2012 London Business School Masters in Management Q&A with Lisa Mortini and Daniel Lay

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Linda Abraham: Hello. My name is Linda Abraham. I am the founder of Accepted.com and the moderator of today’s Q&A. First I want to welcome all applicants to the Q&A today, and I want to congratulate you for taking the time to learn more about London Business School’s MiM program. It is critical to your decision making process and your admission chances that you know as much as you can about the schools you are applying to. Being here today allows you to ask experts about this top business school.

I also want to give a special welcome to Lisa Mortini, Recruitment & Admissions Manager, and Daniel Lay, Career Services Recruiter Lead for London Business School’s Masters in Management. Also joining us are two MiM 2012 Student Ambassadors, Elisabeth Philipse and Prateik Pothuneedi. 

Elisabeth grew up in Amsterdam, and completed her undergraduate studies of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the University of Oxford, UK. Interested in consulting, she wanted to increase her business knowledge and skills by doing the Masters in Management at the London Business School. She is also involved in extra-curricular activities, such as the women’s touch rugby club. 

Prateik is from India, and is currently focusing on Consulting and Industry at London Business School. Prior to joining the Masters in Management program, he received his degree in Computer Science Engineering at BITS Pilani, India. Prateik’s love of "change" has prompted him to travel extensively across Asia, Europe, and North America, in addition to talking with people from diverse backgrounds and trying to understand what matters most to them. 

Thanks to everyone for joining. I’ll start by asking – what’s new at London Business School’s MiM program?

Lisa Mortini: Quite a lot actually. I imagine that a lot of you have already done your research and you’ve read what we are all about on our website. You may have already spoken to some students. But there are a few things that we put in place in the program this year that are quite new, and the program is still fairly young. We are only in our third year of classes, and already we’ve made vast changes. One of them is that we have a new course that is going to actually take place in our third term this year, which focuses on entrepreneurship. Our students will really consolidate everything that they’ve learned throughout the year to actually start developing new ideas and start developing their own ventures. So they’ll really be putting that into practice and they have an exercise where they will have to showcase that. That will be very exciting and it is the first time we are going to be running the course on the program. 

Last year we actually had a new development as well and we added a more international dimension to the program. We’re starting to send a selected group of students on a Field Trip, and the idea was to exchange with really interesting business schools in Europe, offering similar programs to ours. Our students last year went to IE Business School in Madrid. This year they are going back to IE Business School, but they will also be going to the Stockholm School of Economics. So it is quite exciting and the students will have the opportunity to get another view on business and see how other people in other countries think about business issues and look at business cases.

Daniel Lay: I would say that we are probably seeing more of a shift in terms of career choices, away from the typical business school career paths in terms of consulting and finance. They are definitely still there, but we are seeing much more of an interest in technology, another newer sector for us. In that space, we had an Industry Careers Fair last week which was a big success. We are seeing more movement into that space. Maybe there will be some questions around careers into finance particularly. With the market taking a bit of a hit there lately, we are seeing people open their eyes to alternative careers.

Linda Abraham: When tech companies come calling for MiM graduates, what functions are they looking for typically?

Daniel Lay: It’s still in a lot of commercial roles. Really across the board; marketing, sales, general management programs – if they have – in some of the bigger firms, but also strategy roles as well. So we’ve seen a lot of interest from the likes of Google and Facebook to the program. That has been new and exciting and refreshing, just outside of our typical. I think we have been associated more with finance and consulting, so it’s been a really interesting space for us to start working in.

Elisabeth Philipse: What is new compared to last year is that we had a team building kind of day this year which was really fun. We got into our study groups. For the people that know anything about the course, you have study groups in which you work together on several projects. So it would be a group of about five people or so. We had a day where we went out somewhere and they made us do all sorts of team building exercises, like a treasure hunt or solving problems or standing on high polls. And that was really fun, and I felt that it was also really helpful to create a good atmosphere in the team.

Prateik Pothuneedi: I just want to point out that I’m really excited about the Business Immersion week which is coming up next week. And I’ll be visiting a few consulting firms so I’m really excited about that. I’m also visiting the European Banks Reconstruction Development (EBRD), so that is something I’m really excited about.

Linda Abraham: I want to get a sense of where the applicants are in the process. How many of you have already decided that you are going to apply to LBS’s MiM program, or have already applied? Okay. About 70% of the people here are sure they want to apply and are looking for more information that will enhance their applications or chances of acceptance. And the remaining 30% are obviously doing research. They have not yet decided. 

Let’s get to the questions. Jagadeeswara asks, "What is the difference between the MBA and the MiM?"

Lisa Mortini: That is a very valid question, and a lot of students actually ask themselves that question. It is absolutely a good question to start thinking about when you start looking at furthering your education and also at your career path. There are very big differences, but I would start by talking about the things that are common between the two programs. What is common is that some of the topics that we cover in the MiM are very similar to the topics that are covered in the first year of the MBA because they are core courses on finance, macroeconomics, and leadership. And these things are the basis of management and they are topics that are covered on the MBA. 

Another similar point is that if you do your MBA here at the school, you have access to the school community, the school network, and the clubs and events and activities. So you share this across the board with students from other programs, and it might be at a slightly different level, but you have a similar experience of a business school. 

The main difference really is that for students who apply to the MiM program, they do so at a very different level in their career. There will be students who just graduated from their undergraduate or are about to graduate from their undergraduate studies. And they are really looking to feel more confident, to find the right career path, to change a degree that maybe was a degree in liberal arts like history or philosophy and turn that into a business degree and do a conversion. So they come from different backgrounds, but what they have in common is that they are recent graduates that are looking for a course that is going to help them get in the door of businesses and get their foot in the door of these companies that they have an interest in. So they are much earlier on in their careers. For most of the MBA students at our school, the average is actually about 5 ½ - 6 years of work experience, so they are at a different stage in their career. 

All students are also in different situations in terms of where they see themselves going. A lot of our students will be very determined on a career path, and they know they want to do this course to get there and have the right connections. But a lot of them also won’t know exactly what they want to do, and so they think, which is quite right, that through doing this course they will get access to a lot of opportunities and they will learn about new careers that they haven’t thought about before. MBAs are already in their career; they are more aware of these things. What they are looking for is generally a change of career. They’d like to convert 4-5-6 years of work experience into a new career. So they are doing the programs for different reasons.

Prateik Pothuneedi: One of the major differences is that obviously the MBA program is much longer than the MiM program. It is a three-year program, and they could do an internship and they have a much longer exchange period. But I think at this point it is worthwhile to understand that there is a high level of interaction between the MiMs and the MBA students. In fact, in the clubs we see that the MiMs and the MBA students have pretty much equal standing, and there is a lot of interaction. And the MiM students do get to learn a lot from the MBA students who tend to be a little bit more experienced.

Lisa Mortini: Where the students go afterwards is also very different. Our students, once they graduate from the MiM, will be looking at entry level - graduate schemes, whereas MBA students will be at a slightly higher level in their career and looking for slightly different jobs.

Daniel Lay: Absolutely. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. If we were to take an investment bank or a financial institution, the MiM students will be going in at the analyst level, whereas an MBA student would be going in at the associate level. Our MiM students will be competing still against undergraduate students. So they are going into those graduate programs with that same level of student. But what we hope is that the MiM does give them an added advantage when it comes to the application stage and the interview stage in the schools, with all that they developed through the course and through the Professional Development Program that they get as part of their MiM program. So the entry points are different for the MBA. Think along the lines of graduate level entry point, as opposed to associate program.

Linda Abraham: Giacomo asks, "I’ll be able to finish my application only in late March. Does this mean the selecting process becomes tougher for me?" Is it disadvantageous to submit an application later in the application cycle?

Lisa Mortini: I would answer that by saying yes and no. I am saying yes because in it can be a slight disadvantage, because obviously the later we are in the admissions cycle, the more people have already been selected into the class, which means that there are less places. It also means that if there are people in the class that have a similar profile to you, that might be at your disadvantage. On the other hand, we much prefer to see applications that are really interesting and extremely complete. We like to see that someone has taken the time to prepare for the GMAT and got a good score, they thought about the essays, and chose the right referees. It is quite important that the application is complete and to a high standard. We do get quite a few applications that are not complete, and these are put on hold anyway. So it’s not a question of applying early, it’s a question of applying well. Apply when you are ready and you’ve put your application to the highest standard.

Linda Abraham: I think that is actually the answer to a difficult question. This is the cost-benefit analysis of rushing an application and putting in something sub-standard. The benefit is not there if you compare it.

Lisa Mortini: And there will be space in the class until the end of the admissions cycle if you do put in a good application. You’ll have as good a chance as anyone.

Linda Abraham: Robert asks, "How many students in the MiM program are from the US? And in terms of geography, where do most US students end up for jobs after graduation?"

Lisa Mortini: Generally 10-11% of the class is from the US/Canada.

Daniel Lay: On the job side of things, we do tend to see that most students, regardless of their geography, wish to try to stay in the UK. It’s not always possible just mainly because of the competition, and also there is an issue around work visas. We have had a couple of US students return back to the US over the last two years. So it does happen. And obviously they’ve already got the right to work so they’ve got no problems on that issue. It makes perfect sense, but I think people do like to experience London and kick off a career here or in Europe, so that is where we tend to see most people focus their efforts. 

We do try to get students to keep an open mind and a look at where they would be competitive globally, because we do have a global reach. We have alumni spread globally. The MiM program still being relatively young, we are still working on building that side of the alumni community. But as that develops and has more of a global reach, I think we will see more people look at that as a first step. For the moment, people coming to study at LBS, I think, ideally would like to work in London. As I said, there sometimes are barriers and roadblocks around that on individual cases, and that is why we do work with people to try to think where they would be competitive and where they would have an advantage over someone else. But in short, primarily, people look to London.

Linda Abraham: Li asks, "How challenging is the curriculum and courses? I did my undergraduate in accounting and business. I’m a bit concerned that the courses may be repetitive for me. Are the courses structured at a more advanced level than undergraduate business studies?"

Elisabeth Philipse: I would say that yes, the people that have studied business do find some of the courses easier because they have learned a lot of information before. For me personally, I studied economics as part of my undergraduate, and for example, in the macroeconomics course I do feel that I recognize a lot of the material. At the same time, I think every course is given in a different way and sheds new light on the subject. In that sense, you will always have things to learn and things to do. I think also because a lot of the work we do here is in group work, you’ll have projects to work on which might be quite different from what you’ve done at the undergraduate level. Otherwise, I haven’t studied accounting and business myself, so I wouldn’t be able to answer that question fully.

Prateik Pothuneedi: My background was in computer science. But I think the courses are really designed in such a way to include everybody. My flat-mate actually did a Masters in Finance before coming over. He did tell me that he had done before some of the stuff we learned in the beginning, but as the course goes on, we get into deeper details and that could work out. And at the same time, the faculty is really outstanding in a lot of ways, so they bring in a lot of real world examples which I think are really interesting and can teach us a lot.

Linda Abraham: I had visited LBS a couple of years ago, and while I was there I was able to meet with a couple of students for the regular MBA program. And one of the students had done his undergraduate in business, and then had worked on Wall Street and then worked in private equity, and was working with Blackstone in London when he decided to go to LBS for his MBA. He was an incredibly, bright, dynamic, charming young man, also with an incredible background in business. Basically, he had been doing what many people go to business s school to be able to do. And I asked him, given his background if he is benefiting from the classes, and I don’t mean from the credentials or the network, I mean from the classes. He was a second-year student at the time, and he said that in the first year he wasn’t sure he could have answered yes to that, but at that point in time – I think it was the first semester of the second year – he would definitely answer that he is absolutely benefitting from the classes. And he said that one particular class that he was taking, Value Investing, was changing his whole perspective on investing. This was a fellow with six years of high powered investment experience. 

I’m not at LBS so I can’t answer this authoritatively, but my guess is that perhaps some of the initial foundational classes will be review, and then as you move on, you’ll really start to gain some new insights. Lisa, is that an accurate assessment?

Lisa Mortini: It is. But in a sense, it is a slightly different offering for the MiMs because it is a one-year program and there will be core courses that won’t be able to go into certain areas in that level of depth. But I think what is really good about the offering of also doing all these core courses together is that you will be working with your classmates that are all from very different backgrounds, and you’ll be learning from each other and helping each other for the classes. So someone who has a background in economics will feel slightly more comfortable in the economics class, and that is fair enough. But he will also be challenged because it will be done at a different level, and it will be done by professors that have a lot of business experience which they bring into the classroom. 

But they also will be working within their study groups with people from many different backgrounds and they may be able to help them in that sense. And when they get to maybe a course on finance or marketing or strategy, then another student from their study group may have had a similar background and might be able to help them as well. So because there are such a variety of backgrounds in the classroom, everyone is able to learn something different and to help each other learn in a different way as well. It’s not just about what you learn in the classroom; it’s how you learn it. It’s not just about the topics themselves, it’s how you go about it; learning in smaller groups, learning by solving puzzles and cases and doing all sorts of simulations on the computer. Perhaps in your undergrad, if you are in a lecture theatre with 150 people, you are not able to do that.

Linda Abraham: Michael asks, "Is there an age limit to the MiM program?" And he writes that he is currently finishing his MS in Engineering, and he is wondering if he won’t be eligible for the MiM. Is it aimed more at people with only undergraduate degrees?" Is there an educational or age limit to students?

Lisa Mortini: No, there isn’t an age limit to join the MiM at all. Actually we have quite a wide array of ages in the class. It goes from 20-27 years old. There is no age limit. However the limit that we have is that all students will have less than one year of full-time, relevant to business work experience post-graduation. So let’s say someone graduates this year, and they go to work for Morgan Stanley for two years, then they won’t be eligible for this program.

Linda Abraham: What if they worked as a software developer or in a strictly technical role for two years?

Lisa Mortini: If the experience is not directly relevant to business, and we will probably need to assess that on an individual basis, then we would need to have a look at the CV and at the application and make a conscious decision if this person does have relevant business experience or not. There are people that are working in technical roles but really have built a career and have skills that you only require in the workplace. People that work in hospitals or in the army or architects, these are all people that we invite to contact us to get a CV review or even to apply. But we also want to have a look in a little bit more detail to see whether they are eligible. And sometimes, it is very difficult. It is very much an individual decision. 

We do not want to have people in the class that are so experienced that they are not learning at the same level as the other students, and they also are not getting what they need from the program. And from a career perspective as well, I think it is quite important that the class is looking at a similar career path in terms of level. So if you had someone that had been working for four years, they’d be looking for a very different type of role, and they actually should be looking more into doing an MBA. So again, there is no age limit, but there is a cap on the work experience. 

And the second question was about them having a master’s degree. That is not an issue. We do consider students that have a master’s degree, particularly if it’s not related directly to business. So if it’s a Masters in Engineering, it’s not a problem at all. If it’s a Masters in Business Administration or in Business or in International Business, that might be an issue.

Linda Abraham: What about a MiF?

Lisa Mortini: With a Master’s in Finance, we would have to look at what classes they took, what type of master’s it was, and what institution it was in. So it’s also again a case by case basis. But we don’t have anything against students with master’s degrees applying to this program. Generally, we do actually get quite a few students with a Masters in Marketing or in Engineering mostly or Computer Science, and that is not a problem.

Linda Abraham: Wenjia asks, "How is the new working visa regulation going to impact students seeking careers in the UK? And does MiM provide career support or networking in students’ home countries?"

Daniel Lay: The visa regulations are changing here in April. It is actually not going to be as bad as what we first thought. It is very complicated, and I’ll try to keep it as simple as I can. If a non- EU, overseas student comes and studies at LBS, wishing to work in the UK, after April, there will be no self-sponsorship route, so everyone has to be sponsored by a company. That is the one big change, which obviously puts the emphasis on finding a job with a company that will sponsor you. The goods thing is that if a company is already on the UK Border Agency’s Tier 2 sponsor list, they can hire a non-EU student from LBS without having to go through two things which previously always seemed to put companies off. Firstly, they don’t have to go through the Resident Labour Market Test, which means that they don’t have to put that job out into UK job centers and onto a recruitment agency website. 

And now also hiring LBS students doesn’t count towards that company’s cap on visas. They only get issued a certain amount of visas, so if they hire a student from the LBS, they wouldn’t actually be cutting into that quota. So it’s very useful because typically a company would say that they would not necessarily give away a visa, if they’ve only got a dozen of them, to someone who is potentially not going to be a revenue generator for a year or two, because those are the same visas they bring experienced people in on. That has always been a bit of a sticking point which has now been changed. And all of this information about the companies that are on that list is on the UKBA website, and I think there are currently about 24,000 different companies on there, and it’s growing all the time. 

The big problem is getting the companies to understand the process. The UKBA is doing a big push, and we are doing a big communications piece telling companies that it is actually business as usual, but it’s even a little bit easier in some ways. I think the students on the call will actually say that it’s not as straightforward as that because you will find companies that are on the list, for example, who don’t know anything about any of these changes. So it’s up to us to inform them, and that is what we are going through at the moment. So it’s still going to be tough because I think it’s just an educational piece more than anything else. But the actual legislation that is in place makes it more beneficial to study at a UK institution. Because, for example, if you went to somewhere like INSEAD or at an overseas school and a UK company wanted to hire you, you would count towards that cap coming from outside the UK. So that would be something that they potentially might hold back on. So we are doing a big communications piece at the moment. I’m happy to go into any more detail on the visas if needed. 

And of course there are the networking opportunities and so on that we open up. We have an alumni community globally, if you are looking for opportunities outside of the UK. It is difficult because we don’t have a footprint in these countries so it’s very much a virtual networking relationship. We do take students on treks. We do treks to Asia and the US. We are trying to get more involved on that front. It has always traditionally been an MBA route. And one of the problems with that is the length of our course – the MiM program only being a year. It doesn’t always tend to fall in line with when the treks are happening. But we have had some students go over to Shanghai this year, and they go to Dublin for the Tech Trek. So we are trying to move outside of London and European recruiting, in terms of physically going to places. It’s definitely a work in progress. We have a fantastic global alumni network. They will try to advise and give some tips and advice, and make some introductions. It is a two-pronged effort. We are trying to get better on the aspect of physically going to places, but I think we’ve also got quite a good alumni network in place that can really help people looking for roles and information outside of the UK.

Linda Abraham: Robert asks, "Could you talk a little bit more about the Personal Development Program and the types of business communication skills, presentation skills, etc. developed in that program?"

Prateik Pothuneedi: The PDP is essentially the Personal Development Program. We have a range of choices from which we could select. For example, we could take a course on structured thinking. You could take a course on how to make your presentation more effective. What I can say about the courses is that I actually took a course on speed reading and I am reading a lot faster right now, so it’s definitely useful for me. With respect to business communication, I think you do get plenty of opportunities as a Masters in Management student to exercise your experience in that direction because when you get involved with the club at LBS, there will be a certain point in time when you will have to make presentations. And generally when you are out and networking, it’s definitely something you are exercising constantly.

Elisabeth Philipse: The PDP is quite a nice addition to the program. Instead of just focusing on the academics, it’s also focusing on you as a person. Each term, you write what your goals are to reach this term in terms of personal development. And that doesn’t necessarily only have to be by following these courses that are on offer, but you might also want to set yourself a goal. And then at the end of a term or at the beginning of the next term, there is an evaluation that you do about whether you reached your goals and why you did or why you did not. Personally, I think it’s a quite a good way to not only be busy with academics, but to also think about how you can improve yourself. And I actually think that it’s really important when you look for a job, because it’s not just about what kind of mark you got in one subject; it’s also how you come across as a person. In an interview, you have one shot to make them like you, so I think your personal development side is pretty important. So I think it’s really good that they spend quite a lot of attention on that.

Linda Abraham: We have some questions about the interview. "What provisions do you have for applicants in African countries or applicants in far off locations?" Then the other question is, "If someone submits the application in late December, when will they be notified about an interview decision?" What is the process?

Lisa Mortini: I’ll take the first question first. For candidates that are based in the UK or around Continental Europe, we generally have them travel to London for their interview. But we also have candidates who are all over the world. What we do in these cases is we ask very engaged and very kind volunteers from the school community, who are former students of the MBA, the MiM, or the executive MBA program, to help us. And they are accustomed to conducting interviews for their program, and they’ve very kindly been conducting interviews for the MiM program for the past three years. And so we have a very good network of interviewers around the world. 

That said, there are countries where it might be slightly more difficult to find an interviewer in your location that is ready and available at the time you need your interview to be set up. So if you live in a country where the alumni pool is smaller or maybe it’s a bit more isolated or maybe you cannot travel easily, then we might consider doing an interview by Skype. This is not something that we like to do on a regular basis. We prefer the human interaction in a face to face meeting. But if we do not have a choice, then that is also a possibility. So don’t be discouraged if you think that there won’t be a way to interview you because you live somewhere in a small country in the middle of Africa. That is absolutely fine; we will find a way to conduct the interview. 

And the second question was regarding the end of December. The school will be open from early January, and a lot of people apply over their holidays, as you can imagine – they’ve had a bit of free time to work on their essays and such. So we are going through the backlog of applications, and hopefully, most people who applied by that time will have heard back from us very quickly. We are very busy in the office. There are a lot of events actually happening at the moment. For instance, we are going to Paris on Friday and Saturday for a big Masters Fair. There is a lot going on. So this is all to say that yes, definitely candidates that have applied at the end of December will have heard back from us very soon, and don’t be discouraged. If you haven’t heard back from us, it doesn’t mean that your application will be turned down. It’s mostly because there are a lot of them to go through, and we do read them quite carefully. There are some candidates whose applications we try to read quickly, depending on where they are based, because we know that we need more time to actually organize the interviews in their location. And there are some applications which we are about to read, so please don’t be discouraged. Just be patient; we’ll get there.

Linda Abraham: Daniele asks, "How is the recruiting in finance going? Is it realistic to shoot for investment banking at this point in time?"

Daniel Lay: It’s difficult to say what is going to happen in 2013. I can talk a bit about the market at the moment. We are definitely seeing a bit of a hit on finance, and particularly investment banking. It is becoming more apparent that banks are taking a bigger chunk of their interns. So they are making more offers from their intern classes, which then obviously has an impact on the number of full-timers hired outside of that. So I think the statistics have been bandied about through various graduates’ forums and so on. It’s anything up to 75-80% that they are taking from their internship course. So obviously it is having a big impact on the competition. We’ve even seen some firms this year not hiring on full-time programs and only hiring for internship programs. So there has definitely been a noticeable change in the investment banking hiring. 

I would foresee it staying like that for the immediate future. It doesn’t mean to say that it’s all doom and gloom. I think we will possibly see some activity. And banks and recruiters tend to follow outside of the fall recruiting period, "the milk round"; they do tend to follow the academic year. So we do tend to get a lot more activity for immediate hiring towards the end of the year when the guys are starting to come towards the end of their studies and are looking to graduate. We do see pick up in things like hedge funds. I know a lot of students look at private equity – it’s not always an easy route for people with no experience – but sometimes some PE roles or projects at the very least. People can go in and work for six weeks or so and get that opportunity to show how good they are. The aim being – that you’ve demonstrated how good you are that they can’t do without you. 

So we’ve definitely seen an impact on the full-time hiring. We would hope the projects and the "ad hoc" internships would still be relatively buoyant, but only time will tell. It’s obviously a bit more of a business need. Anyone who is interested in finance, you just need to read the financial news to see the redundancies that are being made. I think it is difficult then for banks to continue to hire full-time graduates, even though they tend to try to continue the flow of people coming in if they can, just because they don’t want to be caught out when the market does take an upturn and they won’t have anyone to do the work. So they do try to continue hiring. They just do it in different ways, and it just seems to be through the internship route as opposed to full-time hiring.

Linda Abraham: Do you think what you are experiencing is more a city of London situation, or do you think this holds also for Wall Street, Hong Kong, etc.?

Daniel Lay: The euro zone has obviously taken a bit of a pounding. We’ve definitely seen a noticeable impact here.

Linda Abraham: My sense is that the Wall Street situation is improving slightly.

Daniel Lay: I think that then comes back to one of those earlier questions around going back to the US. I think if you are a US national or have the right to work, working in the US is definitely a viable option. If you need sponsorship and all that, it is still a difficult transition. So I think that even though the markets are looking quite strong elsewhere, I think it is important that people think about the actual process around visas and so on. Ultimately, if they really would like to, they will try to make it work, but I think it’s just another barrier sometimes. And that is why we speak to our overseas students very much about not ever cutting ties with your home market. Try not to become too blinkered in London. If you can go work in a firm that you really want to work for, and that happens to be back home, people are still young enough and at the early stage in their career to make a transition later down the line back to London. And some of our recruiters are very positive about that and try to see some international mobility for their graduates. So it’s keeping your options open.

Linda Abraham: Giacomo asks, "Will you be in favor of MiM students coming back for an MBA in the future? Are you going to offer any incentives? Or do you see the MiM degree as replacing or obviating the need for an MBA later in time?"

Lisa Mortini: First of all, we do not see any problem with doing a Masters in Management and then doing an MBA later on, but that would be much later on in your career. A lot of students, particularly the ones working in consulting, and some also working in finance, will be asked by their companies to do an MBA later on, and we don’t foresee any issues with that. But they might want to do the MBA at another school because then they will have a different perspective, a different network, and a different view of business. So that is definitely something they might want to consider. I don’t think the MiM is replacing the MBA at all. I think it is a very different offering, as we mentioned in the beginning of the chat today. That is my take on it.

Daniel Lay: From recruiters’ perspective, I think it depends on what you want to do 3-5 years down the line. I think the MiM is much more of a recognized European degree. So it is quite well established in terms of recruiters getting it. They know what the program is all about. Especially outside of the bulge bracket banks and big consulting firms, not every household name you can think of has an MBA program. So it’s very much a distinctive entity on its own. And I think we’ve seen it definitely have an impact on students’ starting salaries and the level of job they are able to go for straight out of the program. So they are on track to a very good career from the get-go. I think it depends on what happens a few years down the track. I think, as Lisa was alluding to, there will be some companies, depending on whether you make a transition in terms of sector, where you will need to do an MBA. That is just part of their process. But I think it will be on an individual basis what people are looking to do further down the track.

Linda Abraham: Prat and Elisabeth, do you see yourselves doing an MBA in the future, or is that a decision you are going to make 4-5 years hence?

Prateik Pothuneedi: I think I would pretty much like to echo what Lisa said. It depends on at what point I am at in my career. If five years down the line I feel like an MBA can help me progress further, or if I am thinking about making a shift to another industry or another area, I would certainly consider an MBA. And when I do consider an MBA, I would perhaps think about other business schools as well to get a different perspective. It would also depend on where I would like to work after that. If I am looking to work in London, LBS would be an obvious choice. But if I am looking to work somewhere in the US, then I might have other options as well.

Elisabeth Philipse: I agree. For example, for a career change or anything like that, it is a very good option to do an MBA. I personally am going into consulting, so then often companies will encourage you to do an MBA. If that happens, then I’ll think about it. But talking about the business schools, indeed it is nice to get a different environment and a different culture, so I would look at all kinds of business schools in that case.

Linda Abraham: Yifeng asks, "How is the employment of Asian students? According to the 2011 Employment Report, half of the Asian students go back to work in Asia. Does this half go back to their home countries or do they go to cities like Hong Kong and Singapore?"

Daniel Lay: Hong Kong and Singapore are the main hubs where students will return to. So we’ve had people go to both those cities for finance jobs and consulting jobs. That is really the main pull to Asia.

Linda Abraham: Obviously, employment drives MBA admissions and drives MiM admissions. The recent GMAC report on recruiters, which was admittedly a small sample of recruiters, showed more interest in the MBA than the MiM. At the same time, it showed growing interest in the MiM degree and then graduates. And you are seeing more Masters in Management programs popping up. How is recruiting going for 2012?

Daniel Lay: It’s going pretty well actually. I said up front that I think we’ve seen a bit of a shift in terms of some of the sectors that people are going to. But in terms of numbers, if we looking at statistics this time of year based against previous years, and last year was a really good year for us, we’re on track, if not better than that. We’re at the same point this year. And our numbers have grown a little bit so the class is 149 this year, as opposed to 140. We’ve got nine more people to help in their career choices. But we are quite buoyant, particularly around consulting. We are definitely seeing a lot of companies engaged, and a number of offers I know have already been made. So things are looking good. 

We tend to see with most programs, especially one-year programs or a final year of an undergrad, real peaks and trots across that year. So we have a really busy first term in the fall, and that is when there are lots of recruiters. Then they’ll try to get their offers out in December- January. So at the moment we are at a little bit of a quiet time while there are still interviews going on and assessment centers, January- February. So it’s a little bit quiet. It’s a time for people to maybe reassess what happened during the first term. If they’ve secured an offer, that is fantastic. If they are realigning their motivations and interests, then we’ll help them with that. And then we’ll start to pick up again in terms of recruiter activity and job postings, etc. as we move towards the graduation date. So it’s a little bit of a quiet time as we assess what happened in September, October, November time. We’re looking at numbers of applications, numbers of offers, and where we, as a career services, need to realign our time in the next stages of helping those who are still looking to get ultimately to where they want to get to.

Linda Abraham: Do you weigh different aspects of the application? For instance, rigor of undergraduate courses, time one took to complete the undergraduate degree, versus GMAT, versus internships. Is there some formula you use? If there is not some kind of weighted formula, can you possibly supply some insight into the process? And assuming that there isn’t a weighted formula, can you give us the three things that you would like to see? And I don’t mean GMAT, I don’t mean GPA; I mean qualitatively, what you would like to see in an application.

Lisa Mortini: I really wish there would be a formula because that would make my job a lot easier! I would be able to enter everybody in an Excel spreadsheet and then calculate, and then the top hundred would come up and it would be fantastic! But it’s really more complex than that. I wouldn’t say that we weigh things in a different way. We have the minimum requirements that have to be reached; a certain GPA, a certain class of undergraduate institution, a certain GMAT score. Apart from that, then the application is where the candidates are going to start presenting themselves above these requirements. So we see it in their choice of referees, in the way they talk about themselves and their goals in their essays, the amount of research that they’ve done on the school, their CV for what they’ve done – any extracurriculars, any internships, any study abroad – any languages that they speak, and everything that makes them interesting. You can read applications from people that are just meeting the requirements, but actually there is so much more in the application. They convince us that they are interesting students and unique students and we want those people in our classes. 

Regarding the three things that we look for, it’s probably more than just three. I would say we want to see really a variety of activities. So if you enjoy spending all your time in front of your Xbox, that is perfectly fine, but we are looking for people that are more proactive, that take themselves outside their comfort zone, and do things that are interesting to them and to others, be it travelling, volunteer work, sports, the arts, music. We want to see people who are really engaged in all different activities. That will make them interesting. We’ll see that they are not afraid to step out and take risks and be a team member, be a leader, and do things that really make them well-rounded, interesting individuals. I think we are looking for people that have an open mind and are very friendly and collaborative. We are a business school and there is competition here, but we really try to get people in the class that we think are going to be supportive of each other and are going to gel well together. So there is no magic formula for the LBS fit, but we can see a lot of the personality of the candidates coming through the essays in the application. 

And a final point I would like to make is that we do read a lot of applications and we do read them quite carefully. Putting care into your application really helps the reader. Reading the same thing over and over can be quite tedious. So think about who you are, and show that to us in your application. I’m not saying that you should quote poetry necessarily, but at least have your own unique voice in your essays and in the way you answer the application questions. Spell check is really very important to show that you care. Get the name of the school right and the name of the program right, and do a little bit of research as to what the program means to you. What are the aspects you are interested in – be it a particular class, a particular development program module, a club that you are passionate about joining – and tell us how you would contribute through these experiences to our community. So it’s really caring for it. And for a lot of candidates it is difficult because they are applying to maybe ten different schools. And it takes a while to get your application to a standard where everything is related to the school. It is difficult. There is a lot of copying and pasting going on, but we can tell. We can really tell, and I’m very candid about this. So if you show us your personality and you show us you care, you are already a step ahead of the rest of the pack.

Linda Abraham: That is excellent advice.

Daniel Lay: I look at applications from time to time, especially around the career aspects of it to see what they are really coming to do the program for. I think it’s fair to say that most people come to do a post-graduate degree to get a career at the end of it. So a huge, important part is that we want to make sure that we can satisfy their needs and what they are looking for. And I think that is one of the great things. The class is still small enough for us to treat all of the strong applications. If it’s not well written and has spelling mistakes, that is also not going to do anyone any favors. But the strong ones that we are really interested in, we then can treat them all as individuals and have very individual conversations. So Lisa may come to me and say, "This person says they’d like to do X. This is their background… What do you think recruiters would think?" And we can then start to have a dialogue with the student, explaining to them the current market and discuss what else they were thinking of for the plan B potentially. We really treat everyone as an individual to make sure they are as informed as they can be before they decide to actually come on the program. It is a huge commitment in terms of investment and time, and we just want to make sure it’s the right one for them.

Lisa Mortini: I have to agree with Daniel. It’s not just determining if the candidate is right for us; it’s also are we right for them? Are we the right program? Are we the right school at that point in time for their career? So definitely having clear career goals and explaining that in your essays will certainly help. Also having a realistic view of these careers goals will definitely help.

Daniel Lay: And I think we discussed this in an earlier question. Someone asked a question about if they have a master’s degree in another subject… That would be a conversation that we would want to have. Again, if it’s something in engineering or such, it might make more sense than if it was another business related degree. So we just want to have that conversation so that it’s not a faceless process. We want to make sure that people are coming that can really gain from the program. Because especially around careers, it’s very much not – I’ll come to LBS and then everything is taken care of. Recruiters are obviously still looking very hard at the profile of the individual prior to them coming to LBS. So if things don’t stack up and raise a lot of questions, I think it’s better that we have that discussion and talk about the questions before people are actually committing to the program.

Linda Abraham: On my end, from listening to you both and your great answers to this last question, it seems like you would like to treat the applicants as individuals and know them as individuals. And you would also like to be treated as a distinctive and unique school, an individual school. And from my perspective, it has crossed my mind that this whole element of individuating a program from other programs and a school from other schools and the applicants from each other, it’s a two-way street. You are both trying to do that, and to a certain extent, are struggling to do it. 

Thank you again all for participating today. Special thanks to Lisa, Daniel, Elisabeth and Prateik for joining us today. If you have additional questions for Lisa or the London Business School team, please email them to mim@london.edu.

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Once more, thank you all for joining us today. Best of luck to all with your applications! 

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