May 26, 2011

Break-even... Payback Period... Whatever

Yep. Lot of people worry about break-even and pay-back for the MBA. Thought you might find it interesting to know that I broke even around Feb 2011.

My calculation is fairly simplistic

break-even: where  (money earned since MBA - cost of MBA) = (money earned if I did not do MBA)

1. I know how much I made post MBA, since Aug 2008.
2. I worked out a value of how much I would have made if I did not go to MBA.
3. Break-even is where 1 = 2

Also keep in mind I was earning in US $ before I started my MBA, so this isn't a case of foreign exchange trumping Pre-MBA Indian earnings.

December 20, 2009

Hello there - I'm back (or am I?)

Been a while since I sort of killed off this blog. I thought it would die slowly, fading off into obscurity. I'm surprised at how well it's held out in the absence of any new posts! The traffic is steady as it always was - so I figured maybe a post now and then, injecting it with something new (a post MBA perspective) might actually help some people who want to know more about "what happens after?"

Much has happened since my recruitment days. I had offers, chose a job, moved to a new country, learned about new sectors and industries, lost my job in the great recession (yes we are all dispensable),  leveraged my alumni network, found a new job, supported a little venture of someone close to me, wrote down a detailed business plan for a new venture that I think has lots of potential but then have not pursued it yet for various reasons. I also indulged in a new hobby about which I have no intention of writing on this blog (no, it's nothing shady). So. There is much to talk about - for example, about challenges in deciding what you want post MBA, about life in consulting, about life when you get laid off, about life when you seek a new job, about what it means to switch sectors after experience in a different one for many years,  and about what the alumni network actually means.

So, perhaps, in the coming days I will have some more to talk about.

July 04, 2008

Good bye!

Dear readers,

It's been a long journey from my first post to today. My INSEAD saga is over, and with that, as promised, it is time to say 'so long!'

The year has been a tapestry of experiences, and the rewards have far exceeded disappointments. At the end of it all, I made life long friends, learned many new things, had new avenues opened for me, enjoyed a vast range of social activities with diversity that is almost unparalleled (while this is often a cliche, at INSEAD you really need to be here to even understand what it really means), and ended the year with fond memories that will remain. To me, there are no good-byes, in this age and time I will always have the means to be in touch with those that are in touch with me. In a nutshell, INSEAD was a fantastic experience.

The last few days have been incredibly busy with the class ends, assignments, graduation trip, ceremony and I have had no Internet for most of the time. That, coupled with the sweet exhaustion of completing the course meant my "promise of remaining posts" will unfortunately be broken, and allow others to say what I have not. I have had no time to make my customary cartoons, as the friends at Clearadmit blog mused.

With that, I sign off. To you, I wish you great times, successful preparation and admits, and a great career.

As for me, it is time to welcome a new world, new challenges and new excitement.

Good bye!

July 03, 2008

Graduation Ceremony

I've been "detoxed" from the Internet - with no access in the last 9 days! It's finally good to be online today, if only very briefly, before I head out. The graduation ceremony got over today - and with that a wonderful chapter concluded, and opened the road to a new world ahead.

In completely unrelated news - I fell in love with Turkish music, and this song in particular! by Gulben Ergen. Enjoy.

June 23, 2008

End of classes

Today I finished my last class at INSEAD. No more classes. It's been a great journey so far - and it's wrapping up time with a great grad trip.

June 20, 2008

My INSEAD recruitment/placement statistics

Without giving absolute numbers, here is how my recruitment went and what I did.

  1. I did the necessary song-and-dance. I went to most presentations, most cocktails, did whatever coffee-chat interviews I could.
  2. I tailored almost all my covering letters - in the absence of information of who reads it and who does not, I preferred to err on the side of caution. Besides, creating tailored letters also helps to understand the company better.
  3. I had 2 CVs - both had subtle differences in what I highlighted. One was for consulting companies and the other Industry.
My recruitment statistics - all numbers are slightly skewed and not very accurate, so don't get imaginative. Don't conclude anything too hastily.
  1. Almost all my applications were in P4 while interviews went across to P5 as well
  2. I had a 50% call rate from application to interview.
  3. 50% of those that called me for 1st round invited me to the final round
  4. About 45% of those that called me for the final round made an offer
  5. For industry - about 65% of those I applied for called me for 1st round, and about 80% of them converted to 2nd round
  6. For consulting - about 35% called for the 1st round and I had a 67% chance of going to the second round
  7. I withdrew from a couple of final round interviews and also refused couple of first rounds - my % do not adjust for these
  8. I have no good idea why company X shortlisted me and why company Y did not. My background was not a very "straight fit" to strategy consulting. Most of the small/niche consulting companies rejected me without an interview.
  9. I think the timing of our recruitment (July promotion is out of cycle with regular US and 2 year programs so many companies had hired and then maybe went into a scared "wait-and-watch" situation) combined with an awful economic situation made it a lot more stressful than it perhaps is.
  10. If you are from another business school and have been through this, you can compare notes and conclude that I am an idiot, just don't post that as a comment ;) I'm sure there are superstars with 90% success rate from application to offer, I'm not one of them.
  11. Recruiting for what you want takes lot of work.
Overall Possible locations

When I include the offers I have and the offers I might have had and the offers I did not have after final rounds, the locations were (some locations may have occurred twice)

London, New York, Dubai, Amsterdam, Dublin

Offer Locations

London, New York

Type of jobs

Both consulting positions and MBA leadership positions

Interview intensity

Highest Number of interviews before an offer was made - 10 (MBA leadership)
Lowest Number of interviews before an offer was made - 6 (Consulting) + lunch evaluation

Types of interviews

Most were case based, industry always did 1 or 2 competency/motivation interviews, individual case presentation and group presentation.

The offer numbers

Yeah right ;)

For those who might mail me asking questions about specific companies, interview details, offer numbers and so on - I'm sorry but I will not be responding to any of them. If you join a B-school you will get plenty of information from your school.

Oops...too many requests

I've got so many mails asking me to post on a variety of topics and its unlikely I can cover them all. I'll cover a few things and leave the rest to the future bloggers. As one commenter pointed out, it's unusual for a student in a top MBA program to have so much time ;) well, actually, I don't. In a course of 2 years, I've had only 3 long posts that took weeks to compose. The remaining take barely 30 minutes a statistically, I really wasn't spending so much time.

Nevertheless, the days are very hectic again as we race to completion and have many social activities to tend to, but I'll do my best before signing off. Today we had the INSEAD Cabaret - it was hugely enjoyable. I'll try getting some pics up sometime later if I can.

June 19, 2008

Blog transition! D-Day beaches at Normandy / Allied Invasion

As part of my transition process, it's time for me to welcome the D'08 blogs. I hope you will find ongoing information there!

D'08 - if anyone of you reads my blog - I'd be happy to link your blog (you do not need to reciprocate) if it is active. I will add the blog list to my lists in a couple of days. It is also time to phase out inactive or previous blogs.

In other news, As part of my travel I recently visited all the D-Day beaches in Normandy (Utah, Omaha, Juno, Sword, Gold). If you have an appreciation for WW II and an interest in history, this tour is a must. A few photos.. the commentary for each photo is below it.

A view of the Omaha Dog Green sector which is the same sector depicted in Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan opening scene. What surprised me was how touristy the beach had become.

Barbed wires on a German bunker/ German bunker and staircase in Point-Du-Hoc which is an astonishingly preserved battle zone with German bunkers, bomb craters, and long range artillery.

Tetrahedrons on the Utah beach, meant to damage water craft incoming on the beaches. Now at display near the solemn Utah beach memorial.

June 16, 2008

Blog statistics/What next?

It's been an interesting journey - this blog now clocks over 10,000 views a month, appears on many meaningful searches, probably has by far the largest number of RSS subscribers for an INSEAD blog, and is about to cross a 100,000 views. Not bad for a INSEAD specific niche blog. If I were from, say, Wharton, I might have had a wider audience.

One would be tempted to see how to further "explode" the audience by widening the range of topics, or rope in other writers etc. But once this journey is over in a few days, it's also perhaps the time to end the blog, remove links to older and redundant blogs, link the "fresh ones" and let the next batch take over. It's always best when said from the perspectives of a current student or an applicant. I have an idea for my next on-line casual/hobby venture and it has nothing to do with an MBA or a personal blog. I doubt anyone is interested in reading my personal stories.

Before I sign off for good in a couple of, if you want to see posts on anything specific, drop a comment. I might! I'm mentioning this right now because longer posts need more time.

June 11, 2008

INSEAD vs. US B-schools / Chicago GSB/Columbia/Darden/Ross/MIT

The official INSEAD 2007 career report is now out, see it here

Here it is - the post to discuss some top US B-schools and INSEAD. Like my FT analysis, this is going to be a rather long post - so if you can't be bothered, just skip it!

This post examines INSEAD vis-a-vis some top US MBA B-schools over a range of typical post-MBA career parameters. The purpose is to show how INSEAD compares to US schools, and to examine some commonly held beliefs. This is NOT about which one is 'superior'. The post is also meant to perhaps give a little more information to potential applicants wondering where to apply and where to study. The post is not so much about INSEAD vs. US B-schools as it is about "INSEAD alongside US B-schools" to give a numbers-driven idea and to answer the question "is your career a disaster if you cannot apply to a US school?"

For the purposes of this discussion, I am keeping Harvard, Wharton and Stanford out of discussion to avoid needless bickering. But if you are curious, you can look at an analysis I made long ago that has Wharton and Stanford in the list alongside INSEAD.

Choosing which B-school to do an MBA is not easy - this leads to a multitude of questions when it comes to decision making time. A lot of people aspire to go to the top MBA schools - and the US news rankings and FT MBA ranking are pretty widely recognized as those that perhaps best reflect the typical top 10-12 schools in the world. In general, US B-schools enjoy a stronger general recognition brand. This is changing, and there are many who are expanding their choice of schools beyond the US borders. So then, if someone wants to do a "world class MBA" outside US, the typical choices have been LBS and INSEAD. When figuring out if INSEAD is a good place to go, there are many doubts, some assumptions, and many blank stares from those who do not know about the school.When trying to research INSEAD and, say, a top US school, applicants face some oft-repeated phrases in forums – here is a sample I’ve seen over the last 1-1 ½ years – especially when the discussions comes between choosing between INSEAD and a top 4-7/10 US school.

  • It is “dumb” to compare to a top US B-school. For e.g. Chicago GSB is way ahead of INSEAD. For many, it's a no contest between applying to any US B-school vs. applying to INSEAD (or LBS, for that matter).

  • INSEAD is very heavily consulting oriented. Most become consultants.

  • "Big 3" consulting numbers are inflated because many are already from those companies.

  • People do not get into PE/VC.

  • Average age in INSEAD is much higher than US B-schools.

  • INSEAD’s Singapore campus is ‘worse’ than France – or, is it bad to go to “INSEAD Singapore”

Each school comes with the burden of perceptions. Sometimes, those perceptions are not questioned and are simply taken as granted. I figured the best way (the way I see it), is to simply put numbers instead of strenuously arguing pros-and-cons. Numbers tell a story behind them, they are a result of many factors, and they make it easy to get a sense of value.


My approach focuses on the typical MBA aspirant – outliers are not part of this discussion. All description going ahead is about the typical candidate. This post is about you and me – not about the superstar 4.0 GPA with 6 million $ in his account and now wants to do an MBA based on a school’s research output in bio-hazard management and impact on penguins and cares little about a school’s career services. A typical aspirant does an MBA for these popular reasons

  • Better career options – by way of growth or change in line of work, mobility

  • Compensation – 'nuff said

  • Strength of and access to a lifelong network, brand power

Recruitment strength determines where we end up in and with what, and follow closely with the reputation the school has built over years

  • With companies – by quality of recruits, their performance, and interactions with the school

  • With alumni – which is proud of the school, has fond memories, and is willing to help

  • In the press – by way of interaction, ranking, senior executive and CEO interactions

The stronger a school's performance, the better the intake gets, and consequently the better the output as seen by companies. For this reason, the way the students are valued in the job market is often the best indicator of a school's strength. And within that valuation is the perception of brand. My take on brand is that those who matter within corporate circles know the brand, and not your barber’s aunt knowing which school you went to.

With this in mind, the way I went about is to simply pick the latest available career reports and list them across 5 different schools. You could say no pattern is inferable without picking a history of reports - and I'd say that's not very necessary.

Typically these reports do not change drastically year to year (except in very bad or very good years), and wages get adjusted upward at roughly inflation levels. But the reports give a good view of how companies value and take students, who the top employers are, the quality of top employers, how big the school is, what sectors the school is stronger in, diversity of employment/international opportunities and so on - and every such number is a result of a huge number of parameters. I chose Chicago GSB, Columbia, MIT Sloan, Darden and Ross to get a spectrum of choices. Kellogg's career report was hard to use in comparison and I finally dropped it. I chose parameters that are most often quoted and looked at, and a few others to highlight interesting differences between schools.

I used 2007 data from the following sources

  1. Chicago GSB

  2. MIT Sloan

  3. University of Michigan, Ross

  4. University of Virginia, Darden

  5. Columbia


If you find any discrepancy in the data, please let me know. A few notes before you get your cannons out of the barn,

  1. Don’t focus too much on specific numbers which change a bit every year. The idea is to see the entire picture to get a feel, and not kill ourselves on specific single lines.

  2. I was unable to get a clear picture of alumni strength as some schools mix all their programs together and also include their universities and cite that as the number. I need full time MBA alumni numbers.

  3. The reason there is no entry for pre-MBA numbers (GMAT, GPA etc.) is that I’m trying to figure out the post-MBA worth which sort of “packages” all this into an outcome.

So, here they are - Click a graph if you want to see it in a larger size

Very clearly, US schools are highly US centric and it is not surprising. INSEAD, on the other hand, is very international in where the graduates go. The largest % is to UK - about 28%. I could not find data for Darden and Columbia and therefore they are missing (anyone knows?)

Yes, INSEAD is big when compared on an annual class basis. Though if you actually take a specific graduating batch in an year, it would be half of what is shown above. People are often surprised to find how big INSEAD actually is. Even I was, when I first found out :)


This is an interesting graph - you can see the sector % spread for INSEAD is actually less varied compared to the others where there are much stronger sector slants. But in 2008 I think we will see a drop in Finance (for INSEAD at least) given that we were unfortunate to be graduating in an absolutely awful economic conditions. Big-3 => McKinsey, BCG and Bain.

You can see that INSEAD and Chicago have pretty low "lowest" salaries which interestingly correlates directly with the % of international placement. perhaps the graduates in both cases went to emerging economies for lower paying jobs?

The table below does not format properly - if you are unable to read it completely, please open this PDF file that contains the same table.

The raw data used - all currency in $



Chicago GSB

MIT Sloan



Program Length (Years)







Class size

885 (~2 x 450)






INSEAD is bigger than Ross and Darden combined or more than twice MIT

Recruitment % outside home country







Mean base salary ($)







Median Salary







Median Sign On bonus







Max Salary







Min Salary







INSEAD's highest/lowest variances are probably because it places many in high wage West Europe (UK, Germany) and in low wage countries (China, India). Part of the higher base for INSEAD could be due to the stronger euro/pound.

Biggest employer

McK (70)

McK (42)

McK (33)

McK (27)


McK (13)

Consulting %







Finance %







Industry %







INSEAD number for McKinsey excludes existing sponsored students. It's interesting to note that Chicago and Columbia are more skewed towards finance/industry than INSEAD is towards consulting. If INSEAD has to be called “Consulting school" then are Chicago and MIT "Industry schools" and is Columbia a "Finance” school?

PE/VC Median Salary







PE/VC # selected**







Big-3 consulting #







Big-3 as % class-size***







I added PE/VC just for kicks because people are so excited about these fields. I think these PE/VC numbers will change substantially year to year.

Many state that "INSEAD numbers to top 3 consulting schools is inflated because actually many of them are already sponsored from those schools." The data above, for INSEAD, EXCLUDES those sponsored.

* Not available – taken for finance general

**approximate calculation using % - numbers may not be very accurate

***This number is not fully accurate because a certain number outside the hired # are also part of the same companies. But it’s just to give a relative idea. INSEAD does have quite a few M/B/B within the class.

Biggest Finance Employer

Barclays (15)

Citi (24)

Lehman (19)

Lehman (9)


Citi (9)















Avg entering age







Another interesting observation - people say INSEAD is for those much older. INSEAD is a 1 year program as compared to US 2 year -- this should mean that the average graduating age for US schools and INSEAD is same at 30

Offers 3 mo Post Grad







This is an area where INSEAD could do better - regardless of what reasons lie behind the 92% vs. the 95+ for US schools. I also feel (without having delved into it deeper) that the top US schools seem to have a larger number of companies and niche companies on campus as opposed to INSEAD - a topic for another post perhaps

I won’t get into a lengthy “deductive” commentary from the above numbers. You can draw your own conclusions or deductions, or if you have something interesting to share - leave a comment for everyone's benefit.

But what you can see in general is INSEAD compares well with the best of US schools, and in spite of being the biggest of the above lot, and pretty much having no access to the biggest MBA market and the largest single economy in the world – the US. I sometimes wonder how things could change when INSEAD brand picks up in the US. The school recently opened a marketing office in New York to push the brand.If we could get more US corporations to pay attention to INSEAD. That would be very interesting.

When attempting to get an MBA, it's important to ask yourself what you really want and tune down common held notions and spend some time looking deeper into details and you might find surprising results. Each school in the above list, whether Chicago, INSEAD, Columbia, MIT, Kellogg, Ross - is a terrific school with specific characteristics and strength -and they all compare well with each other. It's sort of a reaffirmation that if you are from a solid institution, you are likely to do well no matter where you are from.

With this data, the real differentiators sort of come down to

  1. Whether US is the desired, principal choice of work location*

  2. Opportunity cost and career-switching** options of 1-year @ INSEAD vs. 2-year program

  3. The kind of experience desired through the program – highly international vs. US-centric

*It is not easy to get a job in US from INSEAD – and it gets especially hard if you’re not a permanent resident or US citizen. Brand perception in the US is also weaker, so it takes more time and effort if you go outside the traditional blue chips/finance and consulting companies. The visa issues are the major stumbling block for the rest of those desiring to go to US, and this keeps many recruiters away.

**For finance switchers, INSEAD, especially the July promotion, makes it hard due to lack of internships.

Addressing specific questions

Isn’t INSEAD is a big MBA factory and therefore bad?

I don’t see how having about 800 of your class/year mates every year getting into top companies around the world (and you having access to a big alumni base) is a bad thing! Look at it this way, the INSEAD alumni grows at about 10 times the rate of IMD in Europe every year, and about three times that of LBS. It can’t be bad. In the same reasoning – Harvard and Wharton are US MBA factories, Google is an engineer dump-house, McKinsey is a consulting crap mill, P&G is a marketing sweatshop. You get the drift. When the institution is good, size is an advantage, not a disadvantage. It is not that you will sit in a classroom with 800 people. While you can have small groups and classes in a big school, you cannot magically have the large network and resources of a big school if you are not from one.

With 92% post-MBA recruitment numbers INSEAD is behind US schools, right?

Yes, it is. INSEAD should do better here. The only way this is a deal breaker is if you go into the school with the presumption that you will be one who falls into the 4% gap. But then, if you thought that way, you probably also worry that you would be one of those 3% in MIT Sloan who do not have a job 3 months after graduation.

But isn’t INSEAD Singapore a worse institution compared to INSEAD France? Am I doomed for eternity if I land up in INSEAD Singapore?

You really have no idea how INSEAD works, So I wrote something to address the INSEAD Singapore confusion - so read it here and this INSEAD Singapore vs. Fontainebleau post should help you understand the structure better.


There - that ends a "graphical" comparison how different schools look side-by-side. We could get into all sorts of details, but a numerical highlight is a good indicator of how schools fare finally. I believe in the strength of recruitment (quality of companies, opportunities available, compensation to graduates, alumni strength) as an excellent indicator to a school's value, reputation and brand - which in turn drives the best applicants to go there. You can see this evidence when you also include Harvard, Wharton and Stanford.

Coming next

INSEAD vs. Wharton - yeah! actually it's not a "vs." but more of how the two schools stand side-by-side on the broad metrics. You can see for yourself how strong Wharton is when it comes to recruiting (and whether it really is a finance school) - and it blends well with the argument of better the school's reputation among companies, the more impressive the recruitment looks. But wait, you'll also be pleasantly surprised to see how we hold against Wharton as well.

For comments and criticism

Given that I was looking at 6 reports, there may be little mistakes here and there, please point them to me if you are as "slacked" as I am and managed to spend time cross-checking my numbers.

Any helpful "my school is particularly good at" comments are very welcome - they will help readers understand the strength of specific programs much better. If you found some interesting insights from the data presented here, or if you dug something else interesting, please share them as well.

Any comments along the lines of "you suck...your/their school sucks..or this school sucks..but EIU ranking says" will simply be removed. I prefer to use numbers as presented by schools themselves. If you disagree completely with my correlation of recruitment strength with school strength, then this post was not for you and you can't really change my mind - there's a lot of evidence out there.