Friday 30 June 2006

MBA Interviews - IMD

I had an idea of what to expect from IMD. Their typical interview schedule is on their website. Unlike IESE, INSEAD and LBS, they refused me the option of interview in Buenos Aires but allowed me instead to postpone it by 3 weeks so that I didn't have to return early. Well, with the mini ordeal they put you through, it would have to take place in Switzerland.

I was due at the IMD MBA Admissions Office at 8.30am. First interview at 8.45. She questioned everything I've ever done, my motivations, my reasons. Wasn't it a bit risky to give up my job without an MBA programme to go to? Why hadn't I worked overseas? How confident am I, on a scale of 1 to 10? I felt like I'd made a whole series of bad decisions in life. I could tell nothing from her body language or responses as to whether she liked what I had to say.

Straight out and into 30 minutes to prepare a presentation. The topic: you've been given a new mobile telecoms licence. What would be the first services offered? How would you work out your market penetration? Who would your customers be? What is the price structure? What is the cost structure? 3 or 4 slides on overhead projector.
Then into the presentation. 5 minutes max followed by questions. And out of nowhere 3 minutes to think about and give an answer to "what would be the headline and article of your life story?". Thanks for that.

A short break to share the pain with a couple of the other candidates. Then a short interview with one of the admissions officers. This one much more straightforward. What other schools had I applied to? What offers? How did I feel the GMAT had gone? etc

Then lunch in the restaurant, outside on the terrace. Beautiful. A full buffet with a fantastic desert table and an icecream stand. This comes free to the students every day. So they don't waste time off-campus fetching lunch.

Finally, the case study discussion with one of the long-standing professors. Four candidates discussing the 17 pages of material we'd been emailed a few days before. This was less painful. Actually enjoyable, even.

There was supposed to be a fifth candidate. He'd booked on to the last easyJet flight the night before and it was cancelled. He didn't make it to Lausanne until we were already in the discussion.

At the end of the day, we needed to go and have a beer.

I tried to get an earlier flight home. I'd booked the last flight back to London since I didn't know what time the day would finish. The woman at the ticket sales desk told me I'd bought the cheapest ticket and couldn't change. I said I understood but since there were seats free, there would be no loss to British Airways. Well, she said, they might sell them in the intervening period. Theoretically possible, although the flight was due to depart in an hour. So I checked in and decided to go to the gate and see if I could get on just before the plane takes off.

Well, all flights to London were delayed about an hour. I sat and watched Argentina get cheated out of the semi-final. Then went to the gate. First response: no seats. I told the guy I knew there were seats. So the girl says yes, there are, but she'd have to check my ticket type. Once again I'm told I can't get on. I tell her the seats will go empty. She tells me I'd need to buy a new ticket. There was no point reasoning.

I didn't know whether to be annoyed with British Airways or with the Swiss mentality of order and precision. I went to find some food but it was all sold out. So I sat grumpily awaiting my delayed flight, which was full to the rafters. Perhaps, if I'd gone on the earlier flight, there'd have been a spare seat on the last one to sell to someone else...

Sunday 18 June 2006

Back in Buenos Aires... in pensive mood

It really is autumn here now. Skies are grey and the temperature has dropped. I switched the heating on for the first time last night; it's been raining. It's a stark contrast with the heat and sunshine of the past couple of weeks in the NW.

My mood is also autumnal. I feel tired now of so much travel, experience and discovery. I've seen and learnt a great deal. My body and mind are telling me now to take a break. With just a week left before I return to London, I'm not sure I feel like taking the intended trip to Iguazú. The other option I've been contemplating is going to Peninsula Valdés, Chubut province, on the Patagonian Atlantic coast to see the endangered Southern Right Wales.

I've taken over 400 pictures now and hope and reckon that there are probably 5 to 10 really good ones that I might be able to exhibit or publish.

Looking at the map of Argentina, curiously I've stuck mostly to the Andes: from Ushuaia through Bariloche, Mendoza up to Humahuaca in the North West. Only Buenos Aires is over on the coastal side. There are so many bits left to fill in: the northern/northwestern/western provinces of Tucumán, Catamarca, La Rioja and San Juan; the central provinces of Córdoba, La Pampa, and the Patagonian Atlantic coast as well as Andean Chubut, which I hopped over flying from El Calafate to Bariloche. I'd also like to climb Aconcagua, the tallest peak in the Americas at just under 7,000m.

The Footprint guide to Argentina reckons a "month is the ideal time to spend in Argentina". Spending nearly 3 months in a country where people live in a thriving, wealthy metropolis or a poor, dusty mining town; whose landscape spreads over high mountains, desert and rainforest; which stretches over 5,000km from North to South, from the Tropic of Capricorn to the Antarctic Circle... well, it seems almost churlish.

It's been amazing and I've left so much more to do.

Thursday 1 June 2006

MBA Interviews - INSEAD

I was thinking of going for a run this morning but my legs have seized up a fair bit after Tuesday's run... and I'm a bit short of time. I've got to buy a suit, prep for the interview, finalise the videoconference booking for tomorrow, check the details for the interview this evening, phone my grandmother about Friday and call my young uncle Fede and my cousin Guadalupe to meet up.

I should have bought the suit yesterday or the day before and I don't get to the shop I saw yesterday until about 2.30pm. The interview is at 6pm. I should be fine. Except these are decent suits with unfinished trouser legs, at great prices. I look at a few suits and wait for someone to hover. Eventually a man apologises and tells me someone is on his way. When this chap comes over, I tell him I have a job interview (explaining the concept of a business school interview was going to be too laborious) and want to look the part.

He asks me where I'm from. As soon as I say England he takes me over to the pricier suits. These are great superfine wool. At around £300, they're excellent value. Less than half the price of the equivalent in the UK. And they look good. I try on a jacket then another. Yup, that's the one. It's now 3pm. I ask when it can be ready. The sleeves need a little shortening, the waist needs to be brought in (yes, my waist is proportionately small for my torso), and the legs finished. He asks when I need it. In 2.5 hours. No problem. I pick out a tie to go with my shirt and a belt.

Back home, I change into my inteview shirt and head back out. Just before 5.30 I reach the shop. It's all ready. I wasn't expecting it. I try it on. Perfect. I keep it all on and head straight out to the interview, getting there just on time.
I get shown into a meeting room, offered coffee etc and wait for Mario to arrive. He turns out to be a good guy. 41 years old, ex-BCG, INSEAD 93. He has his own business advising acquiring companies on targets and sometimes takes a stake in the process.

He asks me a few simple questions about work experience then asks what I think my odds are. I say I can't be sure. I don't know what the other candidates are like. He tells me he reckons my chances are pretty good, given my score in the GMAT. Of course there are other factors, I point out. Well, he tells me, his job is just to sell the school to me now. Ultimately, he says, LBS, IESE and INSEAD are all pretty much the same and you just have to pick where you want to live. There's also the issue about the length of the course.

I leave feeling pretty good but I know not to count chickens. There's another INSEAD interview to go on Monday.

I go and check my email and find that the conferences manager at the Hilton has sent me an email saying the booking is cancelled because she hasn't received payment details. I panic calmly, go home and make a phone call. She's finished for the day. I insist that I have to speak to someone and fortunately there is a chap there. Yup, the booking is all here and the videocon equipment is in place. And relax.

Next I call Wendy (short for Guadalupe), my cousin, to arrange to meet. It's as though she recognises my voice straight away. I haven't seen or spoken with her for 23 years.

Time for a pizza and I start getting my thoughts together for the videocon tomorrow.