114 weeks ago today I walked into the large Geneen auditorium at Fuqua to meet my classmates. I had just returned from more than two years of living in Ethiopia, working to help small nonprofits come to the country. Business school was attractive because my job had ceased to challenge me, and I had come to believe that the private sector was more likely to solve the biggest problems of our time than the NGO world.
Some often attempt to value a business degree or program by looking at what jobs graduates take immediately after their time at the school. I have been well-served by Fuqua in this regard. Since graduating in May, I’ve begun working at Boston Consulting Group’s Washington, D.C., office. I’m excited to work with top management on their toughest problems. I’m excited to be at a firm which is one of Fortune magazine’s best employers. This is exactly the job I wanted when I entered school.
It’s understandable why we look at these data to compare schools. The MBA is a professional degree. Everyone wants a good job. Job placements are also observable, and comparable. Looking at first jobs after school is a good place to start, but it’s also insufficient. It does not tell us the long-term prospects of these people. It does not tell you other ways the MBA may have helped them.
A Unique Environment
The courses at Fuqua in finance, accounting, management, and statistics have allowed me to understand the world of business. I believe that the emphasis of teamwork and community at Fuqua will help me thrive in it. As I write this, I’m on a Southwest Airlines flight from Austin, TX, back to D.C. I’m reminded of something Bill Keleher, the former CEO of this airline which has been profitable for 43 consecutive years, said: “The business of business is people.”
You may have seen mention of Fuqua’s concept of “Team Fuqua.” A major component of it is a general feeling of support, affection, and camaraderie among the students which is the result of several policies and practices throughout the school. In the classroom you won’t find computers or phones. They’re not allowed, so you give each other your best attention. Outside of the classroom the overwhelming majority of work is assigned to teams, not individuals. This carries over to student life where Fuqua Fridays—a weekly time for us all to eat, drink, and socialize together—is just one of the many school-facilitated opportunities for our community to bond. And it all starts in Admissions where there is a concerted effort to attract and identify people who will value and thrive in in this type of community.
One of the main outcomes of this Team Fuqua mindset has been that I’ve become a much better team player. I am more considerate of others. I am more selfless. I am more patient. I am more kind. And I believe these qualities will make be a better leader.
Personal and Leadership Growth
When I was looking at business schools these were attributes that I thought I would have to be intentional about preserving within myself over the two years of the MBA. Stereotypically, MBA programs are not known to be nurturing to the soul or to one’s interest in others. There is certainly space for programs which want to build people into excellent individual achievers, but those places would not have been right for me.
There are professions and roles where you can certainly make a lot of money without needing to be a great team player. However, if you’re interested in working to solve some of the biggest and most interesting problems in the world, you will need to be able to lead others and to relate to others whose approaches are foreign to you.
I’m so happy to have had the laboratory to grow not only intellectually, but in my ability to collaborate and lead over the last two years. As you approach your decision about an MBA and Fuqua, I encourage you to make sure you have a broad appreciation of the types of skills you need to live the life you want. Team Fuqua has helped me grow into not just a more capable business technician, but into a better leader, and a better person.