Life in Term 2

Term 2 is not easier or harder than Term 1, but quite different from how you experience time pressure and work load. Whereas Term 1 was mostly demanding because everything was new, basic things had still to be arranged, and you had to build your routine to handle all the work, Term 2 had other challenges awaiting.

For me it was mostly juggling two things at the same time: career aspects and academic coursework. Although the first round consulting and banking interviews had already been done just before the first day of Term 2 classes, the process continued to drag weeks into the term. I had to fly out to Munich for BCG and McKinsey interviews twice and would have had to travel for Microsoft and Bayer Business Consulting the next week, if I hadn’t accepted the McK offer before that. People missed a lot of classes due to interviewing and traveling those weeks.

It’s hard for two reasons:

  1. Because you miss classes, it’s harder to stay on top of the subject. Every class has substantial learning points or new concepts, and if you miss out on those you have to dedicate time to get back on track – which is hard, because:
  2. You need to keep your focus on the interviews. Basically every free minute that you can spare in between doing the minimum required work to handle academics goes toward interview preparation. For that meant lots of practice on the fit part and then once in a while a real case interview with peers.

The mix of quant heavy and qualitative subjects was similar to Term 1. We had Marketing II, Operations Management, Operational Finance, Business Ethics, Self-Management, and Managerial Accounting.

This time the emphasis on teamwork was much higher than before. The term was packed with large team projects that kept us on campus until midnight a few times. We developed two full marketing plans, worked in-depth on three operations cases, analyzed two companies’ cost allocation systems for managerial accounting, and wrote a paper on a recent ethical issue for Business Ethics.

If your team didn’t work well in Term 1 you could still get away with that – not anymore in Term 2. Being able to successfully split tasks among team members is key to get through the high amount of work.

But then Term 2 also has two of the greatest IESE social events: SKIESE (300 people ski trip to Andorra) and Multi-Culti (a party to remember! People still come to Barcelona for this event – years after their graduation).

And of course, everyday life is packed with dinners, sports and parties.

Operations Day – using LEGO to operate your own factory

 

Campus Terrace
Late hour work on team assignments
Operations Management class
End of term group shot with professor
Marketing team assignment
Spring Games

 

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How I got an offer from McKinsey

Consulting season is finally over and I’m walking out with an offer in my hand! I will intern for 10 weeks in summer at McKinsey Germany.

This offer was absolutely not easy to get and I had to put in tons of work to achieve it. Basically, I did nothing else than 100% consulting preparation from right after the final exams mid December until the first round interviews on campus mid January. And at that point I had already visited numerous company presentations, consulting workshops and had done around 10 mock interviews.

Preparation

To give you an idea what awaits you if you plan to shoot for the consulting industry, here a summary of what I did to prepare myself:

General preparation

I read Case Interview Secrets by Victor Cheng (my base – very helpful), Case in Point by Marc P. Cosentino (good for additional insights) and Crack the Case (good to gain yet another view) by David Ohrvall. Then I also listened to the Look Over My Shoulder series by Victor Cheng, which I found VERY helpful to understand how a natural progression through the interview should sound.

IESE and the Consulting Club provided us with four full day workshops from an ex-McKinsey trainer, and organized various spot workshops by individual consulting companies. This gave a good outline and guided us along the way. It was definitely helpful to get that gentle push in the beginning to start working.

Mock interviews

I did 45 mock interviews in total. At first with direct peers and later more and more with 2nd years who volunteered to support in the process. I also did a mock with IESE’s consulting career officer, one with a professional coach from Management Consulted, two with experienced professional interviewers via Evisors (paid by IESE) and finally one with a current McKinsey employee who offered to help me. These professional interviews are particularly important because they offer you a more realistic view that isn’t biased by the school preparation system.

Each mock interview took 45 to 60 minutes and involved the whole process from understanding, structuring, solving, and recommending.

Fit interviews

When the real interviews came closer, I shifted my focus more towards the fit part. To get my personal stories straight I sat down for hours, just reflecting upon past experiences and assessing how they would fit to the various questions out there.

Once I had the most important stories developed, I tested them on real people to a) get used to tell them b) make them more concise and c) receive feedback on content and delivery. All in all I did around 10 full fit interviews and a few short questions before the case mock interviews.

Math preparation

Math mistakes or general un-ease with numbers can break your case interview, so I practiced my mental math skills heavily. First I read on various tips and tricks to do math without a calculator more effectively and quicker, then I practiced simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division techniques, and later I focused on percentages, break-evens, return-on-investment, and NPV (Net Present Value) calculations.

To make it more effective, I hired a Skype math coach to drill these concepts and challenge me with calculations. I spent 10 hours with him just discussing ways of how to approach various types of math problems and getting more comfortable in solving them.

The most important benefit of all this practice was confidence – knowing that I can solve all kinds of math problems made me calm and comfortable in doing it under pressure in the interview.

Websites

These websites were helpful on my journey:

www.rocketblocks.me – sponsored by IESE; for structuring, mental math techniques and mostly for math drills

www.preplounge.com – to gain a different perspective by doing mock interviews with people outside of the school; articles, and math prep tool

www.managementconsulted.com – articles and workshops (I had full access because I paid for one coaching session)


I strongly believe that the work you put in, directly translates into a better performance in the interview. However, it is extremely important to stay yourself and not to fall into the trap of losing your natural touch by over-engineering your responses. The firms look for real persons who know how to behave in real-life situations.

Interviewing

Interviewing took place in two stages:

First round interviews on campus

The first interviews took place on campus and consisted of 2 interviews with fit and case part. I interviewed with an Irish interviewer from the London Office and a German from the Düsseldorf office. Both were extremely friendly and really made the experience enjoyable. I heard back the next day via telephone and received the message that I passed to the second round.

Second round interview at McKinsey in Munich

For the second round, McKinsey flew me from Barcelona to Munich on a Thursday, put me in a hotel for the night, and invited me to the office on Friday morning. I did 3 more interviews and was ready to continue with more after lunch. Surprisingly, when the partner sat down with me for interview number 4, he just said that they were happy with my confident and focused interviews, and that he would like to extend an offer for the internship. In that moment I was incredibly happy and relieved, knowing that all the hard work had paid off.

I accepted the offer just a few days later and am now looking forward to see what the consulting life is really all about.

Career Forum, Midterm Exams and Applications

Another month has passed, and writing this, I feel like “this ALL happened in just one month?!”. Time runs fast when you’re busy. And believe me, we are VERY busy. I had high hopes of regularly doing sports here, but that was strongly limited in the past weeks. It is partly because I am applying to consulting firms which gives the extra workload, but other people are not less buried in work. Once the consulting phase is over (after the interviews in January), it will probably get better (or not, we’ll see). Actually I’m already getting better at managing my time and I find ways to carve out those extra two hours to get to the gym sometimes.

Career Forum

We had most of the top consulting firms and banks on campus, giving company presentations and answering all your questions at the career forum. From the industry side we had Microsoft, Amazon, H&M, Nike and a lot of other not so well known companies here. It was quite exhausting. Networking and attending so many company presentations was at the same time highly interesting and demanding.

Midterm Exams

High pressure and no time. Regular classes don’t stop and you have to get all your studying done in the evenings, while preparing tomorrow’s cases at the same time. We had exams in Financial Accounting, Capital Markets and Decision Analysis, each 3 hours.

Applications

Consulting and Banking applications were due on Nov 16. While other people went to Tech, Pharma, Sports Business and Finance Treks, I stayed in Barcelona with the consulting club, visiting company workshops, practicing case interviews and preparing cover letter and application documents. This doesn’t sound so much now, but it did take a lot of time actually.

Now final exams are just around the corner and we just handed in our final Analysis of Business Problems report today. Every free minute in between goes to consulting case interview preparation. Here, see some pictures to get an idea of what else is going on.

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Sunrise campus terrace
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My section
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10k fun run against breast cancer
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Rugby team in Madrid
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Sunshine in November
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Süddeutsche Zeitung Economic Forum in Berlin

2 Months in the MBA

I can’t believe it’s 2 months already. Time flies. I still feel like this whole new reality just began, but we’re approaching the mid-term exams already. The days have become busier and busier. You thought this week was demanding? Wait for the next.

I worked on a 20-hour written case analysis for Analysis of Business Problems, spent two 6-hour-sessions on a Marketing Pricing Simulation, developed the outline for a Leadership Video,  attended Saturday Consulting preparation workshops and practiced case interviews. All of this of course in addition to the standard 3 cases / day + Spanish classes.

It’s really hard to make the time, but I hold myself to not miss out on sports. It’s way below what I would usually do, but I joined the Rugby training sessions and went for a few runs so far. Still figuring out, how I can get regular gym sessions back into my routine.

One thing hasn’t changed: I’m still amazed of how much we learn here. I really feel the transformation and the personal improvement. IESE really does a great job so far.

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Ernstjan, from our intensive spanish group, got married and invited us all
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Group shot at the Korean Dinner
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IESE library from the inside
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View from the South Campus terrace
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View from Park Güell
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Got invited to a Japanese Dinner

Introduction Week & MBA Reality

Have you heard, that the first year at IESE is supposed to be extremely tough? From what I can see so far, that’s true. The last days hit me (us) like a hammer. But it’s amazing. I love the dedication that you feel everywhere, the collaboration and of course the learning. I find the things that we study, day in day out, absolutely interesting and can only now realize, how much more we’ll know after the MBA.

You might think that the Introduction Week is an easy progression into the MBA life. But it’s not. Although there is just one case to prepare, the events have a rapid pace and you spend all day in school. We got to know our teams, worked on our CV’s, crafted a “Team Contract”, got in touch with Career Services, visited an Alumni Panel and started the case preparation for the first real MBA week.

In the last week, the MBA was basically omnipresent. We have 3 classes a day, each 1:15 h. You need to prepare 1 case per class, so it’s a total of 15 cases a week. The easy cases take 1 hour of preparation, but overall 2-4 h is more realistic (at least for now, until we get a better grasp and develop efficiency). It depends also on the subject: Analysis of Business Problems (ABP) is challenging and you need to dive deep into the narrative and the numbers. Leadership on the other hand is easier to digest. Accounting takes time as you need to carefully do all the bookings.

This term we have: ABP, Marketing Management, Decision Analysis, Leadership, and Accounting.

So my typical day looks like this:

08:00 Team Meeting

09:15 Subject 1

10:30 Subject 2

12:15 Lunch and studying in the library / team meeting / last-minute case preparation

14:00 Subject 3

15:15 Studying in the library, open end – I had days when I left at 19:00 and continued at home, and others, when I stayed until midnight.

One thing is true so far: There is not enough time in the day, to prepare every case to the quality level you would like to, and working until late into the night was inevitable.

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays we have additional Spanish classes and the other days are usually full with consulting preparation or Company presentations.

I enjoy it though. I came here, to be pushed towards (and beyond) my boundaries. You can only grow, when you tackle these challenges. The surrounding is also full of motivation, and the people are great.

This year can only be incredible.

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Welcome Event in the Aula Magna on the first day
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International Dinner (Serbia, Greece, South Korea, Taiwan, India, U.S.A., Germany, Australia, Argentina, Japan, Spain, Brazil, Peru)
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First Term Bibliography
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Studying in the Library
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At midnight in the Lounge
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My view in class

First week of my IESE MBA

I’m here! In Barcelona! It has started.

I arrived last week’s Sunday evening, just in time for the start of the Business Spanish Program (a 2 week intensive course for all the non-native Spanish speakers).

So what has been going on?

IESE

I met a ton of incredibly interesting people at the first day event, where we received our welcome and health care documents. Everyone is indeed very international and has lived or worked in other countries than his own. There are really a lot of impressive backgrounds on campus here. The atmosphere was very open – you basically walked up to everyone you saw, introduced yourself, chatted a bit about each others background and then tried to remember all those name.

Business Spanish Program (BSP)

After taking part in a 15-minute evaluation Spanish group discussion, I was placed in level 3 of 12. It’s a comfortable level for my previous merely basic Spanish knowledge base. So far I had a lot of fun learning Spanish the last couple days. My group is great and has people from Taiwan, Korea, U.S.A, Serbia, Greece, Netherlands and Germany in it. Many of those have then lived in different continents for a long time. We’re 10 persons in the classroom and are very openly discussing and speaking in Spanish. So far it’s very effective and has considerably lifted my Spanish speaking confidence. I have no problem speaking and practicing the language in taxis, restaurants or bars. I’m also pretty dedicated on getting this language up to a professional level now.

Housing

It’s done. I secured an apartment. With the help of my two soon-to-be roommates, who organized all the visits, I looked at a few apartments after the Spanish classes. We paid the reservation fee for a 130 sqm, 3 room apartment in the center of Eixample, exactly the area where we wanted to live. The only drawback: It’s only available in a month and each one of us has to find a place to stay until then. I’m still in the process of figuring out the best option. It definitely feels good to know where you’re going to live and that you don’t have to spend time on checking the apartments online and visiting them in reality anymore.

Social Events

There have been a couple of social events so far: Several lunches and dinners and a big Saturday night get together among most of the IESE first-year students who are already in town. It was good fun. I also played Beachvolleyball with a few guys and have football coming up tomorrow. The day is pretty much covered with the BSP, which goes until 18:15 every day, and doesn’t leave too much room for larger social activities. But I’m sure there is much to come.

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This is my Spanish group on the roof of the IESE North Campus.
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I went running up the Tibidabo, and this is the view you’ll get for that.

 

Flight booked and things to do

Okay, I just booked my flight to Barcelona! I’ll arrive just the evening before the intensive Spanish classes begin. Quite last-minute, but what to do; I am busy all along and can’t arrive earlier. I also still don’t have a place to stay, but this will hopefully change, before I land in BCN. I have a group of people with whom we are trying to find an apartment together. Anyway, if everything fails, I’ll take an AirBnB or sub-rent a room for a short period and start looking for housing, when I’m there. Of course, it would be better to have that item off the list as soon as possible, not to interfere with academics.

So what’s still open?

  • I have to finish the last assignment of the IESE Accounting Course
  • I have to complete the entire Career Course and also the Consulting Assignment
  • I need a new business profile photo
  • I need to finalize/update my CV and LinkedIn profile
  • I need to go shopping, to be properly dressed for all the upcoming career events
  • I have to start reading through my case interview preparation book and start to solve some cases. I am not sure if I can still accomplish to do that before Barcelona though, – the other tasks have priority.

And then, there are hundreds of other things, that are not directly IESE related, but have to be done before leaving the country.

I’ll leave local things like opening a bank account, getting a Spanish cell phone number, buying a moto, getting the NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjero), and whatver there is to come, for the time when I’m actually there.