Adventures of absent-minded MBA student

Friday, January 12, 2007

I am back

Hi, I am still here, came back from home - holidays were great, saw all my friends and family, did not want to come back. Promise to post detailed report on milk round this week end. Hugs

Saturday, December 16, 2006

À la recherche du temps perdu

Wow, it’s been a long time and some bad and some good things happened to me since my last post. So I am afraid this one will be a bit hectic. Today was officially the very last day of the term – we needed to submit last take home exam, microeconomics. The deadline was noon, guess when I submitted it – at 11.59, this is the second take home exam and the first time I did much better – 10 minutes before the deadline. I actually had to take a cab to be able to do it and for the first time was not wearing make up to school (girls will understand it’s a really serious crime…), but I had those 10 minutes. You can imply we had very little time for those take home exams – wrong we had 10 days. What was I doing? Many extremely important things apart from the exam. And when I finally started to do it, I could not stop… I have this terrible tendency to “fall in love” with things (not only with things though); so I read about 30 scientific articles and 3 books in order to answer question that required 800 words. Have I just a bit overdone? Well, that’s me…
And because I am not very good in managing time, as you probably noticed, I had 1 day course dedicated to that matter. And I even managed to be on time from one of the breaks – you see, I am improving. The course was actually great – I finally was able to admit the fact that I need self-discipline, because before that I was kind of sure it’s incompatible with my “creative nature”. Wrong, wrong, wrong – it’s just the poor excuse we are normally ready to rely on.
Another course we had was “Influencing and persuading” and this one was great as well – we practiced different persuading styles – asserting, attracting, bridging and proposing (and guys proposing is not about marriage, you normally don’t need a master of persuasion to make the girl accept your offer). I am quite good in manipulation, but I guess this is not the skill, future leaders need to possess, so I decided to leave “the dark side of the force”. I think I was completely miserable in asserting, because I tried to sound strong and authoritarian, but was looking to other person’s eyes like a lost dog. But I liked it – I wish I had more practice.
The other thing was that I met Patxi and it was great. I was nervous, because you know, he had those very nice posts about me and I was worried that the real “me” will not be the one who deserves those posts. But Patxi is extremely interesting and easy to talk to, so I have not noticed how the time passed. The same day I was at the St. Nicolaus party at Angie’s place – the party was fun, I enjoyed it a lot and I met Patxi’s wife, who is also nice and enjoyable person. So you see, bloggers’ world somehow made my real world a better place.
What else, we had Santa Claus Pub Crawl – a big school tradition, but I think many people have written about it already, so just go to the link and watch.
And I guess that’s it for today. Sweet dreams boys and girls..


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Christmas is in the air

This week I had a cold and fever, so I missed a lot of classes and stayed in bed. My dream came true, but in a somehow twisted way- as you all know it's not much fun to stay at home, when you have 39... So, by the week-end I started to operate in a stand by mode, which means I have done nothing in terms of home tasks and exam preparations, nada... Which is bad, taking into account the fact that I need to submit accounting homework tomorrow in the morning.
Yesterday, I was going home in the evening from the party (yes, now I feel much better) and saw a Christmas tree in somebody's window. I was standing and watching the tree and suddenly felt great (surprise,surprise)- somehow London is not my prison and LBS is not my term in jail any more and probably I am not lost anymore as well. I don't know, whether it's because Christmas is one of my favorite holidays or because I found new friends, but it's just pure magic.
These weeks I had 2 mock interviews - one is with consulting club and another with finance club. This is a great practice tool and I really appreciate the effort of second year MBAs, who are organising them for us. I have several feedbacks, first is that I can think (though I still doubt :-)), second that during the interview I look like I am ready to faint at any moment (probably not the best tactics) and third that I am looking at the interviewer like he is breaking my heart (still in doubts, about this one - normally it works with men, but am not sure about employers:-)).
And the last but not the least thing - there is another new blog, King Myles, a great guy from LBS MBA 2007 has started, so I definetely recommend you to read it.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Banking, consulting and....gambling?!

I promised that this time, my blog entry will be more practical (my last post was completely off topic and probably seemed weird, but this is me, when I am into something, I can’t stop). So, I’ll do my best. Last week I took part in 2 different business competitions (this is one of the advantages of the London business school- you can be engaged in different business simulations and case competitions as much as you want to). Here are my key learning points
First event was organized by Morgan Stanley , it was portfolio management simulation, held in their offices at Canary Wharf.
I always had mixed feelings about Canary Wharf, from the one side as an aspiring investment banker I am supposed to be excited by the view of towers in the night sky, from the other side, the atmosphere there reminds me a lot of a movie I Robot . You know, when robots seized the earth and started to exterminate people. One of my fellow students told me yesterday, that this is very particular area of London, where the population is limited by men and women from 20 to 55 –you will never meet a child or an old person there. So all people are dressed in equally expensive black suits, are rushing to equally faceless office cubicles, with equal expression of concern on their faces. Do I really want to join the army?
Anyway, I liked the office a lot, because the building is not tall (I am afraid of heights), people look human and there are even attractive men working for Morgan Stanley. We were split into 15 teams of 7 people and given 1,5 hours to manage 100 mil for 6 consecutive periods of 8 months . During 10-20 minutes we needed to split our money and invest them in equity, fixed income or real estate in Europe, US or Asia, after that we listened to the news, giving microeconomics trends for the last and future periods and were given the return on our investment. Of cause, the winner must have the largest return on the investment. My team had very stable and medium results, that’s why at the last round we decided to gamble and … had the medium result again (in Russia, there is a saying, that if you’re unlucky in gambling, you will be lucky in love – I hope that’s the case with me). The simulation of cause was quite far from the real job of trader, but I think it’s very much fun and actually the group who won was not gambling – they had solid strategy from the very beginning.

The second event – was LEK strategy case competition. We were given a case and had one week to come up with the presentation of the solution. First of my learning – it’s very hard to come up with a good solution, when you’re not interested in the subject. And this is something I really want to change about myself, because, unfortunately, in real life not everything is exciting… So Chinese traditional medicine is not the most exciting subject to me… Then we had very diverse team and each of us had different view on the problem. Instead of discussing everything before the actual presentation, each of us preferred to keep his/her own opinion and to agree to joint solution. Moreover, we decided that only 2 people will be presenting and other 2 will be answering questions. As a result, I think the jury was genuinely puzzled, when we recommended the poor company to do all at once, and answers to questions were completely different to statements from presentations. Just to give an example: Jury, “In presentation you said you want to increase number of stores in China, but they are unprofitable now”, we, “No, actually we want to close our shops in China and go abroad”.., No wonder we were not selected for finals. So, my advise – you really need to have common vision before the presentation and talk to each other actually helps.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Unholy war?

Yesterday I spent 3 hours, reading different accounts on death of the former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko. Normally, I am not very much into politics, but this murder has wide coverage in the press and it’s my country involved. Russian and Foreign press of cause have completely different opinions on what have happened – and the main point of differentiation is whether Russian government and Mr. Putin in particular are involved. All Russian account consider Litvinenko as traitor whose words were not dangerous for government since long time, all western press mentions the fact that he worked on the book on Checnia, which probably somebody didn’t want him to finish.
I don’t want to sound pathetic, but I am proud by the fact that I am Russian and love my country very much, however certain events in the recent history and the course that our government selected, make me ashamed and lost. There were quite a few journalists killed recently - Yuri Sheckochikhin , Anna Politkovskaya and Paul Khlebnikov. Owner of once forth largest oil company of the world “Yukos”, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was accused in fraud and tax evasion and put into jail for 9 years, whereas some other Russian oligarchs, who accumulated their fortunes the same way he did, but are loyal to the government continue to head largest resource companies in Russia and are buying UK football teams and Faberge eggs. At the same time, government acquired major stakes in oil and gas companies, which are formally private, nationalizing the best pieces of Russian business.
One of my American friends, who has been living and working in Russia for a long time, once told me that, when Mr. Eltzin was our president, corruption was sporadic, whereas Mr. Putin made it legal, it’s incorporated into our laws and our minds (not that I think that American society enjoys real freedom and democracy though). And sadly, I pretty much agree with this statement. And I don’t think that I am the only one, but…. I am sure that we will elect the person, who would be “recommended” by Mr. Putin as our next president and our politics will be determined by the same people it is determined by now. So much about national consciousness….

Anyway, Mr. Litvinenko was poisoned by Palladium 210 and was dying for several days, experiencing a lot of pain, he left very passionate testament, accusing Mr. Putin in his death, which made him a hero in the yes of the British press and enemy in the eyes of their Russian colleagues. As far as I spent a lot of hours, reading about the question, I would like to share some info sources I found interesting: Wikipedia-the neutral one, the blog, that supports him a lot, the one who discusses many controversial facts, especially long-time connections of Mr. Litvinenko and Mr. Berezovsky, first Russian billionaire, who is actively trying to overthrow Russian government. You can find the full text of Mr. Litvinenko book “BLOWING UP RUSSIA: Terror from Within” as one of the links in this blog, if you read in Russian, the second book, called “Лубянская преступная группировка”, here. The allegations he makes in his book are to my mind too depressing to be the truth – future president gives an order to blow up 2 apartment buildings in Moscow (more than 300 people died) and re-starts the war in Chechnya in order to have effective election campaign… This shows that the reality might be much more brutal than any movie (have you seen Wag the dog - it’s one of my favorite).
My last point to this very long post is that of cause I sympathize to Mr. Litvinenko’s family and appreciate what he has done in terms of protecting the freedom of Russia, but his depiction as a saint by Western media seems to me very extreme. The guy worked for KGB for quite a few years and was promoted quite fast, which means he was good at what he was doing and shared the values of this organization. He then selected to struggle against the things he struggled for before – but we will never know his motivation and Mr Berezovskiy, who supported Litvinenko, can’t be characterized as a brave freedom fighter in any sense…

Saturday, November 18, 2006

up close and personal

OK I’ve done the useful part last time, so I just want to write about personal impressions so far.
To me somehow MBA is a program of extremes – it’s like a rollercoaster, when at certain moments you are flying high above the ground, but at others you’re so close to it, you don’t know if you survive…
When people are describing MBA, they refer to the time as best in their lives, but there are some things I wish I have known about MBA in advance:
· First very simple thing, which is very hard to get used to – how hard it is financially. Probably, London is not the cheapest place to live in and probably LBS is not the cheapest program, but it’s really hard. All of us worked before and had certain life style – mine included getting out with friends, travels and many presents for those I love. JUST FORGET ABOUT IT. The earlier the better. I am here on my own and I work part time to pay for my apartment and bills and the most luxurious indulgences I can afford are strawberries for breakfast (sometimes) and Mango shower cream (because I am absolutely addicted to both) – not much. When I just came to London I could not adopt very fast and continued my normal life which resulted in the fact that I have spent 5 times more then I expected in the first month. So probably the orientation program should include course called “Effective money management” or “How to survive without money” – I am sure the course will be very popular especially among girls.
· Secondly and much more importantly for me – how very often superficial are the relationships among people. Maybe, it’s cultural thing and my perception is influenced by certain stereotypes, it doesn’t help to feel better however. When you are new in the environment, you try to know as many people as possible, just not to feel lonely. This means that people do the first step very easily, but then most of them do not have strength to make the second. As a result you have many acquaintances and almost no friends – you are always surrounded by people and you are always lonely. The fact that people are very often extremely competitive (and probably I am one of those people:-() makes communication even more difficult. I have not figured out how to overcome this barrier, but noticed that in many cases people stay very reserved.
· The last thing is stress – I always worked hard and almost always in a very stressful environment (you know, Russian business also reminds me of a rollercoaster), but here I feel the pressure much more then I used to do at work. So, my advice is to expect a lot of pressure and to try to protect yourself somehow. And by the way, the fact that you’re on the dean’s list doesn’t guarantee you’re a great person and internship at UBS doesn’t transform you to god (please, don’t tell UBS, though).

· Now about good things. My birthday was couple of weeks ago and my whole stream (70 people) was singing “Happy Birthday” to me, later that day I had a dinner with my new friends (yes, despite above said I do have friends here) and they said a lot of good things to me. Complete surprise – not that I think that I don’t deserve good thingsJ, but it’s so nice to feel that somebody cares about you.
· My friends from Moscow came to me last week and we spent great time together. For the first time after the studies started I have not done anything connected to MBA for a whole day (I have not slept for 2 nights after, but it doesn’t count). We were walking a lot, went to STOMP show and had a lot of fun. Now I know where to take my parents in summer J - they do not speak English, but for STOMP it’s not necessary.
· I am doing acting classes – and it’s much fun also. As every girl, from the age of 12 to 15, I received a lot of Oscars and had plans to marry Johnny Depp , but then he has chosen Vanessa Paradis (without even asking me first) and I started to study math…. So MBA gave me an opportunity to feel myself a movie star again. I can’t say that it’s easy for me, but the teacher is great and the group is very supporting.

I think I can go on forever …. And yes, next time it will be practical again (about Morgan Stanley “portfolio in peril” simulation).

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The importance of being practical

First of all, because I have received a lot of comments from my friends on my previous post, I would like to say that when I was writing about Enron and Mr. Vayner I by no means was supporting their actions. However, I was impressed by the fact that society very often prompts this kind of behavior and sometimes you need to be REALLY strong to resist the pressure.
Somehow I understood that my posts lack the practical information and will try to divide them into 2 parts: practical (that you probably wanna read) and personal (that you probably wanna skip if you don’t like my stile).
The practical side today is about how you can prepare better for the course, if you’re admitted already.

  • As you know LBS has quite strong reputation in finance, so a lot of people select this area as their concentration. But unfortunately visualizing yourself as a financial guru is not enough. And if quantitative side is not one of your best, you need to study in advance. Finance 1 is the most dreaded exam in the first term (though 2/3 of the boys are desperately in love with our brilliant finance professor – Francesca Cornelli). Our main text book is Corporate Finance by Richard A. Brealey, Stewart C. Myers, Franklin Allen and I strongly recommend you to have at least a look prior the beginning of the studies, especially if English is not your native language and you are not familiar with basic concepts in finance.
  • You need to be able to manage your time and set priorities, otherwise you will be buried under endless number of home tasks and articles (that’s what happened to me - it is 12.45 a.m. and I am still half done with my homework). It may sound pretty obvious, but believe me it’s hard. Though prior my MBA I had senior managerial position and was responsible for multi-functional activities, somehow it doesn’t work here.

  • You need to do at least preliminary research about industry you wanna walk in after the school. Opportunities and consequently number of activities associated with them are almost endless here, but as it’s mentioned in the second bullet – you only have 24 hours per day. Milk round (i.e job hunting season) starts in January and it is only 4 months since you began your studies. And if in previous life you are sometimes used to calm yourself with the fact that you are one of the brightest people to select from, here it will not work – you will compete with the very talented and diverse students. So, try to select max. 2 major areas you are interested in. The useful resources are: Vault and Wetfeet , which both have excellent industry guides as well as interview guides for consulting and finance. The book What Color Is Your Parachute?: A Practical Guide for Job-Hunters and Career Changers will help you to have systematic approach to your job hunt, it will also help you not to lose the sense of humor.
  • And finally, as you probably know investment banking and consulting are differentiated from other industries not only by the nature of the job but also by a very specific interview process. So, if your interests lay in one of those fields a little preparation will not harmJ. The book Case in Point: Complete Case Interview Preparation will give your good understanding about case interview process for consulting and the book Heard on the Street: Quantitative Questions from Wall Street Job Interviewswill familiarize you with the problems you might expect to encounter at the banking interview.
  • No personal part today - I'm half asleep already, so sweat dreams boys and girls.