Sunday, July 25, 2010

Stars are all alone when they shine ...but they still give light

I am philosophical today. Since the time I have written my last post, something has jinxed my peace. I have taken tremendous pressure. Expectations weren't fulfilled even before but now I am taking stress when they are not being met. I didn't go to work on Friday and my sleeping cycle has hit badly . Good things may come - I may get a job I have given interview for. I wont give further details. I don't want to jinx something again. I wrote Ross' essays first version. So, things are not that out of track as I am feeling.But I am drained out. Why? I myself have no answer. I just hope when I get what I want, I am still shining......and not be dull as I am today.

 I am tired today even after a three days complete break. May be that's the reason. It's not the time to take a break. I saw three movies since yesterday classifying them in my break No point as I know that I am supposed to do many other things.Let me do something which I have not been able to do since a long time.Sitting in front of computer isin't giving me energy anyways. I wont write anymore as I want to write with a better frame of mind.Take care. See you!

Monday, July 12, 2010

What is the MBA application process teaching me?

Preface-  Nothing in this post is intended to be self-congratulatory or boastful. its an honest account of what journey to a b-school has done to me so far. So much so that even if I don't get it, I will not have anything to lose.

I think this is going to be one of the longest post on my blog ever. I wanted to write down today how much the journey itself to a B-school has been inspiring for me. Eight months back I was still figuring out why I should do an MBA and decided that I was not completely ready. I actually left my apps at the altar!

When I started my professional career three years back, I was inspired to work hard and be smart. When I moved to Bangalore, i decided to stay alone. These things have actually molded me well in last two years. At first, I became domesticated. I learnt cooking, sweeping and wiping  the floor (yes I didn't hire a maid!) and running! I used to run upto one hour. I was having congenial heart disease and as a kid I was a declared weak! But like Forrest Gump, when I started running, I kept on running! So on  a typical week day I would wake up at 6AM go to jog, clean the house, cook breakfast and lunch and then get ready to go to office; Work around 14 hours a day, come back and cook dinner. and sleep. It used to be perfect. Then there were attractions. I got attracted to Namaste Yoga and I started practicing that instead of jogging. After reading an article in The Hindu about why education should be returned back to community, my love for teaching got enticed and I started teaching the daughter of the lady running the parlor. That girl has a great respect for me today and I think that's one of the most selfless job that I ever did. This continued at my workplace as well when I assumed responsibilities of three people who left our team. I vividly remember the expression on my manager's face when he said that I am one of the most efficient individual he has worked with in his 10-year career. I think I tasted success that day. Has it ever happened to you that when you returning from work at 10PM in the night but you are smiling about something. This used to happen with me everyday. I was not sure what I did, that made me feel that way, but in hindsight I think it was the hard work that I was putting in. Nothing was pre-defined or disciplined, I just somehow was able to do it. This was the life I lived for almost six months after I moved to Bangalore, until the day I decided that I will give GMAT (and not MBA). I had too little idea about what are the other parts of the application process and why I should do an MBA. When GMAT prep began, I left every other responsibility that I had taken - hired a maid, ate food at workplace, discontinued jogging, seldom practiced surya namaskar. But I still slept properly and still worked immensely. In fact, GMAT helped me to be more analytical and had improved my reasoning skills and that was always shown at my office. I think continuing education always does that to you! I felt this more stronger with my CFA prep days.

When GMAT got over, I talked to few people. They told me that having a faint idea on what you want from an MBA is sufficient. You just have to get in, you will figure out more things on your own. When I attended my first admission information session in October, I heard a booth alum of 87 batch talking that he had followed the same career path as he wrote in his apps. At that very moment, I realized that I will not be justifying myself if I apply. But I still continued exploration and thought may be in a month I will figure out whatever I was thinking I need an MBA for, is actually the reason I need an MBA for. But MBA apps are no Archimedes' eureka moment. They require constant underpinning. They require you to be crystal clear and AdCom doesn't need to tell you that. You will realize this yourself when you are writing your essays. I discontinued my applications and I didn't apply at all. That is I think is one of the wisest decision that I made because I listened to my heart and my brain. It was an informed decision and I have not regretted it till date.

So what should I have done next then? When I have got more time to evaluate myself I realized that I need to do some work in that area I was intending to be in. But that industry wouldn't take me today because I am not qualified for the job. I spared my mind for some time and joined bollywood dancing classes at Lourd Vijay Dance Studio for three months. But my mind was not meant to be spared. I kept on exploring options that could make me qualified. I talked to few friends who were in that industry already and learned that enrolling in  CFA Program will be the best step that I can take.CFA exam preparation has made me wiser and clearer that whatever I  intended my goal to be , it is the goal meant to be.

Shall I tell you how this entire process has made me better? I am more confident than ever. i know today more than ever in my life how things work and especially how I can make them work. I inspired few more girls to take GMAT. I never said anything directly . They say they just loved the way I have grown in front of them. I joined CRY and developed so much love for the village that I know that I have been contributing really well. I still cook many times, still dance sometimes and tomorrow after a long time, i will be going for a a jog. When you reach a situation in your life that says "Been there, done that" then you know what exactly you want out of life!

Why I am telling you this today? Because this Saturday when I was supposed to take an off, I went to office to meet director of finance in my organization. (It was not that I knew him from before. i wrote him an email on Friday that I want to meet to know about finance more and he responded that Saturday is an easy working day for him). For the first time in my life, somebody told me that whatever I will decide to do out of my life, i will have no problem in achieving it because I have that drive and talent. And he said I cannot plan everything, I can just set my direction. The way he listened to me and reflected my thoughts back on me, has boosted my confidence enormously.

I don't know what is in store for me on MBA front but I think it has been a while that I have any fear of losing anything from that store! good day! stay healthy and stay focused!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

“if Stanford will dismiss this, they are going to regret it"

No these are not my words and I have not reached that mukaam yet where I can say this. I was going through Adam Markus blog where I read this interview of current Stanford student. While writing essays, I think this this is a great objective to begin with. One should actually target becoming so well-prepared and confident about essays that one can say it's school's problem if it is not considering.

However, if you think about it more, it will turn out to be a chicken-egg problem. Your essays can be good only if you are good at first place. Despite this realization, I think the key is to be well-prepared. One of the brightest idea I got in recent times (no not mine - recently grad Harvard student) is to prepare your essays 2 months in advance and send them to as many current students of the school as possible. Even if you get a response from one or two students you will get lot of insights on whether you are thinking in the right direction and where do you stand with respect to intelligentsia of the school.

With all schools out with the list of essays for this year, no credit to me for saying that the season has begun!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

One year of my GMAT!

It has been an year that I gave GMAT - exactly one year. I have never written about my GMAT day but I can tell you it was an exciting day. When I got the score, I actually jumped on eerie staircase of Pearson center in Bangalore. The only disappointment was that I forgot to look at time after I was left with last SC question and as soon as I was moving my mouse to mark answer as "D", I got the most dreaded alert of any GMAT test taker - Your time is up!
After this disaster, I was expecting my score to be less than 700 and in those 10 minutes after that stupid message box where they make you fill all sorts of things (I was so lost wondering about my score that I don't know what I filled in there), I was actually loosing heart. But somehow I actually managed to get a decent score. When I came out of the room, the man-in-charge said - Congratulations! You are third highest scorer of the day. I was actually wondering what he would have said if I had marked that "D"!
The ironical thing is that just a day before my G-Day, I attempted the two tests reinstalling them on my notebook from mba.com (yes two tests in same day and right before my exam!) and scored 730 in both of them. When I left for Pearson center - my elder sister said your score will be +-30 of 730 but nopes I scored just 730!
I never did anything else for my apps other than preparing for GMAT for those three months. I never missed a day of studying. I never studied quant other than going through it during full-length tests and I did only four full-length tests! But I studied verbal and studied it hard. I did all three OGs I had access to - OG10, OG11, OG12, GMAT Verbal along with Kaplan 800, Manhattan SC guide and Kaplan Comprehensive. At one point, I made no question wrong in CR and RC. I timed all my questions and I used to bookmark in OG all 41 questions from all three verbal sections that I had to attempt in that hour. But throughout, I remained a poor scorer in SC. Not once I got it all right. One of the best things I did was, in the notebook where I attempted all questions after the test, I used to write down my assesment- whether I was sleeping or feeling tired or wandering off or I was rocking the test or I was fresh, active etc. I also included in my appraisal why I marked a wrong question that way and how differently I was thinking with respect to OG. That did a trick! I improved considerably. It felt like you have reached to the paradigm where test-makers are.
But even after putting so much hard work in verbal my break-up of score is 50 Quant, 38 Verbal. LoL! Quant is like in my blood and verbal cannot even be an acquired trait. So I may not be right person to give you verbal advice but I can tell you to get a great score never miss a day and be your own critique.
After being a GMAT instructor for short time, I can also tell you that if you can stay discipline and focussed, you need no coaching. If you want to spend money, spend it in buying original GMAT books. Even the smell and color of those books can inspire you to study.
Always have a pen and a notebook to write down. Howsoever good I was in quant, I wrote down step-by-step each quant question I attempted. And with verbal, I always created ABCDE graph and eliminated the wrong answers.
Huff! I am done writing! Just have to say GMAT day had set direction of my life and is a first step of my aspired career. Rest all my hard work after GMAT howsoever more than it is than I put in GMAT, is actually a step beyond it.
Thanks for reading the post. Please do leave your comments - whatever they are - good or bad.

P.S. What a coincidence that I have got my 730th visitor today

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What I did in last 15 days to shortlist schools

After a brief period of hibernation, I have come back to write a post on the final list of schools that I will be applying. My rigorous research on schools after CFA Level 1 (on June 6) has brought me now to a logical closure on list of schools in my "dream" category.

My research criteria -
1) Whether the schools can place me in the job I seek after MBA, target industry and recruiters.
2) Practical Exposure provided by the school beyond the case studies and lectures!
3) No. of students in the class, collaborative environment, people not running behind grades (grade non-disclosure non-discussion environment).
4) Being an international candidate, preferring city where my target recruiters are present in the city itself so that I can find a job faster as most Alum, Job recruiters will be present nearby. Though I may have to trade-off this attribute with high cost of living!

Schools that I have come up with -
1) Columbia - for points 1),2) and 4). Absolutely for the new york advantage and strength in finance curriculum.
2) Booth - for points 1),2) and 4).inspiring place, flexible curriculum, great recruitment in finance.
3) Ross - for points 2) and 3) (practically no grading at all). Programs like MTrek, MAP etc and because Ann Arbor is wonderful city.
4) Kellogg - for points 1), 2), 3) (very strong) and close 4). Kudos to Kellogg for making such a great collaborative community.
5) Tuck - for points 1), 2) and 3). The most conducive environment for studying. No distraction, strong sense of community, less students. And because I am clearly impressed by Tuck's leadership course.

My research sources:
1) Business Week guide to Best Business schools (2003 edition) (bought from Flipkart.com)
2) Grads/current students from the schools. (Kellogg, Booth, Ross, Harvard)
3) How to get into top MBA programs by Richard Montauk (bought from Flipkart.com)
4) School's website
5) Other sites - clearadmit.com, blogs of students

I will be applying in the following order:
Columbia - Early decision
Booth -Round 1
Ross -Round 1
Kellogg - Round 2
Tuck -Round 2

Other than three dream schools in October, I will be applying to two more schools in Round 1 - one in each reach and safe category. I still have to research on those schools.

I am not sure how to end this post but I think writing this is a relief as now I have created formally a final list of schools.
The decision was tough because I have wandered. Somewhere out there might be a school that I have missed in my list and where I could be happier and better positioned. Also, somewhere out there could be a dream school that I have left out but where my chances of getting in were brighter.
But now the list has been written and decision has been made. And I am confident that I have made the right decision. In worst case scenario even if I haven't, I will have to turn the tide.