Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cranfield MBA Interview

I had my Cranfield MBA interview yesterday. The Cranfield School of Management is in Bedford, on an isolated old airforce base. I got on the National Rail train from the London Euston Station to the Milton Keynes Central station (cost about 17 pounds for a one way ticket). The school usually sends a complimentary bus to meet interviewees at the station. Unfortunately, my train was a tad delayed so I had to take a taxi to the school (should cost about 16 pounds).

I was very well received by the Director of the MBA program and he took me upstairs to his office to commence the interview. He thanked me for making the effort to come all the way from Nigeria and asked me to give the pre-arranged 3 minute presentation. Cranfield provides a topic that the interviewee would talk about for 3 minutes at the start of the interview. Mine was about a piece of legislation i would like to see enacted in my country. I talked about the lack of a freedom of infomation bill and how its impeding good governance and accountability in Nigeria. I also gave an example of how Senators in Nigeria don't account for money given to them for constituency projects. The tricky part was the timing....I had a 50 second band around the 3 minute mark within which i could make the presentation (i.e 2 1/2 minutes to 3 1/2 minutes). Anything outside this band would be penalized.

After the presentation, he questioned me further about the bill.....is it currently under consideration? is there any lobbying being done? Thankfully, my geeky interest in politics paid off as I was able to answer the questions satisfactorily. He then proceeded to the traditional MBA questions.....why mba? why now? Have I applied to other schools?What are my plans post MBA. The good thing about doing two interviews so close together is that you learn from the first one....during the Oxford interview, i was nervous and tense while i was calm and relaxed during the Cranfield iterview (wish it was the other way around though).

Generally, the interview went well and I got a feeling I was in (though u never know). Thing is, even before the interview I had started to have reservations about Cranfield. Its clearly a good school with top faculty but I'm unsure if its best placed to help me achieve my goals. What are my goals?

I want a brand that would open doors for me all over the world. I want to meet exceptional people and create a network of lifetime friends from all over the world. I want to improve as a private equity professional. It was never in doubt that Oxford is better placed to help me achieve these goals but i've just started to question Cranfield's ability to help me achieve any of the goals at all.

While the Cranfield brand is a good one, it is by no means door opening (not in Nigeria at least). There are very little finance courses (not to talk of private equity specific courses) so i'm unlikely to gain specific PE skills.

Still thinking about it though.....

P.S There's absolutely nothing to do in the town....beware!

Addendum (25th February 2011): I got an admit with a £5k scholarship! Now dancing away.....

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Oxford Said MBA Interview 2011

Although I was interviewed by only one person (a director in the school's career services department), one other person was present....my brain. I feel like my body and brain were seperated during the interview and as such it was a three person conversation. How did it go? Read on......

Interviewer: Hi, Can I get you anything?

Bayo: Hi, I would like some water please...

Brain: You nitwit! Did you just ask your interviewer to get off his chair and get you water like some errand boy?

Interviewer: Sure.....one second....returns with water.....Ok, so why do you want to get an MBA?

Brain: Yes! Go for it Bayo! We've practiced this question a thousand times.....remember?

Bayo: Confidently adjusting pose.....I chose to come and study for an MBA because i feel that,.......pause....because i feel that...

Brain: OMG! How did I get stuck with such a dumbass? Why on earth are you stammering? You should know this thing like the back of your hand!!!!!!!

Bayo: mumbles something about private equity, and the need compensate for the poor quality of management teams in Nigeria.

Interviewer: Scribbles some notes......

Brain: You see, he's writing that you are a total waste of space! He's furious that he has to listen to you dribble on and he'll rather be playing ping pong with a wall right now....

Bayo: still mumbling about private equity and poor human capital in Africa

Interviewer: Ok, why Oxford?

Brain: Surely, you can't mess this up? Honestly, if you mess this up, I will haemorrage!

Bayo: Ok, Ok, I can't afford a Brain Haemorrage during an interview.....Oxford has a 900 year history of educating leaders, I want to be a part of that history. I'm also attracted to the school's private equity institute and the opportunity to learn from the world's leading practicioners in PE.

Brain: (Speaking pidgin english) Na God save you.....

Interviewer: What would you bring to the class?

Bayo: Now sounding confident.....I think I bring a unique perspective to the class. There can't be a lot of people in the class who practice private equity in emerging markets so i'm confident i can be a good platform to validate some of the theories taught in the private equity in emerging markets class.

Brain: So a couple of good answers and you think you have arrived? I am ashamed of you! You practiced these exact same questions over and over again and you still couldn't sound smooth and suave.....you disgust me! If you rob me the chance to spend a year in this place, I will never forgive you!

Bayo: I have worked in financial services all my career and believe i would be in a position to help my less quantitatively oriented classmates during group work as I expect they'll help me in subjects I'm not familiar with. I also believe I would contribute to the class in social and sporting way as i play football and would seek to represent the school in the MBA tournament in Paris....

Interviewer: smiling.......Big win for Arsenal on Wednesday eh?

Brain: Ok....i know i warned you not to include the fact that you support Arsenal on your CV....who does that?

Bayo: Yes, Lagos went beserk after the match. You would have thought it was Nigeria playing......long discussion about football where Harry Redknapp, Graham Taylor and Watford were mentioned by the interviewer and I threw in a 'It'll go downhill for Harry Redknapp as soon as he gets the England job'.....

Brain: you're lucky that the arsenal thing worked out in the end...

Interviewer: I see you want to work in a private equity firm focused on emerging markets.....Well, to be honest, they don't exactly come banging on my door asking for MBA's how do you intend to secure a job like this? Can you name five of such companies?

Bayo: Well, I'm particularly attracted to the IFC because of its focus on the social impact of its investments....

Interviewer: Well, the IFC is not exactly a private equity firm

Bayo: Yes i realise that but the skill set requirements are similar. Companies like Emerging Capital Partners, Aureos Capital, Actis, Kingdom Zephry would also be attractive to me. I also intend to secure a study leave from my current employers.

Interviewer: That's smart....

Brain: blushing......Okay, maybe you're not so dumb afterall....

30 minutes up......

Interviewer: Thanks for coming Bayo.....enjoy the rest of your open day

Bayo: Thanks Derek....Have a good day

Oxford MBA Open Day

I arrived in the city of Oxford to the magnificent sight of the Said Business School building.....a fantastic piece of architecture... I was received most graciously by a smiling Liz Buckle (the MBA Marketing Officer) and then ushered into a room filled with other people from around the world also looking to do their MBA at Oxford. There were two nice Singaporean architects working on projects in Morocco, Egypt and other countries in the middle east, a Norwegian management consultant who, together with a few of his friends started a small spin off consulting outfit in Norway, a Ghanaian PhD holder from Warwick, a Chinese gentleman who owns a software development company among others.
The day started off with a nice presentation by Darren (a member of the admissions team) where he laid out some facts......they had well over a thousand applications last year most of which were from Asia and North America. They extended interview invites to about 500 people and admitted about 232 people an implied yield of 50% post interview and about 20% post application.
We had a question and answer session with current students where they were supposed to cut the 'bullshit' out and tell it like it is. To be honest, there wasn't much bullshit to cut out because the earlier presenters were all frank and honest. This was followed by lunch where we got to talk and network which was excellent.
The next activity was a presentation by the MBA Director....he was nice, frank and funny and tried to give his presentation in a way such that it answered important questions like 1 year or 2 year, Oxford or Wharton and Europe or North America. I left at this point to have my interview (more on that later).
I returned just in time for a brilliant lecture in Strategy by a Professor at the school. It was hands down the most brilliant and funniest lecture I'd ever been in and i must say it left me wanting to have such lectures for a whole year (yeah i know they must have gotten their most entertaining lecturer to do this but it doesn't matter, if all their lecturers are a quarter as entertaining and brilliant as he is, i would have no complaints)
This was followed by a presentation by the Director of the school's career service (he interviewed me (gasp!)). He was also very surprisingly frank. The crux of his message was....don't expect companies to want to rush you just because you have three freshly minted letters in front of your name. Its a recession and employers are no longer in the habit of paying people £60k a year to 'find' themselves......you must bring something to the table on day one! He also encouraged people who had unique experiences, cultural advantages and skill sets to focus on those unique attributes and use it to sell themselves during their job search.
I stayed and chatted with a few people before heading for the Oxford station for my train back to paddington. The school is literally next to the station and as such commuting via train is hands down the easiest way to get to the school. Just get to the popular paddington station in central London and board a 'first western' train and stop at the Oxford station (I think the train's final destination is Hereford).
My post open day impression? I now reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally want to attend this school.....

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Visa? Check! Tickets? Check! Time off work? Check!

I'm scheduled to travel down to the UK on the 17th of February, attend the Oxford Open Day / Interview on the 18th, spend the weekend enjoying the finer things of London and commute to Bedfordshire for the Cranfield interview on the 21st, and return to work after the red eye flight of the 22nd!

After perusing blogs for most of last week, the recurring theme from people's Oxford MBA interviews are the three whys....Why MBA, Why Now, and Why Oxford?

In other matters, I'm right in the thick of my studies for the CFA exams in June....sigh....one day, one day....these struggles will end...

On that depressing note, I ask that you wish me luck....


Sunday, February 6, 2011

The dreaded e-mail.....

I received an email in August 2008, informing me that I had passed the first level of the CFA examination. The joy i felt was indescribable! I guess my joy numbed the torture of having to wait an entire day by the computer, hitting the refresh button like someone suffering from the dreaded OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and totally ignore the need to appear to be working. Since then, I have received two CFA 'failure' emails, one MBA rejection and numerous job application rejects via 'the dreaded email' with practically no positive news save the Toefl results last week.

You can imagine my consternation when I got out of bed on Friday the 4th of February, expecting to receive a decision on my application from the Oxford Business School....yes, via email. The thing about such days is that you know you are acting like a retard but you just can't help it. How do you explain checking your email at 4 in the morning knowing fully well that the admissions staff don't resume till 9 am? Will the admissions lady suddenly wake up at 3am, pick up her blackberry and send me an email? Well, I'm ashamed to say I checked my email every 15 minutes from 4am!

When at 3pm, the dreaded e-mail still hadn't come, I went to lunch....of course, the rice tasted like saw dust.. I got back to my seat 30 minutes later to see that I had 3 unread mails.....one of which was from the school.....of course I opened the other two meaningless emails first......then i nervously clicked on the email....

Then I read the words that made me feel like Dr. Sid (A nigerian artist) when he wrote his song 'over the moon'. I had gotten an interview!!!!!! This time, I didn't care I was in the office.....I jumped up, did a 'Tiger Woods' fist pump and started doing my impression of 'alanta' (a popular nigerian dance step).....Thankfully the office was almost empty....the two guys in the office at the time knew I had applied to Said and after initially looking at me with alarm etched on their faces, each other with confusion, and back at me with the realization of what had happened they congratulated me.....

I've sent the school an email requesting that my interview be scheduled on around the Cranfield interview so i can conduct both on the same trip.....

2011 is looking like a good year....Long may it continue!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The emotional roller coaster that is the applications process!

It's been a roller coaster couple of weeks as i've experienced a broad spectrum of emotions......sadness, depression, anger, humiliation, joy, relief, and disbelief!

Sadness and Depression: I got rejected by Cambridge after I had put in everything into my application. It wasn't the fact that i was rejected, but the manner. The curt email told me that all my work for the last few months wasn't even good enough to get them to want to meet me. Thankfully, i've had some experience with disappointment so i was able to pick myself up, send in my oxford application and start my cranfield (my back up) application.

Anger and Humiliation: I found out that I would have to take a test of English specially for the Oxford application. To them, if you haven't lived or worked in the US, UK, Australia or New Zealand, you don't understand English. To make matters worse, they had a minimum pass mark of 109 over 120! I know I can speak English, but I had no clue what to expect from the test....I knew there were four sections, Reading, Speaking, Writing and Listening, but i wondered what i'd have to do to ensure such a high score. I booked the test and went to take it on the 21st of January......when I got there, I felt totally humiliated. The test centre was filled with teenagers just out of high school trying to go to the U.S to study. MBA applicants don't usually have to take a test of English! I'm sure they looked at me and figured I was a farmer or something who started school in his late teens......

Sadness and Depression (2): I started the test....the first two parts were alright.....the reading and listening because they were multiple choice...i breezed through them...I was also comfortable with the writing.....and then came the speaking section. I should have been warned when the guy beside me started his session. He was to articulate why he envied sportsmen and artists....he started....'I like sportsmen and artists because.......coughs, coughs, nervous glance at me, coughs, clock ticking, I like sportmen and artists because, because, because,.....errrrr.......shit (i think that's what he said)....head on the table, time up'! I self righteously wondered how anyone could be so ineffective at communicating......and then it was my turn....the first of six sessions involved having to listen to a lecture and summarize it.....time to prepare after the lecture? 30 seconds....time to speak, 20 seconds! I listened to the lecture and tried to take notes.....shit, this lecturer's speaking too quickly! Slow down! What did he just say? Did he just talk about igneous rocks and volcanoes? What d hell is that? Time up! 30 seconds to prepare! Okay....just look at your notes and you'll be fine....time is running bayo! Stop thinking and look at your notes! Okay...shit! 15 seconds left...okay....and then i hear a voice saying, please speak after the beep.....who d hell pressed the fast forward button????? After the beep, I managed to mumble some words about rocks, volcanoes and even more rocks.....This sequence repeated itself for all the other speaking sessions and i was sure I had blown any chance i had to go to oxford. As i was about to leave the center, i checked my emails and realised i had received one from oxford.....they acknowledged my application but stated they won't be able to consider it until they received a satisfactory toefl score! And that I had until the 28th to produce it or i'll be bumped to round 3......Now round 3 is bad.....its horrible.....its the last minute round where schools don't really take chances...they go with tried and tested profiles. They also try to avoid people that could have potential visa issues because of the short time frame. I asked the toefl guys how long it'll take to get my results and they stated three weeks....that'll be mid-february at the earliest! Shit! Bye Bye Oxford.....Cranfield.....my last hope! Hear my plea!

Joy, Relief and Disbelief! : Cranfield heard my plea and invited me for an interview....first positive news in ages! They wanted to do a phone interview but I wasn't taking any chances! I told them I would like to come over.....I booked my ticket and will travel on the 17th, the interview's on the 21st. I decided to visit oxford as well on their open day on the 18th.....hoping i'd see something about the school that'll make me feel better about not going! Out of the blue, I received an email saying my toefl results were available online. How is that possible? In a week? With shaking hands, i logged on and checked my results.....Reading 30/30, Listening 30/30, Writing 29/30 and Speaking 26/30! A total of 115/120! How is that possible? I stood up and was about scream in joy when i realised i was in the office and couldn't really explain why i was taking toefl....i converted it into an attempt to stretch, yawned and sauntered into the bathroom where i punched the wall vigorously in suppressed excitement. With trembling hands, I reached for my phone and called Oxford, i explained my situation to the amused admissions officer who agreed to send my application in for the second round if i could get the screenshots of my results to her!

What next? I should hear from Oxford of Friday whether i'll get an interview....if i do, i'll just combine the oxford and cranfield interviews in one trip......fingers crossed!

No prizes for guessing what i'm praying i'll title my next post.......