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Posted by: Don
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Hi all,
so I finally had to pack my bags and leave London after almost 2 years. It was a very strange feeling – I had a great time and liked the area and flat. But most of my friends have previously left London – due to the economy far fewer graduates of the 09 class have found jobs in London. The transition period was marked by 6 weeks of intense training (aptly called bootcamp) by the bank, including weekly exams. I met a lot of people from all over the world – very similar to the MBA experience. But whenever I went back to school (to go running in Regent’s Park, for example) I realized that the new class has already arrived – definitely time for me old-schooler to move on.
I had 22 hours stopover in Munich to see family and friends en route to Singapore. While going down the escalator to get my luggage I saw a huge advertisement by the company Linde, reading: Welcome to Munich, see you in Singapore. How funny that they especially put that up for me …
After another 12 hours I was back in Asia. Back to service country (the cab driver tried to sell me his country as superior to Hong Kong, what a change to the usual unhappiness of London cab drivers) and great food (proper spicy Lakhsa within 5 minutes!) at food courts for next to nothing. Back also to 32 degrees and 90% humidity!
So, after two more days of training and networking I will be relocating to Hong Kong and on Monday start my first full-time rotation. 3 more months of rotating and I will have my final desk. A long journey is slowly coming to an end …
To the incoming class of 2011 – welcome! Enjoy the ride and the experience and make the most out of it – everyone in their own ways.
Take care,
Don

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Back to exams

Posted by: Don
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Hello there,
it feels like being back at school – just more intense. Our Global Markets training is being delivered by seasoned pros – the teachers all have worked in various roles in FX, FI, equities and so forth for all the major banks for at least 10 years each. So they teach us very relevant stuff – often from a slightly different angle than professors taught at school.
The workload is considerably higher than at LBS – training starts at 8.30 and goes through until 6 pm with an hour break. So we are filling a binder each week. And – we have an exam every Friday which we need to pass with 70% or above (no more the curve is your friend…).
But it is very good and interesting – especially to see how relevant the courses at LBS are. We have graduates from all the major US schools there and the training the three LBS guys received is clearly of top notch quality. So to all the second year students – look forward to an awesome, interesting and intense but worthwhile second year (especially in finance). To all new joining first years – you made a great choice. To all people contemplating about an MBA at LBS – do it. The academics are great, the city is superb and the people are fantastic.
Take care,
Don

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First event as an alum

Posted by: Don
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Alright, alum-status here we come …
This weekend I finally made it down to Portsmouth to sail the Solent. I joined the elite alumni crew of LBS to race in a regatta of 25 boats – a lot of them from Cranfield as it is their race.
Friday night we had a BBQ and went to bed fairly early to be able to practice a bit before the race. So after a nice shower (gorgeous facilities at the marina) we left Port Solent quite early – Klaus at the helm and Rob as overall skipper. Laura and Richard on the foredeck and Mark and Alex as grinders as well as Ed on the main completed the crew. As I had never raced before and was new to this crew I was made navigator, which in a race is quite fun. I basically had to highlight the course to the helmsman, then input the waypoints into a GPS and tell the helm every half-minute or so where the next buoy is compared to the current course, which speed over ground we are doing and so forth. Additionally you have to be prepared to change any second – everyone who is not doing anything usually is sitting at the high side of the boat, feet and arms over the side, to improve the trim.
The main difference for me was the Spinnaker sailing – very complex to set up but made all the difference. Our early practice paid off and we finished the day winning both races.
The evening dinner was held on board the HMS Warrior – an old and very large former battleship – the first one in the world with a steel hull. We ate between guns and under cutlasses – a great and suiting setting. I have to admit that I went to bed early again – the air and the moving around had exhausted me.
This morning we left with all the boats and went off for another 3 races. The first one showed that we had some competition as we only came in second. By now I had a second job – grind the Spinnaker. I am still not sure if Rob’s reasoning (“I don’t need a thinker, I need a reactor”) was a compliment ;-) but I was happy enough to do it. So I kept jumping back and forth to grind, navigate, be dead-weight and so forth – which was a great workout and great fun. We managed to win both the 4th and the 5th race and came in as a clear winner of the regatta.
So – first event as an alum and it was great!
Tomorrow it is back to reality – up at 5.45 and off to markets training, week 2.
Take care,
Scuba-D

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First thoughts in a new life

Posted by: Don
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A new beginning

Hi all,

As mentioned before – it is a new beginning. Training for my new job in sales and trading has begun – and it does feel odd to again loose the time flexibility. The most important aspect of being a student again was freedom of time – you decide to have a chat, play tennis or chill during the day (and make up for it later on). Now someone else rules my time again. On the other hand it is a great feeling to actually get paid for what I am doing. And to have secured a job for a top company in the area I wanted to get into and in the geographic area I wanted to get to is obviously a fantastic situation. A lot of – very good – classmates are still looking for a job so I cannot complain.

One thing I have noticed now is that money management is very important. It might seem obvious but due to managing my expenses (and getting a job in finance) I managed to come out of the MBA without debt. I tried really hard to limit my expenses (while still ordering good food for cooking, having dinners etc – i.e. still living a life) and this means that I can now concentrate on my new life.

Another thing is that overall the education you get at LBS really is top-notch. Right now I am in training with people from the top US business schools and it is clear that what we learn at LBS easily holds its ground against them. So for example the knowledge we get in a course such as Decision and Risk Analysis does not seem to be the norm in even the no.1 US BS. And if you attended a workshop of the PE club on LBO modeling, rest assured that you are ahead of the curve. No reason for complacency but nice nonetheless.

The one thing that sticks to my mind is that when you leave the MBA you should have the feeling you got the maximum out of it. And that is something very different for everyone – whether it be academically, network, social, leadership or something totally different. You run your own race – do not compare yourself to other people (although we always do that) – only to yourself and the person you used to be. And as long as you get the experience out of the MBA you wanted to get out and you grew, you have been successful.

Take care,

Don

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Entrepreneurship

Posted by: Don
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I will be posting some random bits and pieces going forward – there are a lot of small things that come into my mind these days …
So one thing is that entrepreneurship cannot really be taught in a classroom. Fine, there are frameworks and pitfalls which make reading cases and discussing them useful. But by and large this is a field where people need to get their hands dirty. But I also learned over the last two years that entrepreneurship is not as unachievable as I once thought, although I am going to a big bank after the MBA ;-)

Setting up a business does not necessarily involve giving up your full time job, raising lots of money from a VC and living on a shoe string budget for the next 5 years. A number of people in the MBA have set up very nice ‘lifestyle businesses’. One friend of mine, for example, set up a number of free gaming sites on footbal games, car games and tower defence games. It sounds crazy but that paid for his entire MBA. Have a look for yourself – this is hardly rocket science once you master the basic technical skills (I repeat – paid for his MBA…)

Studying with these entrepreneurial people was very inspirational, and for me that is what the MBA was all about: working with different people, learning from them, being inspired by them, becoming friends and having a lot of fun ;-)

Take care, wherever you are,

Don

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The end?

Posted by: Don
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Hi all,
wow – so now we are alums!
We graduated today in what I must admit was a very impressive ceremony. We might have preferred to be in a more classical building than a big white tent on the lawn, but the whole ceremony, including about 450 students in robes, partners, parents and friends as well as faculty in even more colorful robes was really impressive. (Especially if you come from a country where the degree is handed to you by a secretary with a comment similar to “now you don’t get any student discounts anymore”).
We all gathered outside for some champagne and snacks and stood in the sun for a lot of picture taking, talking and, unfortunately, saying good-bye to a lot of friends. A lot are already leaving London tomorrow or the day after. This year, according to the WSJ the “worst year ever to graduate from a business school”, see more graduates than ever leave London to explore opportunities elsewhere. While this is great and pays tribute to the global nature of the participants, it also means that the friendships we built will now be very hard to keep up. This is why I am very happy to go to Hong Kong on the one hand (it is a fantastic city), but also a bit sad as well. One of the greatest things about the school was that you just had to go to campus (or the Windsor, which is more or less the same thing anyway), to meet a ton of people and have a good time and have great discussions (even or especially during sundowners with free beers…). All of this has come to a sudden halt now – we are all entering the business life again.
This leads me to some thoughts on what made the past 2 years special for me:
- The people. You meet truly outstanding people from all different walks of life. And they are not only from consulting or finance – they have all sorts of backgrounds and interests.
- The network – access to a truly international alumni network.
- The faculty – having the author of the international standard book on finance, speakers at the WEF and more as faculty, who answer within a few hours to email, is amazing.
- The people. Have I mentioned the people already?
- The opportunities: just looking at portal and the job offers and talking to people about which jobs they took shows the breadth of interest.
- The people. ok, you get it …

But is it really the end? No, I think it is a new beginning. Every end leads to something new. Having accepted that everything in life is impermanent (see posting on meditation), this is a transition into something new. We thoroughly enjoyed the past 2 years – despite frustrations, stress and a lot of hard work – but now need to move on to something new. And we are very very fortunate to have graduated from one of the top schools of the world.

Enough for now. This alum needs some sleep.
Take care,
Don

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The end …

Posted by: Don
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So there we are. The MBA is over. Well, not officially but effectively. I personally am very happy – I managed my transition into finance, got a job in Sales/Trading in Hong Kong, did two internships and finished early. So now was the time to relax and enjoy.

BUT – again, the options were numerous. Should I prepare for my new work? Should I join my good friend and tennis buddy Guido on his 6-week round the world trip? Should I travel Europe? Relax on a beach? (When I asked non-MBA friends for advice, they all strangely enough said something along the lines of f*#* off!…)

So – I decided against the round-the-world trip as I had done it before in 6 months (www.cudon.com) and had felt stressed – there are so many things out there to see and do! So then I wanted to strike a balance between seeing things and relaxing. So I spent a few days wandering around London – I had not seen that much of London during the MBA – too busy! Also went to Stonehenge and Bath and explored Richmond and Greenwich with friends from the MBA.

I then went on a 7 day road-trip through Scotland with a friend from the MBA. We took the sleeper train up to Edinburgh, rented a car and went through Scotland with a map and guidebook, deciding every few hours where we wanted to go and stay. So we visited Lochs (including world-famous Loch Ness) and mountains, distilleries and pubs, coasts and islands. The highlight were 2 days on the Isle of Skye – hiking during the day and having beers and singing with local fishermen at night.

I spent some more days visiting my family and working on my golf handicap. I also started a new activity – hot yoga (=Bikram yoga) – which is yoga done in a 40 degree hot room. It is not only stretching and meditating but also quite cardiovascular – I sweat more than in a sauna and am more tired than after 2 hours of rugby!

As a student you have the great luxury of being very flexible with your time – so I decided on a Friday to go on a dive trip on Saturday (I got a 50% discount J. So I went to yoga on Saturday, jumped on a train to Manchester and jumped on a plane to Sharm el Sheik. We boarded a very very nice dive boat and stayed at sea for 6 days, 4 dives per day. We saw great things – reef, wrecks, turtles, hammerhead sharks, dolphins to name but a few.

The day after I returned I went once more to an airport – this time to fly home to Munich and see family and friends. It was very nice to spend a more relaxed time there as the MBA is over and work has not yet begun. And I had almost forgotten German beer….

So now I am back in London and DisOrientation has begun. While next week we will have the final courses in our old stream settings, a student committee has organized all sorts of events for the coming week. This includes drinks and food but also a scavenger hunt and a London walking tour. A good way to meet friends again – the sad part is that most of us will spread all over the world very soon. And while we will be able to meet from time to time, it will never be that you walk around campus and constantly meet people and stop for a chat. And that I will greatly miss.

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Last activities

Posted by: Don
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So – the MBA is over. The final course, after the speech-writing GLDP (Global Leadership Development Program, a course including various aspects such as writing, presentation and other soft-skills training), was a block week in International Finance. Its lecturer regularly receives awards from students as best faculty – and we were not disappointed. Prof. Uppal is very approachable and friendly, yet also very very knowledgeable – even compared to the high caliber of finance faculty at LBS. He gave the impression of being able to teach any finance course in any area (option/fixed income/valuations/currencies) at a very high level. He also spent a lot of time on the case discussion, making sure everyone understood the solution and the way it was reached.

Additionally Prof. Uppal spent 10 minutes of each class talking about life and life changing events. This was fascinating as it shed a light on very interesting, moving and touching events, people and lives while at the same time offering perspectives from a seasoned professor with a lot of experience in life. The only unfortunate thing was that this class was almost to good to be taught in a block week – there was so much additional reading that a normal format might have been better.

I added a weekend training course to become a Dive Medic – increasing my knowledge of Decompression Sickness, CPR and wound suturing to be able to handle dive emergencies better. This also included a dry dive in a recompression chamber to 40 meters which was very funny.

The following two weeks I spent with my team mates on finishing the second year project. I was very fortunate to work with two great guys on a very interesting subject – a Funded Search to acquire a medium-sized German company. This investment idea originated at Stanford and has become quite standardized in the US. First-round investors invest $20,000 on average to fund a search process for up to two years. Equity step-up and right of first refusal ensure that the risk is offset by quite a lot of advantages. The whole report was quite long but very substantial. In the current climate we were unfortunately not able to secure enough investors – the other two wanted to really do this full-time after the MBA. We however agreed to keep in touch regularly regarding the funded search and see if the situation will improve in a few years. The only real challenge was the current economic climate and the drying-up of credit – there is certainly no lack of potential target companies.

When I look back on the MBA then it is this I will miss most – working together with great people on very different projects, each bringing different skills and experiences to the table. Having dinner together and working until late at night or during the weekend, trying to deliver the best possible result. Very similar to the consulting world, actually, but with very different topics.

So we went to the MBA Program office together to hand in our report – and the MBA was over. Unbelievable – it went amazingly fast. So many things to do – so many activities and events to attend, trips to go on, people to meet. Now it is all over – and a new chapter begins.

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Meditation Retreat

Posted by: Don
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After leaving the boat I took a cab to Phuket bus station
and went across Thailand to the east coast (which only took about 4 hrs) and
took a minivan to reach Chaiya, in Surat Thani province. Chaiya is the location
of a relatively famous temple, or Wat, call Suan Mokkh. Founded over 50 years
ago they run regular meditation retreats in Thai and English. Once per month
there is a retreat for foreigners. I had done it 6 years ago and had always
wanted to come back. What better moment than this – almost done with the MBA
and not yet having started work. I also thought it would nicely round up the
MBA experience and help me reorganize my thoughts.

This retreat helps the participants focus on themselves –
becoming mindful and calming the mind. Usually the mind is all over the place,
jumping from one thought to another. A lot of worry and suffering comes from
the fact that we spend a lot of time being upset about events in the past
(which we cannot change anymore) or worrying about the future (which is not
here yet). So by calming the mind (through breathing), meditation and focusing
on the here and now, participants try to reduce stress and anxiety. This is not
a sect or a strictly religious place – all people are welcome. But it is also
not an easy undertaking – participants cannot talk for 10 days and only eat
twice a day. Accommodation is provided but very Spartan. All of this helps
reconnect with nature – where else do you have 10 days to spend meditating and
thinking of yourself (actually: trying not to think at all), letting go of all
stress and doing things like watching ants for 15 minutes?

The meditation is done in 3 different ways – sitting,
standing and walking. Especially walking is very interesting – the movement is
split into 5 parts which are done really slowly. Thus to walk 20 meters takes
about 30 minutes. A very interesting experience.

The 10 days went past faster than the last time – I
understood the retreat and the way things are run a lot better. And the English
monk was doing most of the mediation instruction and Dhamma talks. This is a
very interesting character – an English guy who ordained as a monk at Suan
Mokkh 15 years ago. He delivers extremely sharp and precise lectures – witty
and funny at the same time.

Unfortunately I had to leave one day earlier – I had to
retake a GLDP course at LBS. So I took an overnight flight back and had the
interesting experience of, within 24 hrs, moving from a rural retreat setting to
an LBS classroom for a session on speech preparation and delivery. Weird,
mindblowing, great.

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Sailing Trip to Thailand

Posted by: Don
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Hi all,

The past weeks were slightly hectic but I wanted to relate
to a couple of things that happened in the past 3 months.

At the end of March I had three quite tough exams marking
the end of the spring term. Straight out of Lecture Theatre 3 we went to the
Windsor for a hard-earned pint, after which I jumped into a cab, went to
Paddington and off to Heathrow. A friend from the rugby team and his girlfriend
were also on the flight so we celebrated the end of term again at Heathrow
(nothing better than a couple of pints after exams!). 12 hours later I was in a
totally different world – but I have spent so much time in Thailand I consider
it my second home.

I spent 4 very relaxing days in Bangkok in very lush
surroundings. Then I met up with 30 people form the MBA – mostly first-year
students. We met in Phuket and transferred to the boats. In total we were 3
boats – 2 catamarans and 1 monohull. There was another boat with people from
the class but they sailed a bit more independently throughout the week. After
stocking up on food and – important – booze, we got organized and got ready to
leave. Two boats had skippers from our class while the 3rd one had a
Thai skipper. We left the marina in Phuket and before nightfall reached our
first anchoring. It was fantastic – anchoring between two limestone islands,
food from the grill and chillout music. As the weather held I spent the night
on deck – as I did all of the nights. That was very relaxing – a day of sailing
and sleeping under the stars at night.

The following days we spent sailing north to see the famous
James Bond island and then south, taking on new supplies and water in Krabi. We
also had as much fun as possible – spraying other boats with water or stealing
the LBS flags at night included. We continued south and spent 2 days on Phi Phi
island where I organized some scuba diving for one day. It was nice teaching
diving again for a little bit and certainly was great to see reef and fish
again.

We had a really good group on the boat and got along really
well. There was a lot of fun and laughter but also good conversations – during
the day, during food preparation, doing dinners or over a beer at sunset. This
trip was a great team bonding exercise – we got to know each other really well
within the short time frame and made new friends.

Far too soon the trip was over and we had to leave. Most
stayed a few more days in Thailand but I had different plans (report to
follow). But a few weeks later we had a reunion party in London and it was
great to see everyone again and party once more.

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