Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The location changing paradox: when two MBAs can be too much

Generally speaking, I think most would agree that it is easier for someone with an MBA to change job-location than it is for a non-MBA. However, for an MBA-couple it can be a lot harder to change job-location than it is for a non-MBA couple. This sounds counter intuitive but from my experience this is how it works:

Assuming a couple wants to change location (without a predefined location in mind) they would change it as soon as the first person finds a new job. The second person would follow and try to get a job at a later stage.

Now consider an MBA/non-MBA couple – in this case, it tends work like it does for a single person with an MBA. The rational approach is for the MBA-person to try to find a well paid job in a different location and as soon as he/she finds it, they move to a new location. The non-MBA-person will follow, giving up his/hers job and will try to get a job once they are in the new location. It seems to make sense to have the better-paid person leading the way and the opportunity cost of losing the non-MBA person’s salary might even be partly or fully compensated by an increase in pay of the MBA-person or in the quality of life. I’ve seen this happening many times when the couple just wants to change location or when the MBA person goes for an assignment in a different country with the same company.

But what happens with an MBA-couple? Something a little bit different. In this case, I assume both have a comparable and high salary. Following the same reasoning, they start searching and they plan on moving as soon as the first one finds a job. In a tough economy, chances are one will find it before the other does. Now add that to the fact each individual salary is high, so giving up any of the salaries implies a significant dent in the household income. Even with a pay rise of 20% for one the parties, the household dent will be significant. Depending on the risk aversion profile of the couple (and the job market dynamics of the chosen location), the opportunity cost of moving can easily be too high preventing them from moving, even if both were not fulfilled with their original jobs.

Isn’t it ironic that one MBA could make us perfectly mobile (and I posted about that before here), but if you put two MBAs together it might be the perfect combination for getting stuck in the same place?

PS: I know this is a simplification of the world and I know I’m making a few assumptions regarding differences in MBA/Non MBA salaries that are not always true. The truth is I see this happening more often than not.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The overwhelming beginning

The pace of a one year MBA can be overwhelming, especially at the beginning when most students are still trying to get used to a whole new reality. It takes time to adapt to being a full time students again, to new people, to a new country, to working in a foreign language (for most of the class, at least). On top of that you are required to start making decisions very early. Financial companies tend to recruit in October/November, which is only a little bit more than one month into the MBA. That’s why prioritising and focusing is paramount.

You’ll have plenty of readings and class preparation to do. The work load will pick up with group work, readings, and exercises. In parallel, you need to prepare your CV, cover letter and think about your application strategy. Heck, you’ll have to think what is it that you want to do after your MBA! These are a lot of things to cope with at the same time. You’ll be making friends at the same time and wanting to go to every social gathering to make the most of your new student life.
I remember feeling exhausted around this time of the year. Speaking in a different language, knowing new people, reading, working, attending classes, researching for career paths, creating CVs, having a social life at the college…a social life at the school….that all can be exhausting! But at the same time, it is a lot of fun and everyone is going through the same. The key is to enjoy it and search support in your newly made friends.

It is very intense…but that’s why you’ll get leanings, experiences and friends for life!

Monday, May 17, 2010

The right of rebuttal

After having posted about some of my dislikes of the Cambridge MBA and got a few interesting comments. In particular, when I referred to the disappointing way the alumni community is coordinated I got a comment from my dear friend and classmate Jenny Dean, currently the Executive Director of Cambridge Centre for Health Leadership & Enterprise.

She was kind enough to inform me about what’s going on at the moment to ensure a more dynamic alumni community which to some extent addresses some of my concerns. You can find below some excerpts of her comments which I found very informative:

“Although the current alumni website, does in fact include a searchable database of all CJBS alumni, it is not very well used, with most people not updating their contact information. However, in order to address this and increase the visibility and value to the network, we are on the verge of launching a new web platform called the Common Room , which will include all alumni members, as well as current students and staff. This has a great deal more functionality including all those on your blog’s wish list: There is a searchable database; you can see who is on line; contact people; join special interest and regional networking groups; post discussions and blogs including advertise jobs and events on the notice board and calendar and much much more. “ You can find the full comment here.

This is indeed very exciting news. I know many top business schools already have one of these for a long time and I truly believe everyone will benefit tremendously with such initiative. I sure will be following the developments very closely!

And thanks Jenny for letting me know!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

What I don’t like about Cambridge – Part II: Careers Team

Following my commitment to share the thoughts on the things I don’t like, I’ll continue with the negative posts. And today I’d like to talk about a very delicate issue, the careers team and its role.
In my view, the careers team should be responsible for mainly three roles:

1.Assisting current students with their career management
2.Raise Cambridge’s profile as a school and ensure as many on campus visits as possible
3.Support and tap into the alumni network

Your view on the careers team will most likely depend on your situation at the end of the MBA. Not surprisingly, people who secured a job early are mostly happy and people who are still to secure a job at the end are not so pleased with the careers team assistance. Having said that, l must tell you I was in the former group, having secured a position before ending the MBA, so I feel I’m fairly unbiased to show my general discontent.

Even before starting to comment on each of the roles I should make a general remark. During the year of 2007/2008 there were two members in the careers team. When we joined in September it was announced the school wanted to add a third person to complete the team. I don’t remember exactly when this third person was recruited but I do remember it was close to the end of the course. Yes…end of the course! I find it shocking that it takes more than 6 months to recruit someone and in the meanwhile a whole class is affected.

Obviously, if the team is small, one can’t expect miracles and I’m sure the team did its best but it is the school’s responsibility to take care of these things. Because Judge Business School is part of the University, many decisions are taken by the University and some processes can be extremely slow. Not sure if this is the reason why it took so long to have a third person.
But having a look at the three roles I mentioned, here are my thoughts:

1.Generally they did this role fairly well, organizing workshops and having at least one 1-to-1 meeting with each student. However, there were many unavailability issues and the response time was fairly slow. We were asked to submit any documents for their screening with 72h notice, to ensure enough time for review. Truth is in many occasions we got answers way after the 72h and at least one (from personal experience), I got comments on documents way beyond the deadline set by the company I was applying to.

2.This is where I think they failed the most. There are some in campus presentations, but Cambridge is clearly lagging behind the likes of LBS or Insead. The top companies generally don’t go to campus nor there is a privileged relationship with their recruitment services. In most cases, we’re simply told to check their website and apply online. I know it’s not easy to have on campus visits, but I would expect more investment in raising the school’s profile.

3.As I mentioned in my previous post, the alumni network almost doesn’t exist, which is a shame. In many occasions, there will be alumni in managerial positions in companies we want to apply to. It was always a struggle to get the careers team to find them for us and (again, using my personal experience), when they did some times the deadlines were gone. Would it be that hard to have a nice database of alumni? Whenever I get contact, I tend to try to help or give advice, and most of my colleagues do the same. So we’re willing to help, but I don’t think current students are provided with the (right) contacts in a structured way. Most of the contacts I get happen because someone knew a colleague of mine pre-MBA.
About sharing opportunities with the alumni network, I think it’s even worse. Like I said, it would be nice to have some kind of bill board where alumni could announce vacancies for current and former students.

These are my views only and may not reflect the general feeling of the class. As I said, some students were happy, other students were very unhappy. It also doesn’t mean the people in the team were not nice, it just means that in my view there was a structural problem with the career management aspect of the MBA. What I also don’t understand is the fact many of the school services were subject to a survey close to the end of the course. Unfortunately, the careers team was not. That would most likely show what was the general feeling.
As an end note, I should say the team has been enlarged ever since, so it is likely that things have improved. This view is based on the year 2007/2008 alone.

Friday, April 30, 2010

What I don’t like about Cambridge – Part I

It’s easy to praise the Cambridge MBA and to share great memories. After all it was a remarkable year spent with amazing people. However, I’m sure it’s equally useful for prospective students to hear about the things I didn’t like about it or those things that could be improved. That’s what I’ll try to do during the next few posts.

My first note regards my current status as an alumnus. While a student, I had access to many resources, many interesting people and many facilities. As an alumnus, a get close to zero from Cambridge. As I mentioned in a previous post, we don’t even get an email account that clearly identifies us as Cambridge alumni. Unlike most top B-Schools we don’t get an email account like or something equivalent. Instead we get a very basic and poor account with the domain, which let’s be honest, few people know what it stands for. This is a very simple thing that has not been solved yet.

More importantly, there is no connection amongst the alumni community. Most top B-Schools have bill boards or some kind of forum where alumni can share thoughts with other alumni, share employment opportunities and simply find business partners. Cambridge does not have any of that, which I find almost shocking. A great deal of going through business school has to do with the powerful network you’ll belong to once you’re done with your MBA. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen in Cambridge. All there is at the moment is a newsletter, a few pub nights available for the London alumni and a few series of speakers, usually also in London.

Even job opportunities are rarely shared with alumni, except for the odd job that the careers team decided to send out, which happens once or twice a year.
I guess this reflects the young age of the Cambridge MBA. However, ii believe the creation of a strong and well connected network is paramount for any MBA.

Instead, what we have seen so far in the past few years is an increase in numbers of each yearly intake of students and not so much emphasis on the alumni network.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Show me the money!

Doing an MBA is expensive and represents a big investment for most people. Not surprisingly, knowing the payback time of such an investment can be of the utmost importance. Although I already posted something about the payback time, I really didn’t elaborate too much on salaries. Yes, I know, shame on me!

The post-MBA salary is very important to understand whether this is a worthwhile investment and I get many questions on this, so it’s about time I write something about it!

If you look at the career outcome stats posted on the MBA website, you’ll see that the average salary is around £55.000. After taking the Management Science course, you’ll surely understand any average hides a lot of information, so what does this really mean and what is reasonable to expect after graduation?

Salaries after graduation will vary a lot and so will the type of packages offered. It depends mostly on industry and location. I would say the two areas paying the most are consulting and banking. In these areas, it’s possible to get offers that go from £55.000 up to £90.000, depending on the consultancy name. Top consulting companies tend to reward their employees well, but only a few students will end up landing those top jobs and in most cases you’ll end up giving up your personal and family life.

The industry pays slightly less, but again, it’s highly variable. But these are the ones around the £55.000 mark. Some slightly above, others slightly below. In some well-known companies salaries can be very competitive and be almost at the level of consulting and banking. Usually not-for-profit is around £45.000 to £60.000, depending on the role.

Of course there are other things to have into account when choosing a job, such as sign-on bonus (a common practice in the UK…really makes me feel like a football player!), performance bonuses and other perks.

In terms of region, I’m still under the impression the UK has the highest salaries, following by Germany and the US.

All and all, this means if you land the average package, you should be able to pay your MBA in around 2 years, especially if you get a nice sign-on and annual bonus.