UCLA Anderson Interview Debrief

I just finished my interview with a second year student from UCLA Anderson and it went so much better than I imagined it would! I think I got lucky on several counts. Firstly, my interviewer was a woman. This was actually a perfect match since a lot of my leadership stories are related to the struggles of being a woman in the male-dominated tech industry and it seemed like she could really relate. Secondly, she also comes from a background in technology so I’m certain that all of my stories made sense to her. Finally, she was just a really nice, fun person to talk to! Lots of smiles, lots of jokes and just a real sense of comfort that I have yet to experience in an MBA interview. No awkwardness whatsoever! What also helped was the fact that it was a Skype interview, so I was sitting in the comfort of my bedroom and it felt like I was talking to a friend across the continent. Overall, a great experience.

Okay now getting down to the details that might actually help applicants who are yet to interview. She started off by telling me about herself and her background really briefly. Then onto the questions:

  1. Walk me through your resume: She said she had my resume in front of her, so she didn’t want me to go into too much detail. I just gave her a brief overview of everything in there, focusing more on the reasons behind my career choices and my biggest achievements.
  2. Why MBA: I kind of had to throw in my short term and long term goals here briefly to answer why an MBA but I didn’t go into too much detail because I knew a separate question would be coming up. I explained myself briefly mentioning why specifically an MBA at UCLA.
  3. Why UCLA Anderson: She wanted me to go into more detail about why UCLA specifically, so after covering the basics like location, weather and LA, I got more specific and spoke about the classes I wanted to take and the resources that are offered. She actually said that one particular class that I named was an excellent class and that I should definitely take it.
  4. Why now: I think this was a really important question, but I feel like I nailed it mostly because I want to work in a niche, product technology space that is really going to boom in the next 5-10 years so for me the timing is everything.
  5. Short term and long term goals: The usual. Just have to be really clear about what it is you want to do, why you want to do it and most importantly, how it makes sense considering your experience so far.
  6. Story about leadership: I chose a story where I wasn’t directly leading people, but influencing them. It wasn’t a very conventional story, but she actually said it was a perfect answer to this particular question so it paid off.
  7. Story about dealing with conflict: I think more than the actual background to the story, it’s important to show what you did to resolve the issue at hand. I’m not entirely happy with this one because I went into too much detail about the situation, rather than talking about what I learnt from the experience.
  8. Strength and weakness: More than the actual strengths and weaknesses, I tried to show how the former would be useful to me at Anderson and how I would try to work on the latter at Anderson. Basically connecting the question to reinforce why UCLA.

Once I finished answering all these questions, we were at about 25 minutes so she opened the floor for any questions I had. Her enthusiasm for the school was infectious and everything she said about the school was spot on. She even gave me some advice in the end about making the most of your MBA experience that I have written down (it really was that good). I also managed to squeeze in a few activities that I would love to be a part of at Anderson during the last few minutes as an organic part of our conversation. I guess the only thing I’m slightly disappointed she didn’t ask was about my life outside work, because hey, I’m a fascinating person 😛 but the rest of it went well so I really can’t complain.

After it was over, I sent her a quick thank you note and that was it! The interview was super casual and friendly, much like Anderson students themselves and I have no doubt in my mind that it is a great school. I’m just going to have to keep my fingers crossed till the 2nd of April, which luckily isn’t too far away. Best of luck to everyone else who interviewed/is waiting to interview!

Advertisements

All in for Round 2!

I finally submitted all four apps in the past two days and let me tell you, it was exhausting. Here are my thoughts on each application:

  1. Booth: I absolutely loved the Booth application. It gave me enough space to talk about everything (and I mean everything!). The prompts within the app allowed for enough detail and I even used the optional essay to fill in some gaps. I was terrified of the presentation/essay but it turned out to be one of the most rewarding things I’ve made this application season. Everyone who read it seems to have enjoyed it, so I can only hope the adcoms will too. I’d say this was my favourite (and my best).
  2. Kellogg: The application for Kellogg and Booth was actually pretty similar, but I had to be much more succinct in my Kellogg app. There were three essays I had to answer (2 required + 1 for the MMM) and I think I did a pretty decent job at all of them, although some were better than the others. Hopefully, my video essay goes well and I make enough of an impact on the adcom. It would suck if my interview was waived.
  3. Anderson: The Anderson application was painless (just one essay and one recommendation) until I realized that they require a TOEFL score 2 days before the deadline for Round 2. I was this close to breaking something. Luckily, I got in my app before the deadline and put in the date I’m planning to take the damn test but until they get my official scores, my application is going to be “on hold”. Anyone know what this means?
  4. Tepper: Tepper was sort of a last-ditch effort on my part. I was also exhausted from a long night the day before, so I’m not sure how my essays were. I think I did okay, hopefully that’s enough. For the first time ever, my essays were under the word count rather than being a few over. Weird.

Things that changed from Round 1 in Round 2:

  1. I had one solid recommendation in Round 1 and the other, was to put it mildly, just fluff. I know because the recommender (head of volunteers) decided to show it to me once I’d submitted all my Round 1 apps. I’m not even sure how I got invited to interview at Duke with that one. It was a huge wake-up call. This time, my client (from my startup) agreed to be my second recommender and I know he’s going to do a killer job because I did some killer work for him.
  2. I paid a lot more attention to the short answers and little entry fields in the application. Last time, I’d pretty much copy+pasted bullets from my resume into these fields, but this time I made sure to bring up things that had never been mentioned before. My apps this time covered every single aspect of my profile.
  3. I had help every single step of the way from Vandana and NaijaMBAGal (a shoutout to FinanceFurry here as well). I absolutely could not have done it without them. They were my supporters, critics and confidantes throughout this round and their feedback on my essays was always genius. Every time I second-guessed something on my app (which was pretty much all the time), I knew I had these guys on my side. Thank you so much you two!

What lies ahead? I’m going to finish up my Kellogg Video essays, get in a short vacation in Bangkok this weekend, come back and get the TOEFL over with and then just wait! I have a good feeling about Round 2 🙂 I also feel like this time I won’t be so anal about it… some exciting things have been happening at work and I caught myself thinking “Oh crap, if I get into an MBA program, I’m going to miss all this”. Yup, instant realization. MBA this year or no MBA this year, I’m gonna be okay!