Thursday, December 9, 2010

Can it be over already???

Ok i'm officially fatigued. I've been perusing mba blogs, webistes and brochures since my fascination with the MBA started in 2008. Can't afford to be just yet though....I haven't finished my Said application. I have first drafts of both my essays ready though and for a first draft, I must say I'm reasonably happy! I've also gotten good feedback on the essays and everyone seems to like them. So I need to conclude the essays and get one of my recommenders to send hers in....the other sent his in almost immediately I asked him to....bless him!

Said's essays are pretty cool....the first one;
Why did you choose your current Job? How do you hope to see your career developing over the next five years? How will an MBA help you achieve this? 750 words

Pretty straightfoward.......i explained how every move in my career was to intentionally lead up to a job in private equity. I also explained how i felt i needed a better grounding in business fundamentals and the networking benefits derivable. I further tied it to my desire to attend SBS in particular.....the fact that the school has a private equity institute and its close proximity to london. I also mentioned the names of a few professors for effect!

The second one was even more exciting!
Which recent world event, development and book has most influenced your thinking and why? (1000 words)
Here i used two books.....My Life by Bill Clinton and My Journey by Tony Blair. I explained how i believed Nigerian politicians were the biggest problem in Nigeria until i read both books. The books highlighted the similarities in politicians all over the world. I realised that the problem with Nigeria is essentially the fact that politicians are not held accountable for their actions by the electorate as a result of the flaws in the voting system and went on to provide examples from the current situation in Nigeria and both books.

In other news, I got promoted today! I need to let the adcom guys at cambridge know as circumstances have changed. My new role entails supervision of junior analysts so that's significant!

Monday, November 22, 2010

JBS App Submitted

Drumroll..........Just sent in the cambridge application! Took me long enough! Started the process in September and after two long months of brainstorming, essay writing and re-writing, insulting and praising myself in equal measure and annoying my reference providers with 'gentle reminders' every couple of days, i can say i am reasonably happy with my application. I have obvious weaknesses....a low undergrad gp, pretty mediocre extra curriculars and less than stellar work exp. I do think however that i have been able to play up my key strength.....applying from an under represented region (Africa) and an under represented field (private equity) mean that i am likely to bring a unique perspective to the class. My classmates would probably not know what investing in emerging and frontier markets entail....I would have liked to emphasize on my role in my previous place of work where I was instrumental in bringing about a lot of change but the jbs questions appear skewed towards achievements at my current job. Fortunately, I mentioned my previous achievements on my cv so i hope that i get a chance to elaborate on these when i get interviewed....JBS had three main essays:
Essay 1: What are the key issues facing organisations in your sector over the next three years and what course of action would you recommend to such organisations.
Here i focused on the difficulties in investing in Nigeria. Corruption, weak capital market, infrastructure deficit etc. My recommendations centered around alignment of interests between investee and management and the need for pe professionals to deepen their competence. Personal rating for this essay, 7/10. I felt it was almost academic but decided a school like cambridge would like a bit of intellectual posturing.
Essay 2: What did you learn from your most spectacular failure?
Here i used this question to acknowledge one of the weaknesses of my application - my low undergrad gpa. I explained how i never thought i would fail to make a second class upper degree. I also explained how the failure helped me develop my strongest qualities - tenacity and drive and how i learnt to fail forward. Personal rating for this essay, 7.5/10. I felt it was more personal than the first and i think the fact that i reflected on my low gpa without trying to make excuses for it would be a postive.
Essay 3: What are your long and short term career objectives? What skills and characteristics do you already have will help you achieve them? What do you hope to gain from the degree and how do you feel it would help you achieve them.
Here i elaborated on my desire to make the transition from an analyst at a Nigerian focused PE fund to an associate at an emerging markets focused PE fund in the short term, and own my own fund in the long term. This essay was anecdote heavy and i think my best essay. I linked JBS's entrepreneurial focus and events such as 'Enterprise Tuesdays' to my goals. I would rate my essay here 8.5/10...
Lets hope adcom agrees with my ratings!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Application seaason's in full swing with my first deadline on the 7th of December (Judge Business School). I've uploaded all my essays and my referees have sent in their references. Just waiting for my mastercard to be activated so I can pay the application fee. Problem is my next deadline is only a month away (said). I have to get two essays, write toefl and complete the application in about a month. Its a tough ask but doable. I'll upload my application essays in my next post.

On th personal angle, I was robbed recently at home and documented my goes;

The clock just struck 2am.....the night was silent and peaceful. I had just entered my third tier of dreams(inception style) when I heard an explosion like noise...I jumped up.....what was that? I pondered....was it a gas explosion? OMG I'm gonna die! This is how it'll all end!
And then I heard it again....No it wasn't an explosion.....some pple were trying to break down my door! I tiptoed to the door, briefly considering grabbing a knife from the kitchen....a mental picture of the knife sticking out of my neck stopped that line of thought....
I looked through the peep hole....and alas! I saw a lot of torchlights and heard voices....they had switched off the lights in the passage! The third bang explained what was happening...they had brought along a huge metal battering ram to break down my door! I could hear the door giving way.....what do I do?
I ran to the balcony(not sure why) soon as I got there, I found myself in d spotlight! They had more people watching on the street! They had pointed their own torches at me! I fell to the floor (like a well trained navy seal....yeah, fear does that to you)....and rolled back into the house
At this point, sensing defeat, I decided to open the door for I walked toward d door, another bang followed by the sound of the door opening startled me! Like a guy with good home training, I postrated flat on the floor....declaring my willingness to co-operate with their excellencies....
Where 'h'is your money? Bellowed one guy with a chronic case of 'H' factor....'its in my wallet in d room'. But who answered? That's not my voice! That's a girl's voice! What happened to my deep manly voice? Apparently, its a medical condition called AK47laria....affects male voices!
As one of the guys marched toward my prized laptop with glee in his eyes, another was fiddling with my prized flat screen tv...My TV? Lailai! They cannot take it o....I this point, I remembered how spartacus was inspired to kill everybody that was messing with his prized possesion....with my brow furrowed, one eyebrow raised and fist clenched....Gbosa! A kick in my face woke me from my little day dream....wia is ur car key?
Na third party insurance I get o....I thought...e don finish for me today! My car key? I stammered....its somewhere here....lemme look for it. For some reason, their excellencies lost interest and proceeded to repeat the process with my neighbours next door.... As I watched them drive away from the window 30 minutes later....I pondered what might have been...and proceeded to watch a repeat episode of girls of the playboy mansion....afterall, life is short!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Damn Essays!

Phew! Just wired $650 to the CFA institute......only just made it before the dealine. Once again i apologise for my absence from this forum, i've been too busy massaging my bruised ego. Infact, i hereby apologise in advance for any future acts of disappearance!
No i did not pass the CFA Exam (I'm sure you gathered that from the first paragraph). If i passed, i would have posted here immediately, screaming to the high heavens about the birth of Nigeria's latest finance prodigy! Instead, I've been left to lick my wounds, ponder about the nature of the failure (worse than last year) and entertain fleeting thoughts of hugging a transformer! Anyway, i've registered to take the exam again next year......finger's crossed.
MBA applications? Admissions season is finally here......I plan to apply to cambridge before the third deadline on December 7th (they have five deadlines) and Oxford before the second deadline in January. I should have heard from both these guys by February......i'll apply to Cranfield if i don't make it to either of the two. I've started working on the essays.....damn! It's tough! Especially as thats my only way to impress the admissions committee. I have a pretty average profile so i'll need to have stellar essays to have a chance. I'll need to make them laugh, impress them and make them absolutely want to meet me in person. Maybe I should outsource the job to Basket mouth although i doubt jokes about kanayo o kanayo would suffice. I'm currently working on the Cambridge essays;
Essay 1
What are the key issues facing organisations in your sector over the next three years? What course of action would you recommend to such organisations? (300 words)
Essay 2
What did you learn from your most spectacular failure? (200 words)
Essay 3
What are your short and long term career objectives? What skills/characteristics do you already have that will help you to achieve them? What do you hope to gain from the degree and how do you feel it will help you achieve the career objectives you have? (please do not exceed 500 words).
I have drafts for Essays 1 and 2 but i am far from happy. They just don't sound outstanding. I learnt to be Tenacious, Focused and Driven after i failed to make a 2.1! Who cares? Private Equity firms have to deal with inferior management teams....duh! everyone knows i understand what novelists go through! I haven't even started on the Oxford Essays;
Essay 1: Explain why you chose your current job. How do you hope to see your career developing over the next five years? How will an MBA assist you in the development of these ambitions? (1000 word maximum)

Essay 2: Which recent development, world event or book has most influenced your thinking and why? (2000 word maximum)
Recent development? That'll be a struggle as well........I'm thinking about using The West Wing (a series about the Presidency in America) to showcase how its got me thinking more about politics.
Anyway, till next time......adios, my non-existent fan base!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

CFA Fever

I seem to start every post with an apology...sorry i haven't posted for so long! Bad case of blogstipation. I've been pre-occupied with my exams which came and went in June by the way. It went well (very well actually) but the problem with the CFA is that its so tricky, you can never be sure u passed! So after the exams, i looked forward to getting back to the real world.....going crazy, partying and painting the town red with my boo! Unfortunately, i developed the post CFA syndrome (refer to,1175934 or I just couldn't be bothered to go all out....apart from a few lame attempts to go paint-balling and go karting! To make matters worse (or better), i got an email from the CFA institute letting me know that results would come a full three weeks earlier this year! Thats on the 26th of July instead of the 16th of effect, my results would be out in about two weeks! 'Yepa' like my tribesmen would say!

Of course, B school application has taken a back seat to all this. The only development is that i think i have made up my mind on the schools that i would apply to....Oxford (Said Business School), Cambridge (Judge Business School), London Business School and maybe Imperial Business School as a back up. The factors i considered were brand, course duration, location and cost.....and these guys came up trumps in those factors.

I want a school that's recognized in Nigeria....It's all well and good to say Insead is the number one school in Europe according to businessweek but when u have to explain that fact to recruiters and even your enlightened father continues to ask you where Insead is, you start to wonder if that £55,000 outlay is worth it. The cambridge, oxford, london and even imperial brand names definately carry more weight! I can just picture my father boasting to his friends at lunch, 'my son is currently pursuing his masters at oxford!'.

I've also decided to opt for a one year course....two years without a salary? LaiLai!!!!(translated to mean over my dead body (translated further to mean Never))..... Of course the two year courses offer certain benefits such as internships and depth of course content but when transposed against the drawback mentioned above, its a no-brainer. This concern explains one of my attractions to LBS. It offers an attractive variability of course duration (between 15 and 21 months).

Location? Its obvious i want to go to the UK....reason? Visa concerns!

Cost? Here i think cambridge and oxford offer the best branding benefit/cost trade off....they are relatively inexpensive at (less than 30,000 compared to LBS at about 50,000).....

Timing is however the most important issue for me. I want to go to school when the timing is right and i am in a position to derive every possible benefit of the MBA. For me, that would be a situation where i have an absolute mastery of the technical parts of my job and then use the MBA to launch myself into management. I'm not certain that is currently the case. But then again, i might be thinking too much. Finance is also another father would retire next year and he's hinted that he might not be in a position to provide a bulk of the funds (as is the case now) if my MBA were to meet him in retirement. So thats another consideration. There's also the difficulty in leaving certainty for uncertainty....will i get another job after the mba? would i get paid enough to justify the outlay?

Wahala dey! (Translated to mean ' There's trouble!')

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Mighty GMAT!

My friend got dinged at Kellog! Even after she thought she had it in the bag after the interview! Feel so bad for her because I know how badly she wanted Kellog....worse still, she had tuned off work because she assumed she was gonna get in....On a slightly brighter note, she got waitlisted for Darden....fingers crossed!

What's the most embarrassing exam out there? The CFA? Nope! Phd exams at MIT? Nope! Entrance exams at the John Kennedy School of Govt? Well, maybe if Sarah Palin was writing it....but for this purpose no! Its clearly the GMAT! Not because its the hardest....its simple! Its actually out of the simplicity that the embarrassment comes! It humbles a great many people...afterall its high school math and english....surely I can figure that stuff out when I see the questions! Its only when you click that famous 'finish' tab during the exam and your results stare at you that you realise that you underated the exam....then of course its too late and you'll probably have to take it again!

My personal experience? Well, I was lucky....I had a very good friend who had started MBA research before me so had a bit of a head start. Like everyone else, I assumed I was entitled to a 750 at the minimum....I bought the Princeton review and studied it for a bit. A lot of people rave about the book, but it really didn't do it for me. They had a few exam writing tips, but for me, the content was a tad shallow. I borrowed Kaplan from a friend and liked it much more...the questions were a bit harder though and made me realise it wasn't a piece of cake. I decided to get serious....I gave myself three months to study and scheduled the exam. I work better with deadlines....luckily, I was changing jobs at that point so I got a month off to study. It was then I found the Official Guide....this was the most helpful of the had loads and loads of actual GMAT questions. Then I started with the practice scores were shocking....570, 610, 590...I was depressed! After two months of studying, I couldn't remember the formula for the volume of a cube! My scores didn't get better in the last month and I entered the exam hall praying for a 600...for some inexplicable reason, I was calm. The questions started easy (as usual) but didn't get harder! This was a very bad sign! The GMAT is an adaptive exam so if you get one answer correct, the next one is harder! I still didn't panic though and it finally got harder....three hours later, I clicked 'finish' and waited....there had never been a longer 30 seconds....I continued staring at the cursor.....still loading....maybe I should become a make money right? I wonder of my boss would notice I'm not in the office.....were some of my thoughts while that result was being generated....just as I was about to start thinking about the latest episode of soul food, the page changed....there it was! 670! I wanted to take the computer out to dinner, buy it a nice dress and kiss it! I was estatic!

Now don't get me wrong, 670 is not mind blowing....its commendable at best but I didn't care! My highest practice score was 620! My advice for those taking the GMAT,

1. Get your hands on Kaplan and the Official Guide;

2. Solve questions till your mind bleeds!

3. Be calm during the'll probably be able to figure out most of the answers if you are calm and actually think through the questions;

4. Spend more time on the early questions. They carry more weight!

5. Most importantly, put in the time! Never! Never underestimate the exam! Unless you want to end up like Sarah Palin during the Couric interview!

Saturday, May 1, 2010


I know I know....I'm a terrible blogger! Its been almost a month since my last post....I would like to say I have a good excuse, but I don't really....I've been busy trying to study for my cfa exams and tidy up my love life. I am happy to announce that I have made progress on exactly NO FRONT! No I won't tell u about my love life but I can talk about the CFA though. Its an extremely punishing examination....I wrote the first level in 2008 and made it in one try...of course I felt like the best thing since the simpsons! Now I have been humbled...I am writing level 2 for the second time in about a month and I feel like I know even less than I did last year when I failed it and I might have studied harder this year. Only explanation is that my brain cells have gone cannibalistic and started feeding on each other!

Yeah I know it's an MBA blog, but I felt the need to rant....I'm up at three in the morning trying to figure out why option adjusted spreads derived from binomial models are best for valuing bonds with embedded options for crying out loud! I attended the QS world mba fair in lagos a couple of weeks ago....a few good schools were there, IMD, Insead, Iese, IE etc. I had a 30 minute informal chat with an alum from Iese who told me I had a good chance of entering the school (maybe she was afraid I'd kidnap her or something given the stories she had heard about Nigeria). It was a nice enough chat but it left me wondering, why would she be working for the school full time? She paid all that money for school only to be an mba recruiter? Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying its bad, I think its quite noble to do what u enjoy and stuff, but how the hell is she gonna pay off her bloody student loans? She also painted a pretty grim picture of the job market in spain (apparently, the unemployment rate is 20% over there now!) This whole thing just adds to my concerns about the it worth the cash outlay? Can you get a big enough bump in pay after graduation to restart your life, get married (in my case....and its funny I should mention that when my love life is in shambles) and service student loans? Its all pretty confusing to be honest.

On a happier note, my very good friend had a very good kellog interview. I'm thrilled for her....we started dreaming about the mba at about the same time, in fact she sorta introduced me to it! She gets notified on the 19th of May and I do hope she gets in....finger's crossed.

I'm hungry! Where do I get food at 3am? Hmmm.....maybe I should apply to columbia....afterall, New York never sleeps!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Application Life Cycle

I came across a brilliant and funny article recently that i feel captures the roller coaster ride that is the application process....all rights reserved to the author!

Let's say you are 2 or 3 years out of college and the thought of an MBA starts lingering in your mind. Either you've heard some stories of former colleagues going for it and are curious about it or you think the name sounds cool.
You can talk to MBA alumni (if you have access to them) to start your research, or maybe to some friends. But this initial conversations can be biased (name 1 alumni who "officially" thinks his/her school sucked and you'll get a bonus!) for all you know.
So you decide you need some "objective data" to continue your research and you go pick up the latest issue of US news/ B-week, or whichever one is available at newsstands. You browse through their pages and start wondering:

1st phase (the MBA honeymoon):
- Wait, wasn't Kellogg a cereal brand?
- What's with the GMAT scores? why 700? over 1000? that's weird. What's GMAT btw?
- Ah, finally, I know Yale, I know Harvard, I know Stanford, MIT and UCLA. But where's Princeton? And Brown?
- I like International Business, so as per these rankings I should better be attending Thunderbird. But why are the starting salaries from there so much lower than from other schools?
- I loved Miami when I visited on spring break. Lemme see what their school's like.

2nd phase (Delussional optimism):
- I'm a wise person, so GMAT shouldn't be a problem for me. Maybe I'll take one of these intensive 1-week courses and go for it! Why would anybody spend months studying? That doesn't make any sense. I mean it's high school level math and English for crying out loud. Heck, I can speak English, I've taken Calculus classes.
- I'm a clear admit at Havard, plus I'll get a full scholarship. After all I'll get a top GMAT, I do speak four languages and have made steady progress at work so far.

3rd phase (Depression while taming the beast):
- GMAT sucks. My friends no longer talk to me. My girlfriend broke up with me and spending 150k for an MBA doesn't make much sense to me anymore (nor does it make sense to my family, my former friends nor my girlfriend). Do I really, really want to do this? Otherwise I could go back to having a life right now.
- Ok, so I'm headed for a 600 score, if I'm lucky. Let's see what that would do for me. Hmm, I'd better score at least 650. Wait, 650 ain't that bad! Oh boy, I'd kill for a 650.
- "So Johnny (an acquaintance of yours), how did your GMAT go?"
Johnny: "Oh man, I'm so depressed. I bombed my 7th attempt. I just can't get past 550. I'm about giving up"
You: "Crap, Johnny, after all the effort you've put into this, I can't believe what you are telling me. I mean, I'm still a zillion hours away from your study record to date. By the way, I'll better be heading home and attack those Sentence Corrections again!"
- (at 4am in the morning on a working day): I suck, I suck, I suck! I can't believe the silly mistakes I'm making. Sigh, I wish I'd remember more about Statistics...

4th phase (post GMAT preliminary research)
- Ok, so I got a pretty decent GMAT. Now let me write sth and send my app right away so we can finally bring this "I'll pretend I read your app." game to an end. Let's check the instructions.
1st question) What matters most to you an why? [3 to 5 pages]
Hmm. Maybe I'll leave this one for tomorrow. Or let me brainstorm and write a shortlist:
1st shortlist (prior to any research):
a) Money.
b) Success.
c) Beer.
d) Getting my ticket stamped to land an IB job.
2nd shortlist (after some research):
a) Being mother Theresa.
b) Saving humanity.
c) Saving the environment.
d) "Changing the world".
- I'll apply to 147 schools. That way, I'd maximize my chances of getting a scholarship.
- What's with the letter of recommendation? Should I tell my boss about my plans? It looks like the point of no return to me.

5th phase (applying, AKA the emotional roller-coaster)
[staring at essay#1 version # 84]: This sucks! I can't believe how boring I sound. I should re-start from scratch!
- I should write about the snooker tournament I won when I was 16. That'd be original, plus I can spin it to show how I used my leadership, analytical and teamwork skills.
- Beh, I can apply in Round 2 as well.
- Crap! my recommenders haven't even accessed the website yet and it's only 2 days left! I'll send them "friendly reminder #27". No, wait, I sent #26 just 5 minutes ago. Maybe I'll wait another half hour.
- Wait, was Kellogg's deadline on the 5th? Or was that MIT? Maybe I should drop Wharton. I can't make deadlines on the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 7th. OK, I'll just drop Wharton from my list and have it as "fresh" backup for next year just in case.
- I wish I had applied to more schools in Round 1. Look at all these people getting interviews and admits!

6th phase (post application blues)
- Shoot, I won't get in anywhere. I mean look at the profiles of applicants! I should retake GMAT. My 700 is not enough. I should aim for 790+.
- Crap! Yale dinged me without interview! Ohmigod! If they did it, ANYONE can do it! THEY COULD ALL DO IT!
- I have an idea! I'll check which schools have rolling admissions and apply to those. I still have time!
- Suddenly University of Phoenix Online doesn't sound that bad.
- Why? Why? Why didn't apply to more backups? Why did I have to shake my interviewer's hand so firmly? Why didn't I coach my recommenders more thoroughly? I wonder what they've written. Probably nothing good. I wish I had submitted my app. a day earlier, that way I would have looked as a well organized person. I read that Kellogg dings all applicants above 28 years old who haven't made directors positions. Wait, is that a typo on my MIT essays? That's one school less, buddy. I'm soo doomed.

7th phase (endless joy)
- Hell yeah! I've made it! I've been admitted [dream school X] next year! I rule! I can't wait to get recruited by [dream employer]. When is admitted students weekend?
- 2nd admit! I rule!
- Should I go to [School X] with a 7k scholarship or to [School Y] with a 25 k scholarship?
- Work? What's work? Ah, right, that thing I'm supposed to be doing daily on weekdays from 9 to 5...
- I wonder whether spending this 150k makes sense after all...
- I'm so gonna get grilled at B-school! What if I mess up? I'd better start brushing up on some skills....where's my excel for dummies book??????'

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

First of many....hopefully!

Who am i? Well, my name is Bayo Babalola, a 26 year old finance professional based in Nigeria. I currently work with a Private equity firm in Nigeria after spending two years as a portfolio manager with an investment boutique. I am also enrolled in the CFA program and scheduled to take (retake...insert red face) the level 2 exam in June.A blog? Why? Well, to tell the truth, i've been exploring the option of going to business school for a couple of years now, spending a lot of time reading student and alumni blogs of various schools. They have been quite helpful and i feel that i should contribute as well by documenting my experiences prior to, during and after business school.

Okay, so where am i now in the admissions process? Well, i have taken the GMAT and scored an almost miserable 670. I have however decided to take my chances with it. I don't feel the gains of a higher score would be worth the additional three months of study time to take the bloody exam again! Not to mention the additional $250! My time would probably be better spent trying to learn french or something.....not sure i can get away with yoruba as a second language in these bi-language schools! I have pretty much looked at every school from Thunderbird to St Gallen ( and have finally decided that LBS (London Business School) would probably be the right fit for me. So hopefully, this time next year, i would be celebrating an admit with my loyal readers (or my girlfriend, if as i expect, the former < 1!)

My greatest worry? Money! Money! Money! Let me break down my financial situation. Tution at LBS is currently about £50,000 (i expect this to be up to 55k by next year when i apply), throw in another 30k for living expenses. Moving to the right side of the balance sheet, i currently have a miserable £5k in savings, hopefully, i can miraculously increase that to £15k by the time i'm off to school, Throw in another 15k from my family, that leaves me with a £50k shortfall! Can i get enough in scholarships and loans to finance this? Do i want to leave the MBA with a £50k loan book especially if i have to come back to Nigeria to work? Why do i have to go to LBS? Why not the Thunderbird School of Global Management? After all, they are the best in International Business (or so i hear)! These are some of the questions i hope to have answered over the next year......