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 Tom Winterton, a first year student at UCLA Anderson.
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What was your most recent pre-MBA job?
Tom: I grew up in Nantwich, a small market town in north of England and completed my undergraduate degree in Physics with Finance at the University of Surrey. A slightly unusual combination but it stood me well in getting a job in financial services in London where I worked for a number of banks.
My last role was as a Strategy Development Analyst at Brewin Dolphin, one of the UK’s largest investment management and financial planning firms.
Accepted: Where are you currently in business school? What year?
I’m a 1st year full time MBA at the UCLA Anderson School of Management in Los Angeles.
Accepted: What’s your favorite thing about Anderson? And if you could change one thing about the program, what would it be?
Tom: My favorite thing about Anderson would have to be the school’s culture of shared success. Be it 2nd year students paying it forward through the career sessions they run, to the fact that MBAs competing for intern and full time positions regularly prep together ahead of interviewing for the same role. This supporting environment couldn’t be more different from uber competitive experience often associated with business school. While everyone is certainly pushing to land top positions at some of the most sought after companies, its important our class mates get there too and everyone’s committed to this principal of shared success.
They try to pack a lot into the MBA course and that’s especially true in your first few quarters. On top of that, UCLA operates on a quarter systems which seems to only compound this busy schedule.
If I could change one thing about the program it would be to start a bit earlier in the year and give 1st year students a little more time in the first quarter. I found this a big crunch time with recruiting and finals all in full swing. You find yourself living inside the business school bubble, neglecting friends from home as you become obsessed by informationals, GPAs, interview prep and all things MBA.
Accepted: Now that you’ve well into your first year of b-school, can you talk about your transition back to school? Is b-school what you thought it would be like? Any surprises? Any advice for next year’s incoming class?
Tom: It fair to say I’ve found the transition back to school at bit of a shock to the system. If it were only about being back in the class room that would be one thing, but the truth is you end up having to perform a juggling act skipping between company presentation, case competitions, sorting out the administrative nightmare that comes with moving countries, informational interviews, group assignments and much more in between. Plus of course socializing with everyone in your new MBA class. Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) means for the first few months at least you’re compelled to sign up to as many things as possible. Often the academic work ends up being just one point on a long list of priorities.
My advice to incoming MBA students would be to clear the decks before your MBA. If you’ve got the time to get ahead with career research do so. Start doing informational interviews and building connections with companies you’re interested in as early as possible; it will pay dividends when it comes to recruiting.
While the MBA experience is great, be prepared, it’s a whirlwind. Don’t expect to have many evening or weekends to yourself, and let friends and family know they’re about to see a lot less of you.
Accepted: Do you plan on heading back to the UK after you receive your MBA? What are your post-MBA plans
Tom: I haven’t decided where I want to be after my MBA. Much of it will depend on how the recruiting process goes, my summer internship and the connections I’m able to make over the two years. That said studying at a US school, MBA recruiting is obviously skewed toward American companies, with a large proportion of students getting full time jobs through on campus recruiting.
California is home to so many of the world’s most innovative businesses and I’ll certainly be exploring all the opportunities it has to offer.
Accepted: What’s your favorite class so far?
Tom: I would have to say Marketing has been my favorite class so far. For the first few quarters your timetable at Anderson (like most MBA programs) is dominated by a core class – Accounting, Finance, Statistics, etc. While these were great, well taught with lively debate and new interesting content, I had some experience of them from my undergraduate degree and professional career.
While Marketing is still a core class, I came into it with almost no background whatsoever and I’m enjoying being exposed to a whole new strand of business.
I also enjoyed that fact that as opposed to my other core class there isn’t necessarily one right answer when it comes to Marketing. Different approaches, targeting different segments of the market can both be effective. There’s really room to be creative as you look for the best way to market a product. While I wouldn’t say I had a favorite assignment, it was interesting writing a “Positioning Statement” for yourself, in the context of a job market, dating market or otherwise.
Accepted: Can you share your top 3 MBA admissions tips with our applicant readers?
• Really think about why you want an MBA and how it will help reach your future goals. Every school will ask this as one of their essay questions and you need to have a good answer that makes sense. This story becomes even more important as an MBA, when you start talking to companies and applying for internships. Recruiters need to see how your skill and experience fit together and relate to the role your applying for.
• Don’t just look at the rankings when applying to programs; sure they matter but only up to until a point. Instead I’d recommend looking on where a school’s MBAs interned and accepted full time positions. Do the companies you’re interested in recruit on campus? Does the school have strong alumni connections in the industries and with the firms you wanting to work for?
A big part of the recruiting process is getting to know companies, networking and for companies to get to know you. You’re at a big advantage if your school already has those connections.
• If you’re able to, visit the school and sit in on a class or two. At a very minimum make sure you speak to alumni and current students; they’re the best source of advice when it comes to applying to a school. While I wasn’t able to visit Los Angeles before applying to Anderson, I was able to speak to a number of current alumni. I also had good friends who’d attended UCLA as undergraduates. This was invaluable when making my decision. Remember where you’re living will be a big factor in your MBA experience.
Accepted: Can you tell us about your blog? When and why did you start blogging? What have you gained from the experience?
Tom: I had to check the dates, I started my current blog some 2.5 years back now, with my first post in May 2012. I’d also experimented with a couple of other blogs and websites prior to this.
I think the initial interest came about went I was working on a project to develop online services for a bank. Working with developers I decided should really know a bit more about how to build a website, having learned little to nothing in school. The blog developed out of this curiosity, I liked the thought of creating content and sharing it online, as well as experimenting learning bits of CSS and HTML to customize the site along the way.
What have I gained from my experience blogging? Well it’s really been an ongoing learning experience for me. From picking the basics of markup languages and web styling, to finding out more about different web services by experimenting with things like Google Analytics and Adwords. I’ve used it as a public record of what I’ve been up to, from hiking in Switzerland to my sharing my MBA orientation week experience; it’s a great way to add context and tell a story with the photos you’ve taken.
If nothing else it’s fed my curiosity and added a few lines to the interests section of my resume.
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You can read more about Tom’s journey by checking out his blog, Tom’s Blog. Thank you Tom for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!