Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Balancing everything?

I actually still can't believe I'm going to Stanford for 2 years... Its such a great thing to wake up in the morning and feel that the last 1-2 years of effort for a major goal have been realised. I've partied quite hard over the last month, been to Brighton twice as a new destination for me and was impressed, the first time being Phil's wedding which was great. The second, a spontaneous visit for a work friend's sister leaving do- heading to New Zealand. I learnt some handy tips regarding my move to Stanford- how can can I move all my stuff there?- The answer; ship it.

I read somewhere that in life one has to balance:
  1. Rewards (financially)
  2. Passion (do the thing you want to do)
  3. Time (having it to spend on other things!)

I'm going to have to juggle this throughout the next 2 months and equally throughout my working life post- MBA.

Funding hunt continues (or slows...)- THE REWARDS.
Search for external funding has been difficult, it seems that most of the fellowships and scholarships out there are restricted to US applicants. I'm sure if I searched harder I would find some, but the effort required given the limited time to only yield the eligible few which would probably be too competitive is not really worth a shot. I think I'll just submit my tax return when it arrives and take what fellowship and loan options are offered to me by Stanford.
The search for funding with my current employer has been progressing fairly slowly, no response from the two senior managers who I thought would be interested in helping me out. My search has been scaled back to my division, I am getting some support from my key line managers, but I suppose it's just a matter of people being busy now being the end/beginning of the financial year. In the end the company will probably draft some learning agreement contract which may tie me down too much for my lacking... It begs the question, do I really want to return to the same company!!!?

Career options.. Start thinking now!- PASSION
One thing I have begun doing plenty of is planning for my career post MBA (So I'm not returning then!) I know it sounds early, but from the posts and news articles I've been reading out there, the cream of the crop jobs are hard to obtain, so the earlier the search the better. My main interest is certainly management consulting (MC), either strategy or IT/Technology consulting for the big brand name firms, I think my consulting background in defence consulting will only help in this search over any other traditional MBA careers. For now I've ruled out investment banking- it does not seem to suit me.
The other career interest is non-profit management/entrepreneurship, the most fulfilling job was the time I spent organising the Kilimanjaro Expedition in Tanzania for the 24 odd people from my organisation raising funds for the Kabale School science laboratories on behalf of the Britain-Tanzania Society (BTS), and the continuing work I'm doing for the forthcoming Everest Expedition. What is obvious is that the Stanford MBA experience will prepare to act as a future non-profit board member for BTS Recent advice from the businessweek forum indicates that I can sacrifice my summer internship doing non-profit work without compromising a shot at the top MC firms. The logic being is that MCs are really interested in hiring full time and as long as you ace the case interviews you're fine. Hmmm... Not taking any chances, I've ordered the latest consulting guide books from the states on Amazon so I can investigate this area thoroughly. Am I too eager? Let me re-phrase that; am I too eager to in looking for a job given I'm about to spend over $120k in 2 years!? It's time well spent, while I have the luxury!

My friends... Can I see them all?- TIME
This is a touchy subject for Mbwana. How many of my diverse set of friends across the country and indeed across the world can I visit for the final goodbyes before heading to business school? I've virtually ruled out Japan to visit Linny due to a host of reasons- including funds and work commitments. Tanzania is alright, since I'll be there for about 6 weeks in the summer so I can make trips to Kenya and do the usual Zanzibar trips. The centre of the universe remains London for the marlburians and ex-bristolians which I'll be visiting over the next month. And what about a leaving party? Should I have one in Salisbury, London or in both (2 separate parties). Who will attend? I really don't want to be parading across the country trying to see everyone (like I don't do that anyway!), so I have to be realistic about the effort I'm willing to put in over the next 2 months. I suppose I'll set the two parties in June and see who turns up. There is of course the fact that I'll be passing through the UK in August to collect the rest of my stuff before heading to California. In any case, there have been numerous visit promises over the next 2 years, can people really spare the time to visit me- we'll see about that...

Sunday, April 17, 2005

My first blog


My first blog...!

I'm going to blogging my MBA experience as of today and will start by updating you with what has gone by in the last 2 weeks

Acceptance to Stanford
I can remember that fateful day, 31st March, after having a near sleepless night, I woke up and was pretty miserable- thinking that my dream of pursueing an MBA in the states had come to an end after over a year of thorough work and preparation. I got into work and proceeded to check the businessweek online posts on the forum for the first couple of hours of work as I could not focus on anything else! My heart sank lower as there were posts from all around the world of acceptances, i.e. they had all recieved the call from Derrick Bolton, the admissions director from Stanford. I checked my applications status with Harvard, and it was as expected a rejection, no suprises, although I thought I had hope of getting onto the waitlist. After sending an e-mail to Kay (bless her, for always being supportive of my goals throughout the past year) of my dim prospects of acceptance, I began to wait, knowing that my dream was over... Then suddenly a call came through, "Hello, is this Ma-bawa... How do I pronounce your first name?"
I knew my dream had come true!!! I was speechless and virtually could not breath... After a 5 min chat.. I quickly re-emailed Kay. I'M IN!!!... I was so over the moon... I then proceeded to write a long e-mail to half my mates who cared, paricularly thanking Matt & Alex for their support. The rest of the work day went as normal.. I could focus again... On returning home, I phoned my dad and Lulu, who were more speechless than I was. I got a very inspiring text from my dad later saying how proud he was of me.
That evening, I went for a lovely meal with Kay and a had few drinks, which was just what I needed. It wasn't an anti-climax, since I was in the mood for a relatively quiet celebration that night and I needed the time to reflect on my achievement. However, it was followed by 2 more nights (Fri & Sat) of pretty standard Mbwana drunken behaviour! Scottish Stu even came over from Blanford camp, the perfect catalyst for proper celebratory drinking & partying!

Reality kicks in...
Got my admit binder the day after I recieved my acceptance, and I was excited. I read the damn thing cover to cover in my hungover state between partying that weekend. But most of all, it started to get me worried about one thing... THE MBA BILL!!! This was not going to be a cheap affair! Although, I'd always known an MBA was going to be expensive, it was only now I began to tangibly realise that it has to be paid somehow, and it was not particularly fair to be landing a $127,000 bill to my dad over 2 years! Although, he could afford it and he had reassured me and supported me to pursue it, other sources of funding would have to be considered. Before I knew it, a week had gone past. Most of it was occupied trying to consider whether I could make Admit weekend, it quickly dawned on me that it probably wasn't the wisest move to scrabble over there with my poor mother, having to travel 1000s of miles and back for all of 2-3 days! In fact, there were other priority things that needed to be done, like actually formally accepting the offer and paying the tuiton deposit and securing a place at Schwab residential centre. After some e-mailing and phoneing with Stanford GSB staff and students, I finally sorted my place but was 2nd on the waitlist for Schwab. Not a bad thing since people always pull out.

Leaving work & the search for Fellowships
This last week, I told my boss of my acceptance and formally got it announced throughout the TEVAS group. I have to say, I got mixed reactions. Some genuinely happy and congratulatory, whilst others seem to display an expression of jealousy- mostly those who had been in the organisation all their bloody lives! Get a life you idiots- there is no risk without reward, you can't succeed in life without making some bold moves. I've learnt my first and most important business principle during this MBA process. I could have stayed (and possibly rotted) my way through within the organisation, but I chose to take the path less travelled in order to fulfill my lifelong goals.
Later, I filled out my tax return estimates to apply for financial aid and began the scholarship and fellowship hunt. I've created a pretty hardcore excel spreadsheet detailing my funding option, it's been pretty good, as I've been able to logically breakdown the costs and apportion them to different potential sources of funds. Kicked off my plan to get company sponsorhip by trying to get support from key senior managers who are likely to understand the opportunity they have in funding me. I also found a UNESCO fellowship as the only feasible external source of funding. There was a Ford fellowship tailored for East Africans, but I failed the one criteria (having to not have studied outside Africa!). I'm slowly getting there, but I suspect dad will have to foot most of the bill, and I'll probably take out a small loan as well. My current employer may provide funds but it will take some smart negotiating to make sure I don't sign my life away- I just need a clause that says they'll release me (with full repayment) should I find another opportunity.

Preparation for Stanford?
60 hours a week on academics? Apparently. I quickly got out accounting and economics books from the library and started reading... However it became apparent that all those business and management related books (The Number, Globalisation and it's discontents, The Corporation, Funky business etc...), have been extremely valuable in giving me a rudimentary knowledge of economics- if anything, having something to read in context has meant I have learnt a lot (as well as having done Business studies A-level). I think I should be okay for preparation, except that maybe my maths skills could do with a boost.

The plan of action
Will return to Tanzania at end of June to renew my passport and sort my visa out. Will also try and work for dad to get some practical management and entreprenuerial experience, may even work with Natalino as he's probably got his advertising start-up company on the move. And hopefully, if Ben returns in May, I can get some weekend jobs working for Starlight, an event management company, to earn some extra cash to pay off my credit cards! I'm not banking on my house deposit to pay off my consumer debts, and besides I do want to enjoy my last 2 months in the UK.
DRIVING: I must get my licence before I leave for home!! It will be an achievement in itself, and the pressure is on- will probably only have time to pass it first time. After all I do want to be driving whilst I'm in California.
With all that, if I have time, I may visit Linny in Japan. Although, the prospects are look dim due to money prospects.