Saturday, June 29, 2013

Hitotsubashi ICS MBA Program to Host Open Campus Event on July 11, 2013 in Tokyo

Hitotsubashi ICS, a Tokyo-based MBA program, will be hosting an Open Campus event on Thursday July 11, 2013.  Details can be found here. This is a great chance to learn about this program - which in my (biased) opinion is the best MBA you'll find in Japan.

John Couke

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Wharton Releases Application Essays for 2013-14 MBA Admissions Season

The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania has released their admissions essays for those aiming to join their popular MBA program starting in the fall of 2014.

Required Essays:
1. What do you aspire to achieve, personally and professionally, through the Wharton MBA? (500 words)
2. Academic engagement is an important element of the Wharton MBA experience. How do you see yourself contributing to our learning community? (500 words)

Optional Essay:
If you feel there are extenuating circumstances of which the Committee should be aware, please explain them here (e.g., unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, or questionable academic performance, significant weaknesses in our application). (250 words)

As always, do confirm this information (as well as other information such as the additional question for reapplicants) at the Wharton admissions website.

John Couke

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

MBA Essay Writing Tips

Here are 10 things to keep in mind as you begin the process of developing your MBA essays.

1. Make a plan before you start writing

Goals essays need careful consideration before you begin typing because of the linkage that needs to be present between sections.  An essay that asks for (1) your background or introduction, (2) why MBA, (3) your career goals and (4) why you like their program is asking for four sections that require close linkage between them. Planning this linkage in advance will, for instance, help you to clearly understand which elements of your background should be included, or what parts of their MBA you may emphasize to show the best fit. Leadership teamwork, failure and other such essays require a different approach.  First, what episode will you share?  Next, what parts need to be included, and in what order?  You should consider these things before you start writing.  

2. Always be specific (give an example here that uses the word various in the negative example) and tell a good story

If you haven't done so already, remove the word "various" from your vocabulary for the entirety of the application season, because this word is not useful in your resume, essays or interview.  Instead of writing about the various things you aim to do in the future, show you have thought through the topic by detailing those future challenges in detail. Clear goals makes it easier to figure out clear reasons for an MBA, which will help you when you need to give clear examples of why a school's MBA is a good place for you to study.

In terms of the story essays (leadership, teamwork etc) one of the easiest ways to judge whether it is effective or not is to simply asking someone if the story is interesting. A story about your leadership or teamwork experience should, at the most basic level, be interesting.  If it isn't it is boring to read and the reader isn't likely to be interested in meeting you or getting to know you better.  

3. Use "I" - talk about yourself as your essays are about you

Don't make the mistake of over-emphasizing your company, department, division or team. It is important that you be able to write about yourself.  If your accomplishments tend to be team-based, think hard about the specific contributions you have made to those teams.  It is in writing about these details that you own strengths, skills and even personality can be revealed. 

4. Try to show what is good, special or unique about you

At the end of the day, your essay is an advertisement of whatever it is that sets you apart from other and makes you an interesting person. Doing so will help you convince a schools admissions team that you are worth meeting in person, and that you can contribute to your classmates.  The function of every essay you write, no matter the topic, is to reveal something about you. Never forget that an essay is a part of an application to a business school. This is an essay to convince someone you belong in their business school (not an entry to a creative writing contest) this means you should be showing your strengths, your need for an MBA, and the transferable skills you can use in the MBA or in your future.

5. Extracurricular activities can often make for better topics than work-related stories

This is because what you choose to do in your free time says a lot more about you and what you are interested in that the projects you are involved in at work.  This does not mean that you should avoid professional topics and only choose personal ones!  Instead, for most a balanced approach, combining professional and personal topics in the essays will work best.

6. Don't pay too much attention to the length of the first draft

An essay may need to eventually be 500 words, 400 or even 200 words - but don't let this affect your work on initial drafts.  Don't write 200 pages - i.e. be focused - but at the same time, emphasize in initial drafts getting all the part of the story across.  Choosing what is most necessary and what can be omitted comes later.

7. Be honest

Anyone who tells you that in order "to get into XYZ Business School" you must write about "ABC" might not judge your own stories fairly.  When answering essay questions, use your own experiences, development, and interests, rather than trying to craft yourself into something you are not.  So - don't say that you are committed to environmental issues unless you have a great example of activity that shows this commitment clearly!  Anything other than this and you are running the risk of not sounding believable.  

8. Answer all parts of the question

As you work on goals essays, you'll notice that many schools ask for essentially the same thing, but with minor difference between each.  Example:

School A - Describe your career background and goals and how taking an MBA program will help you achieve your goals. 
School B - Describe your career background and goals and how taking our MBA program now will help you achieve your goals.

Notice how school A is asking "why MBA?" while School B is instead asking "why our MBA?" and also "why now?".  In both cases it would make sense to offer detail as to how the particular school is best suited to you - but the key here is to make sure you don't skip parts.  Submitting a version of the essay you have written for School A to School B, for instance, would be risky as the readers at School B might notice that you neglected to answer certain parts of the question.

9. Don't let someone edit your essay until your voice is gone.

Your writing should be reflective of you, not someone else. Heavy-handed editing that changes the style, structure or event content of your essays isn't a good idea.  So don't let someone do this!  But..

10. Get the opinion of others who will be honest and (preferably) have experience in admissions and know what they're doing.

It is important to get the advice of others in order to be able to make a compelling and competitive application for b-school. There are any reasons why, but the main one to consider is that as both the writer and the subject matter, you (i.e. the applicant) are too close to the material.  Can you look at your essays and objectively see whether or not they are impactful or interesting? Probably not. That's where a second opinion makes sense.  Be sure to choose that person carefully!

John Couke

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Cornell Johnson deadlines for 2013-14 Application Season

Cornell Johnson has released their deadlines for those aiming to apply for a seat in their MBA program stating in the fall of 2014.

Round 1 -
Deadline: 10/2/2013
Decision: 12/11/2013

Round 2 -
Deadline: 12/4/2013
Decision: 2/5/2014

Round 3 -
Deadline: 2/12/2014
Decision: 3/26/2014

This information was released via a recent posting to their admissions blog.  Do check directly with the Cornell Johnson admissions website to confirm all information.

John Couke

Duke Fuqua Deadlines for 2013-14 Application Season

Duke Fuqua has announced the deadlines for applying to their MBA program starting in the fall of 2014.

Early Action -
Deadline: 9/18/2013
Interview Invitation Sent by: 10/8/2013
Decision: 10/30/2013

Round 1 -
Deadline: 10/21/2013
Interview Invitation Sent by: 11/20/2013
Decision: 12/20/2013

Round 2 -
Deadline: 1/6/2014
Interview Invitation Sent by: 2/6/2014
Decision: 3/13/2014

Round 3 -
Deadline: 3/20/2014
Interview Invitation Sent by: 4/9/2014
Decision: 5/9/2014

As always, do confirm this information at the Duke website.

John Couke

Friday, June 21, 2013

Yale SOM no longer requires the TOEFL, publishes essay prompts, promises video questions

The Yale SOM announced via a recent blog post that they will no longer require the TOEFL, or any test of English for that matter.

In a highly related follow-up post, they revealed their 2 essay prompts for this year, as well as the fact that applicants will also be required to answer video-based questions too.


Essay 1: What motivates your decision to pursue an MBA? (300 words maximum)

Essay 2: The Yale School of Management provides leadership education for broad-minded, rigorous, and intellectually curious students with diverse backgrounds; a distinctive integrated curriculum; connections to one of the great research universities in the world; and the broad reach of an innovative and expanding global network of top business schools.

What motivates you to apply to the Yale School of Management for your MBA? What will you contribute to Yale and Yale SOM? (450 words maximum)

The essays can be verified here. In addition to these traditional essays, Yale SOM plans to roll out video-based questions later in the year. I have already posted the SOM application deadlines here.  More on these changes soon!

John Couke

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Yale SOM Deadlines for the 2013-14 Application Season

The Yale School of Management has posted the deadlines for those applying to their MBA program beginning in the fall of 2014.

Round 1 - 
Deadline: 9/25/2013
Decision: 12/9/2013

Round 2 - 
Deadline: 1/9/2014
Decision: 4/4/2014

Round 3 - 
Deadline: 4/24/2014
Decision: 5/22/2014

Please confirm these deadlines at the Yale SOM official website.

John Couke

UVA Darden Admissions Essay for the 2013-14 Application Season

The Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia has released their essay prompt for applications aiming to start their MBA program in the fall of 2014. Here it is:

Share your thought process are you encountered a challenging work situation or complex problem. What did you learn about yourself? (500 words maximum)

Their essay requirement can be confirmed at their admissions website.

(Note: in past years the school has included additional short-answer essays in their application that allow applicants to provide more information about themselves. I recommend you review these short answer questions - if they are in fact provided again this application cycle - and combine your approach to them with the approach you take to this essay question, in order to ensure balance across all of your answers.  I'll post more about this later in the season if I have the time).

John Couke

UNC Kenan-Flagler Deadlines and Essays for 2013-14 Admissions Season

UNC Kenan-Flagler has released their deadlines and essay topics for those aiming to enter their MBA programs starting in the fall of 2014.


Round 1 (Early Action) -
Deadline: 10/18/2013
Interview Completed by: 12/2/2013
Decision: 12/13/2013

Round 2 - 
Deadline: 12/9/2013
Interview Completed by: 1/24/2014
Decision: 2/3/2014

Round 3 - 
Deadline: 1/13/2014
Interview Completed by: 3/10/2014
Decision: 3/17/2014

Round 4 - 
Deadline: 3/14/2014
Interview Completed by: 4/11/2014
Decision: 4/28/2014

You can (and should) verify this information here.


UNC's essay prompts and other related admissions information can be found at their admissions website.

Essay One (required):
What are the 2 or 3 strengths or characteristics that have driven your career success thus far? What are the other strengths that you would like to leverage in the future? (500 words maximum)

Essay Two (required):
Please describe your short and long term goals post-MBA. Explain how: your professional experience has shaped these goals; why this career option appeals to you; and how you arrived at the decision that now is the time and the MBA is the appropriate degree. (500 words maximum)

Essay Three (required):
What personal qualities or life experiences distinguish you from other applicants? How do these qualities or experiences equip you to contribute to UNC Kenan-Flagler? (500 words maximum)

Essay Four (optional):
If your standardized test scores are low, or if you have not had coursework in core business subjects (calculus, microeconomics, statistics, financial accounting), please tell us how you plan to prepare yourself for the quantitative rigor of the MBA curriculum. (300 words maximum)

Essay Five (optional):
Is there any other information you would like to share that is not presented elsewhere in the application?
(300 words maximum)

John Couke

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

NYU Stern Deadlines and Essays Topics for the 2013-14 Admissions Season

NYU Stern has released their deadlines and essay topics for those aiming to join their MBA program starting in the fall of 2014.

Here are the application deadlines:

Round 1
deadline: 10/15/2013
initial notification: 12/15/2013

Round 2
deadline: 11/15/2013
initial notification: 2/15/2014

Round 3
deadline: 1/15/2014
initial notification: 4/1/2014

Round 4
deadline: 3/15/2014
initial notification: 6/1/2014

Initial notification means a notice that you've been offered an interview, waitlisted or rejected.  Here is the deadline page at NYU Stern's official admissions website.

Essays (Please note that all formatting guidelines for essays and other submissions are available at the NYU Stern admissions website.)

Essay 1:  Professional Aspirations
(750 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font)

Why pursue an MBA (or dual degree) at this point in your life? What actions have you taken to determine that Stern is the best fit for your MBA experience? What do you see yourself doing professionally upon graduation?

Essay 2: Choose Option A or Option B

Option A: Your Two Paths
(500 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font)

The mission of the Stern School of Business is to develop people and ideas that transform the challenges of the 21st century into opportunities to create value for business and society. Given today’s ever-changing global landscape, Stern seeks and develops leaders who thrive in ambiguity, embrace a broad perspective and think creatively about the range of ways they can have impact. 

Describe two different and distinct paths you could see your career taking long term. How do you see your two paths unfolding? How do your paths tie to the mission of NYU Stern? What factors will most determine which path you will take?

Option B: Personal Expression
Please describe yourself to your MBA classmates. You may use almost any method to convey your message (e.g. words, illustrations). Feel free to be creative.
If you submit a non-written piece for this essay (i.e., artwork or multimedia) or if you submit this essay via mail, please upload a brief description of your submission with your online application.

Essay 3. Additional Information (optional)
Please provide any additional information that you would like to bring to the attention of the Admissions Committee. This may include current or past gaps in employment, further explanation of your undergraduate record or self-reported academic transcript(s), plans to retake the GMAT, GRE and/or TOEFL or any other relevant information.

If you are unable to submit a recommendation from your current supervisor, you must explain your reason.

If you are a re-applicant from last year, please explain how your candidacy has improved since your last application.

John Couke

Dartmouth/Tuck Deadlines for 2013-14 Admissions Season

Here are the Dartmouth/Tuck deadlines for applying to the MBA class starting in the fall of 2014:

Early Action -
Application Due: 10/9/2013
Interview Completed By: 11/1/2013
Decision: 12/18/2013

November Round - 
Application Due: 11/6/2013
Interview Completed By: 11/6/2013
Decision: 2/7/2014

January Round - 
Application Due: 1/3/2014
Interview Completed By: 1/31/2014
Decision: 3/14/2014

April Round - 
Application Due: 4/2/2014
Interview Completed By: 4/2/2014
Decision: 5/16/2014

As always, please confirm this and other such information directly with the school via their admissions website.

John Couke

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Brainstorming Contents for the Additional Section of the Resume

(This posting is intended primarily for MBA applicants looking to add interesting contents to the additional section of the resume they'll use in their admissions package, although it should be of general interest to a range of applicants to other programs, as well as those interested in building their resume in general. I've reposted it because a lot of MBA applicants are - or should shortly - begin building their resume for their application.)

I live in Japan, where in some cases people place a stronger emphasis on their career and the company they work for, at the expense of developing strong extra-curricular activities. The work-life balance suffers as a result, and when it comes to the MBA application process, often this means a lot of people with great professional activities, but not a lot to show for outside of work.  This can be a disadvantage.

Why is it important to show extra-curricular activities in your MBA application?

There are many reasons.  One is that this is an effective way to tell a little bit about what you value or find important. After all, if you didn't like the activity or feel you could benefit from it in some way, you wouldn't do it. So your choices here say something about you.

Another reason is that your job, colleagues, clients, responsibilities and accomplishments gained at work won't come with you to b-school.  You'll instead go yourself. And who is this person? Well, once you strip away the career, and everything related to it, what is left over? That is you - at least the non-professional you - and this should be defined at least in some way in your MBA applications.

The final thing to keep in mind is that an imbalanced application - full of work stuff but offering no insight beyond work - can leave you at a serious disadvantage.  No matter how successful you have been, someone else also applying may have achieved the same pinnacle of success, but with interesting extra-curricular activities. This doesn't mean you shouldn't apply - it might not even be true - but it should motivate you to at least consider what activities you can mention. 

What should I do?

From my experience, the longer the list of extra-curricular examples you put in front of someone, the better the chances they'll find something they do outside of work is worthy of inclusion in the additional section of their resume, or in an application essay.  Let's make that list now, and then we can come up with some parameters for evaluating each possible item in order to choose only the strongest and most interesting contents.

The List

1. Volunteer Work

This is ideal if you have such experience.  Two varieties to consider when brainstorming:

a) standard, roll-up-the-sleeves volunteer work
b) volunteer work done through your company

I am mentioning point b) here because many people just consider it work.  But if you have done volunteer work that was organized by your company, it is still volunteer work! So it can be listed.

Note: it is best to avoid listing experiences where all you are doing is contributing money.  

2. Sports

a) team sports can show teamwork

Teamwork is a valuable skill that you will utilize repeatedly in your MBA program.  This is the value in emphasizing your participation in a weekly pick-up basketball game each weekend. Soccer, futsal, baseball - participation in any of these things shows - or at least hints - at the presence of someone who works well in a team. Take the activity to another level if you can - maybe you started-up these pick-up games, and now a lot of people attend regularly, or maybe you are the captain.

b) individual sports or athletic exercise are ok too (like running)

Devotion to a higher goal can also make for an appealing story, even if you are the only one involved. If you run regularly to train for marathons or triathlons, this can be emphasized too.  If applicable, list off the marathons you finished - whether you were in first or last doesn't matter. 

3. Music

If you take clarinet lessons at a school, put it in your resume.  It may not show an accomplishment (although if you have ever performed in front of an audience then you've got one) but it does show an interest that could become an interesting talking point (Why did you decide to start to do this? What is it that you like about playing this instrument?)

4. Cultural Activities

There are numerous examples of things that can count as "cultural activities". The obvious ones include holding black belts in judo or karate, or studying tea ceremony or flower arrangement. Many people here in Japan have such experiences, but don't immediately think of them when putting together their resume.  hence the value of carefully taking stock of your experiences as you draft your resume. These experience can add color to your resume, and so can be included.  

Beyond the few example listed above, there are many other things that can count as cultural activities, such as helping out in your local community summer matsuri (festival). What seems like normal life to you may be interesting or unique to others.

5. International Experience

This can be broken into two sections: living abroad, and traveling abroad.

a) Living abroad. If you have lived abroad, this is worth mentioning in the additional section of the resume. Unless of course it is because of your own working experience or university / post-university educational experience, and then in that case you do not need to mention it in the additional section because it will be in the professional experience or education section.

Note however that those with such overseas experience may have also afforded themselves the time to get involved in extra-curricular or extra-employment activities, and those from working experience can go in the additional section if there is little else to put there. I usually recommend people to include extra-curricular activities earned at school to include them in the same section of the education section that describes those experiences.  

b) Traveling abroad. This can work if it involved some degree of time, like studying English in Australia for two months at an English school. In this case you would not put it ion the education section (because you did not earn a degree from the studies) but you can certainly list it in the additional section. This can also work if you have been to a lot of places.  I've met people that have traveled through 30-40 countries, which is more than most. This kind of experience certainly shows dedication to international travel directly, and may also show some degree of cultural awareness, at least indirectly.

6. Memberships in Associations or Organizations

Especially good if you actually contribute something towards their organizations.  Nonetheless, make a list and when necessary or not entirely understandable, describe the nature of the organization or association to which you belong.

7. Certifications

This is for those who hold some kind of engineering or securities license, or the ability to sell real estate, or something else which allows you to do something.  

8. Academic Publications, Patents, and Presentations

The first word here demonstrates pretty clearly what you're demonstrating: academic experience and ability. This is less important for an MBA application than you may think (separate tests are administered to test these things, and besides you've also got a neat and tidy GPA to summarize all 4 years) but if the content is impressive and (importunely) something you are passionate about talking about, then it may be worthy for inclusion - especially if you have little else to draw upon.

9. Awards

If you have won anything, put it in. Be clear about what you won, when you won it, and the selection criteria.  

10. Fluency in a Third or Fourth Language

This is especially true if the application doesn't ask (though honestly most typically do).  It's not necessary to note in an MBA resume that you speak English, or your native Japanese.  But if you've got a third language ability there that is more than just conversational, and the application doesn't call for this detail, consider it as additional section content.

11. Hobbies

I have intentionally placed this low on the list. For many, their "hobbies" will have already appeared above, as in sports or music.  But beyond this, don't underestimate the value of exploring deeply your hobbies.  Maybe you took a ceramics class with your wife recently - and made stuff you use in your home.  Maybe you then took another lesson, and made more stuff.  This isn't ideal content - but for those with no content, it is content. So keep going to ceramics class, and put it on your resume.

12. Academic Interests

Be careful here, because writing about "reading books" is far from ideal. But, if in your spare time, you have become something of an expert in 14th century Japanese history, then this could be worthy of inclusion, especially if you can discuss the topic coherently and having something worthwhile to say. If, on the other hand, this interest has made you active in some type of group where people gather to study such things, I'd think it better for you to mention membership in this group instead, as that demonstrates more practice building people skills than reading can.

13. Sponsorship

If you have nothing to put in your additional section, and are company-sponsored for your MBA, then this can go in the additional section. I usually recommend it be placed elsewhere, but it is certainly flexible enough in nature to go here too.

Qualifiers to Determine Which Items are Best

Now that you have been able to come up with a long list of possible items, you'll probably recognize pretty quickly that some items have more potential than others. How to ultimately choose? Put each idea you generated to the test using the following 5 criteria. 

a) Is it interesting? This is pretty straight forward I think. Can it be used to add color to an interview? If so great. 

b) Is it active or passive? Doing something is always going to be better than getting something, all other things being equal.  Volunteering time to accomplish something looks better than receiving recognition for donating money, for instance.

c) How committed are you to the activity? It should be something you have devoted time to.  One game of basketball isn't enough to merit inclusion in your resume.  However, if you have played twice per month for 1 year, then it is enough to put in the resume. Along the same lines, a dedicated interest in some activity that started yesterday might not seem very convincing either.

d) How recent is it? Taking saxophone lessons in 2009 will always be better than a local soccer participation award earned in 1994. The former is simply more telling about who you are today - while the latter is describing someone who has changed a lot since that time. Generally speaking, activities from high school and earlier should not be included in the resume for business school if at all possible.  (note: unless you are really young, but even so it had better be a major activity)

e) (for Japanese applicants to b-school in particular!)  International experience. If choosing between two extra-curricular activities, one that has something to do with interacting with foreign cultures might be best. So if you are stuck between describing your love of local onsens, which you've been to 6 times, and your love of climbing mountains in Nepal, which you've also done 6 times, I might recommend the Nepal experience.  Not only is it more international, but it is also more significant, and might also show you in an "active", rather than "passive" way as well. 

When in doubt, or when brainstorming, you should include everything. Later on you can cut out the things that aren't as good when trimming your resume down to one page.

John Couke

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Interview on London Business School Sloan Masters in Leadership and Strategy with Linden Selby, Senior Admissions Manager

Linden Selby is a Senior Admissions Manager at London Business School and was kind enough to answer my questions about the London Business School Sloan Masters in Leadership and Strategy Program. For further questions please email:


1. Some schools place a stronger emphasis than others on establishing relationships with applicants during the application stage. Where does LBS Sloan fit in here? Do you encourage people considering applying to reach out to your admissions staff and introduce themselves?

We encourage this early research, and offer CV reviews at an early stage. People whose career achievements and objectives are a good fit with Sloan and London Business School have the confidence to kickstart the application process. We take each candidate’s experience and objectives very seriously.  If we are not sure about this, we provide detailed feedback on alternative options, or how to plan for Sloan in the future. 

Many people find out about Sloan through their personal network – including alumni of 5, 10 and 20 years back, so it’s a good chance for us to make sure that each candidate is updated on the programme. And we love the engagement. 

2. How important is it to visit campus during the application process?

Not everyone can visit campus, so we are happy to have calls – and make sure candidates know about events in their region so they can get a taster of the LBS spirit without leaving home.  But, if you can get to London, the best time to do this is between January and July when you can integrate a class visit, meet the current Sloan Fellows and – if you apply in the January or May deadlines have your interview! 

3. Do you differentiate in any way between sponsored and non-sponsored applicants?

Our sponsor companies have robust selection processes, and select talented high performing managers who are at exactly the right point in their careers to contribute to the class, and return to add continued value in their organisations. We see them going on to senior strategic and often international roles – and celebrate their success.  Sponsored students complete the same application requirements. As they are chosen sometimes more than a year before the programme starts, we often have the chance to meet them.  

4. Your admissions website notes that "students generally have more than 12 years postgraduate work experience".  Is there a cut-off in terms of the number of years of experience? If not, what do students with less work experience need to show? 

We will review all applications, and the average experience is around 18 years. Typical Sloan Fellows will have achieved a position where they have depth and breadth of knowledge and be in a senior role with decision making responsibilities and often responsible for P&L. We do make exceptions – sometimes for people in Government roles, or professional roles where they will add unusual insights that would add value to the class experience. This is where the CV review can help as Sloan may be a good fit in 2-3 years’ time. 

The Experience

5. Is there anything in particular you recommend all admitted students study or learn prior to enrolling in the program? 

If you have time before the programme starts then Speed-reading is a useful skill! 

Seriously, sit down with your family and identify all the things you want to achieve in London, and share your vision of how the Sloan experience will be the first step towards achieving your future goals. If you are planning a change, start to refresh your networks, start early.  Read the business press more attentively, start to discuss some of the big issues, inspire yourself with great biographies.  All the pre-programme material you need will be provided before you start – and don’t read textbooks. Play golf, cook dinner with your kids, go on a road trip, do a weekend painting class, train for a marathon – enjoy all the things that you are passionate about, as your time will not be your own once the programme starts.

6. How do LBS Sloan Fellows interact with the larger LBS community?

The programme is designed to give Sloan Fellows real breadth of connection across the school learning community. Electives are taught across programmes, and Sloans are part of numerous clubs and societies from Acting to Private Equity. Some activities are designed specifically for our mid to senior career students, such as Career Panels and Executive Search company events. 

Sloan Fellows engage across the community, some will continue to support faculty research and continue the relationship after they have left LBS, some will return to lecture or provide practitioner insights at panels and in classes; others mentor and support less experienced students – such as the Masters in Management students who are new graduates. 

7. Could you identify and extrapolate on 1 or 2 key strengths of the curriculum of LBS Sloan?

Sloan prepares senior executives for global leadership positions, to effectively lead change and to set strategic direction that drives organisational performance. 
The Sloan curriculum is unified by three broad themes essential to leadership: 
1. Strategy – provides students with the tools to set the future direction of their organisation and lead organisational change. 
2. Leadership and change – inspires students to become effective leaders and influence others to help achieve goals. 
3. Global economy – students are provided with skills to analyse and understand major changes in the business world and benefit from global business opportunities. 
Prospective students also need to know that this is one of the most flexible programmes. You can do a full year and use the time for reflection and planning, or you can fast track and start to re-integrate with the workplace, using your new knowledge and skills in 6-7 months. 

8. There are some applicants who need to make the choice between LBS Sloan and a typical 1-year MBA in Europe. What to you would be a factor they should consider in order to help them differentiate between your program and a typical MBA?

Some potential applicants can only fund a one year MBA, but would like to do it at London Business School.  They should remember that our full time MBA can be completed in 15 months, and offers a fantastic additional value in internships, summer consulting projects and an unsurpassed choice of electives and international opportunities.  

Any applicant who requires an MBA qualification, or is anticipating a typical MBA career path should do an MBA. Sloan Fellows have additional experience, and will often have earned their MBA at an earlier career point. Sloan offers a focus on leadership, strategy and understanding the global economic environment. Courses such as Biography are designed for individuals with extensive career experience and achievement. For Sloan Fellows, this is about learning as much as the degree.

After Graduation

9. Given that you have a relatively senior group of students, can you tell us what percentage of your graduates change function after completing the program?

Sloans change function, and many change location. Some change industry, though that is often dependent on the economic situation. The % of Sloans in general management rises, and we see more in C-level roles. Most Sloan Fellows see significant change 2-3 years after graduation, or in their 2nd post graduation role.  And we are seeing our alumni at the 10 year point now taking up Board and Non-Executive Director level positions. Here's a link to the Sloan Masters Employment Report 2012

10. What kind of alumni activities or events occur that help students maintain connections? 

Alumni reunion events, at 3 and 5 year intervals keep connections vibrant, and many stay on for London Business School’s flagship conference – the Global Leadership Summit which is scheduled around it.  The World Alumni Celebration Day (WAC) has 90+ alumni clubs around the world holding events and parties; in Tokyo every November the Beaujolais Nouveau party, started by a 2001 Sloan, has passed into a well-loved tradition of more than 10 years vintage!  

Alumni in London can drop into their own dedicated centre and the Alumni Relations teams organise lectures and events with Faculty whenever they are traveling to different regions. LBS has a global reach, with programmes in Dubai, Hong Kong and New York. 

LBS Sloan vs the EMBA-Global Asia Program

11. Lastly, could you tell us a bit about the EMBA-Global Asia program and how it differs from Sloan?

Some people really want their study experience to be immersive, and take them out of the day to day challenges. Others relish the opportunity to “earn and learn” and use their new knowledge, skills and networks to accelerate their career path. It takes a particular sort of courage to step out of the workplace to do a programme like Sloan, and courage to take on an Executive MBA that blends teaching and attendance across three continents. It runs over 20 months with teaching one week a month in Terms 1-3 and then elective courses, projects and trips in Terms 4 and 5.   

In practical terms EMBA-Global Asia students attend in Hong Kong, with blocks in London and Columbia Business Schools, and are taught by many of our strongest LBS and CBS faculty. They can choose electives across the schools, and have alumni status as well.  It’s a fantastic opportunity for anyone who is already building business in Asia, Europe and the US and provides a powerful network. The program runs for 20 months. 

In terms of experience, Sloan Fellows tend to be on the upper end of the scale.  Executive MBAs will have around 10-11 years of experience, and will be achieving in their business functional role, or may be in an early General Management role. They come from all different sectors, some family businesses and some  entrepreneurs. Most Sloans and EMBA students will have families to consider – so if you are thinking about an EMBA, and negotiating with your boss, remember that you need sign off and support from your family and friends. 

Thanks Linden for your time!

John Couke

Friday, June 7, 2013

Interview with Kaya Kayanuma, member of the Duke Fuqua MBA class of 2013

I am pleased to present this interview with Kaya Kayanuma, a newly graduated member of the Duke Fuqua MBA class of 2013. I am sure anyone considering Duke - or an MBA in general - will find it useful and interesting. I'm also indebted to Kaya for sharing her time and answering my questions.

Congratulations on successfully completing your MBA at Duke Fuqua! What are your plans now?

I will work for one of the major biotechnology (pharmaceutical) companies, Biogen, as a commercial operation manager in the Emerging Market division. My initial focus is the Japan market. 

Why did you choose to go to Duke?

One of the main reasons I chose Duke/Fuqua was the Health Sector Management (HSM) program. Duke University and Duke Hospital have good reputations for health care and Fuqua has put great effort in enriching their HSM program. For students who are interested in health care, HSM gives them credibility when seeking employment in the industry. I also believe that knowledge in health care is very useful even for those who are not interested in working in health care industry, because of its rising cost and impact on the rest of the economy. During Fuqua, I particularly liked the Health Economics and the Pharmaceutical Economics classes taught by Prof. David Ridley. His lectures were comprehensive and covered the major health care topics, from pharmaceuticals to Obama care, and he brought great speakers such as the former CEO of Roche North America. 
Secondly, Fuqua focuses on teamwork within its diverse community throughout the MBA program - from class assignments to recruiting, and beyond. I became interested in the Fuqua community initially because of how friendly the Japanese alumni were, but I soon realized that Fuqua as a whole has a welcoming culture. I later learned that the program’s leadership (e.g. the Dean, admissions staff members) makes significant efforts to maintain the school values, “Team Fuqua” and “Leader of Consequence”. At the beginning of the first year and the second year, students are required to participate in a 3-4 day orientation that emphasizes leadership and ethics. Almost all Fuqua classes require several teamwork assignments per class. Students and alumni are proud of being a part of “Team Fuqua” and actively help each other throughout their lifetimes. 

How did your impression of the program change once you got there?

Until I joined Fuqua, I did not know that Duke University had such a prestigious reputation in the US and Europe. Many students come from well-educated backgrounds and it is extremely competitive to get admitted to Duke. Students share the sense of pride in the university education, and Duke Basketball symbolizes the school spirit. Many Fortune 500 companies come to campus for recruiting students, not just for the MBA program but also for undergraduate programs. The school spirit lasts after graduation and alumni help each other in business. After joining Duke, I realized the importance of having a good network of alumni. I actually got my job through a Fuqua alumni. 
I was also surprised by the seemingly unlimited amount of opportunities to exercise leadership and teamwork skills at Fuqua. Students often say, “There is almost nothing that you cannot do at Fuqua.” Students can start clubs, projects, business, etc. and there are many resources available. Some of my friends started events such as the Fuqua Musical and the Fuqua Iron Chef, and others started their own business. I myself participated in several projects (e.g. international business consulting, small business consulting, and entrepreneurship in health care), and I found them very practical and useful for my future career. There are many opportunities to get involved, and it is challenging to choose activities and focus on priorities. 

Looking back, do you wish you had prepared for your MBA any differently? What would you recommend to those who'll start their MBA in the fall of this year?

The first recommendation is relationship building. Even before you start preparing for an MBA, you might want to talk with as many alumni and current students as possible to learn how to prepare for life in business school. Many applicants fall into a trap of applying to schools based only on their ranking. They apply to multiple schools, and decide which school to attend after getting admitted. This is a waste of time and money. Instead it is important to research schools and reach out to students and alumni. This relationship building should start even before you apply to a business school. This will help you with your MBA admission and job search in the future. 
The relationship building will also help you become proactive. By talking to students and alumni, you will start to understand what you need to do and what you need to focus on. I waited for the school to tell me when and how to start my job search. I waited for emails from professors to learn what I needed to prepare for classes. Unlike me, some admitted students had already reached out to current students and knew how to prepare for an early job conference in September, just one month after orientation. Others had already finished all the summer assignments a few weeks in advance of starting the program. 
You also need to know your priorities, plan ahead, and focus on these priorities. My priorities were finance & health care classes, a job search within health care, social life with my close friends, playing music, and my Christian faith. But during the first year of the MBA, I let peer pressure influence me. I attended many social events, went to every corporate event, slept less than 6 hours a night, and became exhausted. I felt as if everything was a competition. During the 2nd year, I made a more balanced life and my old hobbies priorities. I became selective about what social events to attend and spent more time with those who are important in my life. 
Lastly, you want to treat others fairly, be genuine towards others, and know your core values. Do not focus on what you get from others but instead on what you can give to them. This will help you to become a true leader of consequence. I learned this, and several different professors reinforced this in their closing remarks during their last classes. During my 1st year of MBA, I was overwhelmed and could not even think of helping others. I rediscovered my core belief when I stopped thinking school and social life as competitions. I started to treat others in a genuine way as I did before. This attitude opened more opportunities than I expected. I received several job offers and did well in classes. I made many great friends and became much happier. 

Can you identify one or two classes and/or professors that were particularly impactful for you?

  • Corporate Finance by Prof. John Graham: Prof. Graham has received a number of teaching awards at Fuqua for 10+ years and is a reviewer of a prestigious finance journal. This class was challenging because I had no prior experience in finance. But he offered review classes himself and helped us understand everything from the basics to the current common practices in the real world. He is well connected to the industry, and he even brings senior finance managers as speakers. He is also an advocate for an NGO, “Stop the Hunger”, and takes initiative to organize volunteer events at Fuqua for this organization. I strongly recommend taking this class. 
  • Raising Capital by Prof. Manju Puri: Prof. Puri graduated from the Indian School of Business at the age of 23, worked in banking, and earned her Ph.D from NYU Stern. She has received a number of teaching and research awards and is well-connected to the finance ministry and banking in India. I really liked her teaching style. Her philosophy of teaching is for students to gain core analytical skill, not a superficial knowledge. She brought no handouts to class and had no PowerPoint presentations, so students really focused on listening to her and the class discussions. In the beginning of each class, she reviews the content from the last class. Students are required to write case write-ups after classes instead of before. This unique teaching style helps students review what we learn and retain the analytical skills that we gain. This class also covered a range of topics from bank loans to junk bonds and the Enron scandal. 
  • Entrepreneurial Finance by Prof. Manuel Adelino: If you are interested in becoming an entrepreneur, you should take Corporate Finance, Private Equity and Venture Capital, and this class. Prof. Adelino is a new professor at Fuqua. Although he is fairly young, he has experience in investment banking, consulting, and academics. He covered a range of topics based on a POCD framework (People, Opportunity, Competition/Content, and Deal). Students are usually expected to know the basics of finance, but Prof. Adelino himself offered review sessions about WACC (weighted average cost of capital) and pro forma. He also explained in the class how he made an assumption on building excel models. Students are required to turn in a case write-up every class, and this helps students prepare well for the class. 
  • Managerial Accounting by Prof. Scott Dyreng: Managerial Accounting is one of the most popular classes at Fuqua, and I strongly recommend taking this class. This class teaches how to allocate “cost” appropriately so that managers can make better decisions and incentivize people. For example, students are asked to allocate a fixed cost based on a labor hour or a machine hour. I also liked his teaching style because he required us to submit a case write-up before every class, used no PowerPoint, and reviewed what we learned in each class. He was very funny and made the class very interesting. He is also very sincere and is one of the professors who taught us the importance of having core values before entering the work force. 
  • Pharmaceutical Economics and Management by Prof. David Ridley: I explained about this class above. 

What kind of extra-curricular activities did you choose to get involved in? Were they worthwhile for you?

I was a co-president of Catholics@Fuqua, a student group for Catholics and non-Catholics. I wanted to learn how to integrate the Christian faith into business and to help other students to develop and/or mature their faith in God. As some professors taught, I believe that having some sorts of a core value helps a student make a better decision when facing an ethical dilemma. We had a dinner event every term (=6 weeks), brought a priest and a business leader as speakers, and held workshops about faith and business. Students commented that they learned a lot during these events and felt encouraged. I was able to build a strong friendship within this group and found a few mentors through these events. It was challenging to balance school, job search, club activities, and private life. But it was very much worthwhile for me to lead this group and I believe I was able to make an impact on the Fuqua community. 

Any thoughts you'd like to share about your life in Durham, North Carolina? What's good/bad about living in this part of the U.S.?

I love the triangle region of North Carolina, and if I can, I would live here permanently. Like Silicon Valley, the triangle region (Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill) is one of the major research hubs in the country. There are several major universities such as Duke and UNC, and their health care systems are both excellent. Because of many university-based researches, the triangle region has many small start-up businesses and also major companies such as GSK (GlaxoSmithKline), Daiichi Sankyo, IBM, and Quintiles. Thanks to this entrepreneurial environment, I was able to find a local start-up company to do a part-time internship and had a good experience there. 
The triangle region is also a great place to live and raise a family. Durham and Chapel Hill are large enough to find things to do and small enough to manage commute and travel. Durham is much safer than it used to be, and you can find excellent restaurants. If you want to travel, the airport (Raleigh-Durham International Airport) is only 20 minutes away and the terminal is very clean. This is a great environment for children, too. People are well-educated, warm, and open-minded toward international people. The weather is mild and it’s comfortable to live here. 

How did you like my work during the admission process? 

John is patient, insightful, sincere, and trustworthy. He is an expert on MBA admissions, yet he is also very humble. When I didn’t even know what to write on the admission essays and resume, he asked me questions and gave me great suggestions. He was always prompt to respond to any questions and kept any promises. He does not put down anyone and always believes in the potential of an applicant. Above all the qualities that he has, I really admire John’s motivation to do his job, which is to raise global leaders from Japan. I strongly recommend John’s service when applying to a business school. 

Thanks Kaya for your time and insight!

John Couke