Zeke [GMAT Pill]: Hey guys, Zeke here. Welcome to our first GMAT Pill Interview Blog Series on Post-GMAT and Pre-MBA Lifestyle. Today we’re really excited to have my friend Jeffrey join us literally from the other side of the world–right now he’s in China. I’ve known Jeffrey since we met at Stanford where we were both involved in a US-China Exchange Conference and after graduation, I was actually able to travel a little bit with him in Tokyo, Japan…
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Zeke [GMAT Pill]: Jeffrey, welcome here to the GMAT Pill Blog. It’s great to have you here today for our Post-GMAT and Pre-MBA Lifestyle Blog Series. Before we begin talking about what it’s like to be in your shoes..getting ready for Harvard Business School, can you just give some info on your background, where you’re coming from? You’re actually calling us from a trip to China isn’t that right?
Jeffrey [HBS]: That’s correct. It’s actually great to be here. Just a little bit about my background so I actually did my undergrad at Stanford. I graduated in..I was class of 2006. I graduated about 2 quarters earlier at the end of 2005. I took a 3 month break after graduation and I started at Bain & Company in Hong Kong in spring of 2006. After working at Bain for about a year and a half, I switched jobs and jumped into real estate. I went to a retail group that basically did work in both retail operation and also retail real estate – commercial real estate, development, as well as investment. So I have been doing that for about a year and 8 months until now. I actually quit about 2 months ago.
Zeke [GMAT Pill]: And 2 months ago meaning around…May?
Jeffrey [HBS]:End of May. Correct.
Zeke [GMAT Pill]: That’s great. I mean, how does it feel right now to be going to business school? Do you think your emotions are any different from what they were when you were about to enter Stanford?
Jeffrey [HBS]: Business school in general feels very exciting and it’s one of the reasons why I applied and it feels great to be taking a break from work but I think more importantly, to know that for the next 2 years, at least career-wise, I will be free to explore exactly what I am truly interested in. Of course there is also a little bit of pressure in terms of given the intensity of the program and the things I want to get out of it I want to make sure one, I get exactly what I want to get out of it, but second that I also get a variety of experiences and to basically explore areas that I may not have experience in before.
In terms of emotions, I think Stanford…going to Stanford was very exciting, but for me also pretty apprehensive. Your vision of the world in high school was a lot more confined I think. You lived in, at least me..I lived in much more of a bubble before college. The closest I’ve ever gone to actually going to University or experiencing university life was probably either from summer classes at a nearby community college or college visits that I did during the application process. I didn’t exactly know what to expect in high school. And plus I think college itself is more of those things that you do out of ..it’s kind of a social expectation right..you go to college because everyone else goes to college so you focus during the application process you focus much more on learning how to apply how to get in..rather than the actual college experience. The experience itself matters less in terms of why I wanted to go to college. It’s not because of the experience but because you know..i had to go. So having gone through 4 years of undergraduate and also a few years working I think business school is very different. Business school is as I said very exciting but for me it’s less apprehensive. I feel a lot more in control. Because first I have a much better idea of what I’m getting myself into from interacting with people who have gone to business school and also learning a lot about school during the application process and the school itself..the class is also smaller than undergraduate and you know having worked for a number of years and studied undergraduate I’ve also gotten more mature of the years. I have a pretty clear idea of what I want to get out of it. So I’m definitely much more focused going into business school than ..compared to the time when I entered Stanford.
Zeke [GMAT Pill]: Right. Yea, those two components you were talking about—how it was really exciting for undergraduate and going into business school it’s also exciting—but there’s also that pressure component to get what you want out of the program since you are investing 2 years of your life as opposed to generating salary from a job.
Going forward, how are you spending your summer right now before your adventurous to Harvard Business School?
Jeffrey [HBS]: So I actually quit my job around 2 months ago. I really wanted to leave myself some time to enjoy the summer and knowing that this is break that you will have in life. First half of my summer was pretty much spent in Beijing, that’s where my last job was. So doing things like signing up for a private Japanese class, I was helping a friend working on her business plan to open frozen yogurt shops. So all those things I actually wanted to do during the time that I was working but never had the time to so quitting my job early was actually very beneficial in giving me the opportunity to actually do things that either you know are educational for myself or experience that I wouldn’t get otherwise, for example my friend’s frozen yogurt chain that she’s trying to open.
Second half of my summer is pretty much spent traveling. I went to Japan about a couple weeks ago, planning to go to Cambodia, Malaysia over the next couple of weeks. So not as exotic as for example backpacking through Europe or anything but traveling around Asia is still exciting..
Zeke [GMAT Pill]:Japan, Malaysia, Cambodia..Opening a yogurt shop.that sounds really….
Jeffrey [HBS]:It’s very fulfilling and pretty full summer actually. Never actually imagined life not working could be as busy as it is.
Zeke [GMAT Pill]: Yea, absolutely. From the day you decided to do the MBA all the way til today I guess, there must’ve been some moments where you kind of second guessed or questioned what you’re doing through laborious process. Maybe you were stuck on application essays or you were frustrated with GMAT studying. Tell us about that.
Jeffrey [HBS]: Yea. I think throughout the process there have been moments..I never doubted the process per se..Given the laborious process I doubted why I needed an MBA, or whether I really want an MBA at this point or this year. MBA as an idea definitely came to me during college. I was actively involved in these Pre-Business Associations on campus and you hear so much about consulting, investment banking, MBA, GMAT during college years that you think that 2 or 3 years out of college is something you have to do. So the idea of getting an MBA was definitely out there pretty early on. But after working for a few years..actually during the application process you start to think…whether…do I need an MBA for my future career, especially my last job was for a retail group that also did commercial real estate which is pretty unconventional track compared to my previous job at Bain in consulting. In consulting everyone gets an MBA after a couple of years and then you come back and you become an Associate and you go up the traditional path. Whereas in my new job, it wasn’t as expected or necessary to get an MBA. So that’s when I actually had doubts about whether I wanted to sacrifice 2 years of working and 2 years of salary for it. So I think there was a lot of soul searching during that process and I’m glad I’ve gone through that process and really exactly know what I’m spending the next 2 years for. More specifically I think some of the basic finance knowledge that I was never strong in and more importantly to be back in the school environment and to learn more about not necessarily even through business school but through the various other schools in the entire university, meeting individuals outside of your area of study.
Zeke [GMAT Pill]: You mentioned some really good stuff there including soul searching—that’s really a large part of the MBA application process. One of the reasons..one good reason people pursue the MBA is for a change in lifestyle and career prospects. What kind of lifestyle changes or career prospects were you looking for when you were taking your GMAT and filling out your applications?
Jeffrey [HBS]: Yea. For me, it was more of a career advancement rather than a complete career change. I think..I’ve always been pretty clear and consistent about what I wanted to do when I grew up. Actually when I was little I wanted to become an architect. But upon realizing I don’t have much artistic talent I wanted to take it from a different angle. I was always interested in buildings…building a city or changing the way a city looks. So then I got really interested in real estate. High school and then college..real estate wasn’t one of those things that you just jump into with an undergraduate degree because there weren’t many opportunities and it wasn’t as widely publicized as say management consulting or investment banking.
Jeffrey [HBS]: So I did consulting for a few years and upon realizing..i think it was good to get the exposure to different industries but when the opportunity came across I saw it was real estate and it was commercial real estate so I jumped into it directly. The company I work for is called PCD and as I said it was in retail operations it was in real estate, operation, investment, development—basically spanning all 3 aspects of real estate so I think my pre-MBA work experience both in consulting and at PCD was more about exposure and figuring out what I wanted to do and for me ..going forward—that’s real estate and development. The MBA is exactly how I want to get there. So through the MBA I was more looking for a couple of things as I mentioned just now. There’s definitely the finance aspect…there’s the general management aspect….[CUT]
Zeke [GMAT Pill]:
OK, let’s get jump to the end of Jeffrey’s interview.
Zeke [GMAT Pill]: Lastly, do you have any comments for our students regarding GMAT prep perhaps you can comment on some mental preparation or coming into the test with the right mindest?
Jeffrey [HBS]: Yea definitely. I think..I am no expert when it comes to test taking, but I think given that the test itself is computer adaptive, having the confidence and also relaxing before the test is very important to having the right mindset to go in so that you know take your time on the first few questions because those are the ones that determine the range of scores that you end up with and I think a lot of people get overly nervous about the GMAT. I think my advice is even though you definitely should have a lot of confidence going into the test but you also have the mindset that it’s OK to retake it later on and I think in terms of timing, my advice would be take the GMAT as early as possible. Do not wait until July or August of the year you are applying for to the GMAT because then you don’t leave enough time to either retake the test or focus on the application process itself.
Zeke [GMAT Pill]: And when did you take your exam?
Jeffrey [HBS]:So I actually took my test June of 2007 and I applied in the fall of 2008.
My advice is really plan early. It’s definitely hard to have that much time to study for the GMAT especially when you’re working, but as long as you plan early there’s definitely time at work when you won’t be as busy and you can use to study for the test.
Zeke [GMAT Pill]: I realize right now China is blocking a lot of sites including the GMAT Pill. But based on what you’ve seen of it previously do you think the theory and the delivery of the study method is helpful for students?
Jeffrey [HBS]: Yea definitely. When I was studying for the GMAT I used a lot of books. Given the fact that China does block sites, it was actually a pretty dry process for me you know..coming home from work at 9 or 10 pm and having to sit down and read through a pretty thick Kaplan book. I actually think an interactive process like the GMAT Pill would be really helpful to be both engaging after a long day at work. And also I think it’s just more..the knowledge that you learn is more fresh in your mind.
Zeke [GMAT Pill]: Yea, especially for someone who’s juggling a job. How was it juggling..you were …was it at Bain when you took the test?
Jeffrey [HBS]: I was at Bain..actually on a project. It was actually pretty difficult. I was traveling as well. I would bring my book everywhere I was traveling—you know at the airport, on the plane…so it was a pretty grueling process I thought. I wish there were something more attractive or something helpful to keep me engaged during the process.
Zeke [GMAT Pill]: Right, if you had the chance to log on to some teaching videos while you’re at the airport in between client projects that would be of great beneficial help for someone like you.
Jeffrey [HBS]: Exactly.
Zeke [GMAT Pill]: OK well that’s all the time we have today. Jeffrey, as always, it’s a great pleasure to have here. I hope you enjoy the rest of your trips as you get ready for an exciting 2 years at HBS.
Look forward to it having you next time.
Jeffrey [HBS]: Great. Thanks.