London Business School Calls…

After my interview session at the London Business School in Dubai campus, my wife and I stayed back for a few days to enjoy the city before heading back home. The admission committee members who interviewed me told me that I should hear back from them latest by Thursday this week. I had already set my expectations for Wednesday/Thursday, only for me to open my email on Tuesday, and bam! the offer for admission was sitting right there. I checked the timestamp on the email only to discover that the email had been sent for over 24 hours!

My first instinct was to rush off an acceptance email right there on my mobile phone before they changed their minds about the admission. But now, I know I made the right choice not to send the email immediately because I am quite certain that it would have been full of grammatical errors and wrong spellings and they might have been forced to withdraw the admission. Instead, I took a deep breathe, rushed off to tell me wife about the good news and gave myself some few minutes to calm down. Then I opened up my laptop and sent an official looking and sounding acceptance email.

It was a rollercoaster of a sixteen months, which included three tries at the GMAT and lots of bucks for travels to Lagos and Dubai and application fees, not forgetting those pesky consultant fees. But I am glad the journey is over. For the past 36 hours I have been wondering what would have happened if I had hired my second consultant instead of the first for my Harvard, Stanford, Wharton and INSEAD applications. I cannot predict what would have happened with the first three schools but I feel strongly that I would have been accepted straight through at INSEAD. While the first consultant was able to put many of the puzzles in place, the second consultant brought a higher level of clarity for the LBS application process. The first consultant’s interview training was a goldmine that actually went a long way to help.

Looking back at the long painful journey of self discovery, I am glad that things turned out the way they did. I had a vertical career move in the first week of 2014. My second admission consultant felt that this promotion could have spooked the admission committees because I was unable to explain within the short period before the deadlines why I wanted an MBA at that point. Most MBA graduates who are interested to coming to Africa would be glad to take my current job. It would have been a real struggle to let go if I had been admitted into Harvard or Stanford. But I doubt I would have let go if I had gotten into Wharton. INSEAD would have been easier because I could have looked for a way to talk my employer into letting me go for only ten months and come right back to my current role. But I am glad I do not have to make that decision. I now I get to go to a great school while keeping a great job. It is the best of both worlds. Another thing is that I do not have to face the prospect of getting torn apart by a smart 22 year old in front of the class at Harvard; I think I will learn better and appreciate it more if I am slammed by a 40 year old experienced manager at the Executive MBA program in the city of Dubai. At least, I can always go to Wild Wadi after that.

And I finally got to send an email to INSEAD to take me off the waitlist, and it felt really good.

I am grateful to the Almighty God for how things have turned out. The journey of self discovery was well worth it.

And yes, I am going to London Business School!

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Concluding the London Business School Interview

The interview is finally done. The application process to London Business School is coming to a close, and yes, the final closure will be sometime next week. The natural question is “How did the interview go?”

And my answer is “So so. Comme ci comme ca.”

As an MBA applicant who just concluded his/her interview, the first response is to look at the negatives, give them a weight of 90% and then take the positives and apply a weight of 10%. Then pray for the best and prepare for the worst, only to end up a neurotic mess. I have done that before. Strangely one of the questions one of the interviewers (yes, I was interviewed by two nice ladies who are adcom members and who both have names that sound almost alike the Thomson and Thompson characters in Tintin) asked was what I was going to do if I was not accepted into the Executive MBA Programme at London Business School. I was on a roll at that time and my response, which was quite fast, was “I will re-apply”. Both of them laughed at the response. But I truly meant it.

After seeing the school, the facilities, the curriculum, and considering it in the context of my current career trajectory, I feel the school will be a really good fit. And the good thing is this. Nobody is going to tell me one of these pesky little lines that I have gotten really tired of hearing:

  1. You are a little on the older side
  2. You have too much work experience
  3. Your current job title will make adcoms wonder what you need an MBA for
  4. Your quant score is a little weak for a top end school

Strangely one of the questions I was asked was “How were you able to get such a high GMAT score?” The first reaction, in my head, was “Huh?” My brain could not process the fact that the adcom really called my score “high”. I mean this is the same score that I have been told I needed to improve upon to have a shot at Wharton. The question caused a meltdown in the synaptic connections between my ears and my mouth because I could not process the information fast enough. Then I tailgated (you will have to pick up a copy of Pitch Perfect my Bill McGowan to understand what that means), and then I crashed. I ended up answering why I was unable to score 730. That was the third mistake I made in the interview.

Now to the first mistake. I took coffee, without eating, when I woke up in the morning. I had to drag myself out of bed at 8am for a 10am interview. The coffee without sugar and milk caused a sugar crash in my system. That coupled with the jet lag made me a nervous wreck at 9.45am. That was mistake number one.

The interview started off with a presentation. I felt confident, in my head, but my mouth betrayed my nervousness. My voice was shaky. I should have overcome this within 3 – 4 minutes because I really loved making presentations, but it went through all the 10 minutes plus. Mistake number two. Am I going to be marked down for that? I don’t know. But here is what I know. I delivered my message. And how do I know this?

One of the adcom members (not one of the interviewers) was taking me around the campus when another member (also not an interviewer) rushed down the staircase to meet me. She was all excited and went “So you were one of the doctors that delivered a baby on board a British Airways flight from Abuja to London? I actually know someone who was aboard the flight!”. That was one of the “cool stories” in my presentation, and it must have been memorable enough for her to know just a few minutes after I walked out of the interview room. I think it is a dead giveaway.

But…

I am still an MBA applicant. And I will assign a weight of 10% to cool stories and 90% to shaky voice caused by an unusual amount of caffeine in the system and a bloody jet lag. 

So I will hope for the best and prepare for the worst while making a neurotic mess of myself because I am still an MBA applicant after all.

Getting ready for the Interview with London Business School

I had to postpone my interview for the London Business School (LBS) Executive MBA by 30 days. Sometimes I wonder what the outcome would have been if I had gone for the interview last month because by now I would have known my fate. Well, I will know the outcome in a few weeks from now. All I need to do now is continue to prepare.

After a few weeks in the US with virtually little time to prepare – to be honest I probably did 85% of my preparation in the air through Abuja-Mallorca-London-New York-Seattle-New York-London-Abuja – I actually thought I had wasted a lot of time. A few days ago when I put pen to paper to draft my strategy for the presentation, that was when it dawned on me that I had actually prepared mentally and I already had a good strategy in place. It was right there in my subconscious; while my conscious mind was not aware, my subconscious mind had actually taken over the show.

My interview is next week in Dubai, so I am getting ready for another few hours in the air this weekend.

I need all the luck in the world right now. It has been a really tough battle up to this point.

And, by the way, INSEAD called a few people off the wait list. But somehow, they probably forgot to call me. I will forgive them if all goes well at LBS… Yeah, with benefit of hindsight, now I know that I was even lucky to have received an interview invite to INSEAD in the first place. So there’s nothing to forgive really. I am grateful they even glanced my way…

Interview invite from London Business School…

I was in the middle of making preparations at a travel agent for my trip to the US for the CFA Conference when I got the mail from London Business School. It was an interview invite for the second round of the Executive MBA Program. I was told to come over to Dubai on April 30, 2014 for the interview, which will also include a ten minute presentation.

A look at my itinerary and the costs of one way tickets halfway across the world and the thoughts of staying up in the skies for almost 30 hours within a space of 2 – 3 days was really scary. Maybe if I was going to fly first class all the way, I could have given it a second thought. I fired a mail back, and we concluded on doing the interview at the end of May.

Now, the only downside was that I would end up probably interviewing with Round 3 candidates, and the competitiveness could be a little tighter. But the upside is that I would have a full month to prepare for the interview and the presentation; the cost of waiting a little bit would probably be offset by a far much better preparation. I have been reading Pitch Perfect by Bill McGowan and I have seen ways on how to tremendously improve my presentation skills. Yea, so the wait would probably be worth it.

Another upside is that the number of INSEAD full time MBA candidates has been going down on MBA Connect. Maybe, I may get a call from INSEAD before the interview. If that happens, I will add the flight ticket to Dubai for the LBS interview to the INSEAD tuition fees. I hope it happens.

Fingers crossed.

Restrategising again…

It has been a very stressful two weeks and I am glad it is all over. I am still waiting for INSEAD, while I actually started and finished an application to, well, guess…. 🙂 London Business School. No no! Not the full time MBA, but the Executive MBA! A lot of things have happened within the intervening period to make me feel that I should take a shot at the EMBA path.

Here’s the deal. I hired another consultant to take a thorough look at my profile, and at the applications I submitted. It was a very thorough postmortem review. The review actually made me dig deeper into myself and to re-evaluate my choices. Now, this review also took a good look at my current circumstances. I more or less experienced an eureka moment. Am I happy with my current job? By all means, yes! And I wouldn’t hesitate to take back my current role even I had gone to Harvard Business School for two years. I am actually on track to achieving my long term goals. It simply made perfect sense to go for an EMBA.

So, at this point, there is no two year MBA for me again. It is either a one year MBA or an EMBA.

And what if I get offers from INSEAD and LBS? We will cross the bridge we get there.

Changing plans..

Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety. ~ Proverbs 11:14

I had finished filling the online form for the Columbia MBA, and polished the second draft of the essays when I met a Columbia graduate. It was fortuitous that I did and I had to squeeze out all the information that I could get from him. Graduates from top business schools are scarce commodities in this part of the world. He had coached many Nigerians to a few business schools in the US. I was lucky.

He made me understand that American and European business schools don’t usually like Africans applying in the last application rounds because of visa issues. It was possible to scale through but the chances were slim to none. When I raised my age issue, he objected that my age had very little, if any, to do with the dings I got. He liked my resume but he did not like my essays. That was a shocking revelation. He pointed out a few things, and everything came altogether. My post MBA goals were a stretch, and there was no clear cut plan between my short term goals and long term goals. While they played to the strength of my experience, they were not that convincing enough.

At that point I was grateful to have even been considered for the INSEAD wait list. I have been able to correct this weakness and updated the changes in my circumstances in the last correspondence with INSEAD.

So, to cut long story short, I have come to the end of the application season for American schools. No more Columbia, no more Booth. However, I went on the London Business School website, and it was stated there that getting visa to study at LBS is “a straightforward process”, and it takes about 3 – 4 weeks to fully process. Yes, I know that there is only one round left, Round 4, and it is going to be highly competitive. But I will try.

My new plan is to stay on the INSEAD wait list, and then apply to LBS as a back up. After submitting my LBS application, I will start preparing for one last shot at the GMAT. But if INSEAD calls at anytime between now and the day I chose to re-write the GMAT, for the fourth time, everything application process comes to a halt, and I prepare myself for Fonty or Singy.