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1. How long have you known the applicant and in what connection? If applicable, briefly describe the applicant's role in your organization. Please comment on the frequency and context of your interaction. (250-word limit)
Joe was selected to join JPMorgan 1 year ago. As Managing Partner, I am up-to-date on his position of excellence. I conferred with his direct supervisors to complete this recommendation.
Joe is an outstanding professional, one of the most promising associates we have taken on. His input is creative, insightful and I trust him to manage our more complex tasks. Joe is highly motivated and driven by an amazing passion to succeed. He embodies a perfect mix of the attributes we look for in a consultant: personal impact, great analytics and excellent problem solving skills. He couples this with his insatiable interest in serving clients with the best possible solution.
I insisted on writing this recommendation myself, as I see Joe as one of the promises of this firm and one of the great future business leaders his country. It was important for me to convey my overwhelming support of his candidacy. Upon completing my own BSc from Stanford and my PhD from Cambridge, I understand the value studying in an international setting can provide and I am very interested that this opportunity be given to Joe, a man who will know how best to use it.
If Joe stays on the same trajectory there is no doubt it my mind that Joe will be sponsored for an MBA by the firm, and we would very much like to see him return to the office and continue to develop our activities after his MBA studies.
2. In what ways has the candidate distinguished himself or herself among peers? (250-word limit)
Joe is one of the best business analysts we hired in recent years.
We trust Joe with especially complex assignments and he delivers far above expectations. He provided exceptional value for one of our country's largest corporations in renegotiating contracts. He set ambitious goals, managed the work and directed professionals carrying out negotiations. The financial results were nothing short of outstanding. I don’t believe anyone else would have had the same creativity in delivering solutions, the same management ability in leading people towards what seemed to be unreachable goals and the same dedication as Joe. I am thrilled that we gave him the responsibility.
Joe excels in leadership and teamwork. In his most recent project Joe led a client team of 3 middle-tier managers in the lean transformation of a retail chain, cutting costs by 15% and increasing revenues by 20%. Joe managed their work effectively; he coached them, gave feedback and allowed them to grow within their organization by letting them present the team’s finding in progress reviews. Joe was chosen “Head of the pilot”, effectively managing a store of 31 employees. He initiated revenue-increasing and cost-cutting pilots which brought 30% of the total savings to the client.
Joe’s initiative and creativity in problem solving is exceptional; recently, he researched an area in which the firm had little expertise. He discovered resources which provided enormous value to our client. After the engagement, Joe initiated a discussion on the information with our firm expert to develop our knowledge for future engagements.
3. Comment on the candidate’s professional weaknesses and opportunities for growth. (250-word limit)
Joe’s most apparent weakness is in what we call in JPMorgan “written communications”. Written communications refers to client exhibits. In these exhibits Joe displayed a lack of attention to the small details in his first projects. Joe has been given constructive feedback on the subject following his last two engagements and has shown considerable improvement, delivering clear and well structured documents.
I have always been impressed with the way that Joe has been proactive in communicating his development needs to the team leadership and requesting coaching and feedback. This has enabled us to pay more attention to areas in which he needed help and guide him accordingly. I imagine his initiative and take-charge attitude is also a source of his exceptional performance.
I have never seen someone as focused and as driven as Joe when it comes to career goals. Joe’s goals after his MBA are clear – he wants to be a partner at the firm, and he doesn’t hide his plans. We support him in this path unequivocally and look forward to his swift return. For Joe to reach this goal, it is imperative that he study for an MBA. This is his immediate opportunity for growth. Our business is to provide excellent business consultancy to our international clients. While Joe has proven invaluable to clients, we believe that the skills and tools derived from an MBA degree are essential to doing the top-level job we demand.
4. (Only for applicants required to take the TOEFL or IELTS): In what context have you been able to assess the candidate's written and spoken English? (250-word limit)
A great portion of Joe’s work is conducted in English. He is required to submit his reports and documents in English. Similarly, as JPMorgan is an international organization, all our training and communication with other teams are conducted in English.
Joe was selected to work on a project in Sydney. He was stationed in Australia for over a month and interacted solely in English for that time. Colleagues reported that his English communication was flawless. All communication with the team, the client and the many experts he was required to interview for the project was in English.
5. The Stanford Graduate School of Business is committed to developing outstanding leaders who can inspire trust and confidence in others. Please comment on the applicant's behavior (e.g., respect for others, honesty, integrity, accountability for personal behavior) within your organization and in the community. (250-word limit)
Joe has the crucial ability to admit his shortcomings. In a meeting with the CEO of one of the largest corporations in our country, Joe was questioned by the CEO as to the reliability of his data. Joe had the integrity to admit that he didn’t know the correct answer and would check his data again, returning with clearer and more verified answers.
Joe is a "people person” – and this is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable things about him. He creates a team atmosphere that at once allows for outstanding output, while maintaining the most excellent relations with the people working with him and for him. During a recent project, Joe managed an implementation pilot in a retail store; everyone loved working with him. Similarly, it was a unique experience to walk with Joe through another of our client’s office corridors. He stopped every two steps as he literally knew almost every single employee at the client by name.
Joe is a great team player and peers have expressed interest in working with him in future. Joe ensures everybody is happy; he brings coffee in the morning, buys goodies for the team and organizes team events. On a recent project, Joe finished his work for the night but noticed that his peers were still working. He asked them to hand over some work, so that the entire team could go home earlier. Many colleagues will call him to for advice on how to solve tough problems.
1. What is your relationship to and how long have you known the applicant? Is this person still employed by your organization? (Yes/No) If "No," when did he/she depart? (e.g., August 1999)
Joe and I worked together for 2.5 years. I am the Chief Engineer of the Main Control Center, and a Supervisor of the Public Relations Affairs of the Nanotechnology Department. It was part of my position to supervise Joe while he was directing Public Relations of the Student Council. Joe’s job involved recruiting high level managers and CEOs from the hi-tech industry to come and lecture at the University. I advised him on establishing relationships with the managers from each company and advised him which to address. Joe was given a very free hand in this work because I counted on him. Joe held this position until his graduation three years ago. Since then we speak from time to time and he always comes to visit me when he’s on campus.
2. Provide a short list of adjectives which describe the applicant's strengths.
Managerial, Great negotiation skills, Tremendous sense of initiative, highly organized, great team-player and able to handle a complex process from above, delegating when necessary and always keeping his finger on the pulse of things.
3. How does the applicant's performance compare with that of his or her peers?
Joe took over the job of directing public affairs from a young woman who was the Vice President of Student Council, actually. The job under this other woman’s direction was rather simple and straightforward, and no one thought that anything more could be done with it. She was known as an excellent leader and everyone liked her, and so when Joe came to the position, no one expected him to be able to fill his predecessor's shoes. Joe amazed us all. He not only took up the job but he changed it and upgraded it. He created relations with more companies, organized more recruiting events and initiated and implemented things the other student hadn’t done.
After Joe left, we needed 3 people working simultaneously to replace him – that’s how much he put into making this position the best he could. I was disappointed with each and every one of the students that replaced him – none were able to match his efforts or motivation, nor bring in the quality of performance Joe did. Since he left, the standards have slipped and it is clear to see how much of the success of the office was on account of Joe.
4. How has the applicant grown during his/her employment with you? Please comment on the applicant's maturity.
Joe had the opportunity to meet many managers and industry people in the course of his position. He had to get used to speaking a whole new ‘language’ – new terms and a new working style in dealing with high level executives. Sometimes it was only Joe meeting with a manager of hundreds and his staff to discuss technology. Joe held up his end in these meetings. I received very positive feedback from the managers about him, and as time went by I felt more and more confident to just leave him to do the job. Seeing the way Joe grew into managing this project, which was really his baby, was very rewarding. He received great leadership and management experience and also learned a great deal about the industry and relations between companies.
In regards to maturity, Joe came and took this job as seriously as anything else. He knew it was the face of the department’s faculty and he took pride not only in his own work, but in being representative of the Nanotechnology department. I was again and again impressed with how someone so young was so able to take this up, and make it such a success, alongside a full course load and a job at Motorola Semiconductors. It was very difficult to coordinate between everyone here – the secretary, the Student Council, the managers coming in and all the timings and technology involved, but he did it well. Joe did all the coordination and told everyone what to do regarding the publicizing of the events and the organization of the lecture, and he did it with professionalism, care and a great attention to detail.
5. Comment on the applicant's ability to work with others, including superiors, peers and subordinates. If the tables were reversed, would you enjoy working for the applicant?
Joe worked under me and another professor who was in charge of the academic staff. We both enjoyed working with Joe – he’s pleasant and respectful and has a warm and friendly manner. As said, we also heard many good compliments about him from the managers who came to lecture from all the companies. They all said how the process of coordination went so smoothly.
Joe had no peers in this position, so I cannot comment on that. He did have subordinates, however. Joe gave instructions to a number of staff members – all of them working on a volunteer basis. Joe needed to inspire them to take the projects as seriously as he, and to encourage them to commit their best efforts to the project. He patiently explained to all of them the relations with the industry, and how important it was to establish these programs and have them succeed. He inspired them with visions of how the students could be enriched with lectures from different fields and how much they could gain from strong relations with the hi-tech industry. By the time he was done people were enthusiastic and excited to follow him.
6. In what ways could the applicant improve professionally? How does he/she accept constructive criticism?
In the beginning, Joe wasn’t used to working with people in the industry. The terms are different and all the manner of working was different in style to anything he’d ever met. Sometimes he didn’t do all the things he needed to do in the coordination process, but this developed over time. There were mistakes in judgment, such as sometimes bringing over a number of lecturers from the same field, rather than bringing more diversity. Again, this is something that improved over time and with the experience. Sometimes fewer people came to events than were expected, and it turned out to be that the event was just before an important exam so everyone was home studying. Each time a mistake like this happened, Joe would review it and make adjustment for next time. Whenever we gave Joe pointers he immediately adapted his way of going on. He was always willing to listen, and actually welcomed whatever feedbacks we had, to help him to improve and do a better job.
7. How well has the applicant made use of available opportunities? Consider his or her initiative, curiosity and motivation.
Joe knew that the engineering faculty at his University, especially the Nanotechnology department, was well known and respected in the industry. He used this to attract senior managers as much as possible from different companies. He would bring in CEOs, General Managers and other senior officers, winning their participation by presenting his proposal as if it was in their interest to come, rather than ours. Joe really developed this angle, showing them how they had a chance to present what their company does to a roomful of bright new students. He identified that he had a great product to sell these managers, and he used that to help everyone succeed.
When Joe came into the job, there were only 2 lecturers per semester and no recruiting events to hold. Recruitment events were organized by external bodies from the dept. Joe collaborated with these external bodies to combine these events with the lectures and the open forums he was organizing. These all-day happenings raised the level of excitement throughout the department. He built them to be even more exciting by inviting students from other departments – computer science, electrical engineering, industrial engineering, etc. Joe never missed an opportunity to bring the different departments together, and this had a strong impact on the entire faculty.
Joe wasn’t getting paid for this job but you would never have known it. He came at this job with all the enthusiasm and motivation as if he were pulling in a huge salary for it. He was proud of his work, and was motivated to do a great job just for that and because he believed that what he was doing was important and could have great beneficial effect on others.
Sometimes Joe saw that other departments – such as physics – from time to time organized lectures. He began to develop a relationship with them so they could organize together lectures that related to both fields. Once he collaborated with the public relations person from the physics department to bring a guest lecturer who spoke on physics and its relationship to electric engineering. It was a great success, with students from both faculties invited. They did all the organization together, and their teamwork was evident in the smooth running of the event.
8. Comment on your observations of the applicant's ethical behavior.
Once Joe didn’t have much time to publicize a lecture, and he forgot to put the flyers on the student board. It caused low turnout and I was very disappointed. When I asked him what happened he told me right away that he thought it was because of his mistake. Joe never tries to put the blame off on anything or anyone else. As well, at Motorola, a person from their public affairs department told Joe they wanted to initiate a program for excellent students. They consulted with him and asked what he thought the prize should be, and asked for other recommendations about it, etc. They asked him to speak to no one about it, and Joe never mentioned it until the prize had been established and it was okay to speak about it.
9. What do you think motivates the candidate's application to the MBA program at the Kellogg School of Management? Do you feel the applicant is realistic in his/her professional ambitions?
No question, Joe is completely realistic in his goals. He’s looking for the next step up in his career, and the MBA is a natural progression from where he is now. Joe and I have spoken a bit about his plans and why in particular he is interested in Kellogg, and with what little I know about your program, it sounds to me like a great fit. I know as well that his wife is applying to Northwestern Medical School, and they are hoping to both go to Chicago to study together.
10. Are there any other matters which you feel we should know about the applicant?
Joe’s period in this position was truly unique. These were 3.5 years in which the faculty really shined while he was there. No one was able to fill his shoes – the program has really fallen down since he left. Many students used to ask Joe why he would spend so much time doing this job when he wasn’t getting paid, and from his response, they would learn how important it is to volunteer in the Student Council and other opportunities provided to be involved in school activities. These students saw someone willing to invest time and energy because of what he believed, and it affected many students and caused them to reevaluate their own priorities and values. At the end of his time here, I thanked him publicly at the last lecture in front of all the students and the staff, for all his hard work.
1. Please comment on the context of your interaction with the applicant. How long have you known the applicant and in what connection? If applicable, briefly describe the applicant's role in your organization.
I have known Joe since joining our TV station as Executive producer in charge of News in 2007. As Joe’s direct superior, I oversee his work as Bureau Producer. Joe has worked with our station for a few years and was integral to setting up operations in the new location. His current responsibilities include planning, coordinating and executing the channel’s coverage on breaking news, features and set piece events. He manages teams of journalists in the field while liaising with departments across our four broadcast centers. His superior connections with the different sectors in his country have secured us groundbreaking coverage and also helped maintain the channel’s relations with local authorities. We have also always been able to count on Joe to fill in as Bureau Chief when needed.
Joe has proven himself as a talented journalist, reliable producer and ambitious professional and as such has frequently been deployed for coverage overseas. He first stood apart from other colleagues in his coverage of the violent government crackdown on protesters in Myanmar in 2007 and then again when he returned there to produce our channel’s coverage of Cyclone Nargis’ in 2008. He lobbied strongly for deployment and the chance we took on him paid off: The coverage he delivered on both occasions was bold and imaginative considering the extremely challenging conditions. Later, his colleagues on the ground spoke to me about his dedication and impressive leadership.
2. Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant's response. (250-word limit)
Joe has significant professional experience under his belt, which makes him the strong producer he is today. However, I feel that in some occasions in the past he has been somewhat overconfident in his abilities to deliver coverage on certain stories and events – at times stories and interviews would cancel at the last moment. Although our line of work is very dynamic and last minute changes are part of the operation, there have been instances where he conveyed confidence and even promises that coverage would turn out a certain way, when in the end the result was different. I believe that Joe needs to temper expectations in order to minimize last minute changes. I have raised these issues with him and while commending him on his ideas, I suggested that he not be blinded to the details by the broader picture. Joe was very responsive and welcoming of my comments and I believe he has taken this to heart as I have not seen evidence of such a tendency since. Overall, Joe is very thorough in his work and his confidence is central to the challenges he seeks. A recent story he produced was met with skepticism when first proposed, but he convinced us of its importance. The final report was powerful and had massive impact.
3. Please make additional statements about the applicant's performance, potential, or personal qualities you believe would be helpful to the MBA Admissions Board.
Joe is one of our more driven producers. He has keen analytical skills, an inquiring mind and a strong passion for journalism. Joe has detailed knowledge and a deep understanding of the region, particularly in politics, media and the military. Working from a busy news bureau, Joe has demonstrated his ability to think creatively, making connections between stories and finding original ways of approaching material. He has shown a capacity for problem solving and an ability to think on his feet, often in stressful or physically dangerous situations. Joe well foresees challenges and provides results that lead to praiseworthy journalism. Joe is also very adaptable, quickly mastering skills to operate successfully in all situations. Though comparatively young for his role, Joe is mature, reliable and has strong interpersonal skills that propel the coverage teams he leads.
Joe has developed strong diplomatic skills and succeeded to build good working relations with colleagues, who in some cases might be ideologically ill-disposed to a person from his background.
Joe seeks an MBA to advance his career towards new media development and use his experience to develop what he sees as the next phase of journalism. I know he feels his work will have a broader impact this way and I believe this ambition is commendable. I fully support his wish to gain skills needed to enact his goals and fulfill his considerable potential, and look forward to following his successes.
1. How long have you known the applicant, and in what context? Please comment on the frequency of your interaction.
Joe and I were in the army together, we worked in parallel sections and sometimes collaborated on projects. In addition, I was one of his guard duty officers, in charge of supervising overnight base watch. We met at least once a week for this purpose, and frequently on a less formal basis. Joe and I worked together from 2000 to 2001, until we both finished our military service.
2. Have the applicant's responsibilities evolved over the time you have known him or her?
Joe’s responsibilities evolved continuously over the time I have known him, and especially when he was promoted to Sergeant. His responsibilities evolved more than those of his peers mostly because Joe was always looking for opportunities to improve the quality of service in the base. I was often amazed by his suggestions for improvement. One case in particular I can remember is when he asked my department to prepare a computerized report of all new recruits who have yet to complete their processing, sorted by birth date, and sub-sorted according to the specific parts they were missing in the processing. This made tracking the recruits' progress in the recruiting process much easier and more efficient, and was a great success. It was so obvious that I wondered how no one else had thought of it before.
3. How would you rate the applicant in comparison to others with similar responsibilities in your organization? Why?
Joe stands out from his peers in several areas, but the two I think of most are his quick analytical skills and how easy he is to work with. His high intellect makes it easy to collaborate with him. Few of his peers had his level of talent for the computer environment. In every respect, Joe really stood out – there were 50 soldiers in his group and I don't remember all of them, but I remember him. I often did surprise checkups, and under his command, everything was always perfect. This is not true of some of the other sergeants: I might find that the soldiers were not doing their jobs, or were permitted to work without their uniforms. This is the sergeant's fault: as Duty Sergeant, you have the difficult job of giving orders while still being one of the soldiers. I don't know how he did it, but Joe could just say, Listen, put on your uniforms, please turn down the music, and people would just listen to him. It's a kind of natural leadership quality that he has.
4. What are the applicant's principal strengths and talents?
Joe's personality is one of his greatest strengths: I was always looking forward to working with Joe. He was always smiling, always taking it easy, even in demanding situations. He did his work very well and was never stressed about it, even though his section was really stressful—the 50 soldiers on his team worked from 7 in the morning until as late as 11 at night in the recruiting bureau. Of all the sections of our unit, his was the most demanding place of service.
5. In what areas can the applicant improve? Has he or she worked on those areas?
There were a few instances where I remember Joe giving his subordinates assignments that were beyond their capabilities. This brought negative results and also lowered their morale. When I discussed this with him, he understood and it never happened again, to my knowledge. I see it as an indication of how ambitious Joe is to achieve excellence, which is a good thing overall.
6. Please provide concise comments on the applicant's:
a. degree of self-confidence
Joe’s work involved dealing with young recruits from all parts of society. Many of the recruits he worked with were very difficult to interview – they sometimes were attempting to evade army service, and sometimes lied. I remember cases where people burst out shouting and once, a recruit started throwing a table and chairs. For most of the staff in Joe's unit, this was sometimes really hard to deal with. Joe, however, always kept cool and in control. He had no trouble managing people who were in crisis, but at the same time he never lost his temper. He always had control of the situation, and we knew we could totally rely on him.
b. honesty and integrity
There are many ethical issues in the work Joe did. For example, sometimes the people who came to his office were his relatives, his friends, friends of friends. This is when Joe's strong ethics are really valuable – you can't make any kind of distinction between your friends and a total stranger. If someone who is your friend comes in, you have to let another person take care of him so the case will be handled with total indifference. I certainly know of cases where this has not happened as it should.
Joe was careful not to give any extra help to people he was connected to. It can be a very stressful experience for a 17 year old recruit, you have only one chance, you have to perform very well if you want to succeed in your army service. So Joe did what he could to help them on a personal level, but he didn't pull any strings for anyone.
c. interpersonal teamwork/skills
Joe is very respectful to his peers and to his subordinates. He is not the type of person who just gives orders or uses threats. In the army, it's easy to make someone under you do his job – you just threaten him with a disciplinary action, and then your subordinate will have to undergo some kind of hearing and be disciplined by a superior officer. Joe never filed a complaint about anyone. He took care of problems in his own way, talked to people and convinced them why he was asking what he was asking, helped them understand their job was important. Joe worked very well with authority — he was not intimidated, but he was also respectful of his place in this relationship. If I made a mistake, he was comfortable correcting me, but he was never rude. As a commanding officer, I had to file a lot of complaints, But with Joe nothing like that ever happened. It was a pleasure to command Joe and to collaborate with him, and I am sure he will be a really excellent manager in his future roles.
d. communication/presentation skills
When Joe would come to my department to request data processing on his reports, he was very precise and accurate about what he wanted, which made my work really easy. Most of his colleagues didn't have the ability to present their ideas as clearly as he had. He knew exactly how to phrase his request so we could just write it down as is and produce the report he requested.
e. potential for senior-level management
I believe Joe would be a great person to work for. After his promotion, Joe served as second in command in his unit, and I observed that he was a natural manager. I always told him how much I appreciated that he was the one person I could totally rely on, I never heard complaints about him from anyone.
1. What is your relationship to, and how long have you known the applicant? Is this person still employed by your organization? If not, when did he/she depart?
Joe worked at our test prep company. As the CEO of the entire company, I was the manager of Joe's manager as well as 3 other managers in the Group. However I was very engaged in the company at this particular time, and I was deeply involved in all decision making and processes. During this period of changes at our company, Joe played a major role, and so I met him several times a week- either on staff meetings, brainstorm sessions or one- on one conversations I held with him. Having met Joe in 2000, I have now known him for almost 9 years. We worked together for 6 years until Joe left to start his own company.
Joe was initially a teacher in our company’s SAT division. After less than 1 year he was chosen by the company’s managers to the head the division. As such, he managed a team of 26 teachers, which grew to 55 teachers after one year. He was also responsible for the division's customer satisfaction and profitability, however he became involved in the marketing side and ended up promoting a revolutionary movement that completely changed the way the product was sold in the company.
After 3 years and the great success he had with his division, we promoted Joe to Vice President of marketing and sales. As such, he was in charge of all 10 branches of activity, as well as the telemarketing salespeople. Altogether he was in charge of around 100 people and two major activities. One was the company's marketing and strategy, which included researches and campaigns (an activity that commanded a very large budget) and the other was sales. Under this second activity he saw to the running of all branches and was responsible for all the income of the company.
2. Please provide a short list of adjectives describing the applicant's strengths, and please compare the applicant's performance to that of his or her peers.
Joe showed the highest levels of initiative, leadership, high presenting skills, intelligence, originality, dedication and charisma. He was known as ‘the guy that made us a religion’. He made people believe in the goal and mission of the company.
I think Joe was one of the most compatible, creative and motivated managers that I ever saw in our company or elsewhere.
I knew Joe first as the division manager of the SAT section and later as the Vice President of Marketing and Sales. When Joe came on as division manager, we were planning to close the division due to lack of sales. Nevertheless, Joe became quickly one of the major characters in our staff at headquarters. He joined in every meeting, every process and every project that our company began. Compared to other staff members, Joe had the best, strongest, most original and most feasible ideas. We put him in charge of many projects that were not related to his division, just because we felt he could do it better than other staff members. In a few cases I insisted Joe would be involved in matters completely beyond his jurisdiction, just to hear his opinion and see if his touch could make things better. Compared to his predecessors, who allowed the division to nearly come to an ignominious end, Joe took a dying body of a section we were supposed to close a few months after his appointment, and made it into a goldmine.
Later, as the Vice President of sales and marketing, Joe came with little theoretical knowledge compared with other marketing vice presidents. However he came on board with 3 years of successful practice and huge charisma, leadership and initiative. It was at this juncture that I became more involved directly with him, and had long sessions in which I tutored him and tried to channel his enthusiasm and skills to the marketing and sales activity. Joe proved to be a fast learner, and we had a repeat of what happened with the SAT division, only now for the whole company.
Sales reps, branch managers, area managers and teachers in all divisions were moved by Joe’s activity and by the projects he led. By the end of his first year as vice president, the company had sold 30% more than it had before. Not only the SAT division, which was still growing rapidly, but the Matriculation division, which we were sure had already reached its potential, grew by another 25% under his command.
3. Please comment on the applicant's growth during his/her employment with you and on his or her ability to work with others, including superiors, peers, and subordinates.
Joe began at our company as an SAT teacher when he was still a student at university, with no previous knowledge of our industry. Most of what he learned was achieved through self-teaching, practice and experience. He was promoted to Head of the SAT division not only because he was one of the leading teachers in terms of students’ success and satisfaction, but also thanks to his involvement and initiatives in many processes the division went through- R&D, new pilot courses and others.
Once promoted to division head, Joe's impact on the company grew exponentially, and he turned our losing division into one that was highly profitable and prestigious for the company. Joe quickly went beyond the confines of his job description as Division Head. While he was responsible only for dealing with customer satisfaction and profitability, Joe started marketing and sales processes in the SAT division. This included initiating a new approach to the section’s branding, with which he won a very large governmental tender, putting our company back on the map of the SAT scene in the country. After observing Joe’s work, I understood that what made him such an important part of our company was the way in which he motivated people into action. One of the most incredible phenomena I remember was seeing how the SAT teachers, who made less money than teachers in other companies we owned and who faced numerous challenges in their work, were so devoted to the work and devoted to Joe as a manager. They even referred to their work as an important mission; something they felt had to be done.
For these reasons, Joe was next promoted to the position of Vice President of marketing and sales, where he continued to have a strong impact on our company, and a year before he left us he was promoted again to the position of Vice president of Product Development, being in charge of all teaching activity in our company, and of all 275 teachers in both the SAT and the Matriculation divisions.
Regarding Joe's ability to work with others, as I mentioned earlier, one of Joe’s strongest qualities is his ability to move people. People went out of their way to please him, to do their work in the best way possible. He changed the whole atmosphere at our company – for the first time since I began working there, people believed deeply that they were doing something significant, that they were part of something big. It happened first with the SAT division, and again with his subordinates when he reached higher positions.
Perhaps even more exceptional is that this same devotion and appreciation was expressed by Joe's peers. The entire team worked better, had more team cooperation, and after a short time, I myself became a 'believer.' The company became more precious and important to me.
Joe was also an excellent and fair manager and peer, and he always put the interests of the company above his own personal comfortability. One very good example of this concerned one of Joe’s direct subordinates, an area manager who we thought would cause problems for Joe when he was promoted to Vice President. This subordinate was married to one of the senior VPs, a superior of Joe. He was a very highly esteemed teacher who also ran the biggest branch with high success, and who had seen himself as a very good candidate for Joe’s job. We were worried that he would impose difficulties and question Joe’s authority and leadership, but when Joe chose his 3 area managers, he convinced us that this man should be one of them. Joe said he was an original thinker and a hard worker, and he wanted these qualities in the people near him. He said he was willing to deal with all the conflicts that might arise, in order to gain the advantages. While indeed things were difficult in the beginning, and the area manager constantly questioned Joe's decisions, one day Joe informed me that the opposition was weakening, and the teamwork was becoming better. And finally when I had a private interview with all my workers, I talked with this area manager and heard from him how he appreciated and respected Joe.
As Joe's superior, one thing that struck me about him was that when he believed in something, he was not afraid to say it. Even though it may have been viewed in his superior’s eyes as not nice, or not popular, he was honest about his beliefs. Joe and I sometimes thought differently about things and we would argue for hours with enthusiasms and passion. His arguments were always backed up with reason and logic, as well as research. Although I was his superior and more experienced then him, more then once I was convinced that he was right and changed my decision. When reason was on my side, Joe accepted it without having any ego issues about being wrong.
4. In what ways could the applicant improve professionally? How does he/she accept constructive criticism?
As mentioned before, in all the years Joe worked in our company, he learned from practice only, and had no theoretical basis. This showed in a few occasions, when he would have to do a deep research in order to reach some marketing or strategic decisions. The lack of theoretical knowledge only motivated him to read more and educate himself. I believe that with his unique combination of abilities and talents, and with his high intellect and learning capacity, graduate studies could make him capable of achieving almost any goal that he aimed at. That would be the best professional improvement for Joe, and I’m glad he is doing it.
Joe has no problem in admitting he was wrong or asking for a feedback. During a long period of time, I was tutoring Joe and having one on one sessions with him almost on a daily basis. During these sessions Joe brought up some of the decisions or actions he has taken, asking for my opinion on them. Joe is a very charismatic born leader, so I cannot say that he has no ego at all. However, when it comes to mistakes he has made, it all changes. He assumes complete responsibility for his actions, no matter how wrong or silly they were. He craves learning all the time, and so doesn’t mind being wrong from time to time and being criticized for it.
5. Comment on your observations of the applicant's ethical behavior.
During all the years I have worked with Joe, he was a role model for his workers and peers in many aspects, including his ethical behavior. I trusted him and never had any doubt about the budgets he managed or the projects he led. A good example of his integrity and ethical behavior is that as head of the SAT division, Joe was responsible for all the teachers’ wages. The policy at the time was that once a year the excellent teachers got a considerable raise in their wages; the good teachers got a smaller raise and so on. Joe was one of the excellent teachers, as his students’ satisfaction surveys showed repeatedly, but he was also head of the division. Only when we promoted him to be Sales and Marketing Vice President, I found out that during all the years that Joe was teaching and running the division, all the teachers got raises but him. When I asked him how come he stayed on the same wage level for so long, he told me he just didn’t feel it was right for him, as head of the division, to give himself a raise as a teacher.
6. What do you think motivates the candidate's application to the MBA program at Columbia Business School?
Joe was always an entrepreneur, and during all the years in which I worked with him, he was always initiating processes, thinking originally, changing conceptions and taking everyone after him. So when Joe came and told me he wanted to open his own company, I wasn’t surprised. I have been following his career, he keeps me informed, and I was privileged to help him in brainstorming about his company. I see that Joe has huge potential as an entrepreneur – he has already created a very successful company – but I know that he has never received any formal education in the area. I think that now is the perfect time to pause and, before moving to the next level, learn the theory, which he can put into use by working for a time in the United States. There he can learn from the best in the field, and this will help him enormously later on, to promote and advance his own company, to open other companies, and in my opinion, become a leader in the business world.
From the little I know about Columbia Business School, entrepreneurship is promoted both in the syllabus and in extracurricular activities. I believe that that the emphasis on entrepreneurship along with the famous academic level of Columbia, were the main reasons that drove Joe to apply to study there.
7. If you could change one thing about the applicant, what would it be?
If I were to change one thing it would be to make Joe a 'tougher' manager. In my opinion, Joe’s major strength is in motivating people – he drives them to feel devotion for the team’s goals and a commitment to Joe as their manager. A lot of this is because of his sympathy to his workers and patience for their mistakes. While I appreciate it, I think that in some occasions Joe was too patient with some workers in a way that made him work much harder for no reason. More than once Joe gave some of his subordinates a second and third chance, while in my judgment they did not deserve it. Joe compensated for their mistakes, so the results were not compromised. But I thought (and told him so) that sometimes a leader has to be a little less sympathetic and know how to “draw the line” for his subordinates.
8. Are there any other matters which you feel we should know about the applicant?
I believe I have said it all. I will simply end by saying that I believe Joe will have this profound effect – both on people and organizations – wherever he goes. He will be an enormous asset to your program and to his future classmates, and by accepting Joe you will be ensuring that your class has truly one of the best young managers – and best young people – that our country has to offer.
1. What is your relationship to, and how long have you known the applicant?
During the period that Jane worked at our technology company, I held the position of CEO, President and Co-Founder of this company. Jane worked as a sales manager for the SMB market. Her role was to identify the unique characteristic of this market and to develop an effective sales model with an emphasis on significantly reducing sales and marketing costs compared to the enterprise business sector.
2. Provide a short list of adjectives which describe the applicant’s strengths.
Managerial, interpersonal, independent, visionary, initiative-oriented. Jane initiated the upgrade of our CRM application, based on her perception that we needed a new system to serve our customers. She was particularly concerned with the new clientele we were seeking in South and Central America. She convinced me of the need for this, and then modified the company's CRM application to improve what we were doing inside the department. In this and many other incidents, Jane showed that she has the gift to turn goals into results.
3. How does the applicant’s performance compare with that of his or her peers?
Jane's peers were the other salespeople in the organization – there were five in all. She was the youngest, but she was also the most active. She was always full of questions and ideas, always eager to learn more so she could do her job better. As a salesperson she was superb: if a customer came to buy a small business program, he never walked away without purchasing our support package as well. After only 8 months in the company, she won the quarterly sales competition – she not only reached her sales objectives but she even surpassed them.
4. How has the applicant grown during his/her employment with you? Please comment on the applicant’s maturity.
What matured most for Jane was her sales ability, understanding the business. At first, she was selling something she didn't know about at all– a program in a language she didn't know, although he subsequently studied computer science and learned more. She started simply by learning the buzzwords, and soon was talking to people on the phone who had a lot more idea than she did about what she was selling. She learned php, so she could communicate better with her clients, another demonstration of her motivation. But due to her personal skills and quick understanding, and her ability to adapt quickly, she created complex and in-depth communications with the customers, even before she understood the product.
Jane exhibited remarkable business orientation and ability to execute an inside sales operation which happened to be the most cost effective solution for dealing with thousands of SMB’s around the world.
As Jane got more involved in the business, I saw that she became more committed to understanding and studying computers. This came out of her drive to communicate better with her clientele, to understand the world she was living in, but soon I think she loved the technology. I am happy that this gave her that last push to study computer science.
5. Comment on the applicant’s ability to work with others, including superiors, peers and subordinates. If the tables were reversed, would you enjoy working for the applicant?
Jane was always pleasant to work around – it was important to her to bring a good atmosphere to the office, always upbeat with her peers, being friendly. We worked together, but each of us had his own sales objectives and clientele. Jane was competitive, but not competing against her peers as much as against her own personal best. She didn't have any subordinates, and above her were her sales representative and myself, the CEO. Nonetheless, I believe that if her personal behavior as an employee is an accurate guide, she would be an excellent employer as well.
6. In what ways could the applicant improve professionally? How does he/she accept constructive criticism?
I rarely had the opportunity to give Jane constructive criticism – she was simply too good. But one thing I heard from her sales manager was that she should be more active if she needs something from somebody – she often tried to handle things herself she should have gotten help with. She tried to teach herself but she didn't have the background, and in the long run she did need to sit with the programmers and learn from them.
7. How well has the applicant made use of available opportunities? Consider his or her initiative, curiosity and motivation.
An important element of Jane’s accomplishments was the way she took advantage of our expansion to the Americas to lead modification of the company CRM application. This not only offered her a great early leadership role, it also improved the productivity and efficiency of the inside sales department. Jane’s efforts to automate the selling process and to develop comprehensive “performance dashboard” was a crucial element in our ability to scale up the company’s inside sales operation.
8. Comment on your observations of the applicant’s ethical behavior.
Jane was working alone, late hours, in the company, when she was new. I knew I could trust her, 6 pm to midnight, alone by herself. For her to work, without any supervision, she clearly showed how much we trusted her ethics and company commitment.
9. What do you think motivates the candidate’s application to the MBA program at Columbia Business School? Do you feel the applicant is realistic in his/her professional ambitions?
As someone with an MBA, I know how vital advanced education is for our industry. She has told me about her goals to combine her study of computer science with a business orientation, and how she hopes the MBA will provide the international exposure and business skills to crank up her ability to be a business leader.
In fact, I was not surprised when she requested this recommendation from me, it just made sense. It has always been obvious to me that Jane was the sort of person who would pursue the overseas MBA route. Particularly because our company works mostly with US and international clientele, Jane's commitment to developing her international orientation feels like the right move. Doing the MBA abroad will be a great tool to give her that extra push to advance into upper management here.
10. Are there any other matters which you feel we should know about the applicant?
Hiring Jane without a lot of experience was a risk I was certain about, and she always rewarded my trust. I am sure that just as Jane’s determination and leadership qualities were one of the contributing factors behind our success, she will be a factor in driving our company forward in the future.
Please briefly describe your relationship to the candidate, and describe the circumstances under which you have known her or him.
I was Jane’s Team Guide and Mentor at Nola, the largest Non Profit management consulting organization in the country. Nola provides free consulting services to other Non Profits in the social sector.
We pick our consultants very carefully; Only the brightest business students are selected, and Jane made an extremely strong impression from the first moment we met her.
Jane’s first project was for Manas, a sheltered employment institute for the mentally handicapped. Jane was selected to lead a team of 4 in a project aimed to improve Manas's employees’ welfare.
During the 10 months of the project, I supervised Jane's work directly. We had a very intense interaction – we talked several times a week, as well as had weekly personal and team meetings. Moreover, we had numerous presentations at Manas, our client.
As Jane's supervisor on this project, I followed Jane’s performance closely.
How does the candidate’s performance compare to other well-qualified individuals in similar roles?
Throughout the project, Jane demonstrated very strong leadership, analytical and creative skills. Without any consulting background, she led the team with confident and learned how to leverage thorough, clear, consistent and actionable analysis that enabled smart decision making for clients. In a relatively short time, she became one of the best consultants across the 30 student consultants at Nola.
At Manas, we let the team select the team leader. We do that because we believe that helps build the team and develop a trustful and collaborative environment. The team selected Jane to be their team leader, which was no surprise to me at all.
As soon as the project was first presented to the team, Jane took the lead naturally. She was the first one to frame the project, she led the discussion of how to break it into smaller blocks, allocated responsibilities and defined the schedule. She did it in a seamless manner, and the team embraced her leadership immediately.
She is one of the strongest motivators I have ever got the chance to work with. She learned the strengths and weaknesses of her team members, and she utilized that knowledge to get the best out of each one. She was decisive and determined, and knew how to promote the most effective working environment. She remains calm in every situation, even the most stressful ones when everyone around her was tense.
One example for Jane’s extraordinary leadership occurred four months into the project, when the team became aware of additional data that wasn’t available before. The team had already invested a lot of efforts to make progress on their current path, but the new data could potentially change the whole analysis. Everyone was confused, and the atmosphere was tense. Jane was leading the discussion. First, she verified everyone is on the same page on the facts. Then, she facilitated a discussion about the potential implications of that data, and how it might impact existing work. When the team realized the whole analysis was at question, the team expressed its frustration. But Jane stayed confident and calmed. She drew on the big board at the room a scenarios table, and manipulated the team towards an effective discussion of possible responses. She asked them focused questions, and managed a productive group brainstorming. When they covered all possible aspects, she allocated each team member part of the analysis and presented to the team how all parts will help complete the puzzle. Suddenly, when they were all able to realize the clear path she was leading, they became engaged. They ended the meeting focused on their next steps. At their next meeting, they were able to reach a clear conclusion of how the new data fits into their current analysis.
Jane's extraordinary ability to analyze problems and outline necessary courses of action was invaluable. The project included enormous amount of both qualitative and quantitative data to process. Jane was always confident about how to break it into logical blocks and define a clear analytical path. She demonstrated unique processing skills and her analysis was always thorough, clear, consistent and actionable. When data was not available or ambiguous, she was the one who knew how to make logical assumptions that enabled the group make progress.
Jane is also extremely creative. She consistently offered fresh perspectives and creative approach on how to proceed. It seemed that whenever the team was stuck and nobody knew which direction to go to, Jane was the one that came up with inNolative ideas and facilitated the discussion about how to implement them.
What (if any) legacy has this candidate left on your organization?
Jane had a last longing contribution both to the Manas and to Nola.
Jane's inNolative ideas were implemented at Manas and helped optimize working environment to employees’ special needs.
Furthermore, Manas adopted Jane’s recommendation to create additional line of product, and revolutionize operations, resulting in a 25% increase in work volumes.
The extra generated profits were distributed directly to sheltered employees, enabling them better integration into regular society.
Moreover, management labor hours were reduced by 20%.
Jane’s model was so impressive that a senior member of the Ministry of National Welfare suggested it would be adopted nationwide by government sponsored sheltered employment institutions.
That initiative contributed greatly to Nola's reputation and led to further corporation between the organization and governmental bodies.
The methods Jane created are still being implemented in projects we carry on these days.
Describe the most constructive feedback you have given the candidate. Please also detail the circumstances that caused you to give the feedback.
Working with Jane for several months, I noticed she sometimes insisted on doing things on her own, rather than utilizing the experience we gained at Nola.
I remember one example, when Jane was working on developing the new marketing plan for Manas. Jane had no real marketing experience before, but Instead of asking my help before writing the first draft, she decided to do it all herself. She could have saved time and efforts if she would have came to me first and utilize my knowledge and experience in the field.
I explained that to Jane. I told her that as a student with no consulting background, I didn’t expect her to have all the answers. I was more than happy to help and contribute from my experience, that's what I was there for.
Jane listened carefully, and agreed with me. She then asked me questions that would help her understand that pattern of behavior. During our discussion, she realized she needs to balance her passion to learn and experience, with her ability to execute effectively. Then, she insisted we brainstorm on how to create the right working environment for her to improve. Later, she initiated a set time during our weekly conversation, in which she asked questions and consulted me on unclear topics regarding the project.
Jane’s methodical approach to improve was remarkable. In several weeks, I could see she found excellent balance that enhanced her execution skills.
I have never seen a person taking constructive feedback that seriously, and working so hard to self improve.
Is there anything else (positive or negative) we should know about the candidate?
The project at Manas was the most complex project we had ever done at Nola. The client was demanding, the schedule was aggressive, human and monetary resources were scarce, and team members were not always available. If it wasn’t for Jane’s strong leadership – determination, charisma, dedication, framing and interpersonal skills, I don’t think we would have been able to deliver the expected results.
Jane has outstanding ability to create trustful relationships and maintain comfortable working environment. That was proven critical during the project.
In one of our first presentations at Manas, the Staff Manager counteracted some ideas we presented. But we knew that without her collaboration we won't be able to implement any change.
When the meeting was over, Jane initiated a personal conversation between us and the manager. Jane listened patiently to the Manager’s claims. Then, she described to the manager the benefits of our ideas not only to the organization, but to her specifically as a Staff Manager. Jane kept professional and confident yet respectful, and she was able to earn the manager’s trust. Later on along the project, the Staff Manager became Jane’s biggest supporter.
In addition, Jane’s calm approach, even in the most stressful situations, helps enforce an effective working environment.
The CEO of Manas was a very demanding client that compromised for nothing, and dictated stressful schedule. That created pressure over the team. I knew Jane’s peaceful conduct would help utilize our communication channels with Manas, reduce conflicts with the CEO to a minimum, and improve team execution. Therefore, I asked Jane to lead the communication with Manas, even though formally I was the one who was supposed to do it. I must admit I couldn’t have done a better job than Jane. She kept a productive dialog with the CEO, as well as reduced pressure over the team to enable comfortable operating environment.
Within her own team, she inspired trust and confidence among the members, and promoted a collaborative working environment. Her team knew she was always willing to help at any given time, no matter how much effort it would require from her side.
For example, I remember one of her team members got sick badly for 8 weeks. Everyone were extremely busy with their own assignments, not to mention they were all full time students. However, Jane immediately volunteered to take responsibility over her sick team member’s assignments. I remember seeing her overworking days and nights to fill the gap, but she did it gladly in order to support her friend.
Very quickly, they all adopted a similar approach. They were like one unit, all for one and one for all, and they worked extremely well together. I think Jane’s had a huge impact creating that environment.
In personal conversations I had with Jane's team, they all said she was their favorite team member to work with.
A short while after we started working on the project I learned that Jane is opening her own business, a pub-restaurant in Tel Aviv. I followed her progress from the very first stages, and it was no surprise to me that despite her young age, 23, she led her business to great success.
Seeing the incredible work Jane has done at Manas, I’m confident she will develop as a leader and eventually become a successful CEO of a large organization.