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!

Congratulations are in order!

This week my feed has been a blur of amazing news. Congratulations to my friends Naija MBA GalTopDogMBAVandana and Finance Furry for getting into some of the best schools in the world! We’re talking INSEAD, Kellogg, Booth, Sloan, Wharton… the list is pretty insane. You guys should be so proud! I couldn’t be happier for you guys, each and every one of you deserved it. I am also jealous that you guys are now done with the stress-fest that is MBA admissions and can now countdown the days till you quit your jobs.

Guys, you are seriously amazing. I am totally inspired and I hope I can re-create even a smidgen of this success for myself. With that said, I’m realizing that I could use all the help I can get, especially since all of you are older, wiser and you’ve clearly done something right! I’m just starting to get really anxious and antsy, plus my confidence is in the pits (I just have a little over a year of work experience, wtf am I doing? Am I kidding myself?) Meh.

If any of you would like to volunteer to have a look at my essays or give me any tips/suggestions, I would be incredibly grateful. I don’t want to put anyone on the spot by directly asking (okay, I might have asked some of you already) 😛 hence this broadcast. Anyway, if you think you have some time to spare, please let me know and I’ll reach out to you. I would owe you a piece of my eternal soul. No, really.

In other news, not that anyone really cares at this point (I wouldn’t either if I got accepted somewhere), my GMAT is 5 days away on the 23rd and I’ve been doing well on the mocks, so fingers crossed.

And again, congrats you guys! It’s time to celebrate 😀 Break out the bubbly!

Final school list for Round 2

So after many, many, many hours of internal debate that resulted in a lot of hair pulling and crabbiness, I have finally  decided on my school list. I think I have been a little wiser in my choices this time around and I think each of them would be a good fit for me. It’s really weird though, when I started out, literally none of these schools were on my radar. This is mostly because I started out thinking I wanted to get into consulting post MBA and now I’ve done a complete u-turn by deciding to stay in the tech industry.

I know that I want to be an entrepreneur in the long term and I thought that consulting would get me there eventually. But when I actually sat down to evaluate the progression of my career, it made more sense to go another route, and that would be Product Management. It’s a pretty newish role in the industry but it’s growing by leaps and bounds each year. It allows me to leverage my experiences so far because I am an engineer, I work in a product development startup, the startup I founded is in the e-commerce space, I have a lot of experience in the technical aspects of developing a product and it just makes logical sense as a career path. So I can definitely say that I have a better handle on my story and how I’m going to market myself.

Weirdly enough, I had this revelation in the middle of writing essays for my R1 apps and my essays did say that I want to become a Product Manager at a leading tech firm, but by then the school choices had already been made and it was too late. Duke is still fine, since a lot of tech companies do recruit from there so my goals must have made some sense, but Yale was a complete washout. I shouldn’t have applied in the first place.

Anyway having cleared that up in my head, I know what kind of schools I should be looking at, especially to achieve my career goals. I want a focus on entrepreneurship, and a school that is welcoming to younger applicants and has great tech firms/startups visiting campus and so, drumroll please.

  1. Chicago Booth
  2. Berkeley Haas Kellogg MMM
  3. UCLA Anderson

Booth is where I really want to be and I think I do actually have a good chance of getting in. I am most doubtful about my chances at Haas since the acceptance rates are ridiculous but I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t apply but I’m going to have to live with it because I changed my mind and I have Vandana to thank/blame 😉 Okay, I’m lying. I owe her my unborn children because she has been a massive help and I can’t thank her enough. I knew before that the Kellogg MMM program was a great fit, but I couldn’t decide between this and Haas. I mean the MMM program is quite literally customized to fit with my career goals and what maaaaay have factored into the decision was the fact that I’d need to write the TOEFL and three long essays for Haas. Ummm… sue me, I’m lazy. UCLA Anderson is so close to the Valley, as is Haas which makes both at least one of them of no-brainers. If I had the time, I would have thrown Stanford into the mix, because, well Stanford. But hey, if I don’t get in this year, I plan to quit my full time job and scale my startup by about a 100x. Quite a few VCs have been feeling my company out, but I’ve just been dragging my feet because I honestly feel like I need an MBA to plug the holes in my skill set before we open up to investors. That’s actually why I decided I need an MBA sooner rather than later. I guess I’ll come to that when it happens.

My days are so packed, I literally have no time to breathe. GMAT prep, reaching out to current students, drafting my essays, dealing with work. It’s like I can’t catch a break. I am desperately waiting for the weekend.

Onwards and upwards

It’s been raining invites on all my friends out here – congratulations to Naija MBA Gal, TopDogMBA, hugoness, Vandana and Grant Me Admission!! Having had the privilege to blog alongside such incredibly smart and nice people, I have no doubt that they deserve admits at the schools of their dreams. I am counting down the days to hear some more good news.

In the meantime, I’m back on the horse again, this time for Round 2 applications. My school choices are up in the air for the moment, because I cannot for the life of me identify where I would have a competitive chance. I don’t want to apply to schools just because I know I’ll have better chances there, but on the other hand, I don’t want to apply to schools where I have no chance either. It’s a tough call. I’ll keep you guys posted when I finalise my schools and possibly the rationale that went behind picking. One thing is for sure though, I am not going to get emotionally attached to any of them. I’ll do my research and I’ll talk to students, but this is going to be the equivalent of a friends with benefits situation. No emotions, no commitment.

I’ve started with GMAT prep, I think it’s going well. I remember most of it, which is something of a feat considering it’s been over two years. I’m trying to get on the upper levels of both Quant and Verbal, which means a lot of targeted studying. It helps that I enjoy it though.

I literally can’t wait for March now where my fate will be decided either way.

P.S: A really weird observation. My blog got maximum hits on the day I announced my ding from Duke. People love tragedy!

How to decide where to apply?

I’m not sure I’m even qualified to be writing about this at the moment because I’m still not sure where I’m going to be applying. I do have certain parameters though, which should help make it a little easier.

  1. I am only going to apply to 4 schools, based on the assumption that if I don’t get in this year, I’ll have several options left to apply in the next year.
  2. I have no illusions about my competency as a candidate. The top 5 are immediately out and honestly, I’m not too bothered about that. The only school I would love to attend is Stanford, because I feel like Wharton is too finance-y for my taste and Harvard is too stuffy. But my chances of going to space are less astronomical than me ever getting accepted to Stanford even after a year or twenty, so I have that going for me.
  3. I want to apply to schools that have a good placement record in the consulting industry, since that’s where I’d like to land up.
  4. I have this vague idea in my head of travelling across Europe sipping little cups of cappuccino with a dreamy Italian serenading me, while getting an MBA of course. I do want to put in at least 1 (if not 2) European schools in the mix. Traditionally, they attract an older set of students so I’m not sure how feasible this would be. IESE and Said require that students have a minimum work experience of two years, and I would be pushing that pretty close.
  5. I want warm weather, interspersed with good cold weather. I can’t do gloomy all year round, I would just get depressed. I don’t mind California type sunny weather but it’s too Indian for my liking.
  6. I can’t imagine living in the southern belt of the States, nuh uh no way. East or West coast for me. I’m also a city girl. The great outdoors are nice and all, but do I want to live in the middle of it? Nope. Nothing in the boondocks.
  7. I would like to be a part of a bigger class. Bigger the class, bigger the friend pool and the more likely I am to actually meet people I like. Also, would love it if there was a significant international representation and a younger crowd of people.

Ummm, yeah. So these are just thoughts I have at the moment, so they’re not set in stone. I’ll probably get into it in more detail after I’ve had a chat with my consultant. Also, yes I did decide to go with a consultant to help with the admissions process. I figured I could use all the help I could get.

 

When push comes to shove

I think I’ve known pretty much my entire life that I was going to get an MBA someday. I think it has to do with the fact that my dad got his MBA and had a successful career following that, so in my pliable mind, it looked something like

[random degree] + [MBA] = [successful life + career]

Obviously I know better now. An MBA isn’t going to guarantee that you’ll get a killer job or be the CEO of the next dot com empire, and is probably a luxury that not many people can afford. But the initial wonder it held for me still holds. I loooooveeee the idea of studying business for two years, the very thought of being able to learn about corporate finance, strategy, marketing, organisational structures, accounting principles — ah, I may have just wet myself a little.

I could have done a business degree during undergrad, and in hindsight I probably should have. Sadly, I was swept away by the engineering wave and I went with it at the time because I didn’t know any better. It wasn’t all bad though, there are several aspects of engineering that I did enjoy and my math skills received a thorough ass busting.

I applied for the YLP program at ISB in my sophomore year of college with a GMAT of 710 (that is still valid, thank god) and breezed through all the rounds. Like seriously, my one minute video was filmed on an iPhone under a tree in the campus grounds. The final interview was a complete disaster though and I knew it from the get go. Puzzles, my ass. How is a freakin’ puzzle supposed to decide if you’re a good fit for their school? Haven’t my academic records + essays + GMAT scores spoken for themselves? Anyway, I suffered from a severe brain fart and didn’t recover until I walked back home wondering which part of the country I was in.

Yeah, needless to say, never applying to ISB again. I’m going to be blogging about my MBA journey, as hasty and unplanned as it is. I’m not a solid candidate at this point and I’m not even sure why I’m applying this year (well, I know why, but I know it’s not the best idea). More on all of that later. Hopefully others as unprepared as I am can get a kick out of this and possibly talk themselves out of applying right now.

HA, I kid.