled ankle boots.

The second moment of humour came from his 'Special Concerns for International Applicants' section. There's some useful information about being sensitive to cultural differences, but what really amused me was his comments on sports. Firstly, he asserts that discussing 'working class' sports such as football (soccer) or darts would be considered bizarre, CEO's would limit themselves to sports such as rugby, cricket or tennis. I don't think football has really been considered 'working class' for at least 15 years. As far darts, well, if it's not a sport you're really familiar with it would be unlikely to be one that you'd just happen to pick up on and even if you did, I don't want to sound like a snob but I don't think you'd need a particularly finely tuned social radar to realise that the average professional darts fan is not likely to be found in the boardroom of Goldman Sachs. He also states that "little sports terminology would find its way into a British business discussion." Huh? Sporting metaphors and terminology are used all the time, although often they come from US sports and people don't understand their sporting meaning, but do understand their business one. We also have some 'home grown' terms that may not be more widely understood, depending on a person's sporting background. Note to self: remeber not to talk about 'being bowled a googly' on Thursday.

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Saturday, November 27, 2004

Oh, that's what I wrote 

In preparation for next week's interview, I've bene re-reading my Wharton essays. It's been a really useful exercise. Despite having spent hours and hours on the darn things, in the interveening weeks I've managed to forget quite a bit of what I'd written. Not to mention the potential for confusing what I'd said to Wharton with what I'd saif to Kellogg or Stanford (they're not that different, but even so). Of course, the hours and hours of writting and the tight word limits mean that the essay have nice crisp, concise answers to the why MBA why Wharton etc questions that I expect to get on Thursday.

Reassuringly, no major typos or mistakes jumped out at me from my essays. I cam across a minor one in my CV though (fundrasing, rather than fundraising in one place) but I don't imagine it will have sent the Kellogg adcoms screaming for cover (Kellogg is the only school I applied to that asks for a resume). I reformatted the CV I gave to Kellogg to take with me on Thursday, removing the very wide top margin that Kellogg required. It's on two sides of A4 paper ( no way it would fit on one without being in an unreadibly tiny font) and trying to find a suitable space for a page break was a bit tricky - I either orphoned information or had huge areas of white space. But some playing with spacing and font sizes has resulted in a dcoument that is clear, readable, and looks sensible. Printing it out was also fun - for some reason my printer wasn't pulling the paper through quite straight. It's amaxing how only a mm of difference can make something look so lopsided. A bit of playing around solved things though, and I now have three nicely printed copies to take with me.

Now I need to think up some sensible questions for me to ask the adcom.

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Friday, November 26, 2004

Counting Down 

So this time next week my Wharton interview will be done. In fact, this time in six days my Wharton interview will be done. And in just under four weeks time I'll know what they think of me (three weeks, five days, twenty hours, and thirty minutes to be precise) and have some better idea of what might be happening with my life next year. As it's just over six weeks since the Wharton application deadline, I keep reminding myself that the worst is over. Thankfully, the next few weeks are likle to be pretty busy, workwise and socially, which should help to keep me sane.

Currently, D-day for Wharton is scheduled to be on December 23rd, which is the day I plan to travel to my Mum's for Christmas. Decisions come out at 9am Phily time, which is 2pm GMT. I'm trying to plan travel arrangements (its about six hours by train) and can't decide whether to

a- travel early, get the decision at my Mum's, and cope with the emotional fall-out straight away
b - stay at home, get the results, react accordingly and then have a long journey and late arrival
or c - break my journey, find a convenient internet cafe for 2pm, and risk being sectioned for an extreme emotional reaction of one sort or another.

All of this may be theoretical as the decison release may move forward by a few days. It's a really thing to be worrying about, and I keep telling myself that I should just pull myself together and decide on way or the other, but I can't seem to manage it. Maybe displacement worrying about something I can control is not a bad thing.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Red face and blue fingers 

I've been working at home today, at least in theory I have. I 'popped out' just before 9 am to get some milk and then got back to discover that I'd forgotten to pick up my keys and was locked out. The people from the other three flats in the buliding were all out, so I was stuck. Frantic phoning of friends who have spare keys yielded only aswerphones, so I ended up phoning a locksmith. The 'reponse within an hour' took an hour and a half. Now, this is the UK in November. It's not as cold as it could be, but still too cold to be sitting outside for ninety minutes when you're only dressed for going round the corner to the shops. Fortunately, just as the locksmith was talking about having to drill the lock out of the communal door one of my friends phoned back to say she could drop some spare keys round. So, three hours after I left, I got back into my flat, and back to my desk with a large mug of hot coffee.

The upshot of all this is that, instead of spending this evening on Wharton interview prep I'm having to work on the copywriting I was meant to do theis morning. Hey hum.



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Monday, November 22, 2004

An Englishperson in . . .  

Before I went on holiday, I made a customary stop at the airport bookshop to pick up a couple of books for the trip. I couldn't get either of the two titles I was specifically looking for, but ended up wioth two very good books, both of which, in very different ways, deal with issues of identity and how where we've come from and what we've experience impact on who we are and the choices we make.

I'm still mid-way through reading Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour by Kate Fox. She is an anthropologist and social reasercher and the book manages to be both scholarly and entertaining (it had me laughing out loud on public transport, which is a very un-English thing to do!). If you're likely to be studying / working / living in the UK (the writer specifically looks at the English, although I think a lot of it is probably equally applicable to people from Wales, Scotland, and maybe Northern Ireland) or there's a 'small islander' in your life that you want to understand / bond with / seduce, then I'd highly recommend this as a good and useful read. And for Englishpeople and Brits of other flavours, it shines a fascinating light on 'normal' behaviours that really are rather odd to the rest of the wrold.

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Sunday, November 21, 2004

Temporal Disturbances 

I got back from holiday early this morning and am currently doing battle with jet lag. Conventional wisdom, and my previous expoerience, says that jet lag going west is worse than that going east. On this trip though, I had absolutely no problem heading east. I got sufficient sleep on the flight out to stay awake until bed time in the new time zone, but little enough that I didn't stay awake beyond that. A full night's sleep followed and I was pretty much adjusted. Coming back though, the flight didn't leave until after midnight, and I got similarly little sleep but arrived with a full day to stay awake through. Sunlight is meant to be a useful regulator, but as there' s solid cloud and grey skies, there's little sunlight to help. So I'm relying on coffee to keep me going until bedtime.

A week in the sunshine, amid tropical greenery and under blue skies, has similarly thrown my calendar out of sync. Sun and warmth just don't compute with November, and Christmas felt five months away rather than five weeks. I've also realised that my brain is focussing on December 23rd at the moment, and Christmas seems like an event of minor significance that is barely registering on my mental radar. But I need to get through 2nd December before then, and that is only ten days off.

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Saturday, November 13, 2004

In praise of the last minute 

I'm writing this in the Singapore Airlines lounge at Changi airport, where I'm currently killing five hours between flights. Yesterday was one of those days where everything could go to pieces, but magically it all seems to fit together. I got one stage of one project signed off in the morning, and arrangements made to sign off the next stage whilst I'm away. Visuals for another project arrived later than hoped, but I managed to see them, comment on them, and delegate finishing dealing with them to one of my colleagues AND manage to get to the station to catch my train, just as it arrived. Miracle of miracles, it was on time and meant I made a last minute connection to an earlier train than I'd hoped to get. And despite a last minute problem with my flight booking (codeshare, and the booking airline had failed to pass on details to the transporting ariline) everything worked out fine.

This got me thinking - the last minute exists for a reason. It's that magic sixty seconds where we achieve what we thought wouldn't be possible, or get the good news that we'd resigned ourselves to not receiving . None of us should give up until the last minute is passed.

I'm not likely to be in regular contact with blogs and boards over the next few days, and I know lots of people have last minutes approaching for submissions or decisions. Good luck to everyone and don't give up hope.

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Thursday, November 11, 2004

Heart in mouth moment 

Received an e-mail from KSM AAO entitled, Update from Kellogg. Head said "far too early for a decision". Heart got over excited anyway. Eyes revealed it was the formal communication of my interview waiver.


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Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Keeping my head above water, just 

The unexpected work project seems not to be as bad as anticipated. I'm even vaguely hopeful that I might not be stuck in the office too late tomorrow evening. Having said that, there is still the potential for my boss to put a spanner in the works sometime in the next 36 hours. There are also a couple of other projects that I need to get to a certain stage before I go on leave that are currently out with external suppliers - one with a designer and one with a mailing house. It's going to be against the wire to get them to where they need to be before I head to the airport, and one of them might involve having things faxed or e-mailed to me while I'm away. And I'm sat here now trying to put together skeleton copy for a leaflet so that people can look at it while I'm away and I can get going with it as soon as I'm back. But at least I feel like things are sort of in control.

In terms of going away, I've put the rubbish out, the heating's turned off and my bags are packed. The latter turned into quite a pallaver. Between sorting out warmish clothes to wear to work on Friday, identifying clothes to carry in my hand luggage so that I don't have to go 30 hours without changing, finding a jacket that will be warm enough early tomorrow morning but won't be too bulky to cart around when I'm in temperatures of 90F+ , trying to decide whether I should take my hair irons or if humidity will result in frizz whatever I do, etc. etc., my brain went into temporary meltdown. Let's face it, ther'e not a lot of point worrying about whether I need the travel charger for my toothbrush when the toothbrush itself is still in the bathroom and not even registering on my mental list. And my travel guide needs to be in a bag if it's going to be any use, not buried on my bed. Now though, I think I've got everything I need, and if I'm missing anything I can buy it at Heathrow or once I arrive. I have my passport, my ticket, and my credit cards, and as long as I have all those I can cope. Now I just need to get through a day and a half of work.

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Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Small movement from Stanford 

Some time on Monday, I think, my status changed to 'under review'. I'm pretty sure that that means that the app is printed out and in someone's reading pile. 10 weeks until decision day (not that I'm counting or anything).

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Monday, November 08, 2004

Kellogg waiving, me drowning 

Just got an e-mail from the Kellogg admissions office to say that my interview requirement has ben waived. Essentially, this seems to mean that there is heavy demand for alumni interviewers in 'my area' and they don't want to hold up reviewing the file. I'm assured that it will have no bearing on the admissions decision and that they will contact me for a telephone interview should they decide that it will be helpful. At least that clears up what's happening and means that I don't have to worry abut fitting in another half day off work. I'm not sure whether 'my area' means the UK in general, or if they just didn't want to make me travel to London, which is where I presume most of their UK-based alumni are concentrated. A bit frustrating in some ways, as it means I don't get the oportunity to aid my decision making process through the interview, but I suppose there's lots I can do should I find myself having to make a decision involving Kellogg.

A little earlier I got an e-mail from a colleague enquiring about progress on a piece of work that I didn't even know I was supposed to be doing. I go on leave on Friday lunchtime for just over a week, and the list of things which have to be done or got to the stage where they can be delegated before I go is worryingly long. I was talking to my boss about work pressures last week, and having this dropped on my plate is not what I need right now. Still, I have several hours in Changai airport on Saturday in a lounge with internet access, and I'm sure there's somewhere I can work at Heathrow. All good fun!

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Sunday, November 07, 2004

All quiet on the blogging front 

Not much blogging activity going on at the moment. I suppose most of us are in that post-deadline lul where there's not a lot to do except wait, hope and worry.

I still haven't heard from Kellogg about the interview. I dropped them an e-mail on Friday (which was six weeks since they'd confirmed receipt of my part 1) just in case something has got lost somewhere, but I tend to think it's more likely to be a delay in things being arranged (or a shortage of local alumni). No news of anyone hearing from Stanford yet.

In preparation for the Wharton interview, I've started reading through Montauk's advice on interviews and watched the mock interview videos in B-week's MBA Insider section. The Georgetown one's were so basic as to be almost useless I thought. It was hardly a surprise to be told that it was a bad thing not to be able to describe your career, explain why an MBA made sense for you or give a convincing explanation of why you wanted to go to that school. The Michigan ones are much more useful. I've also had a look through accepted.com's interview feedback database, and liberated my interview suit from the tempremental wardrobe. The latest from Wharton is that c60% of r1 interview invites are still to go out, so I'm looking forward to hearing lots of good news from fellow bloggers in the next ten days!

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Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Happy Bunny 

That's a pretty good description of me at the moment. The Wharton status update e-mail arrived yesterday evening (GMT) but, as it came from an individual's e-mail address rather than mba.admissions, I didn't get an SMS message. Probably a good job I didn't as at the time it was sent I was in a dinner meeting with some colleagues and the news would probably have distracted us somewhat. So when I got inot the office this morning and checked my e-mail, it was a very pleasant surprise.

I must admit I had been wondering what I'd do and how I'd feel if Wharton didn't want to talk to me. Given the relatively high proportion of applicants interviewed by Wharton (c50%) and that the applications I submitted to all the schools are pretty much of the same standard, not being interviewed by Wharton would have been a pretty bad omen for everywhere else too. So, while this is a neutral omen rather than a good one, it does relieve the worry, at least for the time being.

I've booked in for a Hub interview in London on 2nd December. My first reaction was to interview with an alumnus/alumna, as it'd be good to talk to someone about their experience of being a student at Wharton and how it'd benefitted them since. When I thought about it though, the next few weeks offer limited convenient time for interviewing, so finding a slot that would be good for both me and the interviewer could be difficult. In contrast, Thursday the 2nd is supremely convenient, as is the Hub location. So I now have four weeks to 'prepare' and to liberate my suit from my wardrobe, which currently has a door that's firmly jammed shut.

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Wharton Admissions Status Update 

The Admissions Committee would like to discuss your application in more detail through an evaluative interview. Please click either the "On Campus and Hub Interviews" or "Alumni Interviews" buttons on the menu bar to the right, to select your option from the available interview choices.

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Tuesday, November 02, 2004

They're all at it 

A couple of weeks ago there was a bit of excitement about Wharton applicants getting an e-mail from the school that many thought to be an interview invite, but which turned out to be a request feedback on information sessions. Well, when I logged on to my e-mail this morning (very early due to unexplained insomnia) there was a similar e-mail from Stanford. I wonder how many Stanford applicants got over excited about this one? The timing of these e-mails is really difficult. I can see why schools don't send them out sooner (becuase we'd all be focussing on our applications) and they obviously don't want to leave it too long, or we'd forget what we thought. I can also see how expectant applicants might focus on the sender rather than the message and jump to the wrong conclusion. Interestingly, Stanford was aking how useful I'd find resources such as on-line chats and message boards. Maybe they're considering going down a similar route to Wharton.

Speaking of which, I also got two e-mails inviting me to Wharton's European Business Conference on 19th Nov. As I'm going to be in the Far East that week, I can safely say I won't be going. And as it's potentially the day after getting a Wharton ding, I don't think I'd be planning to pop over to Philly anyway, it could just be too painful. The time difference on my trip (Philly +13) will at least mean that if a ding arrives it'll be while I'm asleep, and I'll have my last two days of travel to take my mind off it.

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Monday, November 01, 2004

Reflecting on Recommendations 

Friday's excitements knocked me off track from something I was going to blog about. As it happens, it concerns recommenders and recommendations.

On Thursday I had a phone conversation with the colleague doing my peer recommendation for Stanford. She wanted to talk through the two or three areas that she was identifying as weaknesses so that I could query what she planned to say if I felt she was being unfair. I've taken the view all along that I want my recommenders to tell the 'truth' as they've experienced it, and if I end up being rejected because of what someone's said in a recommendation that's fine. I'd rather not get a place than get in somewhere on the basis of a misrepresentation. So as far as I was concerned, she should write about what she'd observed and experienced of me, good or bad. It wasn't a particularly easy converation (let's face it, no one likes having the things they're not good at pointed out to them) but it was a useful one. In general, I think she was fair and the conversation highlighted to me some areas that I need to work on (as well as answers to the 'what are your weaknesses', 'what would your colleagues say about you' type questions in any interview). What did strike me though is that some elements were very much tied into the way in which the organisation works and the situations in which I work with this colleague. What she was saying was absolutely right in the contexts that she's observed, but wouldn't necessarily be right in different contexts (although I'm the first to admit what she said does reflect my natural style and that behaving differently doesn't come as easily).

Given all this, I'm glad, despite Friday's debacle, that I asked my former boss to give me recommendations as well. My first instinct in choosing her, especially to do an extra rec for Kellogg, was that she could say more about my team working skills, because my last organisation was much more team based than this one is. More broadly though, I think she gives the added perspective of having seen me work in a very different type of context and in different ways. Hopefully that will mean that collectively the recs will reveal the weaknesses and strengths that are 'absolutes' rather than a function of a particular situation.

To change tack, it seems like the end of last week was a tough time for a number of bloggers, in various ways. I hope things work out for everyone. Unless I'm mistaken, with the exception of Chicago, deadlines are pretty much over until December. Good luck to everyone finishing up for R1 and may interviw invites come floding your way. And similar good wishes to everyone working towards GMAT and R2.

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