Saturday, August 21, 2010

Long Days, Short Years...

One of the more insightful comments I heard during MBA orientation week was from a former Illinois MBA student who said "The days will seem long, but your two years in the program will fly by".  It's easy to understand after the nonstop action of MBA orientation week, which was a perfect example of a few long days that have only now allowed me enough free time to sit down and write my second post for the blog.
So what did I learn at orientation week?  I'd say I learned three important things. 
1. The first semester is going to be BUSY! It seemed that the second year MBA students could not stress this point enough. My initial questions were with regard to maintaining my part time serving job and finding enough time for some kind of physical activity in between hours of group work and writing papers. Then I switched into panic mode and realized I might have to make some sacrifices once classes start. My affinity for garbage reality TV and my insatiable appetite for watching sports might have to be scaled back quite a bit. I hope that as long as I can prioritize and utilize my time management skills, my fantasy football team won't have to suffer as well this year!   By the way, if anyone reading this blog has some mind blowing fantasy football draft strategy, please feel free to email me.  If I like what you have to say, I can probably come up with some kind of compensation structure once my team wins the championship.
2.  The second point I took away from orientation week is that there are many decisions that need to be made and in many cases you should have these decisions taken care of yesterday.  We were given numerous pitches about Illinois Business Consulting (IBC) during our first week.  There is no doubt it is a great program that should be utilized by nearly every MBA student.  However, it isn't necessary. Although, I always felt like that last comment was followed by, "You need to go online and apply as soon as you leave today".  I haven't made my decision on IBC yet, which makes me feel like I'm already behind the curve.  I don't know how many of my fellow classmates are in the same position I currently find myself in, but I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who is undecided on a focused concentration, my internship desires for next summer, the MBA student clubs I'm joining, etc.  I was taking orders and leading sailors for the last five years of my life, which didn't leave me alot of time to think about the details of my future professional career in the civilian world.  I was approached at our evening cruise on Lake Michigan by one of the business career services counselors and the first question was where/what I wanted to do for my summer internship.  I honestly had no idea.  I felt like it was better to simply state that than try to BS some kind of answer faking interest in a specific field.  Yes, I was a finance undergrad, and yes that interests me, but I've also had zero professional experience in the financial industry to know whether its the right choice for me or not as my MBA concentration.  I guess my point in all this is that I want to use my first semester in the MBA program to figure this stuff out!  I don't think we all walk in day one with the answers to these questions.  I know its advantageous to start early, but I know I'll be better off if I actaully wait until I know what peaks my interest in the curriculum before I decide what field I want to direct the next few years of my life toward.
3. The last takeaway I have from this past week is the importance in developing a strong network while navigating my way through the MBA program.  On day one I met classmates from nearly every background.  To name just a few, I met a student straight out of undergrad from just down the interstate, a pharmaceutical company lab testing project manager from New York City, as well as a Samsung employee from South Korea.  The diversity of lessons to be learned are invaluable and there is no doubt we will all learn as much if not more from each other as we will from any of our professors or textbooks.  The typical awkwardness that comes from icebreakers and forced interaction was present at this orientation as much as any other, but this time I felt like it was well worth it!  The relationships we started during "speed dating" as one student described it, will develop into friendships for life.  The experience of "trust falls" during the Allterton Park challenge course will create the foundation for many professional opportunities in our careers.
The Illinois MBA is focused on learning about business but more importantly I think the program is about learning about ourselves and each other.  MBA orientation doesn't necessarily stop at the end of this week.  I truly feel like we will use the entire two years here to orientate ourselves to surviving and succeeding in the challenges ahead....together as friends and classmates. 

And as I stated in my first blog entry, my main goal in writing this blog is to entertain.  If you haven't found anything up to this point to be worth reading, then I'm hoping I can at least go out with a bang.  I was driving to my Saturday morning volunteer project at the Champaign Park District Festival of Arts downtown at 6:00 am when I thought I had just witnessed a new business down the street from my condo.  After I stopped laughing, I actually had to turn my car around, go back and make sure I read the sign right.  Once I realized my eyes had not deceived me, I paused to take the picture below.  I have to be honest, I do feel somewhat guilty for stopping, putting forth the effort to snap a pic with my camera phone, and then driving off without correcting the strategically misplaced "F" on the sign.  I did drive by on my way home from downtown a few hours later to notice that it had been corrected.  I'm just glad I had a reason to laugh after waking up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning!

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