‘SO MUCH TIME & INVESTMENT FOR SOMETHING YOU’RE NOT GUARANTEED TO GET’
Having three siblings with elite MBAs helped Lawrence Osai in numerous ways. One very concrete one was when he found that he knew his interviewers through his brother and sisters. The reality of networking and making life-long connections made a strong impression on Osai, convincing him that he had made the right choice to go to B-school. “There was that element of seeing, in a very real way, those connections start to materialize,” he says. “That part was really interesting.”
But his siblings helped him in a more direct way, encouraging him when the application process became a grind, as it does for most.
“When you’re prepping for these things, there tends to be a lot of self-doubt,” Osai says. “My siblings were the ones that were like, ‘That story that you told me the other day, we need that here.’ I’m like, ‘How does that fit in?’ They’re like, ‘That fits in. You’re just thinking about it as a story that’s part of your day-to-day, but it has implications.’ That’s where they were really pivotal. I guess they know me best, so they’re like, ‘Lawrence, you do these things that we didn’t have. You need to bring that front and center.’
“Having those levers, it was great. I was joking with my sister: ‘There are times in the process where you just start thinking, “Is this all worth it?” There’s so much time and investment for something you’re not guaranteed to get.’ The main thing that would always keep me going would be that I would check in with them, and they always knew where I was at. They’re like, ‘Oh yes, you’re at the stage where you probably start thinking, is this worth it?’ I’m like, ‘How do you know?’
“The next time I’d be like, ‘I’m actually trying to get into touch with …’ They’re like, ‘Oh yes, you’re struggling reaching out to admissions, right?’ They always either had a template or what they did wrong that would help me.”
‘PEOPLE WILL HELP’
Osai, who began the MBA application process as an international resident but finished it as a permanent U.S. resident, offers some advice for MBA applicants: Don’t wait for an epiphany.
“My application process was unique in the sense that I was an international student when I started navigating business school and the application process, which in its own way comes with its own risks, because there’s the immigration risk of what kind of jobs are available to you after,” he says. “Is that investment in yourself worth the opportunities that you have? That’s kind of how I started. Midway through the process, my status change to a permanent resident status, so obviously the risk landscape became a little bit clearer. I think the biggest piece of advice that I gave myself going in is, it’s not always going to be clear.
“I think sometimes people wait for this very vivid moment where it’s like, “Oh wow, this is the perfect time to go to business school or the perfect time to explore something else.’ The main thing that I think drove me through the whole thing was, there’s certain times where it’s not going to be exactly clear, but you have to do some internal reflection and see. You weigh out these things I talked about: What could I get out of it? What are the cons from this experience? Kind of a best-case, worst-case analysis.”
He offers three points of advice:
“It’s not always going to be clear, so just go with your gut,” he says. “The second thing would be knowing exactly what that risk profile looks like for you, because it’s very different for everyone. I don’t think it’s for everybody, but make sure to do that analysis and come to that conclusion definitively.
“Then the third thing would just be being as transparent as possible so that you can get resources that can help you. People will help. You’d be surprised. Especially in B-school where they know what’s at stake, they will help.”
With a background in engineering and consultancy and interests in product management and entrepreneurship, the possibilities for Lawrence Osai post-MBA are nearly endless.
“I think the ultimate goal out of this is product management within tech,” he says, “and staying close to a lot of what I did before, which was in that cyber data privacy space, but on a more product level — closer to the ideation stage. We’ll see.
“I’m keeping an open mind, but I know the consulting part of it, plus the engineering background, definitely gave me a framework that I feel can take to the next level from B-school.”