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London Life

Posted by: Olly Nguyen

Primrose Hill at dawn. I think it’s rare for a spot in London to be more majestic, and London is certainly a city full of majesty. I’m drinking in a panoramic vista which stretches on my left from Stratford almost 10 miles in the east, across the jagged mountain range of the City of London, and out across to the Royal Parks in the west.

The tip of the Shard is obscured by a single low-hanging rain cloud this morning, which nevertheless is pierced by the brilliant morning sun. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the view of Manhattan from New Jersey, except instead of shipping containers criss-crossed by train tracks, my foreground this morning is the verdant green carpet of Regent’s Park criss-crossed by the tracks of my fellow joggers.

Just beyond Regent’s Park, hidden from my present view, is the grand John Nash-designed Sainsbury building, icon of London Business School. We do have some startlingly attractive environs.

School is back in session for the Spring Term, the first week of which is internship recruiting week for my MBA class. I’m sure this is of much interest for anyone interested in business school, but as I’m confident that we’ll revisit this topic over the next few months, I’m just going to leave you with this little teaser. ;-)

Instead, I’m thinking about London itself. In the frenzy of term-time, whether it’s the height of exam week, or the depths of recruiting season, I think it becomes a little too easy to take the incredible location of our business school for granted. Even for me, practically a native Londoner, sometimes a treasure like Primrose Hill can be a mere kilometre away from campus but feel way too far away when that last paragraph on your fourteenth cover letter still needs to be edited.

And yet, the London location is truly one of LBS’ competitive advantages. We enjoy world-class cuisine, exceptional culture and night-life, a plethora of desirable potential employers, and, of course, those startlingly attractive vistas. Location is, I think, an oft-overlooked but crucial aspect of any decision to uproot one’s life for even a period of two years. I’m pretty sure that even my busiest classmates will attest to that, and also would probably report that the payoff from relocating to London in particular is wholly worthwhile.

I probably can’t do London justice in the context of this simple blog, so I’ll stop here, but I do encourage any readers that if they haven’t made the trip to our great city yet, then they really must do so post haste. And for those who have been once already, come again. I assure you that there’s still plenty to discover here.

 

“I have conversed with the Spiritual Sun. I saw him on Primrose Hill.” – William Blake, 1757-1827

 

*P.S. – if you want a taster of the view to which I refer, clever Google Street View has some great views: just use 51°32’21.9″N 0°09’40.6″W

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An evening with UK Ambassador at Embassy of the United Kingdom, Buenos Aires

An evening with UK Ambassador at Embassy of the United Kingdom, Buenos Aires

Whether you are in Thomas Friedman’s corner walking on a pretty flat earth, or jumping obstacles with Pankaj Ghemawat on a bumpy and curvy one, there is one thing that that is certain; globalization is here and understanding it is more important than ever!

One of the most appealing aspects of London Business School and The Executive MBA is the focus they have on teaching and experiencing international business.  Having returned from my third (and hopefully not final) international assignment it’s a great time to share a bit about what has been experienced.

At the end of year one, students are required to select an international elective from a portfolio of options; for many people this marks the end of the year one core learning.  I selected to go to Argentina and also had the opportunity to sign up for an optional additional destination for which I selected Moscow.  These trips have a specific purpose – to develop an understanding of the regional economy and get to grips with what challenges business faces in the specific region.

After landing in a chilly Moscow during early April I teamed up with students from our Dubai stream to work on a Big Data project for MTS, the biggest mobile operator in Russia.  Unfortunately at the time, the decline in oil prices had already started to impact the ruble but rather than being in crisis mode it seemed people were ready to navigate the new realities being presented with a sense of perseverance.  After all it was in 1998 that Russia went through a major financial crisis after defaulting on its domestic debt and so economic challenges were nothing new here.

A single week working in Moscow is short; especially when you are trying to get an understanding of a country that spans nine time zones.  However it is just long enough to start understanding the business culture and the unique regional challenges.  Furthermore, it was super interesting to explore the possibilities of Big Data for telecom operators and an honor to be able to present our strategic recommendations back to the company.

Coincidentally the Argentina assignment was the week following Moscow and so after a quick pit stop at Heathrow to pick up some more London classmates it was off to Buenos Aires.  The scope of this assignment was very different; rather than working on a project for a specific company, we spent time visiting a local business school and a number of companies to get an insight into what drives the economic environment.

Argentina has a very colorful economic history and it’s definitely worth going to learn first hand.  It was amazing to see how the history of Peron and the economic rollercoaster was deeply the engrained in peoples thoughts and how creative businesses had become to tackle todays deeply volatile economic environment.  Kudos to LBS for providing the introductions to a number of great companies such as Globant, Clarin, YPF and many others.  When reflecting on Argentina, it would also be wrong not to mention how AMAZING the steak is out there – its worth a trip back just for this!

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The latest trip to Dubai was for an elective on “Thinking Strategically”.  The course is also offered in London but if you can afford the time I thought why not make the most of escaping the UK winter and experience the Dubai campus and culture.  Because the class was mostly made up from my Middle East colleagues, you naturally get an insight into the business environment and culture.

Throughout all the trips there is really a great opportunity to expand your learning and get an experience that you simply can’t get by staying in the classroom….. now I’m just looking forward to the next one….

 

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Term One. Done.

Posted by: Olly Nguyen

It has been a mad, gasping, frenetic rush to the finish line, but it’s here. We are at the end of the Autumn term, and the close of the first term of our MBA! We finished our finals over the weekend, and the sense of relief mingled with joy is palpable. This week carries with it a sense of moment that we last had four months ago, gazing up at the vaulted ceiling of the Old Billingsgate Market in the City, on our very first day of Orientation.

So in the spirit of reminiscing about the whirlwind of this introduction to MBA life, a little, light-hearted list of memorable MBA moments so far – coordinated with my most overused emojis.

Emoji Face with tears of joy – crying with laughter emoji. There have been far too many of these moments – our Stream C whastapp group is generally a hoot, but I probably most consistently laugh because of the brilliant LBS balls comics in the Daily Nash (our humourous newspaper).
Emoji smiling face with halo – angelic emoji. Also there have been many moments of kindness. The environment at LBS is intense and high-pressure, for sure, but it’s also incredibly collaborative. An MBA 2016 taking 5 minutes just to chat to me and cheer me up on a low day springs to mind.
Emoji open mouth and cold sweat – cold sweat emoji. The corollary to #2 I guess. We appreciate the kindness when times are a little bit manic. I think this one sums up our collective feeling upon discovering that we had three back-to-back finals over 36 hours. On a weekend.
face-screaming-in-fear – horror emoji. Then there was that week when we had 2 corporate finance tutorials due, a study group case, accounting questions, a strategy assessment… plus having to prepare a presentation to be delivered to the entire student body.
Emoji with cool shades – cool cucumber emoji. The feeling of getting A+s in said assignments (and an amazing response to the presentation).
emoji-heart-eyes – heart-eyes emoji. Also many of these, but one to call out is the amazingly persuasive speech that my stream-mate Julien made in week one, to convince us that the business does have a social responsibility… our future kids were appealed to, people wept and love was all around. But more seriously – it was an inspiring, statesman-ly speech worthy of Aristotle. Bravo.
1437169987-uncomfortable-emoji-2 – awkies emoji. The look on our professor’s face when she realised that the EasyJet corporate promo video that she just played to us was created by our stream’s ad guru…
Emoji Sleepy face – sleepy emoji. If you’re doing business school right, there’s probably not enough time for this!
Hug face -handsy-happy emoji. A special one for Mallika: this emoji really does represent so many things, but I chose this because it reminds me of the perpetual thrill of being at business school. It’s still sometimes dream-like that I can wake up everyday and meet, debate with and enjoy the company of some of the most fascinating people I’ve ever had the privilege to be associated with.
The school determined that as a group we would be communal, courageous, ambitious, eclectic and engaged. Looking back on this term, these are certainly labels I’ll happily apply to all of us here.

Happy Holidays and safe travels to everyone.

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Landing in London the night before the first day of orientation, I literally had no time to catch my breath before I was swept into the whirlwind that is London Business School! Walking into City hall amidst  a chattering, buzzing group of new LBS MiMs, I instantly felt like part of a community, with the most unbelievably diverse group of people I had ever been around. It wasn’t just the fact that we accounted for more than 50 nationalities, it was the languages, the experiences, the undergrad majors, the internships, the perspectives. Coupled with the fact that everyone was incredibly warm, curious, open, energetic, and just plain fun, I knew that this was going to be one of the best years of my life.

I quickly learnt the art of time management. It’s quite incredible, the number of activities one can sign up for on a daily basis. Class, club activities, recruiter events, case study sessions, parties, sundowners, and the general discovery of this wonderful city. It became clear however, that as alluring as they all were, I had to carefully plan my day so as to meet all my commitments. The result was a very populated calendar, but very fulfilling days.

And yeah, I must mention my study group. To provide some context, every MiM is assigned to a study group of about five or six people. Since we are given a plethora of group assignments, simulations and presentations, one ends up spending a lot of time with their study group. I simply loved mine. It’s amazing how it was never a competition, but always a collaboration; how motivated everyone was; how much you can learn from each other; how deep, enduring friendships develop. Yes, we spent hours locked up in one of LBS’s many meeting rooms debating on the finer points of statistical modelling, but also spent a memorable evening dining on chicken and wine. I speak nostalgically because I’m going to be assigned to a new study group next term. While I’ll miss my old study group, I’m excited because I know I’m up for a whole new fascinating experience.

To be perfectly honest, I had no idea how much one could grow in such a short time. I’ve only spent 3 months here at LBS but the experience has been immensely transformative. I can’t wait to see what the second term will bring!

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On the first day of orientation, we were introduced to the “why I love LBS” hashtag, which was started by the class of MBA2015. Alumni shared their reasons why they love LBS and these varied from getting the opportunity to change careers to enjoying sunny days on our campus’s front lawn. Current students have kept the hashtag alive as we continue to find new reasons to love this place on a daily basis. For this month’s post, I thought I’d share two of these reasons. Incidentally, this comes after one of the most exciting weekends of the MBA so far.

  • Weekend day 1: I hosted one of the largest conferences covering the Middle East in Europe

I had been working on organizing the London Business School 14th Annual Middle East Conference since August. The whole process was incredibly challenging but immensely rewarding. As the Vice President of Speakers, I had the responsibility of securing high-calibre speakers that could speak to the conference’s theme “Opportunities in Adversity”. After weeks of internal discussions, deep-dives into the team’s personal and professional networks and schedule-wrangling, we managed to secure an impressive line-up of 4 keynote speakers and 5 panellists. It was remarkable to see the London Business School brand at play – speakers were happy to clear their busy schedules and take long-haul flights just to speak at our student-led conference. It was also very rewarding to see our hard work come to fruition on the day of the conference with attendance that included ambassadors and guests traveling to London just to attend the conference.

  • Weekend day 2: I competed in a global business school private equity competition in Amsterdam

As part of the London Talk series at LBS, I attended a masterclass on body language and tools and techniques for becoming an influential leader a couple of weeks ago. The class involved jumping, shoving and yelling in different accents. But at the end of the masterclass, we were left with actionable advice on how to become more impactful leaders and speakers. I had the opportunity to use these tips over the weekend as I flew to Amsterdam, along with 3 classmates, to compete in a global business school private equity competition. We had to present our investment proposal to a jury of ten practitioners from the industry and a room full of our competitors. Putting the techniques we’d learned into practice, we delivered the best presentation of the day with rave reviews from the judges about our presentation style. I had never been afraid of public speaking but it had never been my favourite activity, either. However, after all the different public speaking experiences I have had at LBS so far, I am now very excited about the prospect of delivering presentations and speaking to rooms full of people.

After this very eventful weekend, I felt a sense of achievement but more importantly excitement about the opportunities LBS will continue to offer me. At the end of month 3 of the MBA, we now realize that the education we are receiving extends beyond the classroom. We are pushed beyond our comfort zone everyday. We are thrown into new environments equipped with the tools to succeed and thrive. We are taught to revel in challenges. And that’s why I love LBS.

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Networking.
It’s a polarising concept, for sure. But it’s one that, for success in life generally, let alone B-School life, is extremely valuable.
It’s something that I’ve personally found deeply frightening, but lately, I’m growing to appreciate the importance of networking more and more.
For this post, I wanted to share a few networking lessons which I’m trying to work through.

1) Having a relevant connection. When I was in Singapore, one of my classmates kindly connected me to a business that I found really exciting – (an impact investing hub). The meeting was supposed to be with the CFO, who appeared to have forgotten that we were meeting, and came almost 10 minutes late to the room where I patiently waited. After introducing myself and my background and my interests, he made about 30 seconds of polite small chat before suggesting that he include one of his direct reports in the conversation. On returning, he promptly excused himself as something urgent had come up. I was obviously a little embarrassed, but nevertheless, the CFOs delegate and I actually ended up having a very robust conversation, thanks to her having an MBA connection to Oxford, and her interest in a report I had written in a previous life. I realised afterwards that, the connection with the CFO just hadn’t been right, and he was totally correct in linking me with someone more appropriate. I also should caveat that I don’t at all chalk that as a loss or second-best, but simply a correcting of the system. Through my new connection, I am actually still linked in to the CFO, who was apparently impressed with the report she gave to him afterwards. The moral – good networking is a patience game, not going straight for the jugular.

2) Keeping the Options open. A crucial lesson I learned there was how important being open to new pieces of information is. Sometimes it takes several networking ‘leaps’ to get to the right destination. For example, a chance conversation with my former partner at Deloitte led to her connecting me with a director in the firm, with whom I hit it off. Catching up over a drink last week led to a meeting with a researcher in a think tank that I never dreamed I’d be able to meet with. Riding those degrees of separation is super-powerful, though again, is only worthwhile if you’re not just trying to bypass connections to grab an audience with some distant connection.

3) Having a great place. This one won’t help in all situations. Sometimes networking happens at events that you’re attending. Sometimes you have to network on the phone, or passing through the Plowden building columns. But for those times where you have the chance to meet up, one-for-one over coffee, having a good place to do this is key. I’m extremely fortunate to enjoy access to a really spectacular meeting place in central London, but it doesn’t have to be anything grand. The comfort from arranging to meet at a familiar place can give you a confidence boost to really enable those richer and more fruitful discussions. I’ve met people far more senior than I have a right to be inviting, and because I was comfortable with where we were meeting, I think that I was that much more comfortable in how I was presenting myself.

4) Take the plunge. Sometimes, you can’t just lean on your network. Especially at the innumerable events, speaker series and conferences that b-school life affords us, simply strolling up to someone you found interesting and sticking your hand out is the only way to do it. (I mean handshake, not facepalm, by the way). I managed to get a fantastic meeting with a very impressive speaker at a debate I witnessed, by doing just that at the end of the event. A crucial corollary is to think about why they would be interested in speaking to you. I think of this as being different to why you would be interested in speaking to them. That’s kind of a given, since you’re the one doing the approaching. I simply told the speaker that I admired her arguments in the debate, and listening to them made me wonder if she would be interested in the topic of the conference that I am organising. She said she was and gave me her card and we went from there.

I hope some of these examples help to illustrate some aspects of networking beyond obvious. Maybe you’ll work your own rules of thumb out for yourself, I’d love to hear about them! Good luck!

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Kicking back after a long day at work, I found myself reflecting on how fast time has flown and how my experience at LBS this year compares to that of last year. We have just crossed over the halfway point of year 2, semester 1. Still only a few weeks in, I found myself waking up on Saturday mornings feeling a little disorientated, not having the need to dash off to the LT-10 lecture theatre for the usual 8:15 am tea and catch-up with classmates ahead our second consecutive full day of lectures.

Year 1 had a pre-defined core timetable, which followed regular blocks on alternate weekends. We spent the three semesters working through compulsory core modules that provide a wide range of subject matter. Each study weekend is spent together with your EMBA class. Looking back, its easy to understand why everyone in the class had such a close connection and acted more like a family than simply colleagues as we spent so much time together

Year 2 is totally different. In fact, compared to your fellow EMBA classmates, the 2nd year will likely be a totally different experience for each and everyone. That is because year 2 is all about electives, so you get to focus on the subjects that you are really passionate about. With so many permutations and combinations, no one student will have the same timetable – selecting your timetable is a challenge in itself since it is difficult to narrow down subject selection with so much great content on offer.

Electives also offer a practical upside since students can select the format of electives to fit within their needs, for example weekend classes versus block week electives. Furthermore, electives are all cross stream so you will be mixed with students from MBA, Sloan and MiF programmes which opens doors to more valuable connections.

Year 2 is still pretty fresh but so far it has continued to be a great experience. I have thus far completed Financial Statement Analysis and am half way through World Economy: Problems and Prospects. The content for both has been extremely relevant with practical applications to real life current business affairs. It is only a few more weeks before I take off to Dubai for a block week elective on “Strategic Thinking”.

As with the start of every new term, there is a fresh set of openings to join clubs and opportunities to apply for positions on various executive committees. I have been lucky enough to secure a position on the executive committee of the Investment Management Club, which is one of the largest and most active clubs at LBS. There will be much more to share on this, but in the meantime be sure to join the club as there are lots in the pipeline for the year ahead…

https://clubs.london.edu/imc/about/

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I’ve got a ton of blog content all of a sudden so you’ll be getting a double dose this fortnight. Chronologically, I need to keep you all updated on LBS shares. We had our second instalment last Wednesday, and once again, the team managed to source a wonderful array of speakers from across the LBS community. I am beginning to suspect that the job is not actually that hard, the school is just populated with so many people who have enjoyed some frankly bonkers life experiences.

Firstly, the excellent Conrad Woodring spent his speech illustrating the highs and the lows of working and living in Gabon for two years.
As a lengthy aside, Conrad had a background in infrastructure, and before we got anywhere near the African continent, he showed us an image of an oil refinery somewhere around the Gulf of Mexico. I bring this up because, oddly, the miles of steel stretching out to an endless horizon had a certain romance to it. The thought that struck me was about how many people, families, lives were touched by that expanse of metal and concrete and steam. It brought home the marvel of ‘industry’ in its simplest sense – the ambition of humans to marshal themselves in the thousands like ants to build this epic construction which in turn powers the day-to-day lives of many millions. Are these edifices our era’s pyramids? Or perhaps those were yesterday’s pyramids, and today’s pyramids are intangible, digital and financial monuments. Anyways, I digress.

Conrad described life in Gabon: snakes, eating pangolin (an anteater-thing which tastes awful, apparently) suffering from dengue fever, and receiving death threats. As you do. More importantly though, he told us about the ‘Agence Nationale des Grands Traveux’ – ANGT, a newly formed government department tasked with more efficiently and transparently managing the government’s infrastructure spend. Conrad’s tale became a lesson in public sector reform and encountering corruption. He attributed much of the ANGT’s success thus far to the crusading agenda being driven by the new president, a sign of the good that can come from strong leadership.

Our second speaker was a member of staff, Miriam O’Regan. Miriam’s share was part travel guide, part memoir and part call-to-arms, as she related her myriad experiences of volunteering in both Nepal and Thailand. She was passionate, funny and charming whilst she brought home the pathos with photos of the orphans, prisoners and elderly who she shared her time and support with. Her stories were another reminder that there is a world outside the ivory tower – the aspirations of some of the children she taught were to be teachers and nurses, because the children wanted to help others. It’s a truth that altruism is not a middle-class, western conceit.

Finally, the last share, I’ll keep short and sweet – mainly because I’m not sure any words can do justice to my feeling of amazement. Fergus Davidson, one of the Masters in Management, took us on his journey to the North Pole… to play rugby there. The purpose of his incredible trip was to raise money for the rugby children’s charity Wooden Spoon. Not only did he hazard the harsh conditions of the arctic, treat us to some hauntingly beautiful images of the remote tundra, he also casually raised £50,000 for the whole endeavour. I was left wondering whether to be more impressed by the feat or the fundraising!

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Cover MSFF

 

On the 26th of September 200 film enthusiasts gathered to watch the 2nd edition of the Manhattan Short Film Festival in London at the London Business School. And once again LBS made it memorable!

The Festival is the pinnacle of a global short film competition whereby ten short films are selected from 678 entries from 52 countries. These ten films were screened in over 250 cinemas across 6 continents during the week of Sept 25- Oct 4. These short films not only entertained a global audience but were also judged by that audience. Movie fans voted for Best Film and Best Actor and the results were released on Monday Oct 5.

The event was organised by the Film Club in partnership with the Wine & Spirits Club. It was divided into 2 parts: a pre-event soiree (6-7:30pm) followed by the screening of the films in the LT rooms (7:30-10:30 pm). Prominent personalities in the movie world came and spoke about their experiences and enthralled the audience.

The pre-event soiree was held in the Dining room where people had “some” drinks and appetisers…

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While they were listening and asking questions to three enthusiastic guest speakers the Film Club chased during the summer:

 

Jamie Donahue (director of Shok, one of the ten shortlisted movies)

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Nicola Usborne (film producer, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0882270/)

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Anu Hasan (19 years of experience in the film industry from actor to anchor and entrepreneur, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anu_Hasan)

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The pre-event soiree ended at 7:30pm after which people headed to LT1/LT6 to watch the 10 shortlisted movies…with a surprise expecting them…Popcorn offered by Portlebay Popcorn!!!!

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There was a break of about 30 minutes after the fifth movie was screened, which happened to be Shok, directed by one of our guest speakers, Jamie. In the break people headed again to the dining room where there was time for Q&A about the movie with Jamie.

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The break was followed by the screening of the last five movies. After that it was time to be THE JUDGE AND VOTE!!!

And in the end…there was still time to get some feedback about the event!!!

 

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After votes were counted the fantastic team that helped organise the Manhattan Short Film Festival 2015 took a last happy picture before heading home to a much deserved rest!!!

 

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And for the ones who were there and haven’t checked yet… you’re probably wondering: who were the winners of the festival, right??

 

Best movie

Gold Medal – Bis Gleich

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 Silver Medal – Shok

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 Bronze medal – Bear Story

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And…Best actor

Horst Westphal – Bis Gleich

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Hope to see many of you next year for the third edition!!

Your Film Club Executive Committee (Ankita, Stefan, Ricardo)

 

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When I told one of the partners at my former firm that I’m leaving to go do my MBA at LBS, he gave me a very serious warning: “life at LBS is going to be difficult. LBS programmes are very tough!” Having had worked through the previous two weekends, I said: “can’t be much harder than working 18-hour days with no weekends!” He couldn’t disagree.

We’re almost at the two-month mark in the MBA programme and it’s been quite the ride. The school’s corporate partners are already on campus hosting information sessions and networking events. Midterms start next week. Club events are in full swing. And life is hectic to say the least! Even though our agendas are overflowing most days of the week, we still get to do things at LBS that, let’s say, would be frowned upon in the corporate world. Here’s a couple of examples.

1. Have back-up dancers while giving a presentation

This week we had a case competition in our Data, Models and Decisions course where only selected groups got to present the results of their regression analysis. The competitive b-school students that we are, we were willing to do anything for our study group to be selected as a finalist. So one of the guys in my study group promised the teaching assistant a dance number if we’re selected. Sure enough, our group was called to present the results of our regression model that analysed meat loaf sales. As one person gave the presentation, the rest of us danced to the tunes of Meat Loaf’s “I’d Do Anything for Love” in the background to the roaring laughs of our classmates. Now, I come from the world of consulting so I have attended/ given my fair share of presentations. Never, though, had I ever felt the need to watch a Tina Turner video to prepare for one of these presentations. But there’s a first time for everything, I guess!

2. Show up dressed as a pirate (or a minion)

If passers-by would’ve peered through LBS’s gates a couple of Saturdays ago, they would’ve seen swarms of twenty-something business school students decked out in pirate swag (shoulder parrots included) with a few random minions wandering around. That’s how Treasure Hunt 2015, an LBS tradition, kicked off. We were given iPads with GPS and sent into the city of London to do the most random tasks. From re-enacting scenes from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to forming conga lines with tourists waiting to get into the Sherlock Holmes Museum, LBS-branded pirates were roaming the city in search of treasure. Most surprising about this experience was how unfazed Londoners were by the sight of adults dressed in pirate costumes (or onesies) doing a beatbox rendition of a nursery rhyme or posing as human statues. That’s the beauty of a city as crazy and eclectic as London!

People have different ideas about what the life of an MBA student is like, but judging by my experience so far, the intensity of an LBS MBA is only matched by all the fun to be had as part of the school and the city. And for any sceptics out there, I have a return ticket to Amsterdam next weekend to prove it!

P.S. there’s a video out there of our little regression dance recital that, for everyone’s sake, we wish never finds its way online!

 

CJM

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