Monday, September 2, 2013

Graduate School: The First 30 Days

Well, I'm officially a month in and I haven't quit yet and I haven't gotten kicked out yet. I'm going to go ahead and call that a win. But I won't lie and say it's been a piece of cake, that going to school 6 hours+ a week on top of working 50-60 hours a week on top of traveling twice for work is NBD. But I did it!

The first couple weeks were orientation - learning the ropes, what is and is not available to us, meeting faculty, and trying to get to know nearly 100 of my newest, closest friends. Then we moved into refresher courses. Back to basics: Excel, statistics, probability, all that jazz. It was helpful, but since I only took the GMAT about 6 months ago, I felt recently refreshed on the topics and so didn't feel a strong desire to brush up on my skills. It was a great option (mandatory or not) to have for folks though, and I'm glad I participated even if I didn't have to.
We also did a Birkman Assessment, which told us about our personalities at work (and presumably school). One of the professors walked us through our individual results and shared how to apply that to group work and team environments, both through the MBA program and in our professional careers. I have done Myers-Briggs Step 2 a couple of times at work and found similarities in both. Ultimately I think the Myers-Briggs assessment was more indicative of my personality traits than the Birkman was, but there were certainly some indications on the Birkman that I won't be ignoring! I think (and I don't know this for sure) the program office also used our Birkman 'scores' to divide the entire class into teams for the semester.
Which leads me to the one of the other interesting components of  my first year in school - teamwork. Like I said, our whole class was divided into teams of 5-6, and we were given a problem to solve (with some help at first, but later on we're pretty much flying by the seat of our suit pants). Based on initial interactions, I think I pretty much won the team lottery, but let's see what I'm saying in a few months. We are focused on a project for a client on campus for the first semester, and had the client present to us in the middle of the month. In the spring and summer, the client and team will change, as will the level of direction and instruction from the professors. These projects will be a challenge for me because it is so parallel to what I "do" on a daily basis. I use the word "do" lightly because really, it's what I tell other people to do, not what I execute myself. I think I have a false sense of my own capabilities and knowledge, which I'm going to be forced to temper when it comes down to the nitty gritty getting my hands dirty. Let's put it this way, I know what Excel can do and I know people who know how to make Excel do those things, so in my head it means I know how to manipulate Excel. Professionally, that's plenty. Academically, that's BS!
So now what?
Actual class started on Wednesday. I'm still figuring out the internal sites, remembering to print all the papers in advance of class, and determining what the best way for me to stay organized is. Do I really have to carry all this crap around with me? Mind-boggling, honestly. But the answer is yes, I do. And therefore I need notebooks, pens, pencils. My computer, a mouse, a thumb drive.
I've got to figure out how to take notes, type on my computer, and not get caught up in doing work. I've already decided that my cell phone needs to stay tucked away safely in my bag, or even left in my car. Otherwise it's too distracting, too easy to get sucked back into work issues while I'm supposed to be soaking in new information.
But I am excited. I have met some great people who are from all over the world, working in every industry imaginable, living in different parts of this city that I love, and each bringing an amazing set of skills to the classroom and to our larger Evening MBA team. I can't wait to see what the next 3 years have in store, as I think they will be some of the best yet. Stay tuned!
Previous Graduate School posts: GMAT, networking, essays, why?
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