Face Time With MBA Gatekeepers at Wharton, Stanford, Et Al

MORE Face-to-Face at the Riordan/DMAC Diversity Conference

So today (Saturday) I attended the all-day DMAC/Riordan Diversity MBA Conference on the campus of UCLA. First, let me tell you that I HATE all day events. It’s on my infamous driving to Orange County list of things that I avoid at nearly all costs. I simply lack the attention span for them–especially if I have to wear a suit; however, being that I basically had the opportunity to come nose-to-nose with Top 10 MBA adcoms–those mythical beasts that b-school hopefuls from around the globe would give an eye to meet–I jumped at the chance to suit up and leave an entire day open on my schedule.’

When I arrived, I realized that I had forgotten to put on a tie. While I have a very nice collection of pretty sharp ties, I haven’t had to wear one in about 3 years. I wear jeans to work at my present job; and even before that my old sales department in big corporate had stopped forcing its account executives to wear ties about 2 years before that. Though the event materials clearly said “business formal”, I had simply forgotten as a matter of habit. Oh well. Luckily, I hang a suit nicely.

The Old Folks’ Section

On my way to the elevator, I noticed a man and woman walking together. They were obviously going to the same event. The woman had on a shorts suit–which was more than understandable given the heat wave that LA has been experiencing for about a week. I thought to myself, “If she’s getting in with those shorts, then my lack of tie should be fine.”

As I get on the elevator with these nice people, the guy casually asks “So which school are you with?”.

WOW. They had “aged me up” and thought I was an adcom. ”I’m a prospective student.” I replied. “So are we”, he said.

Awkward. Silence.

Then they burst out laughing. He was just making a joke to thin the air out a bit. As it turns out, my elevator compadres were Les Williams and Angela Gibbons-Williams, the representatives from Harvard Business School; talk about “face-to-face”. It doesn’t get any more “up close and personal” than cornered in an elevator. They were warm, talkative and very personable. As it turns out, the former graduated from HBS with a friend of mine from undergrad that I was in SGA with; small world.

Chopping it Up with Team MBAOver30

Overall, Riordan was a fantastic experience. I was actually planning to meet Angelina, one of my subscribers/over30′ers; however, we missed the opportunity to meet due to poor planning on both our parts. I sent her a very late and lame email to get her information the morning of. She, of course, received my message later that evening after the event was over. Next time, Ang!

On the flip side, I came across another reader, Asion. We actually met nearly a month ago at that fantastic Tuck Coffee Chat that I blogged about. He told me that he’d been reading my blog on Poets and Quants and had been racking his brain as to which person I was when he read my Tuck update after the fact.

He had put 2 and 2 together and realized who I was today. As I said before, I’m not hard to pick out in a crowd once you know a few basic things about my profile. Shout out to you, Asion!

Animal Farm

If I haven’t told you yet, I tend to be a bit of a people watcher. Ok–a LOT of a people watcher. I love observing people’s behaviors, how they interact with others and trying to figure out their stories. Its good fun and a fantastic way to pass the time during a long event.

Often while people watching, I will compare the folks I observe or encounter to animals that they remind me of, like this one guy. At these MBA events, most people are being as gratuitously polite as possible so that they won’t get marked as a “bad person” by an ad com; whatever. Even though I know its 87% fake, the drama hater in me LOVES it when people are literally bending over backwards to be nice to one another, and deems any stimuli to this end as sufficient, gratuitous or not.

So back to this guy. The normal routine in MBA gratuitous nice-nice land is that when you see someone, you immediately speak, reach for the handshake while politely introducing yourself, and smile. Well, this dude missed that memo; or more likely, ate it. As I was about to introduce myself, he raised his eyebrows in the most dismissive manner and turned his head.

“Definitely a shark“, I said to myself, “and probably a banker” [no disrespect to bankers, I’m just saying]. When I was younger (pre-30), I would have been offended by his actions; at 35, however, I found myself amused. I know a snobby, potentially insecure competitor when I see one. “I think I’ll call you JAWS“, I thought to myself.

Then there was this young lady. She was extremely nice. She is also from [what is often referred to as] an over represented group (though I take issue with that term. I don’t believe in “over” representation, just “under” representation, if that makes sense, but I digress). She was a rabbit (an animal known for its overpopulation), similar to the very anxious indian IT guy who was in my group at the Tuck coffee chat (though she was not Indian).

Privilege, URMs and the Playing Field

The Riordan event allows you to pick 7 schools whose ad com rep you want face time with, and they match you with 4 to play musical admissions chairs with along with a group of about 8 other prospective students (I’ll give you a blow by blow on that in a moment). This young lady, having noticed the schools that I was sitting down with, blurted out (almost like she was thinking out loud) “You’re targeting all of the top schools, aren’t you”? When she said that, I noticed a bit of a frown on her kind, sweet face; though I know it was not intentional.