Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Hard to scale when trust and competence is lacking...

Happy Christmas everyone! Hope everyone is doing well wherever they are reading this from. First apologies to all those 2nd round applicants who have been trying to contact me to help them on their applications- timing is just not good around now, when I am trying to get a break from all things GSB, not to mention how infrequently I come online (internet connection is very scarce in Tanzania).

One thing I've been doing in the past week is observing and listening to some of the problems the family have had in running businesses here. It seems one of the big issues in trying to scale any business here in Tanzania, which may sound obvious, is of trusting employees and thus to effectively delegate. Or put another way, the lack of educated and competent middle managers to enable any business scale past more than a dozen employees. Its the sad truth when it comes to any high value, people intensive business. What ends up happening is that these professional/ or service orientated firms such as law, engineering end up having to bring in foreign or expatriate talent. The downside of hiring expatriates in Tanzania is that they often cannot thrive in the business or even living environment in Tanzania (power shortages etc...), not to mention fully understand the local markets. Inevitably, what ends up happening is that many CEOs or entrepreneurs are limited to organizations of no more than 20 employees with strict micromanaging and continue to doing basic tasks. Its crazy because when you try to offer any sort of long term strategic advice, these managers just rightly turn away- "I have enough issues just dealing with the day to day running of the business...". I suppose this sort of problem exists in the western world, although when the organization is at a much larger level- the need for such special projects outside the day to day running of the business is obviously met by management consultants.
The big limiting factor in Tanzania for the expansion of small businesses ends up being more of an issue sourcing local competent and trustworthy employees who can grow into middle managers rather than, as some would attest to, lack of available capital or market opportunities.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Homeward bound...

I'm heading home... Sounds like an obvious enough thing to do since its the x-mas break after all. The GSB is still alive and kicking however, there are plenty of exciting study trips- India, China, Guatemala, Japan and Scandinavia amongst places. Opportunities lost since I am not going on any of the great trips, one might think- but after 18 months of being away from home, something has to give- this is by far the longest extended period of time I've been away and I'm anxious for family contact. And it's not like I'm not going to be learning anything when I'm in Tanzania- this provides the perfect opportunity to evaluate some of my ideas in context, I'll also be meeting up with a GSBer who is traveling the region. My life already spans 3 continents, cultivating relationships across these geographies is becoming difficult- an although I see the value of study trips, I'm not so keen to stretch myself in that direction until I have a firm grasp of the US. I'll probably head to Asia in summer. Interestingly enough, friends and family in Tanzania are largely approving of my efforts here in the USA- they see the value the education brings and always have and can tolerate me being away for such a long time. This is in sharp contrasts to my European/UK friends- who now label me as "too hard working with no time to enjoy life"- this shocked me a bit. I'm sorry, being in California surrounded by smart people around the world with access to wise professors, entrepreneurs is the most fun I've had. Sure, its tough at times, but clearly the interpretation of my European counterparts of how I feel about my time here needs some clarification.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

It saddens me- probably the toughest management challenge...

I'm ramping down towards the end of the quarter with only a week to go until I fly out to Tanzania. I am spending this weekend in Los Angeles and Vegas meeting up with some friends from the UK who happen to be in the area.

As I prepare to head back home for the first time since I came out here 18th months ago, I have been reading up more closely on the news there. The chronic power rationing as result of a combination of drought, corruption and mismanagement, vandalism and theft of equipment, lack of accountability (the list goes on...) the state owned power company undergoing privatization is causing big headaches back home. The power rationing continues to grip the country and seriously hinders economic progress- latest developments, the company put on a 6% price increase in the midst of 12+ hour black-outs.

The CEO/MD of the troubled power company was so stressed with trying to bring order to the company that he apparently suffered a stroke and is currently in hospital. Tanzania seems helpless and I think the situation is probably the ultimate management challenge- there is a CEO opening currently on the website
More info on the troubles is recounted by frustrated fellow Tanzanian blogger

Friday, December 01, 2006

Recruiters, please don't do this... How NOT to recruit MBAs

I just started the last series of interviews with a company that did not impress me with regard to their recruitment process.
One of the things that one gets very used to in MBA recruiting is meeting outstanding individuals from companies- at least at Stanford and I'm sure most business schools, there is significant management level involvement in recruiting. After all, if you are serious about recruiting top talent, going to business school is the reason you go there- to access top talent. Some companies will go through On Campus Recruiting, or insist that you actually beat down a path to their door- either way, when you finally end up landing an interview, it is normally with a manager or associate of some sort within the company.
Now I have very little against using recruiting agencies to help screen candidate resumes etc... i.e. do the manual work of matching job requirements to skills, proving basic company/division information etc... It can can reduce costs, and let one focus on more important things and all those great things about specialization. but when I realized that my 1st round phone interview with this company was actually still with a recruitment agency (in effect outsourced or delegated the 1st round), I was shocked beyond belief. The exchange went something like this:

INTERVIEWER: "So do you have any questions for me about SMARTCO?"
MBWANA: "Great- I just wanted to ask about what you do and what your day is like at SMARTCO?"
INTERVIEWER: "I don't work for SMARTCO, I work for RECAGENCY..."
MBWANA: Pause... "In that case, I have no questions as I'd like to ask someone who actually works at SMARTCO"

Never mind if I offended the recruiting agent- it just came out and it was honest! In the end I asked some questions about timing of calls for second round, how many people the company hope to hire this year and other mundane questions that recruiting agencies would be aware of. But how the hell am I meant to ask questions about things like company culture and what its actually like to work in the organization? Talk about outsourcing or contracting your most crucial function in the process. Sorry- but Round 1 MBA interviews, including phone interviews, should be with a member of your organization! Talent is too precious to leave to a recruiting agency when it actually comes to assessing competencies and skills (and responding to questions) at this level! What if I asked, what was the company's last quarterly performance? Would the agency know that? Maybe, maybe not- but why take the chance with someone not from your organization... If I get through to the next round, I hope its with an actual member of the company- but more importantly, this sends negative signal to me about how effectively they can actually bring on great talented people and hence maintain the quality of the organization.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving- catching up with entreprenuers...

This time last year, I was up Mt. Shasta, waist height deep in snow with a group of classmates. This year, I decided to rest after a busy recruiting season- which still hasn't ended by the way! Its never over until you've signed the dotted line.

In the last couple of days I've been meeting up with some entrepreneurs:

Last night I was at a dinner with two GSB alums, class of 2004 who are creating a new school in South Africa to build future African leaders- . A very risky and long-term education non-profit, but inspiring. The market for secondary education is booming (I should know- my parents sent me abroad because there are few if any institutions like this in Africa). I particularly loved the way they sought to subsidize African students with western students who are paying higher fees for experiencing the equivalent of study abroad in Africa.

I met up with Linxdating CEO, Amy Andersen, a dating service for high net-worth silicon valley individuals- Apparently, there are a few GSB alums who use this service! I found some of the no.s hard to believe, something like 50 million Americans use a dating service.

A new start-up involving some classmates including my former Schwab room-mate got launched this week. Although there is little, if any tangible product at this stage (keep tuned in)- its an interesting concept- internet users who create value on the site who are incentivised by stock- in essence instead of there being one entrepreneur who takes a majority of the rewards for building a community of millions of users who are valuable to advertisers etc... in this case, the users get to share in the value created.

On the fun side, Check out this out- a very fun Friday night at meetro hq in San Francisco (spot Mbwana!).

I am hoping to check out Kiva's new office this week in SF, they have been experiencing tremendous growth recently- amazing to think just a year a ago it was little more than an idea. Now they are approaching $1 million in microloans.

Thanksgiving- catching up with entreprenuers...

This time last year, I was up Mt. Shasta, waist height deep in snow with a group of classmates. This year, I decided to rest after a busy recruiting season- which still hasn't ended by the way! Its never over until you've signed the dotted line.

In the last couple of days I've been meeting up with some entrepreneurs:

Last night I was at a dinner with two GSB alums, class of 2004 who are creating a new school in South Africa to build future African leaders- . A very risky and long-term education non-profit, but inspiring. The market for secondary education is booming (I should know- my parents sent me abroad because there are few if any institutions like this in Africa). I particularly loved the way they sought to subsidize African students with western students who are paying higher fees for experiencing the equivalent of study abroad in Africa.

I met up with Linxdating CEO, Amy Andersen, a dating service for high net-worth silicon valley individuals- Apparently, there are a few GSB alums who use this service! I found some of the no.s hard to believe, something like 50 million Americans use a dating service.

A new start-up involving some classmates including my former Schwab room-mate got launched this week. Although there is little, if any tangible product at this stage (keep tuned in)- its an interesting concept- internet users who create value on the site who are incentivised by stock- in essence instead of there being one entrepreneur who takes a majority of the rewards for building a community of millions of users who are valuable to advertisers etc... in this case, the users get to share in the value created.

On the fun side, Check out this out- a very fun Friday night at meetro hq in San Francisco (spot Mbwana!).

I am hoping to check out Kiva's new office this week in SF, they have been experiencing tremendous growth recently- amazing to think just a year a ago it was little more than an idea. Now they are approaching $1 million in microloans.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Oh my God, I actually have a free moment on this Saturday evening to write a post… Its been a crazy, crazy first half of the winter quarter. In between interviewing, attending conferences and going into new initiatives, I have had very little time to reflect and think, yet alone write a blog post…Time to say some things that are clear about the 2nd year so far:
Second year of the MBA does not mean a slow down in activity: No way, for me it’s a been a ramp up, more engaging academics, club leadership and responsibilities and more serious recruiting. And this is even though I have Monday and Friday days off! I’ve been venturing into some new areas as well- for instance, making across the street contacts in the Africa Studies Department, meeting like minded graduate and undergraduate students interested in Africa- there are now plans to organize an Africa conference in the Spring (with an emphasis on 100% business), which will be fantastic- we hope it will rival the Wharton and Harvard conferences. On the non for profit side, there is a chance of me getting involved with a health care non-profit/NGO in Tanzania that one of the professors and a prominent Stanford GSB alum support- The Touch foundation. Another thing I’ve been doing is hosting and showing around quite a few prospective students- this has been rewarding and actually a great way to remind myself some of the great qualities of being at the GSB and give my part in attracting talented students.
Less time to see classmates: This is been a real downer for me. Just when you are getting to know some classmates really well, the fact that Schwab is no longer the more common meeting point means that it much harder to stay in touch- yes there are FOAMs and LPFs, but you cannot guarantee that second years will be there, and even then, these events only offer mild chatter, nothing in depth. The good news, is that we do meet up for birthday parties at a venue in San Francisco, we have much more of a ball. Of course, small dinners are and always will be the best way to solve this problem. Take tennis, I haven’t been able to have a single session this quarter, I end up canceling or being canceled due to that suddenly scheduled second round interview or other pressing event.
Confusing time for me career wise, like most, but I love the area: Silicon Valley is really growing on me this year, especially with my contacts outside the b-school. I mentioned very early in my blogs about how important it was for me to really meet ordinary bay area Californians to get a better sense of what it is like to stay here long term- and its great, I have friends who work for major silicon valley tech firms as employees, one is an editor of popular blog for the silicon valley area and have been acquainted with numerous entrepreneur friends. And no, these people are real friends that I have beers with, rather than far-removed or distant business contacts. For me this has been a crucial input into my decision to focus my job search within the bay area- I just love this area and the people I’ve met! Fingers crossed, at this moment in time, I can say that consulting and technology careers paths still remain open. Next week will reveal more clearly which of these avenues are still open to me. Interviewing is finally ramping down- thank god… On Campus Recruiting (OCR) is not pleasant and is thoroughly draining- I am looking forward to a relaxing thanksgiving, and looking to returning to Tanzania for x-mas- Zanzibar calls.

Finally, a word out to some people who have been commenting- I have not been silent because I can not be bothered- I just realized that I don’t get e-mail alerts for anonymous comments which are the majority of comments- I will reply to these pronto and the problem is now fixed.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Interviews and conferences....

Things are in hectic mode at the GSB- 1st years are stressing about midterms, us second years fretting about interviews... I just had my first 4 this week, and after my last one, I'm now on my way to the netimpact conference in Chicago at Kellogg. Never been there and l consider this as the last major city in the US that would of interest me, so it should be a fun trip. Of course netimpact was a great experience last year when it was held at Stanford, so I'm looking forward to networking and learning.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The GSB... It's just awesome (and draining...)

I completed my 8 day road trip unscathed last month. California is one beautiful state- taking the whole thing (almost) in one week makes you appreciate it in its entirety.
My friend Matt then joined me in my first week of 2nd year b-school and it has been a fascinating hearing his fresh comments about the b-school experience as he attended class and social events. I easily managed to convince Matt that GSB really is an incredible place ( I have not just drunk the Stanford GSB Kool-Aid) and he is now motivated to apply. Speaking of which, I met a student who I advised about the b-school process and it was finally great to meet him in the first week. Welcome to the GSB, Puru. I am showing other prospective students around campus as they have contacted me through formal GSB channels- it feels strange, I feel like I’m part of the Stanford GSB legacy and now inducting the next wave of curious students! The day I leave campus will be a sad day indeed.
My classes are simply fantastic this quarter. I am taking formation of new ventures, paths to power and corporate finance (ok corporate finance- is not that exciting). I am also taking an across the street class from the international relations department- The Transnational Workplace. The course gets really moving at the end of this month and involves working in a virtual team across several b-schools around the globe to complete a deliverable under the constraints/challenges of cultural and time zone differences. Should be fun and a little crazy.
Then there is the question of recruiting… This is where I am currently feeling a big drain, I need to find the energy to survive the next month- unlike the great Marquis, I don’t think I will be able to provide regular posts of how its all going until its all done. I have my offer from Microsoft which I am happy with- lets see how much more I can push myself and then to be able to make the difficult decision whilst in Zanzibar over X-mas- I would not have been home in 1.5 years- Again a reminder of the sacrifices I have made to come this far to go to b-school- the least I can do is be home whilst I make the decision for my first post MBA job.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Back in Palo Alto, California…

So, I left Seattle on Monday September 11th and missed 3 flights in a row due to security lines, boarding gate misinformation and good old getting bumped off a seat.. 4th time lucky, so as I was originally meant to depart at 7am, I actually ended up departing at 2:30pm! Not a fun day of travel for me, I can tell you…
Leaving the amazing downtown Seattle apartment for a spacious Californian Suburban definitely feels like a change. And changes to my study/activity-style will also be afoot- instead of the 7 minute walk to class from Schwab, where I had plenty of time in the morning to swing by to grab a coffee, print assignments and still manage to be late, I’ll now be cycling into class across Palo Alto at least 30 mins before class starts. Traditionally, I have always done a better job of managing my time both at work and at school when I lived further away- the separation helps me gain the relaxation when I need it, and the distance makes it less easy for me to want doze off for a siesta in-between those 10am-1:15pm breaks.
My 10 week internship at Microsoft was highly enjoyable- they treated us MBA interns very well, and I definitely felt that I made a contribution to this mammoth organization worthy of 2 and half months work - if I was to summarize what I am able to say more precisely- I applied what I learnt in marketing, data & decisions, Pricing and of course E-commerce to the Office Enterprise team to segment and identify opportunities for selling a higher SKU Office suite to be released this fall as well as ensure smooth migration of customers into the Office suite from a recently acquired company (Groove Networks). Whilst I was going about my actions, Iessons from the organizational change and both strategy classes were in the back of my mind. One of the most enjoyable parts of the internship was definitely the interactions I had with my team, the Groove team and the other groups I worked with- particularly communicating my analysis out to the sales field, a crucial lever in Microsoft’s success. I just loved how everything I learnt in the last year, plus my tech background came together very nicely in the internship and I felt like I learnt a lot, including the culture of working in Corporate America. I have transitioned out of engineering and into business- my view of product development is now at tension between my marketing vs technical disciplines- I can begin to make good sense of crucial questions such as do you just build gut instinct great products/technologies or do you spend more time listening to customers for insights and requirements? Do customers always know what they want? How do you go to market with them- do you start with early adopters? If so, when do you know it is time to move it to masses?
Other takeaways? I must brag- Going to Bill Gates’ House on Day 1 was a huge highlight, as well as the exec speakers series that I took full advantage of to hear insights into the strategic direction of such a successful company supposedly under immense threat and at a PR/media disadvantage to the new upstarts here in Silicon Valley. Also, it was great to hear from Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Tipping Point, at the Marketing Symposium that coincided in my last week. He left the marketers with a balanced view of decision-making (“gut/instinct” vs “analysis-paralysis”), work from his recent book, Blink.
I am now greatly looking forward to an 8 day road trip that fill in the gaps to my California sightseeing and culture- check out the side blog on this which will get more alive starting Friday. I’ll probably run into some first year MBAs tomorrow when I hit campus to do some chores- God, will I feel old!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

End of internship is nigh…

So the weeks have been going pretty fast now, lots of interns are having their final presentations and a flurry of good-bye dinners. As I speak to many of them, I try and keep rough poll in my head of the likelihood of people coming back full-time, and I would say it could be between 30-50%. That’s fairly high in all respects. I think for those who want to stay in tech the battle will rage between Google & Microsoft. And one of the things I hate most about whenever you hear those 2 companies in the same breath, is that it’s like setting up a battle between good and evil, when in fact the two are in some respects very different companies focusing on different markets and at different levels of maturity. I will leave it a future date to dedicate an entire post on this subject. But at the heart I do feel that when people try to back either of the company it comes down to some superficial arguments along the lines of - “Microsoft is evil- Google has smarter people and a better work environment- have you been to the Google CafĂ©??? “, “Microsoft has a much stronger competitive culture, they have never lost a fight!”.
I am hoping interns make their final choices on much more than just on the surface notions such as the ones mentioned above- it reminds me of when I am trying to convince an Englishman of the value of an MBA with this all too common reply- “its sooo expensive- management is a load of cr*p”. Comparing that with what a phenomenon first year of business school has been and the number of opportunities that seem to be panning out- it turns out this could be a good year for MBAs, definitely on the cyclical up-turn. The biggest challenge I think for an MBA, is how to rationally choose a full-time gig without being paralyzed by choice, there a so many variables in the mix- age, marital status, career aspirations/ambitions, lifestyle choice, cost of living, friendship base etc, not to mention strategic career management… For me, geography was a big deal, do I stay in the US, go back to UK or Tanzania? That answer is seems to have been resolved- stay in the USA for the foreseeable future. There’s too much to see, too much to do, and many opportunities to develop. I was lucky that being in the UK allowed me to go back often to Tanzania, and I think those days of returning twice year are gone, and adding some distance will do me some good and make me appreciate Tanzania even more. In the meantime, I'm thinking of launching a non-profit in the near term to keep me engaged and making an impact at home- for those long time readers of my blog, it's obvious that this makes sense- when I blog, I blog about what’s on my mind- since there are fair share of my outside b-school posts are on Tanzania compared to say the progress of the NASDAQ- so its apparent that I try and juggle that avenue whilst pursueing a for profit career...

Sunday, August 20, 2006

An interesting story (and WHY I BLOG!)

The following story really grabbed my attention.

An Austrian filmmaker has been strongly criticized by the Tanzanian president for his the documentary known as Darwin's nightmare. The film shows the impact of globalization on a fishing region on western Tanzania near lake victoria. Nile perch one of Tanzania's biggest export earners whilst at the same time, this non native fish that was introduced in 1950s has dramatically altered the ecological balance in what is the 2nd largest lake in the world. If that's not enough, the film tries to make a link between the fishing trade with the wars in the Congo, supposedly the Russian pilots who fly out the fish on a regular basis to the Europe bring back with them arms and munitions... Being a curious Tanzanian, I was actually able to watch the whole documentary within moments after first reading the article (so is the power of YouTube!- see it here)- I was further shocked and reminded of the difficult lives that people in the region have to live- particularly not being able to afford the very fish that is so abundant in the lake, instead being restricted in eating the fish heads, bones and other left-overs from the fillet packing processing units. This scene repeats itself across many parts of Tanzania, and I understand how sensitive this must be to Tanzania as it may damage a very lucrative trade between Tanzania and Europe- the trade balances are already hard enough for African countries to establish without needing to worry about a filmmaker's "negative portrayal" of the region. And indeed, the claim that guns make it back to Africa through the very planes that export the fish is definitely the weakest factual part of the documentary- once again, many may people in the western world may automatically assume that this is true- hence the president's concern on damaging the trade and negatively portraying Tanzania, which has a solid record of peace compared to other African countries in the region...

It raises issues- I have recently finished reading Chris Anderson's The Long Tail, as a deeper dive into this interesting phenomenon that the Internet has unleashed. I won't go into details here- but please follow up if you have the time and are not familiar with it, I should mention that we are taught this concept in the E-commerce class at Stanford GSB. Anyway, the long-tail phenomenon allows stories such as the one I cite which would otherwise not make it to mainstream media to actually make it to someone like me living in the US who cares. Chris Anderson also makes a claim that as you progress down the long tail, it is likely that the stories are of "less quality", again, applying it to this story, it is becoming increasingly easy for anyone to create media, publish it and potentially reach millions of people without the story actually being factually verified, it simply becomes one viewpoint. I'm not trying to say that the film-maker is making things up, but highlighting the dangers of such media being misinterpreted as factual and making it into the mainstream (up the long-tail). Its interesting to see how far this story escalates...


If this post isn't crammed enough as it is- this raises the opportunity for me to explain why I blog. Its to get stories like these out to a wider audience and put my own interpretation on it- so beyond the materials on the GSB website and other publications about b-school, this and  many other blogs will report things about b-school in a different light- its not official, but I'm hoping readers appreciate it.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Meaningful Data coming alive...

One of the best classes for me at the GSB was international development. However, it was one of the classes in b-school where one could become paralysed by the amount of data trying to describe the state of poverty, the progress made in recent years etc...

Hans, a professor from the Karolinski Institute does a great job in 20 minutes of making real sense of international development data to show real impact (http://www.gapminder.org/)... If only the data and decisions or other statistics or number crunching classes could be done in this way! Not only does this show the power of great data visualization, but how to be an effective communicator.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

2nd Year is coming...

A flurry of activity in recent weeks. Just past my midpoint review of my internship and I took the time to head down to Los Angeles last weekend to meet up with a few GSBers. I was so happy to see them! I was pretty excited to start my internship over a month ago, but it was nothing quite like meeting up with a bunch of classmates- some very interesting stories from those in consulting or tech as well as the more exotic internships stints such as in Vegas.

Resume drop deadline for 2nd year is tomorrow, and the reality of full-time recruiting has come into focus. At this point in time, I'm devoting my time on internships and enjoying Seattle than to really start giving much thought on full-time recruiting, but with the interviewers starting on October, I have no choice...

Closer to home, we had our final official MBA intern events on Thursday- yes a few people have actually finished their internships here at Microsoft, and as the weeks go by, we will see a steady trickle of MBA interns leave. Me and the other GSBer finish last about a week after the last interns.

So I turn 25 in half an hour's time... I feel old, certainly not for an MBA.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Being a young MBA (from Stanford)

One of the biggest issues I find I have to deal with whilst being a business school student is being at the young(er) end of the scale relative to my peers. To cut to the chase, in general 28 year olds behave very differently to 24 year old like myself- this behavior can be amplified when in an MBA environment, especially when trying interact with a predominantly American crowd. I find that my interaction with some MBAs tends to be rough- they tend not to listen to your arguments, discount your "lack of experience" heavily like you were born yesterday- essentially treating you in disbelief. Let me just get things straight here, I am young for the typical MBA not because of a freak of nature, I happen to be 4 years younger than the average through a cumulative saving of years and a strict family who have always wanted me to put my academics/career first, in light of their high investment in my education relative to western students, I obeyed in satisfying them. When I graduated from high school and people were taking gap years for traveling, I went straight to university (1 year saved), rather than take a year to "see the world", I took a 3 year Bachelors in Engineering the UK when most take a 4 year course in Engineering in the UK and 4 years for most degrees in the US (1 year saved). I did not waste any time with regard to getting a job post graduation- within 3 months of graduation I had started my first job (allow 6 months). And then got 3 years work experience, when most MBAs get 4 years (1 year saved) in what was essentially an excellent rotational program for a prestigious technology company that was a former government R&D agency that needed young motivated individuals to span the organization fast and take on a commercial savvy approach. This breadth of experience essential gained me another half a year or so with respect to most 3 year jobs. This is all in the face of being an international (work-permit & security issues), and what I would say are fairly mediocre grades at top engineering school- I would not call myself a boy genius by any stretch, and I'm not just being modest- I once had to repeat a class in digital electronics because I failed- my parents came down on me very hard for that blip in my academics! All I am trying to say is that there are a lot of factors that contributed to me being 4 -5 years younger than normal. I just applied to the business schools that I think would value me for who I am, and I was fully aware of the business schools that would not even take a minute to evaluate my applications. If any older MBAs are reading this from schools outside Harvard and Stanford- please, don't discount younger MBAs simply for their age- take time to get to know them, we may not bring what is classified as "normal" b-school career paths- some schools value a diverse student body- if you meet qualifying requirements and can contribute to the educational process and experience for the student body AND HAVE LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL, why not an MBA? The world of "time served" to earn a promotion has largely gone any place that has that kind of value system will not see the likes of Mbwana- I'll always navigate away from that no matter what- and explains my success in where I am now relative for my age now. Socially this can create some difficulties, it means that I tend to have two age levels of friends- friends who are 27-31 year old who respect me for who I am, in and outside the MBA, and I friends who are my age. Nevertheless, the two groups do behave differently and I end up being middle of the road, perceived or maybe even actually coming across as immature to the MBA crowd, and almost no fun or too career minded to my age peers who are just getting used to their first corporate jobs.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Kiswahili Speakers in the USA???

It has always deeply impressed me when I come across a westerner who can speak a basic level of Kiswahili to get by as a tourist. Then sometimes you’ll meet the odd British who can speak excellent, if not perfect Swahili, in part due to their colonial links with the East African region. But I never thought I’d meet an full on red-blooded American who can speak perfect Kiswahili in the Pacific Northwest until today. Just when I thought I’m all disconnected from home, you end up meeting someone who can speak my own mother tongue better than me! Pretty amazing… She should work for Kiva.org, the microfinance organization I raved about in the fall quarter that one of my classmates is working on, I think she would be a huge asset, speaking of, Kiva has been doing a super job of getting into the news recently, check out this businessweek story- those guys have become masters of generating good PR for their business and on their way to scaling up...

My view of Americans is changing- when you look deep enough, even a the ordinary non business school types, there are some real gems. May sound strange, but I sleep better at night knowing that one more American can speak really good Swahili and one more American is micro-lending to a poor entrepreneur in Africa.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

First Year Evaluation

One way to summarize my 1st year experience at Stanford GSB is go back to a list of expectations I had about the experience and to see how it turned out…

People & Social



1. I will meet some amazingly talented people who are either amazingly intelligent and/or have worked to get to their positions from all walks of life. There will be no slackers.


Derrick Bolton and the admissions team do a fantastic job of a hard task of putting together a diverse and talented group of 380 or so students. It hugely shapes the experience, there's a ton of learning that occurs offline.

2. All the students will be willing to help one another out and in general there will be no selfish or self-centered MBA students (at least that I have to deal with).


War-rooms work really well, study groups can be painful but a necessary part of the experience to learn to work with diverse talent.

3. I will get to know pretty much all of the students in my class (yes, all 380) by name, and have a core group of friends, however, there will be no particularly strong cliques (e.g. by nationality, career function, age etc...) and it will be easy to drift into and out of different core groups in time in order to really get to know the few who meet my diverse criteria and will become my best friends.


On the surface, but I wish I had enough time to learn more about people- the MBA is so fast paced and busy, unfortunately there is not enough time get to know what seems to be a small enough class to get to know everyone

4. There will be beautiful girls, both on campus and across California (sorry, had to slip that one in... It's California!) and they will love my British accent. Otherwise, at least, my mates who have promised to visit me, will be disappointed.


Brainmater is negatively correlated with attractiveness, need to pursue off campus avenues.

5. I'll be able to find classmates who will appreciate a variety of social activities ranging from clubbing/raving, visiting pubs/bars to the occasional quiet nights pretty much on demand. In other words, I will not feel like I'm constrained into social activities by my immediate friends/classmates.


Small class and people being busy means a feeling of working on a tight schedule

Location/Environment & Lifestyle



1. The campus environment will be vibrant, buzzing during class time, but at times, will be the the quiet serene and spacious campus that it appears on the brochure.


Stanford campus is a busy and intense place.

2. I will be able to achieve a great work/party balance at my will. In this sense I don't strictly mean, 50:50 of course, but I can imagine for instance in the 1st month or so, having partying a lot, and at times, needing to do some serious cramming for exams etc... All driven my behaviour and discipline, and not so much dictated by the school or friends/classmates


1st 2 quarters were tough- once internship was secured, both academic involvement and amount to relax dramatically increased

3. I will be able to maintain and improve my general fitness and improve my tennis game and yet eat a pretty fun diet (yes, some American fast-food here and there without getting fat...)


Terrible- I've put a significant amount of weight- will need to work out and go to the gym.

4. Facilities and service (academic, sports, accommodation etc..) will be world class compared to what I've seen at other academic institutions so far.


Excellent access to tennis court and other facilities. Schwab is the bestr= dorm one could ever construct- I think pretty silly to have exec education students in the same complex!

5. The weather will be amazing 5 out of 7 days a week. "Amazing", means, good enough to play tennis.


Between Dec-March, more rain that I would have expected.

Academics & Workload



1. I'll spend on average about 50-60 hours a week on academics (here's hoping!).


There is significant variation. I did not realise how much I needed to work on weekends!

2. Mathematics/Quantative work required will not be harder than engineering mathematics (2nd year level at Bristol). However, I expect to initially struggle but ultimately get by in courses requiring statistics.


Engineering quant background was invaluable! Stats, stats and more stats...

3. If I'm disciplined and consistent, I can at least spend one and a half complete days away from academics. I am able to devote a complete whole day away from the Stanford GSB environment to visit external friends in San Francisco .


Looking back, I had enough time to explore and get to know the area.

4. To obtain a 2nd Master's, e.g. in Engineering, I will need to sacrifice a great amount of my social life in the second year, but I should not have to become a complete hermit to obtain it.


Not a chance… Might take Comp science not engineering courses.

5. The teaching will be exceptional and focused and I will receive suitable attention in areas I struggle, better than in my days in public school in UK, Bristol or at my last job training courses.


I'm a firm believer of paying for exceptional education with aid and financial support for the talented and less well to do. Generally the courses are well taught with some truly exceptional- I loved the E-commerce class the taught by Prof Haim Mendelson the best.

Career management & Jobs



1. I will be able to explore initially, a diverse set of careers through career management and advice from other students, but very quickly hone into one or two career options and will receive enough support through clubs and seminars. Management consulting in Strategy & Technology areas will remain my top career choice throughout the two years.


Club support has been quite weak- consulting much tougher to get into.

2. I will have to work reasonably hard to gain an internship, by reasonably hard, I mean I won't expect to get one just attending seminars or career fairs, I'll need to put some work, but not to an equal or more measure as the amount I put into my academics.


More than you'd know, surprised that I did not miss more classes.

3. I will get at least 2 job offers on graduation. At least one of those I will be within the United States.


2 for Internships

4. Hi-tech jobs in the Silicon Valley/Bay area will be the easiest for me to access whilst finance related jobs will be the hardest.


Goes without saying given my background and the area.

5. The MBA will categorically provide me with opportunities that I would have never accessed without it.


Both in corporate for profit and in the non-profit world, not to mention start-ups, it’s the most confusing time in my life- there's so much out there! However, there where an individual can make an impact does help funnel downthe choices.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Growing up American?

I’ve been taking some time in the evenings and on weekends to catch up with my old life and old friends in the UK by e-mail and various calls. One question I often get is whether I have yankee accent yet. Am I speaking Americanese English yet? Well, I have a few friends at the GSB who update and watch whether I’ve begun to lose the accent, and so far, not so noticeable- it’s hard to change an accent that has been built up over 11 years from the age of 13. I am beginning to speak Americanese, there is no way I can say words like ‘Bathroom’ here without referring to the right accent tone.

The biggest change for me in the last year has definitely been in my behaviors- yesterday on my way into work, I had a huge craving for Starbucks coffee, and as I self-reflected in the queue, I realized that I had become one of them- a serious coffee drinking American machine! I should start to be conscieous about whose coffee I drink to ensure I support third world coffee farmers…

All this means a confusing time for me, as I approach my 25th birthday, I start to wonder about what my real identity is. I would describe myself as a Tanzanian at heart- generous, simple , quiet and cooperative- or am I a guy who prefers to sit in quiet pubs by the fire in winter and in the beer garden at night sipping ale or lager that gets all exited and disappointed by the England football team like a true brit? The other day I found a drum and bass club in Seattle and I was sooo excited, as drum and bass is a music genre I’d grown to love in my time in the Southwest of England- do I still appreciate this music or am I increasingly becoming addicted to commercial hip-hop?

Clearly, like I morphed into the British culture beginning some 12 years ago, there is a level of Americanism that that will be part of me now and moving forward. It’s also easy to forget, how diverse America really is, more diverse than the UK in many ways and it is hence more tolerable and accepting of diverse people. The march to Stanford GSB begun a while back now, and I don’t think I really put much thought into how much the American culture would influence me- although I was well aware that I would go through one hell of an experience.

Yesterday, I ended the day with a talk Microsoft arranged on house buying should we return to the area full-time. Yes, it is premature given that I haven’t even reached my mid-point review to receive the ‘on-track’ signal, but so was going to Bill Gates’ house on Day one … The housing talk was a good info session, but I felt pressured into action- “buy, buy, get into the property market! Settle down- You’re Growing up!’’ Decision, decisions, I’m a small boy entering a grown up world…

Friday, July 14, 2006

The internship

I’ll take this post to describe my internship, 3 weeks in. Well, I am working for the Information Worker Product Management Group, specifically on the Office Team. We are working hard to launch Office 2007. I am specifically working on marketing a new product known as Groove that is being added to the Office suite. It’s a going to a available generally as part of the Office Enterprise suite. The software is a peer to peer like collaboration tool that allows one to create workspaces and invite users to work on it in the face of corporate firewalls, team members working offline/online- it also has some contextual features like instant messaging, discussion boards, meeting and issue tracking etc…

Groove is a tricky product to sell because it is highly experiential, most don’t understand its value until they try it. For instance, I have used it for the obscure application of collaborating with myself- I use it to synch My Documents folder on my personal laptop with the work one so I can work seamlessly between the two machines at home and in the Office.

The most fascinating aspect of the internship so far, is the insight into the effective marketing machine at Microsoft. The general public view (and the anti-trust authorities) on the success of Microsoft is predicated entirely on exploitation and tying of products with the Windows Operating System, what they don’t see the importance and scale of the partner community, particular the strength of the sales force in the field. Microsoft’s partner network is simply key.

Outside my marketing role, I am also attending the Executive speaker series arranged for MBA interns, which I treat as an extension of Stanford View GSB’s From The Top. I really appreciate these as they happen pretty regularly and provide an insight in the direction of the software giant. This week we had Head of Business Division and Kevin Johnson co-president of Platform and Services. In the next few weeks we should get to hear from Robbie Bach , president of Entertainment and Devices Division, not to mention the CEO Steve Ballmer.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Thoughts on New Curriculum

I wanted to offer my thoughts on Stanford GSB new MBA curriculum starting with the entering class in 2007 (Class of 2009)- well I have to say it is definitely a big departure from the traditional MBA curriculum, having spoke to my other peers here in Seattle from other top business schools, Stanford already had a more customizable curriculum than others- allowing you to exempt or turbo (take a more challenging flavor) of courses. The new curriculum extends the customization- not only making a lot of sense for the extremely diverse academic and work experiences, but putting the student more in charge of developing their management education. The drive to become more global has been extended by requiring students to go on study trips, international internships or going on a student exchange with Tsinghua University’s School of Economics and Management in China. I do think they need to definitely spend a significant amount of time globalizing the cases. There is also a drive to increase more international applicants by extending the testing requirements to include GRE test takers- this definitely makes a lot of sense in lowering the total cost of admission to would be graduate degree applicants- particularly for those who can’t afford to take more tests. I don’t think the comparing ‘’apples and oranges’’ part is that important- it’s simply a practical step in widening the application pool - yes, the tests are different, but in my mind it’s just a discipline test.
I like the leadership part- effectively emphasizing the importance of personal development and organizational behavior- no surprises, since time and time again alumni have said that courses such as ‘’touchy feely’’ (interposal dynamics) are the best thing they have ever taken at Stanford- its natural that they make that a core part of the curriculum.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The best Internship deal ever…?

So I already talked about going to Gates’ house on day one of my internship, and the wonderful apartment Microsoft is subsidizing in downtown Seattle. In addition, we get access to the top class fabulous pro-club, possibly the best service in a gym I have ever seen in my life! Last and I’m sure not least, is the Microsoft prime card, an employee discount card that works on everything from 2 for 1 meals, i-max tickets to 10% of BMW parts. One thing is very clear- Microsoft values and looks after their employees. Of course some of these perks are unique to summer MBA interns, but regardless, its enough to make you really appreciate working for Microsoft- I suppose in this highly competitive knowledge intensive industry, every little benefit counts.
The biggest treat for me is the spectacular summer weather and environment in the Pacific Northwest- being a bit of a nature lover, tree hugging Stanford GSBer, this is prime. On Sunday, I went on a hike near the Olympus Mts, close to the border with Canada with some other MBAs to catch some amazing views:

And I know that this only lasts for the summer- Seattle is pretty grey outside this season. Happy 4th of July.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Day One at Micorosft- Bill Gates' house...

Straight from an e-mail I wrote to some friends:

Yes- so I’ve got to brag about this one. Had my first day of my internship at Microsoft, and although there must have been some cruel joke or test for interns to get up to speed with the computer and networking- was on the phone for almost 2 hours trying to get logged on (never got logged on!)… This was more than made up by the invite to Mr. Gates house in the evening for a BBQ with another 300 interns ( as a sense of scale, there are a total 1200 interns this summer from high-school to graduate student level).

So the house is pretty modest in size, packed with some stylish/strange use of technology- like the music that plays through the jetty as you wonder near his speed boat. We had 90% access to the fantastic garden. However, security to get in was tight- no cameras, phones etc… and took up an hour.

Won’t go into detail- but lets just say the highlight for me was sitting on his personal wooden garden chair, beer in hand, with the perfect sunset overlooking Lake Washington… A momemnt to take in the personal achievements of a man with great vision and leadership...

I managed to get in two questions- one about the competitive threat of Google which he sidetracked and another about his work on the gates foundation- have to admire his commitment to funding drug discoveries that Big Pharma would never go for due to low/nil return on investment. He rattled off his commitment on malaria vaccine and on some diseases in Africa that I’d never even heard of…

Off to bed- but settling in well in area for the summer.


Monday, June 26, 2006

Sleepless in Seattle

I got my sleep! All that late night partying and trivial pursuit plus a 6am flight to Seattle from New York was definitely tiring- so I took the whole of Sunday just to sleep.

I am just impressed with what Microsoft have provided so far... Firstly, I must thank them for relocating me from New York which allowed to me to take a break to visit some new and old friends as well as my sister.
But then to arrive to some amazing accommodation right in the centre of Seattle is just plain spoiling me! Yes, the Harbor steps Apartment complex, scores top marks in my books. Amazing view of the harbor, great location, all the amenities one could ask for- a nice touch. It may sound trivial, but I know lots of my classmates who were struggling to sort out accommodation for their internships, particularly those in New York. I arrive in Seattle and everything is taken care of- just had to simply unpack my stuff (after sleeping of course!) and I'm ready to take in the sights and prepare for my role at Redmond. Only downside is the 40 minute or so trek to Redmond I'll have to put in every morning- although I plan to carpool with my room-mate and use the public transport when schedules don't align- sounds familiar to my UK days...

Haven't hooked up with the hordes of other MBAs who are on the complex, including those working at Amazon, but it should be fun to be in another community of like minded people during the next 10 weeks. Also looking to hike on Mt. Rainier and Mt. Hood over the summer with a bunch of the interns.

So at this point in time, the value of the MBA has come into focus a little more, I had a furious argument with a friend in the UK on MSN messenger about the value of the MBA- she dared call me a "manufactured leader"- what? Of course she had no idea what she was talking about, and after a a series of fast and furious arguments attacking her, she backed off... But I have to say, it has got me thinking, can I really add value to a mega-corporation of over 70,000 people in 10 weeks? I pondered this with my room-mate who is also interning at Microsoft. Working at a Start-up one can clearly make an impact on a variety of levels, but what about an established company who in effect know everything they need to know about their own business?
Then I remember speaking to one of my new friends who used to work as a gallery director for a niche area of the art industry and being able to apply the MBA thinking and getting a clear sense of how attractive an industry it was. Question is can anyone else also see that? Is having MBA really worth it when one could come to the same conclusion without one?
I learnt a lot- but most of it I could have got reading management texts. Then again, some skills just need to be practiced- one can't simply read up and learn regression to really understand its value. Then there are all the Organizational Behavior classes such as the infamous "touchy feely", "paths to power" and "organizational change", the quality of these classes are highly dependent on the quality of students and their experiences. Some of these are invaluable classes with lessons and concepts that I can certainly apply in my next 10 weeks here at Microsoft.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Coming to you from the nation's capital...

Ha! I missed blogging in May, oops and sorry.
Yes, I admit it, this blog is beginning to suck. Time for a revival.
So I am now in Washington DC visiting my sister who happens to be on a month long legal training course here at the International Law Institute. I conveniently set up my 10 day break in the east coast before starting my summer internship at Microsoft to coincide with my sister's visit. It's the first time I've seen a family member for 10 months, even in the UK I could guarantee seeing my brother or at least my dad every 3 months or so. Suppose it comes with being an international student in the states these days. So I've been catching up on events in Tanzania, from the recent intense power rationing that his been crippling businesses and ordinary citizens alike, to the performance of the newly installed president.
DC is nice, particularly the lively Georgetown, but I've become very snobbish about the weather these days. I know I was complaining in my last blog post about California weather, but soon after it was more than made up with a continuous 3-4 week spells of clear sunshine and blue skies. Although it's currently in the 90 degrees Fahrenheit now in DC, it's way too humid and muggy! I miss California... If I'm now complaining about the heat in the east coast, how will I ever go back to the grey and rainy UK?
So the first year has come to an end, and how fast its gone indeed. The summer quarter can be characterized by projects, time set aside for travel and lots and lots of parties and events. I really enjoyed the group project in which we wrote a paper on the emerging entrepreneurial space industry. It gave me a chance to apply some of the lessons learnt this year from human resources to non-markets to an industry I’m familiar. I also put on the brakes on campus involvement and ventured out more on the travel side, I finally made it down to San Diego in South California with a visiting friend from the UK.
My venturing out also made me come full circle back to business, I came across a Palo Alto Start-up called Meetro, a location based (geo-tagging) instant messaging platform, that I do believe is going places. Having hung around the Meetro team on and off for the last couple of months, I have been getting my fix on internet start-ups and the web 2.0 vibe... Again, its what I came to Stanford for… Out here and having recently been in New York City last week, the stark difference in the culture for entrepreneurship is now very apparent. But then again, the liveliness of New York City and the historical Georgetown area remind me of what I have been missing in the last year.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Update needed....

Time goes by so quickly and before you know it the future takes an unexpected turn:

I'll make this an update on the internship search- my consulting hunt came to partial disappointment- basically did not get any offers from the big consulting 4-5 firms I was after. I did receive an offer from Genpact, a firm spun out of General Electric which engages in outsourcing activities- this firm is going places, with 25% revenue growth year on year with innovative ideas in an outsourcing industry that is exploding- in the news recently was their announced entry into the entertainment and media industry (outsourced digitizing old movies from miles of tape reels). I was offered to choice to work in either their east coast office in Connecticut or in Gurgaon, India on either Re-Engineering/Benchmarking or Industry Value Proposition.

I had hedged my bet with consulting with one Technology company in the On Campus Recruiting process- Microsoft. Whilst most people interested in Tech are rushing to the likes of Google- I have to admit, I have always been a fan of Microsoft since they entered the video game industry, which although currently only a tiny source of revenue for them compared to Windows and Office- it is exciting that such a big "elephant" of a firm can execute so well in a console launch- the underlying capability is their superior marketing of technical products... But I also think that this would later allow Microsoft to eventually re-invent itself as a younger and "cooler" company not just known for their traditional products. With Software as Service now threatening some of Microsoft’s products as well as 2006 being the year the company launches a record number of products and services (Vista, Office 2007, X-Box360 etc...)- it should be an exciting period within Microsoft. The interview process was a challenging one- flew up to Seattle and had 8 back to back interviews from around 9am and finished at 6pm. I then spent the second day sight-seeing round Seattle- which reminded me of England, with a much more compelling choices for outdoor activities- opportunity to climb Mt. Rainier etc... The all expenses trip up to Seattle was as much an opportunity for Microsoft to sell Seattle as a great summer experience as well as to interview candidates. Eventually this was a big factor in my decision making process.

I was afraid Microsoft would delay with their decision (they had taken 5 weeks to actually schedule final round interviews), but to my surprise, they came back with an answer just after the weekend (with a week until finals). So in the end it came down to deciding between Genpact and Microsoft- after taking some advice from the Career Management Centre and a classmate who had worked for both firms- The Microsoft Product Manager role won, the over-riding factors were clearly the brand name the prospect of an excellent experience in the summer, not to mention to appear more favorable to consulting firms should I re-try later on this year. Unfortunately- it looks that I will not be able to fulfill the requirement for a GMIX (I would have if I had taken the offer to work in India for Genpact!), with 10-12 weeks, it leaves no time to fulfill 4 weeks of work in Santiago, Chile for Vertical. Will like to state that this is a function of this year's holiday scheduling- we lost time in the 1 week break for thanksgiving which has eaten time in the summer- hence, a lot of people are unable to easily meet their once ambitious summer plans... Of course I won't make it home to Tanzania, which I know my parents are not too happy about.

Okay- So I promise to document more about the other side of the GSB after the career search is over- I feel a huge weight/burden lifted from me- I estimate 30% of my time freed up to get to know my classmates better, engage more in academics and club activities (will soon begin planning the East Africa Study trip for x-mas 2006) and not to forget reaching out to get to know more of California- been doing exactly that this Spring Break. Made some excellent connections in the bay area outside the GSB scene- one character, www.zboinski.com. Is on a mission to get to know the Bay area and San Francisco well, every night Wednesday to Saturday, session out meeting new faces- I can finally keep up with half his pace.

Speaking of California: This week’s weather is looking very un-california like- it has been raining a lot- but there’s been a noticeable change in the fauna- getting nice and green- the land needs it- but I’m sure the sun will return.

This is not the Californian weather I expected!

Would like to say Congrats to Puru- for making it through- he reached out to me for advice, and I knew he had the makings to get into the GSB- Congrats man! Can't believe a year has passed- this blog is one year old! Hope people have been enjoying reading it- despite there having been large 5 weeks gaps from time to time- but that is understandable given the hectic business school lifestyle. The hard part of the core is over apparently- it should be plain sailing from here... More on academics in a later post.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Progessing...GMIX is getting there!

It’s been a roller coaster of a fortnight, my progress through on campus recruiting has been tough. I’ve decided not to post information about my progress through specific companies until I’ve accepted my final offer for the summer. It’s not that I don’t want to be transparent and informative, it’s just that I don’t feel comfortable blogging about how I’m specifically performing on job interviews through rounds since some recruiters could be reading this and it may weigh into their decision making process (and I know that someone I did a mock interview with from a consulting firm had heard I had a blog!- there are not many Mbwanas around!)…

But I will divulge that I’m no longer considering banking; I interviewed with a couple of firms and not only was I not adequately prepared- I really did not put the work and motivation to compete with those who focused- and rightly those who are dedicated have the right to get the position over me… I also realized that I was not willing to sacrifice my soul for cash, and I’m not just saying this because I was ultimately not hired- it takes a certain kind to do banking.

I have pretty much sealed the deal with a GMIX over the summer, so I will divulge! The GMIX, is the 4 weeks work experience as part of the Global Management Program, where one gets to immerse oneself into a country that you have not lived in and is an excellent opportunity to explore a different industry at the same time…
Those who know me well and have read this blog a while, know how passionate I am about adventure travel, eco tourism and non profit in developing countries...I have been speaking to a friend who works at organization known as Vertical in Chile and it seems that they have found something for me:

Vertical consists of two parts in Chile - the for-profit branch which is focused on leadership and teamwork development programs (through adventure travel)- and have clients ranging from MBA students (mainly Wharton) to corporations. It also includes the non-for-profit branch Fundacion, is channel through which Vertical dessiminates its vast expert knowledge in exploring and appreciating the outdoors - publishing a series of books on Leave No Trace camping, how to dress for the outdoors etc...as well as recording information about many of the great places to explore in Chile. In addition to this, the Fundacion also works on providing underprivileged communities with access to the outdoor leadership and experiential programs that Vertical and others provide, aiming to expose youth from less fortunate backgrounds to alternative lifestyle choices that can help improve their economic position.

In going in, the projects I would work on would potentially be based around strategic thinking and analysis, but would also have some tangible requirements as well. Best of all I get to explore and learn about Chile, imerse myself in the adventure travel industry, and learn what economic hardships people have to deal with in South America.

Now to nail that main internship…

Monday, January 30, 2006

Interviews kick off but wait a minute....

If I don’t say this now, I’ll probably forget to say it in future.

So I had my first interview today- my adrenaline was certainly pumping. I don’t know how I did, but I immediately had a Strategy class to go to about 30 mins after with different section than normal due to this being the only interview conflict I have this week. Whilst it was hard not to think and reflect about my performance which was affecting my concentration in class, something very clear suddenly came to me: “Mbwana, what you’re learning in the class will serve you for a lifetime, wherever you decide to take apply yourself- You were interviewing for a summer position, don’t dwell so much on this one opportunity among many other open to you. Focus on studies”
It was important for me to realize this because the probabilities are really beginning to stack up against me, and I have a confession to make- I have never been rejected for a job once I got to the interview stage. Things may be about to change! I am among some of the brightest and most business savvy young individuals on the planet. If I don’t get a summer job through On Campus Recruiting or whatever, I need to realize that it’s in part because of the intense competition and be thankful that there are other opportunities for me to transition into a business career. As the Strategy class I was in was different to my normal section, I got to see some people who I have never had ANY class with so far in action- and it really drove home not only how smart people are here, but also how amazing and brilliant and how business school at a place at Stanford MUST BE one of the best place to learn- totally worth every tuition dollar… Yes, I have interviews and I know I said it’s probably what I’m here for, but it doesn’t mean academic learning should take a back seat, at that point it became suddenlt very clear what that other great thing about being at Stanford really is- learning from the best professors amongst the best students in the world- and that’s got to be worth more than a summer job… One down, 8 to go (interview count increased to 9 as of this afternoon).

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Must stay calm for the Ultramarathon of interviews

It’s daunting to think that I’ll be doing 8 interviews next week. It seems madness… But this is in part what I came here for, to transform my career from Engineering into a business one. It will be a marathon- or as one of the amazing speakers who came to speak at the GSB, an ULTRA marathon (check out the David Letterman clip)! Dean Karnazes has run over 350 miles continuously! Some key takeaways from his inspiring talk:
• Break things into baby steps- one case interview at a time, and one interview at a time…
• It’s the journey that counts- An experience through life (or through interviews) should leave you thoroughly exhausted at the end with no regrets. So I should put in 110% effort…
• And my favorite, to run a 300 mile race, run a 101 miles to the start of an official 199 mile race, and then the rest of the 199 or so miles to the end… To relate to interviews, I need to feel confident that everything before has prepared me for this week and that the hard work, experience and dedication has got me to this point- now it’s just time to finish the rest of that 199 mile stretch…

Friday, January 20, 2006

Ramping up…

Well done to those who got accepted into Stanford following Round 1, and best of luck to those who have applied during Round 2. I can’t believe it’s been a year already, I can still remember what I was thinking during this period, the prospects of school interviews etc…

I will briefly touch on job interviewing- I attended my last meet the company presentation a few hours ago, and what a journey it has been over the last 5 months. I have selected to go and meet over 15 companies and it has been an amazing learning experience. For me, this was a key part of my first year quarter experience, learning about the different industries and companies that I am to select for my next career choice. Now the closed list interview invitations are starting to come in, which means the time I invested is starting to pay dividends.

I’d like to briefly touch on some of the cool stuff that’s coming up or has happened. Yes, need to remind myself how much fun being here is:

Skiing- There’s a significant commitment among a core group of people in the class to spending every possible free moment in Tahoe. Only 4 hours away, the prospect of learning this sport (or Snowboarding) after putting it off for while is tempting- I shall try and put in at least one or two weekends, and then commit more next year when I have the time. It’s also nice to get away to a nice chalet after being Schwab for a while. I should also note, that even though we are in the middle of Winter, the weather here in Palo Alto for me feels like a Spring in the UK with even more sunny days… But when it rains, it does bucket it down, unlike the constant drizzle in England.

Las Vegas- Vegas FOAM is coming up (a drinks social event that for the one night of the year, occurs in Las Vegas!) I can’t wait for this event in March, it should be awesome! But a lot of people have been going more often, including for the MBA series poker championships held last weekend, which was well attended by some of the classmates.

The rest of California-
I’m continuing to explore the area, spending significant amounts of time in San Francisco and Santa Cruz where I’m building up an outside Stanford friend base, I consider this important as I really want to see how the real local Californians live, they also make excellent tour guides for International Students! Next to visit, Carmel, and of course I have not been to LA yet, but I’m holding this off for the right moment, although I nearly went this past last weekend (a long weekend) with a classmate, but decided I needed to polish off some cover letters and prepare for interviews.

Finally, a word on academics. Taking four classes now instead of the six last quarter has really made a difference for me, I focus more and I have significant time to worry about career issues as well, and the level of tedious problem sets is also slightly less (aside from finance!), with more emphasis on case work. But I love how everything we have learnt previously or are learning in parallel in other classes continues to be fully integrated into the current classroom. And yes, E-commerce is really handy! Classroom participation has ramped up as well, mainly due to proportion of the grade it is now worth, but also since classmates’ experiences are starting out really be valuable in discussions.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Consulting Career prospects strong in 2006...

Sorry to be overbearing with career related talk- I bet I'm starting to sound like all there is to me is "...job hunt, job hunt, job hunt."

2006 should be a very strong year for Management Consultanting, including recruitment activities according to top-consultant.com first quarter review following a survey they carried out.

A nice audio summary broadcast and transcript is available at:


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Power up outlook and add that special course

So the Holiday break is nearly over and I can get back to being run by Outlook 2003. Time to start reviewing those course outlines, buy those course readers and books. One course that I’ve decided to take, if required, is a 4 unit one (make that 5-6 units if pursuing multiple career tracks) called:

“On Campus Interviewing with Big Name firms at Big Name School”.

The course is concerned with getting a summer internship in a career field that really interests you and involves a variety of tasks such as researching firms through various reading material & on the web, interacting and communicating with firm representatives (and classmates) and of course culminating in several on campus interviews. On successfully completion of the course, you should have a summer job lined up …

Updated and critiqued Resume specific to each firm/career, Myerrs Briggs Personality Indicator, Career Management Centre (CMC) workshops, mock interviews and whole lot of soul searching for what you want out of an internship.

Required: Vault, Wetfeet guides to the industries, Crack the Case, etc…, Case in Point etc…
Optional: How to Interview like an MBA, The fast track- The Insider’s guide to winning jobs in Management Consulting, Investment Banking & Securities Trading,, Sweaty Palms- the neglected art of being interviewed, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Economist..

Meet the company presentations, career seminars & treks, crack the case workshops, company dinners & drinks.

Tailored Resumes & cover letters to each company (use the resume drop feature online and observe the deadlines-). Of course, “know your stuff”- including case frameworks and financial & business concepts covered in class as well as making sure you come across as confident and intelligent individual won’t hurt. Some areas you could be tested in the interview you may not cover until the 2nd year- doesn’t matter, it’s fair game!

Candidates will display courteous manner to firm representatives- such as wearing appropriate business attire (inc. details such as matching belt). You will also observe the on campus recruiting rules laid down by the school, which include proper offer rejection & acceptance etiquette. Firms should avoid such practices as “exploding offers”, and in general will try to be nice to candidates. The course is not for everyone, and candidates may appear stressful at times- but hey, for some this is a core course and other areas of your life may take a backseat for a while- 110% commitment should lead to favorable results.

You’ll be graded on a variety of aspects, an effectively prepared resume and superior networking should land you closed list positions for interested firms but prudent point bidding on the online system should land you interview slots at firms that were not initially impressed by your one page story of your life you submitted. Anyhow, widely available jobs such as in consulting should require minimal bidding points. However, in the end it is how you perform during the interview (final exam) in areas such as articulating the skills you have gained as a good match to the job requirements, demonstrated research and knowledge of the firm/industry, enthusiasm and general fit within the firm’s culture that will distinguish you from other candidates. For consulting, how effectively you “nail” the case interviews will carry as much as 75% of the overall grade. Those who succeed will progress to further rounds and ultimately secure a 8-12 week summer internship offer and a high chance of securing a $100K (+ significant benefits) full-time job on graduation. There are limited internship slots, and should you not get any offers along the way, firms will try their best to provide feedback, and this should form the basis for improvement in other interviews and put you in good standing for next years full time on campus recruiting.

Networking on your own, job boards, and other MBA online applications with firms that do not participate in this activity- many candidates have gotten jobs this way. In the end over 90% of MBA students will have summer offers- if you fall outside this, just go traveling for 3 months and maybe work on a “summer project”, it’s a perfectly viable, if not a more fun alternative.