His name was Bill.

“Just follow the line and keep ‘er steady,” he suggested in an expert southern drawl as he handed over the bright yellow Dewalt portable table saw.

Right. It’s that simple.

Paint chips were left on the handle from previous brave users, with far more skill than my shaky hands provide. But with Bill’s watchful eye over my shoulder, there I went, maneuvering that power tool across the slab of plywood. Boom, I did it!

‘Consequential power tools.’ That is the phrase printed on the shirts we wore the day Fuqua armed 450 first-year MBAs with screws, nails, hammers, sunscreen, and yes, power tools, to help Durham’s Habitat for Humanity build houses and change lives—all while building a better sense of team within our group.

Let’s see, day one of orientation I couldn’t find my car in the parking lot, and now just a few days later I’m slightly above novice in the power tool game. I’d say things are looking up!

That same week on Team Challenge Day, I walked a high rope 30 feet in the air with the help of one of my Consequential Leadership (C-Lead) teammates, using only each other for balance to walk across the last leg. Five different continents were represented in my group of 12 that day, and yet the means of communication while suspended that high in the air, came so naturally.

Even more exciting, my section (Section 1, uno’s!) set a new record on ‘The Wall’ challenge, a Fuqua Daytime MBA rite of passage that requires each section to get all of its 75-plus members over a 25-foot wall using nothing but each other. The Wall is an incredible experience of trust, teamwork, and pure adrenaline. We formed ‘human steps’ and a mosh pit of people to create a system of hoisting and pulling team members over the wall.

I thought it was impossible, but I’m quickly learning that this Team Fuqua way of working together and supporting one another implies much to the contrary.

Takeaways

our group of volunteers for Habitat for Humanity - What I Learned at Fuqua

Our team in front of the Habitat house we worked on

It’s hard to believe it’s only been a month since I traded in my New York City metrocard for a set of car keys and a Fuqua student ID. And it has been such a whirlwind! I’ve been reflecting on what I learned at Fuqua so far during my short time here, due solely to the help of my 450 new classmates.

  • I’ve learned that a team as a collective whole can conquer much more than an individual can by themselves—a day playing with ropes and walls quickly taught me that.
  • I’ve learned that 450 classmate names is a lot to remember. But when you meet the individuals, the incredible backgrounds and stories quickly make you feel like you’ve known them for much longer.
  • I’ve learned that everyone loves to talk about food, and I am not so secretly awaiting the potlucks to commence.
  • I’ve learned that time stands still in team rooms, and candy makes the sometimes longer-than-expected meetings that much better.
  • I’ve learned that it’s a good day when you can get a parking spot at the front of the green lot, and that cold calling is not just for law students.
  • I’ve learned that despite lack of sleep at times, the amount of energy this community perpetuates is caffeine enough to conquer the day. Okay—supplemental afternoon coffees from Ron at the Fox Center are crucial too.

I may not yet know how to maneuver around the entire Fuqua building, and there are still hundreds of people I have yet to meet. I have, however, learned and witnessed firsthand that Fuqua will arm us with the tools, energy, and support network to tackle our goals, and I can only dream of what this community will help us all to achieve over the next 20 months.

our group of volunteers on the roof working for Habitat for Humanity - What I Learned at Fuqua

Working on the roof