How to answer Kellogg’s essay questions — Part 2

Kellogg MBA Students

A portrait of Beth TidmarshThe 2015-16 Kellogg Full-Time MBA application features two distinct essay questions. In the second of a two-part series, Beth Tidmarsh, director of admissions for Kellogg’s Full-Time program, reveals how to write a stellar response.

Question 2: Pursuing an MBA is a catalyst for personal and professional growth. How have you grown in the past? How do you intend to grow at Kellogg?

View Beth’s tips for Question 1

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How to answer Kellogg’s essay questions — Part 1

Kellogg MBA Students

A portrait of Beth TidmarshThe 2015-16 Kellogg Full-Time MBA application features two distinct essay questions. In the first of a two-part series, Beth Tidmarsh, director of admissions for Kellogg’s Full-Time program, reveals how to write a stellar response.

Question 1: Leadership and teamwork are integral parts of the Kellogg experience. Describe a recent and meaningful time you were a leader. What challenges did you face, and what did you learn?

View original post 458 more words

My Booth Essay

Booth allows you flexibility to communicate in whatever way you see fit.  That means you can write yet another boring admissions essay or get creative and submit a poem, infographic, or visual essay. I decide to take advantage of this flexibility and use a medium I use everyday, PowerPoint.

My essay, below, got me a interview at Booth and ultimately landed me a spot on the waitlist (which I chose to reject). I believe Booth and I came to a mutual understanding that my perfect fit would be elsewhere, but that doesn’t change that I had more fun creating this essay than any other.

Chicago Booth values adventurous inquiry, diverse perspectives, and a collaborative exchange of ideas.  This is us.  Who are you?

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My Harvard Post-Interview Reflection (PIR)

Harvard asks you to write a post interview reflection (PIR) within 24 hours of your interview. Many have said that there is little you can do in this reflection to get in, but there are a few things you can do to eliminate yourself.  Here are my tips:

  1. Follow instructions.  Make sure you have a plan to complete the PIR and have access to internet.  Do not delete your upload once complete (even though the system will allow you too).
  2. Allow time to reflect. Although it will be very helpful to jot down some details about your interview immediately following the interview, that is not the time to write the PIR.
  3. Complete other visit activities around interview day. Attending class visits and other interview day activities will not only be beneficial for you, but will also benefit your PIR by providing additional data points that you can use while writing.
  4. DO NOT WRITE IT AHEAD OF TIME!  They will smell it from a mile away and they have specifically asked you not to do so. In addition, this is intended to be a reflective exercise.

You’ve just had your HBS interview.  How well did we get to know you?  

Twenty-four hours is not a lot of time.  My wife and I meet in sixth grade.  Seven years later, we started dating and four years after that we got married.  I spent five years building my family and developing myself and earning three promotions at my company. It has taken twenty-eight years for me to become the man I am today. However, a lot can happen in twenty-four hours. As I reflect on my interview, I cannot help but to also think about my entire day at HBS.

Jane, when you began by telling me that you were impressed by my application, I could not believe it.  “Impressed by me? I am just a kid from Indiana. How could someone from Harvard Business School be impressed with me?”

Although I may have not nailed every question, I believe you did get to know me in my interview. However, you know the version of me that existed twenty-four hours ago. Since that interview, I met war heroes and Ivy-league scholars that could be my future classmates, I learned about the seemingly endless amounts of opportunities at the CPD, and I toured the world-class facilities at iLab. I am starting to really get it:  I can see what I can do with an HBS MBA. Twenty-four hours ago I did not believe I was special, but if you are still considering me to join you at this amazing place, I must be.

Jane, you asked me if there was anything else I wanted to share at the end of my interview. I attempted to convey how I was passionate about using business to have a positive impact on people’s lives. In the last twenty-four hours, I have realized how big that impact could be.  Twenty years from now my company will have a different CEO and in the next twenty years dozens (maybe hundreds) of entrepreneurs will start biotechs that will disrupt healthcare and save lives. Twenty-four hours ago I would have asked, “Why should that be me?”  Now I am asking, “Why not me?”

My HBS Essay that Worked!

For Harvard, I recycled the premise of my Tuck essay, but not much else.  The content, like all my essays, is all HBS.  It is important to focus on the “what else” of the prompt. Don’t waste their time recounting in more detail facts and circumstances already included in your application and resume.  Although the prompt has changed this year, it is essentially the same question. The only difference is the audience; they would like you to address your future classmates, not the admissions committee.

You’re applying to Harvard Business School. We can see your resume, school transcripts, extra-curricular activities, awards, post-MBA career goals, test scores and what your recommenders have to say about you. What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy? (No word limit)

How do I want to be remembered when I die? I answer this every few years with an exercise many would consider morbid, but I find constructive: writing my obituary. Although some things change each time, the theme is consistent. I want a life of lasting impact.

As the first in my family to attend college, I wanted to study a field that would give me opportunities to lead peers and make decisions. I realized business would allow me to make the impact I wished to achieve. Strong academic performance and community service granted me a full scholarship to the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. At Kelley, I rehearsed my leadership method by joining AIESEC, an international student organization that provides internships all over the world. As Vice President of External Affairs, I raised thousands of dollars in grants and established a new partnership with the Indiana University Honors College. As President, I organized a trip to a Tibetan monastery, increased membership by 300%, and lead our affiliate through adversity after a hostile takeover of our parent, AIESEC US.

Careful thought and self-reflection led me to seek a career with a company that was dramatically improving people’s lives. Despite great internship experiences and job offers in multiple industries, I wanted to work for a company that made products that people needed. ABC offered me this chance. After two roles of increasing responsibility at ABC, I wanted to get closer to the patients whose lives ABC was improving. I moved to support the clinical function of our research and development organization. During my time in this department, we produced positive clinical results for gastric cancer, psoriasis, and diabetes. I am proud that the millions of operating expense savings I implemented in the last two years enabled discovery and development of life-saving and life-enhancing medicines.

In addition to my professional role, I have gained a personal reputation amongst my peers. Other analysts ask me for advice on how to connect with a difficult business partner, how to deliver bad news, and, at times, even personal problems. I am honored that they trust me to deliver advice to make their jobs easier and their lives better. After demonstrating my ability to lead my peers, upper management promoted me two levels to the position of Consultant. From this new position, I now lead a three-person clinical finance team.

My vision of improving lives also guided my community involvement. Despite middle-class upbringings, I have been blessed to travel extensively. This travel has had purpose:  to gain international understanding to further my business influence and to make Indianapolis a global and diverse community. After studying abroad and leading international business trips, I searched for organizations focused on making Indianapolis a diverse and globally recognized city. This search brought me to Indianapolis Sister Cities, specifically Indianapolis Hangzhou Sister City Committee (IHSCC). After six months of volunteering, I was asked to join the executive committee as Chief Operating Officer. In this role, I set the strategic direction of our committee, recruited the current generation of IHSCC leaders, and increased membership by 50%. With our new team, we secured $12,000 in corporate funding, curated an exhibition about Indianapolis attended by 40,000 people in China, and were recognized with several prestigious national and international awards for citizen diplomacy. To Boston and the HBS community, I will bring civic engagement and global consciousness.

My desire to impact the world by improving my community and individual lives will continue to guide the decisions I make. At HBS, I will prepare for increased impact with coursework like Richard Hamermesh’s “Building Life Science Businesses” and field courses, such as, “Innovating in Health Care.” Utilizing the case method, I will develop the general management skills needed for the next stage of my career. I hope to continue to develop my ability to lead my peers in student clubs like the Entrepreneurship and Health Care clubs.

After HBS, I will return to ABC to pursue leadership positions, which require broad management skills and strategic thought. Longer term, I aspire to start my own healthcare company and continue to help my community through philanthropy and activism, as the ABC family has in Indianapolis. When I die, I want an obituary about how my HBS experience empowered me to run businesses that created jobs and made products that bettered people’s lives.

Stay tuned for my HBS Post-Interview Reflection! 

My Yale Essay that Worked

Yale SOM was the first admissions essay I wrote.  So I think this is one of my weakest; however, all that matters is it WORKED!

“The Yale School of Management educates individuals who will have deep and lasting impact on the organizations they lead. Describe how you have positively influenced an organization—as an employee, a member, or an outside constituent. (500 words maximum)”

In 2009, ABC Company’s Selling, General, and Administrative expense amounted to 51% of our revenue, which placed us near the bottom of our peer group. This unsustainable position alarmed our financial leadership and alarmed me. When I was asked after one year with the company to reduce ABC’s administrative footprint by reorganizing the accounting process of our $1 billion of annual Capital spend and $8 billion of Fixed Assets, I accepted.

I started with processes. ABC used a labor-intensive accounting process, which required two forms and several emails between Finance and Engineering even for small projects. I lobbied our Chief Accounting Officer for authorization to employ an automated accounting procedure I created for smaller projects. With his support, I implemented this rationalized method, saving ABC $250,000 annually.

Next were systems. ABC had over 40 affiliate countries disconnected from our central accounting system, Systems Applications Products (SAP). Each affiliate country maintained detached procedures, controls, and, most importantly, resources. My task was to partner with each country’s leadership, implement SAP, and supervise the data migration of 35,000 Fixed Asset records. However, Fixed Asset accounting is one of the most tightly regulated parts of the financial statements. The most complex requirements, such as property tax reports in Japan, inflationary accounting in Venezuela, and fair-market revaluation in Colombia, require significant effort to comply with. These specifications posed major difficulties to meeting deadlines. Unable to lead the team to a fair-market revaluation solution in SAP, I was forced to choose between hiring additional consultants, delaying the launch, or going live without an automated solution. Ultimately, I elected to go-live without an automated report and asked our Colombian accountants to maintain a manual process. However, despite these challenges all affiliates went live on time and all the systems I designed are in use today. These systems enabled the hardest step, organizational structure reform.

With one global accounting system ABC’s leadership chose to reorganize our accountants into regional hubs. These hubs facilitated the application of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act financial controls, which I designed the year prior. With my training, each hub increased our service level by allowing sharing of best practices across regions and reduced our operating cost by centralizing. We reduced ABC’s administrative expenses by another $1 million annually.

Accepting this position required me to perform at a mature level early in my career. I was the youngest member of a 200 person team and, moreover, the lowest ranking process leader. However, I saw this as my best opportunity to make a lasting impact. Through my success in this role, I upgraded the processes, reduced the administrative expenses by $1.25 million, and increased the industry competitiveness of ABC. I believe my commitment to progress, tough decision-making, and individual assiduousness will contribute significantly to SOM’s class of 2017. With a SOM MBA, I hope to complement these qualities with general management dexterity and leadership ability.

My Tuck Essay that Worked! – Part 2

Leadership is not about being the boss.  It is about inspiring others to follow your direction.  If you have direct supervisory experience, great!  If not, think of situations where you influenced others without a position of authority. This can be an even more powerful example for a MBA applicant.

2.  Tell us about your most meaningful leadership experience and what role you played. What did you learn about your own individual strengths and weaknesses through this experience?

It was midnight in Japan. My team was in the process of completing the improbable, reconfiguring our Western European accounting system, a task that had previously taken 6 years. However, we had advantages: I had assembled an all-star team, had built momentum in Eastern Europe, and had been given motivation. Our Chief Accounting Officer asked for this project to be finished in six weeks, which came as a surprise. I was scheduled to be in Kobe, Japan to train engineers and accountants on the processes I had designed over the last year. During the day, I trained my Japanese colleagues, and at night, I returned to the hotel to lead my team in the US and Europe.

When I joined the company, Eli Lilly & Co. had 44 affiliate countries disconnected from its central accounting system, Systems Applications Products (SAP). My task was to partner with each country’s leadership, implement SAP, and supervise the data migration of 35,000 Fixed Asset records. This position, especially my time in Japan, required me to perform at a mature level early in my career. I was the youngest member of a 200 person team and, moreover, the least-tenured process leader.

In this position, I learned how to lead subordinates and peers. This helped me discover a strength: caring for others. After a colleague realized that she had more work than time to complete the work, we met one-on-one. She quickly steered the conversation to what she needed to do and how long each task would take. I read in between her words and realized that she believed, if unsuccessful, her job would be in jeopardy. After having a discussion about what was truly expected of her, we developed a careful prioritization plan to complete the critical tasks and to ensure her success. I once viewed caring for others as a personality trait. After witnessing what people can achieve when they know you care about them, I now view it as my greatest strength.

I asked an experienced team member to help identify my weaknesses. He told me in some tough situations, like a mistake I made on a tax entry for the United Kingdom, my stress had affected my ability to lead. We agreed that if someone else had made the same mistake, I would have sprung into action, solving the issue and minimizing the damage. He could not understand why I would react differently to my own mistake. His honesty made me better.

Awareness of my strengths and weaknesses helped me lead my team from that hotel room in Kobe. Instead of allowing stress to slow me down, I organized the team before leaving for Japan, placed the European financial manager in charge during my absence, and scheduled daily virtual meetings to solve issues. The success of this project, completing the improbable in only six weeks, has served as an example for me of what I can accomplish as a leader by leveraging my strengths and mitigating my weaknesses.

My Tuck Essay That Worked! – Part 1

Fit is very important at Tuck and their first question gets right to that…

1.  Why is an MBA a critical next step toward your short- and long-term career goals? Why is Tuck the best MBA fit for you and your goals and why are you the best fit for Tuck?

How do I want to be remembered when I die? I answer this every few years with an exercise many would consider morbid, but I find constructive: writing my obituary. Although some things change each time, the theme has never wavered. I want a life of lasting impact.

I want to impact the world by making products that improve people’s lives. I will prepare myself for this at Tuck. I will leverage Tuck’s healthcare program and coursework, such as “Structure, Organization, and Economics of the Healthcare Industry.” Utilizing the Healthcare and Entrepreneurship Initiatives, I hope to combine innovation and improving lives into my First Year Project, ideally working with a healthcare startup. To further prepare myself and impact the world, I will join the Tuck Global Consultancy. In this trip, I hope to get a closer look at healthcare on the ground floor, as a previous team did in the Rwanda Health Ministry.

My passion for Tuck goes beyond my professional ambitions. The most important person in my life, my wife Jessica, has not stopped talking about Tuck since we visited together last April. She and I dream about our daughter, Loralei, making friends with other Tiny Tuckies. Jessica laughs when I talk about becoming a “Tripod.” There is no school that better aligns with our values of family, love for the outdoors, and community. We plan to add to this community, sharing our Mid-Western hospitality at Loralei’s birthday parties, leading kayaking and hiking trips around the Upper Valley, and organizing play-dates with other Tiny Tuckies. I look forward to the “transformational experience” my colleague and Tuck alumnus, John Doe, has told me about. His experience changed his life, just as I am sure Tuck will change my life.

Just as Tuck is a good fit for me both professionally and personally, I am a good fit for Tuck both in and out of the classroom. In the classroom, I will bring my international knowledge and six years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry. I will be a vocal member of T’17, challenging my classmates and listening when they contest my assumptions. Outside the classroom, I will seek a leadership position in the Healthcare Club. My life experience and maturity as a husband and a father will bring diversity to the class.

I want a business school that will prepare me for my short-term and long-term goals. After Tuck, I will return to Eli Lilly & Co. to pursue leadership positions, which require broad management skills and strategic thought. Long term, I aspire to start my own healthcare company and continue to help my community through philanthropy and activism, as the Lilly family has in Indianapolis. I will give back to Tuck also, mentoring the next generation of Tuck students. This will be symmetrical; I hope to leverage my classmates as advisors, business partners, and clients to meet my long-term goals. When I die, I want my obituary to read how my Tuck experience empowered me to run and launch businesses that created jobs, shared wealth, and made products that impacted people’s lives.

Stay Tuned for Essay 2!