Course work, exams and thesis are all complete and apart from some celebrating, the MBA experience is almost over. The obvious question therefore arises – what have I gained?
The MBA has been a learning experience that extends far beyond the class room and one that has developed me hugely as an individual. The close interaction in groups develops your skills as a team player, the wide and unpredictable variety of challenges increases your capability to deal with uncertainty and the guest speakers and forums which augment the course give invaluable insights on how to apply your learning going forward.
As the course has progressed I have learned that very little is accomplished on your own, unless you want to work every hour god sends and have no life outside the view of your laptop screen, which I personally do not. It is hugely important to put trust in others. For sure, sometimes you may be disappointed in what they produce, just as they might be disappointed in your own contribution. Also, be under no illusion that there will not be people with a different attitude, outlook and work ethic to your own. However, that is really irrelevant. What is important is the huge value that can be gained through another person’s perspective. Not only can this highlight something you may have missed, it will challenge your thinking and hard as it may be (speaking from experience) you have to be open to that. If you succeed in doing this, the MBA will become much more valuable.
There is also a need to compromise. Throughout the course you will be working to deadlines and often managing more than one project. Time is a scarce resource and there comes a point when group democracy needs to manifest itself into a decision and progress. This means that you can’t afford to be too precious about your opinions. Sometimes your ideas will be accepted and used, sometime they won’t. What really matters is that the group reaches agreement and moves forward with the task. When the time came in the 2nd semester to select our own groups, I was lucky to be part of a fantastic team that managed to achieve this. As a result, we achieved good marks for the assignments, had fun and managed to be free from group meetings at a reasonable hour. This gave us time to focus on individual work.
I chose to work with another colleague to complete the thesis, and without yet knowing our final mark, I can confidently say it was a great success. We agreed on our objectives and accepted each other’s point of view, but most importantly completed the project with time to spare feeling we had created a strong piece of work. We did not agree on every issue, but for the reasons mentioned above, we compromised and kept moving forward. Before deciding to work together, we first discussed our personal objectives and how the task could be handled. This proved hugely beneficial throughout the short time frame we had to complete the project.
Working with people is an important element of the MBA. It is not always easy, and there will always be difficult colleagues, but it can be very rewarding. Further, unless you happen to secure a position as a caretaker on a desert island, it is something you will have to face and deal with throughout life. The MBA is a great place to practice and hone your skills as a team player and manager of people. Make use of it as the ‘real world’ will not afford you such luxury.
Good luck to all new MBA students!