The last time I wrote here, I was still in school. Now I’m happy to report that, it’s all been done. The great thing about going back to school is that you can make everything feel good in hindsight. However, hindsight also allows for reflections on what can you do to make your MBA program work. Considering how fashionable it is to say how school and especially MBA programs do not work, I thought, it would be interesting to reflect on you *can* make them work.
1) Defining the big picture: I realized this MBA program would have been a complete waste of time if I had not worked before and didn’t know what I wanted to focus on. Course selection to internships and part time work can all be connected to a storyline on the resume, given that you know what you’re working towards. It’s a lesson I learnt the very hard way earlier and I intend to keep thinking about. Goal focus just enables prioritization, reduces time and strongly improves performance. I’ve been that fool working hard without a goal so I also knew the other side.
2) Choosing the program and the groups: My MBA program was multi-cultural and in Germany, located in the central European heartland. Also in Germany, it is normal to have limited or NO fee for Master level programs. Contrary to popular belief, I did not finish with a financial debt (it is possible!). Coming to the groups, a few people in the program existed because they wanted to travel in Europe. I don’t judge anyone else’s preferences but usually they were painful to work with- since most of the times they were thinking about travel rather than the project at hand. I quickly understood the need to be a part of groups which worked towards goals I cared about. Anything wonderful begins with the selection of the right groups of people. I find that to be a useful life skill reinforced. I mean, why spend time with people who suck all your excitement (whatever works for you!) and don’t contribute much? And needless to say MBA programs are full of “group-work”. One may argue that it can happen in real life too, but in real life if you don’t put in work, you usually get fired. In school, well, not so much. Plus what’s the advantage of building a network you don’t ever want to connect with. I much rather be selective and learn.
3) Understanding working styles, culture and motivations: We had 10 or so nationalities in our program. It would be stupid to generalize one person’s behaviour and imagine that now I know how the whole country/ culture functions. The learning for me really was to be able to acknowledge that motivations and team dynamics are so vastly different in multi-cultural settings. I loved the aggressive speed and energy that came with the North Americans. I also liked the ease some of the Europeans brought. My Asian fears were often reinforced, some revoked, but that in itself was a learning too. Companies spend thousands on training employees to be culturally sensitive. In the MBA program, it is a great plus to interact with different cultures in a risk free environment. I meet people at work whose definition of different culture is their next door neighbor and who show absolutely no sensitivity while dealing with others believing their way is the right way, so this really does help build empathy.
I wouldn’t go about explaining more, but I do hope that if any of you plan to work on a program like this in the future, ensure you stay true to yourself and define your priorities. And, best of luck.