Days of Whine and Neurosis

Monday, October 24, 2005

Money Well Spent

Before starting school I completed the four-CD MBA Survival Kit by GMAC and McGraw Hill. It definitely helped, and I'd recommend the "kit" to any potential MBA candidate. You'll be happy that you put in the work when the first day of class hits you like a ton of bricks.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Who Spams Blogs?

Has anyone noticed the glut of blog spammers lately? It seems like the "comments" section of every blog has been getting filled with nonsense. Every time I get an email about a comment it contains some gibberish with a few underlined links. It seems like some people are pretty hard-up for traffic. What a complete waste of time.

Here are a few words of advice for the spammers:

1) If you think that this blog is a major source of potential traffic, I have a bridge to sell you. Just ask Google Adsense -- they'll concur.

2) At least link to something coherent. These weird sites probably don't even make sense to YOU, and you wrote them.

Anyhow, thanks to those who come to read and actually post something MBA-related.

I'm studying like a madman for a Statistics test tomorrow. I have two unbelievably trying weeks ahead of me. They include the afore mentioned Stats test, a huge group marketing case analysis, an Accounting mid-term, Economics mid-term, an Economics group problem set, an Accounting case analysis, and just to wrap it all up...a Marketing final. Oh yeah, throw in a few evening employer meet & greets for good measure. Whoopee!

I'm off to review binomial and normal distributions. Good luck as the application season gets started! I know these are trying times for applicants, but just remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Wow: Week One Wonders

So, week number one of my MBA experience is in the books. All of those rumors about how busy you’ll be? True.

This weekend is going to be crazy. I have a marketing case due on Monday morning, an accounting case due on Wednesday, and an Econ case due on Friday. Throw in two corporate presentations at night next week and it looks like another series of 14 hour days. It’s all manageable, but you have to stay on it. My classes are all fun and interesting, and my section and study-group are full of excellent, intelligent people.

The corporate presentations last week were great. You have to get suited-up and hang around school until 9 PM to meet with all of the finance companies, but it’s a small price to pay. The coolest part about the presentations and receptions is that you get to meet decision-makers. You literally get a chance to have a drink with the people who could hire you…on your second day of school. It’s like driving home one night and thinking, “I wish they’d fix the potholes on my street.” And then getting introduced to the Governor of your state the next day and asking for the pothole repair in person. It occurs to me that bschool is as much about access as it is education.

Back to the coal mine…

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Math Camp

Monday and Wednesday marked the optional “math camp” for incoming first-years at UCLA Anderson. For me, however, it was certainly mandatory as I hadn’t attended a math class in more than a decade. The Professor, David Ravetch, was flat-out hilarious. He had an auditorium of 220 people laughing from 9 AM until 4 PM for two days in a row. That’s some feat when calculus, statistics, and the mathematics of finance are the topics of discussion. I learned quite a bit and felt very good about spending part of the summer going over the GMAC’s “MBA Survival Kit-Quantitative Skills” CD. It’s funny that most of us spend our time worrying about calculus and stats, when they are, in fact, quite a bit easier than algebra. More often than not, the errors come not from the calculus, but from simplifying the answer using algebra.

After math camp a bunch of us went to a bar in West LA called “Cabo Cantina.” Everyone I’ve met has been very cool and very sharp. Most Anderson students are pretty laid-back and socially adept.

Leadership Foundations starts on Monday and lasts all week, followed by a week of orientation. I’ll bet my life-savings (all $62.59 of it) that Leadership Foundations features a day on a ropes-course. Who decided that the ropes-course = leadership training? Who didn’t blindly fall backwards off a picnic table into the arms of their waiting teammates at least twice during a childhood of summer camps and school field-trips? If you find this decision-maker, let me know. By the way, does anyone remember the episode of The Office (the British version) when the management consultant comes in and makes them solve the “Fox, Chicken, and a bag of seed” problem to build teamwork? One of the funniest 30-minutes of television I’ve ever seen.

It’s all happening! I’ll try to post some photos of the Anderson campus in the coming weeks (I just got a new digital camera and I’m looking for an excuse to use it).

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Part II: The Essays and Interviews (For Future Applicants)

Here’s part two of my re-cap on the business school application process. Sorry for the 2 ½ month delay between parts one and two…it’s been a fun-filled, crazy summer.

On this day, one year ago, I was sweating the MBA application process. I was studying for the GMAT, and simultaneously wondering what on earth I was going to write about for the required essays. So, for those in the same position, I feel your pain – but remember that anyone can get over the hump with the proper amount of dedication and well-directed effort. Also remember that if you plan to give a half-hearted effort during the process, save the $200 application fees.

Essays:

The essays were the most important part of my application process. I had a GMAT score right near the mean for all of the top schools, but it wasn’t going to distinguish me in any way. And, my personal opinion of the GMAT is that it’s just a hurdle – once you get over it, the admissions committees don’t give it a second thought. So, if you get a 670-740 you’re probably over the hurdle and then it’s on to your essays and resume for the adcoms. The only way your GMAT will kill for you is if you get a freakish score (like a 780) with a quantitative section score in the 98th percentile. Know this: b-schools love the math geeks.

There are three basic types of essay questions, IMO.

1) The “describe your goals essay:” This essay always bugged. It’s the equivalent of the “where do you see yourself in five years” interview question, i.e., generic and boring but unavoidable. The fact is, you have to present a solid case for why you want to go to business school, and this is really the place to do it. Ultimately, this essay should really address why each individual school you’re applying to is the right school to fit your goals.

In other words, do your research and apply each school’s strengths in your area of concentration to your essay. If you want to be an entrepreneur, talk about school x’s center for entrepreneurship. Look into the course offerings, meet people, and look into unique pieces of the curriculum unique to each program that can help you get there. For instance, UCLA has an academic internship program whereby you can start interning at a local company during the school year to gain extra expertise. This is particularly useful for career switchers who want to make a fairly drastic career change. Adcoms love to see that you actually care about their school.

2) Some version of the “what makes you unique essay:” Sometimes this deals with a description of you, and sometimes it deals with your personal ethical and moral base, but it always requires introspection. I say, really pour it on thick here, but do so with real examples. As I wrote in an earlier post, make sure you give real-world examples to make your points. These have a way of staying with the reader. It’s not enough to simply make the reader feel like, “this is a nice person.” They need takeaways. Give them some meat. As with any essay, make it entertaining. Admissions committees read between 5,000 – 10,000 versions of the exact same essay each year. I think you’re really writing short stories, not term-papers.

Don’t be afraid to stand-out, so long as you stand out due to quality and not flash. Say you ran track in college. Instead of saying, “I ran track for four years,” try starting your essay with a present-tense account of climbing into the starting blocks as the sweat drips off your face and the butterflies in your stomach fly like moths to a light bulb. That’s the beginning of a story I want to keep reading.

3) The “optional essay:” This was a big one for me. I had a rather unsavory grade on my transcript that stuck out like a sore thumb. I used this essay to tackle it head-on. I also explained one of my favorite hobbies/passions in great detail in this essay. If you have anything in your past that you think might raise a red flag for admissions committees, address is here!

Interviews:

Accepted.com’s interview feedback database is a great resource. Review it for each interview at each school. If you're reading this because you have an interview coming up, congratulations! You've made it past the first-cut. Your scores and grades qualify you as an acceptable candidate -- now you just need to show that your goals are realistic, and that you will fit in with the school's culture.

All the interviews I had were different. Some were very laid-back, others were unbelievably intense and probing, and some brought-up highly unexpected questions that made it really cool. One thing to remember: even if it’s one of those laid-back, we’re both getting to know each other types, it’s still an interview and they’re still forming opinions about your candidacy. Take it seriously. That doesn’t mean you should be stiff and overly formal for the situation, but it does mean that you should be interesting, on top of it, and forthcoming with examples, ideas, and personality. And by the same token, if you get grilled and pushed around, stay focused and realize it’s probably part of that interviewer’s approach to see if you’ll crack under the pressure. Never let ‘em see you sweat!

I found it very helpful to move one topic into another by myself. In other words, you know that they will always ask you, “why MBA, why now, why here, what do you plan to do with it,” in no particular order. It seems very logical that a social person can seamlessly blend those topics together from a jumping-off point anywhere along the line. I think you really need to show that you’re passionate about what you want to do and what you love to do. Who wants to sit in a room with a milquetoast personality? And, you can always ask them questions to keep the dialogue going or to find out about their experiences at school x.

At the end of the day, you need to be yourself and relax once the questions start coming. You’ve been in a job interview before, and these will be almost exactly the same. You know you can handle it because you’ve done it before, so don’t stress out too much.

That’s it for now. More later. Good luck!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Google Earth: Amazing!

This program is incredible. It's like Google Maps to the 10th power. Check it out and watch it zoom around the globe to map any location with a satellite photo. Best of all, it's free.

Google Earth

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Fade Into Bolivian

That’s what “Iron” Mike Tyson said he might do after Lennox Lewis beat him down a few years ago. Mike, however, didn’t live up to his promise to morph into a South American citizen, and continued lining up fights with over-matched tomato cans to con people out of their hard-earned pay-per-view dollars. Now Tyson’s second underwhelming opponent in a row has exposed him for the fraud he is. Kevin McBride, one of the most non-contender-like heavyweights to ever show up on pay-per-view, forced Tyson to quit after the 6th round. That’s right, quit!

When I was a kid, Tyson was the fiercest dude on earth. Now he’s an embarrassment to the sport and a shadow of his former self. Go away, please!

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Just Bought Two New Books

Has anyone read Freakonomics or Guns, Germs and Steel? My order from Amazon just arrived and I'm about to dive in. I read a few exerpts from Freakonomics in a magazine and it looked great. I'm also reading Theodore Rex right now, which is a biography covering Teddy Roosevelt's time as President. Too bad they don't make them like Teddy anymore.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Grandstanding at Stanford

Main Entry: grandstand
Function: intransitive verb
: to play or act so as to impress onlookers

Stanford's GSB announced that they’re rejecting all of the 41 MBA applicants who accessed their admission decisions during the infamous Apply Yourself disaster. Here’s the article: Stanford Rejects 41 Hacker Applicants.

First things first, it bugs that they’re still calling this a “hack.” But, I digress (and please, no silly analogies or moral pontificating. We’ve read it all before on the BW forums).

The real problem is that Stanford positioned itself as the compassionate, sensible leader during the aftermath, only to become the most evil of them all when it came down to it. They asked everyone who accessed their decision to write a letter explaining their actions and motivations. And then they denied every single one of them.

Stanford acted like they were giving people a second chance, but were only interested in prolonging the agony and talking to hear the sound of their own voice. There is simply no possible way that every single one of the 41 explanations fell short. I believe this is what’s known as, “gettin’ feudal on that ass.”

In my opinion, they had no intention of letting any of the Palo Alto 41 get off the chopping block, but we’ll never know. So, in summary, Go Bears!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Spending Money Never Felt So Good

It’s on! I just paid my UCLA Anderson deposit, securing my place in the Class of 2007!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Part I: Pre-Application and the GMAT (For Future Applicants)

I started seriously committing to business school one year ago, almost to the day. I had applied for a job that I was overqualified for that would pay me too little, but it was a job that I wanted nonetheless. I interviewed twice, hit it off for everyone and impressed the decision makers, but ultimately they went with somebody else. I was really surprised that they passed on me, and I decided that I wasn’t ever going to put myself in that position again. I needed the leverage on my side, and some additional real-world skills to make it where I wanted to go.

I was, however, a little doubtful when I started looking into the process. I had been working as a professional and as an artist for years, but I wasn’t an I-Banker or a Consultant. When I picked up my first GMAT book I realized that I hadn’t seen geometry in well over a decade. I wasn’t the “typical” candidate, but I knew that if I could score well enough on the GMAT to merit consideration I could produce a compelling application. No matter where you come from, you have a chance!

First Things First:

1) Write down your “positioning statement.” Who are you, why are you unique, what have you done, what do you want to do, and how will you add to a business school community?

You will live this marketable image over the next 9-12-18-24 months, so start working on it ASAP. It won’t be perfect right away, but it’s better to get started sooner than later. All of your essays will touch on this message in some way. As my friend said, “It’s like the admissions committees are casting a play. You have to decide which roles you can audition for.”

2) Commit to making no excuses and giving it everything you have. I don’t want to make this sound like Rocky, but you’re going to have a million chances to give less than 100% or make excuses to rationalize failure. You simply have to stick your neck out and commit to this process until the fat lady sings or you’ll get eaten alive. It’s not easy, it goes on for a long time, and it’s very competitive, but the rewards are great and the satisfaction of getting into a great MBA program will make it all worth it!

Visits and Meetings:

I attended the World MBA Tour over the summer and found it to be very informative. It was my fist opportunity to meet admissions committee members and current students face to face. I didn’t make any relationships, but looking back on it, I definitely should have. I say that because I attended an info session at one of the schools I applied to and met an admissions consultant. We exchanged cards, I followed-up with an email, and we stayed in touch all the way through the process. Creating that business relationship helped my application and helped my chances. It really does matter. Getting to know the people who will read your applications is the easiest way to stand out from the thousands of applicants they will judge.

You’ll also hear some good info at these tours/info sessions, provided that you’re there to listen. I remember passing by the Tuck table at the World MBA Tour and listening to one of their adcom members. He was describing what makes a successful essay. He suggested using the STAR tactic, or Situation Task Action Result. In other words, when writing about accomplishments, describe the macro situation, talk about your specific role in helping the process, talk about what you did and show how it helped. Pretty basic stuff, but it was great to hear how they wanted the short essays arranged, and I applied that focused approach to all of the essays I wrote (even though I didn’t apply to Tuck).

You should also visit all of the schools you want to apply to, ideally at least a month before you start writing your essays. Take notes during any info sessions, write down people’s names (including those of professors whose classes you visit), jot down your general impressions, etc. All of these notes will make your essays more personal, and admissions committees want to see that you’ve researched THEIR program, not just a generic MBA.

GMAT:

If you haven’t already, start studying for the GMAT. Even if you’re only ½ sure that you’ll apply to bschool, start studying. It’s not a fun exam and it tests how willing you are to learn its style, so get on it. That said, everyone is capable of achieving a good score if they’re willing to work hard enough. For some it will come easier than for others, but it’s a challenge and you simply have to overcome it to get the ball rolling.

I didn’t start studying until August, and I took the test in November. I wish I’d had a few more months to study, but the R2 deadlines were approaching and I left myself just enough time to take the test once. Luckily, I got the score I needed on the first shot, but don’t put yourself in that position if you can avoid it.

If you’re not good at math and aren’t satisfied with your progress, find a class or a tutor. You can find plenty of test taking courses like Kaplan or Princeton Review, or you can find a private tutor. Check out Craigslist if you want to find an affordable tutor in your home town. The same goes for English and Reading Comprehension.

My favorite GMAT resources:

Official Guide to the GMAT, Volume 10 -- This book had the best, most realistic questions. The math sections at the end of the book were very tough and representative of the math you’ll face on the test.

Test Magic -- A great forum for questions, strategy, and test-taking community.

Recommendations:

Talk to your recommenders-to-be as early as possible and communicate your positioning statement to them. Obviously, they’re going to write the recommendations in their own words, but it can’t hurt to let them know which aspects of your character and accomplishments you want to highlight. They might not take your words into consideration when they write your recs, but if you never communicate you can be sure that your message won’t be heard.

I really thought that recs didn’t help all that much. I assumed that everyone had great recs and, therefore, unless you got a bad recommendation it really wasn’t a difference maker. Just recently I spoke to a former adcom member at a top-20 MBA program. They mentioned that the GMAT and the recommendations were their top two criteria! I was amazed! They said that if Bill Gates wrote a recommendation, they took it into consideration and gave the application more weight, no matter what. So, if you’re two degrees of separation or less from any famous business people or leaders, find a way to meet them face to face and try to impress them with great questions! Who knows, maybe they’ll be willing to write you recommendation if you ask.

…more to come in the next episode.

Monday, May 09, 2005

You See Elle Eh!

I just got the “UCLA Anderson Congratulatory Letter” delivered to my inbox! Wow, how sweet it is!

I dropped my application into cyberspace on January 5th, and after four agonizing months, my first choice came to fruition. Well, truth be told, Harvard was also my first choice, but more like choice 1a because I knew that getting in would be like being struck by lightening and bit by a shark on the same day. And, I’m saving those odds for a massive lottery jackpot.

The last month and a half was particularly challenging, given that I was twisting in the wind on the wait-list flagpole. Last spring, when I officially decided to apply to business school, UCLA was my obvious first choice. Then I looked at the admitted students profile and prestigious rankings and thought, “well, maybe I need a backup plan.” So, I decided that USC would also make a great destination, and then I looked at the admitted students profile and prestigious rankings and thought, “well, maybe I need a backup plan.” If nothing else, the lofty GMAT, GPA, and Work Experience hurdles made me study harder, work more efficiently, and refine my positioning statement.

But through it all, I felt like Anderson was meant to be. Every time I walk out my front door and look across the street I see a bus stop for a line that runs from my neighborhood to UCLA. Literally. Door to door, y’all. Try wallowing in wait-list purgatory and seeing that friendly little reminder every morning. Good times.

I’m excited to post the obligatory, self-congratulatory, Shakespearian “how I did it” missive(s) in the coming days. I’ll probably break it down into three parts: I) Pre-Application and the GMAT, or “Self-Doubt” II) Applying and Waiting, or “Neurosis” III) Post-Acceptance, or “Debauchery.”

That’s it for now. Back soon, and to all of those on a wait-list somewhere, keep the faith.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Boom Goes the Dynamite!

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! This guy needs a career change!

Click for Video

3 Things I Won't Do in Business School

1. Wear blue button-down shirts. I like the way they look, and blue is one of my favorite colors, but they’re like slightly off-kilter Von Dutch hats in LA circa 2003, i.e., ubiquitous and played. I always feel like I’m headed to a Young Republicans meeting when I’m wearing one. I’m convinced that too much time in a blue shirt makes you clap on 1 & 3 when listening to music and drink white zinfandel.

2. Use stupid words like “synergy” or “mission-critical.” Buzz words, in my opinion, are little band-aids used to cover up people’s insecurities. Basically, when somebody isn’t quite sure that they know what their talking about, they reach into the buzz word bag and pull one out to make themself feel smarter. Remember how in that Communications class you took in college you had to memorize a bunch of definitions that were fancy, made-up words used to describe everyday ordinary events that happen when people, you know, talk to each other? Same thing.

Did I miss something in morning meeting, or are we suddenly on our way to the moon? No? Then don’t say “mission-critical” as plain old “important” will suffice.

Check this out for a buzz word laugh

3. Ever stop thinking that these posters are funny. Do yourself a favor and browse the entire collection.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Still Waiting

UCLA sent me an email the other day asking me to re-confirm my interest in staying on the wait-list. The tone of the email made it sound like they’d much prefer it if I were to bail out now and make their lives easier, but they don’t know what they’ve gotten themselves into. In fact, I’ll be there until the bitter end, if only to feel like I gave it my best shot.

I’m attending USC’s admit weekend, which should be cool. I’m excited to meet some of my potential classmates. I just got back from a USC happy hour with some admitted students. It’s fun to see who’s going where and why. Plus, I’m always down for an excuse to drink a few beers.

Since my last post I met with a real estate investment bank about a potential internship next summer and came away with some good information and a promising lead. We’ll see what happens over the course of the next year, but if nothing else it could be a great opportunity to follow up on in nine months.

That said, my friend heard a great phrase the other day regarding the real estate market – “dot condo.” As a dot com refuge, I definitely don’t want to go down that road again. Yuck. I saw the rise and fall of San Francisco in the dot com heyday and crash. It went from a beautiful bohemian city with soul to a bastion of yuppie hell to a burnt-out husk that was neither nor. The best T-shirt I ever saw hung in the window of a SF clothing shop back in 2000. It read, “GetTheF!*kOutOfMyCity.com.”

But, RE is quite a bit different, given that it’s “real.” While companies like Enron flat-out disappear, buildings don’t. But, it does merit a pause for consideration. I think the coolest thing about going to Bschool is that I’m going to meet so many people who’ve done unique, interesting things. Who knows, maybe I’ll change my mind about my ultimate career once I start school.

That's about it. I'm going to New York for a quick trip next weekend for a friend's wedding and to hang out in the city. I'm stoked. NYC is the center of the known universe and always a great time. Maybe I'll take some pictures and post them when I return.

PS – I shook up the “Music I’m Listening To” section.