Monday, June 30, 2008

GMAC Issues ScoreTop FAQ

Just a quick post. GMAC has just issued a short FAQ that talks a little about their plans regarding the ScoreTop subscribers. The link is below:

Some of the questions and answers are ambiguous but the biggest takeaway that I received was that people who accessed the site but did not pay for VIP membership, will not be punished. That's a relief for many I'm sure. There's also a funny line in there from the BusinessWeek editor who published GMAC's FAQ... in response to the common question "how could subscribers know that ScoreTop questions were live and illegal?", the answer is "one must be blind to not have known"! What a riot. Sorry to make light of this but I'm feeling light-headed after reading hundreds of posts on this topic. I'm going to give it a rest til tomorrow.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

ScoreTop Scandal

How about that scandal eh? For those unaware, GMAC (the administrator of the GMAT) just won a lawsuit against a website called ScoreTop, which was providing live questions. Apparently one could pay $30 for 30 days of access as a VIP member and gain access to current questions that were still being used. The difference between this and Kaplan or Veritas' questions is that those questions are either proprietary (created by the respective company) or actual retired questions purchased legally from GMAC. ScoreTop had a message board where users would provide questions and some schmucks even wrote incriminating stuff about how they saw 10-12 questions on their actual exam that were posted on the website. Crazy. The amazing thing is that 6,000 people were registered VIP members! GMAC is threatening to cancel scores and notify the schools which received them. More should be known in a week.

This has got to be really scary for some people. The people who would use a website like ScoreTop are probably the super driven, super obsessed types who are applying to top programs. Those affected will likely come from the ranks of the Top 20 programs or so. Those schools will have a really tough decision coming up especially since it's still debatable which subscribers knew what they were getting into. The website certainly seemed legal and those subscribers probably viewed it as a way of getting extra practice and preparation. I can understand how the GMAT-obsessed aspirant could completely lose sight of the unethicality (not a word I know). After all, if something is available for purchase online, then most people probably think it's legal. A flawed heuristic to be sure but not an unfathomable one. Since ScoreTop has been around for 5 years, it's entirely possible that some of the incriminated have already graduated. The worst case scenario for them would be getting their MBA revoked and their careers derailed. I'm sure some programs will kick out current students. Just crazy stuff all around.

I really hope GMAC is 100% positive before calling out the subscribers because I'm sure we all know friends who could've walked into this trap somewhat unwittingly. Hopefully their momentary lack of judgment doesn't completely screw up their MBA dreams. I imagine cancelled scores will be a permanent part of one's GMAT transcript which means even if they retake the exam, schools would know about the previously cancelled score. Troublesome indeed.

I'm really sympathetic to those who must be terrified right now. I mean, I was one of the super obsessed types who was pretty insane in their GMAT preparation (luckily it paid off). In fact, I even remember stumbling across ScoreTop's message boards myself. I remember it distinctly. My Veritas course offered 4 different sets of practice exams (created by GMAC, Veritas, Arco, and 800score). The sucky thing was that my sample scores fluctuated like crazy so I was really nervous and did internet searches to ascertain which sample exams were good indicators. That's how I found the ScoreTop message boards. I remember seeing the threads talking about actual problems but luckily for me, I only read the 1 thread about the different sample exams (which was like 200 posts long!) ... I gotta say, the users of that website were definitely hardcore in their obsession. And I thought I was obsessed! I didn't look around the rest of the site so I never even knew about the $30 membership. Good thing huh? The fallout from this will be crazy. Much bigger than the Fuqua scandal for sure.

In brighter news, I took the PMP certification exam this saturday... I am now a certified P(i)MP. In consulting, it's the top designation that one can get certified in (I think): Project Management Professional. My company sponsored it. All I had to do was take a 4 day bootcamp class and then take the 4 hour exam (only need 3 hours though). Pretty easy stuff. I think it's ridiculous that people can get certified as such from just taking an easy class and then paying for the exam. It almost seems like a money-making scheme. Especially since the class teaches you how to pass the exam, rather than how to manage projects. The learning is very shallow. The positive takaway from this, however, is that I do have a better broad understanding of the consulting world and what it's like to manage projects. In the sense that every endeavor is a project, even applying to b-school, the course provided a decent framework for how to approach these projects from a planning, management, risk, and what-else-have-you perspectives. Last week I was about to use Microsoft Project to plan my b-school application schedule as a fun lil exercise but was too lazy to do so in the end. Silly me :P

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Another One Bites the Dust

You may recall that my old project manager resigned a month ago for a rival firm. Thus the Deputy Project Manager stepped into his role. Well surprise surprise! The Deputy (who is now the project manager) has just resigned this week to leave for the same firm! Haha, how rich is that? He is the third person to leave for that firm in the last 2 months actually because a more senior person was the first person to leave (but she was not on my project). I’m sure my client is realllly happy with all the turnover at the project leadership level. In fact, one of the managers who left has revealed that he’s already spoken to our client about using his new firm instead! I don’t know if he should be talking that openly about his strategy but it makes for juicy gossip! It’s also crazy how much of a raise they got when they left. I would leave myself but it’s pointless since I don’t even want to be doing this federal consulting schtick.

I’m currently helping my teammate revise her resume. She’s only 25 and has a 2-page resume! It has way too much info on it in my opinion and I heard that b-schools like you to keep it to one page. I know that two pages is acceptable at this stage but only in some instances. She definitely doesn’t need two though. She uses about 7 lines to talk about her college! And she has full paragraphs for a number of community activities. Admittedly, they are major activities, but still, an entire paragraph is a bit much. Plus, she still has her “Data Entry Specialist” position from her college part-time days listed. Yikes.

It’s full-fledged summer and I’ve broken out the seersucker suit combo for the first time ever. I’ve owned it for 2 years now but never had the guts to wear it until next weekend. For some reason it feels more acceptable to wear it in DC than in NY. Plus I don’t care what the heck my co-workers think. Funny scene yesterday. I’ve recently taken to wearing hairbands (not headbands) to manage the surfeit of hair that I now possess. My project team has teased me about. Yesterday, one of them called me into the other room to look at a document and when I walked in, the entire team was standing there staring at me… and all of them were wearing hairbands! It was quite funny and stupid. But I liked it hehe :)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

BusinessWeek Columbia ED 2009 Thread Up!

I know this isn't as exciting to others as it is to me but I'm kinda excited that the Columbia ED 2009 thread is up and running on the BusinessWeek forums. After only a couple days, the thread has 50+ posts and once again, ChristopherW has done us a tremendous service by starting a public Google spreadsheet tracking the stats and dates of each applicant's admissions journey. Fun stuff! It kinda scares me that other people are already thinking about Columbia ED apps but maybe this will be the motivational tool I need to galvanize my own preparation. After starting my first goals essay, I kinda hit a rut. But I'm happy to say that this week I've finished my resume (I think) and approached one of my recommenders. Tomorrow I will approach my second recommender.

I've also started brainstorming possible topics for the other essays. Too bad Columbia isn't releasing the topics until late July. But maybe that's good, because I'll have time to put together my "recommender coaching packages" to my recommenders. I suspect it'll include my resume, my goals essay, and some pointers about what Columbia values in its applicants/students (e.g. entrepreneurship). I'm excited because it seemed like there was a big lull in my admissions journey and I'm sure some readers felt it as well from the lack of energy in some of my blog posts. But now we're only two months away from the start of Columbia's review period and I'm pumped :) In other good news, one of my co-workers just signed up for a GMAT prep course and has asked for my mentoring. I am more than happy to give it. Coincidentally, he is the junior-level consultant that I manage so I'm happy that he's looking forward in his professional career. This will be fun!

In sadder news, our favorite Samantha from Best MBA Blog Ever has not updated her blog in a week. :( just kiddin!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wedding Aftermath & Rec Strategy

I am back from South Bend! As you may recall, one of my best friends from high school just got married on Saturday and I was a groomsman. South Bend isn't that exciting (didn't even have time to see Notre Dame) but the wedding was great. It wasn't gaudy and ostentatious like the kind I would personally want (hehe), but weddings between two lovebirds is just a beautiful thing in general. I'm really glad to have been a part of it. Luckily for me, I was the only groomsman who had to walk two bridesmaids down the aisle. And they were the two prettiest ones too. Unluckily for me, they were both married.... at ages 19 and 23! There were very few single people for me to hit on. Everybody over there just gets hitched at a younger age. Oh well. I did do some extended dancing in public though. And it wasn't half bad from the reviews :P

My flight actually got into Chicago (since South Bend is such a small airport) so I spent all of thursday checking out the city. I walked around the Miracle Mile, around Northwestern (undergrad and medical campus, not the Kellogg campus in Evanston unfortunately), took a cruise on Navy Pier, saw Wrigley Field, ate some deep dish pizza, caught the free blues festival in Grant and Millenium Park, and went out in Lincoln Park. Great time despite the humidity. Chicago really impressed me as a city. The closest thing that I've seen to NY. In my uneducated, completely biased opinion, it's probably the 3rd best city in the country next to San Francisco and New York. This is good news because I originally thought that I wouldn't want to live in Chicago but it was a great city. Too bad I didn't get to see University of Chicago GSB's campus (didn't have time and I was with a friend so he wasn't interested) nor Kellogg's. But like we all know, I'm obsessed with Columbia so hopefully it would've been moot.

Back to the wedding for a second... the song for the 1st dance was "Me and You" by Kenny Chesney! Beautiful!! I don't know if anyone knows this but I love modern country. Sad that I probably won't get married til a couple years after b-school graduation which will make me around 30 years old. I'm a romantic at heart but a bit too ambitious/competitive sometimes. I'm really scared of becoming one of those people who fall into the trap of becoming obsessed with work and start ignoring their family, friends, and relationships. :(

I am making zero progress with my essays and it's nearly the middle of June! Ack, I will not speak of this any further. I also want to get my consultant to review my crappy resume.

Let's talk recommendation strategy. For me personally, I want to give 2 months notice to my recommenders. Since I'm targeting a mid-August submission date, I need to notify my recommenders immediately! I know they're not going to do anything for a while but at least I'll know they've agreed. So my strategy is this. I'm going to use my latest project manager (the guy who just resigned for a rival firm) because I don't think the current ones will write a good enough of a rec. He already said he would do it which is good. He volunteered a month ago but I just asked him formally today and he agreed. The difficult part is that he'll need a ton of coaching. For my second recommender, I want to use my old manager from Deutsche Bank who knows I'm applying for b-schools but doesn't know (though may suspect) that I'm going to ask him. I emailed him yesterday saying that I'd love to treat him to lunch in 2 weeks when I visit NY... I plan on springing the question on him over a free meal hehe. Unfortunately, he has yet to respond. I will text message tomorrow afternoon to check his email.

That's it for now. My stock portfolio continues to suck. I am sad that Hilary did not win the Democratic ticket. I'm catching a cold.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Shallow Me to Chicago & South Bend

Another tornado warning! Crazy. I will still brave the elements to go to the gym but pray that I don't get blown off the Key Bridge. I'll be attending my best friend's wedding this weekend in South Bend, Indiana (grrrreat) but first, I'll be in Chicago for a day. Wish me luck.

I'm sitting here at work and I've done everything I absolutely needed to get done before I leave. Just killing time now. We had a luncheon with our team's Partner and Principal today. It's amazing how everyone becomes tools and monkeys around such a trivial event. We wear business casual every day but yesterday, everyone decided that we should all wear suits. We were all smiling and standing up straight like corporate dorks. I tried to fake it during lunch but after 2 minutes, I was done. The conversation went something like this...

Teammate: Oh, I'm from New Jersey too.
Principal: Oh really? Where from.
Teammate: Morristown (or whatever).
Principal: Oh really? I have a friend from blah blah.
Teammate: Oh yea, that's right by there.
Principal: Yeah, that's great.
Myself: zzzzzz

I am all about being myself nowadays. I understand that I will ultimately have to do the whole corporate idiot thing once I start recruiting at b-school but at least it'll be worth it then cuz it'll be for things I desire and have respect for. Here, everyone is really low-caliber and do no work and basically steal money from federal agencies in exchange for typing up useless documents and surfing youtube. I can't believe how seriously they take themselves sometimes. Shocking that nobody asked our Principal for a photo afterward.

My favorite teammate told me a juicy rumor today. Apparently our current Project Manager (the one who used to be Deputy Project Manager up until 2 weeks ago when the old Project Manager resigned) might be leaving for a competitor too! haha. Doesn't change much for me but I guess that means I wouldn't even bother asking him for a recommendation. I'll probably just wind up asking the old Project Manager who already said he'd do it. His intentions are great but I'd need to coach him a lot with the writing.

As for my essay, I've been finding it hard to motivate myself. Now I'm going to lose the next 4 days to wedding related stuff. I love weddings so I'm happy to go, especially for my good friend from high school. Let's hope South Bend is mildly entertaining. It'd be cool to check out University of Chicago while we're there and maybe even Northwestern which is a couple blocks from my hotel.

Oh, and recently I started thinking about i-banking. My mind flutters to the topic every now and then. It's a hellacious lifestyle but the work is interesting enough. The compensation seemingly makes up for it. Or does it? That's the debate I always have with myself. I learned from the Million Dollar Man, Ted DiBiase that "every man has his price." You'd probably work 18 hours in a day if you were paid $1 million. So what would your price be to work like that for a week? For a month? For a year? That's my problem... I actually care about prestige and wealth and pretty material things. I'm such a shallow fool.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Rosetta Stone

We had a tornado warning in DC today. I didn't even know that we ever got that kinda weather here. I was sad that I might have to spend all day huddled in my room working on my essay but there was a break in the downpour and I ran to the gym. Stayed for 5 hours. Not to work out but play basketball :) Oh, and for those who've been reading long enough, no, my broken hand isn't cleared for contact again but I tape it up and it feels fine. I'm not going to go full-speed until June 8th or so. That's what I tell myself. Today I went only 95% speed hehe.

So I won't write more about my essay woes at this point. Tis pointless. Let's just say that when you start, you find yourselves reading it over a million times. This is why I've always heavily favored exams over essays in school. With an exam, you can study to a point where you think you know all the material. But with an essay, you never know when you're done because you can always fine-tune further. I've probably read my essay and its various iterations over 20 times already. Yes, I am slightly obsessive.

Anyway, I just saw the commercial for Rosetta Stone and it sounds too good to be true... it's supposed to be so easy and fun to learn a language. Apparently the website says learning is like playing a video game. Hmm. I'm tempted. I would want to learn Spanish as I used to work for the Emerging Markets-Latin America trading desks at Deutsche Bank. Unfortunately, all I learned there were "bueno", "sympatico", and a couple curses. I also took a year of Spanish in 8th grade but it was so low-level that it felt like working at Booz Allen. Zing! Seriously though, I like throwing in random spanish words every now and then and I usually say hello by saying "Bueno" sooo... I think it'd be sweet to learn Spanish! It doesn't seem that hard, especially with this program. But if I pony up the $300 for levels 1, 2, and 3, then it might distract me from my application. Maybe I'll learn after Columbia makes its decision on my fate (Octoberish).

I also had a horrible thought today. I really have my heart set on Columbia and I'm optimistic of my chances, so much so that I didn't seriously think about starting other applications until after heraing from Columbia. But if I do that, then I'll have about 2 weeks (even less in some cases) to submit apps by the Round 1 deadline, which is the round that I'd want to submit. Well maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. If Columbia rejects me, I still haven't decided if I'd just wait a year to reapply so... ack, I'm scaring myself. Just pray for me.

Aside from more basketball, tomorrow I'm going to have brunch at a place called Busboys and Poets. The place looks really cool. Reminds me of an East Villagey kinda restaurant, the kind that I didn't think existed in this sterile city called DC. I'm muy excited for its vegan sausage! mmm, or perhaps I should have vegan bacon instead? Either way, the tempeh sandwich looks good. It's not a veg place but it caters to an eclectic crowd and I am just so excited. I wish I could take a photo of my brunch and post it but alas, my blog is not that cool.

P.S. Please vote on the new poll to the right :)