Sunday, March 07, 2010

2.3

Fast forward one year...
1) I still work in M&A, live in London, and have trouble motivating for the gym so surf random websites
2) I have 2 years of new work experience, have gained weight, and am focused on a sustainable lifestyle

On .1s & .3s, it's been a challenging two years given the need to start from the bottom and to learn a new work language and work ethic. Most of my close friends have gotten through the past years with their jobs, but some have lost them and left London. Of those still in M&A/CorpFin banking, most are looking for other jobs because they want to have a work-life balance. The challenge is not having enough experience compared to peers who've worked their way up as analysts to transition into directly related fields. So many look to blend their pre-MBA experience with the last two years to find a middle ground. The more challenging hurdle is wanting a job that compensates more than 1/2 of banking levels without lots of direct experience. This life-money trade-off is less difficult once loans are paid off, but is also difficult because the job is probably one of the more interesting out there.

My approach is to try to take a bullish long-term view of my drive and abilities so the money concern is minimised. That leaves me to figure out what industry is most interesting to me and to view work as perpetual training towards a sustainable lifestyle goal. I'm also probably overly retrospective which makes it more difficult to just get on with it and to see what happens next - trusting that I'll be ready and flexible to take advantage of the right opportunities when they cross my path. Others goals are to save enough capital to become investors, saving to buy a house / start a family, or to keep at it until they have enough experience to either get a lighter load or to transition into a directly related field.


On .2s, those of my friends who maintain active lifestyles have more energy to cope with everything. They engage with society the most and keep a perspective that others find muddled. Thinking like this is obviously an age thing, but much of it is also a regurgitation of things I've read in the past and have a clearer context for now.

It's been sunny all day so after convincing myself it's worth joining an overpriced gym next to my house, I feel sufficient guilt and clarity of mind after this rant to make a move. Sunny days in London are the best because the city has endless places to wander and everyone's in a dramatically better mood.


Thanks.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

YoY o

It's been over a year since I've been here; but alas, questions from new and old friends about London Business School brought me back looking for a ready answer. I did not find one.
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"Good news! I found out today I got an interview!! I'm so excited!!!! Any advice? What was yours like?"

Dears,

Second congratulations. My interview experience:
I received an email with an alum's contact details instructing me to schedule an interview. Turns out to be a guy who recently left a senior-ish post at a large company to start his own business. I met him one afternoon at his new office/closet for what was to be a 30min interview. An hour later, when I left, I felt I had made a good impression, but was unsure of what he was filling out on his form. I have yet to take up school requests to conduct interviews, so still do not know.

We began by talking about our backgrounds, which evolved into Why an MBA, Why London, Why this London Business School. We talked about the alum's experience, which may have been the was most important part of the interview, because I was asking genuinely interested and asking lots of questions. This bit was followed by an exercises that was along the lines of: explain [x?] basic concept - given a few mins to prepare and then orally presented. Thought I did, at best, an average job; but, I guess it was sufficient in the grand matrix.

Best,
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Now a quick update. I've landed in an M&A group after my structured finance role disintegrated. The M&A role seems a great place to learn, to see a lot quickly, especially if in a general vs industry specific group. The work / life trade-off is anything but obvious. Oft menial-work (for anyone who's had any level of responsibility) lasts until 1, 3, 5a, lots of weekends, and you work mostl with those who've traded off life for decades. Seems possible to find a niche, and would be sharp as cheddar cheese in 2-3 years with regards to analysing industries and companies, but I'll wait 6-12mo's to make a binding judgement.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

After 1 brazillion...

...meetings with 1st years researching jobs, I thought I'd post my spiel:

Over the summer I worked in an investment banking field called structured finance...which is different from structuring derivatives

  • precisely 60% modelling / 40% meetings, research, etc.
  • some client interaction because group originates deals
  • good hours (8a-7p, 5x/wk)
  • travel about once a month, global group so who knows where
  • associate pay (1st yr) is nearly identical at all global banks
  • interview q's about motivation for banking/group and cv
Banks good at shifting you around to find as good a fit as possible if you get an internship (ie, try to get in more than find perfect fit). As such, focus on a good fit/fitting in rather than proving you are brilliant...desirable skill set for MBA's is not rocket science, so sociable classmates had a 100% offer rate whereas "non-sociable" ones did not.

Good luck! You're gonna need it.
(as an a-hole friend who reads this famously said)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Good to Gate

It’s 327am. I’m leaving for a 4 day trip to Paris in 3 days and a 6 day trip to Istanbul in 7. A Christmas party at the Electric with 7-11 close friends in 2 days and squash at Lord’s with 1-2 in 7.5 hours. Belgrade and the US before the end of April and a ski trip to Austria or Norway before the end of March. The best thing about all of this is that I am hanging out with some of the best friends I’ve had in my life. These friends are from around the world and the thing we have most in common is an obsession about our post graduation careers, which is what I really want to talk to you about (again) this morning.

The book Good to Great (and my girlfriend) will be accompanying me on the first of these trips, to Paris. It is a case study of what turned the fortunes of a select group of great companies around relative to their peers who stagnated. While only half way through reading, the lesson that resonates most with me so far is that you have to work with people that you like to build something great. The people obviously also need to be good, but unless the group collectively enjoys working together, regardless of leadership, strategy, IQ, the organization as a whole will not become great (defined by sustained stock returns). I find this reassuring because after securing a job, the grass quickly becomes greener on the other side; but, when I consider the group that I am joining post-London Business School, I realize that I do enjoy both the work and people so should be positioned well within a growing and successful business.


With spare time, I have also taken to reading some of the classic banking books such as Monkey Business (DLJ-IBD), Liars Poker (Salomon-S&T) and FIASCO (Morgan Stanley-S&T). These books provide a good history of financial services and make it clear that banking culture is unique and can be very tough. As such, they reinforce the importance of fitting in well with a desk/team as that is what will give you the best chance to succeed. Liars Poker also provides a good corollary because while Salomon was filled with some of the best people of its time, the bank was headed by dominating executives who hated each other. Once faced with the need to change, their lack of cooperation drove one of the most successful banks of its time straight into the ground.


Regardless, it is impossible not to look over the fence when friends, media and books such as Barbarians at the Gate draw your attention to private equity firms and hedge funds that make billions on each deal. You wonder what hoops you need to jump through to join one of these firms and dream of the riches you will have once there. You forget that founding partners were good friends (or relatives as Kraviz & Roberts are) and that working hard for someone else doesn’t ever pay off as much as it should. I can’t think of anything more fun than starting a business with the friends I will be travelling with over the coming months. So instead of agonizing over precise career directions now, I will instead focus on learning as much as I can now and once an opportunity arises, I will approach my friends about starting companies. If everything goes according to plan, maybe
someday someone will call us b...ugh

Saturday, September 01, 2007

I’d like to start by thanking

Where were we - April? First year, internship and job search are all over now. Enjoyed them and happy to have a new career that I am likely to enjoy. I’m now very busy figuring out what to do with all of my time next year.

School ended well and was fun. Grades are whatever; focus on learning so you can add value. Plenty of people with great grades do not get jobs or full-time offers because they can not extrapolate beyond what they have read or are not effective. Luck plays a part too, so confidence and being prepared are important so you can recognize and act when presented with good opportunities.

Internship was in Structured Finance for a large Investment Bank and I enjoyed it a lot. The fields’ generic and broad name is corralled well by wikipedia. The group I worked for and have signed up for full-time originates and executes their own deals and works across a lot of products and geographies – CDO, CLO, ABS, tax, capital structures, derivatives, etc. Hours were great because bespoke deals versus high flow – 8a to 7p, 5 days per week. Pay over the summer and full-time is same as other IBD jobs – great. Not sure how compensation evolves over time, but should at least keep pace. Seems like plenty of transferable skills gained; for instance, my group is a majority owner of a VC, works with PEs, hedge Funds, and lots of other more focused groups within the bank.

With four weeks to go before “classes” start, I am agonizing over whether to go to the Cote d’Azur for 1 week, Greece islands for 2, Spain, Italy or some combination of some or all. A grander trip to Dubai and China fell through because the Chinese consulate insisted that I return to Iran to apply for a two week tourist visa – only the all mighty, all knowing master of all knows what absurd logic went into the creation of the matrix used to come to this conclusion.

Otherwise, I’m now living in Notting Hill and enjoying it considerable more than the sterile Marylebone area. Plenty of other good options out there, this just makes sense for me right now – lot of pubs and restaurants... My girlfriend moved from the US and lives around the corner, which is also great. I am now off to join the natives in their favourite past time – pubbing.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Travelling

Having time to travel is a great part of being a student again. As with most pleasurable things, however, there’s the catch-22 of paying for the fun with a bigger loan or smaller savings.

Each incremental £5k adds £110/mo to an 8% 7-year student loan. Considering average MBA compensation, the loan trade-off seems well worth it. A two-year budget of £5-10k would enable plenty of fun weekend (x£400) and week-long (£1k) trips.

To fund these getaways, you can tap into loans, savings, an internship, a full-time signing bonus, scholarship, or part-time work. You can also sublet your place or time your lease to end when you want to take longer trips to generate extra cash.

If you like to make trade-offs, such as a longer life vs. smoking/drinking, then you might as well splurge for travel. Not doing so may leave stress on the table that burns your wick just that much faster.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

MBA Applicant Anxiety

Laying in bed at noon like any respectable MBA student on yet another wonderful break, I have wasted my morning surfing the internet. During my odyssey, I stumbled back on the anxiety and overly emotionally charged business week forums that I obsessively read through (until the second I accepted an offer) while getting paid to “work”…and then I got board so decided to publish a post before getting my day really started with a frozen pizza.

My obsessions prior to starting an MBA at London Business School (LBS), and my reflections 1/3 of the way through:

Which school gives me the best chance to join a top Management Consulting (MC) firm (i.e. LBS vs Columbia, LBS vs INSEAD, etc.)?
  • A complete waste of my time. I worked, on the client side, with Bain, BCG, etc. and thought MC would be a great place for me. However, I knew very little about other career paths so ended up only applying to one consulting firm for my internship, and that was only as a backup.
  • Individual credentials, aptitudes, and luck, rather than specific schools, assuming they are at least part of the company’s core recruiting programme (MBAGCF), make the difference.
How am I going to fund a two year MBA in London, especially without the ability to get a US loan?
  • Very important, but also very manageable. HSBC’s arrangement with school came to the rescue, as it has for everyone that I know that applied for the loan. Many classmates also make instalment tuition payments to manage cash flow.
  • Internship salaries can be very high and many people work part-time in their second year to bridge gaps (or even eliminate all debt as one of my flatmates has) given the reduced coursework.
What is going to happen to my immigration situation after I graduate?
  • Not worried about this at all given the UK Highly Skilled Management Program (HSMP) and because most large UK employers will sponsor you (very different that US).
  • Worst case, my UK student visa is valid until well after I graduate so I can look towards Hong Kong, Dubai, Singapore, etc. where employers are clamouring for talent

The things I didn’t explicitly consider that are very relevant:

Having time to reflect and getting exposure to different career paths, especially ones such as being an entrepreneur, are invaluable and should
very be much part of the total investment decision.
  • My epiphany was that investment banking (IB) is extremely varied so a summer internship is the ideal way to check perceived fit, and if nothing else, to avoid having the regret.
International classmates really open your eyes and can be the best part of going back to school. Many have worked in the “best” organisations in the world and several help run multi-billion dollar family empires.
  • This means they have connections, and more importantly, homes all over the world that you gain access to…
My health may fail me before this is all said and done.
  • Once you’re used to the pound and managing time, there is no stopping the endless stream of social gatherings, ridiculous getaways, or nightly “networking” sessions