Don’t Be Caught

by Surprise

An Interview with Etienne Roux

London Business School MBA student

I often heard about MBA programs during my professional career but thought they were not for me. The prospective to go back to school was daunting; I was enjoying my position, my company and my family life. But in 2002, it became clear that I would not stay in my firm for long. I was on the brink to leap into the chasm of the job market, a market that in my country was devastated. Suddenly an MBA appeared as a possible option.

I started searching into the MBA market and discovered an unexpectedly large range of education programs. I was 43, married with a large family, and I realized that few of the French MBA programs were fitting my needs.

I visited an MBA forum much like the one held in Paris in January, and I learned about executive education programs such as the University of Chicago GSB, IMD Lausanne and the Sloan Masters at London Business School, which definitely looked more attractive. It was late February already and I realised that the time left to meet the application deadlines was short.  

The best thing I did was to select a coach whom I met at the MBA forum and who helped me to structure and discipline myself through an intensive reflection and studying program.

What followed was one of the most hectic periods of my life: juggling between the obligations of my job, the school application deadlines and the preparation to the famous graduate admissions tests. Thanks to fifteen years of international exposure, the TOEFL proved to be easy, but I must admit the GMAT was quite a challenge. My advice is: don’t be caught by surprise, give yourself a timeframe long enough to prepare for your tests, and then you can genuinely reflect on what education program best suits your needs.  

By May, I had submitted two applications: one to the University of Chicago and another one to London Business School. Both triggered an interview with the Deans in Barcelona and London respectively, which I thought was an achievement already. Another advice: Don’t try to sex up your essays by writing what you think the admission committee would like to read. They want to know whether you truly went through the process of reflecting on yourself, on your contribution to the school and on the reasons why their program fits your needs.  

The admission committees were attracted by my international experience and by my essays featuring true and personal stories and I was offered admission to both schools. I was, however, placed in a difficult situation of having to answer to Barcelona prior to receiving London’s response.  

I took the risk of declining the Barcelona’s offer because the Sloan Masters is spread over a shorter period, because it is located in London - therefore close enough to my family - and because the average age and experience of Sloan fellows correspond to mine.  

September 8, 2003. I start reading at the Sloan Masters of London Business School. This week is the pre-program for the non- accountant-literate students, the category I fit in. I was swiftly introduced to concepts I had never been exposed to during my professional career and had to analyse the financial reports of two of the world’s largest companies – quite a shock.  

Although the school is very explicit about the overwhelming nature of the first term, I felt like drinking from a fire hose’ quoting a slogan invented by a student last year.  

The end of the first term culminated in a trip to Buenos Aires with my fellow students, our Professor of Macroeconomics and our Dean. It was a very interesting mix of classes and visits to local companies and official bodies such as the Central Bank, which helped understand the shock that had recently hit the Argentinean economy.

About Etienne Roux

- Diploma of the Paris Graduate School of Management (formerly ESG), Paris 1982
- Currently reading at the Sloan Master’s at London Business School
- Sales Director - 20 years of experience
- Headed multinational sales teams for packaging materials with application in the cosmetics and the pharmaceuticals industries
- Established and developed sales offices in India, China and South America, managed the Japanese sales operation
- Created and successfully implemented the key account management function in Europe.

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