Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Phase I continues, Phase II beckons

Been a little while since I posted. here's what I have been upto:

1. Writing up my essays. I started with Wharton and have sort of finished two essays. I sent them to a friend for reviews and would say that I got an encouraging feedback. The good thing about my friend is that she's very constructive, knows me well enough, but wants to always push me beyond what I am to what I can be - if you have a peer who can advise you like that at work, during app season or in life - treasure them
2. Started drafting outlines for Stanford essays
3. Finalized my school list. here goes (in order of application round)
- Stanford
- Wharton
- Kellogg (RA)
- Tuck (RA)
- Cornell


Last app season I absolutely fell in love with 2 schools - Kellogg and Tuck. I applied, interviewed at Kellogg but didnt make it. This time, I am not taking NO for an answer :)

4. Watched a hell lot of movies. Some I'll review below:
 - Margin Call - Kevin Spacey movie about the last night at Wall Street before the collapse started. Very clearly tries to show you what happened at Lehman Brothers. Excellent movie, very good dialogues and being an executive recruiter. I was really intrigued by the management decision making and board room dialogues
- Gangs of Wasseypur - Brilliant Indian cinema. Inspired by Gangs of New York and then rustically transformed into a movie of the Indian hinterlands. Must watch! Anurag Kashyap - a true prodigy - delivers and how
- American Reunion - Found it to be really funny. Call me a sucker for old fashioned comedy, but it was very nostalgic watching the gang that taught me (and most Indians) more about sex than any other visual aid form
- Amazing Spider Man - OK watch. Improvements: better spiderman, better girl, better Aunt Mae, better action, better ... no wait ... first time 3D; Bad - Mundane script, low on humour, boring villain. Given how in superhero movies the hero needs to be impactful, but the villain even more so (Dark Knight anyone?) the movie is OK nothing great

The Phase I i mention above referes to starting the app process. So it obviously continues till Decemeber or so. Phase II is recommendations. My friend Cheetarah1980 wrote a great post about recos ( While I enjoyed reading it, I did feel stark differences between foreign managers and Indian managers. You can't ignore the cultural nuances and the way companies operate in different countries. So I'll give my thoughts on the recommendation process:

1. Be diplomatic - this doesnt mean lie. but as most of my Indian peers may be aware, once you announce you are applying for an MBA, some managers have the tendency to write you off as Bench material figuring you will get through. They arent well versed with the process, so will ask how mucch you scored on your GMAT. being an Indian you'll say a number that's >= 700 and Boom! their typical response 'ho hi jayegi' or loosely translated, means you'll definitely get through - no two ways about it. It doesnt matter if its Stanford or San Fernando Valley University. They assume you are going

So measure your manager, AND also your organization, very well.

2. Be honest - If you are applying, be honest and give your manager a heads up. Honesty is always appreciated no matter what, heck it may even become a talking point in your recommendation. i am a reapplicant, my boss already knows I will apply. yet I was promoted - not too many Indian firms that do that works well in consulting, but maybe not IT

3. Time it well - Indian managers need to be pushed hard to meet timelines. I reminded my boss 5 times, set calendar invites, told her secy to remind her - yet she barely managed in time for 2 schools. Plus, she didnt do work beforehand, so in Columbia's case, wrote what I can only fathom to be a bad recommendation. Get this - Columbia had a recommender question - what adjectives would you use to describe the candidate. She told me she wrote 3 words and thats it. I was aghast!

The timing is not only to write well ahead of time, but to write right! This year I will work more closely with her in terms of helping her understand what B schools expect in recos. i dont think writing your own recommendation letters is a good idea at all - and she agreed - but if you are going to end up doing that, best to have someone else (A friend) write what you dictate. then ask that friend to rephrase everything. Else your writing style will match in a heartbeat in the adcom's eyes

4. Dont overask - more than 4 recommendations per recommender is a red zone. Your manager may get irritated. Look for backups always and keep em prepared eg: im thinking of applying .. blah blah... will keep you in the loop ... blah blah ... round 2 deadlines are typically in Jan ... blah blah.

5. Choose the right recommenders - dont go for title, but if you work with someone senior, make sure they only write the reco. Eg: I work directly with the managing partner. Also, for Stanford, you want to choose a peer whom you have actually worked with, not someone who thinks well of you only. Trust me, no matter how well you write it, it will show. Also, use any b school alumni you have access to within your company.

That's pretty much it. Hope the above is useful. long post, but hopefully worthwhile.

until the next blog entry ...

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