My life, my blog, and B-school somewhere inbetween

A catalog of one reapplicant's journey towards an MBA in 2008

Sunday, January 16, 2005

It's that time of year again...

Not talking about MLK weekend, and, sorry, Christmas has already passed. That's right, time to start studying for the CFA again!!! Five months of studying and going to work. Can't think of any better way to spend my time :). At least this will be the last year of it (hopefully)!

I'm filled with disappointment now as the Jets lost today. What a huge let down that was. Everyone at the bar I was at was so crushed after having come so close. And then the Rams lost too, which normally I wouldn't care about but I had bet on the game. It's ok though. This may be my last post for a while as I'm off to India Monday to visit some family. Should be a nice break from work, and when I get the news from H/S at least I'll be on vacation. Good luck to all, and an early congrats on any admits I'll miss!

Thursday, January 13, 2005

What does leadership matter anyway?

Yeah, that's right. I said it. What does leadership matter anyway? I've been giving this a good deal of thought and I think the search for "leadership" in ALL MBA candidates is outdated. Allow me to explain.

MBA- Masters in Business Administration. The schools that offer it- "Business Schools" or "Schools of Management". The MBA program was designed to teach its students the fundamentals of how to properly run a business (or at least I think that's it). The idea was to take someone with natural leadership ability and give him/her the structural and organizational skills necessary to be an effective manager (and of course general business knowledge). While this is still the idea for many attending business school, I don't think it's universal to all students or applicants.

I think a business school ultimately has the following goals-

1) To provide the best education it can to its students
2) To select applicants that are the most likely to succeed (at their endevours?)
3) To maintain or improve its reputation (which is done by having quality academics and producing successful graduates)

I've probably missed some things, but this covers what's necessary for my argument. Anyway, my argument gets at #2. I put the "at their endevours" in parentheses with a question mark because it's not really clear if a business school wants its students to just be successful at whatever they try to do, or to be "successful" according to some predetermined notion it has. I think it's more the latter than the former. HBS asks you to define "success" in their application, but I don't think "Making enough money to retire" will really fly with them (that's the goal of most traders, for example, including the "successful" ones). The b-schools all want super-ambitious go-getters, whatever that means. And if you haven't demonstrated leadership by doing things like starting your own company or trying to climb the corporate ladder as quick as possible, you probably won't cut the mustard (exagerating a bit, but you get the idea). Anyway, what I think the b-schools are missing is that this is not the best way to judge ALL its applicants. I agree that if the applicant wants to become a CEO or other corporate executive one day, leadership is a very necessary skill/trait. But not every graduate can be an executive, nor does he/she want to be. Since so many of the applicants are pursuing a career in financial services these days, which I believe does not require leadership to be successful in (there are others that this argument applies to as well), the traits b-schools are looking for should be more tailored to the industry the applicant intends to pursue a career in and not just follow that party line, "leadership, leadership, leadership".

Take, for example, one school's Full Time Career Management stats (apologies for the difficult to read format)-

Consulting/Strategy 28.0%
Control/Accounting 0.6%
Corporate Finance/Mergers & Aquisitions 21.7%
Entrepreneurial Management 0.8%
General/Project Management/Management Rotation Programs 9.8%
Investment Management/Portfolio Management 9.3%
Operations/Production Management 1.5%
Product/Brand Marketing 9.7%
Product Development/Structuring 1.3%
Research 2.1%
Risk Management 0.8%
Sales 2.6%
Trading 2.3%
Other 7.9%
Not Specified 1.6%


I would say that the IM/PM, Research, RM, Sales, and Trading professions are probably filled with people that don't want to be a CEO. That's 17.1%, and probably a conservative number. Realistically, I think most of these people have gone to business school in order to either change career paths or their companies gave them the boot before. I don't think their ambition is to run a company one day. There is a huge difference between wanting to be a top performer in the industry and being a successful manager of the group. I work at a financial research firm, and there are many star analysts who were made MDs only to find that they don't enjoy being a manager and would rather just be a great analyst. I don't think any b-school would look down on an alum who was a star analyst because he/she didn't want to be a manager, do you? So then why should you as an applicant be judged based on your ability to be a great manager one day?

So, what is going to make a person successful in one of these industries? I think either one of two things- hard work or talent. I don't think being a great leader is going to make you a successful trader, for example. And if that's what you want to do, why should you be judged on your history of leadership? So then assuming b-schools know this and use leadership anyway, the question becomes, what is leadership proxying for in these cases? My guess is ambition or drive. People with ambition and drive are likely to be successful at what they do just because they want it bad enough to keep trying all the time. I think that's inefficient. If hard work and talent are the two things that'll make one successful in these industries, you have to try to measure a person's abilities at both of these. Talent is hard to measure, obviously. Natural charisma is often linked to being a good Sales person (ie talent), but there's no way to measure it on an application. GMATs serve as a very weak proxy for talent in general. The resume and recommendations are probably the best way to identify it. Hard work is easier to measure though. That's much more evident in the resume and recommendations. With those items I believe one can fairly accurately determine if someone is hard working.

So back to goal #2. Leadership is not going to be the best proxy for future success in many fields. So to judge all applicants on it seems stupid to me. If the goal of a business school is only to produce future corporate executives, then fine, judge by leadership. But if the goal is to produce successful professionals, then leadership should not always be stressed. This is where the "at their endevours" part comes into play. For those career paths that don't require strong leadership, add on "at their endevours" to goal #2 and judge. Don't force candidates in or pursuing career paths that provide little opportunity to demonstrate "leadership" to have to tie their successes to it in some nonsensical way. "By completing a huge deal in a record amount of time that made my firm lots of $$ I demonstrated leadership by, uh..., uh..., setting a great example for others." The sentence should have ended at $$ and THAT would have been a good proxy for "success". If you want to be a trader upon graduation, your ability to work in a team or group is really useless. It will not make you successful. Your ability to analyze data and predict movements in the market will. And if the longer term goal is to become a portfolio manager, then you'll need those managerial skills you learned at b-school. But leadership? It's not like you have a vision for where the market is going and lead your team to make it happen. It's more like the team tells you what their research shows and you make a decision and have the traders execute. What'll inspire the team is if you're right and make money.

So, to all those b-schools out there, if you're going to offer career services (and therefore encouragement) to students who choose a career path that doesn't require leadership skills to succeed in, don't pick those students based on their history of demonstrating leadership. Make the adcom a more specialized force. Have current students who want to be/previously were consultants or adcom members that know about consulting read the applications of those who say they want to be consultants after graduation. Likewise for traders, PMs, entrepreneurs, I-bankers, etc. They'll know better what it really takes to be successful in their field. Don't just be generic and say "leadership". It may slow down the process a bit because you'll have to sort applications by job preference, but I'm sure it'll lead to less admissions mistakes (both type I and type II error).


Note: I wrote this thing back over Christmas break, and then completely forgot about it. I think I still believe it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Crazy, yes. But not for that reason...

So it would appear my post yesterday went unrecognized. Not surprised, kind of obscure. I went to The Back Fence last week, heard this song (sorry it's only a cover of the Guns 'N Roses original), and have had it stuck in my head since. Patience seemed to be a good theme for now.

Ok, I'm off to Canada this morning to help sell the model I built. Here's a special "hello" to all our friends up North!

Monday, January 10, 2005

Patience

Lately I've been walking the streets at night. Just thinking about how to get my last essays right. It's hard to see straight with so many decisions coming 'round. Trying to logon decision day will be like being stuck in a crowd. And the schools don't change much, maybe just the name. Startin to think I don't have time for this game. Acceptance letter, I think I need you. Yeah, well, I guess I really need you. Ooh, just this one time....

Friday, January 07, 2005

Beginning to smell a lot like Christmas

Christmas was in the air this morning. Or should I say, Christmas trees. It would appear that people are starting to dispose of their Christmas trees in NYC. That and it's bulk pickup day for my block. You could smell the trees in the air, which was much nicer than the typical odors one finds on trash day. It brought me back to the holidays, the time when I had stopped stressing about b-school in order to enjoy the season. I hate to think of the fate of those magic trees. And it's especially twisted that I had just been thinking about that Ren and Stimpy song earlier in the morning as I was putting on my coat to go out the door...

What rolls down stairs,
and over the chairs,
and into your neighbor's dog?
It fits on your back,
it's good for a snack,
everyone knows it's log.

It's log, it's log,
it's big, it's heavy, it's wood.
It's log, it's log,
it's better than bad, it's good!

Thursday, January 06, 2005

It's Columbia Time, baby

Finally decided to get my shit together and apply to Columbia. The whole rolling decision thing has not motivated me to be prompt and quick about it even though I know most people are going to apply by the 10th. But now it's time. The essays don't seem too bad. I think I've written stuff for the other apps that'll cover everything for this one, with a touch of the old magic wand. I love NY, but I really want to get away from it for a while so I'm not sure how I feel about going if I were to get in. We'll just have to see...

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Inspiration, look see.

I've been inspired. A couple times over the course of 24 hours. Today, I was inspired by Classy's post, which lead me to discover the blog of Zach. I feel like the last couple posts of mine having been of a negative nature, so time for some positivity!

Prior to that, I was inspired by my friend, "M" (cheers to Classy for the naming convention). "M" has decided to just pick up and go to LA for 6 months. He was involved in this twisted love triangle, or I should say quadrangle, that ended up with him getting a girlfriend in LA and being friends with all the other participates. Houdini, I challenge thee. Now, "M" is a rather lazy guy. He went to visit his aunt in Budapest a while back and since then has "talked" about moving there. But we all knew it was just talk. He'd never get his shit together enough to actually do it. But he really just wanted to get out of NY and do something different. Most of the time that he was in the new relationship, he wanted to get out. He basically was like, "she's in LA, it'll never work. I'm not into this long-distance crap." I thought that was rather foolish given his track record in NY. So, it came as quite a shock to me couple months back to hear him say he was going to move to LA. We all figured this was going to go the way of the Budapest move- nowhere. But low and behold he's flying out tomorrow. Good for him. He's one of my best friends, so it'll suck to lose him, but I hope he finds some happiness out there.

As I was out with him and some others last night talking about how crazy it is that he's actually doing this and how sweet his new house is ($1500 for a furnished house on the beach with all utilities and such included), I got to thinking. I thought about my prospects for b-school this year, and what I'll do if I don't get in/decide not to go. I need to work until August so my 401K will vest. I could keep working at my job after. Blah! I could get a new job. Eh. Or maybe, just maybe, I could pick up and go somewhere, anywhere, and see what life has to offer, and then reapply to b-school. I've been trying to write for a while now, but haven't had much success with it because of time constraints. Half the year, my free time has been zapped by the CFA exams. But this will hopefully be my last year of that. I'm tired of living in the cold come winter too. And working in general. I need a break. Perhaps I could just work through the end of the year, get my bonus, and then take off somewhere. But part of the idea of doing something like this is to write about it in the b-school apps. So much uncertainty! I'm going to India this month to visit the fam and with any luck I'll get some guidance from someone enlightened there.

"Happiness, no more be sad, happiness....I'm glad."

Thank you.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy New Year

Been out of touch this last week. I didn't actually go on vacation, but I decided to just be on vacation anyway. I went to work, and did next to nothing. Nobody was there. Everyone was on vacation, and I didn't have anything really worth doing. So, I ripped all my CDs to .ogg format to go on my new mp3 player. I went with Ogg Vorbis because it's supposed to be a better encoder than LAME and getting as small files as possible was a necessity (don't worry if you have no idea what I'm talking about). Anyway, I also decided to go on vacation from blogging. But tonight I find myself off of vacation, even though I'm now on a trip.

It's New Year's Eve. I prefer to go to apartment/house parties rather than bars/clubs for New Year's. I have equally as good a time, but for significantly less cost. Most bars in NY charge between $75-$150 to get in. "All you can drink", but not really. Anyway, my buddy in Chicago asked me to come out to visit a month ago but I hesitated to decide. At the time I wasn't sure what was going on in NY, so I just said maybe. After I got the Wharton reject I was a little down, and since my friends in NY were doing nothing that appealed to me I decided to just go to Chicago. Found a ticket for less than $300, got here today (or I guess yesterday technically). I had gone out drinking the night before (btw saw an awesome Doors cover band at the Red Lion) and woke up dehydrated and tired. Got myself together, made it to the airport, got a couple slices of pizza, and boarded. After I got to Chicago, I met my buddy's parents. They have an apartment in the same building as him and are in town for New Years with the rest of the family. They came over for cocktails since we weren't going to be able to go to dinner with them. At this point, around 5pm, I was hungry but only had some crackers and cheese available. We finally left around 7:30pm (8:30pm NY time). My hunger was temporarily masked after the crackers, but I was definitely undernourished and so developed a headache. This was not an unusual reaction for me to such conditions, and I knew I just needed food.

We were supposed to go to a party in Wicker Park, so my buddy said we'd eat up there. But, he wanted to go cheap and take the subway, which sucks in Chicago. My head was displeased. The subway was free for New Year's though, so at least there was that. On the train some guy that was probably homeless sat in front of us. He smelled revolting. First headache, then noxious fumes. Great. Finally got to Wicker Park at 8:30pm, which was really 9:30pm as far as my body was concerned. My friend said we should go to this noodle place, but I quickly vetoed that saying I need a hearty meal of Italian. I know, noodles, pasta- same thing. But Italian food always sits heavier for me because of the cheese, I guess. We spotted a place that said "ristorante", I saw spinach ravioli on the menu, done! Ordered the food and a sprite. The waiter sucked. Took forever to bring the sprite. At that point I was in bad shape. The sprite and bread helped a little. Bathroom seemed to be calling out to me. Upon completion, I felt weak. It was like I just expelled any food or energy my body had had in it. The pasta was on the table when I got back. Ate about two and a half raviolis over the span of about 15 mintues. The pasta was so so, but I was not even that good. Have you ever gotten really drunk, woke up the next morning shaking, hungry, but your stomach feels nauseous so you can't really eat anything? That's what I felt like. It's all dehydration, I think. I knew that was it for the night. I told my friend I needed to go to a supermarket, get a can of soup, get some advil, and go back to his place. Asked the waiter where the nearest supermarket was, and my buddy and I took off. As the waiter sucked at his job, naturally he had to suck at directions too. Such was the way the night was shaping up. Luckily a Walgreens was along the way and I got what I needed. Took my friend's keys, told him to go to the party and not come back with me, and left. Came back to the apartment, cooked the soup with lots of extra salt, took an advil, and now I'm feeling ok. It's now 12:01am in Chicago. I'm feeling tired enough not to bother going to the party, especially since my friend called and said it's pretty tame. Instead, I'm sharing my New Year's story with you all. For some reason, I don't really think I mind though. As far as I'm concerned, good or bad it's just another day on the calendar. All I really care about now is figuring out what I'm going to do with myself this year if I don't get in to b-school.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed your New Year's. Feel free to share any interesting stories.