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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Result! 

Well, sort of.

The telephone call I was waiting for came, and the news was positive, although not quite as posistive as I'd have liked. I'm going to refrain from going into the intricacies of the situation, both becasue it's complicated to explain and because I probably shouldn't talk to the world about the details, but in essence, the positive news is that the organisation now has just over US$1 million more than we thought we were going to have. (NB US$ used for sake of international ease, and because it makes for pleasingly large numbers!) The less positive is that it's about $200,000 less than I'd asked for and a sizeable chunk of it that I'd hoped would be unrestricted (meaning we could use it for whatever we wanted) has been tied to specific purposes. Having said that, the purposes are such that it's going to be used for work that we absolutley have to do, and which we wouldn't get directly funded for from any other source, so it's the next best thing to being unrestricted really.

I'm not as cock-a-hoop about the outcome as I thought I'd be, or as I really should be $1 million is a heck of a lot of money, at least it is in terms of this organisation. It'll make a real difference to the work we do, and to my management-team-colleagues' ability to get a good night's sleep. It's also a bit of a personal validation. I was brought into the organisation to raise money, but for various reasons (some to do with the external enviroment, some to do with the organsiation itself, and no doubt some to do with me personally) I haven't had the success that I'd have liked. I know, and keep being told by colleagues, that I've contributed even more valuably in other ways and built a foundation which will make fundraising easier in the future, but the shortfall in cold hard cash coming in has still grated. And there have been individuals who've discounted external factors, failings of the organisation itself, the fact that a fundraiser should have been brought in at least a decade earlier, etc. and regarded the results as solely down to my personal inadequacies. So it's going to be good to lay this dragon at their feet and say "ha!". And I feel comfortable myself that if this were the only thing I'd achieved during my time here, I'd still have been a worthwhile expenditure.

So forget the 'sort of'. This was a great result - good for the organisation, good for the work, and good for me.

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That decision day feeling 

Tuesday was decision day for the big submission that I was working on in May. It happened in a closed meeting and we have to wait to have the outcome officially communicated to us, but we should hopefully get an informal notification by phone today. It's got everyone jumpy - the Finance Director keeps sticking her head out of her office to check if we've heard anything, at least two of our trustees have phoned, and I'm sure the Chief Exec is quietly fretting about it too, but he's in transit at the moment so isn't calling me. I was going to say that I was somehow managing to keep a zen-like calm about the whole thing, but then the phone rang and my stomach leapt in the same sort of way it did back when I was expecting imminent notification of school decisions. I am being significantly more productive at work than I was then though, no doubt due to the "I only have three weeks left" factor.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Girls' Toys 

Like Aregon and MagaritaLuvr, I've been starting to get myself technologically equipped for school. Unlike some other schools, Wharton doesn't require you to have a particular brand of laptop, or even a laptop at all. In fact I talked to a second year during Winter Welcome who said she didn't have her own computer at all, she just used the labs in Huntsman. (The reaction of other students to this suggested that she was very much the exception to the norm.) We have been given minimum suggested specifications though, and there's a back-to-school sale with laptops, desk-tops, accessories and peripherals available at really good prices.

I currently have a three-and-a-half-year-old desk top, which I have no intention of taking with me, and no laptop, so I decided that an investment in portable computing was needed. The back-to-school sale offers to IBM T43 models, one of which meets the recommended specifications and one which comes in a bit under. The recommended specs (1GB of RAM and 80GB of Hard Drive) seemed a bit OTT, a perception that was pretty much confirmed by other people I talked to, so I've opted instead for 512MB of RAM, 60GB of Hard Drive and a cost saving of just under $500+tax (compared to the higher spec model). I pressed the button on the order today, and hopefully it'll be waiting for me when I arrive on campus. (US based students can have theirs shipped in advance, but those of us overseas have to wait.)

I've also invested (separately) in an external hard drive, as a security back-up, so I can move old files off my lap top, and to help me transfer data when I move. I freely admit that I'm a bit of a boy when it comes to technology, and a lot of a girl when it comes to lovely shiny things, so the Apricorn EZ Bus is a real winner as far as I'm concerned. Not that I've actually used it yet, but it looks and feels great, and the shipping was incredibly fast (less than three days from the US). I'm just hoping it won't cause airport security concerns if I pack it in my hand luggage.

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Monday, June 27, 2005

The tangled web we weave 

My organisation is recruiting for a number of vacancies at the moment, one of which I'm directly involved in. In this context, it's been interesting to read blog postings in the last few days from iwhoelse on resumes and Hugging Trees on MBAs from obscure institutions. In lots of ways I really enjoy recruiting. I like the challenge of finding the best fit between job and person, finding out more about people through interviews, and having the opportunity to spot talent and potential. The aspect I always find depressing though is reading through so many CV's / resumes and covering letters that are really poor in terms of both content and format. So many people do themselves a disservice by not communicating themselves well.

This time one particularly stood out. While most people say too little, this applicant had said too much - a full page covering letter and multi-page CV, all in tiny font. There were huge amounts of information that was completely irrelevant or just didn't add anything, and lots of jargon which really said nothing. One thing that caught my eye though was an MBA from an place I'd never heard of, so I thought I'd google it. I came up with two possibilities, one a perfectly legitimate if slightly obscure school that doesn't appear to offer an MBA, and one an institution that offers qualifications on the basis of 'life experience' (essentially, mail order purchase, from what I could work out). This made me dig a little deeper into other elements, like the membership of an high powered-sounding professional organisation, the main qualification for which appears to be payment of a fee. One of the positions on the CV would have meant working with one of my colleagues, but she has absolutely no recollection of the person in question; some claims of achievements in other jobs were worded in such a way that I got a sense of an attempt to imply something that wasn't really there while not actually claiming something that was untrue. And there were other claims that I don't doubt to be true, but where I'd question the wisdom of including them to impress one of the few audiences that knows that they're not quite as impressive as they may sound. The sad thing is that if all of this hadn't been included , it would have been a strong application, and if we hadn't wanted the person for that particular job, we would probably have want to work with them on other projects. As it is, I think we'll be steering well clear.

I know the question of 'harmless exaggeration', 'embroidering the truth', outright lying, and verification procedures concern some people, so I offer this as a cautionary tale. Lies can and will be found out, and people can sense exaggeration and embroidery. It only takes one little thing to be 'off' for a question mark to be thrown over an entire application, and the benefits of very real skills and achievements can be rendered meaningless by an attempt to be 'a bit creative'.

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Where on earth did the time go? 

Well, one month today I'll be in Philadelphia. A date that has seemed far away for so long has suddenly sprinted up on me. I look at everything I need to do at work and everything I need to do at home and I start to panic somewhat. But I always work better when I've got a deadline pressing, so I'm relatively confident that I'll be OK as long as I get my finger out.

At least I know I've taken care of most of the important stuff. My passport, complete with visa, is now back with me. I've registered for pre-term and yesterday I managed to get a realtively decent photo taken uploaded for the facebook and my Penn Card. The Penn Card is the student ID, the Facebook an on-line student directory with photographs. The one piece of advice I've got from just about everyone has been "get a good picture for the facebook becasue they'reused in all sorts of places". Now, I don't think I photograph particularly well and I hate having my picture taken. Apart from anything else, I never know what to do with my mouth - if I smile naturally the way my eyes crease makes me look like I've got a bad squint, and if I don't smile at all I look like a stuffed fish, so I struggle to find the optimum point somewhere between the two. Miracle of miracles though, I managed to get a pretty decent picture, at least one I won't be too distressed to have associated with me for the next few years, and it's now scanned and uploaded. The next major thing to do is find somewhere to stay for the first few days I'm in Philly until I can move into my apartment on the 31st.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Keeping in touch 

I'm in the process of writing a sort of reflections on the application process blog entry, which is turning into a sort of Fundraiser's Guide to B-school applications. It's looking like is going to be quite long, I haven't quite got the structure right, and I keep getting interrupted (by things like my job) but hopefully I should manage something soon.

Also distracting me, have been various mailings from Wharton (which I'll also blog about at some point soon), the most recent of which was the 'Wharton Insiders Guide' - "a light-hearted description of our program and life in Philadelphia". It includes an section for international, with general tips and specific suggestions from students from various countries and continents. In the UK section, along with comments on the availability of the two essentials for any British student no matter where in the world they are (beer and Heinz Baked Beans), was a recommendation to use Skype (a VoIP service) for calls home. This certainly looks interesting, and if it removes the need to have a land line solely to keep in touch with people on this side of the pond, it could definitely be worth it. I decided to set up an account (as its free) and have a play last night. It has a theoretically nifty facility to find possible matches with people in your Outlook Contacts (so you can see who uses the service that you know) although having seen the potential matches it found for mine, I'm not entirely sure how this works, as some as them seemed extremely bizarre. Of the sixty-three possibles, sixty very clearly weren't the same people as in my Outlook (and in most cases I couldn't see what would lead the program to think they might be), two might have been matches (not enough information to be able to tell either way) and one clearly was a match to my ex-husband, who I'm not sure why I still have in my contacts list, as I have zero desire to contact him.

Anyway, if anyone has any experience of Skype or VoIP more generally and would like to share their views, please stop by Comments.

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Sunday, June 19, 2005

Feels like something's missing 

Well the ten-day-run-arond is over. I was 'up north' for my sister's hen night this weekend, and made it home earlier this evening, somewhat delayed due to seemingly obligatory weekend engineering works. These necessitated a detour into South Wales, prompting the usual 'have we got our passport' jokes from fellow passengers. I realised that I am in fact currently passport-less, as it's with the US embassy getting its visa, and it feels really odd. It's not as if a week is a long time (the visa takes c five working days to process), but there is something odd about not having it around, not being able to leave the country if the need or urge should arise. Although maybe that's no bad thing - if I had the means I'd be sorely tempted to skive work, try to meet up with Poweryogi on the continent (he can't make it to the UK) and experience some of the excitement that seems to be following him around.

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Friday, June 17, 2005

I'm beginning to feel like my flat has a revolving door 

Every time I've got home this week it's been to turn round and leave again within a few hours. This time I at least get over eight hours here, and hopefully more than five hours' sleep.

Today's running a round has been productive though. I have a US F1 visa, or at least I will have when my passport makes it back to me next week. The whole process was much quicker and less searching than I'd feared. I didn't need any supporting documents other than my bank statement, and the visa officer didn't even look closely enough at my I-20 to work out that the costs and funding listed were only for the first year, not the entire 22 months. I didn't feel the urge to enlighten her. I was out only an hour and a quarter after my apointment time, which I think is a faster turn-around than I've had for tourist visas to other countries. So providing the INS person who's desk I pitch up at when I fly in doesn't have an aversion to the colour of my socks, I should be fine.

Now, off to pack another bag ready for heading off again tomorrow.

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Monday, June 13, 2005

Flying visit 

Well the exam's done. In terms of my performance, I think I'm happy. In terms of the exam itself, there are things I'm uncomfortable with, which I may or may not blog about at a later date. Now I'm at home, briefly. I've laundered clothes, swapped paperwork over, re-packed a bag, and in a little over seven hours I'm back on the road again.

Roll on Sunday afternoon.

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Sunday, June 12, 2005

Keep on moving 

Today is day 3 of a 10-day period that's being spent running about all over the country. Friday was spent traveling north, and almost ended in disaster when I lost my footing on a railway station staircase. I had visions of ending up in the same state as FutureMBAGirl (ie with a broken foot, not Texas), but fortunately, although my bag tumbled to the floor, I managed to fling myself at the handrail, and so suffered only a sore knee and ankle and a badly bruised armpit.

Yesterday was or annual work 'big event'. The last couple of years I've been in charge of organising it, but this year I was expecting just to be able to show up and look pretty. No such luck. I was running around just as much as when I'd been in charge, and I think it was actually harder because I hadn't done all the planning in advance. It's always a bit of a nightmare because the nature of the event means that we have to work in an unfamiliar venue, in a limited time window with lots of things having to be done on a just-in-time basis, and with three or four different elements happening in slightly different places. But, as always, we managed, it went really well, and I even managed to get lunch this year (although I missed pudding) which doesn't always happen. It was also an opportunity to say good bye to some people that I'm unlikely to see again before I move.

In the evening I headed back to my mum's (which is where I'm staying for a couple of nights) and another round of bridesmaid dress fitting. Standing in heels while people fuss about skirt lengths and side seems is not fun when you've been on your feet all day and are desperately in need of a long soak in a bubble bath. But today has been blissfully relaxing - sleeping late, pottering round, home-cooked Sunday Lunch, and no pressure. It's been particularly nice to be here because I'm unlikely to get the chance to visit again before I head to Philadelphia, and as my mum is planning on moving house there's every chance that this building won't still be 'home' when I come back for Christmas. It's not the only house I lived in when I was growing up, and it was only really my full-time residence for three or four years, but it's been 'home' for almost twenty. I'm going to miss 'real' things about it, like the spectacular view from the front windows, but I think I'm also going to miss the intangible security that's represented by knowing that there's a room here that's mine, even if I visit it too rarely.

But things have to move forward, and tomorrow I move on to London to do my CFRE exam and get my visa photo taken. Then it's another train home where I swap over clothes and paperwork and get a short night in my own bed before setting out on a three-day work trip early on Tuesday.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Having pins stuck in me might be less painful 

So I dropped my immunization form into my doctor's on Monday, thinking it would be nice and straight forward. No such luck. There was an aswerphone message waiting for me when I got home, which I returned this morning. Although the docotr was going out of his way to be helpful, I pretty much got the impression that he'd taken one quick look at the form and decided it was all too hard. He suggested that he get all my relevant records photocopied, I then pick up the copies and form, fill it out and then return with the form and the photocopies and get the necessary signature. The only way in which this makes it any easier for the doctor, as far as I can see, is that he doesn't have to fill in all the little circles for the dates of the jabs, which, as he seemed to think this would be a terribly time consuming job, was sensible from his point of view. As filling in the little circles took me less than five minutes, I'm not convinced.

The photocopies gave me most of the relevant information three times over, and quite a bit of irrlevant information twice, and do suggest that, as suspected, I need a measels jab. Now I was pretty sure this would be easy. I might not be able to get a single measels jab, as they're not generally available on the NHS, but I could have an MMR one instead. So I phoned the surgery to make an appointment. Turns out there is absolutely no MMR vaccine available in the area at all. No singles measels either (or mumps for that matter). Apparently this is down to the fact that the Government launched a big drive to get young adults immunized for mumps (because thye're a bit too old to have had the injection as infants, but didn't tend to get the infection in childhood because of herd immunity after the vaccine was introduced) without extra vaccine being available. So parents of young children are being urged to protect them with MMR, young adults are being told they need to be protected against mumps, I need to fulfil UPenn's medical requirements, and non of us can get a blessed injection.

I was told to phone back in a month and see if any vaccine had arrived. Failing that, I guess I'm going to have to get one done once I get to Philly.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Cautionary tale on references 

A story from today's news about a woman suing over the reference she was given for a b-school application. I do rather wonder about the logic of asking for a reference from a company you succesfully sued for sexual discrimination.

Edited to add: Another story on this, from Bloomberg, here. The fact that the reference was part of the settlement on the original sex discrimination case gives a degree of explanation. It's going to be interesting to see how this plays out, as not only is there the question of perception as to what makes for a fair reference, but also the fact that as no applications were actually submitted it's presumably somewhat hypothetical as to what the outcome of using this reference, or not providing a reference from that employer, would have been.

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My name's britchick, and I'm a biblioholic 

I appear to have been tagged twice on this book thing. Does that mean I have to give ten books?
Current and recent reading matter is:

The Jane Austen Book Club - started on the train this morning. Not sure where I got this one from (I'm pretty sure I didn't buy it). I've only read a couple of chapters so am still reserving judgement on whether it's as 'chick lit-y' as the cover suggests. Edited to add: I got a little over half way through it on the train home last night and can definitely say that it's chick-lit, and contrived chick-lit at that. Not my cup of tea and I don't think I'll bother finishing it.

The Complete Fundraising Handbook - I have my CFRE exam on Monday and thought it might be worth doing some work for it.

Friends for Life: Relationship Fundraising in Practice - ditto

Lifeless - I'm a fan of crime/mystery novels, and Mark Billingham writes good ones.

Sickened - I don't usually go in for 'I had a terrible childhood' real-life stories and actually bought this thinking it was something else, but it turned out to be pretty good

All-time favourites:

Paul Scott's Raj Quartet - I first read this for my undergraduate dissertation, and go back to it every few years. I love the vastness of it and am fascinated by the inter-twining of the histories of individuals and nations.

Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" Trilogy - imaginative, complex and thought provoking.

The Complete Poems of John Donne - I love metaphysical poetry, and it's really interesting to see the equal but changing passions of the young man and the Dean of St Paul's Cathedral.

Diary of a Provincial Lady - very funny

The Owl Who was Afraid of the Dark - a childhood favourite that I rediscovered recently.

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Monday, June 06, 2005

Coming to a town near you 

If you're thinking of applying to Wharton next year, keep an eye on this page for details of student-run information events over the summer. And if you're thinking of applying elsewhere, the information session roadshow can start sooner than you might think, so it's worth keeping in touch with your target schools' websites.

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Sunday, June 05, 2005

Avoiding being a pin-cushion 

Another bit of paperwork that I've been working on getting out of the way is my medical and immunization history. The medical history is self reported and mostly straightforward, although there are a couple of places where I'm not sure what they're asking. Loss of Vital Organ-No/Yes, is pretty clear but does Prescription Medications - No/Yes mean am I currently taking any or have I ever taken any? The immunization form has to be filled out and signed by a nurse or doctor. The way that the National Health Service works means that your General Practitioner (primary healthcare provider) records follow you round from doctor to doctor, so even though I've been registered with eight different practices over the years, the current one has all my records since birth. Even so, with the help of a very handy vaccination record card that my undergrad university provided and my mother's comprehensive records of childhood jabs and illnesses, I've got together a list of all the relevant dates so whoever fills out the form doesn't have to search through everything. It looks like I'm only missing one measles jab, which may have to be made up with an MMR as single vaccines aren't that readily available over here. I've never been squeamish about needles or injections, but they do tend to result in sore arms and resultant lack of sleep, which I can do without.

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Lots of bits of paper for one vital bit of paper 

My visa interview is in just under a fortnight's time. As this is the penultimate stop of ten days spent running round the country for work and family commitments, with an exam and the visa interview thrown in for good measure, I've been getting my paperwork together this weekend. I have everything I know they'll want (application forms, I-20, financial information, proof that I've paid the $100 SEVIS fee), things they say they might ask for (degree certificate, transcripts, demonstration of links to the UK, old passports showing travel to the US), and then an assortment of others bits and pieces they're probably not going to want to see but it won't hurt to take along just in case (GMAT scores, copy of marriage certificate, divorce documentation, Deed Polls showing changes to surname). All I've got left to do is pay the visa administration fee (£60), which I can take care of at a local bank tomorrow, and get my photo taken. The specifications for the photo are very precise, which means one from a machine won't do. A photographer very near to where I live does compliant photos, but when I popped in to ask about it yesterday I was informed that it would cost £25! While I've pretty much got used to the entire going to Business School process eating up money, that seems a bit steep. There's a place a few minutes away from the US emabassy that does lots of passport and visa photographs, so I've dropped them an e-mail to see if their rates are any more reasonable. If they are, then I'll stop in when I pass through London next week.

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Thursday, June 02, 2005

Inside information 

While looking for some statistics to contribute to a pointless discussion on the B-week forums, I came across this article on the factors involved in admissions decisions. It looks at the charateristics of admissions 'hits' and 'misses' and what schools can do to get more of the former and avoid the latter. In many ways it doesn't say anything that schools and admissions consultants haven't been saying over and over again to people who've bothered to listen, but I think seeing the information pulled together and from an admissions professional's perspective puts a bit of a different angle. Could be an interesting read for anyone approaching applications.

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RIP a good and faithful servant 

Sometime between 8 and 8.30am BST today my computer screen died. A postmortem has yet to establish a definitive cause of death, but old age is suspected (3.5 in lcd-flatscreen-years being approximately equal to 82 in human ones). Resusitation was attempted by all the usual means (turning off and turning back on again, changing fuses, trying different outlet sockets, attempting to try diferent power leads, etc), but to no avail. Now I know that all things must die at somepoint, but did it really have to be less than two months before I leave the country, and on a day when I really, really needed to get things done? Still, as the man in PC World said, at least monitors aren't as expensive as they used to be.

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