This blog feels like an attic that I haven’t been to in years!!! Excuse me for a moment while I clean the dust…
There… Much better now!
I’ve been quite busy trying to earn my keep as an MBA Intern. Between June and September, I had the privilege of working with Shell International Petroleum Company here in London. I worked with the Retail Engineering Team – the people that manage the construction and maintenance of Shell retail stations all over the world. During my first week on the job, I visited a station that previously belonged to a competitor but was being converted to Shell standards, what is called a ‘KDRB’ – Knock Down and Re-Build. Suffice to say, there is so much thought and effort that goes into the construction and maintenance of fuel stations that the average consumer neither knows nor sees. All we do is get in, buy fuel, perhaps go into the shop, use the restroom, and then get out. But setting up a retail station to ensure that customers get safety, speed and ease of use – well, let’s just say I appreciate that team a whole lot more!
Working with Shell was a marvellous experience. My first paradigm-altering experience was with the lifts at Shell Towers. You know the story about the janitor/cleaner that tells the engineer (or was it architect) that he could put the lift outside the building instead of inside it? At Shell Towers, the floor buttons are outside the lifts. That first week, I had to consciously resist the temptation to stretch out my fingers to input my destination after getting into the lift, even though I already had done that before entering the lift.
More importantly, I enjoyed the collaborative and consensus-driven culture that operates at Shell. In my mind, the culture is a clear expression of the principle that no single person knows everything. While working at Shell, I had numerous interactions with lots of people within and outside my team – and they were only too willing to help. People thought nothing of spending significant time with me to help me understand not only the project I worked on, but also, the ways of working at Shell. In addition, decision-making processes are structured in such a way as to get the opinions and buy-in of a number of stakeholders, to ensure that there is broad support for initiatives executed. Obviously, getting consensus can slow down the decision-making process, but I guess that’s the trade off you get – speed versus support. That’s one of the core lessons from Strategy & Operations Management – picking a strategy and executing it; it’s about making a choice, prioritising a set of values or system over another. You can’t have everything.
The other thing I liked about working with Shell was work-life balance. Days I would get in by 8.00 a.m, and my floor would be empty. Days when I left by 7.00 p.m, I was the last to leave. In addition, it is possible to work from home (obviously pre-arranged with your manager, and if your physical presence is not required at the office). I did visit the gym in the building on some days, but seeing as I’m still packing pounds on my body, I guess I didn’t spend enough time there!
It wasn’t easy leaving. I felt a good kind of tired on the last day of my internship – like I had put in my all, and my effort was appreciated. I worked with amazingly great people (time to name-drop) – Bernard, Pedro, Graham, Gena – thanks for the wonderful experience!
So what’s next? Year 2 of the MBA begins! But that story is definitely for another time – hopefully not as much dust would have accumulated by then.
My recap of term 2: Undertaking the MBA at London Business School
It was a fast-paced term. It whizzed by before we even knew what was happening. From the first Corporate Partner Presentations in the second week of January down to the final core course exam on Sunday, March 23, it’s been one roller-coaster of a ride. Without the hurling, of course.
There’s a huge divide amongst the 2015 MBA student body, the haves and the have-nots. The haves, it seems, are walking with considerable swag, their heads held high, without a worry in the world. The have-nots are walking with swag (MBAs, after all!), their heads held level, with perhaps a sense of uncertainty about the future. I’m talking about… internships. Places in the highly coveted banking and consulting gigs are mostly (if not fully) taken. The 2014s, out of the abundance of experience, tell us not to worry. Their prevailing line seems to be summed up thus – ‘Everyone who wants an internship will get something. It may not be what you wanted prior to coming to do the MBA, but it’ll work out right in the end.’ Fingers crossed!
The high point of this term for me was my very first career trek to the United Arab Emirates – organised by the Energy Club. Best trek ever!! (I know, hyperbole, considering I have no prior experiences to compare with). But it was! Why? 5 reasons. Not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4…
- Excellent organisation (kudos to Bassam Frem & Marius van Straaten!!)
- Great group dynamics
- Free accommodation!!! (beat that, other LBS treks!!)
- We got to meet and discuss with leading companies and public sector institutions in different sectors of energy – Petrofac, GE, McKinsey & DEWA – to name a few. We learnt a lot about the current state and future of the industry in the Middle East
- Our hosts were very accommodating. In one case, we finished a company visit with a huge lunch, and started a second company visit with… wait for it… another huge lunch!
Sign me up next year!!!
Two awesome treks taking place during the spring break – the Japan trek, and the Morocco trek. Sadly, I am in neither place.
In conclusion, I was just reminded that school resumes in 2 weeks L. On the bright side, I have 2 free weeks J !!
After a wonderful Christmas break…
The first month of the second term started out with Corporate Partner presentations. In a nutshell, this involves us MBAs dressing up in our best business attire, then sitting down and listening to some of the best businesses and organizations in the world tell us:
- They’re awesome
- We’re awesome
- How awesome it would be if two such awesome parties did hook up…
Seriously though, the buzz this January is simply about one word – internships. The MBA is great education, but the reason why most of us came to LBS is to get a chance to find that holy grail – a better job (in another company, industry, or geography). The internship is that one-time opportunity to put your foot in the door, get a feel for what that dream job is like, and if you do well, possibly get a full time offer post-MBA.
When you see it that way, it becomes very clear why there’s the mad dash to:
- Attend the corporate presentations,
- Network with employees and past interns of the companies,
- Prepare and submit cover letters and CVs (mostly just before the deadlines),
- Work seriously on acing those interviews
I can’t overemphasize the importance of the interview practice sessions. Unlike coursework, in which we work in groups (except for a few assignments and the final exams), the interview is “me against the world” (sorry, company). You sit in that room, facing an interviewer, and try to convince that person in one hour, why you’re a great fit for the company, industry or geography. You have only one shot. Unlike the final exams, there are no re-sits here.
So, those looking for finance internships started networking in the first term, and are dusting off their corporate finance lecture material; those seeking consulting gigs are practicing case interviews, and asking actual consultants to teach them the ropes; while those looking for internships in industry are… Hmm, what are they doing???
MBA Term 1 is done! Yes! <insert victory fist pump here>. I should say “Mission Accomplished!”, but then I remember this…
Thoughts on Term 1
- It was tough, tougher than I expected. I had the sense that I was always running: from lectures to study group meetings to tutorials to career services events to one or two social events. It seemed like there was no time to come up for air. The one time that hit really hard was taking 4 mid-term exams over a weekend (Saturday and Sunday!), and then having to show up for lectures the following Monday! At 8.15am!
- After my final Term 1 paper on December 15, it felt like a huge weight had been taken off. But then I had gotten so used to running that I felt lost when I realised there was no next event to run to!
- In Econ, we learnt about consumers’ Willingness to Pay (WTP) as a consideration in pricing. I’m coining my acronym for what I think is one of the best things about LBS: WTH (that’s Willingness to Help). Super thankful for the great group of very helpful people in this community – the students (study groups, tutors, etc), faculty, Programme Office, Career Services etc who’ve been great at explaining stuff and answering questions. You literally cannot walk the MBA path on your own.
- Another excellent thing about LBS – the diversity of the LBS MBA class. It’s amazing and makes for… a richer experience! Using my study group of 7 as an example of this diversity: we have 2 people from Europe (
SpainCatalonia & Netherlands), one from Latin America (Brazil), one from Asia (Malaysia), one from Australia, one from North America (USA) and myself from Africa (Nigeria). If that isn’t diversity, I don’t know what it is…
- In all, Term 1 was like a pilot – I learned a lot about myself and the programme. Looking forward to engaging Term 2 equipped with better understanding.
- In conclusion, happy holidays, everyone! And to those at Val Thorens, bon faire du ski!
On a lighter note… things we heard in class…
- “An unlucky camel is one that gets eaten by a polar bear in the desert.”
- (Pointing to a picture of Real Madrid star, Cristiano Ronaldo)… “Now, Ronaldo is listed on Real Madrid’s books as an intangible asset, but as we all can see, he is very tangible…”
1. London is huge!
I’ve been here 3 weeks and counting, and sometimes I forget the name of the subway line that takes me to LBS and back home. I find it surprising when friends in other parts of the UK tell me they have no clue where a particular town in London is.
2. London has got awesome history!
Two things I’ve done to get a better understanding of London’s history – I visited the Museum of London, and took a free Royal London tour. I came away from both in awe of the rich history that precedes the city, as well as the trends and forces that will shape it in the future.
3. London Business School is awesome!
There’s just so much great stuff to do here. And if you can’t find something you like, you can always create it! An LBS MBA is definitely more than academic exercise; it’s an awesome avenue for personal development.
4. It’s cold!
I’m coming from a tropical climate, so from Day 1, it’s been really cold for me. I’m pretty much in a jumper anywhere I go. This amuses a lot of people, and even though it doesn’t help, they never cease reminding me that ‘winter is coming!’