Throughout our lives, we’re taught to aspire from a dependent state to an independent one. We spend our formative years depending on family, teachers, and other trusted adults for everything from the place we sleep, to the lessons we learn, and the experiences we have. As we get older, we’re taught to be independent—relying on ourselves to pay rent, hit deliverables at work, and select what and how we learn.

It wasn’t until I came to Fuqua, that I understood there was one more stage we should be striving to achieve, one of interdependence. At recruiting events and orientation, I heard “Team Fuqua” over and over, and understood there would be an emphasis on teamwork throughout the program. In term 1, we did Myers-Briggs assessments, created team charters, and had a one-on-one team check-in with Professor Mark Brown to make sure we were working together as one team. Throughout the Weekend Executive MBA (WEMBA) program, we learned the fundamentals of conflict resolution, and how to capitalize on each other’s strengths. We formed, normed, stormed, and performed, like all the other teams at Fuqua.

We recently gathered for the first of two elective terms—our final terms of the program—and at this point, the line between my work and my team’s work has blurred entirely. My focus has shifted from being the best (like all good Type A MBA candidates) to meeting my team’s needs academically, socially, and interpersonally. Having spent over a year commuting to campus for long weekends, our friendships were strong, and priorities shifted from “surviving finance” to excelling in our careers, strengthening relationships in and out of the program, and helping each other succeed. I no longer hesitated to delegate work to a peer or worried I had offended a teammate with my opinion. We transformed into a collective “we,” working together as one interdependent cohort with a foundation built on trust, respect, and empathy. 

For the duration of the elective terms, we are combined with the Global Executive MBA (GEMBA) cohort. After orientation, we all headed to Duke’s practice courts for the Duke Basketball Experience. We learned to pass the ball and trust that our teammates would be there to catch it. We learned to (over)communicate with others courtside on what our strategy would be. And we learned to work together as one Team Fuqua—not WEMBAs, GEMBAs, or individual performers. I was amazed at how second nature interdependence had become for me and for our whole group.

With independence, you want to be heard and individually respected—an influential leader. With interdependence, the focus is on strengthening relationships, collaboration, and collective influence. While the academics at Fuqua are simply superb, it’s the lesson of interdependence that has inspired the most growth in me. “Alone we go fast, together we go far.”