Most people will tell you that the real value of business school is not derived from the classroom: it’s all about the people. I heard this over and over again through the application process.
When I was accepted into Stanford’s MBA program, I was grateful. I knew that my classmates would be phenomenal. I was eager to meet these 400 rockstars, and learn from them.
I had no idea what was in store for me.
They say business school is ‘transformational’. I was skeptical of this at first: but I have to admit, I am a different person at the end of an incredible two years. I’m more practical, and less idealistic. I’m more productive and adventurous. I’m more willing to try new things and fail.
Perhaps most importantly, I have a much deeper understanding of my self and my strengths and weaknesses. And I can see that my class- on average- as a whole is more well-rounded, able to read people and build relationships better.
I’m not sure if we’re better ‘leaders’ or ready to ‘change the world’, but we are definitely more equipped to manage ourselves and our own lives.
What happened to us?
The exposure to a mind-boggling variety of companies at different stages, industries and business models, through case studies, guest speakers, events, conferences, internships, my own classmates and independent studies definitely played a role. I have a sharpened appreciation for the importance of networks, communication skills and branding. But I also have to attribute this to the community we built.
The real magic of business school comes from being in an environment where an incredibly diverse group dedicates all of their time and energy- personally, professionally and socially- to building a community that will last a lifetime.
We were forced to start from scratch, and build a new set of relationships, just as we’d grown comfortable in our old lives: with our careers, our partners, our friends, our cities. We moved from all over the world, and lived in dorm rooms with people we’d never met before, and adjusted to being students again.
We were given a blank sheet of paper in our mid to late twenties- a rare gift- and told that we could rethink the choices we’d made. Moreover, we were given the resources to do it- through world-class coaching, facilitated peer groups and classes. This forced some deep self-inspection and reflection: when you’re allowed to second guess yourself, you do. In my case, after spending five years doing impact investing in London, I will be working for a media startup in Mumbai after the MBA.
We also had to adjust to an exceedingly social environment. Every person seemed like they were living their best life, all the time, at the start. I was strongly reminded of the power of herd behaviour, exclusivity and status. And then of course, there was all the travel, dinners, parties. Pure, unadulterated fun, at a scale that I perhaps won’t ever get to repeat again, as often.
But over time I also deeply and truly got to know people from all over the world: what drives them, what’s shaped them. And we learned to both fit in and stand out: to choose who we wanted to be friends with, what groups we wanted to be associated with, what mattered to us, and how we wanted to be known and remembered.
And I think that this is the secret: the MBA gives you the chance to develop a deeper understanding of yourself, and the people around you. You’re given the opportunity to see and test multiple ways of living. You ask for and give help.
And when you figure out what’s right for you, you’re more able to manage yourself. You can’t manage other people if you can’t handle yourself.
I know this is only the beginning of a long journey- both in terms of developing self-awareness and control- and getting to know my classmates. I’m so grateful to have spent two years dedicating myself to it.
Congratulations to the Class of 2018.
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