There’s something about fall that has put me in a position to be nostalgic. Maybe it’s just this fall.
Graduation seems to be looming more closely every day, and with it, the trepidation of going into a financial services industry that is fraught with uncertainty and controversy. Despite all the promise that comes with being a Fuqua alum, sometimes, perhaps, it’s more pleasant to look backward than forward.
So, in the midst of interviews and Term 1 crunch time, I found myself reflecting on why it was I came to Fuqua in the first place. I already had a pretty good job BF (Before Fuqua), but as far as I was concerned, I may have been due for a career that fit me better. Though, at the time, I wasn’t sure exactly what that entailed. I like to believe I have a passion for learning, too, and in the rigorous professional world, sometimes it’s hard to fit that into an already crowded schedule. Additionally, I always regretted that my job, as much as I liked it, wasn’t fundamentally dependent on teamwork. It was part of the job, sure, but, when the going got tough, the tough often had to go to their cubes and plug away. I felt I probably wasn’t alone in that respect. The modern world, in all respects, has begun to focus on specialization: the best man for the job. Each person finds his niche and runs with it. It is precise and efficient, and it is easiest on the bottom line.
As I said, I had to transition from having a good job to having the right job for me.
But defining that has been something of a challenge. Am I any better equipped to make such a decision because I chose to attend Fuqua? Would this choice afford me the type of clarity that I lacked before coming here? It’s unfortunate that at this ripe young age, I have to make such a conclusive choice about my occupation for the next 40 years. It is often said, in a placating manner, that [your age] is the new [the age you act]. I think that in 2011, MBA is the new Undergrad. We’ve benefitted from having a few extra years to make a long-term career choice, but haven’t necessarily developed the wherewithal to do so. So we have to rely on the lessons of two years in business school; in this way, I found Fuqua to be extraordinarily helpful. We have an exceptionally diverse class, and with that, there are classmates from any number of different professions. Indirectly, you get exposure to virtually every discipline from asset management to zoology. It’s become easier to make a career choice, or at the very least, I’m informed about far more options than I would have been had I attended a different school.
As far as learning is concerned, I’ve definitely gotten my fair share of that, too. I decided early on that despite hoping for a career in finance, I had enough of a background in that field that I voted against having a finance concentration. I’ve gotten a chance to take courses with seemingly little relevance to my future or past career, and it’s been more enriching than I had imagined. Maybe I just appreciate education more now than I did when I was 21, but every class I’ve had seems to have at the least stimulated my mind. I think it’s the rigorous discussions, and probably the diligent selection of readings by the professors. Again, it goes back to having individuals with different backgrounds, each enlisted in an effort to build skill sets, if only in pursuit of their own gratification.
But Fuqua has been most satisfactory for me by facilitating teamwork.
It’s the crux of all of our classes. I haven’t taken a single class yet, or been involved in any extra-curricular activity that hasn’t demanded working with classmates. It’s been the most rewarding part of business school to date, and to be sure, given the different backgrounds and working styles of our classmates, also the most challenging. My hope is that it’s also the most enduring.
In thinking about what the real function of an MBA is, I realized that it’s about transitioning: from being someone who functions, to being someone who leads through complex situations. It’s no accident that all of our speakers rivet their audiences not with tales of a golden trade or successful ad campaign, but with stories of tribulation, of pulling through when the odds seemed insurmountable. At some point in my career, if I’m lucky, I’ll be leading a team, probably a team of quite different people, through a puzzling situation. And if I’m lucky to be as nostalgic then as I am now, I’ll have my experience at Fuqua to draw from.