Fall Down 10 Times, Get Up 11
Like many of us, I had been waiting for this day for eternity. I couldn’t avoid having many feelings at the same time. I felt happy because finally my dream of attending an MBA Program was a reality.
I was very proud of myself because being here is the result of a lot of hard work and perseverance. I felt nervous because this phase of my career is supposed to be a game changer! I felt sad because I am having one of the most important experiences in my life so far away from my wife and my 8 month old son.
I have always imagined the classroom, the classmates, and lectures and in general all things related to attending an MBA Program. But what greeted me on the first day of my MBA program was plain CHAOS!
The international student orientation was expected to be a low key introductory affair. I was expecting no more than some keynote speeches and some handshakes. But the first thing I had to do was to present my Elevator Pitch in front of amazingly talented people, trying to make sense of my career and accomplishments. That was one heck of a challenge (which I am convinced I did not tackle well!).
The most horrifying part of it was how I was talking about my “Outstanding” communication skills in a manner that would have made my English teacher depressed! I just did not understand why there was a knot in my throat that was not allowing me to communicate freely. I thought sadly, “I am not really as good as I thought I was.”
The next session was from Rikin Vasani, the dynamic big buck consultant turned actor who worked for the likes of McKinsey, Bain and BCG, and now a freelance career counselor. It was his session that made me realize that maybe I am not made for an International MBA program. He made us realize that it’s not how much you have accomplished that matters, but how much you can articulate the same. All that matters is how effectively you can sell yourself. My paltry attempt at selling myself in front of my smart class fell on its face and even I would not have hired myself!
The next session was the “Two Hour Job Search” with Steve Dalton, a pioneer in the job searching field. He made us realize that how little we know about our future job prospects in the US. He drove home the point that we are not here to get a job but to build a career and that needs a lot of introspection and focus, both of which I lacked at that point.
By the time the orientation on the first day ended, I have decided that if the college refunds my tuition, I will happily head back to India. I literally cried myself to sleep. It was just insanity and chaos that were the order of the day. And I still had 6 full days of trolling in front of me.
That is when I understood what surviving in the B school really is about. This environment tests the mettle of every single person and one who is resilient will come out on top and others will succumb to the pressure. The constant challenges and our ability to tackle them is what defines our path at an MBA program. The moment you start to doubt your abilities, you are not only losing your fight but you are killing the chance to become a better version of yourself.
This is where your second year MBA student group comes in handy. It is the hours of discussions with our seniors that reassured me that I can handle such situations. This is one aspect of the MBA program that is generally underrated. The true nature of its importance can only be experienced; it cannot be explained. The way our seniors walked us through the pitfalls and misconceptions helped us a lot in prioritizing our goals and channelizing our energies towards those goals.
Another critical aspect that helped me come to terms with the challenges is the amazing bond that we as a class share. Our Class is such a beautiful blend of diverse cultures and experiences that every day you feel you are going up the learning curve. The learning that happens outside the class is amazing and is such a fresh change that everyone would appreciate. It feels good to know that there is no competition but only collaboration and every single day of your time at GSM will make you a better person. This to me is the most practical form of learning I can ever imagine. I can not help but think how an MBA should be a four year program rather than a two year one. (Of course without the increased tuition! )