Hurry Up and Wait

Hurry Up

Last week I completed what was a very fun and informative interview for The London Business School. I ran down what the process was going to be like in a previous post, and made sure that my preparation level was a right blend of knowing my story without being rehearsed.

I’m glad to say that the interview went very well. I was what I like to call “Grade-A-Me” throughout all of the behavioral questions, and feel really solid that I communicated the spectrum of why MBA, why now, why LBS, and why me in a good deal of depth while simultaneously gaining a good level of rapport with my interview. It didn’t hurt that my interviewer was already intrigued with my application (remember, LBS interviewers read your application beforehand), and I was able to cover more ground on what makes me a good candidate outside of what I was able to put into my essays.

The part of the interview that seems to throw many people is the impromptu presentation. First off, I was lucky to have an interviewer who wanted to save that for after the behavioral questions. I can only imagine coming in from the cold and being asked to present a topic, without being able to at least warm up the vocal cords. I can also see how a “weak” start with the presentation could throw off the rest of your interview. Luckily I didn’t have to deal with this.

Like I said above, I had already built a decent rapport with my interviewer before we delved into the presentation. For example, I could tell that this person enjoyed thought processes and new ideas, so I made sure to sprinkle some into my presentation. I found that the few minutes given to prepare were ample. All they want to see is your thought process; and with just a few minutes to prep there honestly wasn’t time for much else. I did come up with some winning ideas for my case, and I could tell those impressed.

All in all, the interview lasted about 2 hours. Of course in hind sight I see missed opportunities to have mentioned one thing or another, but overall I feel particularly strong about this interview. Now it’s on to the waiting game… maybe.

And Wait?

I originally thought that I would take the time between this most recent interview and Thanksgiving to clear my mind of anything MBA related and just, you know, be. A couple of days of that and I realized that wasn’t going to cut it for me. Like any sane person who applied to tip top schools in Round 1, I’m prepping myself mentally for the worst case scenario. The LBS invite is indeed a strong sign; my application was interesting enough for the top international business school in the world to want to interview me. In the same token, Kellogg and LBS are highly selective programs where even the most qualified can be spurned. And that is why I’ve decided to just roll on into the next process and put my best foot forward, even if I never have to click submit.

And, truth be told, this new frontier is exciting me! Through The Consortium I have access to an incredible member list of schools. Interestingly enough, after I made my GMAT score available for schools to search through GMAC along with my demographic info, I’ve had wave after wave of emails and mailings show up in my various inboxes. Some of these solicitors are Consortium schools, which does my heart some good.

Through the Consortium, you can apply to up to six of their member schools in one application. I think my six that I’m prepping for are:

  • Cornell University, Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management
  • Georgetown University, McDonough School of Business
  • New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kenan-Flagler Business School
  • University of Virginia, Darden School of Business
  • Yale University, Yale School of Management

The shared application means that I don’t have to fill out the same things numerous times, however I still have to write essays for each school. Now before you say that I’m crazy for thinking I can get this done by January, I broke ground on a bunch of these essays way back in the summer (Consortium essay topics released relatively early in the season). I’m definitely not starting from scratch.

There remains the possibility that I’ll get some good news in December and that all of my additional writing will go to waste. I can live with that. It beats the alternative of counting down the days.

Would You Like Another Interview?

After an extended weekend in Chicago, I finished the final piece of my Kellogg application. No time to rest, however, as the interview details for LBS were sent to me, and now it’s off to prepare for what I predict to be a wildly different experience. More on that in a bit.

The visit for Kellogg’s Diversity Preview Weekend was well worth it. Apart from the standard visit day/weekend fare, Kellogg made this weekend unique. They ran the Diversity Preview Weekend concurrent with the Black Management Association Conference. This gave us prospective students a chance to see one of Kellogg’s fabled student organizations in action, which is an entirely different dynamic than having members of organizations sit on a panel during lunch or what-have-you. I came away with a more refined sense of what the student culture was like on campus. I was very impressed with the caliber of speakers that the student group was able to draw, and their networking events also left nothing to be desired. Cocktail party on the 99th floor of the Willis Tower, anyone?

Apart from the fun, I did have an important bit of business to attend to. My interview was also held this weekend, right in the midst of the conference and events. It was a bit helter-skelter, having to turn my mind from the topics being discussed towards getting my interview-level focus together. All in all though, I am happy with my performance. Of course in hindsight I tend to nitpick and wish I emphasized on strength over another, but that’s only natural I suppose.

On the same day that I interviewed with Kellogg I received the contact information for my LBS interviewer and a deadline to get the interview done. After sending off the email for scheduling, I naturally took a peek at LinkedIn to see what type of person I’ll be speaking to. Suffice it to say it’s someone at a very high level, at a very large multinational corporation. I felt a twinge of nerves that I would be talking to someone so “big”, but that quickly gave way to a sense of excitement. This person went to LBS, got a job in the states, and now has a high level role. I’m interested to pick their brain; maybe just a tad less than they are to pick mine, I’m sure.

A bit about the LBS Interview. It’s longer than the normal MBA interview, clocking in at somewhere between 1-2 hours (sometimes up to 3 depending on who your alum is). This gives the interviewer a chance to really delve into the reasoning behind your decision to apply. You can’t simply gloss over “Why MBA?”, you have to be able to talk about your passions at length. In addition to this, the interviewer will be able to assess you based on whether they would’ve wanted you in their own LBS class. So fit is of the essence, as well as making sure they know you are more than capable as a student. By being extended an invite to interview, that means that the admissions committee is interested in me as a candidate, and that they want to know more about me. This is a major opportunity.

The most daunting part of the interview is a brief case discussion. The interviewer will give you 2 minutes to gather your thoughts on a particular business topic or statement, and then will give you 5 minutes to present them. Obviously, they’re not looking for you to have an intimate knowledge of the topic, but the way to reason and structure your argument can give them a good insight into the type of thinker that you are.

As you can see, there is much to prepare for. So my apologies for keeping this post short, but I must get to it.

My Weekend >>>

To put it simply, this weekend was great.

Interview

On Friday morning, I had my interview for the Fisher College of Business. I had a great flowing conversation with an adcom, lasting about 45 minutes. The interview was mostly behavioral-focused, as one might expect from a school that values intimacy and collaboration. I only got one unexpected question: describe a current newsworthy topic in the business world that you are following. In hindsight, I think that the adcom was trying to ascertain how “plugged in” I am to the business world. Fair question; it makes sense to wonder whether an engineer is truly engaged in this new world I’m trying to join. Thankfully I stay up on the Financial Times and numerous podcasts so I was able to pick an interesting story that directly related to my long term career goal – stating that it would be something I’d have to watch in terms of career prospects. I think she was impressed.

The Max M. Fisher College of Business

LBS

You may also remember that Friday was the day for London Business School to send out their interview invites (or the dreaded ding). Thankfully my mind wasn’t tormented by constant email checking: I was too busy and engaged with the Fisher interview to be on my phone. When the day’s events were done, I swiped down to read my missed notifications. Some work email, a few text messages… and there I saw it. Subject: “London Business School Stage 1 Decision”.

Second fist pump was after making sure that I read it correctly.

I must admit, when I saw the words “delighted to inform you”, I raised my hands to the heavens and let out a primordial yell. And then maybe another. This was sweet, sweet validation that A: I wasn’t setting my sights too high, B: I wrote a strong application, and that C: This could actually happen. What wonderful icing on a wonderful day. I had to refocus myself in short order, however, since day two at Fisher was yet to come.

The Fisher Season Premiere

59 fellow prospects joined me on campus for two days of events which included mock case discussions, lunch with faculty (who came in on a Saturday to talk to us – nice touch), career management talks, and socials/dinners with currents and alums. It also happened to be Halloween weekend, leading to some current students invited us to their Halloween party. Fisher students know what they are doing (read: it was a blast). I was very impressed with the students, both prospective and current. These people were incredibly sharp. During Professor Anand’s Global Strategy mock case discussion, great ideas were flying in left and right. By the end I realized I picked up just as much insight from my fellow prospects as I did from listening to the professor. The currents and alums that I met just about all were interning/working for a Fortune 500 (Columbus is HQ for 17 Fortune 500s). There was definitely a Midwestern sense about the program, and the career management people talked about how they wanted to establish themselves as elite in their backyard and grow from there. All in all the weekend solidified some of what I already knew about Fisher (elite facilities and career management, in a vibrant city) but I also picked up some new information. Fisher is a really cohesive and engaging place; the staff and the faculty really love what they do and you can feel that energy coursing through the halls. Fisher definitely took a leap forward in my eyes.

Onward and Forward

The admissions train does not stop. Fresh from everything this past weekend, I’m preparing for my trek to Evanston for my Kellogg interview and for the Diversity Preview Weekend as a whole. The interview will be a blind one (interviewer won’t have read my application materials in advance), which changes the dynamic a bit. There’s also a ton of activities planned for the weekend, which I’m really excited about.

I’m also constantly scanning my email for my LBS interview details. I will probably be interviewing with an alumnus in DC/NYC/CHI, but having a date and location confirmed would be nice to have. London’s interview process is wildly different from most schools… but more on that later. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

I still have some business to attend to this weekend first and foremost.