MBA Interview with Stanford MSx Student Erik Moon

Get the scoop on the Stanford MSx Program! This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now for a chat with Erik Moon, a recent graduate from Stanford MSx.

Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? Where did you go to business school?

Erik: First of all, I’m a bit older than the typical MBA student. I’m in my early 40s and have nearly 20 years of experience in product management, project management and operations in telecom, data centers and corporate IT. I’ve spent about half my career in Silicon Valley and the other half in Northern Virginia – so the two primary schools I was interested in were UVA / Darden and Stanford GSB.

I did my undergrad (BS Economics) as well as a masters degree (MS Information Systems) at George Washington University in Washington DC. I just graduated (2014) from the Stanford MSx program (previously known as the Sloan Fellows program). It is a full-time one-year program for experienced professionals. The summer / fall quarters are spent taking mostly core classes (like an MBA 1st year) and the winter / spring quarters are mostly electives (like an MBA 2nd year).

Accepted: What’s the difference between Stanford Sloan and Stanford’s MSx degree? 

Erik: Same thing… The Sloan program has almost 60 years of history as a degree program for experienced professionals. The program has changed significantly in the last few years to make the curriculum more flexible and incorporate the opportunity for many more electives than in years past. It is a 4-quarter full-time degree program, so Stanford doesn’t like to call it an EMBA – so students are not able to continue work while taking classes, but many students (approx 30%) are sponsored by their employers.

Accepted: What is your favorite thing about Stanford? And if you could change one thing about the program, what would it be?

Erik: That is a huge question! My favorite thing about Stanford has to be the optimism – the students all expect to be doing great things some day. People don’t come to Stanford just to slowly climb into middle management. The GSB motto – Change lives. Change organizations. Change the world. – is not an exaggeration…

If I could change one thing, I would want to increase awareness of the MSx program. It is a hidden gem that many people have simply never heard of in their b-school search. I think the branding (not wanting to call the program an EMBA) makes it very confusing. When mid-career applicants ask if Stanford GSB has an EMBA, the first answer is “NO” – then these applicants simply look elsewhere. But if they ask the right question – “Does Stanford GSB have a mid-career graduate business degree program?” – they would find the best “executive-level” business degree at the best b-school in the world.

Accepted: Can you share some advice to incoming students, to help make their adjustment to b-school easier? What do you wish you would’ve known when you started the program?

Erik: Since it is only a 1-year program, it is important to understand exactly what you want to get out of your short time on campus and quickly figure out how to get it. It requires a lot of initiative and focus when there are lots of life changes and distractions all around. You can’t sit back and expect all the good things to come to you – students need to actively seek opportunities and grab it.

That said, Stanford GSB has an acronym – FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out – there are so many events, clubs, guest speakers, presentations, brown-bag-lunches and other things happening that it is really easy to get frustrated or swamped. You have to come to the realization that you will never be able to attend everything. Again, important to quickly determined what you will get the best value for your time and prioritize!

Accepted: Can you tell us about Stanford’s unusual six-point grading system?

Erik: I blogged about this here: http://sloanlife.com/2014/08/02/gsb-grades-the-elusive-h/

Bottom line: Get your highest possible marks as early as possible and anchor your GPA nice and high while you’re taking relatively straightforward core classes. This affords you the freedom to later take classes you WANT to take and not worry at all about the grades.

Accepted: Were you involved in any clubs on campus? How central to student life is club involvement?

Erik: Not at all central, but the clubs are great ways to find other students with similar interests (and usually get a lot of free food / beer). I mostly spent my time with Entrepreneurship Club and High Tech Club. Participation is completely optional and you could certainly get by with never attending a club event…

Accepted: Now that you’ve graduated, what are you up to?

Erik: I’m currently working on a startup – Hinted.com – we’re building a platform for personal and professional feedback.

Accepetd: Looking back, what was the most challenging aspect of the b-school admissions process? How did you approach that challenge and overcome it?

Erik: I should have gotten off my ass and applied sooner… I could easily have done this 3-4 years ago… The GMATs were a perfect excuse for me to procrastinate. In retrospect, should have just bitten the bullet a long time ago when the quant material was a lot more fresh in my mind.

Accepted: Do you have any other advice for our business school applicant readers?

Erik: Apply to the best school you know you will get into first (and that you would be willing to go to) – and apply early! This will take off all the pressure. Once you have this acceptance, you can go pursue the dream schools top down, instead of inching upwards. This is the approach I took – I first applied to UVA Darden GEMBA and was accepted. I was completely willing to take that program – but then I started realizing that maybe I should try getting into more exclusive programs. I applied to Stanford MSx and intended to apply to Wharton San Francisco. I was accepted into Stanford and didn’t even have to fill out another application.

Also, if you want to go to a top school, don’t even bother applying until you can post a 700 GMAT or better. The application process is simply too competitive.

You also need to distinguish yourself in some way. You can have a 750 GMAT, a 3.9 GPA and great work experience and not look like an interesting candidate. Find something interesting about yourself where you can truly say that you have world-class talent / skills / experience to differentiate yourself.

Don’t hold back – you are your own best advocate – your b-school application is not the time for modesty (but don’t lie either). Demonstrate how you will take what Stanford (or other school) will give you and leverage that to give back to the community.

For one-on-one guidance on your b-school application, please see our MBA Application Packages

You can read more about Erik’s b-school journey by checking out his blog, Sloan Life. Thank you Erik for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!

Get Accepted to Stanford Graduate School of Business! Click here to learn more!

Accepted.com: Helping You Write Your Best

Related Resources:

• The Stanford MSx Program for Experienced Leaders
• What Stanford is Looking for: Personal Qualities and Contributions
• Stanford GSB 2015 MBA Questions, Deadlines, Tips

MIT Sloan 2015 Executive MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines

Click here to download a free copy of "Ace the EMBA"

This set of essay questions shows that MIT seeks applicants who have a vision for the career they are building, who understand the impacts of their actions, and who have the judgment and practical skills to effectively handle the challenges that will come at them like fastballs in a World Series.  The essays are your main means to show that you possess, as MIT’s website states, “strong leadership performance, global perspective, functional expertise, and innovation.”  While the statement of purpose challenges you to succinctly create your portrait as an applicant, the three essay questions, each in its own way, probe how you create value while responding to various types of challenges.

In an overall plan for the essays, the statement of purpose works as a context, a positioner, an opening pitch, a frame.  You will describe specific experiences in each of the three essays, so strategically try to select experiences that are different, to give a comprehensive view.  Also, usually it’s advisable to discuss recent experiences, to allow the adcom to see you working at a high level and showing what you’ll bring to the table.

Statement of purpose:

Please provide a statement indicating your qualifications, why you are pursuing the MIT Executive MBA Program, and what you will contribute to the program. (500 words or less, limited to one page)

This is your portrait – your candidacy at a glance.  It should convey a vivid, immediate sense of you as a person and as a candidate.  It should go beyond just facts to present a point of view and a message.  Decide your message first, before drafting the essay, and let it guide you in selecting and elaborating the content details.

Beware of a potential pitfall: in discussing qualifications, do not repeat your resume in prose format.  Also, don’t present all your qualifications.  Select carefully, focusing on those that (a) are really distinctive and relevant to the MBA and/or (b) support your goals directly or indirectly and also (c) reflect your message. Make a short, meaningful point about each qualification, such as the insight it lends or its influence on you, supported by a fact or example.

For why you are pursuing the MBA, of course you’ll discuss your professional goals and objectives.  Focus not only on what you want to do, but also on what you want to accomplish for the organization and/or its customers/market.

The contributions you mention should reference your own experience from work or outside work; think of what about you would be most meaningful and interesting to prospective classmates.  This element of your response is an opportunity to show that you understand the program.

Essays:

1. The educational mission of the MIT Sloan School of Management is to “develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world.” Please discuss how you will contribute toward advancing this mission based on examples of past work and activities. (500 words or less, limited to one page)

In answering this question, clarify what “principled, innovative leader” and “improving the world” mean to you.  These points represent your point of view, your “vision” – they should be short, but without them this essay lacks focus.  The bulk of the essay will focus on action – your examples of past work and activities that make the case for how you have been and will continue to be a principled, innovative leader who improves the world.  They key to making this a gripping, memorable essay is strong experiences and examples combined with your reflection on them pertaining to the essay’s theme.  End by briefly discussing how you will build on these experiences to be such a leader in the future.

2. During your career, what is the hardest challenge that you have had to solve? Consider examples when more than one viable solution was present. (500 words or less, limited to one page)

There are really two points this question asks about: how you define and respond to a major challenge, and your decision-making process in selecting the solution.  Choose your topic accordingly.  With just 500 words, structure the essay simply: narrate the challenge as a brief story, portraying your thought process as you encounter it.  As you approach the solution part of the story, describe the solution options and your determination of which to take.  In writing the essay, clarify why you consider it the “hardest challenge” – is it one that was extraordinarily complex, one that had no desirable solution, one that had huge stakes, etc.? 

3. Tell us about a time within the past three years when you had to give difficult feedback to a peer. (500 words or less, limited to one page)

This question is a straightforward inquiry into your interpersonal skills, judgment, leadership, and (again) decision making.  It’s one thing to give difficult feedback to a subordinate – something you probably do as part of your supervisory role.  It’s another thing altogether to give such feedback to a peer – someone you don’t manage and whose performance you aren’t accountable for.  If possible, make the essay do “double duty” by selecting a story that also portrays you performing at a high level in a significant role.   Think about the topic and how your actions align with and complement the other essays.

Optional Essay.

As part of the MIT Executive MBA curriculum, you will participate in Organizations Lab (O-Lab). This Action Learning course focuses on making a substantive improvement in the performance of your organization, usually by fixing one of its processes.

Identify something, within your organization, upon which to improve. (This does not have to be a large change initiative, small improvements to a process can have a big impact). Please describe the change and why you might choose it? This can be something you have tried to improve in the past and has yet to be realized (whether based on lack of expertise or tools).

Should you do this optional essay? I believe yes. It’s an opportunity to further demonstrate your organizational awareness, possibly highlight important elements of your role, and show your perceptiveness. A key element here will be your perspective on change and its potential impact(s). Select an issue that has an interesting, challenging dimension. Consider the experiences you describe in the other essays and make sure this one isn’t redundant – it should reflect a new facet of your experience. Keep it short – certainly under 500 words. And keep it simple: describe the issue you’d like to improve (and why), and then very briefly reflect on why it’s challenging. You may suggest a possible solution or approaches to solutions, but you don’t have to “solve” it. MIT is interested in your thought process here.

Deadlines:

Application Opens: November 14, 2014

Round 1 Deadline: February 17, 2015 (11:59pm EST)

Round 2 Deadline: June 1, 2015 (11:59pm EDT)

If you would like help with MIT Sloan’s executive MBA essays, please consider Accepted.com’s Executive MBA packages or our hourly consulting/editing services.

Download your free copy of Ace the EMBA!


Cindy Tokumitsu By , co-author of The EMBA Edge, and author of the free special report, Ace the EMBA. Cindy has helped MBA applicants get accepted to top EMBA programs around the world. She is delighted to help you too!

Related Resources:

• School-Specific Executive MBA Essay Tips
• Tips for Executive MBA Reapplicants
• The GMAT and EMBA Programs

2015 University of Michigan Ross Executive MBA Admissions Tips

Click here for more school-specific EMBA application essay tips!Ross Executive MBA students have, on average, about ten years of “progressive work experience” that include about five years as a hands-on manager. Such students are people who know where they’re going and why. So this year the EMBA essays give you the benefit of the doubt in that regard – no goals essays. Rather, the essay questions enable the adcom to get to know you and to assess your fit with the program. In writing the essays, keep on your radar their stated desire for students “whose notion of leadership includes a willingness to be part of something larger than themselves, who are receptive to new ways of thinking, and who bring varied experiences to bear on how they tackle a challenge.”

Essays:

1. What are you most proud of professionally and why? What did you learn from that experience? (400 words)

This essay presents an opportunity to “zoom in” on you tackling challenging issues, having an impact, and succeeding in the workplace. Ideally select a story that is relatively recent, that directly or indirectly reflects at least one of the values quoted above, and that can be told fairly succinctly without a lot of backstory (given the word limit). Also select a story that has an external, concrete impact, to show that you are a doer, who makes things happen. With the short word count, keep the structure simple: tell the story and add a short, thoughtful statement at the end about what you learned.

The essay can also work with a slightly older story, if you have something particularly strong, but in that case add a sentence summarizing how you have actually acted on, and employed what you learned.

2.What are you most proud of personally and why? How does it shape who you are today? (400 words)

In selecting this essay topic, coordinate it with the first essay – ensure that it reflects a fresh point about you. Also select the topic with an eye to where application strategy and your heart converge. The “heart” element gives your essay immediacy and authenticity – things the adcoms are sensitive to. Again, I recommend a simple structure: tell the story, and then reflect on how the experience shaped you, with concrete evidence of the latter.

Deadlines:

Early deadline: February 1, 2015

Regular deadline: April 1, 2015

Final deadline: May 15, 2015

Download your free special report, 'Ace the EMBA.'

Cindy Tokumitsu By , co-author of The EMBA Edge, and author of the free special report, Ace the EMBA. Cindy has helped MBA applicants get accepted to top EMBA programs around the world. She is delighted to help you too!

2015 Kellogg Executive MBA Admissions Tips

Want more EMBA essay tips? The Kellogg Executive MBA questions are among the most comprehensive, thorough, and numerous of any EMBA application. It takes significant effort to put together a strong set of Kellogg EMBA essays, and that fact weeds out potential students who are not seriously interested in this competitive program. Moreover, the questions encompass almost every basic type: goals, behavioral (the experience and your reflection on it), evaluative (greatest skills and talents). It offers more than one optional essay. This set of essays requires the writer to wear different hats and excel at different types of self-analysis. Not least, the messages and contents of the essays should be coordinated to strategically and holistically create a picture of you that is vivid, distinguishing, and multifaceted without being contradictory or jumbled. Note that there are no word limits, therefore use your judgment; don’t write all 1,000 word essays. Depending on the question and what you have to say, 400-750 is a good range to target.

ESSAYS:

JOB DESCRIPTION: Describe the unit for which you are responsible and relate it to the total organization in terms of size, scope, and autonomy of responsibility. What human resources, budget, and capital investment are you responsible for? Please describe your position.

A straightforward question – it contains several components, so be sure to answer all of them. Try to work in an anecdote or two somewhere, for example, if part of your role is to troubleshoot issues with global clients, give a brief example.

1. Why have you elected to apply to the Kellogg School Executive MBA Program?

This essay should discuss your interest in the Kellogg program as a means to acquire the learning you seek in light of your goals. Clarify why you are pursuing the executive program specifically. You can also discuss other benefits that relate to personal preferences such as environment and the program’s schedule, structure, and location. Be specific and add thoughtful discussion, don’t just reiterate points from the website. If possible, cite conversations with students or alumni, including relevant insights you’ve gained from them.

2. What are your goals and objectives and how will a Kellogg Executive MBA help you achieve these? Please feel free to discuss both personal and professional goals.

Discuss your goals in specific terms: industry, likely positions, which company or companies, possibly where, what you expect to do, possibly challenges you anticipate. Also discuss what you want to accomplish short- and long-term. To make the essay truly compelling, also show how your goals are rooted in your experience, what motivates your goals, and your vision for your goals. Finally, discuss the learning needs these goals engender and summarize how the Kellogg MBA meets them, saving the greater detail for essay 1.

3. Discuss a professional situation that did not end successfully. Why did you or your peers consider the situation to have negative results? How did you resolve the situation? Did it change your management style? If so, how?

In selecting the story to discuss, use something relatively recent (even though unsuccessful, it can still show you at work in an engaging context and at a decision making level with high accountability), and something substantive. Be frank about your role as it may have contributed to the lack of success. For structure, keep it simple: first tell the story, and then address the remaining questions. The last part, about how it may have changed your management style, is a good opportunity to show you’ve not only learned from the experience but applied the learning, by briefly citing a specific example of your improved management style.

4. What do you consider to be your greatest skills and talents? How will you use these to contribute to an Executive MBA class as well as to a study group?

First, what not to do: strain to find some unique skill or talent that no one else possesses in an effort to differentiate yourself. It doesn’t exist. Rather, look inward – whether it’s creativity, initiative, leadership, strategic thinking, interpersonal astuteness, analytic capability, mentoring/coaching – it’s the details and stories of how you manifest this quality that will make this essay exciting while strategically supporting and enhancing the other essays. Select 2-3 skills/talents that differ from each other (i.e., don’t do quant skills and analytic skills, or communication skills and interpersonal skills) and tell a quick story or anecdote illustrating each. Finally, for each, comment on how it will help you contribute by giving an example – these comments can be short, as they story itself will really convey how the skill or talent will let you contribute.

5. Describe how your relevant global experiences have influenced you professionally. (Optional)

This is a great essay for most people to answer – if you’ve had any global experience, it can only have influenced you professionally. If you’ve had a lot of global experiences, don’t just do a survey of them and don’t feel you must write about all of them. Select the most meaningful experiences and tell the stories, and then explaining the influence on you.

6. Is there anything else that you would like to add to help us in evaluating your candidacy? (Optional)

This question invites you to present new material that you think will enhance your application, as well as to explain anything that needs explaining (e.g., gap in employment). As far as non-necessary points, keep in mind that if you are making the adcom read more, there should be a clear value to the information. Finally, considering the many essays, keep it short.

7. Describe any major reports, instructional materials, or manuals that you have prepared or any research, inventions, or other creative work. (Optional)

Note, “major.” Do not wrack your brain for every report or training material you’ve contributed to. If you have numerous patents, ditto. Focus on the most important ones of whatever type of material you are describing. A nice format is an annotated bullet list.

8. Please list the business/professional/community organizations in which you are active. (Optional)

Note “are active.” Not “were active.”

Rolling admissionsSuggested deadlines are June 15th for programs beginning in September, andOctober 15th for programs beginning in January.

Download your free special report, 'Ace the EMBA.'

Cindy Tokumitsu By , co-author of The EMBA Edge, and author of the free special report, Ace the EMBA. Cindy has helped MBA applicants get accepted to top EMBA programs around the world. She is delighted to help you too!

A Transformational Year: The MIT Sloan Fellows Program

Listen to the show!What is the solution for a seasoned manager who is too experienced for an MBA, but not so enthusiastic about the idea of a part-time EMBA?

Listen to the recording of our conversation with Stephen Sacca for the low down on an 84 year-old secret that just might change your life: The MIT Sloan Fellows Program in Innovation and Global Leadership.

00:02:44 – What is the MIT Sloan Fellows program?

00:04:32 – Experienced candidates only.

00:05:22 – Overview of an intensive year.

00:07:48 – A great idea: The April orientation.

00:11:10 –The MIT Sloan Fellows Program in Innovation and Global Leadership: What is in a name?

00:15:56 – Integration with the various MIT Sloan programs.

00:17:59 – The common denominator among Sloan fellows.

00:19:52 – Trips: not just for fun.

00:25:41 – Why career changers need not apply.

00:28:55 – The most common feedback from graduates.

00:32:39 – Advice for applicants.

Listen to the full conversation to learn more!*Theme music is courtesy of podcastthemes.com.

Related Links:

MIT Sloan Fellows Program in Innovation and Global Leadership
MIT Sloan School of Management
• Ace the EMBA
• Top Executive MBA Program Essay Questions: How to Answer Them Right!

Related Shows:

The Stanford MSx Program for Experienced Leaders
Business, Law and Beyond: An Interview with John Engelman
• Dr. Douglas Stayman Shares the Scoop on Cornell Tech NYC 

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