MBA Guides: Business school first year, first term: Drama in Real Life
I wrote these six pieces in my first few months at Columbia Business School as a fresh of the boat first year MBA student in New York. While they are all a little dated (it has been 10 years) they provide a nostalgic look back at days when post the sanctioning of your student loan you could sit at peace for a few hours each evening and write a page for your business school student magazine. Away from the din of the traffic, the rush of the finance case due the next morning and the maddening competitiveness of some of your classmates. I wrote under the pen-name Roach.
By the time we started getting close to February and March, recruiting season was in full swing. As a J Termer, I was scheduled to complete the entire four terms in 16 months, skipping the summer internship. But the class that started in August 1998 wasn’t that lucky. This piece was inspired by the singular focus on recruitment within that group. This is Independence Houston, was the classy line from Armageddon, the Bruce Willis picture about an oil rig crew sent to dismantle an asteroid in space.
Today is the day that I will tell all.
I will not hide anything. The world will finally know what happened on that bleak Friday morning when I walked into the Business School Building for my one and only first round interview.
I am sure you have read part of this story in the tabloids. You know… the color of my briefs and the name of the WB character on them, the girls I dated and the guys… You have heard the whispers in the corridors and the gossip columns. But there was only one witness to what went on in Room 2xx. (Number changed to protect the anonymity of the parties involved in the incident)
Well, I am all set to spill the beans.
It all started with that article in Reader’s Digest. A wholesome magazine for all Business School Students. If you are not a regular reader you should subscribe today. It’s a must for success in school and beyond. It’s also a great read on sky deck when the lecture takes that subtle turn from being mundane to truly boring.
The article was about Firm X (name changed to protect the anonymity of the author and the firm). It stated how the firm had been growing for the past so many years and was in desperate need of managers. It stated the average take home salaries of some members of middle management and the current market value of their stock options. (Typical HBS case study without the logo and the disclaimer. The rosy portrait of a business at home, painted by John Sargent.) I read no further, I was hooked. Five years with them and I would be set for life. No need to rob the bank next door, sing at happy hour or short Microsoft’s stock.
So I applied. In my cover letter I pointed out our perfect fit. They paid good money, I needed money and wasn’t too picky. They needed bright, hardworking, diverse employees. I wasn’t all that bright or hardworking, but I could definitely contribute to their diversity. (How many of your classmates can you classify as nocturnal insects… my point exactly) They were looking for aggressive risk takers. I may not be a risk taker but I was definitely a risky bet. They were interested in a fresh, unbiased view of the world. I was as fresh and unbiased as an undergrad in the deli lost in her fat free yogurt.
The interview letter came as a surprise. I didn’t expect it but it definitely reflected on my creative writing skills (and the wonders they had performed on my CV.) The firm would be recruiting on campus. I had been placed on their closed list. They also pointed out that they only had two vacancies and I was one of the two candidates. The interview was just a formality, they had been extremely impressed by the things I had done (on my resume… there is still time, go take that creative writing class….)
I tore up the rest of my masterpieces; used my 1500 points to short the slots that my room-mates wanted but couldn’t afford; and used the proceeds to close my open position in Microsoft. Oh… you didn’t know about this. Of course you can short a slot. It is a market economy after all. It’s a tricky strategy and you really have to play it carefully, but once you understand some of the finer points you can have that Goldman interview for free.
Anyhow the big day arrived. Borrowed Pierre Cardin suit, aggressive tie, spit shined shoes, expensive haircut, and my total remaining liquid assets in the form of a starched white shirt. I was all set to boldly go where no business school student had ever gone before. My cluster-mates were being shot down left, right and center in small rooms and cubicles but I had no problems. I was Master of the Universe.
The internship of dreams, the (almost) certain firm offer, the million dollar sign-on bonus. My name on the new building. Dinner with Warren Buffet. The lecture circuit. It was mine, mine, all mine.
There was nobody ahead of me or before me. They must have written off the other guy. I mean who can possibly come close to my royal eminence… The firm had come to campus solely to recruit me… Wow, talk about commitment, talk about style… I walked confidently into the room…
Time for a short commercial break. We understand how annoyed you must be, but Readers Dig is a great whole some magazine for all Business School Students. Read all about the ‘Horror’s in Room 2xx’ in our March Drama in Real Life section.
I guess I was a little early since nobody from the firm had actually arrived. I checked the time and the date on the interview letter to ensure that I was at the right point in space and time. I was and I watched the watch tick away the seconds… the minutes … the quarters … the hour.
Something was definitely wrong. Expect Career Services to get it wrong, I thought as I marched angrily into their offices. After all with the new building practically named after me they should have been a bit more careful with my schedule.
‘Where and when are the interviews for Firm X scheduled’. I asked in my sweetest voice all set to explode on hearing the explanation about the mix up…
But the world exploded. My 1500 hundred shorted points went by me in a flash. My name on the new building turned into graffiti. Warren Buffet and the lecture circuit shimmered and were transported beyond my reach…’This is Independence, Houston… Atlantis is down…’
‘Oh you didn’t hear. It was brutal, it’s all over the news. They filed for chapter 11 last night. I guess they have other things on their mind right now… Do you have any other interviews today?