Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Some Reflections: The First Official 2 Weeks

Ok, remember how I said in my previous post prior to starting the MBA that it was two weeks of crazy? Scratch that - the last two official weeks have been so intense that it's felt like I've been at LBS for 2 months. My fellow classmates can attest to that.

On FOMO (fear of missing out)...
While all MBA alumni and current students tell you to try and avoid FOMO, I'm discovering that trying to do so is seriously hard! There's just so much going on in the social sphere. For instance, last weekend there was the option to either go for a group hike of the Seven Sisters Cliffs or go for the Notting Hill Carnival (both are highly recommended by the way, just very different sort of activities). Or last week there was the last Flat Hunters Pub Crawl (awesome way to meet people) and 2 parties happening concurrently.

I'm not going to advise any future MBA students to not FOMO because you won't get it until you're in it. What I'm going do is to quote some really really good advice given to us on Day 1 from Alex Edmans, one of the most popular profs at LBS - "It's either HELL YEAH or no". If you aren't 110% in, then pick something else.

On careers...
The cliche "what you put in is what you get out" really applies here. Even though we've barely begun, there's loads to do for careers - if you make the time. Most of this though is lots of introspection. I've found that the more I've spoken to my fellow classmates about what they do and what they want to do, the more unclear my own future goals are - because there's just so much out there that's possible!

So dedicate time to reflect on what really suits you and where you want to go. Additionally, the LBS careers centre offers lots of different workshops and information sessions. Plan early and sign up for those that you really would like to attend, otherwise you might find yourself on the waitlist.

On classes...
Let's just say it takes time getting used to being a student again. Most of us are used to lots of distractions and many different things going on at once during the work day. We're used to multi-tasking, working on several different things at once, answering phones, so focusing for a 3 hour lecture is hard. My focusing stamina was definitely tested when we had a full week of 8.15am - 6.30pm classes with 15min breaks in between!

On time management...
It's worth mentioning again that there's so much going on all the time, especially in the first weeks. You really need to make sure you're keeping on top of things - classes, readings, assignments. Good calendar habits will ensure you don't miss classes and key information sessions/networking events. There's plenty of optional stuff, so pick and choose where your priorities lie.

On study groups...
These are randomly assigned groups of 5 or 6 and LBS really analyses who they put together. Count on different backgrounds and nationalities - for instance in my study group we're only missing someone from the continent of Africa! Personality-wise, it's a bit of luck really. You actually end up learning a lot about your team dynamics when LBS puts you through GLAM in the first 2 weeks.

I'd say probably the most important thing really is to keep an open mind and be willing to improve your behaviour to adapt to the rest of your study group. Participation in all the team activities/assignments is also key to getting the most out of the leadership courses.

On partying...
There are plenty of opportunities for being social! In London, I'm finding people drink a lot (like everyday in some cases), so it's a good idea to make sure you're disciplined enough to monitor your own intake. Bear in mind as well that drinks aren't cheap either, so it could be an added incentive for not going too hard at it :)

And with that, I'm off to Amsterdam as our stream has a long weekend!

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Two Weeks of Crazy

Where have the last two weeks gone? Technically, although the MBA programme doesn't officially begin till tomorrow, life has already become a whirlwind of studying, socialising and travelling....oh and settling into London.


Since July, we've had quite a few things to do as pre-course work for the Leadership module at LBS. Mainly these have been surveys - lots and lots of surveys. I've lost count of the number of surveys I've completed from LBS. Our pre-course reading list also got released not that long ago, with a case and several articles that we need to prepare before our first class next week. There's also an official assignment to submit before the end of next week - and yes, that's a graded assignment.

Amongst all this official pre-work, some of us are trying to finish up the online pre-courses in finance, accounting and quantitative methods (some of us have given up); some of us are studying to try and pass the waiver exam for Managerial Accounting and Finance; some of us are brushing up on our language skills to get ahead in/pass the language diagnostic test (of which level 2 is scarily difficult for a second language).


As people settle in and arrive in London, there's always some social event somewhere. The official Flat Hunters' Pub Crawls began on 4th August and so far there have been five events at different pubs around London. Don't let the name fool you though, because most people at these events have already found flats and are just there to party :). There's also been a tennis social and a couple of pedibus tours organised. Plus lots of lunches, dinners, drinks - there's really no lack of company!


Our class is apparently the first to have organised a pre-MBA trek. About 50 of us and partners were over in Barcelona recently. Aside from this, we're already had the opportunity to participate in any treks organised by the various clubs at LBS. During this time, it appears that the sailing club has been the most active, it being summer. Signups to the sailing club treks have been on a first-come-first-serve basis, including putting payment down for the trek up front. Aside from this, those who have arrived in London earlier and are more settled, have organised thheir own trips in small groups as well.

Oh and as for recruiting, the consulting firms - Mckinsley, Bain and BCG in particular, have already organised pre-MBA events too where attendees were introduced to the world of consulting. And of course, the opportunity to network with existing consultants.

Does it sound like b-school has already begun? It certainly does to me. Timetables were released a few days ago and our calendars are now chocker. Bring on the mayhem tomorrow!

Monday, 1 August 2016

Flat-Hunting Around LBS

Now that we're in August, it's prime flat-hunting season in the suburbs around London Business School i.e Maida Vale, St John's Wood and Marylebone. A recent small survey of students unveiled the fact that around 50% have already found something but 50% are still looking.

Based on my observations thus far, several have formed their own flat-hunting groups of 2-4 people early on so all that's left to do is to find a flat that everyone is ok with. It's quite a bit easier to hunt for places if you already have a ready group. Good places within walking distance to LBS are popular and being able to sign for it quickly is an advantage - which you can only do if you have the required number of people. That said, there are always people who have already found or got an apartment and are looking for flatmates to join their group.

Some bits of advice for future flat-hunters:
  • Three bedroom and 2 bedroom apartments are much easier to find than 4 bedroom places. So if forming a group, look at pairing up or forming a group of 2 or 3. 4 bedroom apartments are pretty rare, especially within walking distance of LBS.
  • Apartments with 3 equal sized bedrooms are not easy to find and most groups split the rent based on the bedroom size and features. It's best to have someone in your group who has a slightly higher budget and would be willing to take the largest room.
  • Most LBS students usually try and find places within Maida Vale, St John's Wood and Marylebone. Marylebone is a much more expensive area out of the three.
  • It's a pretty bad idea to make an offer on an apartment without at least one of your flatmates viewing it first. Skype and pictures do not necessarily match reality. One of my classmates offered and signed for an apartment based on the previous tenants showing them the apartment via Skype. The condition of the apartment ended up being in a much worse condition than imagined, which unfortunately they had to live with.
  • For international students, if you don't have a UK guarantee or any credit history in the UK, you'll find yourself having to pay not just a 6 week deposit (what we call a bond in NZ), but also 6 months rent in advance. In most cases as letting agents are handling this, they insist on it. If you manage to deal directly with the landlord, you can negotiate this or apartments owned by LBS alumni usually waives this.
  • Everything can be negotiated! You can negotiate the amount of rent, the payment terms - even whether the landlord should provide an unfurnished apartment with furnishings. Whether or not the landlord accepts your offer depends on how well you present your case.
  • Renting through a real estate agent is the most common way of getting a place. However, this normally comes with various administration fees. The real estate agencies located around LBS will waive the administrative fees for LBS students though if you ask. So always try and negotiate for a better deal.
  • There is a secret group on Facebook for LBS flatshares and sublets where rooms and people seeking flatmates hunt. It's very useful for finding a place or short-term accommodation while you're seeking a more permanent home. You'll need an invitation to see the group though.