Monday, July 23, 2007

What I've been up to...

It seems like all of my posts have all been responses to MBA questions. While I don't mind sharing my qualitative opinion of the Oxford MBA, please check out the quantitative aspects such as the average GMAT scores of admitted students and career placement reports on your own. That said, I've really enjoyed hearing from prospective applicants. Those of the Class of 2008 that I've met and spoken with have been especially impressive. I'm sure it will be an amazing class and I hope that they take full advantage of the alumni network. We're always willing to help and will bend over backwards for SBS students.

Anyhoo, I thought I'd catch up a bit with what I've actually been doing this summer.

I settled in to a long-stay hotel in Belmont, about half way between San Francisco and Mountain View. The accomodations are office park bland, but I really can't complain too much about it. It's nice being back in the States, and I've got a new car and bike to get me around town. For the 4th of July, I peddled down to Foster City (right next to a big Oracle complex) and watched the fireworks over the Bay. It was pretty mellow, but nice. My brother came up that weekend, so I got to show him around the Bay.
We cruised through the central peninsula to Half Moon Bay then up the Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco. It reminded me a lot of the Oregon Coast; cold, pounding surf, high cliffs, and a salty breeze. We stopped in at the Presidio and Pier 39, then visited my Aunt and Uncle in Oakland. All in all, it was a nice, relaxing weekend.

The past two weekends I've spent in Burbank with my fiance. It's sooooooo nice to see her again and spend time in a place that truly feels like home. Still, it's very surreal. In the past year, I've been to the Swiss Alps, Amsterdam, Oxford, Valencia, Rekjavik, and Athens. I've completely lost the sense of foreigness that typically comes with travel. I think I could land anywhere in the world and pretty quickly figure out the basics of living. However, I've also lost some of my sense of being grounded in my nationality. I suppose I've become more of a citizen of the world, but I sometimes miss the rush of relief that comes from returning to America. Maybe it's a certain form of rootlessness? Point being, I miss being deeply engrained in a community and look forward to starting my life in Los Angeles. It'll come soon enough, though.

Last week, Google took all the MBA interns to the Tom Fogerty winery in the Santa Cruz mountains. The view was amazing! It was a nice afternoon sipping merlot and comparing notes on our roles at Google. Not a bad way to work. This weekend was my Niece's birthday, so my fiance and I went down to see the family. It was really fun, but I got terribly sick on Sunday with a nasty fever and flu. I stayed in Burbank another day to rest and took today off to recuperate. I hate missing work, but I'm sure the value of the intern showing up is dwarfed by the loss of getting a whole department sick. For the next two weekends, I'll be up in the NW fixing up my Mom's house and soaking up the NW summer. For now, I feel like hell. Time to crawl back to bed.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

More LBS questions

Dear Richard,

I was reading your blog about your MBA and also your latest post about LBS vs Oxford, and I would like to ask you a few questions, if you don't mind.

1) How do you think Oxford and LBS compare as far as recruiting? It's hard to say, since I don't have any direct knowledge of LBS's recruiting or career services. What I can say is that the Said Business School offers several recruitment paths. First, the career service offers counseling, career workshops, and mock interviews. They also compile MBA CVs for distribution to recruiters and organize several recruiting and networking events throughout the year. Second, the Oxford University career service organizes multiple events, such as consulting and banking fairs. Though these are primarily aimed at undergrads, it still offers a chance to get some face time with recruiters. Third, the MBA class organizes several clubs, called Oxford Business Networks. These include consulting, banking, non-profit, diversified industry, women in business, etc. The OBNs are student directed, but have been really effective at attracting recruiters and organizing career events. They are also a great opportunity to connect with alumni and actively contact corporations that would be less responsive to individual efforts. Lastly, events like Silicon Valley Comes to Oxford, the Oxford Media Summit, and the Private Equity Forum offer an opportunity to connect with the wider Oxford community and to network with high profile guests. At the end of the day, the more you take advantage of these opportunities, the more you will get out of the Oxford experience.

2) Would Oxford help to get a career in finance in investment banking and/or private equity and/or hedge funds? Yes, but a lot of that will depend on your background and how hard you work. If you are changing roles, industries, and geography, then the hurdles will be high, but this is true of any program.

3) How would you see Oxford compared to a MSc in Finance at LBS? I think a better comparison than the MBA would be the Oxford MSc in Financial Economics. I don't have much knowledge of these program structures, but I know that the MSc at SBS is extremely rigorous and admits only the best of the best (710 average GMAT, very quant heavy).

4) How is life at Oxford, how is the weather, how is the people around and the cost of living overall? Life is good, it's an amazing place to study and an experience I will never forget. I've met some truly incredible people and look forward to maintaining close contact with my classmates for many, many years. The weather is the weather. I've lived in Los Angeles for the past six years, so the gloom of winter gets me down a bit. However, the spring and summer are heaven on Earth. The cost of living is a bit high, but probably a bit less than London. The biggest factor for me has been the decline of the dollar, but exchanging my student loans to pounds at the start of the program locked in a reasonable exchange rate. If you think the pound will drop over time, just take out a Barclays loan denominated in pounds.

4) How is the faculty in Oxford, the Staff, and the atmosphere between students? Every student has professors they like and don't like. However, I've been happy with the vast majority of my professors. They are knowledgably, friendly, and available to assist students in both academic and career development. The staff at the school is great; friendly, competent professionals. The facilities themselves are fairly new with all the usual technologies (multi-screen projectors, amphitheatre seating, etc.). As for the students, I believe that the small class size greatly enhances the learning experience and create a cohesive class. You can get to know everyone in a class of 200, but at an MBA mill with 700+ students, you simply won't meet many of your classmates.

5) How strong do you believe that the Oxford brand is in London as far as the MBA? Very, very strong. Many City professionals went to Oxford as undergrads and have a strong affinity for alumni. How about in Continental Europe and in the US? I can't really say about Europe, but I assume it's very strong. In the US, the Oxford brand is extremely valued and held in the same regard as the Ivy League schools. Would you rate it anyplace close to Harvard, Wharton, Stanford? Definitely. After meeting several dozen MBAs from Harvard, Wharton, and Stanford while working at Google, I have to say that I'm really glad I chose Oxford. It's easy to get lost in the crowd and many MBAs come off as one-dimensional; even pretentious. Oxford MBAs are simply different. They are bright, knowledgeable, and accomplished, but they are also people you can have a great conversation with. In short, they are interesting and well rounded people, and that makes for a great program.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

LBS vs Oxford

Just got a question about how LBS stacks up against Oxford. Here's my reply:

LBS and Said both have their strengths and weaknesses. I tend to see them as two very distinct programs. LBS is a lot closer to the American model of MBAs; a two-year program with an internship in the middle. While the pace may be a bit less hectic, the value equation is changed by two years of tuition, missed wages, and living expenses. As for Oxford, it's one calendar year and very intense. There are about 20 hours of lectures per week, on top of a career search and social activities. Being in the City, LBS is likely stronger in finance while Oxford is more of a general management program (one calendar year allows less time for electives), but many MBAs still make successful career changes.

As for the Oxford brand, it's highly valued throughout the world, and particularly strong in the US. Within the UK, both Oxford and Cambridge have first rate reputations with LBS in a close third.

Naturally, Oxford is tough to get into. A business school is only as good as the students, so high admissions standards = a better program and strong alumni base. My general thoughts are that admissions are predicated upon your undergraduate performance, GMAT, and work experience. You'll need to be strong in two out of three and make a good case in your essays as to how an MBA will fit with your life.

The financial aid department can help you put together the necessary loans for international students. Focus on getting admitted, the rest will take care of itself.

One final word of advice; go to an information session and meet the MBAs. What's really unique about Said is the cooperative spirit of the class and these sessions will give you a good sense the class.

Good luck with your applications. Please feel free to email me with any questions you may have.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

In the city of the future...

Yes, that's an actual tyrannosaurus rex skeleton. He lives near my office. The title of the post is a line from the Radiohead song, Palo Alto, 'In the city of the future, it is difficult to concentrate'. Ever since getting to San Francisco, I've felt a bit out of it; not sleeping well, tired all day, lethargic. I suppose there is an element of reverse culture shock; it's pretty strange going from rainy, cold Oxford and the life of a full-time student to working on the sprawling campus of a .com giant. Also, I've been slow to get my footing in my internship, since my role is so unstructured. However, I think the main cause of my lethargy is just living is this nebulous, rootless purgatory that is hotel life. I really miss having a sense of home, of putting down roots and building a life, of being engrained in the fabric of a place, knowing and being known. At Oxford I had my classmates and was too busy to miss home, but here in my hotel, in an endless sea of office parks, I really miss the comforts of being close to those I love. I shouldn't complain too much though. My whole summer will be filled with trips to see my fiance, family, and friends. This is really a unique opportunity to experience a new environment, build some new relationships, and prepare for post-MBA life. If only I was awake to enjoy it.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Summer in the Bay

I got into San Francisco on Sunday, picked up my new car, and cruised down to see the Stanford and Google campuses. It's going to be a great summer.