May 28, 2008

Major update: the INSEAD vs. HKUST 2007 numbers

A few days ago, I published a post comparing INSEAD vs. HKUST MBA as a response to some raging Internet debates. The data I used for INSEAD was from 2006 (comparing to 2007 for HKUST), but I now have limited permission to use some data (thanks!), which I have.

You should find it useful, so head over there.

May 27, 2008

Recruitment - Management Consulting Interviews, my impression

As part of my recruiting saga, I covered the initial recruitment impressions and for those specifically interested management/strategy consulting, I covered how strategy consulting recruitment is done at INSEAD.

This post is a short write-up on how my own consulting interviews experience was, with no names taken for obvious reasons.

  1. It takes a lot of time to do it the right way - meet the consultants on chat sessions, go to the presentations, go to the cocktails, go to the mock interview sessions, write the cover letters.. while many speculate where one could take chances ("this is not important/that is not necessary") - I took no chances. Where possible, I put the necessary effort.
  2. It is very hard to figure out why you get rejected without an interview, and why you did get selected. I saw no pattern in mine at all! In one amusing case - the company in question rejected my application without an interview. Later, they were conducting case interview workshops and I attended one - and since it was among my earlies mocks, I did not do too well. So the interviewer said "if you did this in the real interview, you would be rejected" - I almost laughed, you can't reject me twice ;) In another case the company emailed me asking to apply because they wanted to talk to me. And when I did, they rejected me!
  3. Case interviews need practice - I'm sure there are few superstars who get it all right without practice, but most I know practiced. It takes a certain mindset and approach to do it right. And I also realized that it is very hard to be consistent in every interview - there were times I sailed through and interview, and then bomb miserably in the next. I am not writing a post on how to do case interviews - there are tons of resources out there, research them.
  4. Overall, majority of consulting companies did manage to keep up to their schedules, and in many cases made offers quickly as promised. Overall, in particular, I should say McKinsey is very impressive how they do this whole process in INSEAD (no, I'm not going to McKinsey). There were those, as usual, who sent rejects online, never sent a mail, or we figured out we got dinged after we saw the interview lists on the boards!
  5. Getting that initial connection with your interviewer is, indeed, important.
And then, *sigh*, there is always this elevator ride time after a bad interview....

Just as a side thought, today a blog visitor had some questions to me about consulting after INSEAD and he mentioned that friends/acquaintances from a couple of US schools mentioned that INSEAD "inflates" the numbers because a large number of them are already from those consulting companies going back. Oh boy. Here we go again. Guess it's time for another numbers post! (in the next day or so.. I'm slacking out, seriously!)

just as an extension to the debate of top-US vs. INSEAD, say INSEAD and Chicago GSB - there is sometimes a feel that there is a big gap between the two. So in the next 2 weeks, I'm running a simple comparison of Chicago and Ross with INSEAD just so you can judge by facts rather than by "a friend of a friend of mine said that in 1967"

The weather outside is miserable, which explains me writing blog posts. But thankfully I had a great 4 days with fantastic weather when in New York. It's OK, I don't need to cry myself to sleep.

My recruitment/placement story - prologue

I was just fooling around with excel to see how I did during recruitment - I will share the graphs with you in a day or two, and the exercise reminded me how time consuming and painstaking the entire exercise can be, especially if you need to do it right.

In the last few days I've had to switch time zones and travel between UK, US and France - and I need sleep. Simple, uncomplicated, "won't-wake-to-an-alarm-in-the-morning" and "won't-have-to-pack-again" kind of sleep.

May 23, 2008

ROI / MBA - revisiting my thoughts

Long ago, in March of 2007 even before I started INSEAD, I made a post on ROI (return on investment) of MBA. I was not a fan of ROI arguments then, and now, when I am close to finishing my MBA, I am even more convinced of the futility of making ROI calculations, and specially if you are graduating from top programs.

Part of doing the MBA is the acceptance that there is a risk in that investment, and the confidence that in many cases it pays off handsomely. For some, it happens early, and for some, a little late. In my case - my post MBA salary is about two hundred and fifty times*** my first salary out of engineering school! If every decision of my career was based on some strange ROI calculation and if I stayed away from INSEAD because I felt my fee was too high, I would have simply missed a chance I would get in very, very few other places. I have to be pretty clear that it was because I was at INSEAD that I got my opportunity.

So, just to reassert - if you're going to one of the top programs

a) There is a high chance you will do just fine - think long term
b) You have a career that spans 30 years or more ahead of you and not 3 years. Don't think in terms of 3 years.
c) Myopic ROI calculations are dumb, that's what they are.

***before you get all curious and excited about this dramatic assertion - take a step back and do a case analysis!

salary-ratio = new-salary/old-salary; either new-salary is very high, or old-salary is very low. what could be the key drivers behind old-salary very low? perhaps I graduated long ago, perhaps I graduated in a country where beginning wages are very low? perhaps my first salary was an unusually bad salary due to specific conditions? any of these (or more) could be true :) so let's not get too worked up over a ratio without understanding what's behind it. Nevertheless, I wrote that just to illustrate how sometimes over time our calculations become absurd. When I graduated, I never, ever imagined I would be earning that many multiples of my beginning base. But it happened.

May 17, 2008

INSEAD vs. HKUST MBA (is INSEAD Singapore an Asian School?)

update: May 24th - I've updated a few unofficial numbers from the 2007 report soon to be published on INSEAD web site. All updated data is in this color and in italics. If the final report on the web is a little different, don't be too surprised, just point it to me!

update: June 11 - the INSEAD official 2007 career report is out, see it here.

This is going to be a one-off unusual post, because I honestly know/knew very little about HKUST MBA - which is the MBA program of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. You might say - what the heck is this post about? Why INSEAD vs. HKUST ?! What happened to INSEAD vs. LBS?

Recently, not once - but several times - I received mails and thread-links from blog readers about comparisons between these schools, especially between INSEAD Singapore and HKUST, and that HKUST is the best in Asia and trumps INSEAD, and repeated posts about how INSEAD sucks apparently compared to HKUST MBA and so on. I was very intrigued and checked a few of these posts. What I found was some assertions about how HKUST is Asia focused, is fantastic and that "INSEAD Singapore" is a lousy place and doesn't compare with "INSEAD France" and similar posts. I can understand the enthusiasm for their school being top notch, but really - I don't get the idea of comparing by needlessly dragging some other school and bashing it. What has INSEAD got to do with "best Asian school comparison"? I figured that I have some free time, so let me get to my favorite method -

Let's look at numbers, people! why speculate endlessly?

But before that - one major clarification. INSEAD is not a "Asian" school. There is no "INSEAD Singapore" as a separate entity. Comparisons that mention "INSEAD Singapore" and anything else is plain stupid. It's just that INSEAD happens to have a campus in Singapore to get better access to Asia. There are many misconceptions about "INSEAD Singapore" vs. "INSEAD France" - so please take a moment to read this INSEAD Singapore FAQ. I've covered quite a bit on this topic. People seem to make statements with no clue as to how INSEAD really works. Now. Here's my methodology which ultimately focuses on career results - as that is what this whole debate seems to be about.

  1. No upfront bias - I know pretty much nothing about HKUST, so I will neither praise or bash it, it may be a fantastic finance school better than INSEAD and Wharton and everyone else. So I'll rely on some figures straight out of their website.
  2. No subjective statements - No "he said that, she said this" or "finance there is best in world" or whatever. These are too subjective - the end result of anything world class is resultant world class numbers - i.e. careers, nobels, formal rankings (with the burden of whatever subjectivity they have) etc.
  3. A simple side-by-side comparison and highlight of what the numbers say. Nothing more, nothing less. No tricky deductions.
  4. I will focus on the career report as the prime measure - after all, that is what finally sums up comprehensively the value a school provides. The best schools get great people, create a great atmosphere, and then manage to provide their students great opportunities and a strong network. So I'll work with some of the categories HKUST's own career report focuses on.
  5. I will be using the 2007 Career Report for HKUST and the 2006 Career Report for INSEAD (the 2007 report, while not out officially yet, is better than 2006 in almost all respects, but unfortunately I cannot use it). Once the 2007 report for INSEAD comes out, I will update the relevant figures. I will be using general average salaries wherever possible instead of getting into regional bias. Keep in mind I'm comparing 2 schools that are equivalent (as claimed), so all comparisons must be fair. Update: I have updated the data with 2007 numbers. The official report is not out yet (just printing)
  6. I will not use any numbers from INSEAD career report that do not have an equivalent figures for HKUST.
  7. I will use the 2007 HK$ to US$ exchange rate of 7.8 HK$ = 1 US$ (using data from HKUST page). In 2006, the US$ was stronger than it is today, but I will still use the older $ figures reported in the INSEAD 2006 report. In general, I will multiply the INSEAD 2006 $ numbers by 1.03 (3%)to provide a minor adjustment for both overall salary increase and $ depreciation.
I hope you will see that I am being as fair and objective as I can possibly be! Average annual Salary *Note: The HKUST report does not mention if the salary is inclusive of bonus or excluding. The number for INSEAD excludes joining bonus.

HKUST (2007) INSEAD (2006/7) Notes
Average Salary 66,800$ 116,200$
75% higher
Average Salary (outside HK/China) 57,202$ -
no such classification for INSEAD
Average Salary within HK/China 59,000$ 104,000$
100,200$ (APAC complete)
INSEAD APAC includes China, India (accounts for lower wages in average).
Median annual Salary

HKUST (2007) INSEAD (2007) Notes
Median Salary 60,324$ 115,000$
Median Salary (outside HK/China) 51,029$ 110,004$ no such classification for INSEAD
Geographic Locations of work after MBA

HKUST (2007) INSEAD (2007)
Dominant Geography 78% (HK 68% & China 10%) no info yet
23% (UK)
Rest of world 22% 77%

update:A reader informs that I should mention 17,000 INSEAD MBA and not 32,000 as it includes EMBA. I'm not too sure about that - the HKUST MBA reported number is 3000, but its class size is ~60 (as mentioned here) and the school was established in 1991. That means total MBA number should be ~60*17 = 1020. Then the number 3000 probably includes exchange and exec-MBA, in which case the comparative should be 32,000 for INSEAD. I will keep this unless I have a better access to fact.

HKUST (2007) INSEAD (2006/7)
Country of Origin 53% (China & HK) 10% (US/India)
Nationalities (~) in a class 20 60
Network 3000 in 38 countries, majority in HK/China (mentioned on site) 32,000 in 150 countries
Career Distribution

HKUST (2007)INSEAD (2006/7)
Finance 43% 29% 28%
Consulting/Services 14% 35% 39%
Industry 43% 36% 33%
MBA Ranking 2008/7

FT 2008 Global Ranking 17 6
EIU (good comical value) 20 17
Some company recruitment observations
  • HKUST report does not say who hired how many - so I cannot compare top employers in sectors
  • Bain, BCG or McKinsey (apart from BTO) did not hire in HKUST. These big 3 hired 123 (excluding former consultants) from INSEAD.
  • For tech enthusiasts - Google recruits globally from INSEAD (7 in 2007), but Google China in HKUST
  • Microsoft HK recruited from HKUST, however Microsoft does not recruit on campus from INSEAD. Microsoft, come to INSEAD, you're losing people to Google ;)
  • Posters about HKUST mention that it is a fantastic way into iBanks. What I'm curious is that 2006/7 INSEAD Finance average base (~median) was about 113,000$ 119,000$ (not including the bonuses). However, in HKUST 2007, with 43% of class going in finance (and presumably a large number of them into ibanks as claimed), why is the overall average ~60,000 US$ in HK? Shouldn't it be over 100K?
  • INSEAD is about 13 times bigger than HKUST, with job spreads across a wide geographic range (people went to 350 companies in 55 countries to work in 2007), and has higher salaries across all sectors. I find that intriguing.. with mostly (presumably) high compensation, I would think the standard deviation should be low for HKUST and the average should be higher.
Some comments on how going to HKUST is a much better bet than the poor brand INSEAD is in Asia.

All I can tell you is we're seeing a healthy interest from top companies that want to hire INSEAD grads into China and HK. APAC average and median in 2007 are comparable to levels in Europe and US - and compares, for e.g. to Stanford. Why anyone would be eager to bring INSEADers into Asia with such salaries especially for a crappy school with no brand beats me ;)

update: If you are curious, here is a detailed side-by-side of INSEAD vs. (alongside) Chicago GSB, Columbia, MIT Sloan, Darden and Ross.

So there. That ends my first-and-last post on this topic. I just couldn't help it. If you are a reader of this blog and read posts in some threads going over the same debate, please feel free to link this there! And for those who love HKUST, it's all good but keep us out of the debate and trashing us. Pick LBS next time, really ;) ;)

PS - for those who wish to comment. If your comments point out to statistical mistakes, I will make necessary amendments with credit to you. If it is a non-numbers based argument I will neither respond nor update my post. If it is a rant, I will remove it if offensive. If it is a gentle yet persuasive argument, that will help all readers.

May 16, 2008

INSEAD Bad School

*chuckle* so I was looking at some of my Google analytics search queries that land on my blog. And I found one interesting query "insead bad school" - aw c'mon! why would you say that! Clearly the searcher was trying to find all the bad news about INSEAD :)

INSEAD good school...not bad school! LBS bad school!! hehe..just kiddin'...they're both great schools so stop worrying so much!

May 15, 2008

INSEAD Recruitment Saga - Part I

So, here it begins. Something many wanted. A run down of how recruitment has been so it has been for me, my learnings (or what I did not learn), opinions (like anyone cares) about that important phase of business school - recruitment/placement season!

First, let me talk briefly about how it was for our previous year 2007. The INSEAD 2007 recruitment/placement career report is not out yet formally on the web, but we have some details. I will link the actual report when it comes out. But what I can tell you unofficially and without hard data is that there are some impressive and interesting results in that report (like, um, nearly half-million dollar salaries, or over 100 going to a ...uhh.. important company) - unfortunately the internal document bears "confidential - internal" which means I cannot go further than that. I really wish I could point a few interesting services, can I? :)

So, some initial points from this year for this part I post.

  1. Finance sucks. Really. And really bad. - Finance recruitment suffered significantly for obvious reasons. If you are one of them who might ask "why?" then you should probably go back to your cave! It has been very hard for people to break into banking this time as banks froze recruitment. Some may say "but it was better in US school XYZ" - keep in mind their recruitment/internship happened in 2007. It's been good for our previous promotion as well - it's just that we got hit really bad.
  2. Consulting companies continued to recruit - again, until the dust settles, we won't know the final numbers. But we are seeing many people with offers as they trickle in.
  3. Industry is recruiting too - quite a few companies were on campus, and industry typically is very slow to decide. Many have interviews and we hope to see more and more offers come by as time progresses. They are sl...oooow in making decisions.
  4. Salaries offered have been pretty good as well, and from what I know, there hasn't been a cut in salary levels. We'll know for sure only when 2008 report comes out next year.
  5. Even in a bad economic situation - the school brand does get interviews.

Overall, we face a challenging economic situation, and P4 was very stressful. But I think things have not been as bad as I feared - many people got bunch of interview calls, and at least an offer or two. But it has been hard, the stories of huge numbers of people with multiple offers hasn't happened for us and I doubt it will happen.

In the next post I write more about the recruitment process. You can read about the consulting recruitment process at INSEAD in my post here. You can read my post on relevance of GMAT score, here. The part II will be on some observations of process, interviews, offers. My own story will come in the end.

With that, I leave you with my animated cartoon on how the whole process feels...

(you have to click the image to see the animation of all the stages of recruitment!)

May 11, 2008

Some more INSEAD Fontainebleau photos

Just for your curiosity. A few more are here. And for those of you who are more interested in the Singapore campus - some photos here.

This is not the end of the INSEAD Fontainebleau photographs series - more to come later. It's a bigger campus and these photos capture only one side of it. And that too not very well...anyway..! What I can tell you is its beautiful when the weather's good.

Interesting session/Some Fonty pics/Weather obsession

Today a class mate of ours held a very interesting multi-hour session on marketing and branding of one of the most recognized brands in the world (he works there...). It put a practical face to some of the things we've been learning.

The post presentation session was a fun outdoor "drink mixing session" - that turned out to be both informative (!) and fun. The weather was gorgeous, and I lay down on the grass and shot some random pics around me.

P5 has not been that stressful - I'm more relaxed now. There is work to do but it can be managed - I will be going here and there for some "sponsored free trips" ;) and I've chosen a couple of hard skill classes that I think will be valuable to me going forward. I have a few posts that I need to write on this whole recruitment business. I guess I am one of those who managed a change of function-sector-geography, and many are interested in such switches. It takes effort.

So there - beautiful weather outside. When I lived in India, I never really thought about weather - especially sunny weather. I always wonder what the big deal was with this whole "let's check weather" obsession in US - and Europe takes it to a whole new level. It wasn't that bad in the US either - California is much like Bangalore in terms of weather, and East Coast may be cold, but there was sunlight. After spending time here, I really realized why sunlight is such a prized possession! You have a sunny weekend and the whole population cannot stop talking about it (and that includes me). Back home we had about 9 months of bright sun and 3 months of rain and sun...

I wish we could export sunlight.

May 07, 2008

The day in London

I was in London today. The weather was fantastic - and it felt wonderful to walk around and near the London Bridge. P5 has begun earnest - and on the very first day I had 4 back-to-back classes starting at 8:30. I think I will have quite a bit of free time from beginning June.. wow, it's the last 2 months!

May 02, 2008

Best of Blogging Award! .. and another lifesaving tip..

Last year, Clearadmit dinged me and I got no award >:/ which prompted me to put this post. But this year, I've finally been honored -- yeah! Oh yeah baby! wait...9th place?! you gotta be kidding me! C'mon! ;)

2007 (last year)

This year..a little better!

Well, thank you readers, clearadmit...feels good

consolidate all IM with Digsby - you will thank me for this!

If you use IM messaging in MSN, Yahoo, Facebook, Google Talk and have friends scattered all over, go over and get yourself Digsby which is out of private beta. In one single IM you can consolidate all your friends, see facebook news feeds, update status, see gmail snips...makes life so much simpler and easier. Start using it and you'll realize how good it is and it's still in early stages. PS - if you hadn't noticed - faceboook introduced IM just like Google chat. With Digsby you can see all your online facebook buddies in a regular desktop application along with Yahoo, MSN, Google talk -- makes it really cool. Only Skype is missing.

May 01, 2008

The Louvre | Musée du Louvre - A review and top 10 exhibits and artifacts

I've always wanted to visit the Louvre museum (or Musée du Louvre) in Paris - the largest single museum in the world. As a history buff, this visit was on a mandatory list. This is a review of the Louvre museum visit and its exhibits.

So, the verdict? Must for a history buff! The collection is vast and amazing.

This review is split to three parts

  1. Top 10 Tips while visiting Louvre (Louvre visit top 10)
  2. Exhibits to visit - my favorite top 10
  3. Some photos

Top 10 tips while visiting Louvre

(what use is a review without one of those confounding top 10 lists?!)

  1. Take the metro to get there -- real easy and comfortable. The metro M 1 line takes you to "Palais Royal - Musee du Louvre" and the underground passage will take you straight into the Louvre.
  2. Preferably give yourself 6-7 hours if you are quick paced and alone. More if you're with friends who slow you down ;) I went alone, and in hindsight this was wise - I could go where I most wanted and spent time in areas of my interest. My legs hurt by the end of the day but it was worth it. One could potentially spend 2 days but it's unlikely everything will interest you in the museum. You prioritize :)
  3. Visiting on Wednesdays has an advantage - Museum's open till 10 PM (6 PM otherwise)
  4. Get the combined tickets (Museum + exhibitions), it's worth the money. You can see that the museum is using a nice "bundling strategy" combined with customer segmentation to extract customer surplus! I visited the "Babylon" section with the exhibition ticket, it was great.
  5. Do some prior reading of some of the more popular artifacts (my links below will help), you will appreciate and enjoy what you're seeing.
  6. Get one of the Audio-Visual guides - seriously. What frustrated me was that a lot of artifacts have only French descriptions! For a world famous museum one would think they'd make an effort to make it a little more friendly with English by the side. Only some places have English. The audio-guides do not have explanations for all artifacts, but only some famous ones. There were times I was really upset for not being able to read descriptions of artifacts that seemed interesting. However, the audio guides are still worth it and have many valuable commentaries.
  7. Take a little backpack and some packed food. There are areas where you can sit and eat - the food stalls in the museum are pretty expensive.
  8. Don't forget to pick up the Louvre map - a very useful guide to the layout and major attractions - available at the information booth near the ticketing area.
  9. Don't ignore the great paintings on the way to Mona Lisa - yes, we all know Mona is a superstar - but there are some great galleries on the way to the Mona Lisa (La Jolla) room. Take your time, enjoy them, before you get your chance to fight the hustle and crowd near Mona Lisa.
  10. Read rest of this review. I had to make this one up because I ran out of tips.
My favorite top 10 Louvre exhibit visits

  1. Winged victory of Samothrace - almost 2,200 years old, to me this was the most beautiful sculpture. It's powerful, beautiful and mysterious. It's also pretty big - you realize when you stand in front of it.
  2. Code of Hammurabi - the first codified laws! The Babylonian section was fantastic - photography was not allowed. Here is a Google maps link to the Babylon excavations.
  3. Madonna on the Rocks - this is the version made famous in Da Vinci Code. The painting itself is beautiful and all the mystery and stories that surround it make it all the more alluring.
  4. Akhenaten's statue - you should read the history of this "renegade" pharaoh whose name was systematically destroyed by later Pharaohs. This statue piece is over 3,300 years old. The Sphinx at Louvre is another great piece - again over 4,000 years old.
  5. Mona Lisa - all the hype...just makes you want to like it! :) The portrait is set in a large room which gets pretty crowded. This is one exhibit that really gets the star treatment.
  6. Napoleon's apartments - whew. They're really grand!
  7. The seated scribe - nearly 4,500 years old and in great condition.
  8. Alexander's bust and Michelangelo's dying slave
  9. Paul Ruben's gallery - for some fantastic large canvases
  10. Venus de Milo
These are just my preferential items - there are many, many more great exhibits - ancient sculptures, papyrus, paintings.

And now, photo time! Louvre Photos

Description is below the photo.

Louvre under clouds. It's a palace converted to a Museum.

Napoleon's apartments. Gorgeous.

Napoleon's apartments Grand Salon.

The winged victory of samothrace - I converted the pic to B&W because it somehow gives a better feel.

Venus De Milo


Madonna on the rocks

Mona Lisa.


I hope you enjoyed this mini-review. When you get a chance, take the time to visit Louvre and see first hand some of the most famous exhibits in the world.

And here's a random post on some popular queries on my blog.