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April 30, 2012

Q&A with a Member of the Stanford GSB MBA Class of 2013

In this post, my former client, a member of Stanford GSB’s Class of 2013,  provides great answers to my questions about his first year in the MBA program. GSBEngineer worked as an engineer in a technology company prior to business school for a few years. He has an advanced degree in computer engineering. He is interested in the technology sector investment and also looking into start-up ideas. 

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

GSBEngineer: The school emphasizes leadership and I greatly enjoyed honing my soft skills during the first quarter. To be honest, most students can learn basic finance/accounting/etc. on their own but the opportunity to listen to my peers' feedback is priceless, from how to structure an argument to how to build a productive team to how fast should I speak in front of a crowd. 

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

GSBEngineer: I really loved the rich resources that are available to us thanks to a small and close-knit class. On a per student basis, faculty and staff are really easy to get access to. More importantly, students can always talk to all the company reps easily during on campus recruiting, without getting stressed out at all because people's interests are so diversified. For those who are interested in the traditional banking/consulting jobs, there are plenty of opportunities to have one-one info interviews. 
With the Exclusive Academic Period (EAP) in place (See here http://www.stanford.edu/group/mba/blog/2011/11/the_end_of_eap_the_beginning_o.html for an extended discussion), we were isolated from the recruiting noises for the first six weeks of the program so that we could focus on bonding with classmates and getting used to be back at school. I did feel a bit overwhelmed when EAP ended. Among classes, extracurricular and recruiting events, it wasn't easy to balance everything. I'd suggest thinking about what you want to do early and focus on those things most relevant to you. 

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

1) How accomplished and special everyone is. I shared a room with a professional poker player during our pre-MBA trip to South America. As young as he is, I didn't know he just won over 2 million dollars earlier that year. 
2) The schedule can be fairly intense, especially the first quarter. Be ready to give up some sleep and to study. 

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

GSBEngineer: Yup. I am part of one career oriented club and one diversity club. It really depends on how one chooses to spend his/her time. Some classmates are very actively pursuing their startup ideas so they choose classes on certain days of the week and will spend most free time working with their start-up co-founders. Some choose to be engaged in clubs and the student association.I am helping a local nonprofit as a board fellow. It is a great experience to sit in the board meeting and help them solve issues.

Adam: Are there any common characteristics you find amongst your classmates?

GSBEngineer: I think a key ingredient that makes an MBA program unique is the diverse student body. It probably shows more at Stanford. We do have finance and consulting types but percentage wise, many are also from non-profit, tech, pharmaceutical, etc. It makes classroom discussion very interesting.
Also a large percentage of my classmates are self-sourcing their internships (VC/PE firms and hedge funds, start-ups, etc.). I want to point it out because if you want to be in finance, Stanford has a very strong network of alumni in this area. And they answer our phone calls.

Adam: What are hot topics, activities, classes, etc. at Stanford GSB?

GSBEngineer: Tons of opportunities to attend start-up/VC events. Getting to know the founders or speak w/ the VCs. Cross pollination is happening across departments everyday. Sand Hill Road. is right here. It doesn't get any better. We don't have GSB classes on Wednesday. One highlight of the first year is probably the Vegas FOAM (Friends of Arjay Miller). Two classes fly over on a Tuesday evening after winter quarter midterm) to Vegas in 70s costumes, hang out at one of the clubs (@Pure this year) all night long and then fly back the second day. It sounds and is crazy but is awesome. 
C4C, a charity event with many other MBA programs, just finished. GSB show, an event where students will reveal their great performing talents on stage, is coming! Being close to Tahoe is a great advantage to skiers. Many classmates had weekend trips during the winter.
BTW,  $25 for playing on Stanford’s golf course is a steal!

Adam: What advice do you have for those considering application to Stanford?

GSBEngineer: Be truthful to yourself. Really sit back and reflect on how and why you made the choices you made along your career/school/etc. I believe that is what makes you stand out. Then write your essay.
Definitely visit us, sit in a class and have lunch with current students. You will know how each school is different. 

Adam: Anything else you would like to tell us?

GSBEngineer: if you get in, try to join the unofficial pre-MBA trip to Colombia. This is purely personal choice. Some people prefer other smaller pre-MBA trips. And because it is unofficial, there is not pressure to go if you cannot make it.
I like it because it is not easy to get 120 people, who have never met each other before, to show up in Cartagena on the same day. There is no agenda to visit businesses, no classes, no recruiting, just relax and having fun. I met my schwab roommate on the trip. Personally it also made remembering names a lot easier once school starts (I am not good at names).  

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

-Adam Markus

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. 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. 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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