Friday, July 13, 2012

Interview With Business Because

So I was interviewed recently by Business Because ( Excerpts below.....

Blogging, Business and Bops with Bayo

The blogosphere can be a useful tool for an MBA student, says Oxford Said student Bayo Babalola

Bayo at Enterprise Africa
Bayo at Enterprise Africa
BusinessBecause has spoken to Adebayo Babalola, an MBA student at Oxford’s Saïd Business School, about how his award-winning blog, ‘Against Most Odds... my journey to Oxford for an MBA’, has helped both him and his readers through the veritable minefield of an MBA.

What is your background?
I am a Nigerian, born, bred and educated in the bustling city of Lagos. After working for five years in financial services (wealth management and private equity), I decided I needed to broaden my views, strengthen myself technically and vastly expand my professional network. Hence my decision to apply for an MBA.

How are you finding life as an MBA student?
Intense! Tough! Fun! It’s been a roller coaster year, from the early days when the biggest problem was trying to remember everyone’s names, the endless stream of balls and bops (the Oxford-specific term for parties), to the un-ending stream of assignments, projects and lectures. The one-year MBA programme is designed to stretch its participants intellectually, mentally, physically and socially.

How did you get into blogging?
When I decided to apply for my MBA, I needed to do a lot of research to choose a school that would be right for me professionally and, of course, temperamentally. I struggled with this for a while as all the MBA programmes looked the same to me (the only resource I used were their respective websites). There was no way to really tell the schools apart.....and then I stumbled on a blog by an MBA student atINSEAD. It was the first time I had gotten an inside view of a school from the perspective of a student and I loved it.
After that, I read blogs from many different schools and was able to make a more informed decision as a result. I decided I wanted to contribute to this pool of shared knowledge by starting to blog myself. I remember agonising over my first post, and I almost closed the entire blog after writing two lines as I was convinced no one would ever read it’s extremely gratifying to see that the blog has crossed the 15,000 page view mark.

What is the hardest thing about being involved in the blogging world?
Well, when I first started, I was my own audience so I could basically treat the blog as a semi online diary. But as readership grew, I had to be a bit more circumspect with my posts. It was also really difficult to blog consistently given the significant time constraints...there were times I would take a break from an overnight study session to put up a blog post.

Tell us the most helpful thing that being an MBA blogger has taught you.
I think it has helped improve my ability to express myself in writing. I guess subconsciously, it also helped me try to experience the best of Oxford (the city and the wider university). Given the intensity of the programme, it’s very easy to say no to a lot of extracurricular activities but a lot of the time I decided to do some things in the hope that it would provide good blogging material. Some of these activities ended up being the highlight of my stay in Oxford.

Have you got any advice for MBA students who are thinking of sharing their own experience online?
Just start. Even if you think you won’t find the time, or you might not be able to write in an entertaining way, just start putting your thoughts down. That’s what I did!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

MBAT 2012

Camped in the library, looking at the sea of heads trying to figure out how to even begin to comprehend the amount of work that we would need to hand in over the next couple of weeks. The  beauty of the final term here at Oxford is that we get to pick electives that help build practical skills needed at our next jobs. With courses like Private Equity, Real Estate, Asset Management, Retailing, Negotiations, we've transitioned nicely from the academic focus of the first couple of terms to a hands on, real world focus. This also means that most courses are assessed via investment proposals, financial models and role plays as opposed to examinations. So after four days of bliss at HEC in Paris, most students have returned to looming deadlines and significant tests of time and people management skills. People management? Yes, we have very many electives to choose from and as such, it is unlikely that any two students have chosen the exact five same courses. The impact of this is that when students are put together to complete group work, they might have different deadlines and by extension, priorities. While one student wants to hand in his private equity group assignment as soon as possible so he can use the weekend to concentrate on his real estate assignment due the next week, his group member might want to work on his corporate valuation assignment now and save the private equity assignment for later. Anyway, I digress...

The MBA tournament in Paris was a wonderful collection of students from 13 of Europe's top business schools (LBS, Cambridge, Cranfield, IE, IESE, HEC, Insead, Manchester, RSM, Esade, Lancaster and Tias Nimbas) competing for top places in sports ranging from football to petanque. Naturally, the schools with two year programs and the hosts had a natural advantage as they could send larger contingents. Oxford put up a good showing, taking fourth place overall. We won rowing (naturally), silver medals in men's football, ultimate frisbee, handball and bronze in petanque, golf, climbing, badminton and salsa. Most importantly, we had the time of our lives, forged a stronger bond within the group and met other interesting MBAs from other great schools. At this point, surely only pictures can truly tell the story....enjoy!

Off the bus at HEC, Oxford MBAs are in town!
Go Blues!

My personal highpoint, scoring the winning goal against Esade to put us in the quarterfinals

War faces
The cox of the rowing boat is traditionally thrown into the water after a regatta win. Christine appears particularly pleased with that tradition
The victorious rowing team

The guys enjoying a welcome break from competitive sports

We were definitely the most colourful school....the dodge ball team


Tug of War

Some saw chocolate bars falling from the skies, while others saw an asteroid hurtling towards earth....that's the only rational explanation for this picture

Watch a video montage of the weekend here if you have 15 extra minutes....

*Snaps back to reality*. Logging into Capital IQ to look for cash rich businesses for our leveraged buyout assignment....take me back to Paris....somebody!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Payback for the Boat Race

On April 7th 2012, the 158th annual boat race between crews from the University of Cambridge and our very own crew at the University of Oxford held in London. It's a massive event, arguably one of the biggest and oldest inter-collegiate sporting events in the world (the first edition was held in 1829). 'The race came about because two friends from Harrow School, Charles Wordsworth of Christ Church College, Oxford, and Charles Merrivale of St. John’s, Cambridge, met during the vacation in Cambridge, where Wordsworth’s father was master of Trinity. Wordsworth went rowing on the Cam, and the two school fellows decided to set up a challenge. On February 10 1829 a meeting of CUBC requested Mr Snow of St John’s to write immediately to Mr Staniforth of Christ Church stating ‘that the University of Cambridge hereby challenge the University of Oxford to row a match at or near London, each in an eight-oared boat during the ensuing Easter vacation.' 

We had a couple of MBA students among the Oxford crew and were understandably gutted when Oxford lost the race when one of the rowers had his blade broken after a clash of oars. This was after the race was restarted (with Oxford in the clear lead) after a protester had dived in the water. The defeat (more appropriately, the manner of the defeat) left us seething and provided added motivation for the Oxbridge MBA games to hold a couple of weeks later. Every year, Oxford and Cambridge MBAs face off in a number of events to claim bragging rights for the year. The games were held in Oxford last year, so we had to get up at dawn and make the three hour journey to Cambridge....not that it made much difference to the results though. We won football (5-1), cricket (9 wickets), badminton (9-0), basketball (45-20), Table Tennis (6-1), Tennis doubles (6-0), foosball (2-1), and petanque (11-7), we lost in only one event (cross country) due to a manpower shortfall. 

We retained the plaque (Oxford also won last year's edition)

The basket ball team trying to look mean

SBS United!

It was a good weekend, filled with friendly banter with the guys from Judge. 

On another note, this blog won the clear admit best of blogging awards for 'most entertaining student blog' and best representation of student life. It also came second in the best overall blog category....with that award going to Jeremy Wilson's excellent blog. I remember stumbling upon the best of blogging awards a couple of years ago while doing MBA research, I couldn't have imagined back then that I would also be a recipient. Thanks to all that voted! 

We head to Paris tonight for the biggest sporting event of the MBA year.....the MBAT! Featuring all the top schools across Europe, it promises to be four days of non stop action, networking and partying, limited only by the knowledge that we all have tons of papers to complete right after the tournament....but we'll survive!

May the best team win!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Clear Admit Best of Blogging Nomination

Turns out this blog has been a brother out and vote here


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Cost of The MBA

I know what you are thinking. Seven months into the program, I looked at my bank account, briefly contemplated closing it down and getting a piggy bank in its place, and decided to rant about the financial cost of the MBA. Sorry to disappoint you...while getting a piggy bank is probably the logical step given that it can comfortably hold the remnants of my life savings, I'm actually here to talk about the 'Intangible' costs of the MBA. There are tons of articles that talk about the tangible costs; school fees, lost earnings, college fees, living expenses, and other incidental costs and as such I would like to touch on those frequently ignored intangible costs that prospective applicants and students would be wise to prepare for. 

With the sheer number of lectures, assignments, speeches, conferences, competitions, dinners, parties and all the other events MBA students have to get through, its a tough ask maintaining relationships with family, partners and friends not within MBA circles. I can only imagine how many times my girlfriend rolls her eyes  when i go on for the umpteenth time about this great speaker and this awesome conference....luckily for me, she's extremely understanding. The MBA can take its participants into this parallel world that makes it difficult to invest the time required in maintaining pre-MBA relationships. Perhaps for these reasons, a good number of students choose to bring over their partners, most of whom are actively involved in student life and are friends with lots of students.Whatever you decide to do, I think its important to think about it before hand and come up with a strategy that works for you....

Mental / Psychological Costs
The intense nature of the MBA, when added to the competitive job market can put a huge strain on MBA students. Your resilience and mental strength will no doubt be tested in one way or the other. People who aren't used to failure getting multiple job application rejections, students who've always been the best at everything realizing there are smarter people in class, students who have never done anything quantitative in their lives suddenly faced with the sinking feeling that comes with not understanding any of the weird looking formulas and equations. I could go on....every single person would have had to develop some kind of mental toughness over the course of the year to deal with the MBA. I think prospective applicants and students should have these at the back of their minds before they start the program;

  • There're going to be people smarter, stronger, taller, more articulate and generally more awesome than you are. Deal with it and learn from them.....
  • Prepare yourself in advance for possible rejections on the job front, its not you, its them. By getting admitted into a top tier school, you are likely to be competing for the best jobs with all the other students from the best schools. Convincing employers that you are the right candidate for a role is a daunting task and requires significant time spent networking, drafting cover letters, networking (repetition deliberate) and practicing cases (where relevant). Its important to keep your chin up if for some reason you encounter setbacks by way of rejections. Spread your net as wide as possible, explore unconventional options, your dream job at the start of the program might just be different from your dream job at the end of the program after you've been exposed to many your mind. 
  • If you belong to the group of people convinced you would fail some courses due to your non-quantitative background, listen up. I have a friend who fell into that category at the beginning of the program...she ended each class wondering what she was doing there and couldn't understand how everyone else seemed to understand what the lecturer was talking about. But she also stayed behind each class to ask questions and put in a ton of effort....she got distinctions in those mean feat! So fear not.... 

Beer, Kebabs, Coffee, Insomnia, late nights, pizza, marathon study sessions, crazy parties to blow off steam.....need I say more?

P.s: For those that googled this in a bid to come up with financial estimates, about 40,000 pounds for school and college fees and anything between 700 to 1200 pounds a month (depending on who you ask) for living expenses. Of course there are many incidental costs depending on your interests so prepare accordingly....*takes a peek at bank account again* sigh

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Week In The Life Of An Oxford MBA Student

What exactly do Oxford MBA students do? Do they spend all week at the pub? Or in the Library? I'll answer this with a typical MBA phrase.....'It Depends'. Some people focus on academics and spend most of their extra time doing 'book' related stuff, others focus on sports and are almost always on a boat somewhere, rowing for their colleges or Oxford as an institution. Some recognize the importance of networking and focus on the social side of things. The vast generality of the student population sort of lie in the middle of those three extremes....attend all (most) classes, hand in assignments on time (only just), do all (most) of the pre-assigned readings, attend a couple of parties/balls/dinners a week, attend 2-3 career events a week and listen to a couple of debates at the Oxford Union. 

I would attempt to paint a more explicit picture of life here (admittedly through my somewhat limited perspective) by going through my week thus far and my scheduled activities over the next couple of days;

8-11am: Had breakfast, worked on my part of the Finance 2 assignment, replied emails.
11-1pm: Met up with other members of my Finance 2 group to discuss and agree on answers to the questions.
1 - 5.30pm: Headed to the common room at SBS to work on the financial model for my entrepreneurship project and simultaneously watch Arsenal beat (destroy) our rivals Tottenham 5-2 with fellow Arsenal fans Ananth, Haben and Sreekanth and poor Tottenham fan Monesh. Also caught a glimpse of the penalty shootout victory by Liverpool in the Carling cup final.

6.30-10pm: Entrepreneurship project brainstorming meeting.

10-1am: Sort out dinner, check emails, send emails, check careersconnect (our in house careers portal) for interesting job postings, watch an old episode of two and a half men. 

8.45am-12.15pm: Developing Effective Managers class....I had to do push ups in front of the class to help the professor illustrate a point about obedient staff.

12.30-3pm: Hung around the common room to work on the planning for the forthcoming Private Equity forum and read the cases for the next day's Operations Management class.

3-7pm: Went home to grab lunch and rest for a bit.

7-10.30pm: Entrepreneurship project (EP) brainstorming session.

11-3am: Sort out dinner, check emails, send emails, check  careersconnect for interesting job postings, watch a movie (bad idea...forgot I had a football training session at 7am)

6.30am: Alarm goes off for football training session....I can only lift my hands enough to press the snooze button.
6.45am: Alarm goes off again....snooze (you get the picture...Captain Alejandro won't be happy but....reset alarm to 9am)

10-12am: Head to school for planning meeting for PE Forum and to go over school notes from last week.

12.30-1.15pm: Planning meeting for European finals of the Venture Capital Investment Competition (we would host the finals on March 10th)

1.30-4.45pm: Operations Management lecture

5-7pm: Light research on potential speakers for PE forum

9-12.30am : Dinner with friends (including an alumni from a couple of years ago)...awesome Indian/Malaysian food and lots of wine.

8.45-12.15pm: Finance 2 lecture

12.30-1.30pm: Grab lunch, hang out in common room

1.30-4.45pm: Macro-economics lecture (with the brilliant Oren Sussman)

6-8pm: Operations Management review class....selflessly facilitated by two of my course mates (Wiebke Pahl and Satya Amu)

9pm: Sort out dinner, check emails, send emails, check  careersconnect  for interesting job postings....slept early (about midnight).

9.30-11.30am: PE Forum planning meeting with Faculty adviser

12.30-2pm: PE Forum planning meeting with the school's events co-ordinator....dashed off to catch the last half of a Macro-economics review session facilitated by another brilliant classmate (Bryce Eakin)

2.15-3.30pm: PE Forum planning meeting with a second faculty adviser...

3-6pm: Send emails...Happy hour (all drinks at the school bar at half price) started at 5pm..had a few drinks and had a football team meeting in the common room to plan this weekend's tournament in London. Write this blog post.....

Tomorrow (Friday), I'm scheduled to have an EP Meeting with our supervisor, have a brainstorming session with my other EP group members, be part of a current student panel at the school's open day, have a meeting about a Macro-Economics assignment, be part of a 'town hall' style meeting with my fellow MBA students, and end the day at a friend's flat (a fellow MBA) who just got a grill and wants to host a barbeque. Then of course, I'll head off to London to participate in the LBS Tackle Africa football tournament where we hope to win the cup....

Of course, not all weeks are like this as some have a little more social activity than this week as had. There are also regular dinners (I have one next week), balls and hockey games to watch (Oxford plays Cambridge this weekend with three MBA students part of the team). 

There are also conferences (I am attending the London School of Economics Emerging Markets conference next week).

Juggling all these activities can be tough...but would I have it any other way? You bet I won't.....

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Conquering Manchester....

In a bid to get in some essential practice before the annual MBA Tournament at HEC in Paris (and not to mention a weekend without having to think about assignments and school work), we (SBS MBA Football team) accepted an invitation from Manchester Business School for a four school football tournament (also comprising London Business School and Lancaster Business School). 16 Oxford MBA students (including yours truly) rented three cars and made the three hour trip to Manchester, stopping only at Burger King to improve our fitness levels with a few juicy, cholesterol filled burgers.

We arrived Manchester in good spirits (of course welcomed by non-stop rainfall) and headed to the Manchester Business School to meet our gracious hosts and catch a glimpse of the trophy (while also trying to look as scary and unbeatable as possible to hide the fact that we had never played together as a team). 

Next stop? A sports bar in Manchester called footage and trained for our big game against LBS the only way we really know how.....eating kebabs and playing foosball...

Our first game was against our 'bitter' rivals...LBS. We absolutely couldn't lose this game...we would have been happy to lose 10-0 to everyone else as long as we gave LBS a good hiding. I was detailed as the lone striker but with plenty of attacking support from midfield...and the pitch was absolutely horrible, feeling the effects of the incessant rain. The game started off slowly with our Captain Alejandro bossing the midfield and our central defensive pairing of David Wong and Juan taking no prisoners. I had hardly had a sniff of the ball when I received a pass from midfield...I was one on one with the defender and started running towards him. I successfully dribbled him (thanks in part to the slippery conditions as he fell when I changed the direction of the ball). I was one on one with the I try to dribble him, or just try to score from here? Time appeared to stand still in that moment as I felt the three other defenders closing in on me. Make up your mind! Screamed my legs as my brain decided  to draw a decision thing I knew, all my team mates were running towards me with smiles on their faces....turns out my legs had hit the ball and scored....shrugs. We went on to win the game with me scoring a second identical goal (I had enough time to draw a decision tree on this one, so my brain takes the credit) and Jon (Horbinho) Horbaly scoring the third. We also beat Manchester Business School 3-1 and drew with Lancaster Business School 1-1 to qualify for the finals.

Yes we're one big happy family but don't mess with my food! 
Given the obvious correlation between alcohol and football performance, we stepped up our training regimen for the finals.

Now we were ready....we had played Lancaster earlier in the tournament and drew with them. We kicked off and David 'Jennetrator' Jennison calmed our nerves with two awesome headed goals off corner kicks. We could relax and play our game! I scored two more and Guillaime 'Napoleon' Borda grabbed a fifth...we were champions!

Up next? LBS hosts its own football tournament in two weeks, with a slightly expanded cast, including some Spanish schools...and we all know the Spanish are the kings of football....let's hope they have Kebabs in London....

Friday, February 3, 2012

Rankings, Results and Relief....

It's been one of those weeks....payback everyone waited with bated breath for the release of our results from Michaelmas term and the first MBA ranking of the year (FT) 2012.

The very publicised Financial Times ranking of MBA schools was published earlier this week. I personally believe the ranking system is quite flawed...with way too much emphasis placed on average salaries post graduation and way too little placed on qualitative factors that can not be reduced to numbers. For instance, a larger than average number of SBS graduates go off and start up their own ventures but that entrepreneurial spirit is not reflected in the rankings and in fact counts as a disadvantage as entrepreneurs are less likely to command those high salaries early on. But then again I realise that there's a significant number of people who try to use the MBA as a stamp to land a job in Investment Banking or Consulting....these rankings would perhaps mean more to them than the class of people for whom the quality of the education, experience and brand of the school are perhaps more important than short term concerns like landing that Mckinsey gig.

That's why the choice of school is such a personal thing and applicants should be clear about their reason for undertaking the MBA and select the school that might be best placed to facilitate the achievement of those goals. Anyway the rankings which you can find here, were mostly positive for Oxford as we had a 7 point jump from 27th to 20th in the world and 2nd in the UK. This was made more enjoyable by the fact that 'the other guys' were down in 26th. So while I am generally sceptical about the methodology used in deriving the rankings, I am at least pleased that we appear to be doing the obvious things right. The arrival of the new dean also appears to have spruced things up as he has introduced a few initiatives like the Oxford 1+1 Program and an MBA Pre-Internship  Program. There's only one way to go...UP!

On a more personal note, my results from last term were released today...I PASSED THEM ALL! Some grades were surprisingly low and some surprisingly high but i'm just thankful I don't have to resit anyone of them. For the sake of future students, I'll do a brief post-mortem of each course;

Strategy: Perhaps a little better than i expected given that this was my first 100% case study exam. What would I have done differently? Practice doing a lot more case studies and memorize way more frameworks than I knew during the exams.

Decision & Data Analytics: A little lower than I expected. Did well on the exams but not so well on the assignments. I think this was because I hadn't really understood the way to answer questions on this course. To do really well, you have to do way more than getting the answer....For example, simply saying adjusted R2=85% without explaining why R2 is adjusted means you won't get full marks for that question. The support classes are also absolutely critical for those with no prior statistics expertise.

Marketing: Much higher than expected (in fact my highest grades of any course). Handed in my individual assignment (curled metal...remember?) without knowing if I had handed in the most ignorant piece of rubbish I had ever written. Turns out it was distinction level excellent group also made sure we got a good score on the group work. Like strategy, its key to learn the frameworks early....when the frameworks are internalised, every question can be answered easily.

Financial Reporting: The biggest surprise of the lot. I was pretty confident of a distinction here...but scored a 65. We did well on the assignment but I must have bombed the exams. Trying to think about any obvious mistakes I might have made...can't think of any (apart from one time I mis-interpreted a question and spent 20 minutes answering the question the wrong way. I thought i recovered well though). Anyway, doesn't really matter...I passed the course.

Managerial Economics: About right...did ok without ever reaching the Keynesian heights of awesomeness. I should probably have been a little more engaged in class....spent most of the time I should have used to revise, learning most of the concepts.

Finance: Didn't do as well as I thought and deservedly so....over confidence. It was my last exam and I put in very little revision into it. Got blind sided by a few questions during the exams and never regained my composure....

It was also good to see people with absolutely no prior exposure to some courses getting distinctions in them. Proves that even 'poets' (MBA speak for those without quantitative experience) can excel given that they put the effort in. Overall, I would have taken these results gleefully before the exams given the notoriously difficult marking standards at Oxford....clearly I'll aim to increase my current average of 65 this term. Every single blog I read and every single alumni I spoke with said the same thing....'don't get hung up on grades as long as you pass....

At least I don't have to deal with the embarrassment of a resit exam...I'd have had to sneak into d exam room with a fake moustache and how do I celebrate? A snow fight? Ok.....

Snowed for the first time this year....Mike Navarette (our in-house creative genius) captures the beauty of the Snow

A less creative picture of a group of MBAs (myself included) who proceeded to engage in a snow battle all the way from Cowley road before ending up at Mcdonalds on Cornmarket street (at 3am!) for a quick snack

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Dear Hillary....

Its the beginning of my second term at Oxford...Hillary term. The end of exams in December and the Christmas holidays lures you into a false sense of forget you are a student in an extremely intensive program and Boom! Its week 2 and you have assignments due, an entrepreneurship project to deliver, a job to secure and countless other activities which require countless meetings to finalize! So Hillary, what we hoped would be a beautiful blonde has been transformed into 'Hellary' a hydra headed monster....but we have to tame her....we have no choice!

The term started particularly intensely for me as I had to organize the Venture Capital Investment Competition (where students act as venture capitalists and simulate the entire investment process). We had a record 135 interested participants and as such had to introduce a pre-tournament round to select the top 80 participants. That meant a lot of unhappy MBAs were busy doing research and drawing up term sheets during their holidays (my apologies guys). The main event held on the weekend of week 0 and everything (almost) seemed to go smoothly....

I had to send my shadow to give the opening speech on my behalf seeing as I had to be in a million places at the same time....

The Winning Team - Beat off competition from loads of awesome teams. 
So how were my exams? Frankly I have no idea how I idea of what's right and wrong might be significantly different from that of my professors so let's wait for the results (which don't come out till early February). After an unexpectedly difficult Finance exam on the last day, we were just happy to be done....some people had the foresight to bring some champagne to celebrate....

After a pub crawl featuring four to six pubs (depending on whose version of events you believe and relative alcohol tolerance levels), we went home to change into our ever faithful but slightly over exercised tuxedos for the end of term gala.

It was an awesome event....culminating in a great speech by Stephan Chambers (The Director of the MBA). Even Derek Walker (Careers Director) took time out of getting us all our dream jobs (thank you in advance Derek just in case you are reading this). Derek's job is actually fantastic because most MBA students don't really know what their dream jobs are anyway so he also sorts that out by looking deep into our souls and finding the right match....superhuman I tell you!

'Matan, stop asking me about the Capital Market Line...the exams are over!'  At least I think that's what David was memories of that night are understandably unreliable....

It was a fitting end to what was an absolutely fantastic start to life in Oxford....absolutely!