I’ve chosen!

Good news everyone. I’ve chosen where I want to study for my part time MBA!

I’m going for part time MBA at Manchester.

Here are my reasons:

Price; it’s good value for money. And I feel happy to pay it.
Flexible; it’s highly flexible. I can still do my international work and undertake an MBA. As long as I have an internet connection I can take the class room with me. Plus I get to choose three electives. Bonus.
Time off work is about right. I go to campus three times a year. I think that is a level that work would allow and give me the time off.
International component; I can take courses at different overseas locations including Miami! Guess where I’m going for my next holiday!
Time: the taught element is 18 months long. The second component is a project for 6 months. So not too long, they’ve cut down the duration of the course and increased the number of trips to manchester.

But even with this amazing list, I going to have to think carefully on how to manage the downsides;
Less contact with fellow students.
Less careers support
Less face- face time with lecturers.

Suggestions include:
Make effort to socialise with students who live in London and the surrounding area. Maybe a quarterly meet up. Does anyone know of any?

Make most of other networking opportunities I have through work. And if there any external networks I can join. Who says you should only network with classmates and alumni of the school you attend?

For careers it might be worthwhile to make more of an effort to build relationships with the careers advisors and see what extra informal support I can receive. Though I suspect I may need to use some of the money saved from attending Manchester on careers coaching. But we will see.

what next
Well, I had a brief thought of applying now and starting in July when I got an email saying fees will be increasing for January. But I checked my diary, I have plans. Namely stay sane leading the latest work project and go on holiday and watch loads of sport at the commonwealth games. So a January start it is.


nominee for Best MBA blog of 2013-14

Wow!  look, I’ve been nominated for a blogging award. (In the best way…I found out after reading MBA the non-profit way’s blog.)

What a Year! I started this blog to prove to myself I could write, as I had started to believe my bosses who said I couldn’t.    One year later, 80 posts, and a readership beyond my friends and family.  Amazing, people want to read what I write.
Thank to you everyone for dropping by and reading my blog whether it was that one post reviewing the Economist prep software or as a regular reader.
To win…the readers need to vote for their three favourites.  Of course, I would love you to vote for me. 🙂
To vote follow this link. Voting closes on the 28th May.
Fellow nominees
I read all the nominees blogs…..so hard to pick a favourite.
Timbob ; Fellow Londoner who got into HBS.
MBAMyWay; is willing to combine here love of animal and welfare with business. Go girl!
CoffeeBeansandTeaLeaves; Is like me struggled with the GMAT but still willing to beat the odds.
Two Years at HBS; Successful HBS applicant who gives the low-down on what its really like to study at HBS.
Domotron; loves Tuck, loves movies (always interesting movie/tv clips with his posts.
MBA Over 30; studying at Wharton, plays rugby.
Boots to Suits;  posted his admission story in funny detail.
 MBAGirlJourney  posted thoughtful blogs and resources….which I have used or considered.
Good luck everyone and thank you for sharing your stories.

Cass business school

I begrudgingly went along to Cass’s open day on Saturday.  I had a really good feeling when I left the open day…but it rapidly changed as I started to write the blog post.  Here’s how my thoughts changed.

Initial thoughts before I wrote this blog post
I really liked it. It would be Easy to  get to Cass from both home and work. It has an excellent vibe and great facilities. I would get to play with both Bloomberg and Reuters and get trained up on both. Excellent! It is really easy to access campus when I would need/ want to and I think I’ve underestimated the benefit that is.

What really sold it was the people who attended the open day. They were bright, friendly and people similar to me. Much preferred this cohort to Cranfield.

Admittedly it wasn’t the most slick operation I’ve ever seen. They will definitely need to work on that aspect before they jump to the big leagues. Here the stuff that bugged me:

  • No contact number for the day. Couldn’t let anyone know I was running late.
  • No tea or coffee mugs at break time. Not even plastic cups for the water fountain;
  • The mess from 2 hours early hadn’t been tided up. Bad!
  • And the sandwich selection at lunch was miserly, though I will give them points for providing wine and beer!

Lack of slickness even went to the lectures. The marketing lecture used an example from t-mobile marketing campaign but was unable to answer the question of what impact it had. Said it was commercially sensitive information. Well that what case studies are for…..you gain access to the information and write it up and then present it. Why present half the story? (Ok, as I’m writing this I’m liking  Cass less. Seems a bit half assed. Like I said, it needs to be slicker for the big leagues.)

But now having moaned about the lectures. What about the good stuff. The lectures were engaging, had good class debate and a good class atmosphere. I learnt!

They also focus on careers and for the part-time MBA that is mostly done at the weekend. Which means you can get good access, but potentially  the MBA will consume your life.

But oddly enough I struggled with the finance class; why, because it wasn’t technical enough. The lecturer explained complex issues in a very easily understood way. However as soon as he added the technical aspects he didn’t fully explain it. That annoyed me! I know this technical stuff. For instance he talked about the central limit theorem…the idea that a population tends to the mean…but this key  principle only works if the sample size is big enough! He used that fact in the example by having a hundred observations the minimum needed to make the theory work.) but didn’t explain this fact to the class. Yes, I know it was an introductory class, but if you use the theory, you should also be able to explain when it can be used. (Now, my masters in economics has paid off with this rant alone.)

Thoughts after I wrote blog post
Good MBA course, but not ready for the big leagues….bit half assed! Could do with making better case studies and engaging more with industry. This would mean not only hiring academics, but also academics that work with firms. Didn’t get the feel they engaged much with industry.

Think Cass is a would be a good comprise MBA but I think it shows in the finer details. Cass has great students, excellent location, it really needs to work on the small stuff to really shine. However I’m not certain they really recognise that aspect. They are spending money on getting bigger hitters in terms of lecturers. But I wonder how much effort they are putting into the softer aspects that make a big difference. I’m not convinced its worth the £42,000 fees.


I’m feeling dizzy…

I’m feeling a bit dizzy! Every time I think I know what I’m going to do, I find something and go what about this?

The latest one is EDHEC, after speaking to this nice French business school, yes it helped the admissions person was Scottish. Not only am I tempted to apply for a full time programme but also resist the GMAT. And then if I resit the GMAT, HEC ( the other French business school I was considering is now back on the table!)

See, I’m getting dizzy from all these options.

But I think calm has been restored, mainly through my experience of studying for the CISI certifcate in corporate finance.

After my head aching from a 1.5 day training course on the financial regulation I think I’ve realised that Cranfield course might not be for me.  If it’s really 2.5 days of non stop lectures, by brain is going to burst.  I just don’t think I can handle it. I would rather control the pace of my studying more, and I think that means Manchester.  Plus, I think work will be a bit more supportive.

cranfield MBA

I was never that interest in Cranfield MBA until I went to a121 event. At the event I heard about the schools focus on leadership and personal development, not just theory. After that I was keen to hear more.

I went along to their open day in Sunny Bedfordshire to check out the reality. Overall I was really impressed.

The full times course director lead the day, which was amazing. We got taught how to read a case study and get the most of it. We were also treated to a lecture in change management. For me it ticks the boxes

They teach via case method, using papers from a variety of schools
They enable equal access to careers development for both full time and part time MBA.
They help you be a better leader, and know how to apply what you learnt.

I have a couple of unanswered questions, but they may be application killers:
Who would I study with? I think the Manchester part-time MBA cohort is more similar to me, in terms of age and experience.
How often is the part-time option? I thought I had to attend campus one weekend was a month, but I heard at the open day I needed to attend campus twice a month and there are six one week blocks. Just not sure how doable that is for me.

So before I put in any applications I’ve signed up to Cass Business school open day and I need to take another look at Manchester.

Yes I’m having a goldlocks moment with MBA schools.

GMAT prep: useful materials

In an effort to engage with social media here a link to the Pinterest board which shows the materials I found useful studying for the GMAT.

Happy Easter.

What do I really really want?

One discussion panel later on the future of business education at Chicago Booth’s London campus I feel the need to reflect and challenge myself with three questions that were posed during the event.
1. Do I really, really need a MBA?
2. Is a professional qualification better eg CFA, or maybe even an accounting qualification?
3. What do you want from a MBA? Is it all about buying a network?

Do I really, really need a MBA
Excellent question. The speaker at the event seemed to assume that if you have a good undergrad that all you need. I would say at 24 that might be true. Now for me it’s not. I have two option go deeper into my expertise or go for more breadth. Deeper in my world is a MSc in data analytics or something of that ilk. But I left that world behind for a Reason, I’ve chosen to go broader.

But broader has left me with a problem in the external job market. Lack of specialised skill to sell or particular sector expertise market. So if I want to move in the job market I need to do something else. MBA seems like a good answer.

Is a professional qualification better 
This time last month I would have said I had all the professional qualifications I needed. This month the office has signed me up to do an industry recognised qualification in corporate finance. Yes, I know work for the public sector. But this what happens when you not only move teams you get new directors! So I’m getting an industry qualification but a MBA will compliment it, not replace it. Getting the industry qualification may even help me get into a MBA programme.
But there was a good case made by the CFA  (Chartered Financial Analyst) rep at the event if you want to move industry it might be better to sit an industry exam of the field you want to move to. And it’s probably cheaper!

What do you want from a MBA

Thankfully, after going to the states I have much better idea about this one! So let’s see. I want to learn new skills and change career. But I also want to be challenged by my contemporaries both in and out of class. It not about buying a network; I can do that cheaper in other ways. I want case study method that allows me to apply the theory to practice and think about the wider issues. But I want the cases to be written by the University and fairly new and have an international dimension.

But one issue, if you had to ask where would I rather be: sitting in the class or teaching the MBA class; I would choose teaching it.

Random thoughts on the states

So after three weeks in the States here are my random reflections and comments.

While it maybe the land of the car; the roads are awful. Not even the interstates were well maintained. However the states has an odd policy called Adopt a Highway. So bits of highway have been adopted by the various local organisations including the Scouts, TGI Friday and the Fire Department. Without fail, these stretches of road were well maintained and not a pot hole in sight.


Nutters. Some states were crazier than others. You could in general overtake and undertake. In Maryland the speed limit was more of a suggested minimum speed. Not even the police obeyed obeyed the rules; we saw them speed and undertake. As a Brits we thought the worst offence was undertaking and then secondly lane hogging, forcing people to undertake. By the end of the trip both me and my friend were undertaking and speeding like a native.

Places to stay

    In three weeks of road tripping we used lots of hotel brands and stayed in the basic to the posh. We were happy if it promised and delivered. No breakfast included fine. We weren’t happy when the included breakfast was an apple and a cup of coffee. We thought our expensive historic inn was over priced. They couldn’t do afternoon tea to save themselves. Seriously if your going to offer it do it properly. Tea pot per a person and put the tea bag in the pot. Breakfast waffles were boring. The Quality Inn’s waffles were much better. While the Red Inn was a basic motel it delivered. I was slightly annoyed by being woken up by odd noises next door. But it was simple and good. We done a mix of booking in advance and walk-ups. One time McDonald’s wifi saved us; we were at risk of spending the night in the car, as we couldn’t even see the signs for the motels that we knew should exist. Thanks to our new found internet connection we were able to find a place to stay.

We alway got great recommendations from the locals. We tried oysters for the first time in a wee fish restaurant in Maryland. We tried the famous chicken and waffle place in Durham. It does work. We thought it was great more for the concept rather than the food. But it’s definitely be something I will make when I get home. I also learnt how to eat McDonald’s whilst driving. My friend was amazing pretty every time we had room for dessert we got it on the house. 🙂

Fuqua business school: amazing

My expectations were exceeded by Duke and Fuqua. After seeing Fuqua and its great community ethos I am tempted to reapply. I would highly recommend the school to anyone who is thinking of applying to do an MBA.

The campus
Duke is a beautiful campus and the business school is on it; enabling you to get the full Duke experience. However the business school building is built in such a way that means you never need to leave it. Not sure I like that type of experience. You are literally in a goldfish bowl. I think almost every business school tries to offer a similar experience. When I go yuck; I have to remind myself that due to the course load on my masters all my friends were on the same course as me. And having your lectures, seminars and canteen in one building does make life easier and help build community spirit.

I went to a marketing lecture; I agree with my finance student tour guide. Marketing is just a bit fluffy, not sure I care that much about the subject.

On the upside, the class had a good positive vibe a about and a good level of energy. The students made a point of talking to us. Fantastic! And we even got introduced to the lecturer and the alumni who was the guest speaker also took the time to speak to us. Duke community ethos was alive and well! Lecturer managed the class well and encouraged participation and class discussion. The female students actively engaged in the discussion and were willing to speak up, even when not a 100 per cent sure. Just a nicer environment than HBS.
Me and my friend had a great discussion in the pub exploring the dynamics of the class and how it compared to HBS. I personally preferred the HBS way as it got straight down to business and dived into the case study and all the issues. While Duke was a fluffy and spent longer on the intro and the context. I would have liked to get down to business a bit quicker and I thought the pace of the class could have been quicker.

Case study material
Duke used HBS case studies. The lecturer moaned about the content and the students moaned about the fact that they can only get them on paper. If you don’t like HBS case notes why use them? Your a big enough school to make your own. I want to find out about Duke’s view of the world, not Harvard’s. So here my challenge to Fuqua, make your own case studies and sell them. Give HBS a bit of competition.

Underwhelmed by Boston

I give Boston a four out of ten.  I was surprisingly underwhelmed.  Harvard and by default Boston is someplace I’ve wanted to live since I was 21.  Overall, I wasn’t convinced that this was the place I would want to study or live. The reality does not live up to the hype.

Caveat: In an effort to be fair to Boston my friend rated it as seven out of ten; but wouldn’t live there.

Boston in general

The people were amazing, friendly and chatty. We had a great time chatting to the locals. But Boston look wise wasn’t very inspiring. My camera hardly came out! I think, I have ten picture of Boston and four of them are the Duck and dDckling sculpture in Boston Commons.

The underground thing; well it is odd.  The Green line which I rode on most days is not a train, a tram or a tube.  I’m not even convinced it is trolley.  But it does squeak, a lot! No one heard of WD40?  Now the Red line out to Harvard, that is a train!

The Freedom trail; it’s follow the red line to lots of places that don’t exist.  Highlights I got to see Mother Goose’s grave and we accidentally came across Mike’s (the place where you obviously have to buy cakes.) honestly the trail needs a bit more work.

There not a lot happening in Boston.  There was lots of sport, but little else to do.  Though King’s Bowling was very good!


Harvard Business School

The highlight of the trip was a bit of a let down.  HBS is over the river from the main college; and stuck in the middle of nowhere.  The campus has some pretty bits and some 1970’s special concentrate buildings.

I sat in on a first year finance class.  The section gave us guests a very loud round of applause; and then I managed to leave without saying a word to anyone.  After the terrific support I got from HBS students when I was researching HBS, I was expecting better.  However if they have guests in every class; I do get the point that they get a bit tired after a while; and don’t really need to see the reason to engage.

The female participation of the class was very low.  The girls generally spoke if directly asked by the professor and generally didn’t volunteer.  Large tracks of the conversation as dominated by four blokes (I suspect they were the section’s usual suspects.) I was surprised.  Seriously girls; speak up! (See the NY time article for more background.)

The discussion wasn’t that engaging or dynamic. (Though my accountant friend said the lecture on WACC was a lot more interesting at HBS than what she had when learning about it for her ACCA qualification.) The professor was engaged, knew the students and knew the case and the issues very well.

Oh! I almost forgot to mention; The case study method.  It worked!  I learnt about WACC and how to apply it; and how would I use to inform a business decision that was actually made.  Stopped the subject from being dry and put it a real world context.

On a side note; almost all students had laptops or tablets in the class.  Most students had apple air notebooks. One or two had the black ugly IBM laptops and one or two enterprising ones had the Microsoft surface pro.  They got the benefit of having excel and a tablet.


After the class chat we went to Cambridge’s famous burger place.  It had burgers like the fiscal cliff, bill Clinton, Obama healthcare.  Burgers were good.  But neither me nor my friend could see why the sweet potato chips or onion rings had won prizes.  Just not that good!

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