Every year the writers for Bloomberg Businessweek's MBA Journals share stories of their business school experience with our readers. Sometimes the stories are heartfelt, like the journal writer who shared his graduation day feelings in the aftermath of his father's death. Sometimes they are inspiring, like the stories of projects conquered and jobs won. Often they are practical—tips for managing time or impressing recruiters. Always, however, they offer readers the chance to be a fly on the wall at top business schools around the world.
When the air turns crisp and business schools get back to, well, business, a new crop of MBA Journal writers begin to confess their fears, hopes, and dreams. This year's group is small—just four writers, down from 10 for 2009—and they are international, like many B-school students these days. All four are attending business schools outside the U.S. Only one comes from a traditional finance job.
What all the new writers have in common is a desire to inspire and help readers navigate business school—from the application process to graduation. They'll begin doing that next week: The first of the new writers' journals will appear starting Monday. Without further ado, meet the new MBA Journal writers:
Chan, who will be attending the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland, in January, started his career in 2004 as a scientist for Medtronic (MDT), a Minneapolis medical technology company. After showing interest in the business side of the operation, he worked his way up to product marketing manager, a post Chan has held since 2008, according to his résumé.
A couple of years into his work, he started to hear business school calling his name. Having grown up in Singapore and having lived in the U.S. for 10 years, Chan was certain he wanted to enroll in a European business school.
"I wanted to live in Europe and experience life there," he says. "I would like to do that for a few years. I want a global career."
Chan chose to apply only to the one business school that stood out for him: IMD. He found the program to be cozy—the whole class consists of just 90 students—and after talking with students and alumni, Chan said he was satisfied with the types of leaders the school produced. He also wanted a one-year program. A campus visit won his heart, he says.
"I was really interested in a [business school] that created leaders to inspire a culture," says Chan.
Advice to MBA applicants: "Be yourself in the interview. Try to convince them that if they don't pick you, they're losing out."
Interesting facts: Chan, 30, served as a full lieutenant and operations officer in an artillery battalion of the Singapore Armed Forces from 1998 to 2000, and he maintained a blog about the business school application process as he went through it.
When Erb arrived at her dream job in publishing—working in Sydney, Australia, as a development editor in the higher education division of McGraw-Hill (MHP) for Australia and New Zealand—she realized there were other areas she wanted to explore.
"I thought there's room for creativity in business," says Erb, who is a first-year student at the Rotman School. "They're not mutually exclusive."
The birth of her niece and a desire to be closer to her family in Toronto played a role in Erb's decision to look into business schools in Canada, she says. Erb says she worried about whether someone from publishing could cut it in business school. After sitting in on an orientation, where many others shared their fears about the quantitative skills they'd need to pick up in B-school, Erb says she felt at ease.
"Many people at business school come from diverse, interesting backgrounds," she says. "I am not alone."
In the future, Erb says she would like to pursue a career in marketing, perhaps in brand management, where she believes her creativity would be useful. For now, she would like to show aspiring MBA students that anyone can become a businessperson.
"I have never been a diary writer myself, and I thought this would be a good challenge for me," she says. "I'd like to get the message out there that you can do this, too."
Advice to MBA applicants: "Be confident. Everyone brings something to the table."
Interesting facts: Erb, 27, speaks Spanish and French. In fact, her first word was in Spanish, thanks to her Colombian mom, who wanted her to know the language. Also, she loves to dance, having performed from childhood through university. "I feel very at home on stage," she says.
Hensel, who is a first-year student at London Business School, moved from San Francisco with her husband for the MBA program. She wanted to enroll in a school outside the U.S. because she was seeking a more diverse set of classmates than could be found in most top U.S. programs, she says.
"I enjoy not being surrounded by Americans," says Hensel. "I like to learn about different cultures."
Having no big-name companies on her résumé, Hensel says she was missing out on big-picture thinking skills, and her network was too heavy in startup contacts. Before business school, Hensel was senior marketing manager for NileGuide.com, an online travel company in San Francisco. After business school, she says she probably will stay in online marketing, but she would like to work in a more established company.
At her pre-MBA program gig, she did a lot of blogging and editing, so serving as a journal writer seemed like a natural fit, she says. Like Erb, she wants to give hope to nontraditional MBA candidates, she says.
"I want to share my experience, particularly with women, since we're still in the minority in all programs," says Hensel.
Advice to MBA applicants: "I guess the one piece of advice I'd give applicants is to give yourself even more time than you think you need to do the applications. The process is incredibly introspective—knowing your story, your goals, and what you want to get out of the particular program you are applying to. It's important to give yourself enough time to do the research on yourself and the program to gather your thoughts appropriately."
Interesting facts: Hensel, 28, is a foodie, which works well because her husband, who plans to participate in the partners' programs available to him at LBS, is in the wine industry. "I get to taste a lot of interesting stuff," she says.
Program: CEIBS (CEIBS Full-Time MBA Profile)
Having always anticipated going to business school, Iglesias was prompted to start applying to MBA programs after five years in finance. "I wanted more responsibility," he says.
He did not want to go to a typical MBA program. He wanted to raise his international profile, he says. So Iglesias is attending the 18-month MBA program at CEIBS, China Europe International Business School, in Shanghai. Already fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, and English, Iglesias is now learning Chinese.
"At the moment, I can only communicate with taxi drivers," he says.
China was Iglesias' destination of choice for the MBA because its economy is in hyperdrive. "It's booming," he says. "This is a long-term investment. It's a gamble, because the name of the school is not big yet, but maybe in 10 years [it will be]."
Although Iglesias says his dream is to work in international relations or politics at an organization such as the U.N. or World Bank, he imagines a more senior role at an investment bank or hedge fund is a more reasonable expectation after he earns his MBA. And he says he is willing to stay in China for a few years.
Advice to MBA applicants: "Don't get obsessed with rankings and the GMAT. Do research on what the life of the school is."
Interesting facts: Before business school, Iglesias, 28, left his hometown of Vigo, Spain, to study and work in London, then pitched in at a nonprofit in Africa for five months. A travel lover, he says he has been to pretty much every continent and has seen numerous countries, including Bolivia, Iran, and Zimbabwe.