Wednesday, March 31, 2004
He was a mechanical engineer by education, like yours truly, and found the transition to business school to be challenging but manageable. He had to work hard in his finance classes, but never made any 3’s, so it wasn’t too bad. In fact, he ended up concentrating in finance. I asked about the difficulty in getting finance internship interviews with an engineering background and he said it was challenging, but he still had 6 interviews, so it wasn’t impossible. Oh yeah, he said Hell Week really is Hell, but only if you are going the I-banking or Consulting route, because those companies really focus on that week whereas other industries tend to spread it out more.
Overall it was a good experience, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to do it, even if it was post-decision. Everyone I have spoken with from HBS has been extremely nice, and I am really, really excited about getting up there in August. It can’t come soon enough.
Tuesday, March 30, 2004
When it all comes down to it, though, they are basically even. It comes down to personal fit. The aspects of Stanford that really differentiate it from Harvard aren't high on my priority list. On the other hand, several aspects of Harvard really drew me in. They are both incredible programs, I am really grateful to be admitted to both, but I am very sure that HBS is the program for me.
I would like to think that I have formed some relationships with Stanford people that will last. They are great people, and I have really cherished the opportunity to get to know them.
Monday, March 29, 2004
Unfortunately, the one thing I really wanted to get done today I wasn't able to do. I am still waiting on some callbacks from voicemails left around lunchtime. I don't want to say anything here until I personally inform the people who have been so instrumental in my decision making process over the last month. So, to all my loyal readers (if I have any!), I apologize. As soon as I am able I will post my decision in all it's glory.
Sunday, March 28, 2004
Spent the weekend at the lake for the third consecutive time, but this time we had a whole group up there. Highlights included sailing, washers, kick-ass burgers, and heavy drinking. I think a good time was had by all. All of the pictures are on smugmug, so check them out.
Friday, March 26, 2004
1. International Recognition: In his view HBS gives you a certain cachet that you can’t get anywhere else (Wharton and Chicago being the next two in line). For example, when doing an international deal the banks all want to see bios and background information. A degree from HBS gives you a certain bit of credibility that is hard to come by.
2. The case method: He felt the case method was the single most valuable feature of HBS. If you want to learn finance, he said, then go to community college and you can learn all you want about the mechanics of finance. Or go to the library and learn it on your own. But the case method teaches you how to think about finance (or any subject), and it teaches you that your thinking can be enhanced by having a strong group of thinkers around you. Learning to think in a new, rigorous, thorough manner was the number one thing he got out of HBS, it was worth more than all the other benefits of combined.
I found his ideas and his fervor very impressive. I am still going to do some serious thinking about HBS v. GSB over the weekend, so I will write more on Sunday or Monday.
Thursday, March 25, 2004
I found the guy HBS arranged for me to talk with on the internet after I got home from work and was shocked at how highly placed he is. Very impressive.
Today at work I was told that I wouldn't be given a leave of absence. In a way, this is probably a blessing in disguise. I will be able to roll over my 401k immediately, and I will not have to go through the guilt of telling them that I don't want to intern with them after all. I really like the company, and I definitely want to pursue them upon graduation, but this will really be best for me in the long run.
The question now becomes: When to leave? It is a balancing act between the desire to keep pulling a paycheck and the urge to spend a lot of time doing nothing before school. At the very least I have to stay until early July, but beyond that is up to me. I would like to spend two weeks at the lake, and we may go visit some of Jie's family in Australia, but no big plans other than that. Any fabulous summer plans out there?
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
I called HBS in order to arrange for a last minute conversation with some Houston alumni. They are going to get back to me by tomorrow with a few names. The speed that HBS got back with me was very impressive, they returned my call within half an hour. In the last 24 hours I have gone to being very close to possibly changing my decision to currently feeling confident about Harvard again.
Anyway, it was a bad day at work, so this is all for today.
Tuesday, March 23, 2004
I think that being married is a death-blow for financial aid, so long as your spouse works. If the student need is pegged at $50k for a given year, and your spouse makes $40k salary, you aren't going to be able to show a lot of need.
So now it's decision time...
Monday, March 22, 2004
On the other hand, every time someone highlights a neat feature of Stanford I find myself thinking: “Yes, that’s all well and good, but I really want to go to Harvard!”
Is that a good enough reason to go to a school, just cause I want to?
Sunday, March 21, 2004
As for anyone else out there, please don't hesitate to contact me via e-mail with any comments, questions, or suggestions that you may have. Thanks!
I finished Year One yesterday. Overall it was a good read, but I can definitely see why it is out of print. The only people that I can see being at all interested in reading it are those thinking about or preparing to attend HBS. It is pretty well written, but the subject matter just isn't that engaging. One interesting tidbit: according to the author about 20 people per year (or 2%) 'hit the screen.' This means that they scored low enough in enough classes to be academically reviewed. Of those, about half are allowed to return and the other half aren't. So, about 1% of the class was cut, but they do have the option of returning after a year or two, so it isn't over. This is far less intimidating than the 10% number that is often bandied about.
This week I am meeting two more Stanford alumni, tomorrow I am meeting with one downtown and then on Wednesday I have a call set up with one of the exec's from my company. I am looking forward to both meetings, especially tomorrow.
Friday, March 19, 2004
I guess a relative advantage that Stanford has, at least for me, is that I will be competing against less than half as many people for essentially the same jobs. In addition, about a third of the Stanford students are looking to start their own companies, and I won’t really be competing against them either. Well, not for full time positions, anyway.
Looking at the big picture, though, I think the schools are more or less equivalent as far as future career benefit is concerned. You get out of the process what you put into it, and if I go to HBS and am determined to go into investment management, I am sure I will be able to find a way. So, this gets me back to looking at non-academic, non-career related factors. (I think academics are a draw as well, the section atmosphere at HBS neutralizes the extra flexibility at the GSB in my mind.)
I have four issues left that weigh heavily for me:
1. A good fit for Jie: I want to make sure that we are going where she wants to go. My gut feel is that I will see her a bit more if I go to HBS, but that is by no means certain. I think her employment opportunities are equal at both schools, but the extra personal care at Stanford is very appealing.
2. Location: I really would rather live in Boston. San Francisco is great, but it feels a lot like Austin, and we have been there, done that.
3. Personal Touch: As I said above, the personal touch at Stanford has been great. I had a bad first night there which has been repeatedly proven an aberration by many, many nice people. HBS is no slouch in the student camaraderie column, but for overall community feel, the GSB is hard to beat.
4. Facilities, school grandeur: HBS just has the best facilities in the business: Shad, Baker (when it’s remodeled), Spangler, etc. And the reputation is second-to-none.
So where does that leave me?
Thursday, March 18, 2004
Of course, there is a significant possibility that I will come back to my current employer during the summer, since I plan to take a leave of absence to attend school rather than resign. Even if I do plan to come back after school, though, I still may pursue a summer job in investment management, private equity, consulting, or investment banking in order to diversify my experience. With that goal in mind, what I have read has worried me.
Oh, and in fairness to HBS, I think I would face the exact same issue at Stanford.
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
First Month: The first month of class, while everyone is up-tight and raising their hands every second, really does seem like a drag. I already brought this issue up in another comment, so I won't belabor the point.
Pace of Class: Since everyone is in one class together (unlike Stanford), the discussion never moves at a pace that is appropriate to everyone. A third of the class is bored, another third is hopelessly lost, and the middle third follows along but no one fully benefits from the dis-jointed discussion. Since I will likely fall in the middle third in almost all classes, I am not terribly worried about this, but it does point out limitations of the section environment.
Overall, the author paints a very favorable picture of HBS, but I don't think he pulls any punches. I'll let you know how the rest goes.
I am still waiting for my financial aid from HBS. Maybe I will call and bug them if I don't hear back by early next week.
Monday, March 15, 2004
The public library is always an interesting scene. The closest library to me is the main downtown branch, and there is always an interesting assortment of characters. You've got your standard library users: students, teachers, thrifty-types; and then you have your random ne'er-do-wells who are just looking for a free hangout with bathrooms and A/C. Last time my favorite was the dude who was reading the newspaper in the bathroom stall with no door. This time it was a nice old lady thumbing through old copies of the white pages while she talked to herself (and yes, I verified she wasn't on a cell phone). She wasn't so nice a little while later when she was berating the poor librarian for who knows what. I was out of earshot, but it didn't look pretty.
That's pretty much everything of interest for today. I did request a copy of Snapshots from Hell, which I suppose is the Stanford version of Year One. Hopefully I can pick that up in a few weeks and compare the two.
Sunday, March 14, 2004
We had a good weekend, we got to see my brother at Texas State and then spent time up at the lake with Chris. I pulled him barefooting this morning, be sure to check out the pictures on smugmug cause they're pretty cool.
Other than that, not much to report. I am waiting to hear from HBS on FinAid before I make a final decision. I will also be talking to a couple more Stanford Alumni in the next few weeks. I'll let you know how it goes...
Thursday, March 11, 2004
Tomorrow after work we are heading out to visit my brother at Texas State and then to the lake for a little R&R. I'll have an update and pictures on Sunday.
Wednesday, March 10, 2004
There are a few key points that are driving this turnaround: We want a dog. A yellow lab, to be exact. There is no way to have a dog of that size at HBS, but it is very doable at Stanford. Also, as intriguing as the classes at HBS are, I am really drawn to the flexibility at the GSB. I can possibly test out of a few core courses, and even if I don't I can still take the 'turbo' version.
So in many ways I am back at square one. Well, except that I mailed a $1000 check to HBS and that does make a difference. I know I will be happy at either school, so I will wait to get the finaid results and see where that leaves me.
Oh, 3app, e-mail Trip to be added to the effort. Without being able to add comments to your blog or send you e-mails we were out of luck...
Tuesday, March 09, 2004
Application timing (when to start, etc.)
Deciding between schools
What do to to make yourself more acceptable (for people a few years away from applying)
Specific School info/reviews (here we might have some opposing views, like 3app and myself on H/S)
Book reviews (GMAT books, B-school guides, How to guides, etc.)
Recommendations (How to approach, how to prep, etc.)
Anyway, if there is anything else out there you would like to see discussed just drop me a comment and I will add it to the list.
Monday, March 08, 2004
Anyway, as the title suggests, I have uploaded some more pictures into smugmug. You know, I love DSL, but uploading photos is just painful. In the hotels in Boston and SF I could upload 100 mb of photos in 15 minutes. It just took that long for only 24 mb! The pictures I uploaded today are just random Houston shots. A few views of downtown and some action at the dog park. Jie and I met my sister Becky and her dog Misty down there. Good stuff.
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Sunday, March 07, 2004
First of all, the XML feed is now working. There is a link to it under blogging links, so you can set us up in your favorite news reader. Currently, I am using bloglines. I have Harry, Trip, Hella, Joey, Chunky, FMG, Naveen, and Power Yogi set up (Hint: just add atom.xml to the end of any blogspot URL and you see if the feed is there). It is pretty cool, much easier than clicking through all the sites.
Also, Techiedude has said that he will put together a guide for new students. Perhaps we should all take this on as a cooperative effort and each submit our own views on one or more aspects of the admissions process. We could combine it all into one website or blog and unleash it upon the world. Joey, for example, has already done a fine job of reviewing admissions consultants here.
My personal reading goes in cycles. I will read almost non-stop for around 6 months and then not pick up a book for another 3 or 4 months or so. Anyway, I haven’t read anything at all lately, and I am finally getting the itch again. Yesterday I picked up a copy of Barbarians at the Gate. I am about a quarter of the way through it and I think it’s fascinating. And horrifying. As a small investor, I am all about shareholder’s rights (another reason I don’t think I could ever work as an I-banker), and it boggles the mind the way Ross Johnson blew company money. Anyway, thus far it’s been a really good read, I recommend it.
I had a meeting this morning with a Stanford alumnus. It was a really good experience; we had a wide-ranging discussion about my feelings on H/S and my career expectations. Aside from forming what could potentially be a very useful connection when I return to Houston after B-school, I had a really great time. Our talk reinforced my feelings of equality between the two schools, it comes down to a couple of things, I think: “Fit,” Curriculum, and Location. Fit clearly goes to HBS, Curriculum is about even, but the flexibility at Stanford may beat out the case method at HBS; and location, which is also about even, although there I lean towards Boston. A fourth factor was brought up, money. I have now completed the finaid for Stanford (which I am a complete numbskull for not doing earlier, it took less than an hour) and so will see how that compares to HBS when I get their package.
Oh yeah, and the weather was great today. Houston normally gets very few of these blue-sky and seventies days, but this year has been exceptional. We went out and hit golf balls and it was very obvious that we really need to focus in on golf. I enjoy it while I am playing, but when you only do something once a month or so you are never going to get any good.
Saturday, March 06, 2004
After I leave, the original group of 27 people will be down to 14. People have left for all sorts of positions, both inside and outside of the company, but generally for one common reason: the program has been a sham. I think the takeaway for me from this whole experience is that you largely get out of something what you put into it. This has been a below-expectations job in an industry that has suffered worse than probably any other since I began working. Despite all that, though, I wouldn't go back and change my decision. I have met too many great people and learned too much.
Thursday, March 04, 2004
I really enjoyed Naveen's post about saving money. Most Americans spend too much time consuming, and thinking about what they will purchase next or how to keep up with the Jones', and we don't save enough for our future retirement. I would say that the two biggest internal crises we face as a nation are our health insurance situation and our retirement savings. The baby boomer generation as a whole has not saved enough to retire in the lifestyle to which they are accustomed. And a wake-up call: neither has ours. Oh, and we have to pay for the baby boomers too. Ugh.
This subject is too deep to completely explore in one post (or even one blog), but it's something to think about. We should all strive to live below our means and save towards our future.
The long and short of it is that I am going to keep an open mind about Stanford and keep talking to people and researching the school. On the one hand I still don't feel any doubt about my decision to go to HBS, on the other hand I probably didn't give the GSB a fair shake and I should do so. It's really for my own peace of mind, if nothing else.
I still feel good about that $1000 check I mailed off, but I am by no means ecstatic...
Wednesday, March 03, 2004
Tuesday, March 02, 2004
Well, at least I didn't lose anything terribly valuable. And now maybe I will upgrade from a Mach 3 to a Schick Quattro razor. But I sure would like my bag back, I've had that since high school. Heck, it's been to 10+ countries with me. Oh well...
On a positive note, I did fill out my confirmation form to HBS. Plus, it was the first time in my life I have been ecstatic about writing a check for $1000. ;)
After setting a low at Saturday's dinner, my opinion of Stanford has steadily improved. And like I said, Derrick is awesome. The personal attention and professionalism he brings to the program is really, really cool. I still know that HBS is the best "fit" for me, but I can really see why Stanford can pull so many people away from HBS and other top programs.
Monday, March 01, 2004
We drove up 280 through SF and across the Golden Gate bridge today. The weather was awful. We continued on to Napa Valley and visited the Grgich Hills and Beaulieu wineries. Grgich Hills was really cool, but BV was pretty lame. Then we ate at the Rutherford Grill, the food was good but it was waaay overpriced. We drove down Silverado Trail after that, it was really pretty. That's where I took a panorama on a random winery. We headed back to Palo Alto by way of Berkeley, where we briefly drove by the campus of UC-Berkeley. It was a busy day, but we had a really good time.
Oh yeah, I also uploaded all the pictures over on smugmug, so be sure and check them out.
One more thing I forgot to mention about Stanford: The housing available is awesome. The on-campus is cheaper than HBS, and the off-campus houses that 2nd-year students rent are top-notch. Indoor basketball courts, pool tables, hot tubs, pools, etc. Again, not something directly related to the program, but very cool nonetheless.
Stanford seems like a great school for people who really value these things: an entrepreneurial atmosphere, a location with a lot of great outdoors activities, a good balance between quant and "soft" skills. Since those things aren't really valuable to me, I have decided to attend HBS. HBS is more closely aligned with my career goals, I love the case method, and I really want to live in the Northeast.
So, tomorrow we are going to have breakfast in Palo Alto, then drive through SF to the Napa Valley area, and check out a few vineyards. I feel bad about skipping out on the rest of the activities, but it looks like this will be our last trip to Cali for some time, so I want to make the most of it.
Oh yeah, before I forget: Derrick Bolton made the decision much harder than it would have been otherwise. He is extremely friendly, professional, knowledgeable, etc. If you get a chance to talk with him be sure and take it. You'll see what I mean. To borrow a line from Jim Rome: He's Derrick freakin' Bolton.