MBA/MMM Interview with Kellogg Student: Using Empathy to Succeed

Click here for more MBA student interviews!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 Michael Nguyễn, a student at Northwestern Kellogg’s joint MBA/Masters in Design Innovation program.

Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? Where are you currently studying?

Michael: I was born and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. I was unfortunately a mediocre student at Cal (UC Berkeley) because I spent a lot of my time playing video games. Thus, even though I started in Computer Science and really enjoyed it, I eventually changed to Comparative Literature (which is actually really difficult – I did not know this when I switched) after a couple of years. However, the time spent in both majors has helped me immensely throughout my career.

I am currently at Kellogg (Northwestern) in its newly revamped MMM program, which is a dual-degree MBA and Masters of Science in Design Innovation program run in conjunction with the McCormick School of Engineering and Segal Design Institute.

Accepted: Can you tell us more about your joint degree? What does “Design Innovation” mean? What do you plan on doing with your degrees?

Michael: The MMM program ends at the same time as the normal Kellogg two year MBA program but now starts one quarter early, in the summer. Though this does come with additional cost, this also means you get to enjoy the summer in Chicago! Another great benefit is that you will become very close with your MMM program mates, the other 59 students (the program is limited to 60 per year).

I personally define Design Innovation as an end-user empathy lens for looking at the world, but one that is not just relevant to developing products. If you manage a team, you need to be able to put yourself in team members’ shoes before you can create a rally point. If you are trying to sell a product, you need to know what your target customer is thinking – who they are, why they do what they do. It’s not that someone is just “stupid” or one of “those people” you can generalize. Everyone is unique and design thinking helps you use those lessons in your career.

From my time working in Southeast Asia, I used empathy in order to succeed at creating compelling products for different types of people as well as to win trust and motivate teams despite cultural and language barriers.

After the program, I am looking to return to smaller tech startups or perhaps start my own. However, the range of careers that others in the MMM program are seeking is very broad. Many are looking to enter into consulting, with more top firms now embracing design innovation, but there are also students looking to go into finance, consumer packaged goods (CPG), and technology.

Like the MBA, I think the Design Innovation degree is a toolset you can adapt for any career trajectory. Simply, the Innovation is the change you make in an existing product, process, or organization; the Design is the user-driven approach.

Accepted: It looks like you’ve got an interesting work history! Can you talk about a few of your most recent projects?

Michael: Previous to Kellogg, my professional background for the last decade has been in Business Operations at multiple startups. My first work experience was helping RedOctane become acquired for the Guitar Hero game franchise by Activision. I ran its e-commerce operations, including shipping logistics and customer service.

I then spent 7 years in Vietnam, becoming COO of the first social networking service there, Cyworld Vietnam, a 70 person startup funded by SK Telecom and IDG Ventures Vietnam. During my time in Vietnam, I worked closely with partners such as Nokia, LG, and Yamaha as well as local mobile carrier giants such as Viettel within the restrictions of one of the rare capitalist-socialist governments in the world.

During this time, I co-founded the most popular Vietnamese microblogging service, Mimo.vn, in 2010, helping it grow to 2 million users. Before I left Vietnam, I also worked on another side project which became a dating app called FriendsPlus. It was sold pre-launch to the largest dating service in Vietnam, Noi.vn, and the technology and service concept was integrated into Noi.vn as a whole.

In general, I have a deep interest in how different types of people connect with and add meaning to each other’s lives.

Accepted: What is your favorite thing about Kellogg so far? 

Michael: When you are in a good class (happens more often than not thankfully), you can compare it to seeing a brilliant performer, whether that be musical, athletic, or theatrical. In many ways, that’s exactly what it is – a professor with a tremendous academic and real work pedigree who is educating you about different aspects of business. Because of this, I actually like to sit in the front to get the best view. After all, I am paying over $60,000 a year for this show!

What most surprised is me how every class links to each other. In a business setting, that wouldn’t be surprising because well, that’s business. If you run a company, you cannot just be a product guy with no understanding of finance and vice versa. But in this class format, you will see each class bring in aspects of the entire MBA education. Thus, if you are taking Finance, you are not asked to just do math. You are asked to think about what firm and market strategies change the math in the real world and how you sell that story to someone else (your boss, management, investors, etc.).

I feel that in every class, you are not challenged to solve the problem but to create and then sell the story so it can be implemented in a company.

Accepted: If you could change one thing about the program, what would it be? 

Michael: In the busy lives of the MBA students here (classes, groupwork, recruiting, competitions), it’s not easy to make deep connections with others in the student body. I think this problem likely exists at many schools, so despite Kellogg’s reputation as a great school to make friends and be around team-focused individuals, no school can create the perfect social setting for everyone.

Thus, if you are an international student or more of an introvert, Kellogg’s emphasis on big social group events may be uncomfortable at times. CIM week can feel like a rehash of your undergrad years where the majority of students solidify their social groups within the first few weeks and do not go outside their comfort zones to befriend people that may be unlike them.

It is something that Kellogg is aware of and looking for initiatives to help address the issue. In fact, a friend and I are working on a mobile product that we hope will help with this and we are looking to get the Kellogg administration’s support for it as well.

Accepted: Looking back at the MBA application process, what would you say was your greatest challenge? How would you advise others who may also be facing that challenge?

Michael: I actually decided to apply to MBA programs two months before Round 1’s began, and I also wanted to make sure I applied for Round 1. This meant I needed to prepare for the GMAT and every other part of the application in a very short amount of time – an MBA was something I had not seriously considered for the previous five years. Fortunately, things worked out, and I got into a great school.

However, others should not follow this route. An MBA program is a very serious time and financial commitment, one that is essentially your last chance to use an academic setting to create a long term impact on how people view you professionally. Do spend the time (at least 1 year in advance) to prepare your applications properly to maximize your chance into getting the program that’s best for you. Beyond that, also use that time to get a proper understanding of which schools you can actually get into.

I am not a big believer in backup schools. If you there is a school you absolutely want to go to, and your background is a good fit for that school, spend the most time on that school. Even if that means working an extra year to improve your professional accomplishments, I say do it!

Accepted: Do you have any other admissions tips for our readers?

Michael: Although we are asked to pretend we know what we want to do after our MBA, few people really do. Because of this, don’t be worried if you really will follow-up on everything you talk about in the application. What’s most important is to think about what you would want to do right now and think through how going to a particular school is well suited to help with those specific goals. I think schools like Kellogg are not judging your ambitions but your ability to construct plans and build towards them.

For Kellogg MMM specifically, it’s a great program that is not getting a lot of publicity right now, likely due to the recent curriculum change. However, I recommend (to everyone) to look at it more closely and talk to people in the program (like myself). Many people I’ve met at Kellogg regret not applying for it because they had misconceptions about the program or thought it wouldn’t be relevant to their career. Once they better understood how the program works, however, they realized its applications were much more broad than the words “Design Innovation” may initially suggest.

For one-on-one guidance on your b-school application, please see our MBA Application Packages. For specific advice on how to create the best application for Kellogg please see:

Kellogg 2015 MBA Questions, Deadlines, & Tips
2015 Kellogg Executive MBA Admissions Tips

You can read more about Michael’s journey by checking out his LinkedIn profile and his blog, I Spit Hot Fire. Thank you Michael for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!

Learn How to Choose the Best MBA Program for You!

Accepted.com: Helping You Write Your Best
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Are You Growth Minded? Mastering Kellogg’s Changing Brand
Insights of Tennis Player Turned Kellogg MBA
5 Ways to Make Top B-Schools Love You

Businessweek Rankings 2014

Let’s see how full-time MBA programs in the U.S. fared this year on the BW rankings…

Check out our Zone Pages for more info about the top MBA programs!

There were some huge changes this year! Let’s take a look at some of the highlights:

• Newcomers to the top 20 this year are Yale SOM, which made a huge jump from 21st place to 10th place; Maryland Smith which went from 24th to 17th place; and Emory Goizueta which jumped from 22nd place to 18th place this year.

• There are three new schools in the top 10 this year – Yale SOM, as mentioned above; Columbia Business School (13th in 2012 and 5th this year); and CMU Tepper (which moved just one place from 11th place to 10th place).

• Beyond that, there was some major shifting in the rankings. The top 3 schools were all different this year (Wharton and Booth still there, but rearranged), with Harvard Business School falling from 2nd place to 8th place.

UVA Darden also fell significantly this year, from 10th place to 20th.

• Big jumpers further down the rankings include Rice University Jones (from 34th to 25th); UC Irvine Merage (43rd to 31st); and Rochester Simon (50th to 38th).

• The schools that fell the most in the rankings include Texas A&M Mays (26th to 42nd); University of Wisconsin-Madison (33rd to 44th); Boston University (39th to 57th); Babson Olin (from 42nd to 58th); Thunderbird (45th to 62nd); and Arizona Carey (49th to 67th).

And here’s the scoop on the best U.S. undergraduate business schools in 2014…

Do MBA rankings really matter? Click here for the 2-min answer.

Some highlights include:

• Newcomers to the top 20 are Northeastern (from 25th last year to 19th this year) and CMU Tepper (from 24th last year to 17th this year).

• The only new school in the top 10 this year is Indiana Kelley, which jumped from 13th place last year to 8th place this year.

Michigan Ross fell from the top 10, from 8th place to 12th place.

• Big jumpers include Southern Methodist Cox, which jumped from 30th to 21st place; Babson, which jumped from 36th place to 26th place; UM Amherst Isenberg, which jumped from 45th to 36th; Bryant, which jumped from 63rd to 49th; and Case Western Reserve Weatherhead which jumped from 69th to 50th.

• Big falls include Villanova, which fell from 15th place to 24th; U of Illinois Urbana-Champaign which fell from 21st to 34th; and James Madison University which fell from 29th to 40th place.

For details on how ranking methodology see:

Best Business Schools 2014: How They Were Ranked

Best Undergraduate Business Schools 2014: How We Ranked Them

Analysis of the 2014 Businessweek Rankings

Businessweek made changes to its methodology (presented here and analyzed here by John Byrne, the founder of the BW rankings) this year.

The Basics of BW’s Rankings Remain Unchanged

This year, as in the past, BW surveyed recruiters and students. The recruiter satisfaction results comprise 45% of the ranking. The student satisfaction survey results comprise another 45% and the remaining 10% is determined by “expertise of each school’s faculty” as evidenced by faculty research published in prominent academic journals AKA intellectual capital.

What’s New in BW’s Rankings Methodology?

• The employer ranking reflects this year’s data only. Previous rankings used data from the last three surveys or six years of biannual rankings data while weighting the most recent year most heavily.

BW surveyed fifteen times the recruiters this year than it did in previous years. Previously, BW surveyed major recruiters who tended to recruit at multiple business schools. This year, BW attempted to survey as many MBA recruiters as possible, including “recruiters” who recruit primarily if not exclusively at their alma mater. The increased survey size is a major methodology change. The alumni recruiters may have a certain bias towards the school they attended. BW attempted statistically to reduce the impact of that bias, but it probably helped smaller schools like Duke, Tepper, and Yale, and hurt the traditional leaders, like Harvard, Wharton, and Chicago.

Impact of the Methodology Changes

• Surprise! The results will shock many applicants. Seven programs, including Duke and Yale, rank above HBS and MIT. Indiana Kelley and Maryland Smith rank above Haas, NYU Stern, and Darden. These are unexpected results.

• Reemphasizes the importance of understanding methodology. The changes highlight the need for anyone using the rankings as indications of “quality” or even reputation and brand value (a bad idea in my book) to look at the underlying data. Smith is ranked overall at 17. It was ranked #1 for student satisfaction and #51 in the employer survey ranking. Applicants to Smith should inquire about what is changing in its career management center. Clearly there is a satisfaction gap that has to be addressed.

• Increased volatility. Since BW has removed older rankings data from the ranking and has dramatically widened the survey pool while incorporating alumni recruiters, you are guaranteed to see more changes and more radical changes than with the previous methodology.

• Cognitive Dissonance. Either BW rankings will lose credibility because they don’t conform to expectations and will be more volatile, or people’s perception of the programs will change because of the BW rankings.

My money is on the former: loss of credibility. If BW’s results become less stable and predictable (like The Economist’s), they are more likely to lose credibility than to contribute to changes in school reputation.

As always my best advice to applicants reviewing the rankings is to:

• Use specialty rankings to get a sense of what schools excel in your areas of interest.

• Use the data that the ranking databases provide.

• If you have any thought of actually using the overall rankings, understand what they measure, and ask yourself if those qualities are of paramount importance to you. BW has been wonderfully transparent and even shared the questions actually asked in the survey.

• Layer in reputation and brand, i.e. ranking, after determining what schools best support your goals and are most likely to accept you.

Learn How to Choose the Best MBA Program for You!

Linda AbrahamBy Linda Abraham, president and founder of Accepted.com and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

 

Related Resources:

• 2014 Economist MBA Rankings
• MBA Rankings: Why Should I Care?
• U.S. News 2015 Best Colleges

What’s an MBA Really Worth?

Applying to top MBA programs? Download your free copy of Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One

How much do MBAs really earn?

This is the question tackled in a recent Poets & Quants article in which John Byrne presents PayScale data provided exclusively for P&Q. In the analysis, PayScale calculates the estimated median pay and bonuses (not including stock-based compensation, retirement benefits, or non-cash benefits like healthcare) of graduates from the top 50 U.S. MBA programs from 2004 to 2014. Here are some of the highlights from the article:

Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton earn the most over a 20-year period (at $3,233,000, $3,011,000 and $2,989,000 respectively), with average income at the former nearly doubling the average income of graduates from Texas A&M’s Mays Business School (at $1,781,820.)

• Some schools “punched above their weight class” like Boston University, whose graduates earned an average of $2,329,000, making the school rank in 19th place on this list, while ranked overall (in the regular MBA full-time rankings) by P&Q in 40th.

• Another high roller from lower down on the list is UC-Irvine Merage, where MBAs earn $2,319,932 over 20 years, putting them in 21st place, though generally ranked in 47th.

• More food for thought: At HBS, the average age of graduation is 29 years old. Our 20-year payout here brings these MBAs up to 49 years old, giving them another 16 years until retirement at 65. Based on their 20-year earnings, they may earn another $3.2 million, which combined with their 20-year earnings, brings their total up to $6.5 million. (Remember, this is a conservative estimate as it doesn’t include stock and non-cash compensation.)

• Compare the above HBS figures to the $2.5 million estimated lifetime earnings (age 24 to 64) of people with a master’s degree (non-MBA). (Data from the U.S. Census Bureau.) Someone with an MBA from Harvard will earn nearly three times as much as someone with a master’s degree. And someone with an MBA from Texas A&M will still earn about $1 million more than the average MA/MS holder.

• More comparisons (based on U.S. Census Bureau data): The average high school graduate can expect to earn $1.2 million in a lifetime, compared to the $2.1 million of someone with a bachelor’s degree. PhDs earn $3.4 million on average during their working lifetime. Doctors and lawyers can expect lifetime earnings of about $4.4 million – still less than the lifetime earnings of MBAs from at least 28 business schools.

• According to PayScale data, graduates from BA programs earn a median $1,301,000 20 years post-graduation. All MBAs, on average, earned $1,771,000, with those in the top 50 earning a median $2,266,000. An MBA in general will earn you about half a million more than a BA; an MBA from a top 50 school will get you yet another half a million more.

Looking for admissions advice?
Source: PayScale for Poets&Quants

For MBA admissions tips, check out our MBA Admissions 101 Pages!
Source: Payscale Inc. for 20-year estimate, business schools reporting to U.S. News for 2013 starting pay and bonus.

Learn How to Choose the Best MBA Program for You!

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Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One
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Are You Growth Minded? Mastering Kellogg’s Changing Brand

Episode 2 in our Big Brand Theory Series for MBA applicants: Northwestern Kellogg.

Two days before Kellogg’s Dean Sally Blount announced Kellogg’s motto change from “Think Bravely” to “Inspiring Growth,” I received an email and video link in my inbox from my education hero, Sal Khan about why he will never tell his son that he is smart.

His Khan Academy disrupted the education paradigm and made me a super fan years ago when my then, 10-year-old son ran into my arms, but not for a hug…no, he wanted my computer so he could earn badges. At first I thought he was planning to play a game. I limited his computer use to 15 minutes and then watched him open up the Khan Academy site and whiz through math problems that were two grades ahead of his own (earning his badges along the way). I didn’t take the computer away until dinnertime.

His love for the Khan Academy reminded me of Dr. Carol Dweck’s research on motivation, success and the growth mindset. I had read her work a few years before my son fell in love with the Khan Academy. In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, which I highly recommend if you are applying to Kellogg, she compares and contrasts growth-oriented minds and fixed minds

The growth mindset is something to behold, and I watched it unfold over the years as my son solved my husband’s 5X5X5 Rubik’s cube, conquered my father in chess, and created “inventions” that he thought would make my life easier. I love the way his mind works. Thank you, Sal Khan and Thank you, Carol Dweck.

However, as a former admission dean and director, I often wondered when I would see Dr. Dweck’s concepts flourish in business schools. While I think several schools filter applicants for growth mindsets and challenge their students to stretch themselves, Kellogg’s new brand strategy was the first time I’ve seen Dr. Dweck’s approach become the very essence of the school.

Just as the growth mindset is dynamic and constantly seeks challenges and change, Kellogg has also reinvented itself many times over. I don’t think people will ever get over the fact that Kellogg is a marketing giant. However, since Dean Blount’s arrival, they’ve moved from “Team-Oriented” to “Think Bravely” to “Inspiring Growth” in the span of just a few years. These moves are reflected in their essay prompts, in their video essays, and in their interviews. You as an applicant need to respond to this change and address the filters Kellogg has added to its admissions process.

When working with clients applying to Kellogg, I always discuss my clients’ greatest challenges; then I push and push and push, until we discover something that they were initially afraid to reveal. If you are doing this yourself, realize that this inquiry means going deep within your psyche to figure out if you truly have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset (and I always recommend reading Dr. Dweck’s research. See link to her book above).

If at the end of our meetings my clients realize that they are not happy stretching, taking risks, and testing themselves, I ask them to rethink their school choice. Yes, Kellogg students are team-oriented; yes, Kellogg students are bright; yes, Kellogg students are personable, but Dean Blount got it right: Kellogg students are intellectually curious. They are resourceful. They challenge themselves to go beyond what they think are their limits. They have a growth mindset, and Kellogg inspires that growth.

For you the Kellogg motto means showing that you have the mindset to benefit from and contribute to Kellogg’s community dedicated to growth. As you apply to Kellogg demonstrate that you share Kellogg’s commitment to growth as an individual and as a future leader of your community and the business world.

(Look for Next Week’s Episode in the Big Brand Theory: Does Stanford Really Change the World?)

Download our free special report: Best MBA Programs - A Guide to Selecting the Right One!

Natalie Grinblatt Epstein By , an accomplished Accepted.com consultant/editor (since 2008) and entrepreneur. Natalie is a former MBA Admissions Dean and Director at Ross, Johnson, and Carey.

 

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Kellogg 2015 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines
Leadership in Admissions

• What Does “At The Very Center of Business” Mean for CBS Applicants? 

2014 Economist MBA Rankings

2014 Economist Full-Time Global MBA Rankings:Download your free copy of MBA Rankings: What You Need to Know

1. Chicago Booth (U.S.)

2. Dartmouth Tuck (U.S.)

3. UVA Darden (U.S.)

4. HEC Paris (France)

5. IESE Business School (Spain)

6. Harvard Business School (U.S.)

7. UC Berkeley Haas (U.S.)

8. NYU Stern (U.S.)

9. Stanford GSB (U.S.)

10. Columbia Business School (U.S.)

11. UPenn Wharton (U.S.)

12. MIT Sloan (U.S.)

13. UCLA Anderson (U.S.)

14. Northwestern Kellogg (U.S.)

15. London Business School (U.K.)

16. University of Queensland Business School (Australia)

17. Emory Goizueta (U.S.)

18. INSEAD (France)

19. Yale SOM (U.S.)

20. Michigan Ross (U.S.)

Top 10 B-Schools with the Highest GMAT Scores:

table

Top 10 MBA Programs for “Potential to Network”:

1. HEC Paris (France)

2. Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School (Belgium)

3. Thunderbird School for Global Management (U.S.)

4. NYU Stern (U.S.)

5. UC Berkeley Haas (U.S.)

6. Notre Dame Mendoza (U.S.)

7. Warwick Business School (U.K.)

8. USC Marshall (U.S.)

9. Melbourne Business School (Australia)

10. UVA Darden (U.S.)

A Poets & Quants article on the rankings states that at least 17 business schools declined to participate in this year’s rankings, many claiming that The Economist’s methodology is faulty. Some of these schools include Babson Olin, Toronto Rotman, Sauder School (British Columbia), Minnesota Carlson, McGill Desautels, Purdue Krannert, and, University of Manchester (U.K.), Imperial College Business School (U.K.), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Regarding methodology, 80% of the data used for the rankings is derived from surveys provided by the schools themselves. The remaining 20% of information comes from current students and recent grads.

John Byrne notes that since The Economist rankings launched in 2002, Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton have never topped the charts. This year, the schools rank at 6th, 9th, and 11th place, respectively. In 2005, Harvard and Wharton weren’t included in the rankings as they declined to contribute data. (That year, those two programs also declined to participate with the Businessweek rankings.)

Matt Symonds, who wrote a critique of the rankings, “Leave no MBA ranking unquestioned,” provides these additional points:

• Booth took the #1 spot for the third year in a row, and the fifth time in the last eight years.

• There are only six European schools in the top 25; in 2008, there were 11. This year, Cambridge Judge and Oxford Saïd both dropped 15 places, to 52nd and 69th place respectively.

• The breakdown of the criteria used to rank the schools goes as follows: personal development/education experience (35%), open new career opportunities (35%), increase salary (20%), and potential to network (10%).

• This year, more than 20 schools rose or fell by double-digits (and thus the rankings have been criticized for their volatility).

• Big droppers include University of Bath School of Management which fell 23 spots from its previous 20th place; York Schulich fell to 41st place from 22nd last year.

• Big jumpers include Kellogg and Yale which both jumped 9 places up to 14th and 19th place respectively; Rochester Simon and Temple Fox both jumped 20 places to 58th and 57th place respectively.

Are You Misusing the B-School Rankings?

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Related Resources:

• MBA Rankings: Why Should I Care?
MBA Rankings: What You Need to Know
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