May Thu Khine
London Business School
Describe yourself in 15 words or less: Short Skirt / Long Jacket
Hometown: Yangon (formerly Rangoon), Myanmar (formerly Burma)
Fun Fact About Yourself: I love Sudoku puzzles so much that I once sent out a cryptic party invite using a Sudoku.
Undergraduate School and Major: Davidson College, North Carolina, U.S.A., with a B.A. degree in Political Science and Governance.
Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation: Started out as a fundraiser in a New York City nonprofit (Girls Inc.) and later at a design social enterprise in Myanmar, called Proximity Designs.
I’ve worked in the private sector for the last three years at Yoma Strategic Holdings – one of the few companies in Myanmar with access to international capital markets – first joining the Business Development team, later heading the marketing operations for the new KFC in Myanmar, and finally switching to Group Chairman’s office as the staff assistant and coordinator to Chairman.
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Since I started out in a nonprofit organization, I am proud of adapting quickly to the business world after I made the switch, and later successfully pitching and managing a global brand to partner with my company in Myanmar after the country was isolated for five decades. I thank my younger self for biting the bullet and breaking out of my comfort zone to try and learn something new and different.
Looking back on your experience, what advice would you give to future business school applicants? Applying for business schools is one of those life projects that require commitment. In my case, I had an exciting project at work launching a global QSR brand in a frontier market, but knew that if I had stayed on, I would not have had the space or the mental energy to focus on my MBA preparations. So I took a leap and made arrangements to transfer to a new division within the same group to commit to applying to schools. By the time I wrapped up my project at work and switched to a new division, it was already mid August! Round II deadlines were fast approaching.
Given that I had only four months, I immediately started with notifying my supervisors at work for their recommendations, and it helped that I was entirely transparent with my employer. This allowed plenty of time for the recommendations to complete. Now that there were people I respected checking in with me about this piece of paper, it was official for me, and there was no way I would postpone MBA plans by that point.
Selecting whom to choose for recommendations for particular schools can be tricky. I thought I would have plenty of things to highlight for a project. If the person involved in that project writing the recommendation were not familiar with the process, the recommendation letter could still fall short. Just to hedge my bets, I asked four people to write my recommendation letters for three application packages (two letters in each package), based on how closely, culturally-aligned they were with each school; how busy they were during the four months (at the time, there was a historic election in Myanmar and one of my recommenders is a political advisor and a historian); and how good they were at writing people recommendation letters.
For GMAT, I relied on the Official Guide, Manhattan Guides, a lot of free resources and webinars available online, and a group of “GMAT Buddies” I made in town for support. I knew that my weakness would be meeting the time constraint for quantitative sections, and my peers in town were better at math and I was slightly better at verbal sections, so we would all work at our own pace, but scheduled a bimonthly GMAT Buddies meet up to go over tough questions together. We even had an online chat group for instant sharing. Talking about GMAT problem sets with each other in real life was a huge help for my GMAT process.
I started work on my personal statement around the same time I started my GMAT preparations by September. The most difficult part about personal statements was the start. So I pushed myself to crank out a preliminary draft, left it for a few weeks or days, and picked it back up again to see what I was trying to communicate or what I was getting at. A few weeks toward the deadline, I would share my draft with friends and solicited their feedback. Of course, it was up to me to choose whose feedback I would incorporate into my essays, depending on how familiar the readers were with B-Schools, and how good they were with writing in general.
The last tip would be to visit schools or join events organized by schools. This could strengthen the overall application package, and was my one big gap in my application process, since I was based in Myanmar and could not justify collecting visas to travel in person to different campuses. Good luck!
What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? The people! First, I come across more London Business School alumni excelling in their fields around Southeast Asia, and specifically in Yangon, than almost any other business school graduates. Second, they all seem super approachable and collaborative, which is important to me. When I went in for regional school interviews, I noticed that the London Business School alum interviewer asked more interesting questions and was more personable and insightful than interviewers from other schools. Third, at Yoma Strategic Holdings, I worked directly with an alumna, who later became a close mentor to me. These personal touches and encounters convinced me that this is the sort of community I would like to become a part of.
Tell us about your dream job or dream employer at this point in your life? My dream business is create an environmentally sound and a commercially viable product or service. This can take many forms, from an impact-investing firm supporting a range of projects all over the world, or a boutique apiary, eco-lodge in some remote part of Myanmar where there are not a lot of job opportunities for the locals.
What would you like your business school peers to say about you after you graduate from this program? I want my business school classmates to associate me with Myanmar and Southeast Asia. If they are trying to come to town for holiday or for business, I want them to remember me as someone reliable to call up and hang out with.