The Ride of Two Years—Learning How to Learn
The glowing green button on the otherwise gray background of the University canvas reads "Successfully submitted!".
The last paper of the last class is shipped—graduation is expected in November, but the MBA is over.
Last night, while putting the kids to bed I had the feeling that I should be hurrying up as I had to put my mind to that group presentation…but then wait a minute—I actually already handed that in! Right, MBA is over.
After dinner a few days ago, I glanced at the reminders on the phone and saw “21:00—weekly check-in with Morgan for corporate advisory group project” and thought with horror that I had not yet opened the call. But then, again, the realisation: MBA is over. Hope Morgan has something better to do than talking to me!
Being over with the Executive MBA is a mixed bag of feelings: there is incredulity, satisfaction, nostalgia, gratitude and impatience.
Over. It is a mixed feeling coming to the end of a two-year long journey across executive learning, collaborative thinking, corporate experiments and deep personal relationships.
- There’s incredulity about having managed to going through it—and enjoying it!—amid professional development, welcoming twins into the family and a global pandemic.
- There’s satisfaction in having completed an enriching and demanding voyage. The reminiscence of long nights and weekends spent in class (before COVID-19) and working on assignments now seems distant, but I don’t need to deep dive too much in my memory to still see myself at the table holding a baby whilst studying.
- There’s nostalgia—as one of our professors put it, when the MBA is over, “you’ll miss it like hell”. And that turned out to be true. What I’m missing is the constant engagement, the possibility to use my brain in new ways, the exciting conversations in class and offline, the banter over WhatsApp and the big laughs in class.
- There’s gratitude for the opportunity to learn so much in so little time, putting myself to test and figuring with much more clarity where I can really add value. There’s gratitude towards my wife, who has been supporting me the whole time. Pursuing the MBA has definitely been a family decision, and although my wife and I agreed on the opportunity for me to enrol, we did not know how demanding that would turn out to be. My kids were not explicitly consulted on the matter and although I have always strived to spent as much as possible of their waking time with them I am grateful to them for allowing daddy to “go to school” that much. And there’s gratitude towards my parents who made it possible.
- Finally, there’s impatience to put into practice everything—or most of it—that I have learnt.
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So why pursuing and MBA—again?
The idea of going back to school for an executive education first came to me in 2016 when reflecting on the need to know more about how business and corporations work.
At the time I was working at a trade association in public affairs and felt I could have added much more value had I been aware of what are the dynamics that guide business decision-making.
Eventually, I changed job that same year and the idea of pursuing an MBA was parked for a bit. But it kept coming up whenever I reflected on how could public affairs as corporate function be more effective.
So I finally took the decision and enrolled—and was fortunate enough to being admitted.
Learning how to learn
I actually got much more than an understanding of how business works. There is that, of course. Specifically, I now have a good understanding of how strategy, marketing, finance, accounting and operations work. I am aware of what my leadership traits are and how to get better at that. I know how individuals tend to conduct themselves in professional settings and how organisations behave. I know how to effectively and efficiently manage projects. And I know what to look at when pursuing an entrepreneurial venture.
So I think I know a lot more now than I knew a couple of years back. But as I said, I got much more from the MBA than that. I’m now more confident of how valuable I can be for an organisation, because I had the chance to push myself to (close to) the limit, and figured what I’m capable of.
I said I feel I know a lot, but there’s definitely a lot more I don’t know! So another added value of the MBA is that I have learnt how to learn. I have understood a method to appreciate the most salient aspects of a topic or situation, and put in practice that understanding in the most effective way.
Possibly the most valuable aspect of the MBA has been learning how to learn.
I was also fortunate enough to apply some of that knowledge to my actual job, and can’t wait to further use everything I learnt to future business ventures (see impatience above…).
But, and that’s possibly one of the most valuable aspect of the MBA journey, I also had the privilege to spend time with passionate, committed and gracious friends who like me were seeking to understand more of themselves and the environment they work in. Sharing wisdom, discussing in class, learn from them, as well as chatting about life has been a truly nurturing experience I will cherish for my entire life.
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What does it take?
I consider myself of modest intelligence so I would not say you’ve got to have very high IQ to pursue an MBA, although that definitely does help ?.
I think what has guided me along the journey has been a genuine desire to understand myself and get better at everything I do professionally (and beyond work as well).
And the more I learnt, the more I realised what I was learning was actually changing the way I looked at things and took actions at work.
So what does it take to do an MBA? Could sound naïve and overrated, but I’d say commitment, passion for learning, and a supportive family, network of friends and team of colleagues ?
One more good thing about our class was the diversity of inclinations and aspirations across my classmates. I think the MBA has sparked (or multiplied) questions around what we want to accomplish in life, and what’s the best way to go about it.
The MBA has certainly made the question around what I want to accomplish in life more urgent.
There’s a world of opportunities to explore lying ahead. The Executive MBA has equipped me with new tools, much more confidence in myself and a perfected understanding of what I do well and where I need to improve.
And I can’t wait to see what’s next!