Back to School

So yesterday and today were registration and orientation days for my MBA, which will start properly on Monday. The first thing I noticed when we all assembled was I was the oldest person there by roughly a decade, and a good twenty years older than most. I  then realised I was mingling with undergrads which explained some, but not all, of the discrepancy. Alas, even once the MBA students had been filtered out, I was still the grandpa of the bunch. Some of them looked about fifteen.

You know when sometimes you wish you could go back in time and relive your younger days, only with the knowledge and wisdom you have now? Well, I felt a bit like I was doing that yesterday. The Dean of the school spoke to us – undergrads and postgrads together – and I nodded along thinking “yup, that’s about right”. I particularly liked the bit about having to get used to a new place and new culture. Interestingly, I probably listened more this time around than I did back in 1996. I’m not in the slightest bit concerned by what’s coming.

The business school is small, tiny in fact, and my MBA class only a handful of people. As such, I’ve already met pretty much all the staff and know half of them by name, including the Dean and his deputy. Contrast this with the University of Manchester which had thousands of students and a sprawling hierarchy between the Dean and the undergrads. Chatting with a few of the professors it seems they have considerable experience outside academia, which is a good sign. One thing they stressed is timekeeping: lectures start on time and the professors get annoyed if people are late. This is also a good sign. One of the reasons I chose Switzerland over France (which was cheaper) is I could imagine shelling out a load of money to find the lecturers unorganised, uninterested, and late which would annoy me no end. I don’t know if that’s what French business schools are like, but I didn’t want to risk it.

I heard a lot of Russian being spoken over the past two days, and I kept quiet that I could understand half of it. Quite a few of the school staff are Russian speakers, and we had Russians, Ukrainians, and Kazakhs in our group yesterday. As far as I could tell, I was the only Brit. In my MBA class I’m joined by two African ladies, a lady from Austria, a female NHS surgeon, a lady from Siberia, and a Thai chap who reckons it’s high time someone sorted his country out and the job should fall to him. Good on him, I say. We also have a bloke who speaks Russian and a Thai lady. While I am studying HR because nobody in that area of business understands engineering, projects, and operations the surgeon is doing an MBA because none of the managers in the NHS has a clue about medicine. Perhaps bridging yawning chasms in an increasingly managerial world is a well-paying niche? I hope so.

One thing I noticed is, like in France, young people in Switzerland an elsewhere in Europe spend an awful lot of their twenties doing a series of internships. Due to the labour laws, nobody wants to hire anyone young and experienced so they only offer them short-term internships. These seem very popular in Geneva. It appears jobs are thin on the ground in this city, especially for those with no experience. I’m hoping my experience will land me something once I graduate, but others are doing an MBA with almost no work experience because they have little other choice than to keep studying. This doesn’t sound like a very good state of affairs to me.

The school has pretty good industry connections and people who can advise how to land a job once you graduate. There are lots of company visits, guest speakers, and networking events which I intend to get the absolute maximum from. It seems having a chat with someone who likes the cut of your jib is a better way to get into a company than going through HR who, according to the person in charge of careers, are always useless. Who knew? However, I remarked that the names of the companies which flashed on the screen were giant corporations or supranational bodies, the type of which I wish to avoid and would be reluctant to hire a blogger who says mean things about polyamorists in an HR post. Google’s name was mentioned and everyone fell into an awed silence, whereas I thought I’d like to ask whoever shows up what he thinks of James Damore’s sacking, the board weeping over Hillary’s loss, allegations of trying to swing the election, and the inevitable antitrust suit that’s going to break the company up. I should probably learn to keep my trap shut on this course. Thankfully, the school and the professors also have connections with smaller companies, including a lot of start-ups.

We were also given some practical advice about Switzerland which gave me the impression it’s a serious country. For starters, you can’t do anything without a residency permit, and for that you need to demonstrate you have an address. They then post the permit to that address and if your name isn’t on the mailbox, they don’t deliver it. In fact, the Swiss postal service won’t deliver anything unless your name is on the mailbox. The person doing the presentation was almost apologetic about this, saying it was to make sure everyone who is claiming residency is living where they’re supposed to be. I thought it was a splendid policy, and if the UK had applied such common sense the authorities would have known who was in the Grenfell Tower and there wouldn’t have been the opportunity for wholesale fraud. We were also told that in Switzerland you pay your damned bills. If you don’t, you get one warning and a fine, then another, and after that you’re on some list which will make it impossible for you to rent or sign up to any new service for at least five years. Like I said, Switzerland is a serious country.

So on Monday I start: 5 evenings per week between 18:00 and 21:00 with a 16:30 start on Fridays. There will also be seminars twice a semester, plus other stuff I need to do. I was dismayed to find out I will have to write essays by hand under exam conditions because I simply cannot write any more: since graduation in 2000 I’ve had no reason to write block text, and the billion words I’ve written since then have all been done on a computer. So my first task is to practice handwriting again, writing two sides of A4 per day until I’m comfortable doing it again. I’d better get on with it.


23 thoughts on “Back to School

  1. I hope I won’t be the last to wish you the best of luck with it. I had no idea it was a Master of Bugger All you were doing. Switzerland is a serious country, but can also be serious fun.

    Incidentally, the German postal service won’t deliver anything until there is a name on the letter box either. After which, they will deliver anything and everything, regardless of whether it has your name on it.

  2. Yay! Good luck!

    My eldest is applying for a fairly frightening course at Oxford and they make applicants do a pretty ferocious aptitude test as part of the process. This involves a 30 minute essay. Paper has 4 questions on it, such as
    “Is ‘ethical’ consumerism a solution to poverty, or a dangerous distraction? “


    “Should statistics be a compulsory subject of study at school? Why, or why not?”

    You have 30 mins to choose one question to answer, one page of A4 upon which to scribble notes/plan and one A4 page upon which to write your essay by hand.

    We reckon:
    – 10 mins to have a sketch of all 4 four questions so that you properly understand which one to pick
    – 5 mins to do the plan of the one you are actually going to write
    – 15 mins to write it.

    I’ve been practicing the planning bit – 5 mins to plan this question: Go! – and it’s been great. My writing is terrible too…

    Also, Kavanaugh – what do you reckon?

  3. Good luck. I don’t know anyone who’s done an MBA who has really found it worthwhile in the end. But if that sounds a negative thing to be saying at the start of your course, let me say that the fact that they have in-class tests is a very good sign.

    >You know when sometimes you wish you could go back in time and relive your younger days, only with the knowledge and wisdom you have now? Well, I felt a bit like I was doing that yesterday.

    I know a few people who have gone back to Uni later in life thinking they’d have a great time (or an even greater time than last time) as they were older and wiser. Every one of them found that it was impossible to get on with the young undergrads at their age. There was a huge gulf between them.

    On the plus side, they all found it much easier to get on with the lecturers, and sometimes became friends with them.

  4. Also, Kavanaugh – what do you reckon?

    1. Ford has either been coached very well, is a very good actor, or she really was sexually assaulted. She came across very well in the hearing. However, there is zero chance she was assaulted by Kavanaugh. The reaction of conservatives to Ford’s testimony was rather gracious.

    2. Kavanaugh was justifiably angry at the way he’s been treated and the stress of it all came through. Despite that, he gave a good account of himself. The reaction of liberals to Kavanaugh’s testimony was an absolute disgrace.

    3. Nothing Ford said shed new light on her original claim, which remains hopelessly unsupported and full of holes. Whatever her issues are, they have little to do with Kavanaugh. The GOP need to confirm him Saturday without delay.

  5. There are large numbers of women who can turn convincing, seemingly sincere waterworks on and off like a fucking tap.

    Frankly all three of these women and their handlers– Feinstein included– deserve 5 years inside to encourage the others.

    The cuck republicans in Congress really deserve to be beaten up. Nothing else would be any sort of just punishment for the absolute crawling cowardice and betrayal of their own supposed side.

  6. Thankfully Trump only uses his arsehole to excrete shit unlike Obama who welcomes foreign objects in his and yours which you speak from.

    Two orientation days? Really?

    We had a 1 hour registration and speeches at 0900 Monday; then first lecture and group assignment at 1000 with presentations from each group begining at 1700.

    “…my MBA class only a handful of people” Is that a subset of entire MBA students?

    Hand writing – mine is a mess now too.

    On Kavanaugh, this is good:

  7. Two orientation days? Really?

    A day and half, really. Across two campuses.

    We had a 1 hour registration and speeches at 0900 Monday; then first lecture and group assignment at 1000 with presentations from each group begining at 1700.

    You mean they lacked the wit to do all the admin before the course started? 😉

    Is that a subset of entire MBA students?


  8. Expecting future posts to be scanned photographs of hand-written pages. Comments will revolve exclusively around calligraphy.

    Best of luck, Tim!

    Incidentally, I did sit in some liberal arts courses a few years after finishing my BA. I found that it only took a few lessons to realize that in your typical class of 20, there were at most two serious students, and all the rest thought they were in junior high – no background reading, no independent thought given to assignments. It was as if they didn’t realize they were paying tuition with real money.

    Of course, you’re doing a Masters, so I expect things might be different.

  9. I just started a professional Masters for a career change – one that was, I was told, popular with experienced practitioners in that field as they progressed to senior management and civil service roles. And to be fair, I have met a few. A very few.

    But on the whole I now feel very very old. Lots of people taking it as a stopgap thing after their first degree, even intending to do more grad school immediately after, and they don’t look old enough to have been born in the previous century. It’s appalling. Petrifying. Fossilising.

    The only recompense is I am doing it at a school with no undergrads!

  10. Things that make you go hmmm……..

    After the GFC everyone took MBA of their CV. Our HR policy is that if an applicant has an MBA they are no longer an applicant.

    What about the yooni bar, any good, at least you will be able to score some good gear and Yasser Arafat headscarves again.

    With you being the oldest swinger in town, I will be pretty chuffed if you managed to shag one of those useless, good for nothing, sheilas that are attending.

    Anyhow I wish you the best of British luck with it all.

    On mailing address, I used to have to so a special submission to the UK dole offices in order that they didn’t send my Gyro out to the place that I wasn’t living at and instead get it personally handed over to me when I signed on.

  11. Interesting that Geneva sends the residence permits out like that. In Zürich and Bern you have to pick them up at the town hall, and they’ll only be handed over once you provide proof that you’ve got yourself your compulsory health insurance.

    And you really, really don’t want a bad mark against you at the Office de Poursuites – the best way to contest a bill is to pay it first, since otherwise the other party can slap you on the register without warning and then you’ll have a hell of a time scrubbing it off.

  12. I wish you luck, but I have to echo some of the other comments about MBAs. I’ve yet to meet anyone with one that I thought was a good manager.

    That said, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with one, if taught properly. A lot of them seem to be taught by ex-civil servants and academics. If you’ve got industry people that seems like a better idea.

  13. Best of luck Tim.

    There are definitely MBA programmes out there that focus on clientele around your age band but perhaps they wouldn’t be so suitable for a career-switcher.

  14. You’re wise to practice your handwriting, not just for legibility, but for stamina. I took a 3 hour exam for my MBA years ago and was nearly certain I wasn’t going to finish it because my hand was cramping so badly. I thought it was a completely absurd notion that this could happen to me, but it was the real deal.

  15. I took a 3 hour exam for my MBA years ago and was nearly certain I wasn’t going to finish it because my hand was cramping so badly.

    Exactly, it’s the stamina I need.

  16. Thanks for your good wishes, everyone. Now I’m not daft enough to think an MBA will guarantee me a good job, nor that an MBA makes someone a good manager. But I’m hoping it will supplement the MEng and 17 years international experience I already have, filling in gaps, providing some structure to the knowledge, and give an employer some confidence that I can do a general management or HR role, even in an industry I’ve not worked in.

  17. Best of luck, Tim!

    As for Ford, she rang hollow to me. An attention whore and psychocunt seeking victim status.

  18. I had to make handwritten notes for the first time in years a few months ago. For a few moments I had literally almost forgotten how to write. I thought I’d had some mini stroke. After a few seconds it started to come back though. Interestingly it wasn’t exactly like my old handwriting, so maybe my brain was re-learning the details of it again.

  19. “You mean they lacked the wit to do all the admin before the course started?

    Admin was: collect your Uni ID pack and 24/7 swipe door access card and a locker key, sign here & pay £5 deposit. You’re AM/PM group. Plus, do you want FT sub at 90% discount, pay later?

    102* students split into AM & PM lecture groups for Term 1.

    Campus: all lectures in (New) Management School, profs came to us. It was assumed one was able to find other Uni facilities oneself.

    I used libraries and other facilities at all four campuses.

    Books: I bought second-hand from chap who graduated from Manchester MBA months before.

    Handwriting: agree with all, fingers forgotten how to and can cramp.

    * always thought the two were to cover expected no-shows/drop-outs

  20. Best wishes for your course, Tim. Judging from what you say of the university, it’s going to work well for you.

    I did my master’s (more than a few moons ago now) for somewhat different reasons from yours – mainly as a differentiator from others in my field, which was crowded with not very competent or professional people. I found it very worthwhile at the time, both in terms of professional development and opening better-paid employment doors, though increasingly less so as my working life progressed; however, the reasons you set out for doing it clearly make sense for you.

    All assignments were written by hand in those days (early 80s) with only the final dissertation typed – very competently by the department secretary! Your plan for handwriting practice is therefore eminently sensible.

    I look forward to hearing from time to time how you get on.

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