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I finished reading a book titled Snapshots from Hell: The making of an MBA, written by Peter Robinson. Peter was a presidential speechwriter for Ronald Reagan – he wrote the ‘’Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall’’ speech before enrolling at Stanford GSB. The book focuses on his first year at Stanford (he was at the school from 1988–1990) and it is a great read.
So, what was the school like almost a quarter of a century ago? Was it wildly different from the business school we know today? The answer is the GSB has changed very little over the past 25 years and I was amazed by that. The class size was between 300 and 400 people, there was a wide range of students from all over the world, Stanford and Harvard Business School were highly ranked, Stanford’s classes, then and now, were almost identical (but had different names) and most of all, the culture has not changed one bit from that of today with its focus on diversity, academics and recruiting.
One of the biggest challenges in business school is diversity – you have a large number of smart and talented people, but everyone is different and culture clashes occur. Moreover, some people appear to have no concerns about money, while others have modest means and struggle to keep up with the costs of business school – there are a lot of trips, parties and social activities that can consume many thousands of extra dollars every year.
When it comes to academics, Stanford, like most business schools, is divided into ‘’poets’’ and ‘’quants’’ – quants include bankers, consultants and anyone who can handle numbers with ease, while poets are people who would rather come face to face with an axe murderer than an Excel spreadsheet.
Job hunting is very complex. A good friend and fellow student once said that ‘’Fifty per cent of the GSB need to work hard to find their ideal job while the other 50 per cent can hire the people who need to work hard at finding employment’’. This is very true – if you studied finance or economics and worked in finance or consulting then you will have an easy time recruiting, while if you come from a non-traditional background you have to work harder at getting a job.
Having said that, the vast majority of students will agree that Stanford has been a blessing and has offered us the best two years of our lives, and I certainly agree with that. I have managed to learn an awful lot about business and finance from some of the best minds in the field, meet a group of very interesting and smart people and forge relationships with a network that I will have till the day I die.
I have also been involved with a range of activities including travelling around the world and leading a trip to my country where we met political and business leaders and had a great deal of fun.
Before going to Stanford I always thought that the term ‘’transformational experience’’ was a cliché that was thrown around, but as I come towards the end of my time at the school I know that these two years here will shape my life more than anything I have ever done.