A Londoner’s MBA: The Studying Part – My First Week of Classes

London Business School students.
Photo by S. Burnett

Nikki Gupta, originally from India, grew up in Saudi Arabia and London before starting her MBA at London Business School. She is a new recruit into the 2020 class and will be sharing snippets of her day to day on what it’s like to have a London MBA experience.

My first full-blown academic week has come to an end at LBS. It has been a little overwhelming as I try to juggle assignments and careers events. I have an exam from a data analytics course in one day and three assignments due in two days. So I’m feeling a lot of emotions right now.

Life is also happening in tandem with school. I have no clue what I ate for lunch today; I was wolfing it down while trying to finish a sample exam before a three hour tutorial. In between, I sent emails to people who might help with internships. I have also developed a dysfunctional love-hate relationship with my whatsapp. Seeing glimpses of discussions about accounting flash up on the screen makes me want to put my phone in the freezer. I am hoping this is a temporary reaction.

This week, Accounting, Finance, Microeconomics and Strategy began. This is a rundown of my first classes for each.

STRATEGY
We were asked to read a case on the petroleum industry and come prepared to discuss why profit margins were higher for certain operations and geographies. I am new to such vast amounts of dense written information, so I spent most of the class trying to not sound unprepared. I participated in discussion and drew from the preassigned readings. What stood out for me was how powerful the learning experience became when the students’ professional backgrounds shone through when they participated in class. The class included people from supply chain management and people who had worked in oil and gas. It was like watching a debate and learning via different perspectives in the absence of an absolute answer. The professor knew our backgrounds and steered the room very well. As a mathematician, this was a refreshing alternative to a ‘chalk and talk’ classroom and I loved it!

ACCOUNTING
Every time I thought I had it down, it felt like the rules changed. I thought I had understood accruals, but then deferred revenue made me rethink it. The professor recognised that we were not all experts in accounting and did his best to make jargon like ‘retained earnings’, ‘stock capital’ and ‘provisions’ intuitive. He had prepared in class quizzes and activities that really helped clarify misconceptions on classifying assets, liabilities and equity. Overall though, I feel underprepared. I have heard that this is normal and that it doesn’t mean I am not prepared enough. I intend to go to every weekly tutorial, where the previous week’s assignment will be rehashed. I guess it’s a matter of taking ownership of fixing the fear and diving in!

London Business School’s Nikki Gupta

FINANCE
This was a joy. It was 8:15 a.m. and I was excited to be there. Our professor had a wonderful way of making the topic of valuing coupon bonds really interesting. She brought a physical coupon bond into the lecture with some coupons still attached! This made the idea of owning a bond feel very real. The scary equations with discount factors, spot rates and forward rates just seemed like tools rather than cryptic things for us to master. She told a story of arbitrage using volunteers from the class and ‘enacted’ the short selling of a bond. Then we were given our weekly assignment and, at one glance, I was struck by how unfriendly it looked. I have not tried it yet…I am hoping that it is as joyful as the class was.

MICROECONOMICS
This went by in a flash of Excel, supply curves, demand curves and an interaction between them that went way too fast for me to fully grasp. This is one of the classes where I know I will need to do the pre-reading and come in primed for the information. As someone who studied Math, I want to see proofs and equations all the time. Taking the professors word for certain results is a struggle. That’s a learning curve for me as I think about ways to become more of a conceptual learner.

LBS encourages us to help each other and makes the struggle less lonely. Based on conversations with the people sitting around me, I am not alone in my fear of accounting and microeconomics. We have economists and accountants in class who are helping others over study sessions or in class. I can lean over and ask my neighbour how average marginal cost curves differ from just marginal costs, and this reassures me.

Personally, this first academic week made me feel excited about Finance and like I had walked into the wrong room with Accounting and Microeconomics. First impressions will change but I wanted to share them before further exposure takes the shock away and I actually settle into it (I’m hopeful).

All in all, I am NOT panicking and nor am I complaining. The real goal with these courses is not to master them, but to feel equipped with the right tools. I need to see past imposter syndrome every day and remind myself that the admissions committee has faith in all of us; trusting them stops me from putting books in the freezer too.

Nikki is a former Math tutor and startup founder who is currently starting the MBA program at London Business School. Her startup was in Education Technology and after four tumultuous years, she wants to use the MBA gain some big business perspective. Having been self employed her whole life, she wants to work as a Product Manager in EdTech post MBA. 

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A LONDONER’S MBA: MY FIRST MONTH AT LBS