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Would love to get your perspective

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Would love to get your perspective [#permalink] New post 08 Feb 2011, 12:38
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I recently came across this forum while considering future options and wanted to write to get your perspective if possible.

Out of undergrad, I had 2 years doing strategy consulting for a top tier consulting firm in Boston (Bain/BCG/McKinsey) and then transitioned into an analyst role at a growing hedge fund which I've been at for the past five years. I was the third member of the investment team hired (which is now four people). Our returns have been excellent through the financial crisis and since I've been here, we've gone from just under $250M in AUM to over $700M from a combination of returns and new investors.

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I graduated from a top three liberal arts college with a 3.7 overall GPA and a 3.9 GPA in the Economics major with Latin and Departmental honors. My extracurriculars in college were very strong. I founded various student organizations, sat in College government and various committees, helped score a big donation from a wealthy alum to my alma mater, and managed a $10K budget for a student organization. My post college extracurricular activities have involved some informal alumni duties like managing the worldwide linkedin group and mentoring some seniors seeking positions in finance and consulting, but are relatively limited in scope. I am pursuing a CFA currently which has been a tremendous time sink.

I scored decently on a recent GMAT sitting (720, 86% in Q and 87% in V)..

A couple things have concerned me recently.

1) Management opportunities here have been relatively limited. I have a clear role in firm recruiting from undergrad institutions as well as a strong role in training and mentoring a junior analyst but I'm pretty certain that that doesn't really hold a candle to the management experience that some of my peers have had. Asset management doesn't have the same type of title progression that most industries have so there's nothing that jumps out on the resume. I have, however, progressed very steadily in terms of skills and responsibilities. Is this a serious disadvantage to others who have more "demonstrable" skill sets?

2) Age concerns me as well. I'll be 28 this year which I suspect is on the older side for b-schools. Do schools consider you past your prime at some point?

3) Extracurriculars post college. What are b-schools looking for? Studying for the CFA has been a time drain so it's been tough to become super involved in anything else.

4) GMAT score. I'm pretty certain I can score better than my 720 but I'm concerned about a)diminishing marginal returns with taking it, b) actual negative perception effects from admissions committees deciding its stupid to invest time in.

5) What schools am I truly competitive for? I'd love Harvard/Stanford/Wharton/Sloan/Columbia, but I'm uncertain where I stack up in terms of experience/demonstrated management skill/scores/etc.

My long term career goal is to become a portfolio manager, specifically one with his own firm. For years I've put off the MBA decision because I thought it just wasn't necessary to getting to where I wanted to go, but recently I've noticed that a big blindspot with most PMs who try and start their own firms is the inability to communicate and market their story to prospective investors. I figure an MBA will be extremely useful in building a base of skills to achieve that outside of simply analyzing an investment.

I only just have begun to consider the MBA route and was hoping you could give me some guidance. Thanks in advance!
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Re: Would love to get your perspective [#permalink] New post 09 Feb 2011, 10:25
Here's the thing.

If your current job is one that is way beyond the post-MBA level (i.e. if you were to leave, your replacement wouldn't be some fresh faced MBA, but maybe an MBA grad with a few years post-MBA experience), then to be honest it may not be worth to go back to a FULL-TIME program, especially if you're looking to stay within more or less the same industry (asset mgmt/finance).

With your background, you actually would've been competitive had you applied years ago - i.e. in your first 1-2 years at the fund. But now, adcoms especially at H/S/W will question why someone like you would need to go back full-time now. And if you go beyond those schools like at Sloan, Columbia, Booth, etc. they may overlook your age, but even then, I'm not sure if it's really worth it.

If I were you, I would seriously look at some executive programs, or even a part-time program. Again, this has less to do with "28 being old" and more with where you're at in your finance career. Its not really about your GMAT, extracurriculars, leadership, etc but more about where you're at right now in your career.

I encounter enough folks like yourself each year, so I understand the emotional investment one may have in the idea of going back full-time. But in my view you'd be putting too much stock in it, more than it's worth. Mind you, if you've already emotionally invested so much in the idea of going back, then you're probably going to apply anyways. Just know that you're likely going to be a stretch not because you're not good enough, but because adcoms are going to be skeptical about why you want to go back, and it may be very difficult to convince them otherwise no matter what you say (without coming across as way too defensive).
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Re: Would love to get your perspective [#permalink] New post 09 Feb 2011, 10:58
It's a fair point and one I hadn't considered.

I was locked into a somewhat long term contract and it was only recently that I became a free agent. That's not much of an excuse and probably not a convincing one to admissions at any rate. I'm far from tied to the idea of going to business school but I feel as though there's a skill set and network I'm missing out on that I might need. Perhaps that's the emotional investment you're referring to.

Would my position be one which could be filled by a MBA graduate with no experience? Probably not but I can't decide whether or not that's the idiosyncrasy of my firm or the actual work. I would liken my job to that of second/third year associate at an i-bank. Yeah, a new grad could perform my job competently but there would be a year long ramp up period to being good at it.

Do I need business school to achieve my goals? Emotional investment aside, probably not.

Could it have helped me? Well that's the tough question isn't it! I have this long term goal of not just being a hedge fund manager, but also creating a different sort of investment company which will require many of the skills and the connections I know I'm just not getting right now. It's not a career change per se, but certainly a different and new direction which hasn't been explored by the industry yet. (In full disclosure, I have some noncompetes which prevent me from pursuing it right away which are not an insignificant motivator for taking some time off).

I guess my follow up question would be whether or not an EMBA experience can replicate the breadth and reputability of the Full time program particularly with regards to the closeness of the network?

But thanks again for the frank words, very much so appreciated.
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Re: Would love to get your perspective [#permalink] New post 09 Feb 2011, 13:09
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I think a lot of folks tend to overestimate this notion of "network" when it comes to b-school.

Keep in mind that it's not Skull & Bones, Finals Clubs, or some tight knit secret society.

The alumni 'network' really is just a very loose term for people who happened to have graduated from the same school, at various times in their history.

Even at the smallest schools, there are literally TENS OF THOUSANDS of living alums, and it's far from being your ten thousand closest friends.

Also, remember that as time goes by post-MBA, one's emotional attachment to the schools becomes more about personal nostalgia (not unlike the feeling you have for your high school right now) than some immediate, present asset for your career.

Of course it may not feel that way because b-school is front-and-center in your life now, but it's not going to be that way down the road.

Put it this way. If you're some random Stanford GSB alum, you can't just call up Phil Knight or Scott McNealy, whether you're some random 20-something kid, or a 50-year old. If you're a Wharton alum, you can't just call up Donald Trump, or if you're at Columbia, you can't just call up Warren Buffet asking for a job or to pitch a biz opportunity. Or at HBS, you can't just call up the partners at KKR and expect them to do much for you other than "hello back at ya!".

Also, if you're in your late 30s and 40s, where do you think your primary circle of contacts will be? Are you going to be trolling a b-school alumni database for leads? Whether you're looking for a job, or looking to raise money for a company, wouldn't you have enough contacts from the people you've known in the last 5-10 years (read: those people you've worked with in your industry, people you know from your extracurriculars, fellow parents you know from your kid's school, etc). Wouldn't that be where you spend your efforts? Would you really need to go waayyyyy back to your b-school database and contact strangers? Wouldn't that seem a bit desperate ("Hi, my name is PennTeller, I'm a fellow alum! I graduated 10 years ago, we never met or even graduated in the same generation. Meet me.").

Your primary and most useful network are going to be the people you've met and worked with within the last 5 years or so. If you haven't spoken much to them beyond that, they're just a few steps from being a stranger.

So, your b-school "network" are your FRIENDS that you end up hanging out with at school. Not even your classmates that you barely knew, once you're a few years out.

And you have no way of knowing where your friends from b-school (whether at your own school, or at other schools) will turn out. With 5-10 years, everyone ends up all over the place, all over the world. They will be in a random hodgepodge of industries -- if let's say you're still in finance and your ice hockey buddy from b-school is now happily settled in Nebraska owning a sustainable farm, he's just going to be a great friend, and chances are when you get together, you're not going to be talking about business. Maybe in your first 1-2 years out of school where everything is new, but no matter how ambitious one is career-wise, no one yaps on and on about their careers to their friends unless they want to bore them to death (or unless they are recent b-school grads).

The b-school "network" can be useful while you're a student -- but it's less about calling up random alums, and more about your fellow classmates. A lot of job leads come from your fellow classmates.

So let me ask you: given where you're at in your career, do you really think you're going to get a lot of great job leads from classmates who are not as far along in their careers as you are?

Again, your sentiment about "I'm far along in my career, but I want to go back for the network" is overestimating the value of the network at best. It's kind of like being a college grad and wanting to go back to re-do high school at Andover or Exeter to "network" with the rich kids.

One last time: no matter how "loyal" the alums are, it's not Skull & Bones. It's not the Marines, or some international brotherhood or world order where "we take care of our own". If you want that kind of kinship or "network" where members really take care of their own even if they're strangers to one another, join a church, or become a Scientologist. It's not some lifelong job/money tree that you can draw on time and again.
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Re: Would love to get your perspective [#permalink] New post 09 Feb 2011, 13:19
Thanks for the input. It certainly reframes the question in my head. I'm in the industry I want to be in, just trying to put the pieces of my skill set together to ensure that I have what it takes to do I want.

I think I have some research on EMBA programs to do.

All the best,
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Re: Would love to get your perspective [#permalink] New post 13 May 2011, 09:50
Wanted to piggy back on this post as I'm in a similar situation and interested in your thoughts.
Just to give you some background, I'm planning to apply for MBA this year for enrollment in 2012. My undergrad GPA is 3.7, haven't taken my GMAT but the goal is 700 (will put off applying if I don't get it). Extra. Activity isn't great (due to CFA + nature of work), but I am an assistant Scout Master and help with camping trips 3-4x a year.

I was lucky enough to land a position as a research analyst at a asset manager (manages about $7 bln) straight out of undergrad and have been on the job for 3 years (currently 26 ylds). This is the type of position where it requires an MBA along with 3-4 years of industry experience. While I don't have any mgmt responsibilities, as the author have mention due the nature of the business, my skills and role has step up from just being a backup analyst to covering my own names + sectors.

My long term goal is to be on the Private Equity side (the volatility of the stock mkt is not my cup of tea). Typical career track for PE is get an MBA + 2-3 years in investment banking, and get lucky and switch over. My contacts are limited and PE values more experience in the deal making side vs just managing asset.

Does it make sense for me to go the MBA route? I understand the point you were trying to make with the EMBA, does that apply to my goal?
Schools that I'm applying for are CBS, NYU, Wharton, HBS + Booth (if I don't get in, will apply year after). Should I expand my list? Do I have enough caliber to be accepted to these schools?
Am I lacking the "management experience"?

Thanks for your thoughts.
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Re: Would love to get your perspective [#permalink] New post 15 May 2011, 08:22
If the volatility of publicly traded securities is not your cup of tea, what makes you think that private equity is going to be less volatile? If anything, the nature of the business involves more risk and uncertainty than anything.
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Re: Would love to get your perspective [#permalink] New post 16 May 2011, 04:22
AlexMBAApply wrote:
If the volatility of publicly traded securities is not your cup of tea, what makes you think that private equity is going to be less volatile? If anything, the nature of the business involves more risk and uncertainty than anything.


What interest me more in deep diving on specific companies and have 3-4+ year investment horizon vs the day to day volatility of the market.

So if my goal is to land PE, does business school makes sense?
Re: Would love to get your perspective   [#permalink] 16 May 2011, 04:22
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