1. Don’t Just Accept Everything, Question it First
Coming from China, I didn’t see myself as a person with “superb critical thinking” written on my personal brand, and I believed this could become a big disadvantage going into the workplace. Luckily, at Fuqua, one of the biggest breakthroughs I made was to raise questions, not only about things that I did not understand, but also about what I was told and “facts” provided, etc. For example, in the marketing intelligence course, I was taught to question the quality of the data before applying any analysis. To evaluate the quality of the data, I learned to look at the sources and acquired methods of seeing if there are any bias and flaws.
Besides, it is also very interesting to question the way I think. In the management class, I was surprised to see how many stereotypes I had in my mind and how largely they affected me. After 6 weeks of in-class exercises and lectures, I learned to resist the temptation of assuming anything before getting the most information possible.
2. Communication is Key
So what happens when assumptions are not made? Communication! Asking questions for clarification and to clear doubts of others, and thinking out loud are all ways of effective communication. When I worked in my second MMS team, I loved how my teammates always talked through the whole project. Cydney Ross loves thinking out loud, and her ideas always turned out to be extremely inspiring. Zach Wische would email professors and fellow classmates when we had doubts about assignments and requirements. And Siddharth Singh would always email group members about meeting times and work progress. I love the way we worked together, and how we all stayed on the same page.
Communication is even more important at work. I now work in an investment banking department for a financial company in China, and my colleagues who are successful and well-liked are all outstanding communicators. They talk about their thoughts and ideas with good manners, and they ask very good questions. I do think that the training we got at Fuqua will be very helpful in my new job.
3. Embrace Diversity
Better communication brought me another gift – I better understand the diversity that Fuqua strives so hard to achieve. I personally think that MMS has done a great job recruiting the crème de la crème from all over the world, while making sure that each and every one of us is unique and special. The Chinese students from my class are very close knit, but we actually came from very different backgrounds and have diverse passions. Haochen Cui was a semi-professional video game player and a top-notch skier; Sherry Tang is crazy for Japanese culture and Chinese literature; Camille Lin’s first foreign language is French and she is looking for a career in new media; Yufei Gao, a CPA, became famous for his accounting knowledge. I think the diversity is what made us an amazing and lively group, and helped us to maximize our one year experience at Duke.
4. Network – Genuinely, Relentlessly, and Strategically
Communication is the key which opens one important door – networking – that leads to professional success. Set up a decent Linkedin account, find alumni in the Fuqua database, talk to the right people at networking events, shake their hands, shoot them emails, send them thank you cards, and call them … I can go on and on now, but I had no idea how to do professional business networking before I came to Fuqua. It doesn’t work the same way in China, for starters, we don’t have things like LinkedIn just yet. But no more excuses for me now. Networking seemed a bit overwhelming at the beginning, but I get it now, and it is probably the most important thing for my future career.
So how does it work? First, be genuine – I found my passion and shared it with my network. Second, expect frustration and be patient – it is not a magic pill that wipes out all problems overnight, but it takes a while before yielding benefits. Third, have a strategy – most people are willing to help, but they can only help when they know what you want. So, being specific about your needs and understanding your limits before you reach out really saves a lot of time and energy.
5. Have FUN!
Fuqua and MMS are filled with fun people. “Work hard, play hard” is so much more than just a slogan, it’s the way we spent our days. We “tortured” each other 8 hours a day in a single team room, but we also cheered for the Blue Devils together on game night. It was not easy, but the fun I had along the way has been so rewarding. And trust me, Fuqua students never let you down, but bring only pleasant surprises.