Wednesday, April 25, 2007

One day until DAK II

It's finally here.. Tomorrow I'm leaving for Day at Kellogg (DAK) for Round 2 admits.

I must confess that for the first time I'm starting to feel butterflies. It somehow feels like the first day in high school again. Will they like me? Will I like them? Will I fit in with the cool kids?
I've never liked the awkwardness of new crowds, and part of me just wants to get it over with.

Part of my worry is the possibility that I will find Kellogg to be a bit too much of a party school for my liking. I'm seeing a lot of emphasis on nightlife in various places, and in their report on DAK, Brit-chick and Majalo both attested to the atmosphere at Kellogg being a bit 'cult-like' and 'a bit undergraduate', which I'm not sure is going to be my cup of tea. I like a party now and then, but that's not why I'm going to Kellogg, and I don't want to end up explaining all the time why I'm the only one who is not going to stick around in the bar until the sun comes up.

I may be wrong, of course, and there's only one way to find out...

As a side note, I fly back into Amsterdam early Monday morning, which happens to be Queen's Day here in Holland. This is a traditional excuse for dressing up in orange, going to events with millions of other people and having too much to drink. I've made plans to spend the day on a friend's boat on the canals of Amsterdam, which I'm sure is going to be very nice, yet I'm not sure if I'll have any energy left after DAK and a night flight in coach (not pleasant if you're 6'6" like me), but we'll see what happens.

I'll post my DAK experiences when I get back, and maybe I'll even have some Queen's Day pictures to share..!

Reality kicks in

My employer has now formally told me they will not provide any financial sponsorship, nor will they guarantee I can come back in two years. To top it off they included a friendly reminder to make sure I didn't forget to resign in time. I would, however, leave with their "best wishes" and a "glowing testimony for my great work over recent years". Wow, thanks...!

I understand their reasoning, however, flawed as I think it is. They see this as shelling out $100k+ to have someone gone for two years and return with ridiculous career growth and compensation demands. It's one that goes into the 'too difficult' box. Our president last year told me that "we're just not an MBA employer", which to me sounded like "there's a limit to how good we want our management to be."

It's all good and fine, because there is in reality a very big chance I will get lured into the Siren calls of the big i-banks and consulting firms. It's just disappointing to see that the company that you have worked your butt off for, and almost feels like family, doesn't hesitate a second to cut you loose for being too ambitious.

I am, however, not phased by this too much. I knew this day was coming.

Another side of the reality that is only now starting to kick in is that the deposit that magically makes its way into my bank account each month, that has always so nicely offsetted the numerous debit transactions on my bank statement, is going to disappear for good. I will soon be formally unemployed, which is a strange feeling. The only inflow of funds I will have for the time to come will be nothing more than debt, with a capital D. I hate debt. Maybe in time it will start to feel like free money and I will struggle to worry about spending money that is not yet mine, but right now, it still feels weird.

Monday, April 16, 2007

First Kellogg experiences

It's now been a couple of weeks since Kellogg has given me the nod, and the feeling of blind ecstacy is slowly turning into a more modest state of happiness. It's still a great feeling to know that a year's worth of obsession with the GMAT and essays has actually paid off.

Preparing my matriculation has already given me some Kellogg experiences to report on. The "wow"s have been mostly positive, but also some negative. I'll first get the negative observations out of the way.

To secure your position in class, you have to advance $1000 on your tuition. The accepted payment methods are check and money order. In Holland, and I suspect in many other places around the world, checks have been abandoned a long time ago. And neither I nor my bank know what a money order is. I asked Kellogg whether I could pay through bank transfer, credit card, or maybe PayPal or Western Union, but alas, impossible. Other students ended up sending signed checks through the mail, and I have now bought traveler's checks and will hand-deliver them at Day at Kellogg. My interviewer had already warned me that rules and procedures tend to be a bit US-centric, but this just seemed a bit backward to me. All b-schools nowadays say they are 'global', but I hope that this doesn't mean "US... Oh, and everything abroad".

Something else that hasn't impressed me is the various Kellogg websites. The student web-mail looks like Hotmail version 0.1 beta. There is no Sent folder -- if you want to retain your sent messages "you can include your own e-mail address on the Cc: field". Puh-lease. It's not a big deal (you can download your mail into Outlook Express) but impressive, no. Some of the other pages deep down in the Kellogg website look like they were designed in the 1980s. I generally prefer substance over form, but for a school that is known for its marketing prowess I expect a bit more than Times New Roman 12pt and awkwardly proportioned images. Again, no biggie, but I had expected a bit more.

The positive impressions are fortunately the things that really matter. And the biggest 'wow'-factor must be the recruiting side.

As I'm contemplating becoming an I-banker (no points for originality, I know), scavenging the club websites has been very rewarding. Presentations from students who have summered at Goldman, Merrill, BoA, Citigroup, CSFB, Deutsche, reporting on the up- and downsides of banking, how to be a career switcher, compensation statistics, lifestyle issues, how to land an offer, etc. Complete primers on the i-banking world (how does the industry *really* work), 70-page interviewing guides, etc. etc. Truly very impressive. Kellogg has excellent statistics on offer percentages and compensation compared to other top schools. I think this is important, because you can talk about school 'fit' all you want, but at the end of the day it's the job you can get after b-school that really matters.