MBA Diary: Stuti Sahajpal at London Business School

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Before embarking on her MBA at LBS, Stuti's business experience was as follows:

December 1999-September 2000: Special projects manager, operations and planning at Colour Packaging,Ltd, Nairobi, Kenya

April 1998-September 1999: Equity research analyst, emerging market oil and

gas sector, Citibank Global Asset Management, London, UK

October 1991-February 1998: Management consulting, energy sector promoted to manager internally from entry career stages, Arthur D Little Ltd, London, UK.

On her reasons for doing an MBA:

&quotAfter spending most of my career in the service sector and focusing largely on a single industry (energy), I would like to do something that doesn't feel so much like being on the outside and looking in. I am exploring two avenues with this MBA - whether to move into an operational role within industry or do something with a more entrepreneurial flavour.

I chose LBS because of its two-year MBA programme that allows enough time to explore new career directions and because of the international nature of its faculty and student body, as well as its focus on entrepreneurship. In the 2nd year in particular LBS offers electives related to the development of new ventures.&quot

Here is Stuti's diary of her first impressions at LBS:

Autumn Term: September-December 2000

This is the first time I meet the 265 people who will be a large part of my life for the next 21 months. Walking into a marquee full of strangers is difficult, but I needn't have worried - everyone's really friendly and I find I genuinely like most people.

I meet my study group who I will work with for the next year on all non-individual course assignments. My group reflects LBS's internationalism: South Africa, Luxembourg, US, Philippines, New Zealand and India. We all seem to click and have similar ideas about how we should work - so far so good!

Weeks 1-2

Lectures start - this term's courses are Understanding Financial Analysis, Managerial Economics, Managing Organisational Behaviour and Operations Management. &quotLecture&quot is really a misnomer - depending on the subject, up to 75% of class-time is spent on interactive discussion, largely based around case studies. Lecturers vary in style, but most minimise cold-calling, mainly due to sufficient voluntary participation by different individuals.

Lectures only account for two and a half days a week, but I hadn't realised how time-consuming preparation is - another day at least. Attending class without pre-reading is generally a waste - you'll just be lost.

It's not all work though. A corporate partner sponsors a Thames boat cruise. The weather is miserable (as usual), but the drink and talk are flowing and we're great at dancing on a swaying boat!

The following week are the LBS Olympics, where streams compete in football, touch rugby and frisbee, amongst others. The day reflects the community spirit that I'm already beginning to appreciate about LBS - partners are fully-fledged team-members and everyone gallantly ignores my total ineptitude at football and volunteers snacks to keep me going!

Weeks 3-9

It's amazing how quickly we've settled in. My group have split assignments between us - there's no time for everyone to be involved in everything, so we have no choice but to trust each other!

We vacillate between allocations based on previous expertise, versus giving novices the chance to learn by doing - typically, we form mixed teams, reflecting the generally collaborative attitude at LBS.

Between assignments, lectures and reading, my weeks are very full, and deadlines often mean working weekends. However, I'm learning something in each course - even Financial Analysis which was essentially my job for two years.

I'm also getting involved in other activities. A group of us originally from Africa are reviving the regional student club. The committee is a nice mixture of first and second year full-time MBAs, as well as people from other programmes.

Week 10

Exams are here already! Sitting down to study, everything comes together for each course - I think I'm getting the big picture finally. The exams are different to most I've taken before - a mixture of open-book and take-home papers.

At first I think, 'Great, this is easy,' but then I realise that these types of exam require serious quality, since information recall is irrelevant! Stress levels are high and the library is full at all hours, but we've also got something to take our minds off studying. This weekend is the Christmas Ball with each stream providing some entertainment.

End of term

Exams are over - in hindsight they don't seem to have been that painful. The Christmas Ball was fantastic fun. My stream put on a very un-MBA-like presentation of a famous scene from the Full Monty (they're going to have serious trouble living up to this one next year!)

Four weeks break to look forward to now - time to reintroduce myself to my friends outside LBS.

Spring Term: January-March 2001

It doesn't take long to settle back in. There's a new set of courses (Finance, Marketing, Information Management, Decision and Risk Analysis and Ethics). The lecturers this term are excellent - they are all enthusiastic as well as knowledgeable and they transfer this attitude to us.

Summer internship recruiting starts this term. I'm an external observer for now, since I'm avoiding consulting or finance internships that are the main focus currently. I watch my classmates going through an intense schedule of company presentations and struggling with a multitude of applications.

Then interviews start and for a few weeks things turn a little surreal. The atmosphere is more competitive than normal, although it never quite gets ugly. I apply for a few &quotindustry&quot (non-consulting and finance) positions, but I'm really still trying to figure out exactly what I want to do over summer.

Term passes quickly. Exams come around again, but we know better what to expect. Looking back, everything about the two terms has confirmed that I made the right decision to do an MBA at LBS. I'm learning and facing new challenges while making new friends in an incredibly stimulating environment. It's work hard and play hard, but I'm loving every minute of it.&quot

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