January 25, 2013

What do MBAs learn in business school?

When I joined Weatherhead, I knew I wanted to graduate from the program with the ability to apply business concepts learned to drive positive impact throughout my career. While just beginning my second semester, I have been impressed by the program’s inclusion of practical exercises that tie material covered to real business situations in all of our courses. In our Management Perspectives and Dialogues course, we have the opportunity to engage with Senior Leadership at various organizations and discuss strategic issues that they are evaluating. My favorite session was with Progressive Insurance. Among the topics discussed was how improvements in technology, such as the introduction of self-driving cars, will impact the overall landscape of insurance product needs and how Progressive should position itself for the future. It was exciting to directly engage with decision-makers within the organization and share our thoughts on the issue, as well as learn how they approach thinking through such topics. These sessions have proven to be insightful and applicable as my classmates and I move onto careers where we will have to make decisions in the face of ambiguity. 
Inside a Weatherhead classroom

In our accounting course, we worked in teams to evaluate a company’s annual 10K financial report to assess the firm’s financial health relative to peer organizations. Prior to taking this course, I remember being intimidated by 10K reporting. However, through working on this project, I recognized how much I had learned over the course of the semester. It was exciting to understand what to look for and interpret within the financial statements to draw relevant conclusions about the firm’s performance. This skill will definitely be pertinent in my career and I will be much more confident when attending company meetings where 10K financial reporting is being covered. 

In our Finance course, we had the opportunity to work in teams on case study assignments. Working through the details of cases in a collaborative environment allowed us to address the various complexities of the situation. In one instance, I entered a group meeting with one recommended course of action for the case and left the meeting with a completely new perspective that offered a clearer picture of the situation. Working in team settings to reach a consensus on recommended actions and submit deliverables together is a skill that is needed in the workplace. It will be beneficial to apply leadership and collaboration skills gained by working in our LEAD teams of individuals from various backgrounds. The exercises that we have done thus far have been insightful and I am looking forward to my continued development as a Weatherhead student.

Mireille Thomas, MBA, 2014

January 18, 2013

Grad school acceptance letter: momentum changer

Life currently feels like the end of a western film where the hero rides into the sunset. The hero’s future is unknown, but he has triumphed over great adversity. Each day has ended with that feeling. I attribute this to the positive momentum in my life. It turns out that a semester is all it takes to start building momentum for success. It gives me confidence that I will master the hardest material, that my goals in life are too conservative, and that I must keep moving forward. But I did not always have such drive.

I had a plan. Back then, I was finishing high school and about to enter university. The plan was, I would get a degree in statistics, get a good internship, and progress to working full time with that company when I graduated. I had momentum going into university, so I initially did very well and was happy. However, over the next few years, the plan started to fall apart. I wasn’t satisfied with my internships or my degree. Although interesting, my major was not what I was really interested in. The problems I was tasked with solving in my internships were also not what motivates me. It began to sap all the forward motion I had in life, and in turn my step was heavier, and my successes more infrequent. 

How it all changed

The day I got my acceptance letter to enter graduate school was a great day. It was a moment I now define as a turning point; my life felt like it was picking up momentum. My first semester was great. The classes had a great balance between academic and industrial focus. It started becoming difficult to decide which one I was more interested in. My classmates were also driven to succeed, and that is infectious. The professors showed me how to think and challenged me when I spoke with them--not in an intimidating way, but rather to stimulate my own interest. The professors were able to bring me into their world, and I don’t want to leave it. The momentum I have is not just from my own doing, but from the environment I am in.

Looking ahead

The plan I had as an undergraduate is occurring in graduate school. I can honestly say I am looking forward to the next semester. It will be tough, but it is not something to fear--not with this momentum.

January 14, 2013

3 steps to move your career forward: reassess, imagine and retool

The beginning of the year is always a time for reflection and consideration for what will make us better in our personal, spiritual, family and work lives. Perhaps you are considering a job or industry change or want to enhance your current skill set to prepare for career advancement. To steer you in the right direction, I encourage you to reassess, imagine and retool.

I spend a considerable amount of time speaking with prospective and current students as well as professionals about career transition. Their decision to attend graduate school or perhaps make a career or organizational change often stems from the desire to accelerate their career path as a result of what they have learned they like and don’t like, and/or to be in a position to make an impact in both their organization and their communities. In some instances, this may involve taking on the role of a leader. Some share nightmares about previous managers and bosses and their inability to communicate, develop others or make impactful decisions. They want to avoid being perceived the same way, and therefore are eager to learn how to lead. The ability to effectively communicate, motivate and develop others—what I call the “harder skill set”—is often easier said than done, especially when you are charged to lead the organization at a much higher and more visible level. Whatever is motivating you to move forward, maintain the momentum and take the time to reassess, imagine and retool ...