Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Choose Your Own Adventure: Starting the Second Year of the MBA

The first year of the MBA was about coming together as a class community, learning through a common core set of courses, and building friendships through shared memories.

The second year of my MBA at London Business School has been about choosing your own adventure. For instance, I have classmates who are:

• Studying on exchange in Argentina, California, Shanghai and New York;
• Doing a second internship in London for Statoil or in Paris for L’Oreal;
• Starting up an e-commerce company in Iran, or an airline in Kazakhstan;
• Interviewing for full-time jobs; and
• Taking electives, like Managing the Growing Business, Negotiations, or Private Equity/Venture Capital.

As for me, I’ve dedicated most of my time to classes and helping run three student organizations:

The CleanTech Challenge: The Challenge is a four-month long, 3 stage student competition to develop novel, feasible business plans that can significantly benefit the environment. I love that it brings people together: investors with future entrepreneurs, students with mentors, companies with talented recruits, and technical and engineering experts with business minds. It’s also a platform to test out ways to address the million-dollar (or billion-dollar!) question: how do you identify and develop lab technologies to solve real market needs? It’s also been rewarding to co-lead a team of 15 – all those organizational behavior courses come into good use! If you are interested in environmental technologies and want to talk further, just shoot me an email – happy to chat.
The LBS Volleyball Club: Helping run the volleyball club has given me a chance to apply what I’ve just learned at LBS. For instance, what is the right pricing structure, given students’ willingness to pay, the club’s need to cover court fees, and its desire to attract a stable team of players? We analyzed last year’s behaviors, and replaced the optional “membership fee” with a discounted membership card that allowed play for 10 sessions. We also cut the court time down from 2 hours to 1 hour, as the diminishing “marginal benefit” of that second hour did not meet our members’ flat “marginal cost” per hour of the court booking. So far, it’s been working as we have a solid and improving team of core players, and are within budget. And it’s been a ton of fun to play some volleyball!
The LBS Wine & Cheese Club: Almost everyone loves a good glass of wine. That universal appeal allows the LBS Wine & Cheese Club to bring people together from across LBS’s many programs. While the education about wines and the wine industry has been tremendous, it also amazing to watch the interaction between people: the recent grads in the Masters in Management, the mid-career professionals in the Executive MBA, MBAs and the experienced senior managers in the Sloan programme sitting together talking about wine -- and after a few glasses of it, everything else!

I’m just one example of how LBS students use their second year. But most of my classmates have also chosen activities which we really like, and which align with our career aspirations. After all, the MBA ideally allows you to build a career doing just that: things we enjoy doing.

All the best,
London Business School, MBA 2012

Narrowing Your Search

Whether you have already decided to pursue an MBA or are still deciding if it is right for you, choosing the right school is a life changing decision. Finding your dream school might seem like an unrealistic goal but I believe we can all find the perfect fit. By focusing on how the program offerings fit your career goals and how the people's interests complement your own, the choices will be quickly narrowed.

My research approach had three main steps. I scoured the internet for all the information I could find, I reached out to current student and alumni and finally I visited the campuses. The Internet has many valuable resources for your search for the perfect school. MBA rankings websites can be a great place to start since there is information on a large number of schools in one place. Business Week and Beyond Grey Pinstripes are two sites I used frequently. The latter is perhaps a little less well known but takes a social, ethical and environmental approach in ranking the programs. I created my own Excel spreadsheet with aggregated data from five ranking websites.

Visiting campus before applying may not be an option but most schools host coffee chats throughout the country. A coffee chat will give potential applicants a chance to meet current students or recent alums and ask any questions about the program. You can also contact current students through most schools websites.

In my experience there was truly no substitution for a campus visit. Most schools will allow you to sit in on a class and meet with students and professors. Each school has a different feel that really can’t be conveyed through a website or mailer. My campus visits played a large part in choosing the University of Texas, Austin. When I thought back about my visits to different schools, it was very easy to imagine myself going to class, studying and having a great experience at UT.
I recommend the following sites for initial research.

Please post a comment with any I have left out or with other tips.

Good luck in your search!

Marisa Kowalsky
Fellow 2012
Goizueta Business School at Emory