REVIEW: Snapshots From Hell: The Making of an MBA by Peter Robinson

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“During his frenetic first year at Stanford Business School, Peter Robinson kept a journal of his day-to-day impressions which evolved into this book, the writing of which he came to see as a “simple act of decency, like going back to the last calm bend in the river and nailing up a sign that reads ‘Waterfall Ahead’.”

I received this book from my uncle as a graduation gift – to spur me on to the next level!

In the loneliness of my rented room, I laughed myself silly reading this rib-tickler penned by Presidents’ Reagan’s and Bush’s former speechwriter. Robinson also writes about business and politics as Research Fellow at Hoover Institute.

I instantly connected with Robinson from his first few words:

My friend Steven warned me before I came here that most of my classmates would be former engineers, consultants, and financial analysts, people who knew how to work with numbers.

“Then there’ll be a few students with flaky backgrounds like yours,” he said. “Poets. You know, people who’ve never done anything real for a living.”

Whenever I tell anyone that I am in corporate communications, images of cameras clicking, glamorous celebrities, sumptious buffets and fantastic freebies come to mind.

Along with it also came comments that I had the BEST job in the world since I didn’t have to do anything except dress well, smile at people and take photographs. As if!

Nobody, except those in the PR/media industry, will understand the pains of

  • pushing press releases to the media,
  • endless follow-up calls with busy (and sometimes grumpy Editors),
  • having your speech or press release drafts edited for the 10th time,
  • missing that split second photo opportunity of the President of the organization or
  • the drudgery of stuffing media packs with press releases and other collateral.

In the same vein, Robinson puts up with his smart and snotty coursemates like twenty-six year old Joe Toscana, who had majored in Economics at Rutgers University and then worked as a financial analyst at Salomon Brothers, a big investment bank. Joe breezes through the business classes and show promise of being a teacher’s pet.

Robinson sticks to Connor O’Flaherty, an Irishman with a degree in philosophy who made him feel better because:

“The commute to business school’s an hour to and an hour from. And since we have a little boy, when I get home in the evening, I have to spend time being a dad.”

A Management minor myself, I empathized with him when he writes,

I have now been to the first session of each of my five core courses. I do not understand Trees (Decision Making under Uncertainty). I do not understand Computers. I do not understand Micro(economics). I not understand Accounting. I do understand Organizational Behaviour, since it deals with words rather than numbers. But I don’t like it. So what am I doing at business school?

He had me wondering too if he would flunk midway since his “Trees” class is taught by the 20 year old genius from Lebanon, Omar Kemal while Micro(economics) has the menacing, monochromatic Yeager who reminds me of my super-intelligent, unforgiving Additional Math teacher who sped through lessons so quickly she was nicknamed “The Night Express”…

You’ll need to read the book to find out if Robinson graduates. Working people thinking of doing their MBA on a part-time basis will get an idea of the assignment load, group discussions, group projects and final exam frenzies a full-time graduate student encounters.

Even if Robinson flails along like a fish out of water, I think he appreciated the great mathematical and management minds he had the opportunity to mingle with at this top American business school. Exposure at a truly international campus community also helped this congenial, open-minded student.

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Source by Christine Jalleh