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April 06, 2012

Q&A with a Member of the Ross MBA Class of 2013

My former client, Ross2013, is a Japanese American. After working in Tokyo for a global software company in the video game industry for 6 years as an engineer, he joined the MBA program at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business in August 2011.

Adam: To what extent do you think the school’s mission statement has impacted what you learned at the school so far?

Ross2013: I think that the mantra of leading in thought in action is prevalent everywhere at Ross. The obvious place to highlight how this has impacted my learning experience is MAP. As you already know, MAP is the flagship program at Ross where first year MBA’s venture out all over the world to engage with real clients to solve real business problems. I am currently at the midpoint of my MAP, and the experiences where I am able to apply knowledge acquired from my core classes to an actual problem have been truly invaluable. I also believe that MAP reinforces the value our school places on strong teamwork. The adrenaline rushes you get from real projects are much greater than those you get from group work in classes. Sharing such an intense experience with my MAP team has helped foster life-long relationships.
Aside from the cliché answer about MAP, I also think that the professors do a good job of enforcing both thought and action in a classroom setting. For example, I was initially expecting my core statistics class (OMS 502) to be a traditional lecture style course where you simply solved assigned math problems. However, the professor did an excellent job of keeping the students engaged by encouraging us to lead in thought in action. For example, the professor would request different student volunteers to walk through a problem on the whiteboard and explain how they solved that problem on front of the class. By reinforcing the mantra of leading in thought and action in such situations, our student community is groomed to embrace the said mantra as a part of our culture both inside and outside of the classroom. An example of this is how thought leaders in my section took the initiative to organize pre-exam study sessions and did an excellent job of helping every member in the section understand key concepts to do well on the final exams.

Adam: You really do speak highly of MAP. Can you talk a little bit more about your project?

Ross 2013: Our team is working for a global player in the pet food industry, and we are tasked to help the client increase their speed to market for new products launches. At first I didn’t have much of an interest in Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG), but I’ve been pleasantly surprised that the pet food industry differs from traditional CPG, mostly because of the consumers’ strong emotional attachment to their pets. In other words, a typical consumer might not care much about what kind of toothpaste to use but would tend to be very passionate about the food his or her pet eats. I’ve found it to be intriguing to work on this project of this passionate consumer base.
Aside from the industry, the project itself has also been a lot of fun. We visited the client’s corporate headquarters for the first week of the project, and this was also followed by visits to regional offices in Canada and the Czech Republic. We are currently in our third week of the project and are scheduled to deliver our midpoint presentation in a few days to share our learnings to date as well as to provide initial recommendations. The final presentation will be delivered on-site at the client’s corporate headquarters on the last week of the project. I wish I could go into more details, but unfortunately I’m bound by a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Nevertheless, the experience so far has exceeded expectations on all fronts.

Adam: What parts of the program have you liked the most? The least?

Ross2013: If I were to highlight my favorite aspect of the program, it would definitely have to be MAP. This obviously is a huge selling point for Ross, and we have a solid program in place built on decades of success. From the students’ perspectives, this leads to a plethora of interesting projects to work on for many interesting organizations. I would expect that such an organized program would be extremely difficult for other schools to replicate at scale. Seriously, MAP is really that awesome!!
You might find this hard to believe but I’ve genuinely been satisfied by all parts of the program. It really is difficult for me to call out an aspect of the program that I did not like. A common theme I hear from some of my classmates is that some core classes are not interesting. I suspect this may be the case for students who already have applicable work experience or previous exposure to the subject as a BBA or Economics Major. Since I had a relatively limited business background prior to Ross, I personally was able to learn something new from all of my core classes and found every single one of them to be interesting in their own way.

Adam: What has most surprised you about your first year?

Ross2013: I would say that the intensity of the recruiting process has been the most surprising part of my experience here. The recruiting process literally starts within a month of the first day of school, and the process continues to accelerate very quickly through the academic year. I think an overwhelming majority of my classmates would agree that recruiting is the most nerve-racking aspect of business school. Having said this, career services at Ross is superb and the on-campus recruiting process is extremely well organized.
Going back to your previous question about my least favorite part of our program, I am inclined to call out a very specific part of the recruiting process. At times I was somewhat frustrated with how career services managed the mismatch between supply and demand for private recruiting events. For example, when a popular employer offered slots for office hours to privately meet with students, the process was set up in a first come first serve basis where the registration window was open for less than a minute before all slots were filled up.

Adam: How would you describe the culture of the business school?

Ross2013: Collaborative! I am well aware that almost all business schools emphasize this because business really is about bringing great minds together to generate new innovative ideas. I urge your readers (and particularly the Japanese applicants) to take the time to visit not only Ross but other schools to get a better feel for the cultural differences of each school. My perception of Ross greatly changed in a positive way after I visited a year ago as an applicant, and that visit is what drove my choose Ross over my other options. At the end of the day, your satisfaction level in business school is going to be highly dependent on whether you like your classmates which is nothing but subjective.
Also, I truly think that the Ann Arbor locale contributes the interpersonal dynamics of our student body. Ann Arbor offers a nice college town atmosphere where students come from all over the world eager to network with their new classmates. There really isn’t an existing network where local Arborites mingle - this allows everyone to start off on a level playing field and foster new friendships outside of the classroom.

Adam: Do you actually have any time for clubs? If so, which ones are you active in?

Ross2013: I participate in professional clubs including the Consulting Club and the Technology Club. I am also involved in the Japan Business Association and Soccer Club. I would like to highlight that the Ross Soccer Club participates in the MBA tournaments hosted at UCLA and UT Austin, both of which I had the privilege to play in. Our team brought the championship trophy home from the UCLA tournament, so hopefully this indicates that we have a pretty darn good team despite the cold and snowy winters that may not be suited for soccer.

I want to thank Ross2013 for taking the time to answer my questions.

-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス
I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form, which is publicly available on Google Docs here, and then send your completed form to adammarkus@gmail.com.  You can also send me your resume if it is convenient for you.  Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. See here for why. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.

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