So, the process. The first step was putting together a one pager on why I wanted to do my MBA and why I thought I should be awarded the scholarship. The Alumni then used these to put together a short list of five finalists. We each then went through interviews with representatives from the Alumni association and with an executive recruitment firm, Egon Zehnder. A few days after my interviews I got a phone call from Alex Chapman (from the Australian Alumni Association) to say that I had won it.
My aim with the scholarship had always been to try to make it into the top five so I could go through the experience of the selection process. Winning it seemed completely surreal. That night I rang pretty much everyone I knew to tell them but I don't think it really sank in for me until a week or two before the presentation night in Melbourne.
I started to get an idea of just how big a thing this was when I saw some of the preparations being made for the Melbourne weekend and with BHP Billiton's (my employer) reaction to the news. It still didn't really prepare me for that weekend.
Alex had invited all of the finalists to her house at Mount Macedon for a day of pre-MBA "boot camp" so the Saturday was spent learning how to write statements of intent, going through tips for getting through all the reading and learning some relaxation/destressing techniques.
The official Alumni activities started the next day with an informal lunch at Alex's house with alumni members, the scholarship finalists and our families. I had met a few alumni at a "Meet the Alumni" dinner in Sydney a few months before and it was great to talk to a collection of people about their time at Cranfield and what changed for them after doing their MBAs. There was one thing in common with all the people I spoke to regardless of where they originally came from, what their backgrounds where or how long ago they did their MBA: they all got a glint in their eye and talked so passionately about the time they had spent at Cranfield. My mother kept on saying for the next few days "they're all so nice" with a surprised tone in her voice. I think she expected the stereotypical arrogant attitude often associated with MBAs and was pleasantly surprised to find that the reality was very different.
On the Monday afternoon, Cranfield lecturer Stephen Regan ran a workshop on the New Economics of Business Strategy which gave me a good idea of what some of my lectures are probably going to be like. Thankfully, it was far from dry. If the workshop was anything to go on, I'm expecting at least Stephen's lectures to be very interactive and thought provoking. The workshop was timed so that the participants would go straight on to drinks before the award dinner while we did a lot of the official photographs.
The photo session was probably my most surreal moment for the weekend. I was standing between the ANZ CEO John McFarlane and the BHP Billiton CEO Chip Goodyear talking about doing business in India while my group Vice President stood talking to my parents, encouraging my mother to take a few pictures on her camera which she had promised me she had left at the hotel. My father, who actually is a photographer and the family member usually threatening me with a camera, was remarkably restrained and left the role of paparazzi to my mother.
We then followed the band out of the hotel and over to the cathedral chapter house for the awards dinner. First time I've ever followed a tuba player to dinner. By this stage of the weekend I had met a large number of the people there and it was a very fun, relaxed evening. People were rotated around the room in between courses so you got to talk to a number of different people. It was a great night. There are a lot more photos on the Australian Alumni website if you want to see more of the night (link on the right).