I want to start the book with my decision to go to business school. Throughout the book you will learn more and more about me and my background and were I’ve come from. This will help add context to the overarching theme.
In the spring of 2009, I decided to go to business school. I was talking to a friend named Cassandra when I was working at Bloomingdales.com and she saw in me ambition that I’ve always known was there. At that point in my life I had just started a new job and thought that the luxury retail industry was one that I would want to stay in for the rest of my life. I mean, I loved to shop and I loved being in the digital space – so working for Bloomingdales.com was a great fit for me, or so I thought.
Cassandra, who did not have an MBA, suggested that I look into Luxury Retail Management program at ESSEC in France that is done in conjunction with Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey (LVMH). I remember going home that day and starting to research the program and what the criteria was for getting accepted. This was the beginning of the snowball effect. I went to work everyday looking at the senior management and asking myself, “How do I get there?” Even though they didn’t have MBA degrees, most of them had spent their entire careers in the retail industry. I knew that in order to compete I needed to quickly learn what they knew. I also evaluated my prospects at work and soon realized after 6 months of being there, that the opportunity for me to move from Bloomingdales.com marketing (the online marketing group) into say, Buying or
Merchandising was a far fetch. Surely, I had colleagues on the marketing team who had done it before, but they had been there for a couple years prior to me starting.
So I concluded that looking into this MBA program at ESSEC was a good idea. I signed up to receive information on their website from the school and became obsessed. There was not a day that went by that I wasn’t on the ESSEC website trying to learn as much about the program as possible. This led me to simply start asking more questions about business school in general. I went on all of the message boards and started asking questions about the program at ESSEC. As you will learn quickly about me, I’m a very social person (a WOOer – as I found out in B-school) and I am passionate about the digital space so for me to start my journey online is not surprising. Anyway, on those message boards I came across a lot of posts from people talking about schools in the United States.
At that time I thought I wanted to go back to NYC after graduation so I looked to see if ESSEC had an exchange program with either Columbia or NYU Stern. To my surprise they did have an exchange program with NYU Stern and then that fueled my desire to go to ESSEC even further. I figured I would go to school in France, learn French and learn about Luxury industry. Then I would go on exchange to NYU Stern and would begin to re-make my mark in NYC.
For a while, that was my plan and I was going to do everything in my power to make sure that it happened. Every single day, I would be on the ESSEC and NYU Stern website trying to garner any new information that I could. I was fanatical. Then I was talking with two of my friends who are a part of the NYU Stern Langone program (Part- time program) about the business school experience. One of them said to me that I should think about going to school NYC instead. I honestly wasn’t receptive to that because I was hell bent on going to ESSEC. I then conceded and remembered that they were currently doing something that I was not and that they have more experience than I have, so maybe I should look in to it.
The first thing I did was look to see if there were any opportunities for students at NYU Stern to go on exchange to ESSEC, so basically the inverse of what my plans initially were. I found out that the opportunity was there. So I went back to the message boards to basically gauge people’s thoughts and opinions on both options. I was led to believe that for me, given where I wanted to end up – Back in NYC, it would be best for me to go to NYU Stern and then do an exchange abroad in France.
I then realized that going that latter route may be the best for me. I mean it made a lot of sense in that yeah, I’d be able to recruit in NYC while going to school and then I could go off and have an amazing time in France for a semester. Little did I know that this switch in my train of thought would change my life. It was at that point that I then started researching business schools not only in NYC but also everywhere in the United States. Of course the first place I went to was the rankings. I needed to have a benchmark as to which schools I should be targeting. I knew of Columbia and NYU Stern because they were in NYC. I knew of Duke because I had a friend who was applying there. I knew of Harvard Business School because, well, it’s Harvard Business School. I knew of Stanford Graduate School of Business because like I said, I’m very into the tech world and I know that many techies out in the Bay Area went to Stanford GSB.
Other than those schools I was unaware (with the exception of Rutgers University MBA because it’s my alma mater) which schools were deemed to be the best. I of course went to US News and BusinessWeek (Poets & Quants) was not around yet, but more about that later. I honestly don’t remember what the rankings said back in 2009 but I at least knew the names of the top 20 schools that I should research. Yeah Yeah, I know that the Top 20 schools in one publication isn’t the same as the other publication but that’s not my point. My point is that I had an idea of where to start.
Like many people, for me I needed to know what it took to get into these schools. I kept seeing reference to a test called the GMAT among other things such as GPA, Recommendation letters, Essays, etc etc. Then I started researching the GMAT. Now to give some context into the time period that this occurred in – I started researching the GMAT in the beginning of the summer of 2009. I hadn’t bought any GMAT books just yet but instead I was reading the books that assist people in applying to business school – similar to this one, but not as good as this one OBVIOUSLY! So between the summer of 2009 and winter of 2009 I did a lot of things to fully immerse myself in the business school admissions process. Remember, I knew that there had to be a reason that seemingly great applicants were being rejected from schools. I took that as a hint that I could break through the clutter and figure out how a candidate such as myself could be admitted.
1. I enrolled in NYU School of Continuing Professional Studies to get a certificate in Digital Media Marketing. The reason why I did this was two-fold. One reason is that Bloomingdales.com would reimburse me as long as it pertained to my job, oh which it did. The second reason is that I figured that by taking the course it would show the Admissions committee that I was intellectually curious and can work towards bettering myself my professional environment. By the time that I started my business school blog in the beginning of 2010, I had completed 3 of the 5 required classes that I had to take. I started taking the classes in June of 2009. I knew that I had to have the certificate finished by the summer of 2010 in order to be ready for the business school application season for a 2011 matriculation.
2. Another thing that I did before January of 2010 was enrolled in a basic Algebra class also at NYU SCPS. I was in the beginning stages of preparing for the GMAT but I wanted to make sure that I remembered EVERY basic thing about Algebra that I could. I was preparing to take a Manhattan GMAT course in January so I had to have the Algebra class finished by December. That timing wasn’t that bad because as I said before, I hadn’t really started doing anything regarding applications and I just wanted to start preparing my brain for what was about to come...or rather, for what I thought was about to come. It definitely got worse!
3. I also became a very active member of BeatTheGMAT.com. I know that there is also GMATClub.com which I frequented sometimes, but being in the digital industry and understanding how aesthetics can cultivate a certain type of environment around a community, I took to BeatTheGMAT more so than GMATClub – at least during the preparation stages. This definitely changed for me when it was time to wait for admissions decisions.
4. I attended a joint MBA info session at the Credit Suisse building in NYC. I believe it was Kellogg, Harvard, and Columbia that were the schools presenting. I also attended a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT) reception at NYU Stern. It was a great
time for me to meet not only LGBT current students who went to Stern but also other LGBT applicants. The last event that I attended during this time in 2009 was a NYU Stern Marketing Symposium event. It was an event for current student, but prospective students were invited as well. Throughout my time visiting these events I didn’t really feel as though these people were my competition per se because I know that I started the process really early and wasn’t even applying in the same round that they were applying. I was able to meet some people and become good friends with a couple of them. Not everyone whom I met at those events ended up applying that year or even the year after, but some became my really good friends whom I still talk to today even after we’ve graduated.
5. I used the MBA Podcaster podcasts from iTunes as a way for me to “study” the process no matter where I was. Living in NYC afforded me a lot of time to have my headphones in, whether it be walking on the street or even at work. I was able to listen to over 100 podcasts. Again, the reason was I knew that there was something more to this application process and I had to figure it out. In order to do that I had to get beyond the stock knowledge that everyone else had. I was usually taking notes while listening to these podcasts because I didn’t want to forget any of the information that I was taking in. I can’t seem to find where I placed that notebook but I’m sure it’s around here somewhere. Fortunately for you reading this book, the keys to success that I’ve learned from the beginning of the process through graduation are in this book!