After nearly two years of preparation between the GMAT exam and MBA application process, and almost three months of working from home because of the pandemic, the start of my Georgia Tech Scheller MBA has finally arrived.
No matter how much time I spent imagining what the minor details of my MBA experience would be like, I discovered that some things were exactly what I had expected them to be, while others, I had greatly underestimated.
Here are the three main takeaways I would like to share:
1. The virtual environment requires more from me than I anticipated.
We have never been more connected to our computers and phones. Countless virtual meetings and never-ending emails and messages from Teams are what now constitute our day by day. And yet, communication with others has never felt more fragmented. No matter how many features platforms like BlueJeans, Teams, Zoom, Webex have – it will never be the same.
In terms of the academic experience, participation during class and collaboration with others is what has been most affected. Awkward silences, audio feedback, people unintentionally talking at the same time are things we deal with on a daily basis. But the key is to remember – we are all together in this. We are left with no choice but to adapt. For years people have been talking about adaptability as one of the most desirable traits in a professional. Well, the time has come to not just embrace it, but to prove it.
2. The world is even bigger than I expected.
It is funny how we like saying “The world is a small place.” I have discovered these past few weeks that it is actually way bigger than I ever imagined. The virtual environment has in fact enhanced the horizon, because we now have access to all the resources that surround us at our fingertips: our cohort, professors, alumni, the college central services and of course, the quasi-infinite content of our classes.
The challenge of course is how to tap into these resources. Where do we even start? I have discovered that I can have a great deal of impact by starting with my own class participation – connect on time, try to participate, read/listen to others’ questions and comments, and dutifully fulfill group assignments. One step at a time.
3. An MBA is all about career growth.
An MBA should be a time for academic, mental, and emotional preparation for our next step in life. My fellow students and I should seek to focus on our long-term goal – success in our respective job searches. Everything we do in the program should get us closer to achieving this goal. For now, the first step should be to try to learn as much as possible in the hopes of being able to apply our knowledge when the time comes.
There are silver linings along the way that were totally unexpected for me. For instance, the Jones MBA Career Center at Scheller has people 200% committed to the College’s mission and to its students. Even in the virtual environment, their personality, engagement, and even humor shine through our screens.
After reflecting on my experience so far, I cannot help thinking that starting an MBA was NOT like returning to school. It was more like returning to work, in a role that has the potential to pay off in big ways in the years to come.