Wednesday, 7 November 2012


Its over.  The journey's come to an end.

I've been admitted to Fuqua, and I'm out of the MBA applications game for good.

Before I close this chapter - I wanted to share some of my learnings over the last year of applications.

Without knowing for sure, I inferred my biggest 'weakness' was my interview/on campus performance. Until I visited Breeden Hall to interview, I'd never even met a Fuqua alum - but I quickly got a feel for the culture and realized my interview didn't quite hit the mark.

Since its fresh on my mind - I want to walk through interview strategy.

There's a saying that there is no such thing as a truly great pick-up line - because nothing you can say will alone be clever enough to get you a number.

I took that approach to interviewing - I focused on strong presentation rather than clever/elaborate answers (plus I had my clever answers from February anyways). Got the feeling that they don't actually care about "How do you handled a team member who wasn't pulling his/her weight" - a good answer is enough as long as the presentation is outstanding. 

Here are the questions I expected, and what I wanted to get across:

1) Walk me through your resume - Rather than describing the details of my job responsibilities, or title changes, I focused on the story. Talked about the evolution of telecom in the last 5 years (rise of iphones, mobile internet, the app industry, tablets, virtual wallets) and how my work/career has made an impact. Goal was to demonstrate I could be more engaging/socially savy than a stereotypical financial-modelling math nerd MBA, and safe to introduce to recruiting partners.

2) Why MBA - Wanted to appeal to my interviewers' confidence and ambition without making myself sound like an arrogant self-centred douche. Talked about wanting to gain 'broad experience' quickly and how my company wants me in an elaborate rotation program that would advance my career, but may not provide me with the other life experiences of bschool. Goal was to put the interviewer in my shoes, and get her on my side. Wanted her to empathize with me and say "I was like you once and decided to come to Duke for my MBA - great decision"..

3) Why Fuqua - Prove I can market the school, and given my 'why mba' why Fuqua is the perfect fit. Goal was to demonstrate I could pitch the school concisely.

4) How you handled xyz in a team setting - This is the Team Fuqua question ie. my role in a group setting. Goal was to introduce my 'group' personality without coming across as fake. Wanted my interviewer to think "You sound exactly like a guy I once worked with - he was good. I could see you as cool headed even when you're having a shitty day".

5) What do you bring to the class - Wanted to establish a personality other than (industry/country/target industry/undergrad). Goal was basically to cherry pick parts of my 25 random things.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012


Its almost November, and I've made a lot of progress since I last blogged:

Fuqua submitted EA and was fortunate enough to get an interview invite.  Originally I planned to head back to Durham to interview - but they were kind to give me a Skype interview - saving me a few bucks and some 2012 vacation.

Now I've gushed over Duke for the better part of the year.  Fell in love with the beautiful campus, and the amazing school culture.  The first essay: 25 random things was probably the most enjoyable b-school related task I've done all year.  And now this whole skype interview thing basically freed enough resources for me to take the new lady friend on a cruise or a short vacation.

I don't want to get my hopes too far up but I REALLY want the Duke admit. Can't imagine this journey ending anywhere but Fuqua.  At least I'll know next week when decisions are out October 30th.

Today I got the Michigan Ross round 1 interview invite (the Ross application was probably the best one I've done so far).  It made my week, because work has been absolutely gruelling and preparing for the interview will be a great distraction.

Hopefully I'll have more good news soon!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Preparing for R1 this Summer

Its the start of summer - a great time for bbqs, long weekends at the cottage and MBA essays!  According to my Fuqua waitlist councillor, my decision should be handed down shortly and I'll finally get closure on my last R2 decision.  At this point, I'm not particularly optimistic about my chances.

The consolation is - the 2013 MBA application essay topics are starting to come out.  After a 6 month hiatus from MBA essay writing - I'm ready to the process all over again.  This Canada day long weekend I spent sometime looking over schools and essay choices.  Think I'll start off by tackling the Cornell Johnson essay set first.  Last year I spent a lot of time debating whether or not to apply to Cornell.  Couple of things turned me away - first I was a bit skeptical about winters in Ithaca (which is a terrible reason not to apply to a school), and second found the 'legacy' essay a tough one (fortunately it looks like that one is gone).  After a bit of research (and some forum reads) - found quite a few people that applied to Fuqua, also applied to Ross and Johnson.  Get the impression that all three place students at a nice rate, and maintain rankings in a similar group.

Big plus for me - is that a disproportionate number of Canadians head over to Cornell - so this is pretty much the only top MBA school to which I have alumni access through my personal network.  Wish I'd known how much easier that would have made my life last year, since tracking down current students/alumni was one of the most difficult parts of the application process.  Think it will help tremendously with the 'Cornell/Goals' essay.

In other news - I'm also 1/2 way done my first financial accounting course - which is something I'm doing to help address GPA concerns.  Currently sitting at roughly a 93% - Think this is a big one to help my candidacy.  Last year I definitely overestimated my chances for admission - had a nice 730 GMAT, an engineering undergrad from a top school here in Canada, and four years of experience in an important sounding job title.  Had no idea that my profile sounds like just about every other top 15 MBA applicant that I met last year.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more... waitlist?

The Duke R3 results are out for some.  I'm still on the waitlist.  With re-application becoming more likely I've decided to work on my candidacy for next year - primarily by taking an online course to build an alternate transcript, and by pursuing a different/advanced position on my team.

Essay Snark has provided an awesome analysis on re-applicant strategy that I've been going over in my head since I've been waitlisted.

1. Look at your profile.
730 GMAT (48Q/42V)
73/100 Engineering GPA
4.5 Years of Work Experience

I've been a bit insecure about GPA since about second year of undergrad.  My game plan here is to take a course this summer to prove (partly to myself) that I can be a strong performer at shcool.

2. Look at your target schools.
This year I targeted mid to large sized top 15 programs (Fuqua, Stern, Haas, and Anderson) which resulted in 3 dings and a waitlist.  I was also admitted to a smaller top 20 program - a school that I recently declined.

3. Look at where in the process you were rejected.
In Round 1, I was rejected by Stern, Haas, and Anderson without interview. 

In Round 2, I re-wrote all of my essays, got better recommendations and was interviewed at both my schools - admitted & waitlisted.

After getting rejected at pretty much every point in the process (and also admitted at one program that turned out not to be for me), I learned that mis-steps can happen at any point in the process - so you need flawless execution all the way through.

Speaking of flawless execution - its about time I hit the books and go for that "A" in accounting!

Saturday, 7 April 2012

3 Reasons reapplication may not be worth a year of my life (and 3 Reasons it could be)

Over the past week there have been a lot of questions on the forums from other MBA admits considering reapplying:

Of the great questions (Why did you apply to a school that you wouldn't go to?  What happens if you don't get an admit next year?) the one that's given me the most trouble is:

Is reapplication worth a year of your life?

Reason 1) It may not be worth it because... objectively speaking I won't be a better professional prospect next year (ie. no promotion, no job change, no title change in my current company.) I will be just as employable (or unemployable) as I am today.   My profile will be the same as it is today. Another 700+ GMAT score won't help me anymore than my current 700+ score (is 90th/90th really better than my 80th/80th?), and my Engineering GPA is what it is.  The major profile changes will be my years of WE, EC, and my age.
Counter Reason 1) It could be worth it because... subjectively I'm a better professional.  My story is significantly clearer.  I make progress every day, and I'm convincing colleagues that I'm even better than the person that I claim to be in my essays. 
Reason 2) It may not be worth it because... its difficult to justify putting life on hold for a year.  I really just want to make progress and b-school is a really efficient venue.
By going to b-school this fall I'd get to shake up my life in a few ways:

  • Leave my job and starting the next "phase" of my life
  • Change careers
  • Move to a different country
  • Make some new friends
  • Join some cool new b-school extra curricular activities 
Counter Reason 2) It could be worth it because.... life goes on outside the b-school applications and MBAs. Throughout this journey I've spent a lot of time writing essays telling stories about my career, my goals, and my passions.  Along the way a funny thing happened.  I've spent so much time convincing people that I'm an engaging, interesting, passionate guy that I've started to believe it myself
Reason 3)It may not be worth it because... Something catastrophic could happen in my life that could make a top MBA impossible next year.  
There is a certain hope that a top MBA can lead to a better future.  Its frightening to think that next year:

  • My employer could go bankrupt, get merged, or downsize (and eliminate my job)
  • I could fall ill, or my health could deteriorate
  • I may suffer financial setbacks that could make b-school financing difficult 
Counter Reason 3)It could be worth it because.... Something awesome could happen in my life that could make a top MBA unnecessary next year.  While an MBA is definitely an efficient way to a better future - I'm not fully convinced its the only way. 

  • I could achieve my post MBA goals this summer without going to b-school
  • My goals could change.  Maybe I'll find something I want more than an MBA

Its not an easy decision either way but  I wish my b-school applicant  peers luck deciding where to take their talents this fall.  Its definitely going to be a tough call for me.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

The MBA Decision...

Inspired by a thread created by threestripes over at the GMAT Club, I've decided to chronicle my journey as a b-school applicant.  I am in the tough position of having an admission offer in hand from an amazing school, as well as a waitlist offer from Duke Fuqua (a school I sincerely fell for during the interview process).  Ultimately, the decision comes down to taking a sure thing or taking a gamble.

On one hand the application is a long, difficult, expensive and stressful process that I look forward to putting behind me.  On the other hand, I've grown and learned so much from the application process last year that I'm a better b-school prospect than I've been in the past.

The analytic part of me loves Fuqua - by the numbers Fuqua has incredible placement stats in the most attractive post MBA industries, and has higher expected graduate salaries.  

But the truth is I'll ultimately make my decision based 'fit' (MBA for completely subjective gut feel).