MBA Transformations

Our CH∆NGE correspondents recently had a discussion with Chicago Booth students on the topic of expectations of the MBA program, versus the reality of what they have learned and experience. One of our hypotheses for this blog is that in speaking about the realities of changes or ventures in life, we can all have a better understanding of what to expect and calibrate ourselves accordingly.

If you are thinking of an MBA, or are currently receiving yours, we hope these insights will be beneficial. Here are some of the top themes that our students experienced in their time at Chicago Booth:

  • This is only the beginning: Alan Bebchik, a graduating student who is soon moving his family to Miami, explained that he thought he would go to Booth and then retire — that the hard work would be done once school was out. What he realized, though, was that business school only elevates you to a level where you are now interacting with people who are just as motivated and accomplished as you. The stakes are raised and the end of your MBA is not the end of the journey, but only the beginning.
  • A whole new world: Niamh Kristufek, a classmate who has often had valuable insights to share with our group, commented that the program has “woken up her brain.” Chicago Booth teaches you to ask why. The deep dive and thought that is required to be successful in classes will go beyond the time at Booth. Scott Donague added that the MBA “opens up your eyes.” He came to Booth to be a better manager, but has come away with feeling totally transformed by his experience (you can learn more about Scott transformation in our interview with him).
  • The Big Bang Theory: Joe Polancich was waiting for that  “Ah Ha!” moment  in his MBA that never came. Many of our fellow students came to Booth thinking there would be that moment of spark in classes that would give way to the next Google or Uber. What many of us realize, though, that it is in all of the small conversations and many lessons learned that culminate to those achievements. Joe reflected that maybe this speaks on a higher level to the idea of change, in that  there is often no tipping point, but that the change comes gradually over time.
  • A balcony view: Many in the group, including Mike Cook, commented on the confidence that the MBA has given to him to “sit at the table” at his company. Growing in knowledge and being more aware of your company’s inner-workings is a benefit that I have heard quoted by many fellow students in my time at Booth. Linda Yan, a graduating student who will soon start her tenure as a consultant at McKinsey, found a place in Chicago Booth that has given her the space and courage to challenge the unknown. She now says that she feels more equipped to handle more difficult problems, which will serve her well in the consulting world.
  • Strengths of Diversity: Hazel Mary pointed to the mutual learning opportunity that we have with our peers. She likes watching people who use very different leadership styles to accomplish successful results. She commented, “when you see people who are good at each style, it makes you realize these styles can all work.” Many students shared their surprise in how the diverse student population has increased their knowledge base and broadened their experiences.

There are many lessons to be derived from time as an MBA student. One comment shared by Prof. Harry Davis that stuck with me is that teaching should instead be called learning. While we have all been taught core business fundamentals, what Booth has taught us all is how to continue to learn, both from ourselves and from others.

Congratulations to our graduates of 2015! What did you learn and how will you celebrate?

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