Describe what you believe to be your two most substantial accomplishments to date, explaining why you view them as such.
The above mentioned question brings to memory varied accomplishments at different stages of my career. The first is where I led a major turnaround at ABC (Small-to-medium enterprise business) and the second was during an international student exchange program in the early stages of my career.
On taking charge as Zonal Manager, I realized that morale among the 1200-strong sales staff was abysmally low. We were adding new clients but the confirming collections (account activation and account-related fees) never materialized. Sales personnel were meeting just 3-4 customers per day when the business needed a minimum of 8 “quality interactions”. Traveling, in itself, consumed nearly 60% of their working time. On an immediate basis, the core team was lead towards re-aligning operations – each salesman would now be assigned leads (prospects) closest to his/her area. During various training events, I accompanied salesmen during their client visits. More than 8-10 client calls per day were shown to be possible. My core team was quick to replicate this initial “hand holding” thus creating a positive ripple effect and bringing the average (per person) to 9 calls per day. As a “third front”, a 5-person customer analytics group was quickly mobilized. We were thus able to match the right set of banking solutions – to the right prospects – and customize effectively. The results: A complete turnaround with a 30% increase in client enrollments and 50% increase in sales revenue.
Thus, the 12 months beginning May 2008 concluded with a major entrepreneurial success. In retrospect, it taught me the nuances of facilitating across various functions – right from the details of day-to-day client servicing to developing, pricing, promoting and selling cutting-edge products.
In September 2002 and as a student of management studies (at MDI, India), I was selected for an international student exchange program at the BI, Norwegian School of Mgmt. During the 4-month-long stay, I went on initiate and organize the “India Day” festival – the first of its kind at the university. The day long event showcased various aspects of my country right from its immense cultural diversity to the capital markets. It culminated with an entertaining music extravaganza followed by traditional Indian cuisine. My skills in multi-tasking and time management peaked as I organized the event and simultaneously partnered on a major team presentation the next day.
Miles away from family, I had learnt the basics of self-leadership. I had successfully “managed myself” – right from studies to basic household activities to organizing a cultural extravaganza. Essentially my first step towards leadership, the event always brings in cherished memories of working in a truly global setting.
Sample MBA Application Essay - After
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Essay 1: Please discuss the factors, both professional and personal, influencing the career decisions you have made that, in turn, have led you to your current position. What are your career goals for the future, and why is now the appropriate time to pursue an MBA at XXX? How will you avail yourself of the resources at the XXX to achieve these goals?
The vivid images carried on Turkish news channels are terrifyingly commonplace: the surface of the sea littered with dead sheep; a landfill explosion inundating innocent victims; vendors offering radiation-contaminated tea for half price; a schoolgirl falling to her death through an open sewage manhole; radioactive waste sold to unsuspecting scrap dealers; a twenty-year-old tanker breaking into pieces, spilling hundreds of tons of crude oil into the ocean and killing sea life for miles around.
The frequency with which these environmental disasters fill Turkish news broadcasts--and the obvious insensitivity that Turkish authorities demonstrate toward both environmental and health issues--prompted me to learn about ways to prevent these types of disasters. At the age of fifteen, I decided to focus my studies on environmental sciences in order to equip myself with the technical tools I would need to make a real contribution.
After earning a master's degree in environmental sciences, I completed a professional international management certificate program to gain a management perspective in the environmental field. I then realized that, to combine my technical knowledge and management skills effectively, I needed to accumulate real-world experience. Specifically, I decided that working at a large company would allow me to develop insight into various industries and would give me an overarching vision of the international business arena.
For the past two years, I have worked in the energy and environment group of Lec Corporation, Turkey's first and biggest diversified conglomerate. As a Project Engineer, I am mainly responsible for our holding companies' environment and energy sector investments. This position has given me the opportunity to interact with businessmen from all over the world, thereby expanding my international perspective. Because of my outstanding work performance, I was chosen to attend various meetings with local and international governmental bodies such as OPIC, IFC, and the World Bank. It is highly unusual for a young associate to represent the company at such events, and my self-confidence, as well as my management skills, has been greatly enhanced through these experiences.
While working in various lines of business, including the automotive industry, consumer durables, and the energy sector, I have realized that the root cause of many environmental problems is financial. I believe that many people in the environmental sector are so calculating or duplicitous that they will cheat customers to increase profits. Furthermore, businesses do not prioritize environmental investments, and, as a result, insufficient funds are allocated to prevent problems adequately. For instance, despite a population of over eight million people, Istanbul--Turkey's largest city--still lacks a properly operating sewage system. In most of the areas of the city, wastewater is discharged directly into the Bosporus.
In the long term, I plan to help solve my country's problems by starting my own environmental services business in Turkey. The company will serve both local and international customers by providing cost-effective, adaptable solutions in areas ranging from waste management to safety management. To accomplish this goal, however, I must deepen my knowledge of the field. Despite my experience, I still lack some important knowledge and management skills, especially in finance, marketing, and entrepreneurship. I am also aware that I have insufficient knowledge of American environmental issues. Since dealing with aspects of international business will be an integral part of my job as an entrepreneur, it is essential that I fill in these gaps.
The XXX School's MBA program provides the perfect training to achieve my entrepreneurial ambitions. I am attracted by the inventiveness and uniqueness of its entrepreneurial and finance programs, and believe that I will increase my practical knowledge of entrepreneurship by interacting with my classmates. I value the fact that at XXX entrepreneurial education does not stop at the classroom, but rather continues through internships and extracurricular activities. I feel that a business school for entrepreneurs should balance theory with real-world application, and XXX's curriculum and opportunities for hands-on training through associations, internships, and field study provides such balance.
I am also drawn to XXX because of the school's emphasis on teamwork and technology, reflected by such exciting courses and programs as High Technology Entrepreneurship, International Finance, twelve-week field application projects, and the global immersion program teaching global thinking and global action. Additionally, the school's profusion of student groups and its flexible entrepreneurial program--in addition to its 200 elective courses--will allow me to tailor my course of study directly to my career interests. It is precisely this flexibility upon which I plan to draw while at XXX and beyond, by taking advantage of--and contributing to--the school's strong international alumni network.
Above all, a XXX MBA will help me strengthen both the financial knowledge and the entrepreneurial skills necessary to secure a position as an environmental specialist in a multinational, American-based firm. Such a position, in turn, will prepare me to accomplish my long-term ambition of building my own company. By developing and maximizing the technical knowledge and managerial skills I have already accumulated, XXX will allow me ultimately to make a concrete and substantial contribution to Turkey's environment.
Essay 2: Describe a personal achievement that has had a significant impact on your life. In addition to recounting this achievement, please analyze how the event has changed your understanding of yourself and how you perceive the world around you.
During one of my undergraduate courses, I turned a routine research assignment into an incredible learning opportunity. I was asked to design a project that I could conduct in tandem with a supervisor whose interests matched my own. I chose to study with the head of the University's Chemistry Department, and I designed an ambitious project entitled, "Environmental Risk Assessment of Hazardous Materials." After a disastrous earthquake struck Turkey in 1996, causing approximately 30,000 deaths, Turkey's State Planning Organization used the model we developed to determine the risks posed by spilled materials in the region affected by the earthquake.
During my work on the project, my supervisor introduced me to the joys of academic research. Not only did he teach me about the issue at hand, but he also shared with me the practical experiences he had accumulated through both his professional career and his personal life. His main goal was to shape his students into well-educated and socially active engineers with strong personal and professional ethics. He took me to many seminars, fairs, and conferences to give me the background necessary to become an engineer of whom he could be proud. I followed his example through personal initiatives such as becoming president of the Environment Club, in which capacity I organized visits to technical sites and meetings on environmental engineering for first-year students.
One day, my supervisor introduced me to an environmental organization that eventually changed my life. The organization was called "Cekud," and my supervisor was one of its members. My supervisor described the group's activities, including its tree planting campaign called, "Seven Trees," which was predicated upon the assumption that the average person consumes almost seven trees for his or her needs each year.
Impressed with the organization and with its emphasis on direct action, I decided to organize a planting day with Cekud. My coworkers and I rented a bus for the forty-five students who volunteered to be involved. A large turnout of children and teenagers encouraged through Cekud's "Education for Our Future" program gave us an extra push, and together we planted 650 trees in one day. Enjoying my work with children, I decided to volunteer with Cekud's education program and soon was able to realize one of my childhood dreams.
As the son of a Turkish army officer, I had spent much of my childhood moving from base to base around Turkey. The perspective and insight I gained during this period was a significant factor in my personal development. During the early 1980s, there was a great deal of political unrest in Turkey, and security was a major concern for ordinary citizens. For a time, all children had to attend school under the armed protection of soldiers. As if all this commotion were not enough, I had to attend three different primary schools because my family moved so often.
My father was routinely posted in some of the least developed towns in Eastern Turkey. Those regions were severely affected by unpredictable economic conditions and by the rampant terrorism that plagued Turkey during those days. Unemployment soared, and a substantial proportion of the population subsisted on welfare. My classmates came largely from poor families and spoke little Turkish. They could not afford to purchase school uniforms, let alone basic necessities like medicine and food.
Studying in such unstable circumstances was clearly not conducive to an effective education. Nonetheless, I realized early on that I needed to study hard in order to succeed in life. Through determination and perseverance, I did well on the university entrance exams and was offered admission to one of Ankara's best colleges, as well to a university in Istanbul.
It was no easy task acquiring a top-notch education, and I knew firsthand the difficulties faced by children. I have always felt a need to help others and now, as an educated man, I feel even more responsible towards those less fortunate than myself. Years ago, I started allocating approximately six hours each weekend to tutoring Cekud children in mathematics, physics, and chemistry. I also took two children, ages ten and eleven, under my wing with the goal of helping them pass the private college entrance exam that would qualify them to receive government sponsorship for their entire education.
After seven months of hard work, we succeeded. The two children entered the program, and they will graduate from high school this summer. I tried to shore up their academic foundations with personal support--by playing a brotherly role, by listening to their problems, and by guiding them towards solutions. We organized picnics and arranged city sightseeing tours to help make them socially-conscious citizens.
Cekud turned out to be the opportunity that allowed me to honor my vow. I do not hesitate to call these two children's success my most significant personal accomplishment to date.
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You answered the questions vividly and comprehensively, and my job was to ensure that your essays were as eloquent as possible. The biggest problem regarding these essays was their content; the introduction to the first essay, for instance, was too wordy and read like a list of disjointed images. I have taken extensive notes on this and other problems that I have addressed in your essays.
In terms of structure, the only major adjustment required in these essays was the elimination of subheadings. As I mention in my notes, American admissions officers--and, for that matter, American readers in general--prefer essays in which ideas flow smoothly into one another. In other words, unlike business documents, in which the use of subheadings allows the reader easily to pick out passages containing certain information, an admissions essay should make a persuasive argument that is bound together with well-constructed transitions.
In each of the essays, it seemed as if you got off to a good start, but then ran out of steam; your essays ended weakly rather than ending with "a bang." See my specific notes on each essay's respective conclusion.
Rather than making radical (and unnecessary) structural changes to your essays, I concentrated on refining your language, highlighting your most interesting points, and making the logic of your ideas stand out. Many of these changes are quite subtle, but they have a powerful impact on the overall flow of your ideas.
I rephrased passages that contained awkward English, eliminated phrases or sentences that seemed extraneous or repetitive, and varied the vocabulary to render the text more lucid and vivid. I also varied the length of sentences in order to make the rhythm of the text more interesting. (Please note that you should avoid starting too many sentences with "I." Instead, try to add more transitional phrases like "Additionally," or insert clauses before the pronoun: "In 1999, I began to work...")
I noticed a few sections in which your writing was either too vague or abstract, or where transitional passages were too abrupt. See my notes regarding these sections below.
Here are my specific comments by essay and paragraph numbers of the original text:
You cite strong and vivid images in this paragraph, but you should avoid presenting them as a list. Admissions officers will be far more impressed if you can seamlessly weave these images into the text. I condensed your listings and have modified your format into a paragraph form.
Did you enter college at age fifteen? You should be more precise about your educational history, and you should explain exactly when you attended university.
Paragraphs 3 and 4
These two paragraphs were both related, so I condensed them into a single discussion. Having too many paragraphs can make an essay seem choppy and digressive.
Paragraphs 5 and 6
When you describe Lec Corporation as, "the first and biggest diversified conglomerate," do you mean that it was the first and biggest conglomerate in Turkey? I assumed that this was the case, but be sure to change this detail if it is incorrect.
Paragraphs 8 and 9
The phrase "appropriate solutions" is vague. How about "adaptable" instead?
In addition, note how I built a better transition from Paragraph 9 to Paragraph 10, and how I streamlined your arguments to make them more targeted.
Paragraphs 10 and 11
Your discussion in these paragraphs was excessively wordy, and I consolidated it to keep your argument on track. Also, once you have written out the school's full name, you can refer to it simply as "XXX."
This entire paragraph was very redundant. Most of the details in this paragraph have been used elsewhere, so I suggest eliminating this paragraph in the interest of concision.
This paragraph sounded like a brochure. I suggested incorporating the alumni network and student group information into the preceding paragraph.
Paragraphs 15 and 16
Again, these paragraphs do not add much to your essay. It is better to end with a solid conclusion rather than to conclude weakly. I condensed this section of your essay.
The first sentence of this paragraph was very unclear, and I rephrased it to simplify structure and to clarify meaning.
Be sure to cite the year in which the earthquake occurred.
"We have rent a bus..."
Who is the "we" in this sentence? I assumed that you were referring to your Cekud coworkers, but be sure to correct this if it is incorrect.
"I was impressed with Cekud's activities."
Watch out for redundant phrases--you used the exact same phrase in Paragraph 3.
"While working with Cekud, I have also learned about their other activities such as restoration of historical houses..."
This detail is interesting, but it ultimately distracts from your narrative. I have eliminated it.
Paragraphs 7 and 8
These paragraphs were too wordy. I condensed your argument to make it tighter.
In addition, you might want to clarify what you mean by the phrase, "families who could hardly speak Turkish." Many readers might be unaware of the cultural diversity of Turkey and therefore might not know which language these people spoke.
"...educating those kids..."
This phrase is unclear. Are you referring to the Cekud children? This is what I have assumed, but be sure to change it if it is incorrect.
The final sentence of this paragraph was also unclear--what are the examinations that you describe designed to test? I have interpreted this passage as follows: "I also took two children, ages ten and eleven, under my wing with the goal of helping them pass the private college entrance exam that would qualify them to receive government sponsorship for their entire education."
I eliminated your quote from the last paragraph. It is, no doubt, a beautiful saying, but so many students end (or begin) their essays in this way that the technique has become clichéd. Ending with the current paragraph--stating that helping these two children was your greatest accomplishment--leaves the reader with a strong, lasting impression of your character and your sense of commitment.
With all the changes I have proposed, you will have to use your judgment and accept only those that you think are best.
Overall, this is a great set of essays that will leave a strong impression on the admissions committee. I wish you the best of luck.
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