First Day at School

On September 6, 2015, I started my MBA journey at London Business School. I took some pictures on my way from the airport to school, and uploaded them on my Twitter timeline. The link below aggregated all the tweets in one place on Storify.

Due to the workload at school, I have come to discover that my social media life has come to a virtual standstill. I guess this is the best way to keep up… through a set of tweet.


Where is my Piccolo?

When I was growing up, I read a story about a piccolo player. A master orchestra conductor came to town and he decided to practice with the largest orchestra in town. There were about 50 different members in the team, which included only one piccolo player. Right in the middle of the second practice session, the piccolo player decided to stop playing. He simply left the tiny instrument in his mouth and pretended he was still playing. The piccolo was the smallest instrument in the orchestra, and the player felt he was insignificant in the middle of the big drums, trumpets, tuba, and violins.

Three beats after he stopped playing, the master conductor brought the music to a halt and yelled, “Where is my piccolo!!?” The piccolo player raised his hand timidly and the conductor asked him, “Why did you stop playing?” The piccolo player answered, “I felt my instrument was small, and that I would not be missed.”

The conductor replied, “You are the most important player in this team. That is why you are in the front row. You determine when the whole group is going to transpose to the next key. Without you, our music will be bland, and that is why your notes are an octave higher than everyone else’ notes.”

You see, the piccolo player thought he was insignificant, but the master conductor who had being leading orchestra for over 50 years thought otherwise.

What does this have to do with MBA? I know this is not a music blog.

In the second week of September, 2015, I finally started the Executive MBA program at London Business School. We had our orientation at the London Campus where lectures started. One of the first lectures we had was Executive Leadership, which exposed us to the 360-degree feedback and the NEO personality inventory. My strengths and weaknesses were laid bare in front of me. It was an eye-opening, and scary moment when I saw my major weakness. This was something I had taken for granted for a long time.

In the process of completing the assignment that followed, I truly had a long period of deep self reflection, and I saw clearly how I had led my life with this weakness. I saw how many opportunities I had let slip because of this weakness. I tried to imagine what my life could have been if I had tackled this weakness, at least, five years ago. I had written a lot of essays in my journey towards getting admission to business school, but this was something I never thought of, and this was something none of my referees told me.

I came to understand that the little things we take for granted often shaped our lives in the long run. Nobody tells us and we keep living and thinking we are doing our best. Many of the people around me have often wondered what exactly I wanted to do with an MBA at this stage of my career. The driver who dropped me off at the airport even asked me if I was going for the degree because I wanted a promotion. My response to everyone who asked me was that I have a dream and I know there are things about me I am not aware of that may stop me, or slow me down, from achieving this dream. It became quite clear after the first week at school.

I have spent only one week at school and I feel as if I have already received knowledge worth 25% of my tuition. I can only imagine how the remaining 19 weeks are going to be.

Thank you so much London Business School. I have found my Piccolo.

Grateful for 2014

It was a roller coaster of a year, but it ended up as one of the best years of my life to far. I am so grateful for how things turned out and, sincerely, I couldn’t have asked for better. Everything worked together for good: from all the dings from Harvard to Stanford GSB to Wharton to the strange outcome at INSEAD and then to getting into London Business School Exec MBA and only to end up with a deferral, it was a serious journey and it has brought me to where I am today.

A few weeks after getting over the fact that I had to defer my admission till September 2015, I took a very hard look at my life. I wondered – what if I applied the same laser focus I had during the application process into what exactly I wanted to do with my life, what would I achieve? I am so glad that I embarked on another journey of soul searching. This time around there were no questions from some admission committee members; I crafted the questions myself and I answered them, not to satisfy some Adcom members but to satisfy myself. I did not need any consultant for this either and there was no time limit.

I must confess. A lot has happened in three months when I started the journey. I am an investment manager and my motivation to go to business school was to develop the business side of things so I would be able to converge my experiences as a medical doctor and an investment manager. Right now I am in the process of incorporating a Hedge Fund that will partially morph into a Healthcare focused Private Equity Fund in a few years. Strangely, the Federal Government of Nigeria signed the National Health Bill into law a two weeks ago; this bill encourages private participation in the healthcare industry in Nigeria. This is what I have waited for, for so long. I also sampled the opinion of a few friends about the Hedge Fund and I got a resounding support: I have even gotten funds lined up waiting for the fund to get rolling. But I am keeping my fingers crossed at this time. People will promise you things out of politeness but when the time comes to deliver, the stories will start.

But the thought of running my own Hedge Fund, doing what I really like doing and setting the investment rules, while honing my business skills at London Business School is an adventure that I am looking forward to in 2015. A lot has really happened in just three months since I deferred my admission because of work, and I am positive that a lot of many more good things will happen in the next nine months before school starts. I can’t wait!

The Executive MBA at London Business School begins…

I was in the middle of a meeting at exactly 12 noon today when it hit me that under normal circumstances, I should have been in London, meeting my new classmates for the next 20 months. The Executive MBA at London Business School begins… but I am not in class because I was forced to defer till September, 2015.

I got to my office, opened up my Expedia homepage and looked longingly at all the trips I had planned for the next three months; it was painful. The whole application experience from all the dings and finally getting admission to LBS, only to wait for one year. I don’t even want to think of all the money I had spent.

But the good thing that I had to keep reminding myself of is that I have one whole year to put things in place and gain more experience. The fact that I am not going to business school this year has also made me buckle down and take life a little bit more seriously. I have a whole lot of investments in different asset classes scattered all over the place, and I don’t even know my net worth. If I am not going to business school this year, I might as well consolidate my portfolio, and optimize the asset classes and securities to fit into my current profile. I also have enough time to really mull over what I am going to do with my life after business school; I don’t see myself in paid employment in four years from now.

Another good thing is that I don’t need to worry about being too old in one year from today. The average number of years of experience in the EMBA Class is 11 years for the Dubai Stream, which I applied for, but I have only 8 years. Add next year and I will hit 9 years.

And yes, time to dust my old books and brush up my French…

A Painful Deferral…

I was all set.

My UK Visa was ready for the orientation week in London in the second week of September. I had paid the second instalment of the tuition. I was pumped. I had finished reading Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Good to Great by Jim Collins, the recommended readings by London Business School EMBA. I was ready.

Then my employer said “No Knight, we cannot release you at this time! We have so much to do at this time and you are going to be needed for some of these things over the next fifteen months”. It was heartbreaking. My first reaction was to resign my position, but my employer saw this coming. They gave me a raise, and then promised another promotion next year. The honorable thing to do was to defer. This is not the time to burn bridges.

Thankfully I had just finished reading Flow. Now I understand. When you have an obstacle, you can either take it out of the way or look at the big picture and work around the obstacles. Apparently, while I may not have started business schools, it looks as if I have started learning. I could use the next one year to read more of the recommended books, and also get to improve revenue streams for my side business. This will also expose me to some new perspectives that will help me enrich the class when I actually start.

Although the painful thing is that I am going to lose the scholarship. But I have been assured that I can reapply next year, but who knows if I will be able to win it again? As they say, thunder does not strike twice in one place.

After all, the pay rise should be able to more than make up for the lost scholarship in the next one year.

A scholarship from London Business School!

I was in my office minding my own business, preparing for a board meeting, when I got an email alert. My first reaction was to ignore it but then when I saw the header “London Business School”, I dumped everything to open the email. Maybe the admission guys were just sending a friendly reminder about the next payment deadline for August 1, 2014. As if I would forget. I opened the email, and there it was… “Congratulations… blah blah blah Scholarship”!

I could not immediately process the words between the congratulations and the scholarship. I have had a difficult time talking to my employer about my desire to attend the Executive MBA Program at London Business School. I was the first person to ever make such a request at my company for something like this and there was no policy about it. So my case had to be taken to the board of directors. Now, I saw this scholarship, which will cover 30% of the tuition as another bargaining tool. I understand my employer’s fear that I may use the LBS platform to take off for a more juicer appointment; but if I wanted to, I would have resigned my position long time ago.

My first reaction was to forward the email to my boss who had gone for the Hajj in Saudi Arabia immediately. I got a response from him after a few hours congratulating me, and then I knew that the battle might just be tilting in my favor. I hope I will not be forced to make a difficult decision between my employment and the business school, but if I have to, I know where my heart lies.

Wish me luck for the remaining part of the battle with my employer…

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!