Saturday, 10 December 2016

Crazy Rush to the End of Term 1

It's completely insane how Term 1 is already over. We have 3 exams to do over this weekend and then that's it. This week has been a crazy whirl of final classes, exam tutorials, final assignments (strategy assignments are pretty killer), more recruiting events, study,

It has been an exhilarating, stressful, fun, frustrating, exciting, tiring and 1000% intense term. I confess to being just a little bit sad (but also very relieved) that it's over. Apparently from here on it geets easier and easier. Though next term is summer recruiting term which is a totally different kind of stress. There is already a sense of pressure and urgency as Career Centre sends out email after email announcing summer internship postings, Corporate Partner Week event signups, reminders to go see them, interview and application advice. Though really January 8th is not that far away.

On a happier note the famous LBS annual Snow Trek is right after the exams - this coming Monday! 120 of us heading to France - it'll be a real riot. Fun events include an ugly sweater competition (though I haven't had time to acquire one), and er...animal onesies? I'm fully expecting drama, scandal, and loads of partying (and skiing)!

Now to get over these pesky exams...

Monday, 28 November 2016

Consulting Recruitment Opportunities at LBS

So Round 1 results are out for the LBS Class of 2019 so congrats to all the new LBS MBA Admits - you made it!!! If you decide to go ahead with an MBA at LBS, it will be the start of one of the most challenging, intense, fun and exhilarating periods of your life.

That said since I've had a few PMs regarding school choice from admits, I thought I should perhaps do a quick post primarily for those who are looking at doing consulting post-MBA and aren't sure if LBS is a good choice - which is where I was last year, having to decide between LBS and INSEAD (see previous post about this here).

I'd like to say that thanks to the great folks on the GMAT Club forums, I made the right decision in deciding on where to go by looking at location first. I want to work in London post MBA, not Singapore or France, and if so, picking London was definitely the right thing to do.

The London offices of big consulting firms do a lot of activity on campus at LBS - and I seriously mean a lot. It's not just the "official" events through Careers Services, but they do many "unofficial" events through the clubs at LBS e.g. Women in Business Club, Healthcare Club, Military in Business Club, Rugby Clubs. For instance just next week alone I have 5 McKinsey events on campus - comprising of 3 coffee chats, and 2 interview training sessions. Plus a Bain coffee chat and a Strategy& offsite event.

Before the start of the MBA and early in August I had already been to events at both Bain and BCG's offices (BCG is walking distance to LBS btw!). Since then there have been numerous meetings with BCG, Bain, AT Kearney, Strategy& and Roland Berger, just to name a few. When BCG told us "you'll see us so often you'll get sick of us" at the very beginning - they meant it. What does this mean? It means that you'll get to know the London office of the consulting firms very well - excellent if you wish to work in the London office post-MBA, not so good if you wish to work at other offices.

That's not to say that you can't get a spot in the London office if you were to attend another school, but I'd say it definitely looks like you're in a more advantageous position being at LBS. And in fact, the largest proportion of summer interns and full-time hires at the London office are from LBS. Contrast this to the consulting firms in Singapore where the larger proportion are INSEAD alums.

Additionally, since LBS has a 15-21 month program, it means an opportunity for an internship. Since entering the MBA and having talked to a lot of people, attended a lot of different events etc, I am no longer 100% certain I want to do consulting post-MBA. In fact, you'll find that those who know that they definitely want to do a certain job post-MBA are very rare - everyone will change their minds 100+ times over first term. Hence the opportunity to do an internship in consulting and test out your future job is a pretty handy thing to be able to do - which of course you can't get with a 1 year program.

Lastly, there's also the visa issue to consider. While firms are fine with sponsoring full-time visas, getting a visa to work in a country where you don't already have one just for an internship is challenging. It's why unless you already have the rights to work in the US, if you want to intern in the US or work in the US post-MBA, don't do your MBA at LBS. Most firms will not sponsor you for internships - go do your MBA in the US instead.

To sum up my advice to MBA Admits: if you want to work in London, definitely pick LBS for the highest exposure to London offices.

On a completely separate note, I'm absolutely buzzing from the LBS annual hackathon - HackLBS. It was an amazing experience, especially if you've never participated in a hackathon before. I actually pitched an idea, managed to get through the first round, formed a team (got lucky with amazing team members), created a working prototype app and pitched again in the final. I've learnt so many things on leadership, time management, teamwork and presentation this weekend and had a blast doing so. Perhaps if I do find some time, I might do a separate blog post.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Where Has Time Gone? 10 Things I've Learnt in the Last 4 Months

Most MBA blogs tend to have lots of content at the start and then generally fade out in the middle. Now being 4 months into the MBA, I find myself and this blog in the same state. In short, life as an MBA student is so full-on you really don't get a chance to write. I've composed probably 20 or so half-posts in my head on my way to classes, events etc, but none of them have actually made it into proper posts. At the end of the day, you're just so exhausted from juggling everything that blogging gets bumped way down the priority list.

I briefly considered back-posting some of the more interesting things that happened in the last 4 months, but honestly, I doubt these'll see the light of day. So here are 10 things I learnt in the last 4 months:

  1. On Intensity
    You might have thought your previous job was intense, but MBA life is astonishingly more exhausting than you think. There is never enough time to sleep so if you get the opportunity to, take it.
  2. On Priorities
    You need to constantly assess your priorities because b-school really really makes you choose and make tough choices everyday - all cool/interesting/fun/important events can and will happen at the same time. Not used to making tough choices? Tough luck.
  3. On Study Groups
    You might get along really well on a personal level with your study group, but find conflict in working styles. Managing relationships within your study group tends to get more challenging over time - especially when there are 3 group assignments due concurrently. 
  4. On Careers
    The more you talk to other people about careers and what they want to do, the more you're going to end up questioning what you want to do - expect to be completely confused. Rest assured though, majority of folks are feeling exactly the same way
  5. On Classmates
    You will meet people whom you'll wonder why or how they even got into a top b-school - every community has got to have black sheep right? But majority of those you meet are really nice people - at least at LBS :) - so don't let the bad apples get to you
  6. On Assignments
    While it's ideal to do all assignments as a study group, realistically it is far easier to divide and conquer. Most groups tend to go all out on the first few group assignments and then you end up settling into a divide and conquer rhythm.
  7. On Grades
    Yes, everyone knows that grades don't really matter in b-school, but it's hard to keep from trying to maintain at least decent grades. Unfortunately, while the school makes it easy not to fail, it is tough to get good grades without putting in far more effort than it may possibly be worth. Again, priorities. At least in our MBA class, this is a great challenge for most - letting go. And at LBS, expect to do not that great in Strategy.
  8. On Exams
    Mid-terms will sneak up on you before you know it, and so will finals - it feels like we just finished mid-terms yesterday and yet in 3 weeks we have our first final at LBS. Honestly, tie just flies by when you're living from one class/assignment/event to another.
  9. On Treks
    It's definitely worth going for as many as you can - be they social or career-specific. You learn a lot about your fellow classmates during treks. Be warned though that there isn't unlimited space for some of these treks so you need to be quick (e.g. the Snow Trek sold out in under 5mins). Also, the career treks will require you writing applications for them, so it's not just a matter of putting your name down. The treks do mean you will have to plan ahead in terms of scheduling for classes, finding time to do your group and individual assignments, other commitments and studying for exams.
  10. On Entrepreneurship
    The biggest different between entrepreneurs and "wantrepreneurs" is what you actually do about making things happen. Entrepreneurship is trending currently, but reality is not as glamourous. B-school and entrepreneurship do not actually co-exist harmoniously, simply because life as an MBA student eats away at so much precious time that you could spend working on your start-up. As such, if you're a true entrepreneur it might be a good idea to evaluate if b-school is really the right place to be for you.

Monday, 12 September 2016

And so Term 1 Begins

Term 1 has begun. If you're confused, wondering what my post on the last 2 official weeks was, that was pre-term. What that means is that the school is now more crowded with not just MBAs and MiFs, but also the MiMs, MFAs and EMBAs.

It also means that more of the "real" classes are starting. While my schedule doesn't look as full as it was say 2 weeks ago, it's deceptive. There's now more time needed to allocate to doing pre-class preparations, assignments etc. In between that, there are tons of events from Careers. Most of these are currently exploratory events so you can find out more about the various industries. If you're not sure what you want to do post-MBA, I definitely recommend signing up for all these Working In... workshops.

Then there're all the club kick-offs happening. These are where you find out about the various clubs, their activities and what leadership positions are opened. Here your prioritisation skills are definitely put to the test because you'll have several clubs kicking off concurently. Since you can't be at two places at once, you need to decide which one you would actually be interested in playing an active role in.

Elections for various leadership positions have also begun. Stream rep voting ended last week and elections and applications have opened for the Student Association and several clubs. If you think about it, it was only about 4 weeks ago that we began the program so it's really early. I'm finding that things happen very fast here - life as an LBS MBA student might even be faster than working in FMCG ;)

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Fresher Flu - London Needs Better Tissues

There's been a nasty cold going around campus and I've recently caught it. :( Now 3 out of 5 of us in my study group are at various stages of sick. In fact one of our members was so ill previously, he ended up missing on our stream trip to Amsterdam.

If you sat in any of my classes, you'll find me coughing and blowing my nose, with a growing pile of tissues in front of me. In the last 3 days I've been through more than 3 boxes of tissues. Alas! It's rough having a cold in London. I've discovered that London doesn't seem to stock nice soft tissues for people with colds.

Sure, the boxes say "super soft", but honestly there's no "soft" to be found by my standards. Nothing like the super soft 3ply Kleenex Aloe Vera tissues so readily available at every supermarket in NZ. The Kleenex I've found here is pretty average - very disappointing compared to the quality back home, and no aloe vera or eucalyptus versions. :(

So now I've got a really sore nose, as well as a new appreciation for the huge variety and soft tissues that NZ has. If anyone knows where to find actual super soft tissues in London, I'd be immensely grateful! I'm a bit like the Kleenex ad they ran years ago in NZ, where the current tissues feel like I'm blowing my nose with sandpaper.

Oh and same applies to toilet paper as well. It's rough. There are some softer than others but nothing super soft. Hmm...maybe there's a business opportunity there?

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Some Reflections: The First Official 2 Weeks

Ok, remember how I said in my previous post prior to starting the MBA that it was two weeks of crazy? Scratch that - the last two official weeks have been so intense that it's felt like I've been at LBS for 2 months. My fellow classmates can attest to that.

On FOMO (fear of missing out)...
While all MBA alumni and current students tell you to try and avoid FOMO, I'm discovering that trying to do so is seriously hard! There's just so much going on in the social sphere. For instance, last weekend there was the option to either go for a group hike of the Seven Sisters Cliffs or go for the Notting Hill Carnival (both are highly recommended by the way, just very different sort of activities). Or last week there was the last Flat Hunters Pub Crawl (awesome way to meet people) and 2 parties happening concurrently.

I'm not going to advise any future MBA students to not FOMO because you won't get it until you're in it. What I'm going do is to quote some really really good advice given to us on Day 1 from Alex Edmans, one of the most popular profs at LBS - "It's either HELL YEAH or no". If you aren't 110% in, then pick something else.

On careers...
The cliche "what you put in is what you get out" really applies here. Even though we've barely begun, there's loads to do for careers - if you make the time. Most of this though is lots of introspection. I've found that the more I've spoken to my fellow classmates about what they do and what they want to do, the more unclear my own future goals are - because there's just so much out there that's possible!

So dedicate time to reflect on what really suits you and where you want to go. Additionally, the LBS careers centre offers lots of different workshops and information sessions. Plan early and sign up for those that you really would like to attend, otherwise you might find yourself on the waitlist.

On classes...
Let's just say it takes time getting used to being a student again. Most of us are used to lots of distractions and many different things going on at once during the work day. We're used to multi-tasking, working on several different things at once, answering phones, so focusing for a 3 hour lecture is hard. My focusing stamina was definitely tested when we had a full week of 8.15am - 6.30pm classes with 15min breaks in between!

On time management...
It's worth mentioning again that there's so much going on all the time, especially in the first weeks. You really need to make sure you're keeping on top of things - classes, readings, assignments. Good calendar habits will ensure you don't miss classes and key information sessions/networking events. There's plenty of optional stuff, so pick and choose where your priorities lie.

On study groups...
These are randomly assigned groups of 5 or 6 and LBS really analyses who they put together. Count on different backgrounds and nationalities - for instance in my study group we're only missing someone from the continent of Africa! Personality-wise, it's a bit of luck really. You actually end up learning a lot about your team dynamics when LBS puts you through GLAM in the first 2 weeks.

I'd say probably the most important thing really is to keep an open mind and be willing to improve your behaviour to adapt to the rest of your study group. Participation in all the team activities/assignments is also key to getting the most out of the leadership courses.

On partying...
There are plenty of opportunities for being social! In London, I'm finding people drink a lot (like everyday in some cases), so it's a good idea to make sure you're disciplined enough to monitor your own intake. Bear in mind as well that drinks aren't cheap either, so it could be an added incentive for not going too hard at it :)

And with that, I'm off to Amsterdam as our stream has a long weekend!

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Two Weeks of Crazy

Where have the last two weeks gone? Technically, although the MBA programme doesn't officially begin till tomorrow, life has already become a whirlwind of studying, socialising and travelling....oh and settling into London.


Since July, we've had quite a few things to do as pre-course work for the Leadership module at LBS. Mainly these have been surveys - lots and lots of surveys. I've lost count of the number of surveys I've completed from LBS. Our pre-course reading list also got released not that long ago, with a case and several articles that we need to prepare before our first class next week. There's also an official assignment to submit before the end of next week - and yes, that's a graded assignment.

Amongst all this official pre-work, some of us are trying to finish up the online pre-courses in finance, accounting and quantitative methods (some of us have given up); some of us are studying to try and pass the waiver exam for Managerial Accounting and Finance; some of us are brushing up on our language skills to get ahead in/pass the language diagnostic test (of which level 2 is scarily difficult for a second language).


As people settle in and arrive in London, there's always some social event somewhere. The official Flat Hunters' Pub Crawls began on 4th August and so far there have been five events at different pubs around London. Don't let the name fool you though, because most people at these events have already found flats and are just there to party :). There's also been a tennis social and a couple of pedibus tours organised. Plus lots of lunches, dinners, drinks - there's really no lack of company!


Our class is apparently the first to have organised a pre-MBA trek. About 50 of us and partners were over in Barcelona recently. Aside from this, we're already had the opportunity to participate in any treks organised by the various clubs at LBS. During this time, it appears that the sailing club has been the most active, it being summer. Signups to the sailing club treks have been on a first-come-first-serve basis, including putting payment down for the trek up front. Aside from this, those who have arrived in London earlier and are more settled, have organised thheir own trips in small groups as well.

Oh and as for recruiting, the consulting firms - Mckinsley, Bain and BCG in particular, have already organised pre-MBA events too where attendees were introduced to the world of consulting. And of course, the opportunity to network with existing consultants.

Does it sound like b-school has already begun? It certainly does to me. Timetables were released a few days ago and our calendars are now chocker. Bring on the mayhem tomorrow!

Monday, 1 August 2016

Flat-Hunting Around LBS

Now that we're in August, it's prime flat-hunting season in the suburbs around London Business School i.e Maida Vale, St John's Wood and Marylebone. A recent small survey of students unveiled the fact that around 50% have already found something but 50% are still looking.

Based on my observations thus far, several have formed their own flat-hunting groups of 2-4 people early on so all that's left to do is to find a flat that everyone is ok with. It's quite a bit easier to hunt for places if you already have a ready group. Good places within walking distance to LBS are popular and being able to sign for it quickly is an advantage - which you can only do if you have the required number of people. That said, there are always people who have already found or got an apartment and are looking for flatmates to join their group.

Some bits of advice for future flat-hunters:
  • Three bedroom and 2 bedroom apartments are much easier to find than 4 bedroom places. So if forming a group, look at pairing up or forming a group of 2 or 3. 4 bedroom apartments are pretty rare, especially within walking distance of LBS.
  • Apartments with 3 equal sized bedrooms are not easy to find and most groups split the rent based on the bedroom size and features. It's best to have someone in your group who has a slightly higher budget and would be willing to take the largest room.
  • Most LBS students usually try and find places within Maida Vale, St John's Wood and Marylebone. Marylebone is a much more expensive area out of the three.
  • It's a pretty bad idea to make an offer on an apartment without at least one of your flatmates viewing it first. Skype and pictures do not necessarily match reality. One of my classmates offered and signed for an apartment based on the previous tenants showing them the apartment via Skype. The condition of the apartment ended up being in a much worse condition than imagined, which unfortunately they had to live with.
  • For international students, if you don't have a UK guarantee or any credit history in the UK, you'll find yourself having to pay not just a 6 week deposit (what we call a bond in NZ), but also 6 months rent in advance. In most cases as letting agents are handling this, they insist on it. If you manage to deal directly with the landlord, you can negotiate this or apartments owned by LBS alumni usually waives this.
  • Everything can be negotiated! You can negotiate the amount of rent, the payment terms - even whether the landlord should provide an unfurnished apartment with furnishings. Whether or not the landlord accepts your offer depends on how well you present your case.
  • Renting through a real estate agent is the most common way of getting a place. However, this normally comes with various administration fees. The real estate agencies located around LBS will waive the administrative fees for LBS students though if you ask. So always try and negotiate for a better deal.
  • There is a secret group on Facebook for LBS flatshares and sublets where rooms and people seeking flatmates hunt. It's very useful for finding a place or short-term accommodation while you're seeking a more permanent home. You'll need an invitation to see the group though.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Preparing to Move: Of Visas & Shipping

Moving countries is a real pain when it comes to trying to figure out what to do with your stuff. And I've got plenty of stuff. I've left a suitcase and bag with a mate in London when I was up in May for the Admits Weekend, but that's hardly made a ding in the amount of stuff I've managed to accumulate over the years.

So I've spent the last month researching shipping options and getting various quotes. The cheapest I could find in NZ was Seven Seas Worldwide Shipping, which allows me to ship 2 large boxes (61x51x41cm) door to door from Auckland to London for NZD$209. There is a landing fee charge of £55, now cheaper in NZD thanks to Brexit. The shipment takes between 83-101 days to arrive according to their site. Probably the best thing is that you can change your delivery address prior to the shipment arriving in the UK - very important if like me, you don't know your permanent London address yet. Given the long shipping time, I should know my new London address long before the boxes arrive.

I figured I'd get organised and aim to get my shipment out by the end of June so that I'd get it on the other end by around end September. I booked the shipping with Seven Seas, got the boxes delivered, sorted out what I could wait till end of September to receive, packed my boxes, started filling in the paperwork..........what?!! I need to include a copy of my student visa?!!

It's been almost 3 weeks now since I sent in my visa documents and I still haven't gotten my passport and visa yet. The UK immigration in NZ is very bad at communicating what happens - you send in the documents and it's silence from them unless you get in touch and ask what's happening. This is probably the most painful part of the visa application process.

The LBS visa office puts together this great document on the Portal discussion each year that tells you specifically how to apply for the visa online and precisely what to fill in the form. The biometric appointment takes 5-10 minutes in NZ just to get fingerprints and a photo taken. Once that's done, you're meant to post a printout of your visa application and documents, a passport sized photo, your passport and a self-addressed return envelope to the UK immigration office. Then wait for them to send you your visa.

In the meantime, my boxes are still packed and waiting, and it looks like it'll be end of October before I get those boxes. :(

P.S. Having a UK mobile number beforehand comes in handy when filling in forms where they want your UK contact details. See my previous post regarding picking mobile service providers if you're in the UK beforehand.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Shockingly It Happened - Post Referendum Discussions

So the last couple of weeks have seen a flurry of discussion in our MBA class Whatsapp group around Brexit, the referendum and currency exchange. Most of us believed the vote would be to remain, so it was quite unexpected to follow the vote counts today and learn that Brexit won the referendum. Naturally the pound has plunged in value, much to the annoyance of some of us who were keen on capitalising on the volatile pound prior to the vote and converted most of our available cash to pounds.

I must say that I'm definitely looking forward to classes and discussions with my fellow classmates if our discussions are anything like those we've been having on Whatsapp around the Brexit!

We've had discussions around the impacts and potential outcomes of the Brexit. Also around what potential negotiations with the EU might look like. Certainly there's much concern over how this will affect us in 2018 when we graduate, and in the shorter term, obtaining those summer internships. The general commentary in the group is that consultancies will be doing well due to the Brexit. After all, businesses will need strategies to cope with the impacts. Guess that would be where most MBA's are going to be headed!

The lawyers in the class assure us that from a legal standpoint though, the Brexit isn't guaranteed yet. There's still the Parliament vote, invoking Article 50, and then final negotiations with the EU. To be honest, although the world and corporates are reacting to the news now, I don't see there being much change in London in the short term. It'll take at least 2 years before anything even happens. In the long term, who knows? The dust would have settled and the markets adjust, and life will carry on BAU. This really good commentary on the Brexit by Alex Edmans, professor at LBS is worth a read.

So my long term plan of moving to work in London post-MBA still remains unchanged. After all, my belief is that if you're determined enough and willing to put in effort, then you'll be able to find a job regardless of market conditions. The LBS brand still remains strong and I'm confident they'll be able to maintain this. Still, the referendum outcome has definitely been a curve ball and we're looking forward to the interesting case studies that Brexit will present.

The silver lining? Our tuition at LBS just got a whole lot cheaper. Time to convert cash!

Saturday, 11 June 2016

MBA 2018 Orientation Site From LBS

The MBA journey begins even before you start the course. This is true especially for the one year programs like INSEAD, but is also the case for London Business School. The MBA program team put together a very comprehensive orientation website which was launched in May shortly before the Admits Weekend:

On the site, we have the ability to enrol for some pre-courses, important especially for those with no finance background. In total, there are 4 pre-courses you can take:
  1. Introduction to Finance
  2. Introduction to Financial Accounting
  3. Quantitative Methods
  4. Microsoft Excel Fundamentals

As these online courses are run by a third party, there is actually a deadline for signing up to get the course links on time. It doesn't mean though that you can't sign up after the deadline, just means you'll get the links later than everyone else.

Also on the site is the ability to request letters needed for renting accommodation and opening bank accounts. The orientation schedule and program details will also be put on the site at a later stage.

To any future admits, you'll want to keep an eye out for the LBS email that comes round launching the orientation website and make sure you make the pre-course enrollment deadline! It's actually easily missed and I for one just made it.

In any case, I'm pretty impressed with all the work the LBS MBA programme team has done really around providing information on this site. My only comment though is that with Portal, the app, this orientation site and the official MBA 2018 Facebook page, there're really a lot of communications channels to keep up with. Unfortunately, different information can be disseminated through different channels so there's plenty of room for information falling through the cracks. I know admits who have missed things because they've only checked one channel.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

LBS Language Requirements & Waiver

London Business School requires you to have 2 languages to graduate from the MBA program. They don't provide much information however on how the language fulfillment criteria works. So it was great to have a chance to find out more during the Admits Weekend. Here's how it works and how you can get a waiver for it if you have a second language already:
  • After registration, right at the start of the program you have the opportunity to get the waiver. It's a limited time deal though.
  • You can either get a waiver from taking a language course through showing certification that you have working knowledge of a second language, or by sitting for a diagnostic test.
  • If you don't pass the diagnostic test or if you don't have a second language then you must take one of the offered second language courses
  • The language course will be counted as a core course and there are 2 levels. You have to achieve Level 2 to graduate
  • For mandarin, Level 2 corresponds to HSK Level 4.
  • You'll have several opportunities throughout the MBA program to take the test to pass the language requirement - there's at least one opportunity each term.
  • If you do already have a second language or you've passed the diagnostic test, you have the option of still taking a language course. However, this will be counted as one of the electives you're allowed to take (you can take only 12 max).
Speaking to alumni and current students, you really want to try and get that waiver right at the start. The first year core courses are so intensive that adding another language core course on top will make things pretty tough for you. For total beginners the commitment involved is 2x 3 hour classes a week and for advanced beginners, you'll need to do one 3 hour class a week. That's 3-6 hours that could be used doing something else.

As for taking a third language as an elective, my opinion is....really? Is that wise? You've only got 12 electives max that you can take and LBS has a large menu of really cool electives. You can learn another language after you graduate from somewhere else. You don't need to pay top dollar to attend a top business school to learn another language. But that's just me :)

Monday, 6 June 2016

Picking UK Mobile Phone Service Providers

Based on research and conversations with both current students and friends living in London, if you're looking for a mobile phone service provider and are on a budget, Three or Giff Gaff are the ones for you.

I recommend picking up a prepaid SIM (they call it Pay As You Go in the UK) from Three asap when you visit London (or are up for the Admits Weekend). This is what I did when I was there for a week. Here's why:

  • I would be contactable without having to pay overpriced auto-roaming charges
  • I'd have a UK number that I can give to friends and family for when I later move to London
  • I'd be contactable and be able to contact people without having to pay overpriced auto-roaming charges subsequently when I move to London
  • Three charges £0.01 per MB, £0.02 per text and £0.02 per min for calls, which makes it very cheap if you tend to do all your texting and calling through Whatsapp the way I do.
Why Three and not Giff Gaff? Well, Giff Gaff operates by monthly bundles, the lowest being £5. It makes it cheaper than Three overall, but since I wasn't going to be there for a month, why pay for what I wasn't going to use? As is, in that week I barely used £1 from my £10 credit loaded on the SIM.

£10 btw is the lowest value you can load on a Three PAYG SIM. Definitely worth my doing research before hand because they'll try and sell you the SIM with the £10 or £20 monthly bundle at the store so just make sure you let them know exactly what it is you want - a free SIM and to load some credit on it.

My plan after moving to London in terms of mobile providers would be to use up all my credit on the Three SIM, and then simply port my number over and switch to Giff Gaff for their cheaper monthly bundle. Well...that is if I run through credit enough to warrant it. One of the great things about Three if you plan to travel (which I am), is that they don't have roaming charges for a select list of countries. And in case you were wondering, Australia and NZ are on the list! See full list here. Go figure.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Save on Transport in London - To Do Before You Arrive

This post is meant for new travellers to London or future admits travelling to London for the first time for the Admits Weekend. Or anyone who doesn't know of the Visitor Oyster Card. This can help you save while travelling around in London.

If you're in London, chances are you'll end up using public transport at some point - the tube, bus or train to get around. London is very well connected via public transport (unlike NZ!). Locals carry the Oyster Card which is the cheapest way to pay for single journeys on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground, Tfl Rail and most National Rail services in London.

I recommend that visitors or people first moving to London get the Visitors Oyster Card which gives you local travel prices on public transport. Thing is, you can only purchase it online and have it posted to your home country. It can take 8-10 working days to get there so make sure you buy it in plenty of time before depart! You can't buy it within London from a ticket station unlike the regular Oyster Card. Well actually you might be able to and have it shipped to a UK address where you can pick it up, but I've not investigated this.

The difference between the Visitors Oyster Card and the normal Oyster Card is that you only pay £3 for the card vs £5 for the normal card (though you'd need to pay shipping fee so get the card posted so it does end up costing more overall for the card alone). But the Visitors card also gives you access to promotional offers on attractions too. See here for details. Like the regular Oyster Card, just top up when you run out of credit on the card.

By getting the card sent to you, you save right from the start travelling from the airport to your accommodation in the city via train or tube. You can also use your Visitor Oyster card to pay for travel on train services to/from Gatwick Airport, including the Gatwick Express. The airports are really well connected. I took the tube from Heathrow to my mate's place in Canning Town and using the Visitor Oyster Card, it cost me £3.10 (off peak). If I'd paid cash, the same journey would've cost £6. You can look up fare prices here on Transport For London.

For visitors not planning to return to London, you can cash out any leftover credit in your card before you leave. As for admits to LBS, you might as well keep the card for when you return to London as it would take some time to apply for a student Oyster Card.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Day 2 of the Weekend | LBS Admits Weekend Part 3

Sunday's schedule very kindly kicked off with breakfast at a later start of 10.30am. This is a good thing given the really full on day we had Saturday. Ladies had the option of attending the regular breakfast or the Women In Business Club's breakfast. So I picked the WIB.

WIB brunch was sponsored by BCG and was a pretty lavish affair, complete with sparkling wine. I got to meet more fellow classmates as well as current members of the WIB club. It was a great opportunity to get further insight into what we could expect from the MBA. Plus the MBA2016 student I spoke to was very forthcoming with information. The key tip I picked up was "join the Rugby Club". It seems the Rugby Club is the most social club on campus and even if you don't play, join the club anyway.

Brunch was following by a Clubs and Moving to London fair. Only a small number of clubs were present though. Apparently the Admits Weekend coincided with several treks which was why there weren't that many available...or maybe it was the lack of space? Sadly, the Australian and NZ Club was one of those absent, although you could find reps from just about every other region. LBS corporate partners providing services like real estate agents and loan companies were present at the fair too, which was quite handy for finding out more about moving to London.

We also had the opportunity to take a tour of campus, which isn't very large but reminds me of a maze of corridors inside. I've a sneaky feeling that being directionally challenged, it'll take me a bit of time to learn the "maze". There are a few cafes within the school and lots of meeting rooms. LBS comprises of the main building and across the road there is another that houses the library, the gym and the pool. We heard from the dean as well on Saturday that the school recently acquired another building which is currently under renovation and expected to be ready come Jan 2017. The current students however generally don't concur. As with all major renovations, I probably would take that January deadline with a pinch of salt.

Anyway, gym bunnies would be happy to hear that gym and pool use is free. The gym is open 24/7 but the pool has more limited hours since a lifeguard has to be present. You need to d a gym induction before you can use the gym though. As for the library, according to the librarian it has computers with free Bloomberg access including a special keyboard.

All too soon we were called back to the lecture theatre for a presentation on entrepreneurship and how LBS caters for it. The highlight was a previous student who had started up his own business around inspiring children to write talked about his experience and journey down the entrepreneurship path. It was certainly eye-opening to hear first hand about the difficulties with entrepreneurship and the opportunities he had at LBS.

The last official event of the day was a British afternoon tea...with absolutely delicious chocolate eclairs. Of course, the fun didn't have to stop there for those of us who didn't have flights to catch yet. The rugby club, soccer club, LGBT club and French club organised social activities to round off the day.

All in all it was a tremendously fun and enlightening event. The best part was meeting my future classmates. Certainly all of us left feeling really excited for August. It's definitely worth flying halfway round the world for. So to anyone considering doing the MBA at LBS, do plan to fly in May for the Admits Weekend if you can!

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Bumping Into a Reader

The world is full of coincidences. During the Admits Weekend at LBS as I was queuing up for the cloakroom, I met a fellow admit from Thailand (yes, you meet new people in queues too!). We had a conversation about how many Kiwi admits there are (making us very easy to keep track of) and he mentioned there was a Kiwi who went to LBS who had a blog.

Which led me to wonder whether one of the other Kiwis also had a blog... "I have a blog" I told him. Thereupon we discovered the blog he was referring to was mine. According to him he had a friend in Japan who discovered my blog, told him about it, and his friend has also now been inspired to apply to LBS after reading my blog.

What a coincidence aye? This bumping into a reader really highlighted to me how words can really inspire people - something I haven't thought so much about before in my writing. I had a bit of a "*gasp* someone is actually reading this" moment. It's both awesome and terrifying at once really. So I just want to say thank you to my readers (now that I know I actually have some), and hopefully you'll find something useful in my blog as you embark on your pursuit of the MBA. And who knows, maybe I'll bump into you at LBS :)

Monday, 30 May 2016

Day 1 of the Weekend | LBS Admits Weekend Part 2

The London Business School Admits Weekend officially kicked off on Saturday morning with registrations and breakfast. We received a carry bag, name tags, schedules and an MBA2018 tee at registration. Unusually, breakfast was provided in little brown paper bags which reminded me of old-school packed lunches. Naturally, breakfast was also a socialising affair and a chance to meet more new classmates, some of whom had only flown in the night before, skipping the optional Friday night reception I mentioned in my previous post.

Breakfast led to welcome speeches by several key personnel and introductions to the MBA admissions team and the student ambassadors. We were split into 2 groups with different schedules. My group started with a big Q & A session regarding the MBA Program where some key questions regarding the program were answered - a detailed write up on the various components is to come.

The session was followed by an interesting lecture on the psychology of ethical decision making by Assistant Professor Daniel Effron, who has just about had qualifications from every top ivy league school. The lecture covered his findings from various studies on the concept of good "credits", which then allow people to do the occasional "bad" thing without feeling bad about themselves. For example, allowing participants to show non-prejudice behaviour shortly before resulted in more responses that could be seen as prejudiced. Assistant Professor Daniel Effron is a lecturer for Operational Sciences and I can definitely see myself taking most of the operational science electives.

We then broke for a delicious lunch (my eyes were definitely bigger than my stomach there), which was followed by a speed networking session. The concept behind the speed networking session was great with interesting questions to discuss. However with the large number of people all talking simultaneously, I found myself having to yell my conversations. It was also luck that determined whether or not you ended up meeting people whom you'd already met before or not.

After this we had a presentation by the student ambassadors, giving us more insight into the life of an MBA student. The key points I got from the presentation was then I should expect to have a really full calendar, and not to over-commit and take on too much. The fact that you really had to prioritise was emphasized over and over. Definitely good advice as the current students did say that whatever you want to do, the MBA provides opportunities in abundance.

Following this presentation, we broke up into 4 career groups - consulting, finance, entrepreneurship and other, and tech & media. The groups we were assigned to depended on what we'd selected on the registration form for the Admits Weekend. For me this was consulting and entrepreneurship. Unfortunately we only were allowed to attend 2 sessions. The sessions were also run as a Q&A rather than a presentation. It did mean though that the information gathered depended upon your questions and those of your group members. It would have been nice to have this as a combined session so we could have found out what other groups had asked - after all, you don't know what you don't know. Also it would have been nice to be able to attend all 4 sessions. In any case, I'm pretty sure we'll hear lots from career services over the next year.

The career session marked the end of the "information" part of the day - phew! We then headed to The Windsor for more socialising and to use the 2 free drink coupons we were given in the morning. A delicious BBQ in the picturesque LBS lawn was put on for dinner (more socialising and meeting new people). Then it was into the Nash Lounge for the famed Sundowners - free beer, cider and wine. Sundowners happens every Thursday and across all programs - a good chance to...yep, meet more new people :)

The day ended at 11pm, but of course there was an after party - after all, why not prolong the great fun we were having? So I found myself back in The Windsor for more socialising (yelling conversations). I did leave at a very respectable quarter past midnight though since there was still Day 2 to come.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Overview | LBS Admits Weekend Part 1

I recently returned from attending the London Business School Admits Weekend held last week. Let me just say upfront - for those who are planning to apply for the MBA programme at LBS in future, you really don't want to miss the May Admits Weekend! It's part of the whole amazing MBA experience at LBS and is worth every penny and km of least that's how I felt. So I'm really glad I flew halfway around the world to attend it as I would have been kicking myself otherwise :)

I'll be doing a bit of a series regarding the event, including all the very useful information about the MBA programme itself that I can recall from the event - answers by the program team & current students. It should hopefully provide some helpful information for anyone researching the LBS MBA program and current admits who missed the event.

A bit of a run down on what I did in London last week leading up to the event:

  • Arrived in London mid afternoon completely exhausted from over 14 hours of flying from Singapore. Couldn't sleep a wink on the flights so I'd gone almost 48 hours without sleep due to the time difference.
  • Managed to last till 8.30pm London time before I fell asleep mid conversation with the mate kindly hosting me. I tried very hard to stay up to a decent hour to minimise jet lag.
  • Woke up at 7.30am London time ~ yay not really jet lagged!
  • Planned to get a UK SIM so I could get data connection rather than using auto roaming - made sense to just get one now since I'd be moving to London later anyway. As I was staying in East London not far from Stratford, I headed out to explore Stratford and the huge Westfield Mall there that was developed for the London Olympics. I'm also a Westfield stockholder so I figured it would be nice to see one of my investments in person ;)
  • Spent the day wandering about Stratford, visited 4 different supermarkets and picked up my SIM before heading back for dinner with my mates.
  • Woke up early too but felt kinda lazy and tired. Considered going to town briefly but didn't feel up to it.
  • Spent the day instead exploring Canning Town and er...the supermarket >.<
  • Headed back earlier for another night of good home cooked dinner and interesting conversation spanning risk management, London real estate, Michelin star restaurants and politics.
  • Woke up early again and the weather was pretty lousy. Had a mid-morning nap while waiting for the rain to stop so I could go out :p
  • Headed to central London to check out the Museum of London. I love how most of London's museums are free. Interesting fact: in excavating to build the Crossrail line, they discovered a tradition Maori weapon artefact. Seems NZ has followed me to London ;)
  • Headed to the National Portrait Gallery to escape the rain. The Tudor gallery is highly recommended!
  • Met an old schoolmate for dinner in Covent Garden
  • Met up with another MBA admit for lunch and to wander around Paddington/Little Venice in the afternoon. We'd arranged it via WhatsApp.
  • Around 40 of us who were already in London then met up at a rooftop bar (very pretty views and highly popular with the professionals) for some pre-Admits Weekend socialising. This was followed by taking over another bar (much cheaper drinks) and then splitting up to have a very late dinner. Met amazing people and marvelled over the background diversity.
  • Some of the group headed out clubbing afterwards. Was getting late and felt bad if I got back really late and woke my kind hosts up, so headed home with people going in the same direction to arrive at midnight.
  • Met up with new friends from last night for drinks in afternoon...and met a few more new people
  • Wandered around the area before heading to a pub near the LBS welcome reception venue in Shoreditch.
  • Met more new people at the very packed pub and had very loud conversations over the din. Did not make time to have dinner - big mistake
  • Headed to the LBS welcome reception starving. Good thing there were nibbles but unfortunately they were nibbles.
  • It was a massive turnout with current student ambassadors. Met even more new amazing people and had more very loud conversations over everyone else's very loud conversations. Repeated where I was from, what I did, what I wanted to do over and over and get used to it.
  • Had an amazing time but passed on the post event clubbing/partying as I wanted to be awake for the full on Admits Weekend day.
Moral of the story - plan to be in London early for unofficial pre-event socialising! It's much easier to meet and remember names and faces in batches.

Next up is a detailed post on the first official day of the Admits Weekend :)

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Budgeting for London Living Costs

When thinking about funding, I've found that it's easy to forget though that aside from the huge fee for tuition alone, there's 2 years worth of living costs to work into calculations as well.

So how much do you really need to live in London? I've been doing a fair amount of research to estimate this, after speaking to friends who live in London, LBS alumni and current LBS students. Obviously this is highly dependent upon your lifestyle and what you plan to prioritise with a limited budget. I'm just going to share here what I've gathered so far.

Speaking to alumni, something like £300-350 per week is a pretty reasonable budget as living costs. I thought this sounded quite good so I've been using this as the basis for my living cost budget.

Of this budget, the bulk of it would naturally go towards rent. Especially since I plan to live close to school (which everyone advises is a good idea at least for the first year). I did some research on rentals and you can get a room in a 2-3 bedroom apartment in St John's Wood, Marylebone and Maida Vale (suburbs near LBS) for £230 per week, all bills inclusive. I've thus made this my max price for looking for accommodation.

I've heard from friends that food in London is cheap - if you cook it yourself. Basically what this means is that groceries are cheap, but eating out isn't (expect £15-20 at an average restaurant). Friends have said that groceries are cheaper in London than in Singapore. For instance, you could get 3 whole chickens for £7 (though that is a lot of food for one). I'm not sure if I'll find time to cook properly much, but putting together sandwiches and the occasional cooked meal for lunch is doable. Mind you, I'm not a very big eater so I'd say my food budget tends to be on the leaner side. Current students have also mentioned that every now and then corporates sponsor a reception or event with drinks and nibbles i.e. free food that helps cut down on costs ;) I've also heard that it's not unusual that some students attend these events solely for the free you do what you gotta do.

Entertainment is extremely varied depending on how social you are and how much alcohol you're looking to consume. Despite having worked in the alcohol industry, I'm a very light drinker so I'm not expecting to have very high entertainment costs.

Summary of my expected general weekly budget
  • Rent in shared apartment - £170-190
  • Bills - £40-50
  • Transport (should be low if you live close to school) - £10
  • Food - £40
  • Entertainment (depends on how much you party/drink and I don't drink much) - £40-50

Monday, 9 May 2016

Unexpected Opportunity

As mentioned in a previous post, I've been helping out the potential MBA/GMAT-taking community on Quora as I've been on the questioning side and totally get the confusion/anxiety of being an applicant. Unexpectedly, my contributions to the community have led to a potential opportunity.

The CEO of a GMAT prep school liked my writing and has reached out regarding working together to help promote their GMAT prep program via Quora. Mostly just doing the same helpful question answering as I'd been doing, but having a link to their GMAT prep program in the signature. What I like is that their GMAT prep philosophy aligns with mine and there isn't going to be a hard sell plugging of their GMAT prep. Plus their prep program doesn't seem too bad either. Getting paid to do what I'm already doing sounds good :)

I'm looking forward to seeing how this one goes as it would be pretty awesome to be able to have some sort of income while I'm at the MBA and writing doesn't necessarily take up too much time. Watch this space to see how it goes!

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Self Funding the MBA

With the limited financing options available to NZ citizens (especially those comme moi who aren't planning to return to work in NZ), I've really had to evaluate my assets in the last weeks to figure out what the best funding cocktail would be for me.

I'm somewhat lucky in that I do own a house which has gone up in value by a good amount in the last couple of years. This means I've been able to use the refinancing option as my main funding source. Mortgage rates have dropped since I last fixed the mortgage so refinancing works in my favour as well, though it does mean I'll have a several thousand dollar break fee to pay.

For the non-finance inclined, how refinancing works is that you move your mortgage over to another bank with different (usually better) interest rates. During the move, as a new contract is being signed with a new bank, you can take out a larger mortgage than your previous one, thereby cashing out some of the equity in the property, assuming your property value has gone up. In this way, people have been able to leverage on their existing property to borrow cash for renovations, travel, buying investments, a second property....or an MBA :)

You don't necessarily have to move banks. You could refinance with the same bank, which in NZ is known as a top up loan. Refinancing with the same bank usually saves you some of the admin costs and hassles, and is definitely a route to be investigated unless the other bank offers a far more attractive deal, or your existing bank denies your request for a top up.

I'd like to share a bit of my naivety here in dealing with banks and mortgages so that "too honest" people like myself get a heads up. I tried to top up my loan with my existing bank, Kiwibank, to avoid break fees initially but my application was denied. Why? Because when you ask your current bank for a top up, they're going to ask you why you need that money. So I told them truthfully it was to pay for school fees. Of course this lead to a further question on whether this was an overseas school or local, which lead to whether I was going to study full time, which lead to whether I was still going to have my job etc. You get the gist.

I was completely honest, but I told them I'd worked out a plan whereby renting out the house would cover all the mortgage payments and my investment dividends would cover maintenance costs like rates. It was perfectly reasonable and considering refinancing the house would still make the total mortgage less than 40% of the market value, it seemed a pretty save investment to me. I mean if I was looking at this loan as an investor, I'd jump on it since the risk is really very low and demand for a house in my area is very very high.

Anyway, enough of my rant.... To cut the long story short, Kiwibank said no and "we don't really do equity cash outs these days". So I've refinanced with ANZ at much better rates through a mortgage broker, taken the break cost hit, but overall ending up being better off. FYI if you're in NZ, Kiwibank doesn't deal with mortgage brokers so you'd need to know how to negotiate better rates with them yourself.

Of course, I'm not relying entirely on the loan. After all, a loan is still something I'd need to pay interest on. So my savings are sadly going to be depleted over the next year to finance my living costs in London....for the first year. The plan after is to use my summer internship to earn most of my second year's living expenses and potentially try and work in a second internship in my second year (something quite plausible I've heard). Rental income from the house and dividend income from investments will pay the mortgage and property maintenance costs in NZ.

So that's my financial plan for self funding my time at LBS. Hopefully it helps give some ideas on how to structure your financial plan. I've done a monthly cash flow forecast for the next 2 years and also have a backup measure for if I don't get a rental income - something I would advise doing. Leave a comment if you have any other ideas to add :)

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Saving Money Paying MBA Fees in Foreign Currency

Since the value of the NZ Dollar is much lower than the Pound, foreign currency exchange rates and how to pay MBA tuition fees are obviously of much concern. London Business School's tuition fee of £70,800 translates to a whopping $150,000+. The great thing about LBS (and most MBA programs), is that they allow you to pay in installments.

For anyone interested, LBS's fee schedule for the MBA2018 class looks like this:

Year 1
Commitment fee: £2,000
Reservation fee: £6,000
Installment 1: £13,700
Installment 2: £13,700
Year 2
Installment 1: £11,800
Installment 2: £11,800
Installment 3: £11,800

For those of us borrowing/earning in foreign currency, you start getting obsessed with currency rate fluctuations in the attempt to find the "optimal" time to make the payments by the deadlines. Other than chronically refreshing the exchange rate calculation button to save on the exchange, the good news is that you can also save by using a foreign exchange transfer service instead of going through normal bank transfer channels.

Do note though that there are 2 kinds of forex services. Both offer you far better exchange rates than the banks. However, the one I'm speaking of here is the one that saves you more money - and hey, when you're about to become/are a poor student, every dollar counts!

So the service I'd like to encourage anyone needed to make currency exchanges, especially in large sums, is one whereby they own bank accounts in several different countries so that the transfer when it happens is not an international transfer, but a local transfer. The way it works is you pay the amount in your local currency to their local account (in most cases this bank to bank transfer should be free). Then they transfer the equivalent amount in the foreign currency from their foreign bank account to the foreign bank so the bank to bank transfer is free too. Where they make their money is either in charging a small fee for the transfer and also in the exchange rates as they put a slight markup on wholesale (clearly not as much as the banks do though).

In this way you save by getting a) better exchange rates and b) no unknown fees for the transfer aside from the commission/fee that the transfer services is charging you. Another benefit is that you know exactly how much you need to pay and how much your recipient is going to get at the other end without having to "guess" how much extra you might need to transfer in case the fee at the recipient end winds up larger than expected. This is especially important when you're paying bills like MBA tuition fees.

After a fair amount of shopping around, I've signed up for accounts with the following two services. Two because it's always good to have one extra for comparison.

1. Transferwise
These guys have one of the best exchange rates and charge a pretty small fee for the exchange. Plus if you sign up using this link, you'll get a free £15 fee credit. They hold the rate they quote you for 24hrs, which means your quote would not be affected by the second-by-second exchange rate fluctuations. This could be positive or negative depending on how the market is moving. You can cancel the transfer within 24 hours after you book it (before you pay them of course) if you see that the market has moved in your favour so that you can re-book with the better rate. The downside is that Transferwise only deals in limited currencies so you might not be able to use them.

2. NZForex
These guys are good for large sum transfers as they don't charge fees for transactions over a certain value (for NZ this is NZD$10,000). Plus they deal in a wider range of currencies than Transferwise. The rate you get fluctuates based on the current market rate so if you get one that you're happy with don't wait too long to book as it might change within minutes. One of the great services they offer as well is an email or text alert when the exchange rate get to a preferred level you set. This way, you won't miss out on opportunities to save due to better rates. If you sign up using this link, you'll get an NZ$50 i-tunes gift voucher when you make your first transfer.

The best way to make the most of it is to get a quote from both services when you plan to make an exchange. Then pick the cheapest :)

Monday, 11 April 2016

Why Pay to do an MBA - Quora FAQ 1

Since the start of the year I've been pretty active on Quora, mostly doling out advice on the GMAT and MBA prep based on my own experiences. It has been interesting seeing what questions Quora throws me, but most of the questions do end up being pretty similar. Thus I thought it might be useful to whoever stumbles upon my blog to pop some of my answers to these frequently asked questions on this blog.

Question: Why pay to do an MBA?

Some variations:
  • What's the point of doing an MBA?
  • Is an MBA necessary or can I study the skills on my own?
  • Is it worth paying to attend a top MBA school or getting one from a cheaper school?
My thoughts...

The value of an MBA isn't its educational course content. I'm not saying that course content isn't important. It's just that the knowledge from the course material are easily obtained from outside the program itself. There are tons of textbooks and cheaper courses out there on finance, accounting, operations management, marketing, management etc.

So why take on more debt to do an MBA? Why pay top prices for a top school when it would be much cheaper to do one at a much lower ranked school?

For those of us who decide on going down the MBA route and pay top dollar, it's not just the educational business skills we're after. It's usually because we're also after a combination of the following: 
  1. Ability to leverage the brand name of the school
    Prospective employers or customers don't really know you as a person, but they know top schools. Since we inherently subconsciously rely on pre-conceptions to interact with new people, their initial perception of you will be based on what they think of your CV. Top MBA programs are notoriously hard to get accepted into and getting admitted is an achievement on its own. As such, having an MBA from a top school on your CV automatically makes potential employers perceive you as a "quality" candidate before they meet you. This in turn has subconscious effects on how they interact with you so you're more likely to start off on a positive foot when meeting them
    It also means you could potentially command a higher paycheck. After all one doesn't expect an MBA grad from a top school to come cheap.
  2. Opportunities to interact with recruiters from top organisations who come to you
    Attracting the notice of highly desirable firms like McKinsley, BCG, Goldman Sachs etc. isn't easy. They're also very selective about where and how they do their recruiting. Granted, you could manage to network your way in, but it's certainly easier when they are coming to you at your school and you are presented with opportunities to have coffee chats with them. These firms rely on the rigor of the MBA application process to shortlist the thousands of applications that are coming in
  3. Opportunities to interact with top executives from top companiesTop business schools have cultivated relationships with top global companies for years. Plus it's highly likely that their alumni can be found amongst the top execs anyway. This means they are able to help students get an audience with key executives by organising various events e.g. guest speakers and conferences. Let's face it, top executives in huge global companies aren't exactly the easiest people to reach and their time is extremely precious.
  4. Career switchingMany senior positions seek "previous experience".This makes changing industries or job functions not easy unless you're willing to start from the bottom. The MBA program is therefore a shortcut for career-switchers to jump to the middle, thanks in part to the ability to leverage on the school name and in part to the rigor of the course.
  5. Instant access to a large network of successful people who are more likely to assist you with whatever you needTop MBA programs admit people who have a very high potential of being successful. The alumni network is therefore a goldmine of useful connections. You'd get far better response and assistance cold-calling an alumnus and saying that you're from the same school than an otherwise complete stranger.
  6. Other experiences
    There are many other experiences that you get to have with doing an MBA that would be more challenging to obtain on your own. For instance seeing a problem from different perspectives due to the widely varied backgrounds of your classmates; learning to work with multiple Type A personalities on different projects; learning about different cultures through first-hand interactions; career treks....the list goes on

Basically, what you're ultimately paying for is the network, opportunities and experiences that would be difficult to obtain on your own. T
he value of the MBA program really lies in the people and not the content itself. In the end it comes down to what you want out of the MBA. Is it just business knowledge, or more.

Of course, an MBA doesn't automatically make you successful. It merely provides you with the opportunity. What you do with the opportunities, the network and the experiences is then entirely up to you.

Monday, 4 April 2016

MBA Funding Options for NZ & Australian Citizens

3 months have gone by in a flash and I can't believe it's April already! This means that
  1. It's only 3 months till I move to London
  2. I need to sort how I'm going to fund my MBA 
  3. I've only got 3 months of cash inflow left
And in case anyone is wondering, no I still don't have a scholarship.  :( I am hoping though that May will bring forth some good news when LBS does its second round of scholarship reviews for Round 1-3 admits. That said, I really can't afford to count on it.

In the last months of investigating various financing options, I have come to a conclusion that NZ and Australian citizens who reside in NZ or Australia have some of the most limited funding options. If you're from NZ or Australia and thinking of applying to London Business School (or another UK MBA program) in future, I'd advise planning to work in the UK in the 3 years preceding. Why? Because then at least you'll be eligible for certain loans and scholarships that are open to UK residents who are internationals.

If like me, you didn't know, didn't plan that far ahead, aren't rich and don't have a scholarship, well you're pretty screwed...your funding options are limited to the following:

  • Prodigy Finance loan - which is extremely unlikely to cover all of your fees and definitely not your living expenses. APR interest rates vary depending on circumstance but is around 8.34% for LBS
  • There might be 1 or 2 government scholarships e.g. Chevening that require you returning to Australia/NZ after graduation (Note that LBS MBA applicants are ineligible for Chevening Scholarships but other UK 1 year MBA programs meet the criteria) - not an option if you don't plan to be returning for awhile
  • Personal loans from the bank - hard to borrow much and once you convert this to GBP, it's not much. APR is also really high
  • Credit card - not advisable due to very high interest rates. Also for visa applications, funding from credit cards is not considered a valid funding option.
  • Refinancing property - a good option if you own property, especially since mortgage interest rates (currently) are much lower than personal loans and you can borrow a large sum potentially covering both fees and living expenses...just don't disclose that you're quitting your job to study and will no longer have any income for the next 2 years...
  • Savings
  • Financial help from friends and family
  • Company sponsorship - Might be a bit tough to get this one if you're off on a full-time 2 year MBA program

So those are all the options I've managed to find. Unfortunately compared to other developed countries, NZ and Australian citizens have a bit of the short straw when it comes to scholarships and loans, and local bank loans aren't ideal. :( If anyone knows otherwise, I'm all ears!

Now to figure out my funding cocktail....

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Seeing More of NZ - Easter Trip to Cape Reinga

So it struck me that with only a few months left in NZ, I've not played in my own backyard enough. How did it happen that in the last decade, I've not made time to fully appreciate the natural wonders here? As such, I planned a camping trip (or some would say "glamping" since the camp grounds had hot showers) up North to Pukenui and Cape Reinga which I've always wanted to see but never got round to.

I'm so glad I did! The views were simply amazing and reminded me of what I'll be missing when I leave. Below are some of the highlights from my trip :)

90 Mile Beach NZ
Earth meets sky at 90 Mile Beach low tide
Cape Reinga Coastline
Sand dunes beside grassy hills at Cape Reinga

Sunset sky at Cape Reinga NZ
Sunset sky at Cape Reinga

Sunset at Cape Reinga NZ
Stunning sunset at Cape Reinga - in the center you can see the waves from the clash of the Tasman Sea & Pacific Ocean

Cape Reinga Lighthouse
Cape Reinga lighthouse

Henderson Bay Surfers Beach
Henderson Bay - quite a popular surfers beach

View of Matai Bay
Matai Bay is very round so you can see waves at its mouth where the water collides

Rocks along Matai Bay NZ
You can fish off these rocks at Matai Bay

View of Shipwreck Bay NZ
Shipwreck Bay

Panorama of Shipwreck Bay NZ
Low tide at Shipwreck Bay - Panorama

Spirits Bay NZ River
River at Spirits Bay - up ahead is a stunning shell beach

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Dipping a Foot Into Finance & Accounting

For those of us who don't come from finance or accounting backgrounds, the general consensus from alumni and current students is that some pre-MBA prep would be highly beneficial. I can appreciate that, being an over-achiever. After all, I know I would really hate to be the "last" in class when it comes to the finance and accounting core courses.

MOOCs are perfect for this, being free, taught by renowed educational institutions, and entirely flexible. So I've embarked on Introduction to Corporate Finance and Introduction to Financial Accounting on Coursera, taught by Wharton professors. Definitely highly recommended as I now know about the time value of money, annuities, NPV and some of the financial jargon that you would definitely come across in core courses.

In fact, INSEAD recommends doing such courses on Coursera pre-MBA and looking at the content of their 1 week pre-MBA Business Foundations course (€1,800 extra), they cover pretty much the same material for the Finance and Accounting sections. I've also heard that London Business School offers pre-MBA prep quant courses sometime in March, much like INSEAD's Business Foundations course, except that it's online and self-study. So I've figured I might as well get a head start and later when LBS does offer their course, it'll serve as a refresher.

On a side note, Coursera, I'm finding, is a little bit like falling down the rabbit hole. For avid learners it's a gold mine of pretty well-delivered business knowledge and I keep finding more courses I'd like to take. Alas there are only 24 hours in a day and I do still have to work for a living :) That said, I'm going to attempt to try and absorb as much knowledge as I can by July when I move over to London!

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

It's Decided

After oscillating between INSEAD and London Business School, I've finally decided to accept my offer to LBS.

It was by no means an easy decision given that they're both elite schools, and my post-MBA goals involve the field that INSEAD is strong in (consulting) in the location that LBS is strong in (London). It came down to evaluating which would give me the highest chances of attaining my post-MBA goal: switching to consulting in London. After all, the whole purpose of a MBA is to help you achieve your future career goals.

For those in the tough position of having been accepted to both LBS and INSEAD like me (now and in future), I found that hearing why people made the school decisions they did helps. So here's why I ended up deciding on LBS:

  1. I'm planning on switching job function, location and industry, which is said to be doable in 10 months for consulting, but is definitely a stretch. Hence, it seemed less risky to give myself more time for job hunting with LBS's longer program and there's the added benefit of being able to better absorb the information that I'm sure to be overloaded with.
  2. Networking is very important in business, and is certainly far more effective when you're actually living in the same city and can meet face-to-face. Plus, based on my experience, there's nothing like local immersion to actually understand the local culture and markets, which would allow me to gel more quickly with my future colleagues in London. Hence, I felt I had to be in London itself.
  3. Looking at INSEAD's placements in consulting, in particular Bain, their students are distributed over various offices around the world, whereas for LBS most went to the London office. This information was gathered from the Bain careers site which showed how many interns Bain took from each school and which office the intern went to. Sample sizes are small but it did give a bit of an idea how each school differed.
  4. mfprado1073 did a rough calculation for me here which showed that my chances of getting into consulting in London were higher with LBS than INSEAD.
  5. I like the internship "try before you buy" concept. I've been researching quite a bit about consulting and while I think I know what to expect, I might wind up really not liking the lifestyle. No better way to find out than actually doing it, which I'd be able to do at LBS.
  6. I like the people from INSEAD whom I've met and the INSEAD network is certainly outstanding, but that just means finding a way to tap into that network by making sure I keep in contact with all these INSEAD alumni :)

I'd like to credit the people I've met through the GMAT Club forums as their views definitely helped make my decision.

Anyway what this means going forward is that this blog is going to revolve around life as an MBA student at LBS :) Class of 2018 here I come!