Wednesday, July 30, 2008

GMAT Appt: Check!

It's final..a few moments ago, I just confirmed my GMAT appt for the first week in September! Damn...a whole $250 smackers just like that! I've been prolonging the inevitable, but seeing that my studies have been waning this past week, I told myself it's time to kick into high gear again and battle the beast. So, it's for real, for real...I'm going to take the GMAT and Lord help me if I receive a faltering score b/c I'll be pounding my head on the Official Guide hollering "WTF! WTF!" That'd be the worst case scenario. Best case scenario, on the other hand, would be if I make it into the 80% percentile score range for my target, let me take a moment to dream up this case (ahh (sigh) that's right..what a great feeling it would be, indeed). No, I'm not shooting for a 700, but if it happens, that'd be the optimal case scenario--for right now though, my goals are humble.

On a brighter note: I did have lunch with my former boss, who (as I blogged about before) just received her MBA. She's now going to live her dreams and have a hefty paycheck to awesome would that be one day! One can only imagine, right? As always, another token of inspiration collected for the day...why, if only I had a dollar for every token I'm collecting, I'd be able to afford all of my Bschool app fees :) Anyhow, here's a run-down of our conversation in a nutshell:

ME: I've decided to take the ultimate plunge and aim for the top Bschools! And I'm looking into programs that foster my interest in social enterprise, CSR, what have you. What are your thoughts?

MBA boss: You are so going to get in! Bschools need people like us who care about other people (ie: underprivileged peeps). And CSR and sustainability will be an integral part of MBA curriculum for sure.

ME: Oh, you flatter me. I hope CSR is not a fad like Kaballah.

MBA boss: It's not. Rich people can ignore poor people, but they can't ignore the degradation of our environment. CSR will endure.

ME: Awesome! Thanks for the inspiration.

MBA boss: No prob. You can totally do it!

:) And so, I'm left with this wonderful feeling of optimism...I'll have to bottle it up and preserve it for when I'm taking my GMAT.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Power to Dream

It's funny how one blog leads to another and another and then before you know it, you're sucked into the blogosphere! I stumbled upon this video clip from Starwalker's blog a la Tiny Dancer's recent post and what do you know? I picked up another token of inspiration. And this one truly is in it of itself. His name is Randy Pausch and until today, I didn't know who he was. For those of you who don't, you should, and for those of you who did, consider yourself blessed. I wish I had known this man when he was alive--he reminds me of my own father, both of whom possess a deep-seated belief in the goodness of humanity and the value of self-discipline. Sadly, however, Pausch passed away due to pancreatic cancer on July 25.

As my curiosity would have it, I initially clicked on the video thinking..okay, I'm only going to watch 5 minutes and then get back to work, only to be so enamored by his eloquence, enthusiasm and charisma that 5 minutes turned into a whole 75. Come know you wanna. Words cannot do justice to the impact his lecture will have on you, so see for yourself and then tell me you didn't get inspired.

Some of Pausch's words of wisdom that I heart:

"Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want."

"The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough."

"Luck is truly where preparation meets opportunity."

"You cannot change the cards you are dealt, just how you play the hand."

This clip was his last lecture at Carnegie Mellon and its' great for a variety of reasons. For me, it's a reminder that good people do exist in this world and that there are those of us who have values and morals and believe that karma is an omnipresent force of nature. With all the crap we're being fed by the mass media and reality T.V. shows, I know I've sometimes lost faith in finding the good in people. It's reassuring to know that not all is lost. Moreover, Pausch also touches on life and how we, as human beings, have the power to affect change in many capacities, with the only questions being: Are we willing to do something about it? And if so, will we quit when we encounter the 'brick walls' in our endeavors or will we persevere and climb over it or better yet, knock it down!?

And most importantly, it's about dreams (both big and small) and how we can make them come true. In essence, it's about leading your life in a way that you ALLOW yourself to dream those dreams. I think that as adults, we sometimes become so jaded with life and the reality of it all, we forget to think about the days when we felt uninhibited to dream. The days as children when we were asked about what we wanted to be when we grow up and without thinking about money, grades, or any externalities, we just blurted out what first came to mind. Whatever happened to them good ole days? In the spirit of dreaming of an MBA, I think we need to put the kid back in each of us. For the past year, I've been catching up on my favorite childrens books--they're so pure, innocent and unadulterated and they all give me the power to dream (yet again). Some of the ones I absolutely adore are: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The Ramona Quimby series, Freckle Juice, Fancy Nancy and so much more. Recently, I've also gotten into the Gilda Joyce series and Blue Balliet's Chasing Vermeer, the latter of which combines art, mystery, and math (go figure!) to take the reader on a journey through the eyes of sixth graders.

It's been a bit more difficult to find adult books that are worthy of my time, but quite fittingly, Professor Pausch's book, The Last Lecture, published in April and has since become a national bestseller, may just be my next great read. I'm heading to my local Barnes and Noble to peruse a copy. I'll keep you posted with my review.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Just Ran for Wine!

Whew! I survived and completed my 2nd half marathon from Napa to Sonoma! It was challenging, moreso than I initially thought! We began the day prior with a stop at two fabulous wineries in Sonoma: Kunde and Ledson; both of which were beautiful and offered wonderful hospitality. We were lucky enough to arrive just in the nick of time at the Kunde estates to receive a complimentary tour of their vineyard and wine cave which feature over 6,000 barrels of wine fermenting at a perfect 55.4 degrees. The Ledson winery had one of the most spectacular grounds I've ever witnessed...simply gorgeous gothic castle type of estate made you feel like you were rolling up to some fancy mansion for a black-tie event with Gargoyles :) After which, I attended a Pasta Party at a lovely vineyard for the charity that I'd be running for along with 700 other team-mates and 3 of my own mentees. It was very inspirational to hear about so many people who were embarking on the half marathon in honor of a friend of loved one suffering from Crohn's or Ulcerative Colitis. But perhaps, the most motivational part came from the former Olympic coach/Half marathon announcer who told us that the final race participant he let in was none other than a nun from the Vatican who, only two days earlier, had climbed Mt.Whitney (an elevation of 14,505 feet to the top!). After hearing that, how could you not be juiced to run?

Race day began at 4:00am at the Cuvaison Vineyard Estate. I woke up feeling dazed and groggy, but anxious to have 13.1 miles kick my ass. And that it did! There were rolling hills pretty much throughout the entire course, but it was lined with miles upon miles of beautiful vineyards. At mile 10 and 11, I had to be sidelined twice for cramps on each calf...oh it was painful! And then...I see the nun run past me! It was too funny amidst my little injury, but a great motivating force to take me all the way to the finish. Granted, I did not make my PR, but given my condition, I was elated to make it at all. My friends and hubby had already finished, so they were snapping pictures left and right. The best part had to be running to the finish with one of my mentees who is diagnosed with Crohn's Disease...we'd been training together from the start and this was her first half. How cool is that! It was pretty awesome to receive my 2nd half marathon medal, but my calf pains were killing me and it continued for the next 3 days. ugh!

Having completed yet another feat, here is my takeaway lesson:

1) Much like my run for an MBA, running a half marathon is challenging, thrilling, empowering and full of unexpected possibilities.

A few days after the race, I was invited to speak to a group of 60 students at a bay area non-profit organization surrounding the topic of self-empowerment. Can you believe I do this for a living? It was pretty informal, but the director asked me to share my experiences regarding college and life in general. Needless to say, it went off without a hitch and (not to toot my own horn..but okay, if you insist: Toot! Toot!) I hope I sprinkled some seeds of inspiration during my visit. These students are pretty amazing already, but what touches close to home is that they really remind me of the neighborhood kids I grew up with: brimming with potential, but lacking the necessary financial and social capital to fully make their mark in society, esp. if it were not for the resources of this community-based non-profit.

In between breaks, the director and I shared our educational career plans and it just reinforced my goal for an MBA. These are the moments that make me smile and realize that not only is this the most opportune time for me, but that I'm pursuing an MBA for the right reason: My heart is definitely already there--business deserves to have people with heart...and that's something I got plenty to give!

P.S. I also just signed up for the San Jose Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon in October. If any of you are juiced to do this, let me know and I can send you a coupon code for $15 bucks off the reg. fee. :P

Thursday, July 17, 2008

HBS Info Session: The Scoop

You know the feeling you have when you're looking forward to something good? Do you have it in your mind? Okay hang on to that feeling b/c now, recall a moment when that something you were looking forward to doesn't turn out the way you expect, and I'm not talking in the good sense. This anticlimactic moment leaves you with a pang of utter disappointment, dashed hopes and the only thing you can mutter to yourself is, "DAMN, that's it?!"

Well, now you know how I'm feeling right now after getting home from the Minority HBS information session. What really sucks is that I know HBS can do better. Last year, I went to a Harvard session put on by the School of Ed and it was fabulous! It was also when I thought I'd be venturing into grad school for higher edu. Tonight's disappointment made me question my intentions for an MBA. Granted that HBS receives far too many apps than probably any other B-school in the country, you would still think that it would put more planning into hosting an event, especially in SF of all places!

Okay, you're probably wondering what exactly went down. Here goes my candid observation:

The event was held at the Medjool Restaurant & Lounge in the Mission District of SF. I've only heard of the Mission District but until today, had never been there to experience it for myself. As its name suggests, this part of town is recognized as the home of stunningly vibrant, mural-lined streets dotted with taquerias and mercados that remind me of being in Little TJ or Rosarito as a result of its predominant Latino & Spanish-speaking population. I got there 30 minutes early b/c the email indicated that registration would begin at that time. In any case, once I arrived and inquired about where I should meet up with HBS, the hostess said she didn't know but thought it would be up in the Penthouse area. So, I'm, this is nice. I speak too soon b/c as soon as I get up there, the waiter says there's no HBS group here, but kindly directs me to the mezzanine level. Apparently, nobody really knew that Harvard was in the building...when does this ever happen, right? Well, I finally spy a guy and a girl and just as I (had not) suspected, they are the only 2 hosting this event. I give them the benefit of the doubt, but notice that nothing's organized at all. There's no Harvard banner or any HBS brochures in sight, so obviously, how can anyone discern that this is Harvard and not some random people meeting up for drinks? She has nametags scattered on some low tables along with a hastily printed sign-in sheet. I guess I'm the 2nd guest to show up and she then makes it clear that this is going to be pretty informal. The only thing is: there's 52 people on the list and there's only 2 of them! I think to myself: This cannot be productive.

The biggest perk of being early is that you're able to ask your questions w/o having to compete for face time. However, even this is difficult b/c the place is so darn noisy and the set-up is such that you either have to sit on couches so low to the floor while others tower over you as they stand, or vice-versa. I elect to stand and a few more people show up before 7pm. Later I find out that other people were also under the impression that this would be a nice and somewhat formal session that would include an HBS powerpoint presentation followed by perspectives from alumni and/or current students. The emails I received didn't allude to the fact that we'd be met by only 2 current students with no plans whatsoever. Anyhow, based on our interrogation session (for lack of a better word choice b/c that's pretty much what it seemed to be), here's what I gathered:

1. Both of the students, A* & J*,have finance backgrounds and currently doing internships in the SF area (one at Genentech; the other at Accenture (I think). A* participated in the Harvard Summer Venture in Management Program prior to considering HBS and said it helped her realize that HBS was the right fit for her.

2. HBS cares a lot about leadership (and that's pretty much all I got).

3. The HBS interview (if you're lucky enough to receive one) will either make or break your candidacy, meaning the adcom has not made a final decision yet and you have the potential to sway their opinion of you if you kick ass in person. J* contrasted it to Stanford's interview, which (in his experience) pretty much tries see if you are a good fit for them, thus, he says that they've pretty much made up their mind on you already and you have very little to do with changing it. J* also mentioned Columbia and how they are, of all B-schools, so obsessed with their yield numbers and would prefer to hear you say, "YES! Columbia is not my back-up, but really my #1 and I haven't applied anywhere but here!" He says telling them you applied to other top B-schools will may likely increase your chances of being dinged!

4. A* said she is probably taking on $100K in loans. Ouch! But again, she touts the ROI is awesome in the long-run and she believes it will definitely be worth it. When asked about career services, she says there's still room for improvement. When I posed the question about the not-so-great economic forecast, she admits she is worried, but that, her professors have reminded her that the Harvard brand will sell itself, even in the midst of a brooding economy. Of all Bschools to invest in during this state of the nation, Harvard is probably the best.

5. HBS' case-study teaching methodology is pretty much 90% of the way courses are taught. This requires a great deal of work and participation on the student's end. This means that close to 50% of your grade will be based on class participation. I asked her about the grade non-disclosure policy and she said HBS has done away with it the past year. Really? However, she reassured me that when she was applying for internships this past year, none of the companies inquired about her grades.

6. HBS students are very cooperative. A* was really concerned about being in an uber-competitive business environment and found that her peers were more than willing to offer their advice and expertise. This is a major plus in my book!

Alright, I think that's all I can remember at this moment b/c I cut out after just an hour of chit chat. Writing things down makes me realize I probably took away more than I thought. However, even with this info, I'm still left with a sour taste in my mouth, but one I hope to sweeten on August 14 when I attend the MBA panel event. I double checked the description for that and they assure me it's going to be a panel of admissions reps/directors from each of the 5 major Bschools, so that makes me happy.

The students today were both nice, but somehow, I just didn't click with any of them. Maybe it's b/c none of them shared my passion for social enterprise. I guess it's Bschool...what did I imagine right? I still have HBS on my hit list b/c 2 peeps are not reflective of what I believe the program is capable of offering me. I also still plan to visit late September and network with other students who share my passion and maybe, that will salvage my taste buds for HBS.

In the meantime, I have to keep the bigger picture in mind. I know where I want to go and an MBA will undoubtedly take me there. This is just one of those potholes I can run over. (But I can't help but wonder: Is this really what I want?) I think this question will forever be on my mind until I get in somewhere (somehow).

Ahh...the thoughts that go down in this noggin of mine! Alright, so what's the lesson here folks?

1) KNOW Before YOU GO: Double check what type of info session you'll be attending: formal presentation w/Admissions or informal one with alumni/students. The optimal choice would be a mix of the two. The former is more structured and thus, for those of you who are just looking for general info, it's great. The latter is more for those who've already done research and want specifics into the life of HBS students and so forth (Is it just me or does the latter remind you of speed dating and 21 Questions? I think it kinda felt that way during the night. Weird.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Gearing up for 13.1 miles!

In just 5 days, I'll be running my 2nd half marathon from Napa to Sonoma! According to Runners World, this event was voted Best Finish in 2007 since all runners are treated to a huge Wine and Music Festival at the end where we have all-access wine-tasting privileges. As much as I love the idea, I will probably forgo drinking wine at the finish b/c chances are, I will be super dehydrated and will have no desire to further intensify this physical state of exhaustion. I'm hoping, however, that the vendors will give us sample bottles to just take home or something..that would be Sa-WEET! Either way, I still plan on visiting some lovely vineyards in the Healdsburg/Sonoma area to do some wine-tasting of my own. If you have never been, I would recommend Sonoma over Napa any day because the latter, in my opinion, has became way too commercialized and snooty. Sonoma, however, retains its country charm and many of its vineyards are still family owned and, they are very friendly. If you like white wines, two of my favorites are Passalacqua and Mauritson Vineyards. And suprisingly, the Kendall Jackson vineyard estate not only features great reds and whites, but the grounds itself is so picturesque.

Thus, with less than a week away, this past weekend I attended CCFA's final group training in SF where we trekked 6 miles across the Golden Gate Bridge! Note to self: Do not eat CornNuts for breakfast on race day! I went against my better judgment and inhaled a handful of the tasty morsels before becoming uncomfortably bloated halfway through my run. I couldn't help but laugh b/c I knew I should have never done such a stupid thing! Where do my cravings come from? What a nut!

I've also realized that I'll be missing my 5th MGMAT session because the race expo will be in Sonoma on Saturday and I have to show up in person to get my bib number and timing chip. But thank you MGMAT for make-up sessions. I think it's for the better since I get to attend the Sunday class in August and the instructor is way cool! My GMAT studies have been progressing steadily. So far, so good. I have been keeping track of my mistake patterns and it pretty much boils down to 2 things: 1) careless arithmetic mistakes and 2) incorrect rephrasing of problems. Otherwise, all I need more of is practice. I will be completing my 2nd CAT test this week, so I'm a bit anxious to see my progress to date. Wish me luck!

And thanks to Clear Admit for their post, I've also signed up to attend the Wharton info session on August 5th. Coincidently, it is also the day I'll be flying down south for business, but I anticipate getting back in time to make the commute into the city for the session. If this goes well, I will opt out of the August 14 session I had originally signed up to attend. Oh, the opportunities that abound.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

On my way to B-school info sessions!

I received a lovely email from my friend who just began her summer study abroad experience in Amsterdam and as much as I wish that were me right about now, I have to admit that I'm pretty happy to not have to shell out a Euro for every 15 minutes on the net. Can you imagine? By the time I finished writing this blog, I would have paid for my B-school app fee already?!

It's funny that while others are enjoying or looking forward to long-awaited vacations in paradise with visions of sipping mai tais and pina coladas, I'm here in the middle of a heat wave diligently planning the course of my highly-anticipated and hoped-for future. But you know what? I don't feel the least bit disappointed. I feel that it's my hopes and dreams that continue to fuel my desire to always better myself in ways I've never thought possible. Every summer, I find myself undertaking a new goal and in the process of it all, I learn more and more about the real me and about what truly brings me happiness and a sense of fulfillment on a day-to-day basis. True, financial freedom would definitely bring me close to my goals. But above all else, it's my passion for life and all its trials and tribulations. I just couldn't imagine living a life of knowing that I really have no purpose but to settle for whatever I can get. So, to put me one step closer to narrowing down my B-school list, I just signed up for some info sessions in SF. And this time, I'm confirmed!

To be honest, I haven't even gotten to finalizing my hit list. I hope to keep it at 5, okay, 6 max (I promise). I have, however, made the conscious decision to apply for R2 b/c I really want to visit some of my top choices before submitting myself to the grueling application process. I've got one free roundtrip from Southwest just waiting to be used up, so I'm very fortunate for that. Additionally, come November, I will be in NYC to support my very significant other for the ING Marathon so I will definitely visit Columbia and NYU to make the most of my time. I've visited both schools before, but that's when an MBA wasn't looming over my head and I had intended to pursue an advanced degree in education. My how 4 years changes everything!

Well, here are the sessions I'll be attending:

HBS Session: July 17
Chicago GSB: July 29
Penn Club MBA Info w/Wharton, HBS, Stanford, Sloan & Kellogg: August 14

This will be my very first opportunity to rub elbows with current students and adcom members, so this should serve as a good indicator of what each school has to offer me, esp. in the realm of social enterprise!

On another great note: I'm having lunch with my other two recommenders this month and they are each very excited to hear about my plans for B-school. In fact, one of them just received her MBA in June and she's already got a job lined up! So far, things are looking up!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ignorance is NOT bliss! It's Idiotic!

I was just browsing the Business Week website to see if there were any further updates on the whole Scoretop cheating mess and I happened to come upon a comment posted by a less than bright individual (whose screen name shall go unmentioned) claiming that b/c of this particular scandal and I guess whatever stuff they've been reading, that "all Asians cheat." I think this is how his/her thought equation worked: Scoretop run by Asian + VIP members presumably mostly Asian + tendency for Asians to cheat (based on ill-conceived assumptions) = ALL Asians must cheat! My reply: In the words of Ellen Pompeo of Grey's Anatomy, "Seriously?"

Okay now, my Stat-savvy friends: does correlation always imply causality? And when do the actions of a single person or a group of people automatically justify the scapegoating of an entire race (whose cultures are so vastly different and who aren't even, I might add, linked by one common language)? Is it just me or are we all fed up with how ignorant people can be and how their thought processes have still not progressed since the Prehistoric era? Haven't we learned anything from the morally unjust internment of our Japaneses sisters and brothers about the horrendous effects of racist scapegoating?

Well, I just had to get that off my chest. As you can see, one of my biggest pet peeves, above all else, is people speaking out of their (_*_)!

But anyhow, I digress from my initial endeavor. GMAC has come out with a list of FAQs for those who are interested or concerned about their looming MBA future as a result of being VIP members of Scoretop. GMAC upholds that they have the right to cancel scores and ban you from taking it altogether if it can acquire "compelling evidence that you did seek out 'live' test questions." You can imagine how this news is affecting those involved. In fact, Business Week reports that this scandal has gotten fellow MBA aspirants sweating like hotcakes! And here I'm thinking this 100 degree heat wave is bad enough! So, remember folks: When in doubt, run the other way!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

I'm Collecting...

tokens of inspiration, that is. To rewind and recap back a year ago, I began this blog to document my goal of running my very first half marathon after a lifetime of mistakingly believing that I just wasn't a runner. I set out to prove myself wrong and I am so happy I did. Now, as I continue in the same tradition, I'm "running with a dream" to pursue my MBA.

A year ago, I never imagined myself running. And now, I'm gearing up for my 2nd half marathon in Napa in just two weeks' time to benefit the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America. I'm even mentoring a group of awesome ladies who will be embarking on their 1st half. I'm ecstatic, but my own training has been sporadic. Well, after all, the air quality in Nor Cal has been extremely unhealthy as a result of the wildfires and this week, it got icky hot. In any case, after a day of gorging like a malnourished fool in celebration of our Nation's day of birth, I just had to run! At the butt crack of dawn on Saturday, I set out to prove to myself that once a runner, always a runner (hey, it's just like riding a bike, right?) The answer: yes it is. You just have to commit to running and you'll get there soon enough.

And run I did. 11 miles to be exact! The weather was perfect for running: no scorching sun, but a much-appreciated overcast with a blanket of fog and mist hugging Ocean Beach as I made my way along the Great Highway to Lake Merced and back again. Wow! I couldn't believe that I ran non-stop (well.. except to tie my hair, but that doesn't count in my book:) .

I bring up this story b/c as I and everyone else who is embarking on a journey to pursue what is right now a dream, but may very soon become real and tangible within a year's time, we all have to stay committed and focused on the bigger picture. I realized this not just from my 11 miles, but as I have been perusing through admissions essay topics, I've really had to dig deep within myself and do quite a bit of soul-searching. I've only begun to crack the applications, but even so, I realize that entire app process will be demanding, challenging and at times, perhaps even draining. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the plethora of information that's being put out there on the blogosphere, but at the end of the day, I am utterly grateful to have so much support from those who have such obscure identities but possess such vivid personalities.

For many of us, the idea of pursuing an MBA was probably never something we aspired to achieve, at least it wasn't in my case. As I contemplate a concise and compelling way to present my on-paper self to the adcoms, I am compelled to think back to the one moment in time when that light bulb lit up above my head and I actually BELIEVED that this idea was possible. I know we all had it otherwise we wouldn't be blogging about it, right? So, I encourage you to do a bit of introspective analysis and rewind back to that moment. I believe that it is from those seemingly insignificant moments that we have the most profound epiphanies. I know I did.

So, along the way, I'll be collecting random tokens of inspiration to keep me on the right track to an MBA...wherever it may lead, there's only way way to go from here...and that's up!

BTW: The HBS Women's Info Session contact did email back and was also shocked at the "gone in 13 minutes" status of the session. I guess the limited space had to do with the fact it's hosted by the Womens Association at HBS and there's only going to be 2 reps there to speak with everyone. In any case, I'll be keeping in contact with her and come late Sept. when I visit HBS, It'll be nice to aim for a more intimate discussion with her. Hope springs eternal...I will not give up!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

HBS Info Session: Full in 13 minutes!?

Arrghh...I've been visiting the HBS website practically everyday hoping that the registration for their SF events open up soon. So, you can imagine my delight when I get an email from HBS Admissions announcing that the Womens info session in SF is now open. I get this email at 1:18 PM (PST) but I dont' get a chance to read it until 13 minutes later and when I click on the link to register, IT'S FULL! I'm like, "What the Feezy? Already?" Currently, I am waitlisted, but not before I sent an email to the contact inquiring if it was due to some glitch in the system that the session filled up in record time. Today, still no reply, except a confirmation that I'm still on the waitlist. UGH! I even try the link again and this time, the message reads that the registration is closed due to full occupancy...that's crazy right?! I'm thinking I should just show up. I've been to these types of info events before and usually, nobody gets turned away...but we'll see.