Nurturing BSchool Connections

Joining Kellogg grew my network exponentially, and enabled me to build relationships with and learn a lot from really smart and admirable people. Fast forward to life after school though, and then comes the challenge of maintaining and nurturing these really valuable business school relationships.

The typical post-MBA job is pretty challenging, and forces MBA grads to spend their weekdays struggling to stay on top of things, and weekends recovering from the struggles of the previous week, while planning for new struggles ahead. With this tightly packed and mostly overflowing schedule, how can we find the time to nurture our existing relationships, not to mention build new ones?

I’m currently struggling through this challenge, and have been chatting with a lot of friends about it. While I still haven’t found a silver bullet, I’ve stumbled on some pretty good ideas:

1. Intentionally Plan Your Connections: This tip comes from Keith Ferrazzi, the networking guru who wrote the bestseller titled Never Eat Alone. Keith talks about creating a relationship action plan, as a way to stay on top of your relationships. His approach is pretty structured (which is not surprising as he’s an ex-consultant), and involves categorizing your network into 3 segments, and committing to an interaction frequency for each segment. Keith’s approach didn’t work very well for me, as categorizing my hundreds of friends was too cumbersome. Instead, I decided to identify the top 10 – 15 people that I really wanted to stay in touch with, and then tried to make plans for that small set of people. These plans included activities such as coffee or brunch meetups, and phone calls over the weekend, or during lunch time at work. The most important part of this tip is the PLANNING. Schedule a specific time and put it on your calendar like you would a business meeting because this stuff is actually more important in the long run.

2. Turn Facebook Time into Connecting Time: No one plans Facebook time into their day, but somehow most of us get to check Facebook an average of 14 times in a day. How does this happen? More importantly, what if we could turn that time into networking time? We all have ‘gifts of time’ during the day; examples include commute time, waiting in line for coffee, or waiting for people to show up for a meeting. In times like these, as I find myself reaching for the Facebook icon on my phone, I stop and ask myself: who can I ping right now to let them know I’m thinking about them? I try to hit at least 3 messages a week which is a super small goal, but I think this is beneficial in two ways. First, social media is already a widely accepted additive (although not a substitute) to our face to face interactions. Second, these low cost drops of pings on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media sites easily become an ocean of thoughtfulness and connection.

3. Just Do It!: This last tip seems to be in contrast with the first, but they actually work very well together. After making a networking plan, it’s really important to not stay welded to it. Don’t worry if certain people are slipping through the cracks and not being reached out to by you. Just keep reaching out and staying as connected as you can with those that are top of mind for you. The interesting part of this approach is that it helps you power through your inertia, and get started really quickly.

Any other good ideas on how to nurture business and personal connections?

How to Think about Business School Debt

I was recently catching up with a friend when he said “Wow so you’ve finally graduated. You must be in like 200k worth of debt by now correct?” While most top business school programs cost about $200,000.00, the median debt burden for a top ten school according to Poets & Quants is $88,500. This is because some students get generous scholarship awards, and others save substantial parts of their pre-MBA salaries to offset the cost of their graduate business education. While I didn’t get any scholarship money from Kellogg, I did have some meager pre-MBA savings. This meant that I definitely had to borrow “big”, but I didn’t have to borrow as much as $200,000. 🙂

Before attending business school, I spent a lot of time agonizing over business school debt, and I asked current students and alums lots of questions about it. The questions I asked, and the answers I will give today – with the benefit of hindsight – are as follows:

1. How Easy/Difficult is it to Pay Back the Loan?: I think this was the main source of my agony. What if I did this MBA and the debt burden made me financially worse off than I was before my MBA? A lot of people told me that this was not a very likely scenario, and that I’d be fine, but I wasn’t ready to take their word for it. Instead of asking you to do the same – take my word for it, I’ll provide you with a loan repayment tool. What I tried to do here was make some estimates that helps one see how much she might have to pay after business school, and how easy the payments might be to make. In using this tool, you’ll have to make some estimates about:

  • how much you’ll be borrowing,
  • your interest rate,
  • your repayment duration,
  • your post MBA salary (please don’t be too optimistic here),
  • where you’ll live after business school (and the corresponding taxes of that location)

Notwithstanding the amount of “guesstimation” involved, and the fact that I use a fixed salary for the total duration of the loan, I still think this tool can provide some valuable insight into one’s financial situation after getting that flashy but expensive MBA. From my analysis, I think that it is in most cases possible to easily pay back your loan. For example, if you want to spend no more than 20% of your monthly after-tax salary on loan repayment, and you borrow $95,000 at an interest rate of 5.5%, the only scenario where you will fail to achieve your goal is with a post-MBA salary of $80,000, and a payback period of 10 years.

loan repayment

It is important to pay close attention to the variables mentioned above, since as they get more aggressive (payment duration gets shorter, or loan amount gets larger), payment becomes more difficult. Please feel free to play around with the tool, and let me know if anything seems off.

2. Is it worth it to take on this incredible amount of debt?: This is definitely a more nuanced question. How does one decide if an amount of debt was worth it? For me it came down to this question: has the business school experience delivered what I expected it to? While my answer so far has been yes, I know that this is not the case for all of my classmates. With that in mind, I’d say that there is an element of risk associated with funding an MBA through debt. In most cases, you will get what you want from the experience, but sometimes you may not; you have to be comfortable with both outcomes.

3. Should you borrow more to go to a higher ranked school?: Now that I’m out of the business school bubble, I can tell you for a fact that the people who care the most about rankings are the students deciding to go to business school, and the business schools themselves. Most employers are satisfied with knowing that you went to a ‘top’ school. How you decide to define ‘top’ is another matter, but I won’t touch that one. My point is that going to Wharton instead of Kellogg, or Booth instead of Ross will not significantly affect your career prospects. I work with people from a bunch of different business schools right now and we’re pretty much interchangeable. That said, I think there’s something to be said about the experience of a school. I decided to attend Kellogg even though it was the only school I got into that didn’t give me any money, and the reason for my decision was the people I met during my campus visit.

4 .Should you borrow more to get a richer business school experience?: Short answer: yes, I think it’s fine to borrow for certain parts of the bschool experience, but you have to be smart about it. If you’re like most students, you can’t afford to do everything, and you will have to pay back this money sometime in the future. I’ve started my own repayment process, and I can tell you that it’s not fun. 🙂 I’ll definitely love to be using that money for something else at this point. Therefore, my advice would be to optimize for things that have lasting value to you. For me that was participating in the tech trek to San Francisco and Seattle and doing my study abroad in Madrid.

This post is longer than I’d have liked it to be. However, I hope it’s helpful in some small way to someone somewhere, asking the same questions as I was in 2012.

Image courtesy of http://www.seniorliving.org

3 Things I Wish I did Differently At Business School

Now that I’m a few months into life after graduation, I’ve had some time to reflect on my bschool experience. I feel very grateful for the opportunity to have attended a school like Kellogg as it was a truly transformational experience. However, if I had to do it all over again, I would definitely do some things differently. Before mentioning what these things are, I think it’s important to state that some of these areas of improvement are definitely unique to me – an introverted and risk averse Nigerian guy. Now that the safe harbor statement has been shared, here goes:

1. I Wish I Developed Relationships With People Not Like Me: Most of my really good business school friends turned out to be people who recruited for tech-related careers, were part of my section, or were foreign students like me. This sort of makes sense considering that like attracts like right? The downside to it is that there were so many awesome people who didn’t fit into any of these buckets that I’d really have loved to develop a relationship with. I think I was just too caught up with academics, finding a job, and delivering on my other bschool responsibilities to find the time and resources for these other relationships. In other words, I was lazy and it cost me big time.

2. I Wish I Partied More: Parties aren’t my thing and they probably will never be. I prefer quiet casual conversations in quiet settings to loud parties where I can barely hear myself. In addition, there’s usually such a huge demand on your time at bschool that most people (including me) end up doing what’s tried and tested. For me that was avoiding parties and spending time with my friends in quiet, convenient settings. If this is true, why do I wish I partied more at Kellogg? Some of the cool people I wanted to meet actually liked to party (they’re not like me remember?). Also, a wise friend once said that the magic of life usually happens outside your comfort zone. I wish I had stepped out of my anti-party comfort zone more often; who knows what magic I may have found? 🙂

3. I Wish I Took on More Extra-Curricular Responsibilities: Now to be fair, I did take on a decent amount of stuff. I was president of the Africa Business Club, logistics chair for the Kellogg Technology Conference 2014, VP communications for Catholics @ Kellogg, and an admissions committee reader for my entire time at Kellogg. The reason why I feel I could’ve taken on more is that I could fit these responsibilities into my schedule without dropping major balls. In other words, I didn’t figure out my breaking point. Maybe if I did take on more, I may have reached my breaking point. I may also have been forced to learn new time management skills in order to cope. There’s no way to confirm this hypothesis now though because I didn’t experiment.

If there’s one piece of advice I’d give to current or aspiring business school students – given my own personal experience – it would be this: do what you need to do to be successful, but once in a while, try to find the magic that lives outside your comfort zone.

Understanding MBA Employment Reports

Kellogg released its 2015 employment report on Monday. Pretty glowing report as usual but that’s not what was interesting. What I found interesting was how this report got me thinking about a similar report that I read two years ago, and the conclusions I arrived at from reading the report which were mostly wrong.

I decided to take three examples from Kellogg’s current report to clarify what I mean by wrong conclusions:

1. Median Salary: The median salary for the full time class of 2015 was $123,000.

Conclusion: I’m a smart and pretty capable guy. In my worst case scenario, I should be able to hit that median. Therefore, I can use that number as a good benchmark for projecting my post MBA earnings.

Reality: The very definition of a median suggests that about 50% of the class earned less than $123,000. Furthermore, breaking this number apart by industry will reveal very wide variations in salary, with consulting and investment banking coming out at the top end of the range . If you’re not looking to get into any of these two industries, you may want to adjust your projections accordingly.

2. Industries by percentage: 35% of the full time class of 2015 went into the consulting industry.

Conclusion: If Kellogg has 35% of the class going into consulting, and Darden has 15% (made up number), and I want to go into consulting, I should go to Kellogg.

Reality: A significant number of Kellogg students who came from consulting – and are returning to consulting after graduation – make up a big part of that 35%. Also, while consulting firms usually have ‘target’ schools, they don’t come to schools seeking a specific quota. They interview as many people as they can find, and pick who they want. Therefore, if you go to pretty much any top business school, and do your homework, you will probably be able to interview with the top consulting firms. To be fair, the quality of consulting interview prep does vary across schools, but for the most part, getting that job is more about you, and less about your school’s ranking.

3. School Facilitated Offers: 80% of offers were school facilitated.

Conclusion: Once I get into Kellogg, all the recruiters at these big companies are going to beat a path to my door.

Reality: Recruiters do beat a path to your door in the first quarter when you attend a top business school like Kellogg, and it is such a flattering experience! In the second quarter though, when recruiting starts, some of these same firms that seemed to want you at all costs may drop you like a hot potato. Be prepared.

Even though I misinterpreted a decent amount of stats, I still ended up attending a school that I loved and would gladly attend again given the chance. I don’t know if others were as lucky, but my hope is that aspiring business school students take the time to actually understand the data they use to inform the process of picking their dream school.

Final Quarter (Spring) Courses

Oh Spring quarter! The final lap of the bschool experience. When you realize it’s all coming to an abrupt end, you can do one of two things: have your final course binge in order to maximize the value of your tuition and/or complete the requirements of your desired major, or take things really easy with respect to academics so you can take the rest of the experience in. Guess what I did? I chilled!

I decided to take a few classes for two main reasons. The first was that I wanted to have time to connect with my classmates before we scattered to different parts of the globe, and to plan my wedding (yes I did do some of the planning 🙂 ). The second was that I wanted to have a lot of time to dive deep into my finance classes. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I didn’t enjoy Fin D because I didn’t have enough time to work through the cases in depth, and I didn’t want to feel that way with the final finance classes I was taking at Kellogg. With the benefit of hindsight, I’m glad I took 3 credits in my final quarter. The classes that I took are as follows:

1. Entrepreneurial Finance & Venture Capital: I really enjoyed this course. It focused on the venture capital industry, an industry that I continue to be fascinated by. Through this course I was able to understand key industry terminologies like pre-money, post-money, and the various types of investment vehicles available to early stage investors. I was also able to debate with my classmates about the future prospects and possible valuations of a wide variety of businesses from biotech to enterprise software. These conversations were the best part of the class. We also had a few visiting entrepreneurs and VC speakers which was cool.

2. Financial Modeling For Leveraged Buyout Transactions (LBOs): I took this 5-week class because of the professor. Chirag Saraiya is a professor at Kellogg and a partner at Training The Street, a training outfit that teaches financial modeling and Excel skills to some of the most reputable banks and consulting firms in the world. I encountered Chirag and his amazing teaching style during one of his weekend workshops at Kellogg focused on financial modeling, and decided to take his class, even though I knew I wouldn’t be doing any LBO transactions anytime soon. What I really liked about his class is that he uses a lot of real-world examples, and tells us how finance-related stuff (like calculating WACC) plays out in the real world. I’ll definitely recommend this class for anyone interested in real-world corporate finance, or kick-ass Excel modeling skills.

3. Healthcare Information Technology: I decided to take some ‘random’ classes during my final quarter at Kellogg. By random I mean classes that had nothing to do with my primary interests: marketing, finance and technology. This turned out to be one of those classes, and I can’t say it went very well. It was a 5-week class so it wasn’t too bad. While we were talking about healthcare IT which is a hot topic, we ended up spending too much time on healthcare and not enough time on technology. With the right balance of both, it could be a pretty cool class.

4. Healthcare Quality: This was the other random 5-week class I took, and I didn’t enjoy it at all. Maybe it was too far from my comfort zone. We talked a lot about how hospitals measure quality and other similar but overall it was just a bad fit for me. Wouldn’t recommend.

5. Entrepreneurship: Building Innovation, Teams and Cultures: This one was good; really good. Think entrepreneurship meets technology meets organizational behavior. The professor, Mark Achler is one of the coolest people I’ve ever met. He’s incredibly accomplished and yet so humble, and he has this vast network of entrepreneurs that he willingly shared with us. This was also a 5-week class, and every week the professor brought in a past or current CEO to chat with us about topics around corporate culture, bootstrapping a business, and other inspiring topics. The best speaker in my mind was the former CEO of Redbox. He had an incredible life story that left some of my classmates in tears. Definitely recommend!

Overall, a great quarter, and a good end to my academic experience at business school. Unless I have some sort of mid-life crisis (which is a distinct possibility), this is the end of formal classroom learning for me! 😀

Guess Who’s Back?

Hello hello! I’m back! … and really sorry for “abandoning my blog” as a friend of mine put it a few weeks ago. While I really can’t say I had any good reasons for doing so, a few things happened in my life between the months of June and September that required my attention:

  1. I graduated from Kellogg on June 19: This was an unreal, bitter-sweet experience. I got to meet my friends’ families and to share in their pride and joy. There was also a decent amount of partying and some emotional goodbyes, or should I say ’till we meet agains’.
  2. I got married on July 18: I usually don’t blog about my personal life (who wants to read such boring stuff anyways…) but on July 18, in Lagos Nigeria, I did marry my friend of 10 years, and girlfriend of 3. The ceremonies were colorful and fun filled, and I was truly overwhelmed by the generosity of both our families as they supported us throughout the festivities.
  3. I moved to Aberdeen, Scotland on July 31: My wife used to work here so after the wedding we both went to Scotland. She notified her employer of her intention to move with me to Seattle, and I spent a decent amount of time living the life of a ‘kept husband’ i.e. living in her apartment, eating her food, and shopping with her credit cards. In my defense, I was really broke so it couldn’t be helped.
  4. I relocated to Seattle, Washington on September 14: A long trip for sure, but as always good to be back to the USA. Better yet, with my wife here with me, I no longer have to spend so much time on FaceTime and Skype. I honestly can’t remember the last time I used those apps…
  5. I resumed full time @ Microsoft on September 21: Definitely excited to be back full time, and still taking time to ramp up and get plugged in, but my impression over the past few weeks is that I’m really going to like it here.

So now that the whirlwind is (kind of) over, what’s going to happen to my blog? I’m not gonna lie; deciding to come back to blogging was hard. There’s so many new priorities in my life (spouse and job come to mind) pulling in many different directions that it’ll honestly be easier to just wrap this up and free up my time for other things. What convinced me to go on was me taking the time to click around on this blog and go through the pieces of content that I’d created over the past 3 years. While I haven’t blogged as frequently I’d have liked, it’s definitely been an amazing ride, and even I was able to learn something from re-reading some of my earlier posts (I’ll be resharing on social media pretty soon). With that in mind, the plan is to continue blogging; mostly about management, leadership and inspirational topics, but with a little technology thrown in here and there. Thanks for the support so far, and please stay tuned. 🙂

The Best Part of Studying Abroad

I spent the first 3 months of this year at IE Business School in Madrid, Spain, and this was definitely one of the best parts of my Kellogg experience. Without counting the fact that I escaped the Chicago winter (which turned out to be much better than expected), I can think of three main reasons why studying abroad rocked:

 1. I Missed My Friends: I’ve made some really good friends at Kellogg; friends that I can depend on for counsel, and when I’m in trouble. Over the winter quarter, it was really difficult to make out time to connect with my Kellogg buddies as most of us were in different time zones in different parts of the world. To make things more interesting, we were also engaged in preparing first years for internship recruiting, which takes a lot of time. In the end, I didn’t speak much with my friends over a period of 3 months, and this was a good thing because unlike graduation (which is really close by!), studying abroad gives you the opportunity to miss your friends, and then reconnect with them when you return to school for your final quarter.

2. I Gorged Myself on the “Candy” of Europe: Any self respecting history buff knows that he/she needs to visit Europe at least once during his/her lifetime right? Before this year, I had only been to the UK a few times, but that was really it. My study abroad was my first real trip to Europe and it was aMAzIng! It’s really difficult to put into words what it felt like to experience historic sites like the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basillica in Rome, or Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin. I really soaked in all the history and got challenged to learn even more about this complex and wonderful world that we live in.

3. I Did some Personal Development: My two years in business school have been a period of tremendous personal and professional growth. However, something I’ve always struggled with is the issue of volume. There’s so much good material and information coming at you all the time that it’s really difficult to digest anything. You just have to take the little you can quickly assimilate and move on to what’s next. The good thing about studying abroad was that I didn’t have this problem. I took very few classes, and I wasn’t involved in as many extracurricular activities as I usually am at Kellogg. This meant that I had the free time I needed to travel and to work on finance related topics that I felt I hadn’t fully digested at Kellogg. I’m really grateful that I got the chance to do this, and I’m already reaping the benefits in the finance classes that I’m taking this quarter.

I’d like to end this post with some thoughts around cost. When I told some friends (within and outside business school) that I was studying abroad, I usually got a lot of questions around how I could afford it. The truth of the matter is that I couldn’t. I will be graduating from Kellogg in a few weeks’ time with a decent amount of student loans, which will take me some time to fully pay off. Notwithstanding, I still think that it makes a lot of sense to incur certain expenses like traveling before one can actually afford them. My reasoning is this: if you graduate from a decent business school, it is certain that you’ll someday be able to afford these expenses. The challenge is that when you do get the funds you need, you may no longer have the time to embark on that trip or experience that you desire. Work commitments, family obligations, something usually ends up getting in the way. It took me a while to accept this, but this is how I managed to convince myself that it makes sense for broke old me to take time out and see the world. 🙂