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.
It was a great day when I received my offer from LBS. I was thrilled…but also a tiny bit worried. It dawned on me that the dream had become real. I started asking myself some tough questions. There were several I couldn’t answer at the time. Two months into the MBA, I feel like I can answer these now.
Will I need to be a whiz at Excel?
LBS runs all day workshops to bring students up to speed, so no. The workshops were in our third week too, so this gets fixed early. I was (and still am) insecure about my skills in Excel. Before school, startup life was hectic and time was valuable. When Excel-magic was needed, I just asked my co-founder. He was quicker and got the job done, so I just owned other processes.
My study group also helps a lot. This week’s microeconomics assignment was made much more accessible when I was able to watch a student work through the spreadsheet. I was able to help with a more mathematical question, so we balanced things out!
Does coming from self-employment make the MBA harder?
Was the corporate premise of the MBA going to mess with my entrepreneurial hustle? As a freelance tutor and then as a startup founder, I always had scrappy ways of doing things. Before starting the MBA, I was advised not to lose this.
Turns out, I didn’t have any worries. The MBA teaches us how to better inform the hustle. Being able to assess a new project financially using discounted cash flows would have been super useful at my startup. We would’ve known whether launching a new product made sense. No doubt, it would’ve sharpened our decision-making processes.
The clubs at LBS like us to be entrepreneurially-spirited. As a committee member for the Tech and Media Club, I get to hustle all the time. I go to ProductTank every month. This is one of the many large technology meetups in London. I get to pitch LBS and bring some attendees back to school as speakers.
What will I need to prep before the first term?
Personally, I probably overdid it. I planned for winter wardrobe, summer wardrobe, owning a yoga mat and renewing my close-to-expiring passport. I signed up to an online grocery delivery service so I can buy what I needed without having to physically shop. I registered for a student travel card so I got discounted tube travel. I bought notebooks, folders and pens on Amazon as it’s far cheaper than most shops on the street. Finally, I pre-prepared breakfast for the week on each Sunday so I didn’t show up to lectures at 8.15 a.m. completely starved.
As you can tell, I have an anxious personality and tend to over-plan. If you are similar, I recommend this approach. It helped me feel prepared and cushioned the shock of all the newness.
Still, working out has been tricky to plan. I’m still struggling with forming a gym routine, but I know many others who aren’t. I’m rationalising the guilt away by walking to campus every day from my flat in Maida Vale. The forty minutes really helps me feel like I am not super sedentary all the time, especially when we have six hours of lectures in a day. I commend the students who make the morning yoga classes and also never miss rugby practices! My yoga mat remains neatly packed, still in its amazon box, under my bed, where it can’t guilt me into submission.
Will I fit in socially?
As a seasoned introvert, I was worried about this. I am not a big drinker and feel quite uncomfortable in loud bars and clubs. LBS was reputed to be quite heavy on both, so I was concerned. But when I looked more closely, I saw how hard our social reps were working to ‘scratch below the surface’ and help us enjoy deeper interactions. This month, we had inter-study-group dinners and a food festival in which people cooked and brought dishes for a giant potluck!
We are exploring the country too. Last month, I was part of an all-day hike to the southern coast with a small group of twelve. Unsurprisingly, being exhausted and starved from walking for eight hours really helped us bond!
This week, I’m attending a birthday dinner with Russian students at a Russian restaurant. I have lived in London for years but this would still be a first!
So yes, I think I’m fitting in nicely!
Will I cope with FOMO?
I didn’t initially. The first few weeks were littered with careers events on how to write our CVs, network at events, use LinkedIn, and pitch ourselves. On top of these, the likes of Amazon, Google and all the big consulting firms were sponsoring social events at pubs or presenting to us. Socially, the student association was also putting on events to bring us all together – a boat party, a bingo night and several dinners. These were ALL optional, but incredibly FOMO-inducing.
I got great advice from an alum. He asked me to grab some post-its and write down three things I want to achieve from the MBA. He said that if an activity does not help with any of those goals, de-prioritize it. This excludes socials and refers to careers events. The goals may change, but there must only be three. This has worked remarkably well and I feel more secure in my choices. I’m focusing on securing my internship, learning python, and contributing to the Tech and Media club – fitting socials around the time that is left.
Lastly, will my relationship suffer?
This is a bit of a personal one and the answer has been no…but it takes conscious work. I am incredibly fortunate to have my partner here in London. I reserve evenings just for us and make sure I modulate how much of the MBA life that I bring home with me.
Mine is not the norm; there are students with partners in the US, India, Australia, or China. I am amazed and in awe of their courage. I have heard that late night Skype calls, in-lecture text exchanges, and quick trips over one of our long weekends help a lot. Study groups help: we scramble to get assignments finished early so people can travel home over the breaks. I’d like to think that London helps too – grabbing a flight to pretty much anywhere is possible while still making the afternoon lecture on Mondays.
Even with all of these insecurities, my happiest moment so far came this Sunday. My partner and I took my study group to a typically English pub in the countryside. We had a British Sunday roast, enjoyed a few pints of traditional ale, played some Jenga over dessert, and strolled along the canal in the fields of North West London. None of my questions mattered anymore; I just felt happy and incredibly blessed to be on this journey with my partner.