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The First 90 Days

Posted by: Guillaume

Well that’s it. I have reached the “first 90 days” milestone in my marketing manager role at American Express Europe. Executive-targeted books tell you that it’s the critical period to have an impact. It sure is true at the “C” level (CEO, CFO…) but less so at my level, especially because, as a credit card marketing newbie, it feels like you need 2 years to know what you’re doing.

Having said that, the first months are still crucial to make a good initial impression, discover the company, blend in, and show your potential. Especially in a rotation program like the one I’m enrolled in, with just six months to “prove myself”.

So what have these 3 months been like? I worked mostly on defining the strategy for SBS in Europe in 2007 that has now been agreed by regional and international leadership – this has also earned me a warm thank you note from the VPs involved, which is always nice. In general, I like Amex, working with bright people and having the opportunity to challenge the status quo as well as being challenged.

Wait a minute!… He has been brain-washed, hasn’t he?

Well, you can think so as I’m actually back from a week of orientation sessions for the MBA campus recruit intake of this year held at HQ in New York (sort of the MBA orientation in less crazy). While this was not enough to “brain-format” a critical European (French?) mind, this surely was a great way to learn more about the company (esp. the US business which I had not been exposed to), meet the great people who’ve been hired this year (90 or so) and reflect on the differences between US and International divisions.

Back to the first 90 days thing, I also realized that I’m now on for the last 90 days! Of my rotation in London that is. These 3 months are going to contrast with the first part as I am now focusing on the management and implementation of a project (related to above strategic work).

I’m sorry if this sounds quite a vague job description, I’m sure readers of this blog would appreciate to know more about the kind of jobs and responsibilities you get after 2 years at London Business School. Unfortunately, I cannot give more details and this post is already flirting with misconduct according to company guidelines. By the way, “blogging while employed” could be an interesting topic for the Ethics class which opens the London MBA program – certainly a topic more relevant to “junior” hires than Enron-like white-collar crime. Just look at how many students are posting content here or on their own blog.


Let me now finish this post on a more cheerful and personal note: my wife and I have had a blast in NYC and we are looking forward to living there next year! I can’t believe it’s been 3 months already and that we’ll be moving to Sydney in 3 months. And! We’ve finally “flown” the London Eye last month! I highly recommend it – so much for the brain washing.

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One hot Week

Posted by: Guillaume
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Truth is, this week has been really hot here in London, Monday setting the tone with temperatures in the 30 / 35 °C (around 90F). However, what’s making this week really hot for us the graduating class of 2006 (and that includes all programmes: MBA, Sloan, MiF, PhD) is that it’s the last one!

So, before leaving for a week of vacation in Mexico and starting with American Express in London, I came back from my Parisian exile (I had no more credits in the last term) for this great festivity programme.

The Capstone course
For the first time, the school has planned a 3-day wrap-up class taught by two of its most entertaining faculty (Dominic Houlder & Freek Vermeulen). On the menu: case discussions around corporate turnarounds and personal transformation, writing our personal ‘statement of intent’ to capture our commitments, aspirations and how we envision our personal transformation. And for desert, an alumni panel, a drink with the Dean and a study of different leadership styles and transformation à la Gregory Peck (1949 movie Twelve O’Clock High).

I think this was also the first time the student association planned an official disorientation to end our 2 years as they started with drinks and parties: picnic, scavenger hunt, Hawaiian pub crawl and the second football world cup semi-finale.

Here I have to stop and say that the “pillars” of the French Club (of which I happen to be) all met at the Sports Café nearby Trafalgar Square to watch the game among French people -everybody was welcome of course and we spotted a few Mexicans among others. France qualification to the last game (which was not expected at the start of the tournament) is of course adding to the “hotness” of the week. Like the London Italian community did on the night before, the French Londoners gathered to party in Soho (especially in Piccadilly Circus).

But that’s not all. The biggest day of the week, from an academic point of view as well as from the viewpoint of everybody’s parents, was the congregation on Friday: An awesome ceremony in the giant marquee installed on the lawn followed by a great champagne garden party on the front lawn itself were the highlights of the day. Wearing our gowns and hats, we were called to stage to shake the Dean’s hand and receive a certificate (the Degree will be awarded at the end of July). As the date coincided with the commemoration of the 7/7 London attack, 2 minutes of silence were observed at noon.

I appreciated to have my family around, to see all my friends and to meet their families, as others have. Besides, I had a short chat with our Dean, Laura Tyson who is leaving at the end of the year. During her final speech, she claimed to belong to the class of 2006 and promised she’ll be among us for the 5-year reunion. I am looking forward to it.

Summer Ball
Last but not least, the Summer Ball was the true capstone of the week. The theme picked up this year by the organising students was “Venetian Masquerade”. After a garden reception, the evening started by a very nice dinner and ended with an amazing party, all in a formal “black tie” setting on the campus ground. On the dance floor, at the casino table and between the bars and tables, endless discussions and fun sealed not less fun and endless friendships. This was truly a memorable moment for all of us, as the final event of our studies at London Business School and the first of many parties as Alumni.

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What is this “Publish” Button?

Posted by: Guillaume
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Well, the London MBA Blog has launched. That’s great. Of course, the MBA2007s and MBA2005 (Siranoush, good to hear from you) have already posted something. Time the MBA 2006 representative (that’s me) gets in the dance and hits the “Publish” button.

Obviously, the MBAT victory has been covered. Let me add my own touch before we finally move on – we don’t want to sound like bragging B-school brats, do we?

Dsc01518MBAT is a great event as it is as much a competition on the side of the field that in the field. All students are cheering their team like mad. Believe me: I lost my voice for nearly a full week. What is even better is that it is all done in a good spirit as mentioned by Payton and everybody ends up partying and drinking together (can I say that here?) – of course we needed help with 3600 bottles of beer in our Red Bus!

That being said, we did steal our rival’s mascot (IESE’s Toro), who is now blogging about his year in London. I wanted to share that with you because I find this is a nice example of how creative people can be and how much fun we can have on our little campus.

By the way, that story and MBAT in general are good examples of how most students get involved in campus life. Sure, apart from my 5th place at Pétanque, my contribution for this event ended up being smuggling beer to various part of the HEC campus or ordering 80 pizzas for our MBAT sundowners (“every little helps”), But some of my fellow students really did a great job: in the spotlight (see cheerleader Nash below), behind the scenes (see Ben who is the MBA2006 official photographer since day 1), or just because they are so funny (hey Sam, I promised your picture would be online!). Let’s not forget team captain Julian and the rest of the cheering team – see Natasja’s post.

Dsc01619 Dsc01505 Dsc01511

Enough said. I’ll be back soon with more interesting information for applicants. Meanwhile if you are indeed a prospective student, you can always start reading Richard Montauk’s book and thinking about what to put in your essays in due time (it all starts here).

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