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Real Humans of MBA Admissions: David Simpson of London Business School

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This week’s Real Humans of MBA Admissions takes us across the pond to London. In some of the answers that follow, David Simpson’s British roots shine through—which makes sense for the admissions director of the MBA and Masters in Finance programs at London Business School (LBS).

Simpson has been at LBS for almost a decade, and he’s always made time to keep Clear Admit in the loop on goings on at the school. In case you missed it, here’s a recent piece detailing the school’s decision to reduce its number of required application essays and the importance of the alumni interview in the admissions process. But he’s certainly not all business all the time—read on to learn more about his love of seeing live music, watching rugby and binging on House of Cards, among other things.

Real Humans of MBA Admissions: David Simpson of London Business School

Coffee or tea? Such a British cliché—tea. I like strong regular tea—we call it “builders’ tea.” I guess it’s English breakfast, but in the U.K. we just call it tea. (I gave up coffee a few years ago….even though coffee in London is now as good as anywhere if you avoid the chain brands.)

Beach or mountains? I love the British countryside. but from these two choices I’ll go for beach. My favorites are Porthcurno in Cornwall, the North Norfolk Coast, or, for a choice further afield, Byron Bay in Australia.

Morning person or night owl? Night owl—definitely. I am NOT good in the mornings. Probably made worse since giving up coffee!

Pet peeve? Bad manners—littering and rudeness—and arrogance

Guilty pleasure? Watching back-to-back episodes of House of Cards, with a bottle of good wine and some food that isn’t any good for me. Preferably crisps….sorry, chips, for you Americans and Aussies.

Favorite virtue in others? Loyalty, honesty and good manners

Worst habit? I’m sure I have tons! I bite my finger nails when watching rugby games—even if it’s not my team playing.

Happy place? Right now, my new house. I love it. Otherwise a walk on the beach—in summer or deep in winter, I love both. Unfortunately, I couldn’t live further from the beach where I live in the U.K.!

Comfort food? A good home-cooked risotto, maybe followed by cheesecake. Or, if you want me to be very British, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding is another favorite.

Go-to cocktail? I’m much more of a wine person. My favorites are anything French and out of my regular price range!

Proudest moment? On the professional front, orientation every year is pretty amazing. Seeing them all together is the end product of all their and our hard work. Especially when I remember the tough journeys that some of them have had. I am so proud of how we create all these amazing opportunities for them.

On the personal front, probably anything related to my daughter. I was very proud of her at her school sports day the other week. She was rewarded by me not embarrassing her by taking part in the dad’s race.

Biggest regret? Wow, this is a tough one to be asking in a public forum! Maybe because I travelled so much for work early in my career at LBS, I didn’t ever feel driven to live abroad. It’s not like it’s too late, but it’d be harder now. I’m just so lucky that I work in such a global environment in such an amazing city. I just walked around campus for 20 minutes at lunchtime and met new students from over 30 countries…without even trying.

One thing you would change about how you were raised? Tough one—I’m pretty happy with most of it. And it would be rude to say anything else! I guess I might say that I wish I had been helped more to “find my sport.” I never really did. I am not at all sporty, but at 6’5” I must have some untapped advantages in certain sports!

Superpower you wish you had? Flight. Just so I can see what’s going on from above.

Favorite fictional hero/heroine? In most books I like, there isn’t a hero as such. The main protagonist usually has as many flaws as strengths. In one of my favorite films, Rear Window, LB Jefferies is pretty cool…and he does it all without moving very far!

What schools, if any, rejected you? There were a couple of undergraduate universities I didn’t get into. The experience helps me to remember what it feels like for all the many applicants who don’t make it in to our MBA and Masters in Finance (MiF) programs each year. That’s why we take our admissions decision making very seriously indeed.

Which part of the LBS application process would you most like to skip if you were applying today? GMAT would be a challenge because I wouldn’t want to do badly, so I’d need to spend ages preparing. Time I don’t have easily available….which is just what it’s like for all our applicants! I think that if I were applying for the MBA or MiF I would have no problem motivating myself for the test….but that doesn’t necessarily mean I would get the 750 I would hope for!

What’s the best thing you read/watched/listened to recently? I absolutely love music. All music. And especially live music. I have seen a lot of amazing live music. One of the first bands I saw play live was Nirvana in 1990 when I was 16. I was deaf for weeks.

I saw a musician I really admire called Ed Harcourt play recently in a dingy, tiny central London club. It was hot and overcrowded, the queue for the bar was too long and the air con was dripping on me, but the gig was amazing.

In terms of books, I love American 20th-century short stories. I re-read a load of F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Updike recently.