March 29, 2008

A Day in the Life of B-school Recruitment/Placement

Whether it is investment banking, strategy/management consulting or top industry jobs during B-school recruitment/placement season, life offers all of us joyful challenges :)

In other news, For those who might not know, Google docs has a nice handy feature to write a blog post in it and publish directly to blogger. Check the 'Publish' option in the main screen 'More Actions' menu item. Some of you may be flummoxed on how to get the blog title when publishing a blog from Google docs, it's simple, just make sure the first line of the document is in H1 style (heading) which you can get from Format->Heading(H1). Update: It's not very good if you use images in your posts - you'll run into some formatting issues.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to climb Mt.Everest blindfolded and my hands tied behind my back. Should be easy.

PS: For the uninitiated, a "ding" is a rejection letter, the sweet sounding letter that a company sends you to tell you how fantastically talented you are but that you still suck anyway ;)

March 27, 2008

Entrepreneurship in Asia and Europe - an ASES Singapore Event

The enterprising folks (Penny, VP of ASES from Singapore - I'm impressed at the high motivation approach to get me to blog about this :) ) at ASES got in touch with me about this event that might be interesting to a lot of people in Singapore, including INSEADers. I'm happy to help -- here are the details. Please don't email me asking for any information, just get in touch directly with ASES Singapore ( / )

Join us in the mixer event, brought to you by ASES Singapore, supported by INSEAD Entrepreneurship Club, NUS MBA Club and NUS Graduate Students' Society!
Entrepreneurship in Asia & Europe
(Panel Discussion & Networking Session)
Europe has a long history in developing advance technologies, particularly in green energy technology, telecommunications and chemical technology. As Asia is growing, the need for such technologies escalates to accommodate the improving Asian living standards.

Together with venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, graduate students, and MBAs from INSEAD, NUS and NTU, come learn from the entrepreneurial scenes across continents. Come network with an audience of Asian and European backgrounds, it will be thrilling explore the opportunities which lie within.

Date: 4th April, 2008 (Friday)
Time: 7.30pm-9.30pm (Registration starts at 7pm)
Venue: Munchie Monkey, Yusof Ishak House, NUS (Map)
Fee: SGD 10 (Dessert and free flow drinks will be provided)
Limited seats available.
Sign up now at!
Panel Discussion
Prof. Desai Narasimhalu, Chairman, SMU Business Innovation Generator

Mr. Camelo Pistorio, Founder, Upstream Ventures
Ms. Doris Yee, General Partner, iGlobe Partners
Mr. Jean-Fabrice Cope, Vice-President, INSEAD Entrepreneurship Club

To find out more about the speakers, click!

ASES Singapore

March 26, 2008

Blog statistics / Random

Interesting. This blog is finally hitting a gentle stride -  and I've seen a steady increase of traffic over the months and the highest RSS subscribership of any INSEAD blog. I must be doing something right :)

Last few days have been good -- sleeping early, getting good sleep. We stocked our empty fridge today, which means I won't starve in the mornings. And I second ResIpsa's post on Professor Bartolome's class - it is very interesting and there is some good learning out there. One thing is for sure, I've never, ever had a professor like him all my life - and I am not kidding.

I sometimes don't understand why I get mails like "Can you give me tips on GMAT?" - and I have no choice but not to respond. A specific query helps because I cannot possibly run GMAt counselling sessions on email! There are many posts on my blog on GMAT, take a look!

March 22, 2008

Consulting Case Interview - First Experience

Continuing the consulting recruitment at INSEAD Part I saga. So my first real (as in for a real company and a real job) interview was something like this (you can click the image for a larger size)

Actually, I'm kidding. In reality, I had 2 interviews, and both the interviewers were really nice. They were helpful in answering questions I asked, guided the thought process the right way, and at no point did I feel uncomfortable.

One was a market sizing case, and the other was business strategy. I think the key is to be calm and positive and not go "all over the place." This interview happened by surprise and I've not had much practice so far - but hey, surprises are part of life. Gotta deal with them as they happen.

Fun days ahead!

March 18, 2008

Consulting Recruitment - Relevance of GMAT score / GMAT wisdom!

GMAT is a pain for so many.We stress about GMAT scores before applying to business schools. We debate endlessly on its relevance and what one could conclude about someone on basis of GMAT scores. We argue the reputation of schools based on their average GMAT. Whether you love it or hate it, everyone worries about GMAT some time in their MBA lives.

Unfortunately, the specter of GMAT will not leave you even when you apply to some consulting firms. It so happens that some of them will ask you for your GMAT score. Some encourage you to specify your score, and we don't know what it means if you are not sufficiently encouraged to disclose your score. Now is this score critical to their decision making process? I don't know. Do those with higher GMAT do better in their consulting lives? I don't know. Is it a screening process? I don't know. Is it just to weed out someone if their remaining application is weak? I don't know. In the absence of hard data the answer to all questions is I don't know. But is it asked for? Yes.

I remember an year ago during my application time that in one of the forums someone posted a message that consulting firms require GMAT and a whole bunch of people began to attack him as if he made the policy. Like we learn in our OB classes (I'm twisting it a little), there are "type A" issues - those you know the way they are, and there are "type B" - those you wish they were like. GMAT is type 'A' - whatever you think, it's out there and it gets attention.

So, my GMAT wisdom,

1. Don't underestimate its importance - a good score will bolster your application for top schools, and don't forget that some schools actually try to lift their reputation by actually touting incoming GMAT averages. The scores also get asked by some companies for whatever reason. It doesn't matter what you think - if you ignore all the signs out there, you are being dumb.

2. It's actually not that hard - With some intelligent preparation and diligence, there's no reason why you can't do it well.

3. A high score is no reason to strut - since there seems to be no conclusive evidence about what a high GMAT score even means in terms of general ability, it's best not to infer too much about anyone based on GMAT scores. I can tell you with certainty that here at INSEAD we have those with lower GMAT scores who still happen to be super smart and beat many others hollow in many areas. I actually see no correlation at all based on subjective observation. The only "macro" indicator is that all top schools have 700+ averages, and we don't even know how to interpret it (cause-effect unclear).

On the left column of this blog post there are some GMAT links of my past posts that might help you somewhat in your preparation.

March 15, 2008

Consulting Recruitment at INSEAD (relevant to any MBA applicant)

Note: This post could be relevant no matter which school you are applying to - though the school discussed in context is my school. The post focuses on the consulting recruitment process in general.

For many students aspiring for an MBA, consulting remains one of the prime exit choices. It is very evident in INSEAD, and I would think it is so in most other schools as well. For many years INSEAD has been known as a "consulting school", though career statistics show that post INSEAD careers are quite evenly split among Finance, Consulting and Industry. This year we seem to have a greater interest from industry and an understandable slow-down in Finance.

In this post I will cover a few things that INSEAD applicants and even MBA population in general might find useful when it comes to consulting aspirations. For reasons best known to me, I will be refraining from mentioning actual names of companies in some cases. Keep in mind that at INSEAD we have only just begun the recruiting season for my batch (or promotion, as we call it), so these impressions are based on what we saw last week - an insanely hectic week.

Consulting companies at INSEAD this year
Pretty much all global consulting companies recruit at INSEAD - it is perhaps true that INSEAD is one of the major feeders into the best known consulting companies. One of the "big 3" let us know that last year (2007) they hired more from INSEAD than any other business school in the world, and it is a fact that many consulting companies recruit quite heavily from INSEAD. You would be surprised at the number of INSEADers in the top consulting firms around the globe with the exception of US (of course!) This year some of the smaller companies have tailored their process to make it easy for us to apply for offices around the world. The reality also is that apart from some US citizens and green card holders most others are no longer interested in applying to the US due to the hassles of visa process and the broad economic indicators.

The whole consulting story is not over if I do not touch upon briefly how both the companies and students connect with each other. It is surprising to see the amount of time and effort consulting companies take in keeping in touch with INSEAD students, and the love is likewise reciprocated with full audiences during presentations :) For example, one of Big-3's (McKinsey, BCG and Bain) arranges terrific welcome parties when we join, another Big-3 provides us with a helpful consulting resource book and also holds a very useful preparation workshop. Another Big-3 takes us to a lovely French chateau for drinks, conversation, dinners, music, and more drinks. Most firms send their people to campus to hold one-on-one chats to understand them better. Whatever someone's misgivings are about consulting, you cannot ignore the fact that they pay a lot of attention to recruiting. Those who complain about the work and the load should not choose consulting, because it appears to have its own characteristic. Most companies require consultants to travel Monday-Thursday. Campus recruitment is typically open to most offices in the world, with some exceptions where particular offices may have stopped hiring because they are already staffed (e.g. some North American offices may not be open because they coincide their cycle with US schools).
Consulting in the face of Macroeconomic indicators / US slowdown

Clearly, everyone worries about the US recession (whether officially announced or not, things are not looking good), fall of the US $, oil price increases, impact on UK - all the depressing news FT brings to us each morning. It is hard to predict whether consulting companies will recruit in same numbers as last year, or less, or more. The message right now appears to be business as usual - though when all this ends a few months from now and the dust settles we will perhaps have a better picture of what is happening.
The process by most companies

Consulting companies emphasize structure when interviewing. Thankfully their own recruitment follows a pretty structured process. You get enough information about the companies, perhaps have coffee chats, then you have presentations, then you have time to network with people from different offices, and then you apply using a couple of mechanisms - whether through the internal career website, or in some cases via the company's web site. The interview dates and round 1 dates are often within weeks of the application. The final rounds are almost always in the office of your choice. It appears that one would know if they had a job or not pretty quickly once the rounds are over.

With regards to questions on how you choose offices - well, you typically choose the office you want the most, and most companies will allow you to choose 1 or 2 additional choices. For e.g. Big-A lets you choose 3 offices and the office will look at your application in order of preference. The application moves from office 1 (if refused) to office 2 and last chance office 3. If an office picks the application, then offices in the lower preference will no longer process it, and if you fail the interview, then it is all over. Big-B lets you choose 3 offices and each office can independently get in touch with you - but you must choose 1 office to interview with. Not many differences, but typically your first choice is what matters most.

What fun is life if you have no competition?'s not a lot of fun consulting-aspirers in schools like INSEAD. You are no longer the king of your class feeling all smart - when you look around your "competitors" you realize how hard it gets when you are at INSEAD (or Wharton, or Kellog - any top school). A huge number of talented, smart and accomplished people and you have to find ways to distinguish yourself. It is difficult and many find it stressful - but that's how it goes. The consulting companies are selective - and they are 'selecting selective few' from an already 'selectively selected' population. Argh. So is getting a consulting job for the typical INSEAD grad a given? I think not. It is a hard fough battle for most.
Peer pressure
When people see most of their friends apply, they apply too, and then their friends apply, and that makes their friends apply. Network effect. Yes, many apply for consulting jobs whether they are really sure they want it or not.
What profiles consulting companies look for
It is premature to answer this question - perhaps a picture will emerge once we begin to see interview short-lists. But based on what we hear, it is quite useful to have some interesting experiences to show, have some language skills (many offices require knowledge of local language), strong analytical and problem solving skills. I'm telling you what I hear a lot - but I have nothing more to say here until I see outcome. If someone does have consulting experience, it is probably an advantage.

What happens next?

Your guess is as good as mine. Or wait for Part-II if I write it.

From all the presentations and discussions, it is not difficult to see why consulting is an attractive choice to many. The work appears to be hard with lot of travel, but the chance to work on a wide range of issues, travel globally and work with lot of smart people is a motivator to many (not to mention the pay and perks). INSEAD seems to have a strong track record with many companies, but it remains to see how things will play out this year.

PS - I will not respond to any individual emails sent to me asking for specific data, company names and so on. If you have something to add, please leave a comment. If you have questions, please leave a comment and I may respond. If you want to speculate, be my guest :)

March 11, 2008

Hello there, fellow blogger!

So, today, in a dinner party, I finally met Res I(p)sa, who happens to be very nice to talk to, is charming and pretty. Well, nice to meet you!

The recruitment song and dance began today. Sigh. I am getting used to this place now, and I have to say some of these French houses/chateaus are pretty awesome.

March 07, 2008

Engineers have it easy in an MBA? + Fonty experience..

One of the recurring themes I've read over the years before I finally embarked on an MBA was how "Engineers had it easy in an MBA", or more particularly - how skills from engineering would really give an advantage to those in an MBA. As I tread the courses, I can say with great confidence that this certainly is not so. So, here is my laundry list of the advantages, disadvantages of an engineering degree while going into an MBA

  1. A engineering degree will quite certainly make GMAT easier..
  2. But you will also have many other engineers to compete with
  3. The reason engineers why, while studying undergrad in India, there was a perceived advantage for engineers is because it was mostly engineers that went to MBA because most of the bright students went to engineering in the first place and were inclined to do well in the mostly entrance-test driven admissions in the local MBA institutes.
  4. I find very little from my engineering degree that actually helps me directly in the MBA. My finance/economics undergrad based friends have an advantage, and they also happen to be very, very smart. They beat most of us engineers hands-down. So much for my engineering!
  5. But we engineers have great value-add from the MBA. The amount of learning one could do is much higher because we don't do most of this during undergrad - so the bang for the buck for engineers is very high. Higher than many other disciplines.

Engineers don't have it easy in an MBA, so please stop perpetrating the myth!

Now let me spend a few minutes ranting about Fonty...

  1. No car = no leg. And there's seems rule/law in France that we can't lease a car with 2 drivers on it! Even if I get an insurance I cannot drive a car that's leased under my friends name. Argh.
  2. Our shipped packages with lot of essential items (dresses, toiletries, binders..) from Singapore still hasn't arrived in Fonty. Apparently the airlines screwed up something and now part of our boxes are with French customs. Oops. Argh.
Now let me spend a bullet or two talking about France and the French!

Before coming here, I'd heard many remarks about France and the rude French people who would never speak English and would treat you badly and all the pain you would feel...well, that never happened. Just like all the exaggerations in life, this turned out to be another one.

  1. The immigration officer did not even ask a question and stamped me in
  2. The officials who guided me to my airport transfer service were friendly, helpful and spoke English
  3. The staff at school have all uniformly been helpful and have spoken English
  4. The lady at the Singapore-France embassy was helpful. Though I do have a beef with the fact that the visa forms in Singapore are in French! Come on!
  5. The train service between Gare De Lyon and Fonty is fast and efficient and pretty cheap (6 euros)
  6. French towns are pretty. But it's a real b***ch to get around without a car.
When I find really valid reasons to complain and crib, I will do so. I'm really, really looking forward to some relaxing times this weekend. I'm not much of a party-guy and don't pretend to be one. I also react very little to peer pressure - if I decide I won't go to a party or a bar, I won't go. That's it. Sometimes I prefer sitting with a few close friends and having a simple, relaxing time. I really couldn't care less about being with 100 others in a smoky bar and forcing myself into a conversation.

Alright then everyone, have a great weekend!

March 05, 2008

The INSEAD "Fonty" Fontainebleau Campus

Finally here, at the Fonty campus. I don't have much to say -- just settling in, and am quite exhausted with all the traveling.

  1. Much bigger than Singapore - looks and feels like a university..and that means quite some walking to get anywhere from anywhere.
  2. Much bigger library, cafeteria..greater choice of food
  3. Is definitely harder to get around - need a car. Singapore is so convenient in this area.
  4. Very, very different ambiance compared to Singapore. It's going to take me a while to get used to this place.
I'll reserve all my comparison and judgment until I settle down. Premature comments are..well.. premature! I took some photos of INSEAD Singapore - will post them in a few days.