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Got my visa, been to Goldman Sachs.. December 22, 2006

Posted by InvisibleInk in Finance, MBA Prep / Logistics.

La Republique FrancaiseIt’s been a week since I came back from the Foundations Course (I’ll write a post about it next time). I managed to use this time wisely and I got my French visa sorted. It’s incredible but I actually got my visa in 30 minutes! INSEAD students apply for a long-stay visa and luckily we don’t have to do the huge queue outside the consulate (for a change). Also, there is a special counter for long-stay visa applicants and a dedicated person to deal with INSEAD students. The lady who served me was very helpful and polite. But make sure you have all your documents with you if you don’t want to come back. For the list of documents you should e-mail them at Ls.LONDRES-FSLT@diplomatie.gouv.fr then they will give you a number to set up your appointment. The application process (appointment and issue of the visa) normally takes 2 days for British residents but if you have all your documents then you might get it the same day like me. For me this was the shortest ever processing time of all the visas I got up to now. And I have been around the block in terms of collecting visas. i.e. a colourful passport..

Goldman Sachs Logo I also attended a career event at Goldman Sachs two weeks ago. I applied at the end of November. Honestly, I was a bit surprised that they accepted my application since I have a limited finance background but when I got there the message was clear, they don’t seem to mind too much whether you have previous financial experience as long as you are very interested in the field, know what you want to do, and match up to their expectations. We’ll see if this hypothesis holds when the interviews start in February. As expected, Goldman did pretty much everything to impress. There were 25 people invited to the event (suggests either a low turn-out or selective HR dept). GS offered to fly everyone to London and put us up in a hotel down the road. We had a full day event starting with breakfast at their main building, followed by a line of impressive speakers including a partner, and panel discussions. The event also offered a chance to meet recruiters and people working in Investment Banking, Private Wealth Management, Equities and Fixed Income divisions. Overall, I am glad I applied. I learned quite a bit about the company and found a new area of interest ‘corporate restructuring’. I hear that with the private equity boom, highly leveraged companies, and potential slow down of the economy, corporate restructuring might be a good area to look into in the long-term. Apparently, GS is expanding its team and recruiting some of the top guys in the field. I also found out that we have the summer associate programme application deadline just two weeks after we start the MBA! Hard one to pull for career changers!


Last Minute Decision: Attending the Foundations Course November 30, 2006

Posted by InvisibleInk in Foundations Course, MBA Prep / Logistics, Suggested Pre-readings, Transportation.

Business Foundations Programme

Quite a lot happened this week. First of all, I paid the second installment of my tuition fees. A handsome sum of €27,000 invested towards my career. Secondly, I arranged my car for next year. I decided on a C3 HDi 92 Exclusive. (110 is no longer available on lease from Citroen). Since I will be doing 25+km a day, diesel seemed like a good option. Citroen lease contract is much more comprehensive than the Peugeot contract, plus prices of Citroen are around €500 cheaper yet their cars have more extras. I only signed up for four months, giving me the option of extending my contract later should I choose to stay in Fonty for P3.

Thirdly, I registered for the foundations course. Initially my plan was not to attend the Foundations Course and prepare for the MBA on my own. I was thinking that doing the suggested pre-reading should be enough. When I spoke with a current MBA student and Andrew from the MBA office, they both said planning to read all four pre-reading books was pretty optimistic. Well, three months on, I think they were right. So far I only managed to cover 1 out of 4 textbooks. I have simply been too busy and not been able to find time to sit down and study.

Anyway, if you are a future student, you can still register up to December. Eventhough the official deadline for registration is 2nd of October, after you pay the second installment INSEAD sends you an email asking if you still want to register. By the way, have a look at the schedule. It has INSEAD written all over it. Hard work, long hours, short period of time!

Logistics – Renault 0, Peugeot & Citroen 1. November 20, 2006

Posted by InvisibleInk in MBA Prep / Logistics.

INSEAD does open a lot of doors for one’s career but it may not necessarily open a Renault’s door, nor HSBC’s front door. If you have been reading my previous posts, you know about the HSBC story and our great success rate in being rejected by HSBC’s lending department. Recently Renault took its place in my black list.

Most of the students at INSEAD live in little villages spread around the forest, usually about 8 to 15 kms from the campus. With limited public transportation in the area, having a car is as essential as breathing (unless you live very close to the campus). Leasing tends to be a popular option. This way you can accommodate your own travel schedule between three campuses (Fonty, Singapore, and Wharton) by ending the lease whenever you like. INSEAD MBAs get discounted rates from Peugeot and Citroen. I also heard that Renault offers good rates thanks to its Eurodrive scheme. I contacted them to ask for further information and the price list, only to find out that I would not qualify because I will be attending INSEAD!

Renault says “Unfortunately we can not accept orders from students who are/will attend INSEAD due to restrictions emplaced by Renault in Paris. Due to past incidents dealing with students from/attending INSEAD with Renault leased vehicles, we can no longer accept requests for a TT lease or Special TT lease.”

Well, what a way to loose 1000+ customers a year!! I will be deciding on a Peugeot or a Citroen in the next few days..

Started the pre-reading.. November 16, 2006

Posted by InvisibleInk in Suggested Pre-readings.
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An_Introduction_To_Finance_BissadaI am slowly easing my-self into the MBA. I started with the easiest and most basic looking textbook amongst the books in INSEAD’s pre-reading list. “An Introduction to Finance” by Youssef F. Bissada is perfect if you’ve never had any accounting classes or never had to do a single financial statement. I have taken accounting classes more than five years ago during my degree but I still found the book useful to refresh my memory. The book is only focused on how to draw and understand balance sheets, profit and loss statements, and cash flow statements. It comes with a CD (only runs on Windows) that outlines the basic concepts and lets you learn by preparing accounts of an imaginary lemonade business. (Yes I know, this may be as ‘exciting’ as accounting gets: How to build your lemonade tycoon in 10 days) Although I have to confess, I liked the simplicity and the fact that it took less than two hours to finish the whole book! It makes you feel good since you can put a tick besides the big reading list INSEAD loads on you. Anyway, now that I’ve done the basics of accounting, I think I might continue with the other accounting book in the list, though I doubt it will take such short time to go through it this time..

On my way to Fonty for the weekend October 17, 2006

Posted by InvisibleInk in INSEAD, MBA Prep / Logistics.
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I’m going to Fonty for the open day this weekend. I just booked my flight and accommodation. The open day is supposed to be a good occasion to meet future classmates and learn more about the programme. Apparently, there are over 100 people signed up for the event so far. According to the programme, we are going to start the day with a speech the dean of external relations, followed by Information Stands in the Foyer area. I am planning to visit the Language Centre, Logistical Information (visas, medical insurance…) and Financial Aid Information & Methodology stands. Also the Programme Tips may be quite useful. We will also have presentations from the faculty, current students, careers service and alumni. The highlight of the day will certainly be the Château dinner in the evening. Looking forward to that!

Time for a bit of logistics September 24, 2006

Posted by InvisibleInk in General, MBA Financing / Loans, MBA Prep / Logistics.
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Accommodation, check. Deposit, check. Profile on NetVestibule, check. Finances, not yet! For the past month I have been kept busy by INSEAD and HSBC. I finally got all my paperwork together and applied for an MBA loan at the end of August. Unfortunately, five weeks on, my application is still in progress. Might take a while before I know if I’ve got a loan. :/

I also managed to squeeze in 5 scholarship applications before the deadline. At INSEAD, there is no such a thing as offering candidates scholarship on the basis of their admission application. If you want to get funding, you have to write a separate essay for each scholarship you wish to apply. I guess they go with the idea that there is no such thing as a free meal! It can be a bit difficult to find inspiration for scholarship essays while juggling many things at the same time. In my case it meant writing three essays and a hasty copy paste job for the other two to meet the deadline. I’d be extremely surprised if I get short-listed for the last two. But I am very hopeful about one of the scholarships. To apply, you have to be a woman and from one of the few countries listed. The advantage of being in INSEAD, there are not too many women who fit the criteria. Also, I’ve got very good feedback from a couple of my friends on my essay. If I get it, it will cover €15,000 of my tuition fees. That would be nice!

On the other hand, my “to do” list is far from finished. I was checking the messages in NetVestibule (cyber INSEAD) and realised that I have to make a decision to attend the pre-MBA module as soon as possible. In the mist of sorting out my finances, I have totally forgotten that I have to make a decision and pay by 2nd of October. Unfortunately, I am still undecided about what to do. It costs €1200 plus accommodation and flights for a week’s course. I have got a degree in Management and Economics but that was long time ago and frankly I don’t remember much of it either. I think I would benefit from refreshing some accounting and finance topics along with statistics. Or, I could do some home study and use the time and money to go for a nice holiday before the programme kicks off. Hmm, interesting decision to make!

Phone Call July 1, 2006

Posted by InvisibleInk in MBA Prep / Logistics, Suggested Pre-readings.

Today I received a phone call from a current student at INSEAD. I think it was to encourage me to accept the offer and also to talk about any questions I might have regarding the programme. She came across as a really nice person and portrayed INSEAD as a fun place to be, which I really liked. We talked about diversity, the intensity of the programme, the parties, the accommodation, and the infamous pre-reading list.

For those who don’t know, INSEAD assigns a pre-reading list comprised of four textbooks to read before the classes start. There is one in microeconomics, one in accounting, and two in finance. Apparently one of the finance books is quite dry and not highly recommended. So I might save myself some time and get the other three instead.

Some other advice I got:

  • Take some time off from work before starting the MBA.
  • It is best to start in Singapore campus and skip the winter. They apparently also have a more chilled out attitude.
  • Best to wait until September for booking accommodation. It may be too early now. Even though there are already a lot of chateau hunters in NetVestibule.
  • Must attend the open day in October/November. It is in the middle ‘getting ready for school’ period and helps a lot to learn from current students and staff and fine tune the details.

Unlike what I heard before, apparently INSEAD’s non-disclosure policy for the marks works. The student who called me stressed that INSEAD takes a firm position and has a word with all the companies coming to campus specifically not to ask students their marks. I think this is the best way as well.

Finally, the best bit of our conversation was about the parties and the national weeks. They just had the Arab week and all the students improvised by wearing the best they could find, in this case tea towels and all sorts for a whole day of classes. Imagine being the finance professor standing in front of such a class! Brilliant!