Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Conquering Manchester....

In a bid to get in some essential practice before the annual MBA Tournament at HEC in Paris (and not to mention a weekend without having to think about assignments and school work), we (SBS MBA Football team) accepted an invitation from Manchester Business School for a four school football tournament (also comprising London Business School and Lancaster Business School). 16 Oxford MBA students (including yours truly) rented three cars and made the three hour trip to Manchester, stopping only at Burger King to improve our fitness levels with a few juicy, cholesterol filled burgers.

We arrived Manchester in good spirits (of course welcomed by non-stop rainfall) and headed to the Manchester Business School to meet our gracious hosts and catch a glimpse of the trophy (while also trying to look as scary and unbeatable as possible to hide the fact that we had never played together as a team). 

Next stop? A sports bar in Manchester called footage and trained for our big game against LBS the only way we really know how.....eating kebabs and playing foosball...

Our first game was against our 'bitter' rivals...LBS. We absolutely couldn't lose this game...we would have been happy to lose 10-0 to everyone else as long as we gave LBS a good hiding. I was detailed as the lone striker but with plenty of attacking support from midfield...and the pitch was absolutely horrible, feeling the effects of the incessant rain. The game started off slowly with our Captain Alejandro bossing the midfield and our central defensive pairing of David Wong and Juan taking no prisoners. I had hardly had a sniff of the ball when I received a pass from midfield...I was one on one with the defender and started running towards him. I successfully dribbled him (thanks in part to the slippery conditions as he fell when I changed the direction of the ball). I was one on one with the I try to dribble him, or just try to score from here? Time appeared to stand still in that moment as I felt the three other defenders closing in on me. Make up your mind! Screamed my legs as my brain decided  to draw a decision thing I knew, all my team mates were running towards me with smiles on their faces....turns out my legs had hit the ball and scored....shrugs. We went on to win the game with me scoring a second identical goal (I had enough time to draw a decision tree on this one, so my brain takes the credit) and Jon (Horbinho) Horbaly scoring the third. We also beat Manchester Business School 3-1 and drew with Lancaster Business School 1-1 to qualify for the finals.

Yes we're one big happy family but don't mess with my food! 
Given the obvious correlation between alcohol and football performance, we stepped up our training regimen for the finals.

Now we were ready....we had played Lancaster earlier in the tournament and drew with them. We kicked off and David 'Jennetrator' Jennison calmed our nerves with two awesome headed goals off corner kicks. We could relax and play our game! I scored two more and Guillaime 'Napoleon' Borda grabbed a fifth...we were champions!

Up next? LBS hosts its own football tournament in two weeks, with a slightly expanded cast, including some Spanish schools...and we all know the Spanish are the kings of football....let's hope they have Kebabs in London....

Friday, February 3, 2012

Rankings, Results and Relief....

It's been one of those weeks....payback everyone waited with bated breath for the release of our results from Michaelmas term and the first MBA ranking of the year (FT) 2012.

The very publicised Financial Times ranking of MBA schools was published earlier this week. I personally believe the ranking system is quite flawed...with way too much emphasis placed on average salaries post graduation and way too little placed on qualitative factors that can not be reduced to numbers. For instance, a larger than average number of SBS graduates go off and start up their own ventures but that entrepreneurial spirit is not reflected in the rankings and in fact counts as a disadvantage as entrepreneurs are less likely to command those high salaries early on. But then again I realise that there's a significant number of people who try to use the MBA as a stamp to land a job in Investment Banking or Consulting....these rankings would perhaps mean more to them than the class of people for whom the quality of the education, experience and brand of the school are perhaps more important than short term concerns like landing that Mckinsey gig.

That's why the choice of school is such a personal thing and applicants should be clear about their reason for undertaking the MBA and select the school that might be best placed to facilitate the achievement of those goals. Anyway the rankings which you can find here, were mostly positive for Oxford as we had a 7 point jump from 27th to 20th in the world and 2nd in the UK. This was made more enjoyable by the fact that 'the other guys' were down in 26th. So while I am generally sceptical about the methodology used in deriving the rankings, I am at least pleased that we appear to be doing the obvious things right. The arrival of the new dean also appears to have spruced things up as he has introduced a few initiatives like the Oxford 1+1 Program and an MBA Pre-Internship  Program. There's only one way to go...UP!

On a more personal note, my results from last term were released today...I PASSED THEM ALL! Some grades were surprisingly low and some surprisingly high but i'm just thankful I don't have to resit anyone of them. For the sake of future students, I'll do a brief post-mortem of each course;

Strategy: Perhaps a little better than i expected given that this was my first 100% case study exam. What would I have done differently? Practice doing a lot more case studies and memorize way more frameworks than I knew during the exams.

Decision & Data Analytics: A little lower than I expected. Did well on the exams but not so well on the assignments. I think this was because I hadn't really understood the way to answer questions on this course. To do really well, you have to do way more than getting the answer....For example, simply saying adjusted R2=85% without explaining why R2 is adjusted means you won't get full marks for that question. The support classes are also absolutely critical for those with no prior statistics expertise.

Marketing: Much higher than expected (in fact my highest grades of any course). Handed in my individual assignment (curled metal...remember?) without knowing if I had handed in the most ignorant piece of rubbish I had ever written. Turns out it was distinction level excellent group also made sure we got a good score on the group work. Like strategy, its key to learn the frameworks early....when the frameworks are internalised, every question can be answered easily.

Financial Reporting: The biggest surprise of the lot. I was pretty confident of a distinction here...but scored a 65. We did well on the assignment but I must have bombed the exams. Trying to think about any obvious mistakes I might have made...can't think of any (apart from one time I mis-interpreted a question and spent 20 minutes answering the question the wrong way. I thought i recovered well though). Anyway, doesn't really matter...I passed the course.

Managerial Economics: About right...did ok without ever reaching the Keynesian heights of awesomeness. I should probably have been a little more engaged in class....spent most of the time I should have used to revise, learning most of the concepts.

Finance: Didn't do as well as I thought and deservedly so....over confidence. It was my last exam and I put in very little revision into it. Got blind sided by a few questions during the exams and never regained my composure....

It was also good to see people with absolutely no prior exposure to some courses getting distinctions in them. Proves that even 'poets' (MBA speak for those without quantitative experience) can excel given that they put the effort in. Overall, I would have taken these results gleefully before the exams given the notoriously difficult marking standards at Oxford....clearly I'll aim to increase my current average of 65 this term. Every single blog I read and every single alumni I spoke with said the same thing....'don't get hung up on grades as long as you pass....

At least I don't have to deal with the embarrassment of a resit exam...I'd have had to sneak into d exam room with a fake moustache and how do I celebrate? A snow fight? Ok.....

Snowed for the first time this year....Mike Navarette (our in-house creative genius) captures the beauty of the Snow

A less creative picture of a group of MBAs (myself included) who proceeded to engage in a snow battle all the way from Cowley road before ending up at Mcdonalds on Cornmarket street (at 3am!) for a quick snack