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Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds: Mr. Indian Tech Product Manager

Mr. Blowin’ The Brazilian Wind

  • 770 GMAT (Q50/V46) (Practice tests)
  • 8.5/10.0 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in economics
  • Work experience includes more than seven years as a management consultant and project team coordinator, the last six as a partner of one of the largest Brazilian consulting firms
  • “I don’t think anyone from my company has ever gotten an MBA from a top tier school”
  • Extracurricular involvement include working as a TA during college; co-founding a market research center along with a professor; teaching English to teens and adults during college vacation; and participating on a few charity fundraisers
  • Goal: To change industries, from consulting to tech or consumer goods.
  • “That’s where I envision being able to have the greatest direct, positive impact on people’s lives, through great ideas and products. Long term, I’d like to be a CFO or COO for a large, global firm like IBM or P&G.”
  • “No TOEFL yet, though I do have a CAE from Cambridge University from around 10 years ago.”
  • 29-year-old male from Brazil

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 20% to 30%
Wharton: 30% to 40%
Stanford: 20%
Chicago: 30% to 40%
Berkeley: 30%
INSEAD: 40% to 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: Phew, lots of info missing here including name of college, actual GMAT score, and most importantly, some life and goal plan that will make friggin’ sense to an adcom.

But first, GET THAT 770. I’ll even be happy with a 740. Your biggest problem in getting into those top U.S. business schools (and INSEAD) is a lack of anchors.

Anchors in the adcom context are undeniable facts (not your own spin on those facts) that an adcom can bring to the bank.  E.g., an actual undergraduate degree from a known and selective college, an actual 770 GMAT, an actual job at a selective international consulting company (MBB, etc.) or a job at an actual bulge bracket investment bank (followed by a job at an actual super selective PE firm) .  You don’t have any of those. I’m not criticizing, just pointing that out because of that, a high GMAT would be a real plus in your application. It is something an adcom could hold in her hand. It is something an adcom would look at to give more credence to the things you will inevitably spin a bit.

For instance, anyone can say, no matter what their actual background, that after earning their MBA they want to work at an MBB consulting company. In the case of an applicant without a consulting background, an adcom would find that statement more credible coming from someone with a high GMAT because 1. a high GMAT is often a good sign of success in B-school and life, and 2. MBB firms actually often require high GMATs and beyond that, certainly respect them.

OK, end of macro mini-lecture.

In your case, because we do not know your college (altho I assume it is a top-ish school in Brazil, and GPA, 8.5/10 is solid) and because I assume it is not a feeder school to top U.S. B schools, and because you have, to adcoms’ POV, an odd work history, on several counts, see below, it is real important that the rest of this story be as convincing as possible.

On the plus side, we got the Brazil background, which these days, especially with International applications contracting a bit, is a plus. See this PQ story, https://poetsandquants.com/2017/09/18/where-mba-apps-are-way-up-and-way-down/ , with its sub-section noting that “many U.S. schools saw declines in their international applicant pools.”  A guy like you, who really does seem interested in returning to Brazil, and hence is indifferent to U.S. terrorist-driven immigration restrictions, would be attractive on that basis to your target schools. You will not have trouble getting a student visa, and you are not interested in then getting a U.S. work visa after that, and praying somehow to turn that into U.S. citizenship or green card status somehow.  And if your actual plan is different, well, keep it to yourself.

That kinda ends the plus side.

On the iffy-to-downright damaging side, is your description of your work history:

“7+ years of experience as a management consultant, the last ~6 of those as a partner in one of the largest brazilian consulting firms, to which I was invited by some people with whom I had worked at my previous job and where I currently act as project team coordinator I don’t think anyone from my company has ever gotten an MBA from a top tier school . . . .”

Let me count the ways this is trouble.

1. That is a lot of experience with one firm, way more than average.

2. Being a partner for ~6 years makes us question why you need an MBA at all, vs. an EMBA, or just staying where you are (which seems OK to most people but raises the question, “Gee, if it is so legit, how come you are leaving . . .”).

3. “Where I currently act as project team coordinator . . .” Huh? So you are not a consultant, you were hired “by some people with whom I had worked at my previous job” and then for the next 6 years, well, coordinated project teams, whatever that means, but it doesn’t sound like you were giving consulting advice to clients.

To adcoms, in other words, the job does not sound like consulting and does not seem one that you got after a nationwide search. In other words, it was not selective. As we have often noted, adcoms like jobs which are selective on the theory that most people making hiring decisions are at least as smart as adcoms (who isn’t) and further they are motivated to take the process seriously because they will have to live with the consequences.  Hence, pre-selected winners are a good place to start looking for admissible candidates.

You are not a pre-selected winner.  That does not mean you are doomed but it does mean that is some other actual anchor you do not possess.

Then we got this: “I want an MBA to change industries. I’m currently thinking about tech or consumer goods, because that’s where I envision being able to have the greatest direct, positive impact on people’s lives, through great ideas and products. Long term, I’d like to be a CFO or COO for a large, global firm like IBM or P&G.”

Friend, there are about 438 really damaging things about that goal statement, including this classic, “currently thinking about tech or consumer goods” which makes it seem that you are a lad in short pants in primary school excited by his first Career Day, where your classmates note that they would like to be astronauts, pro-tennis players, or policemen, “like their fathers.”

Let me add that saying you want to change industries, after seven years, is a risky idea in this context. And that dreamnig about being  “a CFO or COO for a large, global firm like IBM or P&G,” is more evidence of schoolboy dreaming. (Hey, while you are thumbing through career centerfolds, why not take a look at Ms. CEO, or is saying you want to be CFO or COO your idea of realism?)

OK, this has been fun for most of us except you, so here is some tough love.

First, get that big GMAT. Second, spin your career to the maximum amount possible so that it seems you are in fact a consultant, and have been for these past X years,  and that your goal is to become even more of a consultant, first at a Big International Consulting firm back in Brazil, ahem MBB, and then as a leader of your own firm or head of the Brazil office of MBB. That, and a 770, is a story a lot of schools might fall for, given that you will then have solid stats, a plausible work history, and a set of goals which emerges out of all that. I would suppress the partner part, the project team coordinator part, and the part about you being hired by your friends. There are many variants to this paragraph and they depend on what you actually have been doing, but that is the general direction I would seek.

With a credible variant of the above (and as noted, it becomes more credible somehow with a 770 GMAT), you actually have chance at your targets. Doing it your way is suicide. Is there a middle way, where you sound more like a consultant but say you want to transition from consulting to business development for leading Fortune-100 or innovative companies in Brazil?

Maybe, and that could be the best path, but just stop what you are doing.

Seriously.