Saturday, February 03, 2007

Our London trip and the dean's list irony!

Yesterday Claudia and I spent the day in London with Ava, the main reason being that I had an interview with Philips. Additionally, we wanted to obtain a passport for Ava so that we could start travelling with her outside of the UK.

My interview went well, so much so that they indicated there and then that they would like me to come to Amsterdam on the 1st and 2nd of March for the next round. I'm unsure whether it's really the best move for me but at this stage I'm not willing to close any doors. As I knew we'd be in London for the day, I also made sure that I took advantage of the opportunity to meet with two management consultancies - Bain and Booz Allen & Hamilton. These informal meetings, both with Australians that were working at each firm, were interesting as they allowed me to get more of an honest, real insight into life inside these firms. That said, I am still very much interested in management consultancy.

After quite a hectic day, Claud and I met up with Jimmy and then he suggested we head to the Dorchester for a drink. Two bottles of red later and some snacks, James' generosity surely left a large hole in his wallet but we were grateful as it was a pleasant way to while away a Friday evening.

On the bus trip back to Oxford, Claud was checking the internet and then I decided to check my emails. To my great surprise, there was an email from the MBA program manager informing me that I was one of 22 students whose academic performance in Michaelmas term warranted inclusion on the Dean's list. I was gobsmacked but at the same time quite chuffed as it is quite an honour and means that we will be invited to several dinners and events that I would otherwise not be afforded the chance to attend. All in all, we had quite a rewarding day!!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Hilary term - 1st 3 weeks

3 weeks in and I am very happy with the way that Hilary term is progressing. Like last term, I have again been impressed by the quality of the teaching faculty. Unlike last term, where each course was core and therefore mandatory, this term we have 4 core courses (Marketing, Operations, Financial Mgt. and International Business & Global Governance) + 2 electives. I have chosen Technology & Innovation Strategy and Marketing Culture & Society. I am also attempting to audit (ie take the class but don't submit coursework) Finance II.

Each course has been enjoyable but I have particularly enjoyed MCS as it is intellectually stimulating and the subject matter is extremely varied. I will be doing a group project on Product (Red), which should also prove extremely interesting.

On the careers front, I have started to prepare more thoroughly so that I can mount a serious assault on jobs this term. The school offers the opportunity to engage in mock interviews, which I found very rewarding as it pointed out areas that I need to work on. In addition to the interview, I have had a one-on-one with the former head of recruiting at McKinsey to review my CV and cover letter. My CV was favourably received but my letter needs some work, which I thought it might. The final element of my game plan was to meet with an external consultant who helped explore my career motivations in order to try and identify the most suitable avenues for when I graduate. All in all, I found it extremely helpful.

One of the highlights of the term thus far was the opportunity to attend a speech given at the business school by Sir Martin Sorrell and then attend an intimate gathering with him and some classmates in the rector's lodging's at Exeter College. He spoke about the challenges facing the advertising industry in the coming 5 to 7 years as well as how he sees WPP needing to transform to prepare themselves for the same. A thoroughly interesting and extremely knowledgeable, intelligent guy whose presence here reminded me how fortunate I am to be at a University such as Oxford.

We had snow for the 1st time this winter on the 24th of Jan - so Finn and I made sure we got out and about. Unfortunately it didn't hang around long enough for my birthday but I nonetheless was able to enjoy a few (too many) beers with some friends to celebrate my 31st birthday on the 31st of January.

Back yard after the overnight snow fall

James, Claudia and Ava in Christ Church dining hall (aka Harry Potter Hall)

Iffley Road covered in snow

Finn on the meadow

Friday, January 26, 2007

Top Gun: The Dean's List Edition

A different take on what it's like to be at b-school!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Back to school

After the joy of a 3 week break, the length of which I hadn't enjoyed since my honeymoon more than 5 years ago, on Tuesday it was back to school. The week has been punctuated by a series of presentations to prepare us for our Entrepreneurship project (ours is likely to be either a Gluten free beer or a craft beer) and for our Trinity term electives. It has been good to catch up with my fellow classmates once again after their holidays and to hear their exotic stories of travels far and wide.

Although "nougth" week has not been very formal, the relaxed mood is sure to dissipate as we begin to realise the enormity of the workload that we're about to embark on this term, Hilary. We have a comparable number of courses to Michaelmas term (6) however have the added challenge of completing an Entrepreneurship project, which I will be embarking on with my classmates Ean Hernandez, Allan Vlah, Patrick Butler and Barry Neal.

I decided during the 1st part of the week to change one of my Hilary term electives, Finance II, and instead audit it and study Marketing, Culture and Society. Despite a wealth of reading material that I will need to plough through, I think I'm more likely to enjoy the study of MCS and also feel that I will still benefit from auditing Finance II (that is to say, you can sit in on the classes without the need to complete assignments or the exam!).

The difficulty of choosing electives was manifest again late this week when we sat through one and a half days of Trinity term electives. Not only are we faced with countless interesting choices, but so too must consider possible timetable clashes as well as the number of students admitted per class. I am struggling with my decision, principally because of the desire to challenge oneself, increase my knowledge and have fun whilst at the same time balancing the need to consider which of the courses will practically help me in my short and longer term career aspirations.

Whereas I initially thought entrepreneurship and social purpose courses would dominate my choices, I have been subsequently been impressed by the marketing lecturers and the subject content as well as some of the Strategy and Finance courses and then by courses such as Retailing, Business - State relations and Real Estate, each of which appeal purely because they are distinctive, different and interesting. I will no doubt have a few difficult days ahead weighing the relative pros and cons of each elective, as will my classmates I am sure.

Aside from the practical considerations of how to manage my workload, I must also embark this term on some serious career planning and searching. I have started my preparations but am convinced that this will also take a considerable amount of time. Whether I can maintain an involvement in rugby is at this stage a big question mark for me. I want to remain involved with my college, in the Bacchus wine society and to attend more of the Oxford Union speaker series than I was able last term, all of which convince me that time management will be paramount this term. The final challenge will be to orchestrate some events for the social and sports committee, like the Hawaiian night of last term (shown below). My goal is to organise a trivia night which is well attended and which provides a welcome respite from the hardships that lie ahead!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Ava's first months

What an amazing experience Fatherhood is. I am not only in awe of how a child grows so quickly, but the speed with which women, Claudia in particular, become adept at mothering as though they were old hands.

I have been constantly amazed at how calm and collected Claud is with Ava, knowing what to do and when to do it and never losing her composure. I hope that my fathering is half as competent as then I would be doing a good job.

We were fortunate in receiving from Gabrielle's parents-in-law a fantastic addition to our DVD collection - Dunstan Baby Language. The interpretation of a baby's 5 different cries have proved a godsend as we now feel competent in understanding what Ava is trying to tell us and so far, from what we can tell, it's proving pretty accurate.

At 3 weeks, snug as a bug in a rug

At 3 weeks relaxing with my Gran

Spending time in the big people's bed

Meeting Kristo for the 1st time

In my 'Best in Snow' outfit - a shame it wasn't a white Christmas!

Rugged up for the cold weather - Boxing Day
Walking with Dad through the Christ Church Reserve
With Dad and Finn in the Christ Church Reserve

Spending some quality time with Mum on NYE

Kicking back in my cot - notice my smile?

Trying out for the YMCA dance troupe

Reaching out of my cot

Having fun with Mum in my room

Spending time with Mum

Mum arrived on Christmas Day and since her arrival, she has spent some quality time getting to know her granddaughter and we've tried to ensure that her time is not exclusively spent housebound.

Although she arrived early on Christmas Day, mum's first hours with Ava were a mixture of discovery, doting and mothering:

Our 1st real outing was on the 27th when Dirk, Barbara and Saar were visiting. We had a great time visiting my college, exploring the sights of Oxford and then retiring to the Turf Tavern for a few Ales and some lunch:

The Bridge of Sighs

In the Chapel Quad at Pembroke College

From the tower of the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, overlooking All Souls College

Mum in front of the Radcliffe Camera

The 3 of us in front of the Radcliffe Camera

Our next outing was on New Year's eve day when we took a leisurely drive through the Cotwsolds, heading North East from Oxford firstly to Great Tew for lunch at a pub that Terry had 1st tried unsuccessfully to take Claudia and I to a few years back:

Outside the Falkland Arms, where we enjoyed a lovely Sunday lunch
A view of the pub in Great Tew, a small but picturesque Cotswold village

After our lunch and two quiet ales, we continued along our route heading west toward Stow-on-the-Wold, where we stopped for tea and cake in a traditional tea room. I enjoyed a lovely Treacle pudding which was the pick of our choices.

Outside the tea room in Stow-on-the-wold

After enjoying the delight of the main square in Stow, we drove on through appalling weather through a number of Cotswolds Villages: Lower and Upper Slaughter, Bourbon-on-the-water and Burford were amongst them. We returned to Oxford in readiness for our NYE celebrations with our friends at the Oxford Retreat.

On the 3rd of January Mum and I headed for Stratford-upon-Avon as Claud and I had bought Mum tickets to the Royal Shakespeare Company for Christmas.

Royal Shakespeare Company - Stratford-upon-Avon

Mum standing in the Shakespeare garden in Stratford

The Shakespeare memorial

Statue of Hamlet - part of the Shakespeare memorial

Looking across the river Avon to the Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre

Mum standing in front of some traditional Tudor Style buildings

Christmas spirit in Stratford

Mum in front of Shakespeare's birthplace

We were very fortunate to watch Judi Dench and Simon Callow in Shakespeare's The Merry Wives. The entire ensemble was outstanding and the performance was humorous, dramatic and extremely engaging. It was possibly the best theatrical performance I have seen, just eclipsing Spamalot that Claudia and I saw in New York last Christmas.

Our most recent venture was yesterday when Claudia and I drove mum to Wiltshire to the house of her friend, Di Wallis, and Di's husband John. We were treated to a lovely lunch in their +400 yr old home and afterwards took Finn for a walk through their acreage with John and their 5 dogs! Suffice to say by the time we got home last night, Finn was knackered!

Finn herding sheep under John's watch

Farmer Mac and Finn in front of the stables

Mum's next sojourn is to Paris and Flavigny on Tuesday. Until then we'll let her relax as I also return to class on Monday!

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Festive period

Shopping for the Christmas meal has been an enjoyable feast of the senses, as you can see from the images below which show the produce on offer in the Covered Market:

Anyone fancy boar?

I hope you've ordered your Turkey

Christmas Day started early for Claudia and I. 4.45am to be precise - that's what time the alarm clock went off so that I could meet mum at Heathrow not long after her plane landed at 5am.

Our Christmas Day was very enjoyable - mum's company was a welcome addition as was Tim's and that of one of my classmates, Brian Brooks. We enjoyed a somewhat lengthy feast - starting with scrambled eggs & smoked salmon for breakfast followed throughout the day by pumpkin soup, turkey and gammon and some lovely puddings for dessert - both plum and chocolate with all of the traditional accompaniments. We consumed a selection of cheeses accompanied by Noble One and some Port during the evening to round off a gluttonous and very enjoyable day.

Waiting for the feast to be served

My first Christmas outfit

Mum meeting her granddaughter for the 1st time

Our 1st family Christmas

On Boxing Day, Luke and Sally Mann came up from London and we had a lovely lunch at the Anchor Inn in Jericho. They brought us a lovely jumpsuit for Ava - Party at my place at 2am!

The following day, Dirk, Barbara and Saar arrived from Amsterdam to visit for 2 days. It was great to see them all for the 1st time since we left Holland. We had a nice tour of Oxford and then enjoyed a lovely leg of lamb for dinner before bidding them farewell at lunch the following day.

Barbara, Saar, Dirk, Claudia, Ava and I in the Chapel Quad at Pembroke

Dirk, Barbara and Saar in front of the Bridge of Sighs (Hertford College)

Saar - ever inquisitive

Mum, Dirk and I in front of the gates of All Souls College

The Kersten family in front of the Radcliffe Camera

For New Year's eve, we had decided to stay in Oxford and fortunately, AJ and Caroline had organised for a group of us to celebrate together at the Oxford Retreat. Ava enjoyed her 1st New Year's celebration with about 20 friends and family of AJ and Caro, including some friends of ours from the MBA course - Gabe and his wife Katie, James and then later in the evening, Shelby, Brooks and Brandon.

Dinner at the Oxford Retreat

Claud, Ava and I on NYE

Katie and Gabe get accustomed to Ava

James and I on NYE

Claud, Ava and I shortly before midnight

Caroline and AJ celebrating NYE

Katie, Gabe, AJ et al on NYE