Should I do my MBA at Harvard, London Business School, Wharton, or just carry on with my job and forget about this whole MBA business?
The 2015 Financial Times ranking came out today with the top three business Schools in the world being Harvard, London Business School and Wharton.
I have a question for you. Why do companies value MBA graduates from these business schools?
Do you think it is because they have a good education? Do you think it is because they are clever? Do you think it is because they have demonstrated some sort of social skills?
Of course these factors are important, but you can also have all of these things without an MBA.
I mean let’s take a step back and ask, what is the point of an MBA? You can pick up Josh Kauffman’s book ‘The Personal MBA’, do some online courses and get the material off a friend and you are pretty much learning the exact same thing right?
Well there are many arguments for an MBA, one of the main ones being the network you build, but the most interesting one I will focus on will be something I didn’t initially think of before having this conversation with one of the leading Strategy professors at London Business School.
Before I tell you what our discussion was about, I first need to explain the concept of a firm’s signalling policy. If a company like Facebook has a great project that they think they can make money out of, (e.g. the Occulus Rift), they can take on some debt to finance and invest in this project. When a company that size takes on the right amount of debt, the “markets” usually react positively. This is because people in the “market” are considered as “clever” and know that well established companies are only going to take on debt if they are sure they have a good project. In other words, they are putting their money where their mouth is, rather than being all talk and just make an announcement saying “we have a great project coming up that will make us a lot of money”.
In the same way an MBA student is kind of like a company. He/she takes on debt to pay his/her MBA tuition fees, which can take on numbers such as £60k+. Firms see this as a signal and place their trust in an MBA student’s abilities. They are thus willing to pay them six figure salaries as the signalling concept shows how strongly the MBA believes in his/her potential.
A lot of the world is based on beliefs and expectations of the future. This is just some food for thought for those who hear about how much it costs to do an MBA and think “Wow, that is a lot of dollar”.
Keep up to date with my future posts and follow:
Youtube: Coming Soon
Sooo …. I’d planned to blog last term. Once a month or so. How hard can it be, I figured. Won’t take long to type out a few stream of consciousness thoughts. Errr … yeah. Here we are, my first blog post – two weeks into term 2!
What happened? First term of the MBA, that’s what happened. It was hectic, it was fun, and in many ways it wasn’t what I had expected. In December, a second year asked me what had surprised me about the MBA, and it made me think. Quite a few things had surprised me, which in turn surprised me some more – because I know London Business School very well. I worked here for 6 years before my MBA, and my boyfriend started the EMBA a year before me (you can check out his blog here). I’d spoken to plenty of students, perused this blog, and even read some books written by MBAs from other schools (yeah I know, I’m a geek). So I thought I knew exactly what was in store. But I still learnt quite a few things, so I thought I’d share them here.
Lesson #1 – You will doubt yourself, but that’s ok
I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do career-wise (consumer goods/retail), what treks I wanted to go on (Japan) and what activities I wanted to get involved in (touch rugby). But as everyone will tell you, the MBA makes you question things. Should I try consulting? Maybe I want to work in pharma? Was I right not to buy a ticket for Snow Trek? Do I go to the Corporate Finance tutorial or to Sundowners tonight?
Of course, it’s all wrapped up with the ever-present FOMO (fear of missing out). There are just so many interesting, fun, challenging, career-prospect-improving things to choose from, and I, for one, need sleep – but even if you didn’t, you still wouldn’t physically be able to do even a tenth of everything on offer.
Because I had it all planned out, I didn’t think the FOMO would get me, but it did – and the times I found the toughest last term were probably when I had to make difficult choices about what to get involved in. Because your time is so limited, you’re always trying to make sure that you’re going to the club event that will give you the best networking opportunities, or the trek that will be the most fun, and so on. Trying to figure out what to spend your time on can be tough – juggling academic, social, club and career activities with making time for friends and family is not easy. But of course, it’s a luxury to have so many things on offer. And I think it’s worth trying things you hadn’t planned to do, or thought you’d ever be interested in. When else will you have that opportunity?
This brings me onto my second lesson – but since I’m not the most succinct person, and I know you don’t want to read a huge long blog post in one go, I’ll cover the rest in my next post. Time to write some cover letters and applications (the joys of term 2 – more on that in future posts!).
How can I start a company that is going to be the next Google? Is it even possible for a normal person like me to do such a thing?
For me personally, no. Well now it might be, but if I asked myself these questions 3 months ago I would have said definitely not. I mean, I wouldn’t even know where to start, where to get the money from or who I should work with. In fact, I just had a bunch of good business ideas and thought “I’m going to start a business” without having a clue what my strategy was, who my customers were or even how I planned on making money.
So what has changed in these last 3 months? The answer is Business School. Three months ago I accepted my offer to start my Masters at London Business School and it really has changed the way I think. I mean, I didn’t even know what the Time Value of Money was. I literally thought if I sold my car and put the £5000 in a bank without touching it, that £5000 is still going to be £5000 in two years’ time when I buy new one. This isn’t actually true. In fact, when I got home after learning this I was like:
For quite a while.
So I guess the question now is, should you go out and spend £28,000 per year (Masters) on business school fees to learn these important concepts? Well yes and no. If you can afford it, yes, I would highly recommend it – London Business School has been one of the best experiences of my life to date. If you can’t don’t worry. Over the next 6 months, I will be posting about every important concept I learn that I believe is essential in recognising how to become as successful as a Fortune 500 Business Leader. As long as you read all my blog posts, you will pretty much be learning everything I am, but saving yourself £28,000 per year . Stay tuned, follow me on social media and keep up to date with my blog.
Youtube: Coming Soon
At the end of each term I look at the data we collect through student activities.
Below, I’ve put together five quick summaries of some different ways of looking at club activities in the Autumn term.
Which clubs do you think are the best?
Top five clubs, by number of registrations to events:
|Private Equity & Venture Capital||2001|
Top five clubs, with the highest % of alumni and executive students:
|Club||% of ‘exec’ RSVPs|
One of the advantages of LBS is the diversity of programmes. This table shows the % of registrations from alumni and our senior career students that are also often studying part-time: Sloan, EMBAs, MiF PT and Executive Education programmes.
Simply put, if you’re an MBA and want to connect with the members of our community who are most likely to be able to help find you a job, it may be time to start learning volleyball…
Top five clubs, with the highest ratings for networking:
|Military in Business||4.8|
|Women in Business||4.5|
We asked students to rate whether the Professional Interest Clubs had helped them ‘connect with people and businesses relevant to their future career’.
5 = Strongly agree; 3 = neither agree/disagree; 1 = Strongly disagree
Top five clubs, with the highest ratings for learning:
|Clubs||Rating for learning|
|Military in Business||4.4|
We asked students to rate whether the Professional Interest Clubs had helped them ‘gain knowledge and/or skills relevant to their future career’.
5 = Strongly agree; 3 = neither agree/disagree; 1 = Strongly disagree
Top five clubs, which send emails their members actually read:
|Clubs||% emails opened|
|Women’s Touch Rugby||71|
|Military in Business||66|
A big thank you to all our club leaders and officers who make LBS such a vibrant community! If you want to find out more about any of the clubs, have a look at: clubs.london.edu/groups
Senior Student Activities Manager
Degree Programmes Office
Sports & Fun
After the more serious post of last time, this will cheer you up and make you wonder why you aren’t already here! Sports is one of the many corners of my previous blogpost’s picture. Depending on your preference you attach importance to juggling sports and the accompanying fun into your schedule. Or at least, that’s true for the sports part; you will never be able to escape the fun part!
Start to Run, Color Run and LBS Mile Trial
Sports have not been very high on my to-do list before coming to London, I said to myself I was working too hard to free up time. Positive stimulations and a friend sharing a ‘start-to-run’ podcast, my good intentions drove me towards starting to run in London. As I was not much of a runner before, I didn’t know I would be still running and enjoying it as much as I do. I started swimming as the school has a great swimming pool and that was my favorite sport, but running took over quite quickly.
My brand new first running shoes since high school
Halfway through the first term, a classmate organized for an LBS delegation to go to the Color Run in London. I was not quite ready for my first contest, as I was still following the podcast forcing me to alternately run and walk during 30 minutes. But I was quickly told it is more fun than really running. That’s exactly what it turned out to be, and I did finish my 5 km, alternately running and walking while having a lot of fun with my classmates. You can find proof below
The running club at school also organized the LBS Mile Trial. A contest between streams (the MBA has 5 streams of each ~80 students) and staff or other programs to run the most miles together in November. That’s when I downloaded Strava, my running app now joining me on all my runs – even if the weight of my smartphone in my pockets is sometimes more than what my running pants can actually hold. Yeah I know, I definitely need to buy some better equipment. My contributions to the Stream E result were only minor, but it does feel good to have come fourth at the contest. How do they say it again, participating is more important than winning!
Women’s Touch Rugby Club goes to Fontainebleau
Discovering a sport I never knew existed is and playing it twice a week shortly after, is rather unusual, except at LBS. The WTRC is an active club recruiting many women to join not only to play together but also to have fun and prepare for the recruiting season. Our great coaches have put a lot of effort in learning more than 50 newbie ruggers how to perform a three-man drive, pass smoothly and to score a try, or try to score a try! I have eternal respect for their patience and what they managed to achieve. Thanks to Snatch and RuPaul for your dedication.
Very quickly we played a mini-tournament in London and took it internationally with a tournament at Insead. We travelled for a weekend with the Eurostar direction Paris and Fontainebleau and kicked Insead’s ass! Together with some party, it was the best cocktail for fun!
In the picture below, you can see that we quite outnumbered the Insead women! They were luckily joined by some guys to make us able to play against them at least. LBS rules!!
People ask sometimes how transformational the MBA experience can be, and I must admit it certainly works for me. Already on this single corner of the different facets of the MBA, I feel being in London spending precious time around all these great people makes you do crazy stuff!
Next time you’ll hear something more about the famous Belgium Trek that the Belgians organized in the first term. I must say, a big success story! Just to keep you interested!
Being a Student Ambassador, I have been asked about advice regarding preparing for the GMAT a lot lately. I thought that it would be a good idea for me to pen down my thoughts out in the open for everyone’s benefit. Please take my advice with a pinch of salt as it is purely my opinion.
I believe that preparing for the GMAT is a three-part exercise – 1. Assessing your strengths and weaknesses, 2. Maximising your RoI w.r.t your score, and 3. Giving the exam. Let me elaborate on each of them in detail in the text that follows.
Assessing your strengths and weaknesses: This simply comes down to giving a couple of mock tests before you start your preparation. I strongly recommend GMATPrep for this as it is as close to the actual exam in terms of difficulty and format as possible. You could also take other mock tests freely available from sources on the internet which give detailed break up of your weaknesses such as Kaplan’s Free GMAT Test here. Whatever your test might be, that objective must be to figure out areas that need most work.
Maximising your RoI: Now that you have identified areas that require most of your efforts, its time to focus on them and nail them. Not all sources of preparation are good for everything. I felt that while Kaplan was pretty good for the quantitative and AWA sections, it was sorely inadequate for the verbal section (where Manhattan guides were extremely useful). That said, the most important sources for preparation are the Official GMAT guides of course.
Now that you are preparing well, it is always a great practice to see how much you have progressed. I believe that nailing the GMAT is all about adequate practice. Keep giving as many tests as you can. Some of the free resources I felt were incredibly useful were: VeritasPrep and the Economist GMAT Tutor. Take as many full length tests as you can so that you have an intuition about the time and format.
Exam Day: All you have to do is to remember all the work you put in and stay calm. If you are feeling that that exam is getting harder, it only means that you are doing well. Be cognizant of the time left and the questions left to be answered at all times. You will have a greater penalty for not attempting than getting some questions wrong.
Well, that about sums about the generic advice I can give on this topic. However, if you feel that I could help you with something specific, feel free to reach out to me or a leave a comment below.
Today I submitted my last take home exam and officially reached the end of my first term at LBS. Thought it might be a good time as any to look back on all that has happened since first I set foot on campus in August.
In the first month, there was a flurry of activities hosted by the school’s Career Services team, which very much took me by surprise, since according to my logic, the job is rather supposed to follow the education and not the other way round. Anyhow, it was a pleasant surprise, because the Career Services team are full of wonderful people and all of us MiFs love them very much. Thanks to their effort, by the 3rd week of September, I was the owner of:
- A flawlessly written, challenge-action-result structured, beautiful, one-page CV
- The ability to produce a perfect cover letter for any company, any job, within the hour
- A range of impressive skills to deal with the most challenging of interviews
- A new and much improved LinkedIn profile (yes friends, at LBS, you do get help with LinkedIn)
- Solid networking techniques which transformed me from a socially awkward penguin into an acceptably effective networker (if this result seems somewhat lackluster compared to the rest, it was by no means Career Services’ fault, as I said, I was a penguin)
- The beginning, and the knowledge to duly figure out the rest, of an answer to the question “is it for me?” with regards to a wide selection of industries
- An ambitious yet plausible career plan, with a plan A and a plan B and room in the back for plan C
The 3rd week of September also marked the beginning of a series of on campus recruitment (OCR) events, where representatives from a long list of prestigious firms showed up to convince us students they would be the perfect employer, and in turns, we got the chance to exercise our newly developed networking techniques in an attempt to impress them as potential employees. It was an exciting period, and in case you are a sponsored student who does not need to look for a job after graduation (lucky you!), you can still enjoy yourself by sitting back and admiring the air of utmost professionalism and urgency as your classmates dashed from lecture theaters to company presentations to drink receptions, all in their best suits.
Around the time the OCRs were going on, the many student clubs at LBS also started kicking off their agenda for the new school year. The first order of business is usually a session to introduce the club to the new students, which doubles up as a call for applications to the executive committee. The Student Association Autumn Elections and the search for Student Ambassadors are both on the way during late September too, so if you are an aspiring student leader, this is your turn on stage. I myself managed to get away quite well with this period, securing a post in the executive committee of the LBS Industry Club. For your information, the Industry Club is one of the biggest clubs on campus. Our mission is to help people figure out whether a corporate career is ideal for them and if it is, how to land yourself the job. During Autumn term, our agenda centered on the highly popular “What is…?” series, weekly events where we brought in industry experts to satisfy any questions you might have about a plethora of industries and corporate functions. (Sorry for the PR, just thought I should do my duty as VP Marketing of the Club.)
Before you become overly concerned, allow me to confirm that yes, we did our fair share of study this first term too. The term began with 2 preparatory courses in accounting and data analytics (you can get exempted from any or both if you have a professional accounting certification or/and demonstrable knowledge of statistics). Then there were the 4 core courses: Personal Assessment and Development, Investments, Financial Accounting and Analysis, and Corporate Finance and Valuation. With the exception of Investments, which leaned a bit more to the technical side, all the courses were mostly case study-based, the result being that lectures more often than not resembled open floor discussions. The MiF’s diversity assured that no matter the case, there were always at least 3 experts on the subjects to keep the debate heated. Another exceptionally fine feature of the MiF that I have come to appreciate was the fact that whenever a professor asked “Is there anyone here from xxx country?”, almost 100% of the time the answer would be yes. Cheers for the amazing 42 countries represented in our class this year!
Group assignment was an important component in any courses, so we spent a lot of time with our study group (which we were randomly assigned to, and remained the same for all core courses). My study group is one Australian/New Zealander short of representing all the world’s populated continents (Antarctica does not count), and no one used to work in the same industry as any other, so you can imagine the “fun” we had trying to resolve all the (friendly) arguments. That said, we somehow grew so close as a group that when we submitted our last assignment, everyone got so emotional I swear I was able to detect some teary eyes here or there.
In the first weeks of December, up to our choice of electives, we can take 1 or 2 block-week courses to wrap up Autumn term. These block weeks were quite intensive since the format means that we complete an elective during a single week. I chose to take Strategy for MiFs during the first block week (and skipped the second week in favor of a trip to Edinburgh, but pray do not let my laziness get to you). Strategy turned out to be my favorite course of the whole term. My classmates were of the opinion that I liked Strategy so much simply because all the case studies happened to be about my favorite things: coffee, luxury watches, books and fashion, not to mention the simulation game at the end of the week, which involved us acting as managers for football teams. However, I would maintain that the numerous theories of strategy we were taught were equally enjoyable.
I think it would be apt to end this post by showing you the bottle of champagne our group won for arriving at first place in the mentioned strategy simulation game. Our lecturer professor Ioannou specially warned me not to show the world how at LBS we talked about sports and brought alcohol to lecture theaters, so naturally I feel obliged to do exactly that.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday to everyone. Do feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions about life at LBS.
Apparently this is the most liked picture of the year by us students – thought you’d like to see it.
Nearly one week after finishing the last exams, and enjoying a relaxing holiday in the beach, I think it’s now a good moment to reflect on Term 1 and London Business School.
When I think about the fact that I started at LBS nearly 5 months ago, I question whether my feel for time is seriously distorted, because it feels like yesterday that I went to the Orientation day, and they called out all the different nationalities represented in the class.
So what can I say about those first 5 months?
Intense. Really intense.
The academic workload is high, and you are bombarded in lots of different directions from club opportunities to career services requests. A couple of people told me: why on Earth did I come here? I had my job, earning money, and now I am swamped with assignments, some of which I wonder their application in my future job. There were a couple of days when I myself thought: I need to slow down a bit, otherwise I will burn out. But it’s ok. It’s a different environment. After all, you go back to the student life. But you spend a full weekend without mentioning the name LBS and you come back on Monday all reinvigorated and ready to rise up to the challenge.
Looking back, this intensity, at least on the academic front, is necessary. People start with very different backgrounds and they need to level the playing field, and fast, if everyone wants to be able to follow the class and have access to the same roles. I have learnt so much… I started without any knowledge in practically any of the topics (except for maybe a little in data,models and decisions), and now I feel confident in reading financial statements of a company, I can do valuation, I can analyse a strategy, I understand significantly more about microeconomics, I know how to do a Montecarlo simulation… The amount of stuff that you get exposed to in term 1 is large, and it’s good, because I find all of it very valuable.
Outside of the academics, you have more flexibility – you decide how many clubs you are involved in or how many activities you take on.
It’s funny to recognise a certain illness that only develops in business schools. They call it FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out. It’s quite impressive to see how easy it spreads and the curious symptoms is carries, which include paralysis and hysteria alike. It has a very easy medicine, though: just know what you want, and be prepared to make choices. If so, easy ride
Full of opportunities.
I remember, when I first went to the US, when I suddenly understood why it was called the land of opportunity. Well, I feel LBS is more than a land of opportunity. In just one term, and leaving aside all the course work, I have seen three guys of my class set-up their own company, one girl become an intern for Emilia Wickstead, the winners Private Equity competition getting 5,000, 3 students become non-executive directors of charities…
If you want to get into investment banking, you probably have already done 15 coffee chats. I have received invitations from several different consulting firms (and I am talking the big names in the business) to visit their offices and learn about summer internships.
Companies know that good people come to LBS so established companies with fixed recruiting schemes, like investment banking or consulting, come straight to campus, but so do start-ups or other companies that need support as one-offs. There is an atmosphere of people that mean business, and things happen.
People are there to support you
There are lots of things organised around you so that you can learn, so that you can experiment, so that you can….
If you want to go into consulting, you have case interview practice. If you are unsure which part of a company do you want to go into, there are a series of talks called “What is…?”, that have people from that practice to explain what their job is like. If you feel your Excel skills are a bit rusty around the edges, there is a workshop for you. All of those are club driven.
The career services is there too. They have some mandatory sessions to discuss CVs and interviews, and lots of voluntary ones that talk you from networking to LinkedIn to lessons learnt from entrepreneurs.
The point is: there is a whole environment that supports your learning and your professional development.
When I reflect on those past 5 months, I know one thing for sure: I made the right decision to come here.
it has been a while since I last wrote. Why, you might ask?
Well, if I had to pick one word to describe this term, it would be: intense.
Final Exam week this week.
Still, since my words are limited, I thought I’d resource to the classics. They say a picture is worth more than a 1,000 words. How about a video then?
Let’s have a video-journey through the term:
Diwali Party dance:
For the Diwali Indian celebration, those that wanted got dressed and… learnt to dance!
Want to feel what it’s like to be in our shoes, or rather, in our seats?
Lecture from Corporate Finance on Capital structure:
Now let’s really be in our shoes. Even when it comes to exams.
Strategy Exam: we had to analyze the strategy, identify the challenges and give recommendations to the Hospital City in Cayman Islands. The case is summarised in this video:
There is a club for everything. There is a conference for everything.
Before starting business school I went to the Women in Business Conference. It was one of the best conferences I have ever been to.
And if you are a man, the point is still the same. Get a feel for the quality of the speakers and the conference itself, and if you think it meets your standards, rest assured: there will be one conference for a topic you are interested in (Women in Business, Energy, Asia,…)
I will come back soon – just one week more Term 1 is over.