When I was applying for business school, almost every program promised a transformative experience—one where you are taught to think differently and see the world differently—so excuse my original cynicism in not believing a word of the webpage promises. But today I stand corrected. While I cannot speak for the programs I did not choose, Olin and WashU have lived up to their digitally printed promises. Today, at the brink of ending the first year of my MBA, I stand transformed—quite a different person from the one who walked into the United States 10 months ago.
And what, you might ask, has changed in me? Here are—you have guessed it—three of the biggest transformations from my Olin experience.
Problem-solving through experience
A major portion of the price tag MBAs command is due to our reputation as problem solvers. Olin did not teach me to solve problems—my classes, my peers, my projects taught me to turn problems into opportunities.
Critical analysis, yet another MBA buzzword, really is a major asset to have. It is a mindset, a can-do attitude which helps you view an issue from different points of view. It takes you to the core of all problems—conflicting human interests. From there, you learn to use your hard skills to wow your stakeholders and your soft skills to guide them to see the common good.
While Olin introduced me to many tools to undergo the above process, it was perhaps seeing my peers put them to action that truly ingrained this new way of thinking in me.
My peers taught me about managing people
When you put many highly-motivated individuals in a room, it makes for an interesting social experiment. I feel I have always been surrounded by high achievers and strove to match up. Somehow, during these past months I learned to calm down and take some time to observe. And that made all the difference.
I saw how my peers handled conflict, how they disagreed without disregarding an idea, how they motivated others, how they took up leadership, how they succeeded, and how they failed. I will not claim to have absorbed it all—to have incorporated in my leadership style all the good I saw and defended against all the bad, but I am surely more aware of my actions now as well as of reciprocation from those I am acting upon.
Say ‘yes’ to new opportunities
The Olin MBA is an adventure and luckily, I am an adventurer. There are so many interests you can pursue and so many ways you can leave an impact here. To make the most of this experience, I feel it is important to say, “yes” to new opportunities—to be ok to fail and take the learning on to the next adventure. When someone says it cannot be done, I have learned to say, ‘Let’s fail then,’ because it is better to have tried and failed, then not to have tried at all.
There will not be an A-Ha moment of transformation—at least there wasn’t one for me. It happens gradually, through debates in class and discussions outside of it, through group projects and case competitions, club works and event organizations, and through the fun and frolic of an everyday MBA life. It happens through an Olin MBA.