Berkeley-Haas interview report

Last Saturday, I interviewed with a Haas alum in my area. Apparently, you can schedule an interview if you land on waitlist without interview. I was surprised when I first learned this. I drafted an email to the adcom that said something like – I will explain blah blah if I get a chance to interview. I am glad I did not send that email. That would have been an easy decision for the adcom to ding me.

My interviewer was very nice in that he agreed to meet me half way at a Wegmans. At 8 AM on a Saturday, a grocery store turned out to be good place for interviews. I don’t like public attention so I was embarrassed waiting in a suit & tie while everybody else was in athletic gear or in pajamas.

We found a quiet place and started chatting. I thought he would want to buy a coffee or something as he mentioned in the email but I think he forgot and I didn’t ask him either. After talking about the supposed-to-be spring weather and drive, he got down to the business. He explained his background before and after Haas. He is in energy industry both before and after Haas. He moved back to east coast after briefly working at Tesla.

He asked me to walk me through the resume. I believe/hope I gave my much practiced 2 minute spiel on my glorious and accomplished life. He seemed impressed and I was honestly surprised that he was impressed. I am terrible interviewee, you see. Thankfully, that boosted my confidence levels and I was much more conversational and comfortable throughout the interview.

After that he asked me about specific career goals post-MBA, and 10 years after MBA. Haas definitely cares a lot about clear and achievable goals and his follow up questions on my goals confirmed that. I think I convinced him that my goals are tightly linked to my experience and to Haas’s resources.

He came back to my entrepreneurial venture that I did few years ago. He asked me further questions about why I did what I did and what I learned out of that experience. I did not prepare for this in-depth questioning about this particular experience. I killed it! Because I just know in my heart why I did it and what I learned. I gave him clear answers and also told him how I applied those learnings in my professional career.

He then asked me about how I see myself contributing inside and outside of the class. I gave four different examples on how I am going to contribute while also connecting to my contributions to social responsibility causes at work. I tried my best to connect how I contribute to the community around me and how he can expect that I will do the same at Haas.

All that took about 40 minutes. Then, he opened the floor for my questions. I asked him a few questions about Haas and alumni.

Last few minutes, I tried to connect with him on a more personal level by talking about the area, energy industry, housing market etc., It happens that he and I both are looking to buy a home soon so we exchanged few ideas about the local housing market and broader trends.

Overall, the interview was stress free and I was more confident with my answers. But I wish I had done more practice to deliver my answers more clearly, smoothly and coherently, especially career goals.

Next-up: An email to adcom with a “personal statement” which should address any gaps discovered through self-reflection.


My report card

This is what I achieved in recent application cycle. I know R3 is still out there but I don’t count it for an applicant from an overcrowded and overachieving applicant pool.

Round 1

  1. Wharton – dinged
  2. Darden – dinged
  3. Duke – waitlisted w/ interview

Round 2

  1. Stanford – dinged
  2. Kellogg – dinged
  3. Haas – waitlisted (will be interviewing in a week)

Stats that contributed very little to the overall outcome

  1. WE 6+ years developing vaccines
  2. Engineer
  3. Pharma/Biotech industry
  4. Undergrad GPA 3.3, Grad GPA 3.6
  5. GMAT 730 (Q50, V38)

Stuff that probably had a major impact on the overall outcome

  1. I wrote the first word for essays on 20-Aug-2014. It could have been fine if only I spent a lot of hours thinking about what to write. But I did not. I just selected stories that came first to my mind.
  2. I am a terrible writer. I recently read my Wharton application. I did not understand a lot of those sentences.
  3. I have a general idea of post-MBA goals. I could have done more due diligence to understand skills required and could have made a better and convincing case for why I need an MBA.

One thing I am always sure about is why I am doing what I do. I didn’t have to spend any time thinking about the ‘why’ behind my education and career choices. They are always clear and consistent. That said, I did a poor job of communicating that clarity and consistency throughout my applications.

Looking forward to putting together excellent applications for next cycle!

This is the end…

of misery, anxiety and failure. I hope.

Few days ago, I found out the fate of my R2 MBA applications. Blog title should give you a clue about that fate.

Why this blog?

1. Improving clarity of thoughts

Around Thanksgiving, one of my friends reviewed my final Darden application and told me that he did not understood a single idea that I presented in one of the essays. I was in complete disbelief! After all, I was proud to have submitted the 19th version of that essay.

Obviously, I was missing something. Something important to convey the thoughts in my head to the reader through words. I thought about what could be missing – right words, sentence structure, flow or some mix of all them? My own conclusion was that its all of them. And it was very tough to pinpoint these mistakes when I know, in my head, what I was trying to say with that word in that particular sentence.

What is in my head does not have any value. Only the information received and understood by the reader (customer) has value. I hope to improve presenting my thoughts in clear and concise way by regularly updating this blog.

I did better, as attested by the same friend, on R2 applications in terms of clarifying my thoughts, using simple language, and using better flow. But still I was dinged by two schools and landed on one WL. That brings me to the second reason for starting this blog.

2. Discovering and discussing positioning/differentiation strategy

I am such a complex individual. Adcoms must know this! They must know every facet of my life and how awesome I am in everything I do. That sounds like a positioning strategy!

I started thinking about poetry as a tool to communicate all that I am in a limited number of words. After all poetry is a high density (thoughts presented/number of words used) communication tool. Thankfully, I did not resort to writing poetry or using one of those gazillion quotes you can find online. But I did put in a lot of effort finding high density words and building high density sentences. I was proud and happy that each sentence did shed a light on the complexity of the individual I am.

Few months ago, I did not know that there is something called positioning strategy for an MBA applicant. What I described in the last few sentences was my positioning strategy. The positioning strategy that made adcoms of six schools decide I am too good to be part of their MBA class.

I understood, in hindsight, that with respect to MBA applications I need to shed light on only those parts that differentiates me. At this time, I have few ideas about the process that will help me develop the positioning. I hope to share my thoughts about the process and outcomes over the next few months.

I welcome your feedback on positioning strategy as well as on my writing skills.


PS: I wanted to start this blog with the words that my all time favorite movie, Apocalypse Now, starts with.