Dreaming of Picasso

Monday, February 27, 2006

Long week at work

This is going to be a real busy week for me. I have tons of meetings and deliverables this week, and in a way I am truly happy because this will leave less time for me to obsess with MBA admissions decisions. Since the completion of the MBA applications, I have had some time at hand and yesterday, I almost thought of starting an application to Chicago GSB part time program. But of course, I stopped myself. I have gone through the different emotions of the admissions lifecycle and have no desire to inflict that sort of "pain" again.

After seeing all the great books being recommended by my fellow bloggers ( MBAJackass, Marina), I plan to pick up something and just read. More recommendations are welcome...

Ah! and before I forget, The Amazing Race Season 9 premiers this Tuesday, and I am so looking forward to it.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Vacation Plans Finalized

My vacations plans are finalized and I now have all transportation and hotel arrangements.
The itinerary looking like this

Buenos Aires, Argentina( 2 days)
Colonia de Sacramento/ Montevideo, Uruguay (1 day)
Punta del Este, Uruguay (2 days)
Mendoza, Argentina( 2 days)
Buenos Aires, Argentina ( 2 days)

If anyone has any travel tips for Argentina or Uruguay, please send them my way.

I am really looking forward to this vacation, because part time programs tend to really suck up all the free time and I want to make the most of this vacation.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Why not full-time...

There is no news on the MBA front at all. The long weekend ended with an accident - I was changing lanes and a motorcycle came a hit my car on the side. After a 40 minute ordeal, I found out that the motorcycle rider did not have any insurance and although I checked for all blind spots before changing lane, the final verdict is yet to be issued.

With that crappy experience, more negative thoughts flooded my mind - things like how my insurance will be increased for next three years, I will be car-less for 10-15 days as it gets repaired, and the things I did wrong in the Haas interview.

That being said, I wanted to post my thoughts on the choice of full-time v/s part-time. For the longest time, I was conflicted between the full time v/s part time choices. Here is a list of my decision points.
  • Career direction - I knew that I did not want to change my career completely. I am in my 30's and I like my industry but I know that I lack skills to move me forward in my career. I wanted an MBA to give me wider breadth of skills to take on more diverse roles in my organization.
  • Career Stage - I know this may sound stupid. But I know that if I completely switch my career, I will have to almost again re-start my career to bring it to the point that it is today.
  • immediate Knowledge Application - I have heard time and time again from part time MBA students that the things they learn in their class have enabled them to be more effective at work . In many cases, it seemed that these "little" extras have enabled them to move into the desired areas.
  • Price tag - I realized that the cost of a ranked( top 20) full time MBA program is about 90-100K. The same is true for part time programs, however I figured that from the cost perspective, working while getting an MBA may allow me to have lesser debt.
  • Multi-tasking costs - I usually try to do something or the other even with my day job. I also think that this is a good opportunity to get better at multi-tasking- something I will need as I "climb the ladder".
  • Choice of Schools - Bay area has a good choice of schools like Haas, Tepper, and Wharton and there are some good distance choices like Duke, Chicago GSB, and UCLA.

These decision points will vary from person to person but the choice of why not full-time took me some time to make.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Kicking the addiction

When I started my application to B-Schools, I did not know about businessweek forums. I came to know about them sometime after I had finished of my GMAT and during the time I was finalizing my school choices. I was primarily looking at the rankings and to be honest, I was really struggling with the essays. So I chose to focus on my first two applications - Haas and Fuqua. Once I was done with them, I knew I had some time left before the Stanford and Tepper applications, so I started to surf around more. Lo and behold.. I was _stuck_ on the businessweek forums.
In the beginning, I was struck with awe and initially, I felt really stupid that I didn't use such a great resource to help me out. I soon realized that I had grossly overestimated the value of the businessweek forums. A significant number of posts fall into the following two categories.

The first one being - "Here is my profile, will I get into school X ?".

These posts in my opinion were of little value to me. With all due respect to the admission consultants who tried to answer these posts, if an applicant lacks the needed confidence to research business school stats and arrive at a conclusion, perhaps applying to B-School for a career in business may not be the right choice. I do not mean to be disrespectful to anyone, but the reality is that in most people in business will have to deal with insufficient data and the subjectivity of the client's judgment. Applying to business school in my mind is not different.

The second category of posts fall into the "Interview updates and Acceptance updates".

These posts in my opinion are of little value, _but_ I do frequent them fairly religiously. I started browsing these posts initially just to get a sense of where things were, given that the application process in generally opaque. I know that by visiting these posts, I am not getting any real value but I do get hope. Hope that may be I might get the interview email from Stanford or the call from Haas, that I have accepted.

I guess what makes businessweek forums most addictive is the fact that they provide hope. Hope is very powerful and consequently defies all logic and reality at times. Hope is the common thread that binds MBA applicants and creates virtual support groups.

All that being said, I have _not_ checked the businessweek forums for the last three days. I am trying to kick my addiction because I spend way too much time on these forums . I can spend this time on something more productive. In any case, let me see how long I can resist punching in www.businessweek.com

Friday, February 17, 2006

GMAT Study Schedule

I was recently talking to one of my friends who is planning to take the GMAT. He is working full time and is having some difficulties fitting in the GMAT study schedule. I personally think I did a good job of preparing for GMAT and I believe I did it efficiently and it got me the results that I wanted - getting a score starting with 7xx. I used the OG ( 10th and 11th editions) primarily with a jolt of Kaplan 800 and the Manhattan sentence correction guide.

Some things I did right
  • Took a power prep test to determine where I stood

This was an important step because the last time I did any sort of studying for standardized test was about 8 years back. Everything seemed distant and I actually forgot the value of "pi".

  • Carved about two hours on every work day and 5 hours a day on the weekend

This was important and I did not miss any study day. If I felt tired, I just did something -usually a section that I enjoyed and required less work.

  • Took about 10 tests in all and was honest in my timing.

Helped me master the timing and the pressure of the stupid clock once it started showing the seconds.

  • Decided what my average time should be for every question and did the OG in "Blocks of 15 questions".

This approach let me be work not only on my math and grammar skills but gave me a quick insight into which types of problems stumped me the most.

  • Acknowledge my weakness and learn to positively deal with it

I have never been good at problems involving permutations and combinations. Under the gun, I go totally berserk and come out with a wrong answer 80% of the time. I decided that if I got a permutation problem during my GMAT, I would congratulate myself- because typically one gets these problems if they are doing well. I would then give myself 2 minutes to come up with an answer and then move on. In the real test, I did get one permutation problem, and that is the only one I got incorrect, but instead of trying to obsess on it, I tried to work on other areas like sentence correction etc.

Some Things I did not do right

  • Spent time at the "Forums" like testmagic

While I got some use out of these forums, on the whole, I think they were just addictive for me. I learnt a bit but from my perspective anything over 1/2 hour a day on forums is not productive. This time can be better used for something else. I _was_ spending over 2 hours ( mostly during work and sometimes on the weekends)

  • Should have planned to redo "all" questions I missed the first time in OG

I started tracking questions that I missed very late in the game. Tracking ones mistakes is the best way to maximize preparation time. Had I marked all the questions, I got wrong from the beginning, once I was done with the OG, I could have diligently worked to solve the one I missed the last time instead of using the random (pick 4 in a page approach)

  • Did not eat something during the break in the test

For some reason, I was famished during the verbal section and my head was feeling light. Although, I do not think it really did impact my test.

I was relieved to see my score and I would like to emphasize ( like many other posters)- keep a positive attitude.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

T Minus ...

The countdown has begun...

28 days to go for the Haas decision
26 days to go for the Tepper decision

Almost every single day, I have some thought or other about the upcoming decisions. These thoughts usually end up with me coming up with a list of things that I might have _not_ done. For example, yesterday I was reading the clear admit blog on "Admission Tips" and immediately I remembered that during my Haas interview, I had asked a question about career services ( which I thought was ascending that an adcom member would know). As luck would have it, she did not know much about that topic and asked me to email her later. Now I had diligently prepared my questions and tried not to ask too many detailed questions but sometimes its just the way it goes.

On other application news, I received an email from Tepper today, letting me know that my application is complete. I had submitted a proposal to my company to support my MBA education. My manager knew about my endeavors and supported me in principle but I found that she has successfully pushed my case, and now it is being considered at the executive level. I have finished writing some additional material to align my goals with our business objectives so I am keeping my fingers crossed.

With all due respect, I really that wish schools would just let us know the admission decisions as soon as possible. The next month will be agonizing...

Monday, February 13, 2006

Pre MBA Education

Last week I got an email from Haas, asking me to register for the statistics waiver exam. Unfortunately, I will be on vacation at that time and also I want to make sure I get an admission before I embark on the journey to fulfill the pre-requisites. However, this email sparked an related thought process that I had not thought before.

I really do not have a background in accounting and the last time I did any sort of Math was 10 years back. I am not talking about the simple GMAT math, but something advanced like calculus. Given that I will be a part time student, I think it is a given that I will have to do a good job at managing my time. In my opinion, good time management is a function of good planning and in that spirit, I have decided to enroll in a local community college for the Spring Quarter. The subjects that I plan to take
- Accounting ( For sure because I don't want to start out cold in the class and play catch up for the rest of the semester)
- Statistics ( A requirement for Haas @ UC Berkeley)
- Calculus ( If I do not get into Haas then I would probably want some sort of calculus course)

In my mind, by attending classes in the evening, I would more likely get into a routine of doing things like projects/homework, therefore giving me a better chance at bringing my act together when it comes time for the actual courses in the MBA program.

I would be really interested to hear from current students ( both full time and part time) if they wish they had done something different in preparation of going to B-School.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Tepper Interview - Done!!

The Tepper interview is _done_ and the journey that began with the GMAT preparations in June 2005 is nearing its last phase.

The Tepper interview started on time. I usually try to arrive at a interview location 15-20 minutes ahead of time and usually listen to my ipod to just relax myself. This time I was so absorbed into the music that I did not notice my interviewer approaching me at the hotel lobby till the last minute. I fumbled with my ipod but recovered with a beaming smile and a firm handshake.

The lady from the adcom thanked me for coming to the information session the previous evening. The interview started with a question about my educational background and why I chose my major. This was an easy question for me because I really had a strong reason for pursuing my undergrad. There was the usual question about my job. I proceeded to explain my current job and how I progressed to my existing position. She quickly pointed that since I am doing so well, why I wanted the MBA. I came back with a quick explanation of my goals and how I planned to execute my plan while I was working. This in my mind was a good move because in the next question she asked me about my concentrations I was interested in. Once I mentioned my concentrations - she asserted that given my goals, my concentration choices looked like a perfect fit. She proceeded to explain that this information was really helpful as it helped adcom figure out the right mix of students for a given class. The standard why Tepper was followed with yet another standard question - Tell me something unique about yourself. I like to travel and proceeded to tell some of travel experiences and how I found myself adapting to unusual situations and thinking on my feet when I traveled. She asked me my favorite place and why? The interview ended with the obligatory questions for the interviewer.

The interview was scheduled for 30 minutes and lasted for 45 minutes. I had a nice time in the interview. When I was done, we had a little bit of chit-chat about the great California weather and I suggested some "local" places to eat. I felt that the interview went well and I was super relaxed. May be it was because I knew I was already admitted to Duke and may be because this was my third interview and I have gone through these questions several times. In any case, I was able to highlight the data based teaching approach and why it would make sense to me. I was able to highlight Tepper's collaboration with WHU in Germany, and how it aligned with my goal of eventually doing business in East Europe. I was able to highlight the fact that I got a lot of input from current students and was able to align my short term and long term goals.

As I was driving back from the my interview, I happened to pass my GMAT test center and it just reminded me of my MBA journey.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Baby Steps

I have managed to take some baby steps for my interview preparation for Tepper. I read the accepted.com database and it seems that most of the questions are the typical ones - Why MBA, Why now, Why Tepper? Oddly, I don't feel very anxious about the interview. It will be in Palo Alto and it is not too far from work. I do plan to take about 1/2 day off because I don't want get tangled with work issues before the interview. I also read my application and my resume and that just helped me realize how I am relieved to not be writing any more essays describing my goals and what make me unique.

I have a feeling that this will be my last bit of effort for any MBA admission related preparation. Out of the four schools, I have/will have interviewed with three of them by Friday. I know that Stanford interview invitations are being sent out but unlike the folks at the businessweek forums (who have unbridled optimism about interview invitations), I am a realist. I have had my share of success and failures and even without an interview invitation, I feel that I put my best foot forward and that is the best I could do.

On a more positive note, I would really like to hook up with other bay area bloggers this Saturday( 2/11/2006) evening ( if you guys are free) for dinner/drinks, perhaps in Palo Alto/ Mountain View ( suggestions).

Monday, February 06, 2006

Shake me up

I really need some shaking up -- to get into my senses and to stop wasting time. I am usually very self motivated person but somehow during the last two weeks, my motivation has decided to go on a vacation. I have been procrastinating things I needed to do - like preparing for the Tepper Interview on Friday. Instead, I have just been watching TV and basically doing nothing. I was so much into doing nothing that I spent about two hours yesterday going through a discussion board about the NBC TV series "The Book of Daniel". I really liked the show and unfortunately it has been cancelled . The good news is that the new episodes are being released on the web.

I need to pull up my socks and get going for the CMU interview. My action list includes
- Read information about Tepper
- Read Accepted.Com Database questions
- Go over my -"Why MBA etc" notes from the Berkeley interview
- Attend the information session on Thursday
- Read application materials

I hope that when I get back home today evening, I complete at least one of my action items.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Adcom and Blogs

Recently, I have been seeing some blogs commenting on the impact of blogging on the MBA application decision process. One of the posts on this topic by the folks at allstaressays.com and the other one is by a fellow blogger- MBA Jackass.

All this got me thinking.. can blogging lead to a ding?

In my opinion, adcoms in general must be pretty busy. On average at least 3 two page essays are being submitted per application and given that about 1000 applications are being processed ( these are just some representative numbers ). 6000 pages of essays have to read, now add in the work history, resume, community service, transcripts ( which at the minimum would translate to about 10 pages per application), we are looking at a grand total of almost 16000 pages of information.

Given that this volume of information needs to be processed, is looking up blogs for applicant information really the right approach?

- Personally, I don't think it is ethical because usually for most blogs that I have seen, it may be possible to "guess" someone's identity but there is no "proof" to correlate the blog to the application ( unless ofcourse they decided to put in their real name along with phone numbers etc.). Without concrete evidence, I think it is unfair to use "other" information to influence the decision.

- Most application questions have "word limits" or "suggested lengths". This of course means the school expects the applicant to communicate the information in a succinct manner( I guess Stanford is an exception here). So why go ahead and use external "additional" information because in all fairness the decision should be made based on the merit of the application.

On the other hand:

- Adcoms are entrusted with the responsibility of finding the best applicants. If someone is "obnoxious" in real life and that is reflected in a public forum like a blog- is it not the adcoms responsibility to factor in this data point ?

While blogging has been "safe" outlet for me voice my feelings, I sure hope that what I have said is not being used for unintended purposes like my admissions decisions. However, on a lighter note, I do hope that "readers" of my blog know that ...I LOVE HAAS... and any positive influence on my application is welcome:)