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I’m now four from eight.

That first email that comes through offering you an interview is an incredible confidence boost. You finally realize that firms don’t all start their emails with “Thank you for your application. However…” Your foot is in the door, quite literally in some cases when firms host interviews at their offices. But again, a reality check quickly follows. Afterall, this is only a foot in the door; we’ve been reminded numerous times that this is only the first step along a tough and merciless road (nevertheless, a significant step, that could, I feel, be measured in comparable size to those taken by Neil Armstrong). We’ve been culled down to a select few for the first interview. Following that an even more ruthless cut will ensue, succeeded by a minority who are left standing at the end. It sounds like something even Gordon Gekko would be challenged at.

A series of interviews now face me. But what does a consulting interview comprise of? The core is the case problem. These usually start with the premise that the CEO has asked for your advice to solve their problem, whether that be falling profits, market entry, a potential merger, or some other scenario. Your role, no, your duty, is to identify the crux of the issue and resolve it in the short space of 30 minutes or so.

So how does an MBA student prepare when one has succeeded at making it to this first round? Thankfully, it is not too hard, it just requires persistence. You must first turn your head and open your eyes to see all the hopeful study partners all around. I am immensely appreciative for the collaborative and constructive help of my fellow classmates. They, like you, are wanting to succeed. And perhaps in the most illustrative example of a ‘win-win’ scenario, you buddy up and test each other on sample cases. And you do this until you are verging on being repulsed by their company and constructive feedback. You wonder if you even want to be a consultant after you have long forgotten and given up counting the number of cases you have burned through. In these weeks of recruitment you will see the best and worst of your classmates – the built up pressure and stress in their frayed nerves and short tempers, the highs from crushing a case, the lows from screwing up the maths worse than their thirteen year-old cousin. Don’t forget, they see the same in you.

And through all this, you strengthen those connections with your classmates; an incredibly perverse bonding experience.

Now bring it on.

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It was around a year ago that I received my first ding from business schools. It didn’t cross my mind that I would be going through a similar process a year later; I received my first ding of summer recruitment today.

The last two weeks has been an intense experience with recruiters coming to campus everyday to convince us that we should want to work for them. Some have an easier job than others – the lecture theatre for facebook’s presentation was packed to the gills. And for us, we’ve been performing our finest foxtrots and getting our goosesteps on playing the dreaded ‘n’ game – networking. Everyone has been flailing around (some with the poise of Harry Judd, others looking more like they were born with two left feet) to see if we can stick in the minds of recruiters long enough that perhaps they’ll recall our name as they scan through a pile of CVs that looks more epic than Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

We were warned early on that around this time everyone would go a little crazy as people received interview and job offers, while the rest of us were passed on and continued our search. Perhaps I was naive, but I thought I could pass through this period unperturbed by the offers that classmates were receiving. After all, pretty much everyone does end up with a summer internship of some description. What I didn’t count on is the feeling of seeing classmates getting acceptances and walking to interviews for jobs that I had applied for. It’s a blow to your confidence as you wonder what talents or magical CVs other people possessed.

Good on them for succeeding. But I am a tiny bit jealous. Just a tad.

Stay tuned for more highs and lows of summer recruitment.


P.S. It turns out that dings two and three cut even deeper.

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Trekking our way around Hollywood

Posted by: James
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Some time ago, I contemplated what to do after the first term of class. There was a whole pile of options thrown at us: a trek to India, a skiing to trip to France, and a number of other holiday type trips too. Instead of taking these fun sounding options though, I elected to spend a week sitting in meeting rooms on the Media Trek while the sun shone down outside in Los Angeles. Yes, it seemed a crazy decision at the time, and even more so as the end of term approached.

But it was a phenomenal experience and a brilliant learning opportunity. Perhaps the best way to sum it up briefly is that it felt like a crash course elective in the entertainment industry – only, without exams. But that doesn’t start to do it justice. It was fantastic to learn so much in such a short space of time, and, perhaps more importantly, we were learning it from the trendsetters and business builders of the iconic and up-and-coming Hollywood companies. It was brilliant to know that what we were learning was coming not from some academic professor, but straight from the front line of the industry with all the experience that entails.

Our week was action packed with meetings from morning into the evening. And, while I won’t capture everyone we spoke to here, to give you a taste of what you missed out on (and to make you eager for next year’s trip), we met with Jon Landau who produced both Avatar and Titanic; the team at Summit Entertainment who handle world wide distribution, including all the Twilight films (yes, the girls got very excited!); the President of NBC Universal who is in charge of all their digital entertainment; as well as the new media heavyweights like Google, Hulu, and DemandMedia.

But we didn’t confine ourselves only to office meetings for the entire week; we did a bit of celebrity spotting, as one does when one is in Hollywood. Clint Eastwood ate his lunch at the table next to us while we were at Warner Bros, we saw one of the stars from Entourage as we were leaving the W Hotel, we also heard that Will Smith and Adam Sandler were about the Sony Pictures lot while we had a private tour – we attempted to orchestrate a coincidental encounter, but unfortunately none materialised.

And then, to round off the week, we spent our final day in Los Angeles at Disneyland. The magical kingdom gave us a grand finale with fireworks to send us on our way to have a Merry Christmas.

And a magical week it was. With a big thanks to Katie Cannon and Andrew Rose for all their organistion of the trip and chauffeuring around LA.


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I don’t expect there are many inter-school rivalries which are separated not only by country borders but also by large bodies of water and by language. But for LBS, our most competitive sports matches are played only after showing our passports, crossing the English Channel, and mastering the phrase “parlez vous anglais?” For INSEAD is our greatest rival on the field (and possibly off too) and nothing is quite as satisfying as vanquishing these baguette eating, wine swirling opponents.

Perhaps this particular rivalry is merely an extension of the long history shared between Britain and France; a history of Napoleonic proportions. For the 70 men of the LBS Rugby Club who set off from St Pancras and were destined for the INSEAD campus at Fontainebleau, it was certainly a matter of pride in maintaining our dominance over our French neighbours. Now, what goes on tour usually stays on tour. And anything that occurred after the Eurostar rolled out from the St Pancras platform should not be uttered here. But, on this occasion, a tantalising taster should be shared.

The match began with INSEAD lining up opposite us to sing their school song. Or something along those lines. My French is shocking enough that I didn’t understand it. Perhaps that was a good thing though, as I imagine they sang about their expected vanquishing of us.

How wrong they were. They may have come out strong at the start (or was that us playing weakly, still recovering our mojo after the previous night?) and they even had the first opportunity to score points with a penalty kick almost directly in front. But the boys from Baker St valiantly regained their composure and slowly but surely the gears of LBS rugby stirred into dominating action. The result? LBS 51 – INSEAD 7. A resounding victory!

Now, I must say, INSEAD were very gracious in defeat and we joined them that evening for a post match function in Fontainebleau. There’s always something special about sitting shoulder to shoulder with people you’ve just spent 80 minutes trying to tackle to the ground; it was great to actually converse with our MBA brethren there. And we’ll be looking forward to the rematch against the INSEAD lads when they travel past the white cliffs of Dover to do battle with us on our own turf early in the New Year.

It was on this optimistic note that we departed INSEAD for the cultured city of Paris, where we took delight in the pleasures of the Parisian nightlife. Or perhaps it was us who were entertaining the Parisians. By the early hours of the morning the French women were somewhat perplexed by these handsome lads roaming the streets in their navy blazers and straw hats, but they couldn’t get enough. And, so I’ve been told, more than one woman swooned in the presence of these men.

I will stop there before I say too much. Needless to say though, the next day, like the Duke of Wellington in victory at Waterloo, we returned triumphantly to Baker St with pride and success notched on our belts (and possibly elsewhere).

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The annual alumni sailing challenge

Posted by: James
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The alumni had issued their challenge; can this year’s students beat them in the annual alumni sailing challenge?  It had supposedly been done only once before – and then, the rumour goes, largely because the students had a medal winning/America’s Cup sailor to guide them to victory.  The odds were stacked against us.  One of our crew acknowledged the only boat he had ever been on was a ferry.  But we approached it with optimism and a sense of fun.

And fun we had.  The regatta was spread over a series of races on the Saturday and Sunday.  We met on Friday night for some team bonding over pizza and beer.  And then had an early start on the Saturday to practice tacking and gybing and getting everyone use to their positions.  Then, at 10.30 we were off – over the start line and racing for glory!

There’s no need to go into the details of the races.  Though we did have a blast.  There was constant confusion as a barrage of sailing vocab was yelled across the boat – it not always accurate (yes, I’ll take the blame for that).  But the important thing is that we were moving forward and we weren’t last.  We even succeeded at sailing the spinnaker up.  That was great to see the big bag flying and moving us even faster forward.  The final result? The alumni won – not just against us, but against the entire fleet of 17 boats and took home the trophy for doing so.

On the Saturday evening we went out for a dinner with the alumni and this was our real opportunity to get to know them better. It’s a small but strong club where the alumni really make their presence known – this is essential for learning from their experience on the big boats and for lending us a skipper.

I’m looking forward to more racing with the LBS Sailing Club.  And next time we meet, the alumni better be watching out.  We’ll be close on their tail for victory!


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Influencing and persuading

Posted by: James
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Today, I asserted that New Zealand would win against Australia, convinced my landlord to sort their act out and get the internet installed, and persuaded my study group to work over the weekend. None of these were actually for real. Well, except the first. New Zealand will beat Australia in the semi. I hope.

Instead, this was all role-playing in my influencing and persuading course. It’s one of the many electives we can take as part of LBS’ revamped MBA leadership programme. LBS is really placing an emphasis on developing our soft skill and leadership capabilities – not just our hard finance (and other) skills. It’s not something I had thought about too much before starting school, but I’m quickly coming to appreciate the opportunity to develop our personal skills over the two years we have here. Even before starting school, we filled out personality surveys and completed 360 feedback forms; these then provided some insight into what we were like as individuals and served as a starting point for our development plans.

One thing that has been repeated a number of times is that the MBA programme is a safe place to try stuff out. Worried about your financially modelling? Well, try it out here, because stuffing it up amongst your study group is nowhere near bad as doing it while on your investment banking internship. What about trying case competitions? Again, if you get it badly wrong, no consulting company is going to judge you. Infact, there’s a massive pool of people to provide you guidance and give thoughtful feedback on your mistakes, without any pressure about getting fired. And the same goes for the personal development.

So there I was, trying to persuade my landlord to fix the internet (they even brought in actors to help us role-play).  I was working on being more assertive.  It wasn’t going well.  I had somehow been lumped with the majority of the work – time out – my classmates provided their opinions on what I could be doing differently. Valuable advice and very much appreciated.  Again, I spoke to my landlord and this time the interaction went better.  Success, the internet is being installed!

And from there, the world was mine to influence and persuade.

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Autumn sun and croquet

Posted by: James

When people think of London weather, they usually think of dreary grey skies and gentlemen in their suits walking around with umbrellas as if they were extensions of their arms. The last weekend, however, couldn’t be further from the truth. Records have been broken with some of the hottest temperatures being recorded in the last 100 years! LBSer’s would never be people to let an opportunity like this pass them by. Especially B Stream (officially the BEST stream of the MBA 2013 class) who organised a get together in Regent’s Park on the Saturday afternoon.

One of the great things about LBS is its location right next to Regent’s Park; it’s a fantastic place to escape the rapid pace of London and school. So, early afternoon, we descended upon the middle of Regent’s Park and set up camp. We came prepared with supplies of food that would have filled a vast picnic hamper. We came with frisbees, soccer balls, rugby balls, books and good conversation. We also came with blankets and a croquet set loaned from the school.

Who has ever heard of a school which has a croquet set that it lends out to its students? My undergrad school certainly didn’t. I think it’s brilliant. If you’re one of those people weighing up business schools to apply to, and needed something to tip the balance towards LBS, this should be it. There we were, on the well-manicured lawns, playing that most English of sport. Pimms may or may not have also been in hand to complement the game. Our knowledge of the rules was nascent, but we played with the enthusiasm of a finance professor explaining NPV to a class for the first time. There was a delicate balance struck between competitiveness and sportsmanship out on the field. And at the end of the day, the better team prevailed (not my team, sadly).

It could be a while until the sun next shines. But when it does, I’m looking forward to a rematch on the lawns of Regent’s Park.

Croquet in Regent's Park

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Keeping Track

Posted by: James
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Assignments, readings, case studies… now that classes are pretty much in full swing, I’m struggling to keep track of all the various things I need to prepare for class.  That’s not to mention the careers events, club kick-offs, and other random talks to attend.  My memory is being crushed by the weight of my to-do list and I’ve been on a quest for a solution to resolve this.

And in the wonders of synchronization I have found it.  Before arriving at LBS, synchronized was something I associated with swimmers.  But now it means to me the magic of having my ipad, laptop, and smartphone magically share my email, calendar entries, and to-do list between them all.  It’s a whole new world to me!  Most importantly though, it’s freed some brain cells so that I can absorb some more learnings in class and some more ales from the pub.

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My to-do list

Posted by: James

I had spent the previous three months backpacking through Asia, enjoying a long holiday before the hard work and long hours at school began.  I didn’t expect it to be such a quick return to reality though; my to-do list was expanding off the page by the time I landed at Heathrow. Flat-hunting, furniture buying, collecting bags scattered with friends across London, reminding myself how to do maths, meeting future classmates, and perhaps some sightseeing if time allowed.
 
London is an amazing place, steeped in history, but finding a flat so that you can be part of that history can be a soul-destroying experience. I quickly learnt that the standard of accommodation exceeded my initial budget and the value offered was sub-par. But persistence pays off and with some more searching we secured a good pad close to school.  Finding flatmates is a far more enjoyable experience though; LBS organised a flat-hunters pub crawl in the two weeks prior to orientation.  It was a brilliant way to meet my fellow classmates and find those in the similar position of searching of a flat.  Through the pub crawls I found my future flatties, an oil tanker captain and an economic consultant.

Now I just need to tick off those remaining to-do items on my list.

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