No sooner do we visit, depart and blog about Sao Paulo than international investors get the jitters about Brazil. FT, 9 August: Brazilian assets dumped despite robust economy. I had noticed this blog’s readership getting larger, but a 10% drop in Brazil’s Bovespa stock index on the date of my last post must be a coincidence.
An over-inflated sense of self-importance is one thing that I hadn’t counted on taking away from an MBA. Okay, I jest, but there are a number of more positive things that I did not expect at the outset of the two-year course.
My friend Arif has written a very insightful blog post on his reflections after one year. This, together with a recent conversation with someone considering the Cass MBA, has got me thinking about the perceived value of the last year from the perspective of a self-funding executive, husband and father.
At the very start of this journey (week 2), I alluded to some of the shared rationales for doing an MBA – the challenge, the knowledge (understanding and currency), the network (peers, alumni and industry contacts) and the ‘promise’ of career development.
For me, the MBA was always a substantial sacrifice – the money, the weekends with the family, the social life, the golf club membership and the blissful ignorance… I could go on. As such, my reasons for taking up the challenge were wide (all of the above), as were my expectations. By way of a progress report, I can confirm that expectations have been satisfied so far. However, there have been key positives revealed through the MBA experience that I had not expected…
Ethos of indispensable teamwork
I knew it was going to be hard work and the sheer volume was evident from the outset. What I had not foreseen was my response to it. In the first few months, I was so energetic: the enthusiasm, meeting new people, the evening lectures, the extra reading, the weekend coursework and professional development courses. And then the first semester’s set of exams. It presented me with a false finish line. Exams were immediately followed by new modules. What I suddenly realised was that the initial energy was quickly depleting. Once the next semester was upon us, it was doubly apparent how important teamwork had become. You could not do it all yourself. The readings, the coursework and research needed to be shared. A good team dynamic became very important (as did an understanding family!) And to make this an ongoing concern, the course administrators regularly rotated team memberships. I am glad to say that there was no such rotation at home – I still have the same wife.
Learning from those around you
As Arif quite rightly points out “the people who are in your cohort define your MBA experience”. I had chosen Cass rather than its peers because I felt that it was a good fit. I based this decision on exposure to the admissions process and people. What you then hope is that others have reflected on the same, admissions has done its job, and hey presto, the upshot is a harmonious class. I am glad to say that EMBA September 2010 is such a cohort. People have their differences, but these tend to be embraced as part of learning to work together. Having spent the recent trip to Brazil with the cohort, I was struck by how well everyone gets on. I can honestly say that this dynamic has enriched my learning throughout. Yes good lecturers are important, but not as much as a good cohort.
Voyage of discovery
An MBA is a generalist degree, none so more than the completion of core business modules. These modules are not optional and may be subjects that are not of clear interest or significance to you. However, you need to pass all modules. And because of this purpose, I found myself being surprised by my own response to certain knowledge. I have had a career in marketing and general management. So I was unexpectedly taken aback to find myself so interested in the field of finance. Nonetheless, I am looking forward to the second year when we get the chance to specialise through electives. While there may be less such surprises when we our focusing in on our own interests, I am expecting many more ‘light-bulb moments’. However, the experiences of my first year have certainly shaped my choice of electives.