Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A truly global MBA

We've gotten some statistics about our MBA class that I want to share. The class of July'06 (my class) starts with 445 participants. As the class of December'05 is 447, the total yearly intake at INSEAD is about 900. In those 445 participants, there is no real dominant group: the largest one is the Indians with about 14% followed by the French and English.

Of the 445 participants, 154 started at the Singapore campus (so about 35%). These 154 people are from 36 different countries (that's pretty global). The statement that INSEAD is a truly global b-school is further supported by the fact that there are 24 countries in the world that have over 100 alumni from INSEAD; the number two among the top b-schools 'only' has 12 countries with over 100 alumni.

The participants are further divided into groups (these groups will works together for the next 4 months on the various group assignments). My group of 6 consist of people from the following countries: Spain, India, Italy, USA, Switzerland and The Netherlands.

This year will certainly be one full of cultural diversity. I like it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Introduction week has started

It's been some good days. Last Sunday about 25 participants (we are called participants, not students, as we are supposed to participate in the classes) went to Sentoso beach. This is a beatifull, but artificial beach at one of the islands of Singapore. It's quite a strange sight to lay on the beach and see a huge ship at just a few hundreds meters. The swimming area is secluded, but outside this area the busy port makes for a remarkable view. That evening about 60-70 students (it just sounds better than participants...) came together for a nice BBQ at the Heritage apartment complex. Needless to say, this was a great opportunity to meet lots of people and have some nice cold beers.

The introduction week has started. After registration and some speeches yesterday, we got a deeper understanding about the practical things at INSEAD today in some meetings about career management services, IT, operations, etc. I'd like to mention one quote from the manager of the library: "It's ok to sleep at the library, but we dont't like it when you are snorling or droowling over the books".

I now have (wireless) access to the INSEAD network at the campus and the internet connection at the apartment will probably be fixed this evening. It's good to be connected to the world again.

On a different note, Forbes just released there B-School rankings and I'm pleased to say that INSEAD ranks as the number one B-School in the world. I am much aware that these kind of rankings do not really give a good view on the situation and should be taken with some kilos of salt, but it's nice to be number one :)

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Hello Singapore!

I've been here two days now and this place is awesome!

First, the flight to Singapore. I was lucky that Singapore Airlines operates a direct flight from Amsterdam to Singapore. The entertainment on board was very good (among others, you could choose from 60 movies to watch), the food was very decent and the stewardesses were good-looking. I can recommend it to everyone: fly Singapore Airlines (to the Singapore Airlines board of directors: you will receive the bill for my marketing services shortly). The only problem was that when you think all is well there happens to be a small child nearby that just insist on screaming the full 12.5 hours of the flight. So I didn't really get that much sleep.

Taxis in Singapore are cheap. The ride from the airport to the Heritage View complex took about 25-30 minutes and only costed me S$ 19 (about 9 euro). I'm certain there will be a lot of taxi rides in the next 4 months with those prices.

As I don't want to bore people with an extremely long post about what happens then, I will keep it very short and to-the-point. I will furthermore add some notes about whether I will post more details about the topic soon. here we go...

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

1 day to go....

1 day to go and I'll head off to Singapore. It's really starting to get close now.

Yesterday I handed in my car and telephone at work. It's strange how you don't feel like a complete person anymore once you don't have a mobile phone with you. That will definately be one of the first things I will do once I arrive: get myself a nice pre-paid mobile (with a camera option of course, so I can put some photos on this site). Yesterday evening I, again, had some goodbye drinks with friends - it was good fun. Not owning a car anymore suddenly isn't that bad anymore: you can't drink and drive anyway, so now that I am depended on public transport I can drink again.

Today is going to be my packing day. I'm planning to have everything packed in some hours from now so I can spend the last day here with my girlfriend.

My next post will be from Singapore. I'll try to post one as soon as possible, but I don't yet know how easy it will be to get an internet connection.

Friday, August 19, 2005

All forms and tasks are completed

There are so many small things you have to arrange before coming to Singapore that it's easy to forget something. I spend this afternoon (or at least part of it) to check if I completed everything.

And I did more the last few days. I washed my car so it can be returned to my company, I selected the CD's I want to take with me, I made arrangement to get a laptop, I wrote down the telephone numbers I might need, I made the last arrangement for my loan, I got myself a healthcare insurance for the next year, and I probably did some other things I can't remember right now.

As for learning German.... Well, that's not really been going as smooth. I just didn't put enough time in it so far. What I did do is checking what the options are if you don't pass the language exam right away. There are ample opportunities to take some classes and do the exam during the year so I guess I will be fine.

Ok, so I'm set to go. 5 days and counting....

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Most complete INSEAD Blogger list?

I just added some links to other websites that feature a Blog from (ex) INSEAD students. Took me quite some time to find them actually. There just isn't a good list for all INSEAD bloggers. The "League of MBA Bloggers" is a nicely compiled list, but it just isn't complete. And looking them up on Google is also quite hard as it seems that a lot of people spell "instead" as "insead".

Anyway, is this the most complete list of INSEAD bloggers? If anyone can prove me wrong, please do so. If I'm right, then I deserve a reward :)

Career Management Services

The Career Management Services (CMS) department plays an important role in the lives of most students during their year at INSEAD (or any other MBA). A lot of students will change their career and any help they can get in looking for the best fitting job is good.

One of the things CMS does before the year starts is giving all accepted students access to a self assessment, which states your characteristics, strong points, motivators and career paths that will fit with those. I did my assessment already and found out......... exactly what I already knew. Ah well, it is actually not really a surprise; the outcome of such tests is based on the input (duh) and the input is what you already know about yourself. Anyway, it's good to see that a professional assessment organization agrees with me.

For those that are interested, there are the career paths stated by the test:

In about a year I will tell you which one will be the winning guess (might be something completely different as well).

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Access to INSEAD message boards upon acceptance

Was a busy 2 days again :)

I've done my first share of packing last night. Went through all my clothes and picked out the stuff that I wanted to take along. There was an awful lot of old stuff in my closets so a lot went out as well (at least I don't have the female size clothes collection anymore now). Also, I picked up some one-day contact lenses today so I can use them when I go scuba diving, do some sports or just want to look different... Just one week to go, better get ready now.

I'll try to get some information about INSEAD in my post as well so people will actually read my Blog. As the title suggests, today's topic: INSEAD message board.

Once you get accepted, you will get access to "Netvestibule". This is a part of the internet you can access with a password. There's a lot of useful stuff on it, like: a welcome guide, all kind of forms, a way to look up how your classmates look like (can be a real eye-opener), some other stuff and also a message board. All accepted students, current students and alumni have access to these message board, although it is mostly used by just accepted students. I wonder if the current students also have a board of their own, but I will find out about that later anyway. Here are some of the titles that I just picked from the message board, so you know what kind of talk is going on:
I've noticed there is a shift from housing related issues (where can I find a house, etc) to the more day-to-day things. Looks like most have found an apartment by now and the streets won't be crowded by homeless students at night.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Automatically check for updates

I've added an option so everyone that wants to can automatically check if there is a new post on this weblog. Just click on the "+ My Yahoo!" button and you can add the RSS feed to your own My Yahoo! site. This, of course, is only suitable if you use My Yahoo! on a regular basis (or want to start doing that now).

Does all this work on the blog indicate I have too much time on my hands now?

The application process for INSEAD

Not feeling very well at the moment. Last night I had some "going away" drinks in Amsterdam with some friends and I either am getting older or I don't practice enough anymore; drinking all night till the bars are all closed was not an option. Anyway, we had a lot of fun and I'm now having a headache...

In this post, I want to write something about how the application process goes for INSEAD (for most other MBA's it's about the same). Before I got admitted there were some steps to be taken: a TOEFL test, a GMAT test, filling in the application, writing essays, getting letters of recommendation and, finally, doing some interviews.

First I did the TOEFL test. It's a test to see if you master the English language well enough to participate in the MBA program. To be honest, this test is a joke. Just sit back and fill in what you feel is the right answer and you will ace the test. Learning all kind of rules on forehand will only make you think too much about the questions and you shouldn't do that.

After that, I did the GMAT test. This is some kind of an IQ test that consist of a quantitative analytical part and a verbal part. The GMAT is a whole different story; you really need to practice and prepare in advance in order to be able to score high enough. On the test you can score from 200 points up till 800 points. To get admitted to INSEAD you would at least have to score about 650 points. I think 650 points meant something like you're on the 90th percentile (90% of the people that took the test scored lower than you did), so it's not a linear scale. The normal average of INSEAD students is just above 700 I think (about 95th percentile).
The GMAT test is an adaptive test. This means that if you fill in the right answer you will get a harder question and if you fill in the wrong answer you will get an easier question. After some questions you will get 50% of the answers right and that will become your score. So if the last few questions are very hard, you know you did well. There are also some trial questions in the test that don't count towards your score, but are in there so the test makers can see how hard the questions are so they can be put in the real test later. Of course I knew about these test questions and was told just not to think about it. However, when I did the analytical part of the test my last few questions were something like this: if 4a=16, how much is a? These are, of course, very easy questions and I really thought that I must have screwed up the test and ended up at the easy questions. I was not feeling happy at all. When I got my end score I found out that I actually did very well at the analytical part and the last 4-5 questions must have been test questions. So my advice: don't think about the adaptive part of the test too much. Final result: a happy applicant :)

Then I had to write about 7 essays about myself. This included things as: what do you want to be when you grow up, how did you learn from your mistakes, what are your strong points, etc. The essays are the most important part of the application. INSEAD doesn't just look for smart people, but mainly looks at the personality of the applicant. They also highly value diversity among the students so people do not only learn from the professors, but also from each other. This means that you have to proof that you are a good addition to the student population. Being a white male working for a Strategy Consultancy, this means that you really have to focus on how you are different and special as there are already plenty of those applying. For diversity, I mainly focused on two points. I studied Actuarial Sciences (insurance math) and also worked in that field for some time. Furthermore, as a consultant I've worked a great deal in the Healthcare sector (mainly hospitals) and this also sets you apart from the normal strategy consultant.
The essays are written in what I call the "American" way. Meaning that you don't write down "I am good" but "I am awesome". For Dutch this does not come naturally as our culture isn't like that. A colleague of mine explained it to me the following way: "Write down the truth, but do it in such a way that you almost puke about yourself, and then push it a little bit more". This was an interesting experience. After I wrote the essays and was thoroughly convinced that I would conquer the world, I let some of my colleagues proof-read my essays. In one of the sentences I mistakenly used "we" instead of "I". One colleague left the following note: "After all that bragging about yourself, I understand how you came to use this word, but I think that using the royal plural form when talking about yourself is pushing it a bit too far". Anyway, mission accomplished :)

It was then time to arrange two recommendation letters. One of the partners of the consultancy was an INSEAD alumni and he was happy to write one for me. For the other letter, I was able to get the CEO of one of the companies I consulted. It is also recommended that you try to get one letter from your current employer and one from a client, so this part was a success.

After I sent my application (at INSEAD you can do it all on the internet, so that's very convenient) the waiting started. After a month I got the message that I needed to do two interviews with INSEAD alumni. One of the people that interviewed me worked at an Investment Bank and the other at a Private Equity firm. Both interviews went well and it was good fun to talk to some people that already had the INSEAD experience. Then it was waiting another two months untill the final decision arrived. This was actually the hardest part; there is nothing you can do to influence the decision anymore. Personally, the waiting was probably even harder because I only applied to INSEAD (and not to a couple of schools at the same time as I understand most people do). It was either INSEAD or no MBA at all at that point. Finally I got the verdict: admitted!

So that's the story about the application process. If anyone has more questions about the process, feel free to leave a comment and I will try to adress them.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Nice, I can also post pictures

Just playing around a bit. Here's a picture from the Singapore Campus. However, I think it is not up-to-date anymore as they've build a second tower last year. Anyway, look at the palm trees :)

Still a lot to do?

13 days and then I will fly off. A lot of people ask me if everything is arranged yet. I think most of it is. My last day at work was the 29th of July, so I have/had 3.5 weeks to make any final arrangements. However, when you don't have to do that much, my experience is that you will also not do that much and each tiny accomplishment is a day job (wow, I extended my drivers license today! It has been a productive day, now I need to rest the remainder of it.)

The most important thing to arrange is housing. I will probably spend the first 4 months at the Singapore campus. After that, the next 6 months will be Fontainableau (France). I already have an apartment in Singapore and will share it with 2 other guys. One of them is from Italy and worked for the same company as I did. The otherone is half Lebanese and half Canadian and currently lives in Egypt (which, from what I know so far, is a quite common profile among the very international student body at INSEAD). I have never met either of one (only spoke to them by emails) so we will either become live-long friends or we will strangle each other. Might also be something in-between. The apartment is at the Heritage complex. This is one of the two spots most students live and only a couple of minutes walk from campus. I don't have the exact address of the apartment yet, so I might email them if they maybe know and want to tell me as well.

One other thing that I currently busy with (or at least should be) is learning German. INSEAD requires you to be able to speak/write at least 3 languages upon graduation. My mothertongue is Dutch and I do speak English (how are my typos?). However, that is about it. I did have some French and German at school and I even once tried to learn a bit of Swedish, but none of these are fluent enough. So now I have some German study books lying on my desk and I even made a study plan to brush it up enough to pass the test at the beginning of the program. So far the good stuff, now the reality: there is still is a lot to be done in order to pass the test and I am not exactly on schedule. Anyway, we'll see how it works out and if the initial test doesn't work out I will just have to do some brushing up during the coming year.

I think there might also be some other paper work to do before I leave. I will check about that tomorrow. Lazy? I've already done my job for today: I created this weblog :)

A bit about myself

Ok, time to get started. I've told numerous friends, relatives and colleagues that I would start a weblog so all can see what I am up to. Guess I now have to life up to my promises :)

Why a weblog? Well, if you are going away for a whole year, you are of course obliged to tell people how you are doing, what the experience is like, etc. This can be done by email. However, there are some disadvantages to email: some that would like to read about your experiences are not on the email list and some that are on the list aren't the least interested in you and are happy you left the country (you never know :) ). So this way everyone can choose for themselves if they want to read about me. Furthermore, some web surfers I don't know yet might find this page.

So I'm going to do my MBA at INSEAD. Probably not everyone has a clear picture of what an MBA is and have never heard of INSEAD before. For those I have one clear advice: stay tuned, read my post in the coming year and you will find out. Also, you can check out the links on this weblog. I took the following from the website of the INSEAD MBA program: "You will never again meet a group of people as diverse, international, and stimulating as you will meet during your year at INSEAD. The intense one-year programme, dual-campus learning environment, calibre of teaching, opportunities for career advancement and dynamic social experience set the INSEAD MBA apart from all other business schools." Let's see if it turns out to be true.

I can tell you, I am really looking forward to the coming year. The last years have mainly been work: I first did some consulting in the insurance industry and for the last 3 years I've been a Strategy Consultant. It's really time for a change in scenery. I have good memories of my time as a student at my university: lots of fun with friends, lots of time in bars and clubs, lots of drinks, some studying, lots of strange experiences (did I do that?), more drinks, "study" abroad, good holiday traveling, etc. I expect the current year to be somewhat the same as these year, with the only big change that I will really need to spend more time studying. I can also write about the good things this year can brings me as growth in my professional life, excellent education and ample opportunities for broadening my view. These are all valid points and also important in my decision to do an MBA, but the main reason for is quite simple: I think it will be a lot of fun.

As the title of this post suggests, I will write a bit about myself. So here it comes. I currently live in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, with my lovely girlfriend. Unfortunately, she wont come with me to Singapore and Fontainebleau for a whole year, but I'm very glad that she can come to see me a couple of times (she already bought the plane tickets, so she can't back out now :) ). In 13 days my plane will head off to Singapore and the experience will begin.

First post

Just testing :)

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