piątek, kwietnia 28, 2006

My 3 GMAT's

Dec 2005 – Part Un - In November the Kaplan course had, excuse the pun, run its course and I had booked my GMAT appointment at one of the testing centers in NY. Needless to say I was a bit stressed, and some strange developments had happened in my personal life. Long story short, I scored 630. Blargh.. blargh flargh blah! Mind you I was scoring in the mid 700 range on each and every Kaplan CAT I took, and the Ultimate Practice Test scored a 710, I thought I would at least get the same score on the real thing. Guess I was wrong. No applications were to be submitted at this time.

Feb 2006 – Part Deux – After returning from New Years in Poland, I was in another weird emotional state – the girl I was seeing was across an ocean and things were starting to get a bit stressful, additionally the titanium rod in my tibia was really bothering the living be-Jesus out of me. Long story short, Valentine’s day came, the girl flipped out, I was stressed out… Feb 18th GMAT – 580? What????? No way was I going to settle for this, plus I led myself to believe that the new format had thrown me off, which to a degree I believe it did. No applications were to be submitted at this time.

March 2006 – Part Trois
- Need to wait 31 days… merd. I went to Paris at the beginning of the month where I was to see said beau. Well we broke up three days prior to my flight, instead I spent a wonderful weekend with friends who I hadn’t seen since college and I must say it was very good for my mental health, I unwound and came back to NY ready to tackle the exam. And then came March 10th, operation day… I got my rod out. Good news, no more pain attributed to the rod, bad news, plenty of pain attributed to the surgery, so on March 21st I took the GMAT for the 3rd time, exhausted, stressed out, and tired as I didn’t sleep the night before. Throughout the entire duration of the exam I thought my leg was going to fall off, wonderful 3/3 botched up due to something that I really had no control over. Oh, I scored a 600.

Screw it, I thought to myself, I’ll apply with the 630, I’ve got good essays, wonderful recommendations, let’s just see what happens. I submitted my apps as follows.

ESADE – March 26th
RSM – March 26th
IESE – April 8th
Imperial College of London: Tanaka – April 17th
Georgetown – April 18th

… and then something happened.

On your marks, get set, GO! eeer... Apply!

So there I was, planning to go to B-School with no idea how to get there, where to go, with an amazingly pathetic undergraduate GPA of 2.234. Hey… I did undergrad at Tulane, New Orleans …ok?!

At the time, I thought I’d give the whole thing a shot and just see where the cards fall. I approached the process in three steps.

• Step 1 – The incredible, computer adaptable GMAT
The first thing I did here was look at my strong points and weak points as a person, analyze how I study best, and then choose a program that best fits my needs. I researched all the usual suspects, Princeton Review, Kaplan, 800 Score and Manhattan GMAT, finally choosing Kaplan for it’s history, in depth program, word of mouth / forum recommendations, money back guarantee and the fact that their class program would best suit my needs as a student.

In retrospect the program was beneficial, and one I would recommend to anyone needing a push to study at home. Their strategies for the exam were beneficial; however their practice tests missed certain questions that I later found to appear on the test itself. Taking the “practice test” did tell me where my weaknesses were, and where I needed to improve. I initially scored a whopping 520 (OUCH!) on the 1st day of class, and would later do better in the Kaplan tests – but I will say that you should expect to score approximately 100 points lower than what you get on any of the practice exams provided by the test prep program you’re taking.

In the end, all I can advise anyone to do while studying for the GMAT is practice, practice, practice – practice until your eyes bleed and the simple mention of the word “GMAT” makes you nauseous.

• Step 2 – Get your crap together.
When I first thought about the MBA, it was to get out of my current job, I was doing well but the pay was killing me, I needed to make a career move, or should I say jump forward, and an MBA was the quickest way out.

Then, my life went into upheaval, the CIA thing, relationship hell, health problems (I had a titanium rod in my left tibia, that the body was rejecting, let me tell you not too pleasant). I began thinking as to why was I getting my MBA, what did I really want to do with my life, where were my core interests, how could I apply myself to work within those interests, and towards them? Simple profit motive to get an MBA became less and less substantial in my search for a program, and core skills and the places that I wanted to be with my career had become much more important. I knew that I needed to get out of the U.S. – I looked at what I was good at, and as if out of nowhere, pieces started falling into place.

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to, who want to go get their MBA, and just move on up in the same industry job, what have you. It’s the same rhetoric over and over. A friend of mine living in Paris told me, that when he was studying at ESSEC and working in the admissions department he would see one application after another that seemed as if had come from one and the same mold. Inherently, you need to be you, and express to the school and admin committee what makes you, you, and why you stand out from all the other nincompoops trying to get ahead in life as well.

• Step 3 – Research and Destroy
Schools – At the offset, having no idea where I was going did not really help me in this endeavor, and I needed to do a sizable amount of research on each school that I would later apply and not apply to. My fist choices were Columbia, Stanford, Yale, UCLA, Georgetown and LBS.

However, and whatever you may think of rankings, school credibility etc… throw out the window. Look at what you want to pursue, MIT MBA’s are tech heavy, NYU Stern, Columbia and LBS are finance heavy, Harvard and Yale are very general (Yale does have a great joint degree program MBA / Russian & Eastern European Studies). Some use the case method, some use teams, some number crunching, and others a mixture – find what’s best for you, why you think that way, and then chose your schools.

Me, in the end I chose the following schools, based on emphasis to internationalism, I rank them in “my” order of choice. IESE, ESADE, RSM Erasmus, LBS, HEC Paris, Columbia, Georgetown, Imperial College of London: Tanaka, ESCP-EAP. In the end I applied only to five programs. Each one of these if you do the research is quite different, but to me each fit a specific area of study that others did not, I also knew that I wasn’t really partial to schools in Anglophone countries as I wanted to pick up another language or two while studying.

These were my baby steps, I’m skipping over a lot of material here, but most of it is irrelevant or just plain droll, if there are any questions, comment, and I will try to answer them as best I can in future posts.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away...

The year was 2004 and I was just hired at New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development after a sixteen-month stint at trying to go entrepreneurial. As you can probably guess, it didn’t quite work out, and I was all around feeling pretty down on my luck.

This job I was hired for would never utilize my core competencies, in fact it would be one of the most horrid, frustrating experiences of my life, luckily it was going to last only a few months until I got promoted to underwriting govt. subsidized mortgages, and eventually spearheading the re-introduction of a federal program called 203(k).

I had been throwing the idea of an MBA around for approximately a year now, and never having really given it much thought, bought the GMAT books, and started studying. – And this is where it began to get interesting. Approximately a month into studying I was contacted by none other than the CIA as in the Central Intelligence Agency for a position in Operations. While I’m not going to go into the semantics of the entire application process, I can say that it was in fact very much an eye opening experience, and made me realize a number of things about myself, where I belong in life etc… I was eventually offered contingency employment with them, but, and you may think me silly for doing so, turned the offer down to pursue an MBA. Why?

Here’s the rub. At the time, I was enamored with a female, who told me that the fundamental problem with Poland (my country of birth) is that there aren’t any good Poles left, and the ones that happen to arise, leave. This began to follow me around, and eventually I decided that what I need to do is work for the betterment of the county that is me. I’ve always been patriotic about my heritage, and in fact it somewhat runs in my family, Warsaw Uprising, AK (Armia Krajowa) the whole shebang…

… and what better way to do this then to get an MBA, and where else but Europe. Surely the Atlantic jump would be too difficult if I were to study in the states.

So this is it, an account of me, Jacek, and how I learned to stop worrying and love the MBA.