Category Archives: alumni

What a so-called Oops moment tells us about MBAs

I recently came across an article that describes the reaction to what I can only describe as a process error committed by McKinsey when communicating with unsuccessful MBA applicants. In brief, McKinsey sent an automated email to rejected MBA applicants. Nothing unusual there, but the email still showed the field name %Preferred when it should have had the name of the rejected applicant.

What struck me as more interesting than what I think is a simple process error, is the reaction from one of the rejected applicants. The article has a quote from an second-year MBA student from ” a top two business school” who said that “I am so shocked that recruiters can come to campus and get away with stuff like  this” and “if they do this here, just imagine what it would be like at other schools?”

Now, I am the first to recognise that this is just one quote, from an MBA who chose to remain anonymous. One can’t generalise and say that these quotes reflect a large swathe of opinion from MBAs. But it does, once again, raise the issue of MBA hubris and the sense of entitlement that I deserve different treatment because of the school/company/MBA that I went to.

It is in this context that, on the first day of the school year, our Director of the MBA talked about the death of the idea of the Superhero leader. This idea that a leader, who almost possess a different DNA from the followers, could swoop in and make meaningful changes before flying away. It is a model that does not work anymore and what is needed now is more empathy to go with the analytical skills that are so honed through a traditional MBA curriculum.

But at least one company has turned this MBA hubris on its head. Again, our Director showed this video on the first day of the school year. Hopefully, our MBA 2013s took that message of humility to heart amidst the excitement of the first day of term.  It also reminded me of what a Cambridge alum told me, about how even though he was a former Citi management associate who worked in the CEO’s office, he was not above turning up at a warehouse in the early morning to help colleagues of the fast-growing startup which he was CFO of, to pack merchandise for shipping when orders started to pile up. That’s the type of leader we want.

Full of energy and strong networks based on real friendship. An interview with Head of Alumni Relations

One of the main factors that MBA candidates consider when deciding on a programme is the school’s alumni network. I was very privileged that Gill Parker, our new Head of Alumni Relations, agreed to be interviewed by me. This is the first audio podcast that we are hosting on the admissions blog so if you like,… Continue Reading


I spent two days in Beijing meeting a large number of prospective candidates, hosting a lunch for alumni and even participating in an interview in Mandarin with China Daily. The information session went well and I was impressed with quite a number of candidates. From some of them, I learnt about the changing nature of NGOs… Continue Reading

What is an MBA for?

Someone forwarded me this article from the Straits Times, the most widely-read English daily in Singapore, titled “Does an MBA really help in your career?” Since access to the Straits Times requires a paid subscription, I will summarise the main points. Jim Rogers, who made billions trading commodities, said that ‘much of what you learn… Continue Reading

The power of observation

I came across a fascinating article ( about how Herman Miller designed a new hospital ward (I am writing this at home while sitting on my Herman Miller Aero). What I found really interesting about this article was Herman Miller’s product development process. A lot of time was spent observing doctors, nurses, patients interact with… Continue Reading