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Sunday, February 27, 2005

I can feel an addiction coming on 

The UK version of The Apprentice started a couple of weeks ago. I didn't see either of the first two episodes when they were originally broadcast, but stumbled across them when they were re-aired last night/this morning, and ended up getting to bed much later than planned.

Season one of the US version was shown over here at the end of last year and I saw the last half of it. The British version feels a little odd because it's trying to follow the original so excatly, and some of the techniqes just don't work as well, but it's interesting to watch people from and oppertating in cultural and business contexts with which I'm more familiar. I can see that this is going to become something I actually make an effort to watch (although hopefully at a more civilised hour).

Anyway, a few observations:

It's going to be interesting viewing over the next few weeks.


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It's always nice to be told you're doing the right thing 

Thursday afternoon was the bi-monthly meeting of our trustee board followed in the evening by the annual meeting of our larger advisory board. Members of both come from a variety of fields, with roughly a third either being involved either specifically because of their business skills/background, or bringing those skills and backgrounds along with them. It was the first time I'd seen these groups since I got my decisions, and I got a really great reaction from them. All of the ones 'from business' thought I was doing the right thing and were eager to to talk about where I was going and why, what I planned to major in etc. as well as asking that I keep them in touch with how I got on. I also got my first real experience of how being associated with a school can both give you an instant credibility boost and a set of expectations to live up to. I know that I'm doing the right thing and everyone around me has been really supportive, but the whole MBA thing has been an unknown country to pretty much everyone, so that sort of reassurance from people for whom it's more familiar is good to have.

At the moment I'm trying to move forward with actually matriculating at Wharton but hitting a few small barriers. The job titles on my verification form are different to the ones on my application form for some reason, I need to sort out a deposit payment in US$ (my bank can't issue one) and I'm missing one but of paperwork for my financial aid form. All of them are in the process of being sorted out though, so hopefully I can get everything submitted soon. I've officially told Kellogg I won't be attending, which only seemed fair as it'll allow them to factor it in to their r2 and waitlist decisions.

Good luck to everyone waiting on Kellogg decisions, which seem to have started coming out, and to those heading to Wharton hub (and other) interviews.

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Friday, February 25, 2005

DAK 

I got home from Chicago, unpacked one bag, packed another one, got half a night's sleep and then spent three days away from home with work, so blogging on DAK has been delayed. Like Wharton Winter Welcome, there was too much to talk about it all in detail, so what follows is a bit of snapshot.

It was two very full days of presentations, a team work exercise, mock classes and social activities. There were no opportunities to sit in on classes, although I know some people had arrived early on the Thursday in order to do that. I enjoyed the teamwork exercise (building a tower from index cards) and the mock classes - Finance, which was reassuring as I just about managed to follow what was going on, and Managerial Decision Making, which reminded me just how excited I can get about statistics (sad I know, but true). (There was also a third class on marketing, but I skipped the Saturday morning so missed it). Lunches were structured so that you could go to presentations on both academic areas that interested you and career areas. Although it was good to be able to get this information and an efficient way of using limited time, it did cut into the general 'bonding' opporrtunities that I'd found lunch provided at Winter Welcome. That and the large size of the sections we were divided into meant that I didn't feel that I got to meet as many people or talk to them as much as I had at the Wharton event. In comparrison with Winter Welcome, I think there were fewer formal presentaions, which might be a good or bad thing, depending on your point of view, but those that there were were les interactive and had limited opportunities for Q&A. The Dean's presentation, which was scheduled to last an hour and consist mainly of Q&A ended up being 45mins of him talking. Although both events were student organised, I got the impression that the Kellogg one had less involvement from the administration, and I'm not convinced that was a good thing.

I've no doubt that Kellogg is a good school with good people there, and there are certainly people that I'm sorry I won't be studying with. But I've also no doubt that it's not the right place for me. Culture is a difficult thing to pin down, but I think that what you choose to highlight in an admit event and the way you choose to present it says a lot about the school, and the more I think about it the more some elements of DAK make me feel uneasy, although of course all my reactions are coloured by my own prejudices and perceptions, which say a lot about me. I know that there are lots of admits who are increadibly excited about going there, as well as some who are more ambivalent, and the students and alumni are obviously very loyal to and enthused about the school. Going to Wharton I know is going to be much better for me, and will allow someone else to go to Kellogg and Kellogg to get someone who fits its culture better, which is a win-win situation all round I think.

Edited to say that Majalo has a couple of posts which give much more detail and tell of a more positive experience.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Culture clash 

This story gives a pretty good illustration of cultural differences and differences in acceptable approaches between the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors. For someone pitching a commercial campaign to talk about nuisance value and subverting legislation is one thing, there might be circumstances where it makes sense. For someone pitching on an nfp one to do so, especially when you're talking about a fundraising campaign, seems completely counterproductive. It's not a good medium, IMHO, to target cold prospects, and there's a very real danger that you'll alienate you're existing donors, not to metion the fact that you'll generate hundreds of negative column inches of newspaper coverage. I'm all for inovation and trying out new ideas, but I think this is one to keep well clear of.

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Monday, February 21, 2005

One size doen't fit all 

I've been trying, and failing, to write something about DAK. In view of my lack of progress, I'm going to come at this in a slightly topsy-turvey manner and write about the reasons behind my decision first.

As is pretty ovbious from previous posts, I'd been narrowly coming down on the side of Wharton from an 'intellectual' comparisson of the two schools, and I'd really had a great time at Winter Welcome. I was very clear though that the deciding factor was going to be an emotional, or gut feel, one and I set off for DAK open to the possibility that I'd decide that Kellogg was where I was heading.

Having said that, on the plane I jotted down a short list of concerns, some that had come out of my previous visit, others that had arisen during the application and especially the post-admit phase. I'm not going to detail them here, not because I'm afraid of controversy, but because they're hard to articulate, and the way I found to express them to myself would blow them out of all proportion if I listed them in that way here. So suffice to say that they were a few little things about the nature of the community and how that related to me, and as such were as much a reflection on me as on the school. The first day reinforced my concerns on roughly half these, and the Dean's session on the second day reinforced the other half.

It's really difficult to describe why I didn't feel the fit was right. There was a feeling of some things being what some other admits described as 'a bit undergraduate' or ' a bit immature'. I think I'd go along with those comments to a certain extent, but only to the extent that they express 'I don't feel comfortable with that approach to doing things'. Related to that, I also felt there were somethings that 'lacked substance' somehow. On reflection, I think there are a couple of comments that maybe best sum up the divergence between me and Kellogg. One was from an alumnus speaker at the final dinner, who described Kellogg as having a 'cult-like' culture. By nature, I am a bit of a heretic and a lot of a questioner of orthadoxies, which means cults don't sit well with me. The second comment was one I made to someone else after a particularly enthusiastic presentation, which was 'I generally don't whoop'. Kellogg felt very 'whoopy'. Wharton didn't and, more to the point, I felt it would be perfectly OK for me to choose not to whoop, even if everyone else was.

There are some more concrete elements behind the choice. I am really impressed by Wharton's leadership programme, whih I think is something Kellogg is lagging behind in a bit. And although the social impact / non-profit side of things is less developed and less pervasive at Wharton, I'm really attracted by the possibility of helping to develop it.

If Kellogg was the only place I'd been accepted, I'd be very happy to go there, but I'd have a few concerns. As it is, Wharton left me with more 'wow' factors, and Kellogg with more 'hmms'. If I were at Kellogg, I think there'd be situations where I'd be thinking 'this just isn't me' or feeling that I needed to be someone other than who I am, whereas at Wharton everything felt very right.

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Sunday, February 20, 2005

In transit, but with a destination fixed 

I'm currently at the airport on my way home from Day at Kellogg. It was a good couple of days and I met lots of really great people, including Majalo and Mrs Majalo, but I'm now decided that August is going to find me at Wharton. 'Why?' basically comes down to fit, but I'll blog more about the reasons and about DAK itself once I'm home.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Psychic technology 

At the end of last year I had a day when both my on-site management team colleagues were out of the office and I was therefore 'in charge'. The scanner picked up on this and the fact that our IT guy had the day off, and decided to attempt to electrocute one of my colleagues and to succesfully blow the fuse for half our power sockets. Having ascertained that the colleague was OK, I spent most of the rest of the afternoon trying to track down the relevant fuse box (we're in a slightly odd converted building where things don't tend to be in the obvious place) and then re-booting technology. The moral of the story is not to work for a small organisation (or to keep your IT guy chained to his desk).

Yesterday I was again the senior person on site, and the IT guy is off all week. Just as I was leaving I went to say good bye to the person checking the back-ups, discovered something had gone wrong the night before, and ended up getting out of the building two hours after I'd started to go. I don't know what it is about machines, but they do seem to sense when their master is absent, and no amount of stroking, soothing words, or blood sacrifices from anyone else will make up for it.

Then to cap it all, in the middle of last night my over-sentsitive smoke alarm (you only need to think about grilling bacon for it to go off) decided it needed its battery changing. I tried to ignore the periodic beeping outbursts, but in the end gave up, and at 3am could be found up a ladder (I have 12ft ceilings), wearing a dressing gown and doc martins, and wrestling to get into the thing so I could put in a fresh battery.

I'm now quite looking forward to having a few days where all technology will be someonelse's problem.

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Monday, February 14, 2005

Two nations divided by a non-common language 

During Winter Welcome someone said to me that they liked British slang. I've just had an e-mail about DAK and been infomed that the 'section' I'm to be part of is called 'Puppies'. The significance of the name will apparently be explained when we get there, but I can only hope that whoever is responsible for the naming is not a fan of British slang.

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Wharton Safari 

A blow by blow account of Winter Welcome would be very long, so instead I'm going to opt for a summary of events and my impressions.

It was a very full three days. We had formal presentations on academics, leadership, international programmes, career management, financial aid etc.; panel discussions with students and alumni; oportunities to sit in on classes and a mock class to participate in; a Follies performance; and lots of opportunities to eat, drink and talk to students, staff and fellow admits. In her welcome address, Rose Martinelli spoke about the event being an opportunity to see the school in its natural setting (hence my safari reference), and I really appreciated the opportunity to see the school going about its day-to-day business, as well as to take part in the activities put on specially for us. I was a bit of a whimp when it came to the late night socials (OK I was a lot of a whimp, especially as they didn't start theat late, but I'll claim jet-lag in my defense), but it was still all pretty tiring.

The biggest highlight for me was the people. It was great to meet lots of other admits (there were c160 of us there in total, although not everyone was there all the time) and exciting to think of them as people with whom I could be studying. But as someone I was talking to observed, it's sad that not everyone will choose to matriculate. Current students were all really helpful, eager to answer questions ( and completely understanding when we were all questioned out) and very open and giving of their time. (On the Wednesday evening Wharton Women in Business hosted home cooked dinners at a couple of people's apartments, which the hosts had obviously invested time in preparing despite having taken an exam earlier that evening.) Faculty and members of the administration were very welcoming and approachable, and the fact that a number of them were willing to 'make fools of themselves' as part of Follies, I think says a lot about the school.

The most remarkable single event was the mock class. The one I was in was on leadership. It started with a mini-case based on a pharmaceutical company which was followed by a talk by and question and answer session with a guest speaker, who was one of the survivors of the 1972 Uruguyan air crash. It's nigh on impossible to convey the experience in words, but' wow!' seemed to be the most common reaction afterwards.

I was particularly impressed by the fact that it wasn't a 'hard sell' at all. Everyone was very clear that lots of us would be choosing between schools and the general attitude seemed to be 'how can we help you make the decision that's right for you?' rather than 'how can we convince you to come here?'. No flaunting of rankings, no comparissons with other places, just 'this is us', which was an approach I really liked. I felt extremely welcomed and wanted, but not at all under pressure, and that was great.

Huge congratulations and thanks to everyone involved (including futurembagirl, who it was really good to meet). I left not being able to imagine not being at Wharton in August, but lets see how I feel after DAK.

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Sunday, February 13, 2005

Homeward bound 

I'm currently in transit from Wharton Winter Welcome (sitting at Heathrow Airport waiting for my coach back home). It was a fab three days and gave a really great impression of the school. More details to follow once I'm home and appropriately caffinated.

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Sunday, February 06, 2005

Spent Friday evening at the London Wharton Alumni Club's monthly get together. They've invited admits to come along, which makes it a great way to meet and talk to people who've been through Wharton and come out the other side, as well as the other local admits.

Friday's event was hosted by Bombay Sapphire, and featured a short presentation on marketing a premium luxury brand as well as a mixology demonstration, plenty of time to talk to people, and canapes and cocktails. My particular favourite was a chocolate based one (which may sound rather odd, but believe me, it tasted great). I had to leave sooner than I'd have liked in order to get home at not too uncivilized an hour, but I must say that the more Wharton people I meet, the more I like about the school.

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Friday, February 04, 2005

Kellogg World 

While not enjoying my train journeys on Tuesday, I read through Kellogg World (reading material and lack of enjoyment not being connected in any way, I hasten to add). There were far fewer Business Week-inspired arm waving, grinning students, but lots of professors looking serious and gesticulating (and I'm betting that somewhere in Evanston whoever is responsible for picture selection is despairing at the fact that people giving lectures basically look serious and gesticulate, rather than doing something more visually interesting, like juggling hedgehogs).

There were some quite interesting articles on events at Kellogg, particular features of the currciculum, and profiles for alumni. The alumni club events section was pretty sparse for many clubs (London included), although I'm cautious of reading too much into this, as I know from experience that people aren't always that good at letting you know what they're up to. I also dipped into the 'class updates' (60+ pages of news about people you don't know not being th emost rivetting read), which painted a picture, if not a wholly representative one, of what people did after Kellogg, what they're doing know, the extent to which they've kept in touch with classmates etc.

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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Seeing an end in sight 

Last week I had a meeting with my boss when we discussed my potential leaving date and things that I need to get finished before I go. Although the leaving date will depend on which school I choose, to a large extent we're talking about the same work period, because if I'm there during August I'll be working on some quite specific things that are happening that month.

Yesterday I had an 'I don't want to do this anymore' moment, not relating to the job or the work, but the travelling fram home to office (and vice versa). I split my week between working form home and from the office, which is a fair distance away. Although its always meant a lot of travel on my office based days, the overall quality of life benefits have made it worth it. Mid-way through last year my office based days increased from two to three, and I've really noticed the difference. Having woken up feeling distinctly ropey this morning I think yesterday's 'moment' might have been due to coming down with something rather than anything else, but even so, I'm glad that I've only got a few months of it to go.

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