SgHama's MBA Dream

After 2 years of what if's and worrying about the finances... class of 2008 here I come!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Last one down

So I had my Wharton interview yesterday, last of the three, and now there's nothing left to do but wait. I am truly blessed because I think I got a relatively simple interview, unlike my blogger friend Forrest.

I had chosen an alumni interview in Tokyo and it was a little intimidating at first because my interviewer was working in one of the big 3 strat firms, but I prayed about it and left it at that. Sticking with the interview prep strategy that seemed to work with Chicago, I decided to throw all wisdom out the window and wing this one as well. I reread my essays on Sunday, surfed the Wharton website to refresh my memory on details about academics and clubs, and then spent the rest of the day watching the olympics and reading manga. And guess what it worked - I was able to avoid stressing myself out and the words just flowed off my tongue, maybe a little too much (not sure if I was rambling...)

My interviewer turned out to be down to earth, friendly, and not in the least bit arrogant. The questions were the standard ones and nothing out of the ordinary, except one which I'll talk about later:

  • Career progression, and why I made certain choices
  • Career goals
  • Why MBA/Wharton
After I finished answering the above (and responding to specific probing questions), my interviewer completely surprised me by looking at his watch and saying, "Well, we've been talking about 30 minutes, so I think that's enough. Is there anything you want to ask me about Wharton?" I thought to myself - that's it?? Did I ramble too much? I was a little concerned and so asked him if there was anything else he wanted to know. He looked at me, looked at my resume, went hmmm, then......... "well... maybe let's look at your personal activities..." Phew!

  • What do you do in your free time?
  • At Wharton, your classmates will all be smart and successful. What differentiates you from the rest?
  • How are your applications progressing? Have you heard from any of the other schools you've applied to?
I was honest with the last one, and he went "that's interesting..." but didn't elaborate further. I'm not quite sure how to read it, but I think it wasn't negative. Anyway this brings me to the question I wanted to talk about. I can't remember exactly at which point he brought this up, but he told me that most of the poeple at Wharton are very focused on making money (lots of it) and he wanted to know how I felt about earning big bucks. I think he was coming from a "fit" perspective (someone correct me if I'm wrong), and I tried to give a balanced answer - yes money is important because I need to pay off loans but it's not the only thing, etc. Again not sure if it was what he was looking for, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

After that I had some time for questions. The whole interview took about 45-50 minutes and I left with a pretty positive vibe, so I think I should be ok. Of course I may have totally misread everything like so many have before me, and get the ding in two and half weeks, but that's alright. I gave it a good shot and I'll take whatever comes my way.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Chicago interview

I did my Chicago interview in Singapore over the weekend on Saturday with a GSB alum who graduated back in 2001. In fact, I had met this very same alum before at an infosession and I lucked out when his name came back during my interviewer search. Anyway we had hit it off during the infosession, and I was hoping that it would carry into my interview.

He suggested Starbucks, and told me to keep it casual and not wear a suit. I came in business casual (shirt and slacks but no tie) just to be safe. Anyway he wore a t-shirt, shorts, and sandals so I was definitely formal enough. I'd just flown in from Tokyo that same morning, so we started off chatting about Japan and traveling schedules. Then we got down to business.

  • Why MBA - I began with my career goals and then went on to why an MBA was necessary. He agreed that it made sense, but drilled down into my career goals, specifically asking me what if I didn't get into firm A, had I considered other areas that I could possibly also work in to achieve my goals, where would I be in five years if things didn't turn out as planned.
  • Why Chicago - Because I'd mentioned that I planned to return to Asia after my MBA, he asked me why not other schools in Asia such as Insead. After I gave him my spiel, he asked me why I wasn't applying for the International MBA program. This caught me offguard - I honestly didn't know the differences between the international MBA and the regular MBA but I think I was able to BS my way through this one...
  • What clubs would you join (non-career oriented ones) - I think I got this question because during my Why Chicago answer, I mentioned some consulting-related activities (e.g. Management Labs, Service Corps, etc.). My answer to this one was ok - and I managed to tie some clubs back to the activities I'd listed on my resume.
  • Give me an example of a challenging project - Because he asked specifically about one of the companies I'd worked for, I chose an example that showed teamwork, leadership, and how I motivated my teammates.
  • Tell me about a time when you faced an unprecendented obstacle and what did you do to overcome it - I used another example from work that hopefully showcased more leadership and initiative.
  • What kind of impression does Chicago GSB give you, and what is the one thing that you would change about it - Ha! He tried to throw a curveball with this one I think. Not sure if I answered it satisfactorily, but I mentioned strong academics/research, but maybe too much focus on theory. Then as I was saying all that I remembered the experiential learning that I mentioned in my Why Chicago answer. Arrrghhh... contradictory answers, but oh well, not the end of the world...
We took about half an hour to go through the questions above, then he asked if I had any questions. Since we'd already spoken pretty extensively before, I just asked him about which classes he felt were "must take" classes and what made him choose Chicago over the other schools he was admitted to. We also spent some time chatting about his own long term goals and the VC industry. In total the whole session lasted about an hour.

I was relaxed and the interview was pretty enjoyable. Face-to-face interviews are definitely easier than phone interviews, and the funny thing is I didn't even really prep for this one - just reread my essays and emails from students I'd contacted to find out more about certain Chicago activities. I will probably do the same for my Wharton interview coming up next Monday (in Tokyo this time). Think it's easier to just wing it sometimes =)

Incidentally I received an email from Chicago just hours before my interview beginning with "Congratulations...." I was like... WHA--??? I'm in already even without the interview???!! Turns out they just wanted to verify some personal information. What an anti climax.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Wharton wants to know more...

Received the interview invite from Wharton today. Unlike other schools that had more informative and congratulatory notifications, Wharton's note was obscure.

Your application status for the MBA & MBA/MA - Lauder Programs program for Fall of 2006 has been updated.

Please log into our website at to check your status.

After logging in:

The Admissions Committee would like to discuss your application in more detail through an evaluative interview. Please click the Interviews tab to select your option from the available interview choices.

Right now I can't say I'm feeling all that excited about it though - work has been taking over my life. I don't even have the time to enjoy Tokyo anymore and I had to cancel my snowboarding trip this weekend :( On top of that my Chicago interview is next Saturday, and I haven't started prepping! At least I know I still stand a chance with all 3 schools. Will have to login eventually to schedule the Wharton one, but that will definitely be not be for a while since the interview doesn't have to be completed until March 9. I have absolutely no visibility on my schedule after Feb 17. Sigh.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Lets play tag

Hmmm... been tagged by FooBarMe and Mave so here goes...

Four jobs I've had in my life:

  • Waiter at a dingy hip hop bar
  • Military policeman (not Abu Graib)
  • IT consultant
  • Strategy consultant

Four movies I can watch over and over:

  • Pulp Fiction
  • Major League
  • The Matrix
  • Drunken Master

Four places I have lived:

  • Singapore
  • Yokohama, Japan
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Manila, Philippines

Four TV shows I love to watch:

  • The A-Team (anyone remember this??)
  • The Apprentice
  • Bleach
  • Seinfeld

Four places I have been on vacation:

  • Cairo, Egypt
  • Milan, Italy
  • Steamboat Springs, Colorado
  • Beijing, China

Four of my favorite dishes:

  • Pizza
  • Dumplings (gyoza, xiao long bao, guo tie, the list goes on)
  • Lasagne
  • Tonkotsu ramen

Four websites I visit daily:

  • Bloglines
  • Yahoo Mail
  • Gmail
  • My Yahoo

Four places I would rather be right now:

  • At home with my wife
  • Whistler
  • Hokkaido
  • Bora Bora

Four bloggers I am tagging:

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Powder heaven

Since I'm in such a good mood, I thought I'd share what I've been doing over the weekends... and why I completely forgot about my MBA plans until Tuck called.

My first weekend in Japan, I was at Echigo-Yuzawa. The following weekend, we went to Naeba which had amazing powder runs - waist high in one bowl we dropped into. I'm looking forward to checking out Zao when I'm back next week!