Entries in Toronto (7)
Here is a testimonial from Hugo Lorenson, a first-year student at Rotman School of Management at University of Toronto and member of the MBA Math Board of Advisors, about his pre-MBA use of the MBA Math online quantitative preparation course:
I started my studies at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management in September 2006. Before this, I had been a lawyer with the Province of Ontario's Legal Aid Plan for several years, where I provided legal services to disadvantaged persons. My previous work experiences included my working with a criminal defence firm, and as an analyst with Ontario's Ministry of the Attorney General.
Clearly, my professional background was entirely non-quantitative. After I decided to transition into the business world and enter business school, I wrote the GMAT as part of the application process. Although my overall score was serviceable, there was a large discrepency between my verbal and quantitiative scores. I quickly realized that if I wanted to do well at business school, I would need to brush up on my math skills.
Luckily, I came across MBA Math after Rotman accepted me and intensely prepared for my studies over the summer. The results have been very satisfying thus far. Not only do I understand economics, finance, accounting, and statistical concepts that otherwise would have confused me, I am doing quite well in all of the courses. MBA Math was instrumental in positioning me for success at business school and helping reduce a lot of the first semester anxieties that are common to first year students.
Observation #5, the last for now in a series, from Hugo Lorenson, a Rotman first year. Thank you to Hugo for taking the time to provide his perspectives. I welcome input from others about their MBA experiences.
Business school is MBA students’ last opportunity to bond and grow with lots of interesting people they ordinarily wouldn’t meet. Making friends and sharing great memories are what make the MBA the worthwhile experience it is. Without these outlets, business school is one lonely and stressful road.
It’s funny; out of the MBA alumni I have spoken to over the years, many pointed to the friends they made as the most important benefit of the program. Although I initially thought they were crazy, going through the program, I can see where they were coming from. Looking back on the past four months, the relationships I have been lucky to forge with some great people have been just as enriching as the things I learned inside the classroom.
I hope that all of you that enrol in an MBA program get to experience the camaraderie and friendships that are possible. In the end, that is probably what you will take with you the most.
Observation #4 from Hugo Lorenson, a Rotman first year:
I know, when you think of networking, you inwardly cringe. Those awkward moments at cocktail receptions when you feel forced to press the flesh, smile, and ask banal questions to VIPs you really don’t know. The good news, though, is that networking is pretty simple, and something that most of us MBA students do without even realizing. Speaking with our classmates about our professional aspirations, or visiting our career services office and expressing interest in a certain industry are two forms of networking. In both instances, we are publicizing ourselves and making others aware of who we are and what we like. Maybe those parties know companies who would benefit from our skill set, or perhaps they can recommend our speaking to someone who could help us more. In either case, though, we widened our networking of contacts without much effort.
Too many people equate networking with speaking with prospective employers at formal events. While that certainly is an important component, few realize that they have established networks already waiting for them. Taking advantage of these informal networks can lead to a myriad of opportunities, and helps make us more comfortable talking about ourselves and our career aspirations. So, make sure that you talk with your MBA friends about your career interests, especially if they have experience in your field of interest. They will be able to give you great advice, and point you towards helpful references. That’s not so hard, is it?
I would add to this that you should consider getting to know your professors. Accessibility of professors is determined by a variety of factors: number of students in the class, size of the institution, and professor's personality being three important ones. First year classes make student-professor interaction tough because teaching and supporting such a class is a flat-out sprint for a professor. But things are different for second year classes. Classes are smaller and the material is generally dearer to the prof's heart and professional interests. This presents lots of potential for networking to learn more about professional practice and potential contacts in a field of mutual interest.
Observation #3 from Hugo Lorenson, a Rotman first year:
Having excoriated one-dimensional grades-obsessed students, I will now take to task their mirror opposites: students involved with pretty much every extracurricular activity the school has to offer. While their zest for the slice of MBA life is admirable, they play a dangerous game: crammed agendas, less studying, and they become unable to spend more time on activities they really enjoy at the expense of those they do not. Also, being that busy all of the time accelerates burn-out. Rather than joining every club you can think of, only join the 1 or 2 that really interest you and/or you want to impact. Not only will you have more free time to focus on other things (like school!), you will be able to fully appreciate all that those clubs have to offer.
Observation #2 from Hugo Lorenson, a Rotman first year:
A close corollary to # (1). Grades are a necessary evil to business school. Some schools have grade disclosure policies, while others don’t, relieving students of some of the pressure of getting great grades. However, even for those schools that do have grade disclosure, it is important not to place undue emphasis on your GPA. Granted, it is hard to do this: job recruiters ask for your transcript as part of your application materials, and the high opportunity costs related to attending and paying for business school push students to maximize their marketability as MBA grads.
Unfortunately, though, a lot of things are out of your hands: bell curving, group assignments, and the inherent subjectivities of the marking process make it difficult for students to guarantee themselves great grades across the board. I have seen students agonize over a B+ when they thought they deserved an A-. To maintain your sanity, you have to recognize that grading is largely beyond your control. What is within your control is working hard, and doing your best. Alas, that simple recipe will not always translate to grades you’re happy with, but at least you’ll be happier and better adjusted when confronted with disappointing results. Remember that grades are only one component of who you are as an MBA student: your professional background, extracurricular interests, and networks are just as-if not more- important in many contexts with employers. Persons who place huge emphasis on their marks tend to be less well-rounded students, which places them at comparative disadvantages when recruiter interviews kick in.
As a Tuck professor who has to assign grades to MBA students, I can attest to the imperfection of the grading process, especially when work is done in teams. Also, keep in mind that students who receive the best grades are generally those who had prior experience with the subject matter. Routinely, the students who learn the most in my class do not receive the best grades.
As someone who has recruited MBAs for a management consulting firm, grades, very few of which are available when recruiting begins in the winter at most schools, are a real but modestly important factor in finding top quality candidates.
As someone who completed graduate school 13 years ago, albeit in a PhD rather than an MBA program, and has worked in financial services, consulting, and startup positions, I cannot remember a single grade that I received in grad school.
Observation #1 from Hugo Lorenson, the Rotman first year introduced in the previous post:
Sitting in my first business school class, I was immediately struck by the incredible diversity of the student body. Age, gender, race, professional interests and a host of other variables contributed to a classroom of markedly different people. Of course, some will have more direct business experience than others, which may provide a strong advantage in some of the introductory business-centred courses (accounting, finance, etc.). However, there are also courses where previous business experience is no more helpful than any other sort of experience, where better speakers and writers get the leg up. The bottom line is: there will be people in your class who "get it" better than you do, and some who have more difficulties than you. Recognize your own strengths and weaknesses in each class and seek to leverage the former and improve upon the latter. Don’t get hung up upon comparing yourself with others.
Below is an introduction to a thoughtful sequence of observations from Hugo Lorenson, who is a first year student at University of Toronto's Rotman School:
Being only four months into my MBA journey, it would be premature for me to assert ‘guru status.’ Nevertheless, lessons come quick at the school of hard knocks. What I hope to share here are several realizations that the usual sources of information (b-school message boards, preparatory materials, school publications) tend to overlook. Hopefully, they will provide a helpful perspective as you prepare to enter the business school environment.
A sequence of observations follows in separate posts.