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…

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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!

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.

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.

Another ding from Stanford… and way forward.

It was not quite unexpected.

When Harvard and Wharton ding you without an interview, then you know your chances at Stanford are slim to none. I hold nothing against them because I am pretty sure there are many great applicants to pick from. I had to take a cold hard look at myself after the Wharton ding, and I came to the realization that there was really nothing I could do about who I am. I made good use of all the opportunities that came my way, but the fact that I came from a poorly understood culture did not really help matters. The Admission Committees simply did not understand me.

I make investment decisions that potentially impact the Nigerian financial markets almost on a daily basis, and I am involved in activities that have changed the actions of the managements of some listed companies in Nigeria. I am pretty sure that if these schools were Nigerian schools, they would have understood the context of candidacy and I would have stood a better chance.

Enough of the whining.

Now I know that I might have to look towards more internationally focused schools, schools that are more likely to understand the context of my candidacy. American schools have exposure to 35 – 40% international applicants. Americans with a population of about 300 million have slots for 60 – 65% of the seats while the remaining 6.7 billion of the World population fight for the remaining seats.

Now, I have to work out a strategy to get off the INSEAD waiting list. And I have a month to apply to London Business School and IESE Business School. If I have the time, I may throw in Chicago Booth into the mix, just for the fun of it.

No, the MBA dreams of the African Doctor is not dead.

I may be bruised and battered but like King Leonidas and his 300 men, my chin is up in the sky, and I will fight on.

Meanwhile, the views on my blog have almost touched 2,000. I am humbled by your belief in me, and I am grateful to those who have encouraged me all along.

I am sorry I do not have better news for you.