Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Posted 7:00 AM EST by Tad Holbie:
Friday, February 13, 2004
Tad Holbie Graduates
A little over a month from now "Tad Holbie" will be graduating with an MBA from the Ross School of Business. To wrap up this experience once and for all, he sits down for a parting interview with, uh, himself.
Q: How has the MBA experience turned out for you?
A: Fantastic. First and foremost, after graduation I will be joining a [Wall Street Investment Bank] as a fixed income trading associate. This career transition was the motivation for me to get an MBA, and so, when all is said and done, I achieved my goal.
Additionally, the two years here at Michigan have been really rewarding. I feel like I've learned and grown a lot in ways that'll help me in my future career.
Q: Can you be more specific?
1. Network. Both through classmates I've worked with and alumni I've met during recruiting, I know fifty times more people now by first name than I have at any other point in my entire life. These same classmates I've been playing beer pong with will be rising up in Goldman Sachs, Ford Treasury, etc. as I rise in my career.
2. Finance Overview. Business school doesn't--nor is it meant to--go into extreme depth in any one financial area, like credit derivatives. That's what the banks' training programs are for. Instead, I feel like I've gotten a good overview of "what is finance?"; what role it plays in corporations and their strategies, how the markets work, and how investors think.
3. Attitude. Hard to believe, but I come out of school more self-confident and more hungry than before I started. A little bit meaner too.
4. Other skills. These two years gave me the chance to work on a bunch of other skill sets, things like public speaking, persuasion, language skills, and the crux of any business career, golf.
Q: It sounds like you had a great time. Any downsides to the business school experience?
A: Besides the massive amount of student debt?
Q: Yes. I mean, is there any area where business school was less than you expected?
A: This is a delicate question. There really isn't any big disappointment. I will say that I'm looking forward to working again, where there's more of a sense of combatitiveness (is that a word?), of competition. The Ross experience, like many other top schools, is very focused on teamwork, which is great up to a certain point. It's clear from my career choice that I do like to throw elbows as well.
Q: Were you excited by all the news coming out of Michigan the past two years, what with the rankings and the alumni donation?
A: Rankings--no. Seriously, unless your school gained/dropped 10+ spots, or moved to/out of #1, students don't give a shit about rankings. Recruiters don't give a shit about rankings. That's that.
The alumni donation is a different story, mainly for the market signal (b-school terminology) it sends. "Michigan, which has consistently been a top school, will reamin so." Plus it kicks the facilities rebuilding/redesign into high gear.
Q: Let's change gears now to your MBA application experience.
A: Do we have to [laughing]?
Q: Why not?
A: I prefer to wallow in my successes...
Q: You've already spoken about the reasons behind your decision to apply to business school. Why did you decide to build a website about it?
A: The truth?
A: You have to put yourself in my shoes. I started the application process in mid-2002. Becaues of my job situation, I had to keep quiet about the whole process, and I didn't have many friends with an MBA to ask about their experience.
I was really looking for something to read that spelled out, "this is what applying to business school is really like." Of course back then the Business Week forums were already big, but 1. half the stuff on them is anonymous crap (that you see on any public forum), and 2. it's hard to follow any one poster's story, from start to finish, anyway. I was desparate to read a blog about applying to business school, but this was 2002--there weren't any!
So I said to myself, "If noone else is going to do it, I'll write one," so that 1. applicants in my shoes in subsequent years will have something to read about and 2. I'll get my thoughts and feelings out there.
That was the main reason I started the site.
Q: You're not going to tell me ego played no role in it?
A: Look, I'm not going to lie, I have a big ego and like to show off as much as the next guy. But initially, I really just wanted to share my experiences with other [current and future] applicants and have someone read what I wrote.
Q: It kind of grew out of hand after that, didn't it?
A: Well, looking back, it's natural that it did. Again, in 2002, if you wanted to read about "what it was like to apply to business school", my site was it. There wasn't any League of MBA Bloggers with three dozen applicants chiming away. So, by the absence of alternatives, my site became a popular (?) destination for a lot of people, and definitely grew out of control. I got fan mail, hate mail, death threats; it was insane.
Q: Did that help or hurt your applications?
A: No effect. I'm pretty good at compartmentalizing that stuff when it's time for business.
Q: Obviously, you continued writing even after you started getting rejections. Did you ever thinking of ending the blog?
A: Sure. I'm only human. Even written under a pseudonym, it's embarassing to set out certain goals for yourself and then publicly fail at them.
Q: Did you expect to get into every school you applied to?
A: Oh no, not really. But I expected to get into two or three, at least.
A: Many reasons, but mainly because of my undergrad application experience. I only applied to one school as an undergrad, and I got in. So that experience always acted as the bedrock for my confidence.
Q: What school was that, if I may ask? Was it one of the business schools you applied to?
A: Yes. Next question?
Q: Getting back to the weblog, what made you continue after you got your first rejection?
A: It's hard to explain, but...Well, first I knew that I would, eventually, get into business school. It's not like I was going to give up applying to business school: I needed the MBA and would stop at nothing to get it.
Second, I felt that, I started the blog to show what it was like to apply to business school, and this was what it was like, for me (and many other applicants). Put another way, to quit the blog at the first sign of trouble would have been cowardly and unmanly. If I was going to share my successes, I had to take my lumps as well.
Q: It sounds like writing the blog wasn't that fun?
A: At many times in 2003 it wasn't fun to blog. In addition to getting kicked around [when schools declined my application], I got kicked around on the blog and the forums.
But I'm a big believer in "what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger."
Q: Do you now regret having started the blog at all?
A: I'm not the type of person who looks back with regret; it's a waste of emotion.
That said, I think that the explosion of applicant weblogs these days has probably made the blogging experience a lot more positive. It looks like a real community forms amongst all the applicant bloggers, which is ideal. I wish I had had that. I guess there had to be a first guinea pig to show that you can blog the experience and get kicked around and still end up standing.
Q: Where did the name "Tad Holbie" come from?
A: I wanted to write the blog with a little more flair, a little more flamboyance than my "usual voice". I decided to add a little bit of a California surfer "accent" to my writing, and for some reason the name Hobie (the surf-wear maker) stuck in my mind. "Tad" seemed appropriately surfer-ish and so "Tad Holbie" was born.
Q: Changing gears again, if you could travel back in time and give yourself advice about applications, what would it be?
A: That's a big one.
Q: Why don't you start with the schools. Any schools you'd tell yourself not to apply to? To apply to?
A: Yes. I would tell myself not to apply to Columbia, since, in the end, I didn't want to be in New York during business school. Obviously, it's a great school and places a lot of people on The Street, but I knew I'd be there afterwards for a long time and...didn't want to think about the living expenses of the city.
I would not apply to Stanford or Kellogg. For the former, I applied simply for the name, and knew nothing about the school. That's dumb. For the latter, it's a great school, but I didn't meet a single Wall Street intern from there.
The school that I'd add to my list would be Tepper (Carnegie Mellon). I met quite a few people, interns and associates, on the Street from there, a lot of young people, and so it would be a good fit for my goals. I could imagine Tepper being the "next NYU" in a few years (this is meant as a compliment to both programs).
So, if I could change the past, I would have applied to Wharton, HBS (everybody's got to at least try), Chicago, MIT, Ross, and Tepper.
Q: What advice would you give yourself for the applications themselves?
A: I don't feel like there's much more I could have done on the essays themselves. I definitely could have improved on the interviews, I can see that now. Practice, practice, practice, I would have told myself. Overall, it would have been better to spend more time visiting each school, I think.
Q: Do you ever regret not waiting a year and reapplying?
A: No, no, no, no, no. I sincerely believe that, as long as you're accepted into a good program that has connections to your dream job, reapplying to a higher ranked school at the cost of one year of your life is a big mistake. I mean, in the end, I got my dream job on Wall Street; what more could wasting a year of my life gotten me?
Q: Dream job--so you'll be doing trading? How was your internship?
A: It was awesome. I felt at home, both in the job and the bank I worked for.
Q: Do you ever imagine what it would be like had you gotten into other schools?
A: No, it's really hard to imagine that. I don't dwell on the past.
I'm sure it would be pretty similar to my experiences at Ross, maybe with slightly different people and much less football.
Actually, one thing I do wonder about is my attitude. After getting so many rejections during my b-school applications, once I started at Michigan, I attacked internship recruiting with a fervor. I mean, I was a madman about job hunting--I would have spent the entire first term in New York if needed be.
I wonder, no, I know that, had I gotten into my first batch of schools, I would have been much more complacent about job hunting. Naturally so. Of course, with a Wharton or a Chicago a greater number of banks recruit there than Michigan, but you also have quadruple the number of students aiming for Wall Street.
Would I have had the same fire if I hadn't gone through the business school rejections? Probably not. Would I have gotten an S&T job on Wall Street then? Who knows.
Q: Did anyone at Michigan ever ask you about "Tad Holbie"?
A: Yes, I've been asked maybe a dozen times. Mostly in my first year, naturally, although one or two people have come up to me this year too. In fact, the first week of my internship this summer I had a bunch of people ask.
So it's not really a "secret" secret, and it's, by now, not particularly hard to figure out. I just don't go out of my way to publicize it.
Q: What do you answer when people ask?
A: If it's someone I know personally, I'll tell the truth. It's weird, though.
Q: How so?
A: Simply by the fact that some classmates who have read the site [and think I'm Tad Holbie] know a lot more about my background than I know about them. It's strange to have casual acquaintences know a great deal more about your background than you know about theirs.
Q: On a different subject, what are three unique things that the Ross School of Business has to offer that you can't get anywhere else?
A: Easy. 1. The MAP program. Debating cases is a whole lot different than working, in real time, with a company to develop strategy. And it's all the better if you get to travel abroad to do so!
2. The Tozzi Center. As far as I know, it's still unrivaled amongst business school trading floors. The school that comes closest, I've heard, is Cornell.
3. Michigan football (and sports in general). I've had the opportunity to go to the Rose Bowl two years in a row. In my undergrad, I missed out on the whole college town, sports hooplah. Getting that at Michigan kind of filled that hole in my undergrad experience.
Q: Ross isn't known as a finance school, particularly. What would you say to applicants looking to get into Wall Street?
A: First, understand that the bulge bracket investment banks have a handful of schools they go to.
All the banks go to NYU, Columbia, Wharton, Chicago, HBS, and MIT. After that, it quickly thins out: Many banks go to Michigan, CMU, and a couple other schools. Outside of those schools, it will take a lot of hustle to break into the IB recruiting cycle.
Personally, I think Ross is a great choice for both Investment Banking and Sales & Trading. Why?
1. Resources. For S&T, the Tozzi center is unparalleled.
2. Alumni. The University of Michigan, and the business school, has a huge group of alumni across the Street.
3. Numbers. If you go to a "finance" school--let's take Chicago, for example--there'll be 75 other MBAs also trying to do S&T. On a good year, 35, 40 will get summer offers. At Michigan, there'll be 15 of you looking for S&T internships, and 10 or 11 will get summer offers.
Ditto for IB; at Michigan there'll be 40-60 looking for banking, and over half will get offers. At a "finance" school there'll be 150~175 looking for banking; that means at least 60 or 70 won't get offers.
So there's an advantage to going to a school where you're not in the herd with every other student. Students work together on the job hunt more, and the odds end up being better.
One other thing I should mention: equity research is a dead zone right now. I don't understand why every year there are a good dozen MBA1s fighting for 2 or 3 spots, tops. It is literally the worst yielding internship choice, by my count (whereas S&T, with a 60%~70% internship ratio, is the best). If you have prior banking/research experience, and have a CPA/CFA, you might have a slim chance. For everyone else, the chance is between slim and none, and, as they say, slim just cashed in his chips. Until Wall Street finds a revenue model for research, it'll stay this way, I'm afraid.
Q: What's next on the blogging front? Any plans to restart this site?
A: No. I don't expect to post here again for, well, at least several years.
I've been weblogging since 2000, writing over a half-dozen different blogs. The key to a successful weblog is that you have to really be passionate and knowledgable about a subject, because it takes a lot of effort to keep it going.
After graduating, I expect my blogging to drop off tremendously. I'll probably always have a website or two going, but updated at a much more leisurely pace. That's because of both the time and subject matter constraints of the job.
Q: So you'll never update this?
A: The MBA Admissions Wire will always remain a record of my application experience, start to finish. As for this epilogue site...I might drop a note in here every few years, just to show what the aftermath of my whole application story was. To show that all the stress and sweat was worth it.
But...it won't be frequent.
Q: What's your take on the HBS/ApplyYourself fiasco?
A: ApplyYourself messed up pretty bad, allowing public access to certain files that shouldn't have been public. Some applicants took advantage of those flaws and checked their status early. To me, that's no big deal; I know I would have done the same, and I don't see anything wrong with it. HBS waaaaaay overreacted, in my opinion. Ridiculously so.
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: First, "yes", it was all worth it. Business school is a great experience, and I cannot imagine having more fun than you can get at Ross. You'll learn some business skills, meet a lot of cool but ambitious people, and have a chance to grab your dream job. I feel very, very lucky to have spent the last two years here, and am when I stop and realize that a few months from now I'll be starting my fixed income trading career, I get almost deliriously happy. "Geeked up, I am," as Yoda would say.
As for this blog, in the end, I hope the MBA Admissions Wire blog helps at least some applicants with their applications. I tried to stay as true to the real experience as possible. Applying to business school is a long, boring-yet-stressful, task. Many great applicants get rejected. In the end, what matters isn't where or how many times you were rejected, but how you responded to that. Will you throw up your hands and quit, or say "f*ck them" and forge on?
Good luck to everyone, and thanks for reading.
Posted 1:02 AM EST by Tad Holbie:
Thursday, August 28, 2003
Wall Street Bound
To wrap up my story with a happy ending, I was successful in landing a sales and trading internship with a Wall Street investment bank. So the dream that motivated me, those eighteen months ago (funny, it seems like five years ago), to apply to business school was been achieved. It's strange to think that, only a year ago, I didn't know if I'd be attending business school, much less where and with what level of success. Now my situation is reversed: I know where I'll be working over the summer (and hopefully, post-graduation), and am relatively free the next fifteen months to enjoy school, football, and Ann Arbor.
Signing off for now,
~ "Tad Holbie"
Posted 10:17 PM EST by Tad Holbie:
Tuesday, June 17, 2003
It's been a while (and today's the one year anniversary of the MBA Wire), so I thought I'd write an update.
I've finally moved out to Ann Arbor, having worked through the end of July. In retrospect, I wish I had taken more time off (I had 4 weeks between the end of work and the start of classes, but the final 2 were taken up with LDP and QSW--orientation stuff). One benefit of having such a tight schedule (working, packing, moving, etc.) was that I never had time to get too worked up about leaving [here] and starting school and all that sentimental stuff.
Plus, I did work in time for a week's trip to [Europe] for beaches and relaxation and eating and drinking.
Now, the payoff: all the work I put in last year (in applications) is about to start paying off. Classes start next week and I'll be getting my MBA. Phew.
Some other odds and ends:
Small World After All
In my final week at work, I organized a going away happy hour with coworkers (past and present). One of my close coworker's girlfriend was starting at Columbia Business School in August. After a few hours of drinking, the following conversation resulted (and I'm paraphrasing, because I was into my six or seventh beer at that point):
Her: ...so how many schools did you apply to?
Me: (Holding up eight fingers)
Her: Did you ever go to the business week website?
Her: Because there was this guy who was on there all the time...
Her: ...and had his own website about applications...
Her: ...do you know who I'm talking about?
Her: ? Do you really know who I'm talking about?
Her: (Growing excited) Do you know him?
Her: ...know him personally?
Her: What's he like?
Me: Intelligent, good looking, etc... (Pointing to myself)
Her: Are you him? No way...
Her: Really? Is it really you?
Me: (Nodding and growing a bit irritated)
Her: No way...
Me: (Grabbing a paper coaster, I (sloppily) sign "Tad Holbie" on the back and hand it to her)
Her: No way!
It turns out she was a regular follower of my blog and the b-week forum, although she never posted (to either). I got that "it's a very, very, very small world" feeling. When I was writing the blog, I always (mentally) associated it and the b-week forum with those people I had e-mail or message board contact with--the "Henry Hills" and "Beantowns" and "Alex Browns" (wait...he doesn't need quotes...) of the world. It made me wonder how many other people out there know my story...
Homework: MBA Wire
If you go the University of Colorado at Boulder and take Linguistics 1000 (Language in US Society), you might have to read my site as homework. Cool and weird at the same time.
Never Use U-Haul
Trust me on this one. NEVER.
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Posted 11:52 AM EST by Tad Holbie:
This site was created to provide periodic updates on my story after I enter the University of Michigan Business School's MBA program in August, 2003. It is an epilogue to the weblog "MBA Admissions Wire", in which I chronicled my entire b-school application experience.
Posting will be very infrequent, on the order of two or three times a year.
If you wish to be automatically notified when a new posting is published, send e-mail to email@example.com.