Sunday, October 29, 2006

Lehman Brothers Investment Banking Workshop

Better late than never, let's write about the ibanking workshop Lehman Brothers held in the Canary Wharf offices on Wednesday. Thanks, Women in Business Club for setting this up! The way to Canary Wharf was one of the most exciting parts actually. Some idiot must have left his bag on the train, and while we first waited in Canada Water to have the bag evacuated, they suddenly decided to evacuate all of us rather than the bag and we had to leave the train and the station immediately. Then we were wandering around Canada Water for half an hour trying to find a cab or a bus, but it was to no avail. In the end we went back to the station and at some point they opened it up again and we could finally reach Canary Wharf. You almost walk into Lehman Brothers offices as soon as you leave the station, which is very convenient.

They brought us up to the top floor (31st) which had an impressive and beautiful view over the night lights of London. 10 of us were half an hour late and the panel was ongoing. There were Managing Directors from each division - Investment Banking, Investment Management, Fixed Income, and Equities. After the panel, we moved on to a drinks reception, and many more Lehman employees joined. There were analysts, associates, several women from the recruiting team and more senior bankers, so it was very easy to talk. I especially enjoyed talking to an equities trader who is trying to get more women interested in trading. He was telling me that every woman who walks through the doors of Lehman comes with the wish of doing sales, no matter what their personalities are. He urged us to open our minds and examine our strengths, and he said it is more than okay not to decide upon the role we think fits us best. You have to know what the roles are and what your strengths are, but according to him you have to keep an open mind about where you would fit. I like this approach, because it can be hard to make such a decision from the outside, it is much easier from the inside.

Overall, the evening was very informative and friendly, and many of us on the way back were impressed by the effort they had put in providing us with honest information and informal contact (as well as delicious drinks and canapés!).

Why has my memory blurred a bit by now? Because, on Friday I had the luck to be shown the Deutsche Bank trading floors in the City! I loved it! To be honest, I would have loved to stay right there and go to work :-)). What did I love about it? Well, I had some preconceptions about trading floors, or let's say I had seen another trading floor once many years ago where I didn't feel comfortable, but this one is NICE!

First of all, hardly anyone was wearing a suit, most were smart casual. Then, there were lots of women, I'd say 30-40%. People were young and seemed very cheerful. Another stereotype is that people eat greasy fast food in front of their screens, but actually they have a pretty stylish café in the middle of the trading floor selling smoothies, juices and salads, nice! Then all the country teams had their flags either on the monitors or on the walls next to them, it revived my memories of the world cup in Germany :-). Also, instead of ten screens and twenty telephones the traders all just had two large and very new plasma screens and one phone (plus mobile I guess), so it all seemed quite relaxed and healthy. Add to that the fact that they had beautiful exhibits of modern art on the ground floor and I must say I was very impressed. I hope to go back soon.

The coming week there are luckily fewer events, one big one is the stock pitch of the Investment Management Club on Wednesday, but sadly I'll miss it because I have to recruit some undergrads for my company in the evening. It is funny switching back and forth between the roles of recruiter and candidate :-). On Thursday we have our Microeconomics midterm exam and then Sundowners, the timing of the exam is great, right before our happy hour in the MBar, so you can walk straight from the exam into the bar and celebrate, well done!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Pictures from Diwali party

A few weeks ago, some classmates of mine complained that I never post pictures of the class on my blog. Then I posted some pictures from Tatoo on my blog, and others came to me and complained why I had posted pictures of others but not of them on my blog! :-). So it sounds like there is demand for more (maybe not from the viewers, but from the objects ;-) ). In any case, I think even for applicants it's nice to have an idea of the MBA students of a school. So here are some uncommented pictures from the Indian Diwali party a few days ago...

Next post (hopefully tomorrow) on the Lehman Brothers Women Workshop in their Canary Wharf offices. It was a great and very insightful event so it is definitely worth posting more about it.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Women in Business Conference 2006

Yesterday we held the Women in Business Conference at the London Business School. What an experience! It was very high profile and I met and listened to some very impressive women:

1) Vivienne Cox,
Executive Vice President and CEO, Gas, Power & Renewables and Integrated Supply & Trading, BP

Vivienne is one of the top people at BP and also an excellent speaker and a very nice person. She spent some time talking about renewable energy, but the most interesting parts were her advice to succeed (and I think that goes for men and women alike). Her advice was: "find something that only you can do and know what only you can do". This is useful for two things:
- If you ever want to work flexible hours, go home early or in any way appear to put in less time than others (e.g. when you have children), she said it is crucial that you are still the best person to do that job. So you have to know what you excel at and make sure you leverage this skill on your job. That way, you are in a much more favourable negotiating position than if you are easily replaceable
- If you're a boss, you may find yourself in the position of having 1,000 things on your to do list and you may get overwhelmed by all the work. So knowing what only you can do also means that you know which things others can also do by exclusion. So her advice was if you are overwhelmed, only do the things that only you can do and delegate the rest. Also sound advice

2) Dorothee Blessing, Managing Director, Goldman Sachs IBD
Many who saw her agreed that Dorothee was the jewel of this conference. Finally, an example of a very smart and ambitious women who loves her job, has a big family (three children) and is an extremely good and helpful person. Her answers to the questions from the audience were very insightful and she listened very closely and thought very hard to give just the right answer to that person.

She shared some wisdom of hers that I will never forget. Lots of us were wondering "how is it possible?" to work fulltime in investment banking, travel around the world and have three children? Her answer was that the main problem is not about being a women. She said the most important thing is to know what you want in your life. This gives you determination and also makes you do only the things you love. In her case, she said she always knew she wanted a big family, no matter what. She then joined Goldman Sachs in Frankfurt and simply loved the job, so she also wanted to continue in that job. She said if you know exactly what you want and love your job, you will find a way to make things work.

The conclusion to this is that maybe many women who say they can't handle job and family or they need to withdraw from work because it doesn't work never loved their job in the first place? Maybe we just use children as an excuse to leave a place we didn't want to be in anyway? I'm not claiming it is going to be easy and Dorothee wasn't. I just found it very insightful that instead of agonizing over how hard it is to be a woman, we would do well investing this time in figuring out what exactly we want and which job we would really love, and then I completely agree with her that you will find a way to make it work, because in that case it is worthwile.

I am very thankful this busy MD flew in from Frankfurt to share this with us. She has changed the way I think within an hour, and how often can you say that about people? This leaves me now with the task of figuring out my dream job again - ouch!

3) Networking
There was also plenty of time to network in between and after the session. Apart from having more time to talk to my lovely female classmates (they are all so nice, so this is always great, even if I do it every day :-) ), I met an Irish alumna who is now CEO of her software startup, and funnily enough also a MiF alumna from Hamburg who is now a freelance consultant in Hamburg. I also met again a Goldman Sachs recruiter I had met already at a dinner two weeks ago, and it was a pleasure to talk to her again, and then I got the chance to talk for the first time to our excellent Finance professor, Francesca Cornelli. She is one of these rare persons simply everybody has to like. She is also an excellent teacher, the pace is fast but I enjoy the class very much. I came with some previous finance knowledge but we go much further than the basics I had in every lecture. We are in the 3rd week now and already dealing with calculating forward rates, it's great

The weeks ahead are going to be BUSY. It's not so much the workload from school (though there are five assignment piled up), but more the fact that every evening there are events, so if you want to take advantage of them you only have the weekend to do any work. The events for the coming days:
- Indian Diwali party on campus, including dinner, fireworks and Bollywood dancing
- Lehman Brothers Women's Workshop in their Canary Wharf offices
- Scholarship drinks reception with the Dean and the corporate sponsors of the school
- Lunch with the MD of HR of Deutsche Bank in their offices in the City
- Undergraduate recruiting at London School of Economics, Oxford and Cambridge - since I have time I am helping out my company to recruit smart German undergrads for our German office. Some of them might be lured by opportunities in London so we have to work hard to lure them back to Germany. I think I am well suited for this because I studied in the UK and actually applied to the London office out of undergrad, but somehow the German office found out and convinced me to forget about London and come to Germany

Apart from that - still working on figuring out the right path in my life. Yesterday I decided to take a day off from this. If you look at it from an outsider's perspective, all this talk about "should I do Consulting or Investment Banking?" probably sounds completely stupid. There are so many people in London who are designers, art dealers, architects, journalists and so on, and to them I assume it all sounds the same. What I'm doing now is I'm talking a lot to other McKinsey people and then to lots of other people, often with finance background. Among the McKinsey people (we are 8 in our MBA class) I think as good as 100% want to go back and think this is the best thing to do. Of the other people I talk to, many also think it makes sense to stay a couple of years longer. It's funny how fast things can change. I'll keep my mind open for a few more months and go to all the networking and informational events, so far they have been very helpful in giving me an idea of where I would enjoy working and where I most likely wouldn't.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Pictures from London Business School - Pictures of Diversity

Yesterday we celebrated the best event at London Business School so far - TATOO! Wonder why it's called TATOO? Well, this is why:

TATOO is a celebration of the diversity of the school, and each country or region prepares food, drinks, songs, dances or whatever they feel like to present to the school. The clear winners for me?


The Russians served excellent food (something I had not expected!), the fact that they didn't serve vodka wasn't their fault (we could only get drinks from the MBar and the student associations, even the German stall couldn't serve beer!), but what I liked even more were their costumes, their dances and their music. Everybody enjoyed watching them very much.


The Indians prepared a little dance/play about a flirting game, it was a lot of fun, they had beautiful costumes and the music was beautiful. I know they practiced many times of the last week so I was also impressed by their time commitment, since we are all quite busy right now, and I think it was very sweet of them to sacrifice all their spare time over the last week to show the school community their dances. Thank you, India!


What can I say? Excellent food! The cheese was great and the burning crèpes even better! The French sure showed everyone that they know what good food and hospitality are!

And... my classmates!

And how could I forget? THE BAND!

It is a bit ironic when future investment bankers and management consultants start singing Rage against the Machine songs ("F* you, I won't do what you tell me!"), but hey, a bit of nostalgia should be allowed, right?

Overall, a beautiful party! And now back to work - fast!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Career choices

One of the very frequently asked questions on campus is "what do you want to do after your MBA" or in my case "are you going back to consulting?" Some have a very clear and consistent answer to this, others don't know and therefore don't like the question. In my case, the answer is usually quite clear but not very consistent. Ask me now and the answer might be very different from two months ago.

I came here with the aim of working in global currency and commodities markets. Though I'm still very interested in these markets, I have also become very interested in equities over the last weeks. Then I read an excellent account of the hedge fund industry – Hedgehogging (Penton Audio) by Barton Biggs, founder of the hedge fund Traxis Partners. It is very insightful and truly hilarious and generally made me very interested in fund management.

As if this wasn't enough to keep me distracted, I am unsure if leaving consulting at this moment is smart. Leaving now, I would enter the field of finance as an associate and I'm not sure how I could progress from there, especially in more specified fields such as investments. At the same time, I am constantly receiving good bye emails from colleagues who are about 2 years ahead of me and they seem to move over to very interesting jobs in private equity/venture capital and investment management. So now I'm exploring this option. I know some partners in the corporate finance and private equity practice so it would be quite easy for me to work on projects in this field to prepare for the move.

To make this decision, networking will help a lot. I am currently reaching out to colleagues, business school classmates with consulting background facing the same choices, alumni of my company who moved over to investment banking and hedge funds, as well as classmates with finance background. The common consensus among most I've talked to so far is that it makes more sense to stay in consulting for a while longer, at least in terms of career.

The problem with consulting is that, since it is a quite accelerated path, the longer you stay the less attractive outside options become. The good thing is I really like the people from my company. We are a group of 8 ex-analysts in our class and I like all of them very much. On Thursday we are invited for a dinner by the London office and in two weeks I'll help out recruiting undergrads from Oxford/Cambridge/LSE for the German office (this is a challenging task since competition from London-based consultancies and investment banks is fierce). So I'm reminded a bit of the book Monkey Business: Swinging Through the Wall Street Jungle. In it an ex-ibanking-analysts goes to business school convinced he will never go back to M&A. But then he is lured into a summer internship on Wall Street by a more prestigious bank thinking there it will be better. He hates the summer internship and returns to the 2nd year convinced he will not return. But then school starts, he's invited for dinners and events, receives an offer with a nice bonus and suddenly finds himself back where he didn't want to be as a fulltime associate.

There is no conclusion to my post. I could write a conclusion now and next week the conclusion could be different. I think once I've talked to about twenty people hearing their thoughts, opinions and experience I will advance. There is still about half a year to make a decision.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

First Impressions of professors and core courses

The core courses have finally started. So far, I've had Microeconomics and Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility. Here are my thoughts so far. Both professors are of extremely high calibre. We also had a glimpse of an entrepreneurship professor at a careers service event last week and he was also extremely bright and entertaining. So my overall impression of the faculty is excellent. I would even say that I am positively surprised, despite my high expectations. Unfortunately, mbaprof is not telling the tale from the professors' perspective anymore. I assume he was found out and told to stop blogging? Now let's talk about the courses:

Microeconomics: I had been told by a 2nd year that this professor is controversial, so some people love him and others are very upset about him. I enjoyed the class immensely, it was very entertaining and the dry matter of supply and demand was discussed in an original way. I heard some people were confused or upset that he made everything sound very difficult, but I didn't notice that. Also, the professor is great at discouraging waffling, so if someone talks just to talk he makes a bit fun of them, which is mean but will be good for the quality of class participation.

We seem to get a lot of extra work and homework in this class, but I think that helps to learn. Also, I enjoy learning, this is better than working, right? I don't really understand when people moan about every class and every assignment. Why pay $80,000 tuition fees if you don't want to learn anything? I think it is just a social thing and everybody thinks they have to moan about studies to fit in, but I find it ridiculous, we're not in high school (or are we? There are some high school stories going on, but I don't feel like writing about them. Let's just say some people forget they are not 16 anymore).

Business Ethics: This is certainly a topic many moaned about before it started... "what's the point?" "you can't learn ethics", "it has nothing to do with business"... The class was great though. Obviously we started out talking about Enron, Arthur Andersen and the like. It turned out we had someone in the class who once interned at Enron and then worked on a Parmalat deal at an ibank. Then there were four or so with experience at Andersen, and also another one witnessing bribes and corruption at an aerospace company. So I think everyone saw that it will affect everyone directly or indirectly and we cannot afford to say we don't care about these matters in business. The case discussion was controversial, as expected. I look forward to the next case discussion, which will be about bribery.

Tomorrow we have our first Finance class, finally! Today was also the meeting of the Finance Club, which was impressive. They organise lots of events, such as modelling and excel training, interview training, sessions on "life as a trader" or "global currency markets" held by global investment banks. It will be very useful! Tomorrow is also the 1st meeting of the investment management club. So there are events every day and it is very exciting.