10 Things I wish I Knew Before Starting MBA

Study

We signed up for MBA for many reasons and no matter what our goals are, we obviously want to spend great two years (or three) during MBA (it is a lot of investment after all!).

After one year of MBA, I’ve experienced success, but also numerous failures. Certainly, I said to myself many times that I would be more diligent and successful than undergrad days, but things didn’t work out smoothly all the time whether it’s because of me or many external factors.

While I do not regret…(ok I do regret a bit here and there)…mostly how I made choices in my 1st year MBA, below are top 10 things which I wish I knew before starting my 1st year that would have made my life perhaps easier or me a better person. The list is intended for prospective MBAs of any schools (especially if you’re coming from gmatclub.com), but some could be Rotman MBA-specific, which I indicated separately.

It’s totally a personal opinion of course and some might disagree, but oh well.

I WISH…

1. I spent more time travelling and meeting friends and families.

A lot of homework. group work. case competitions. drinking. networking. resume building. Sometimes I’m not even sure how my 1st year passed by. Preparing for MBA studies is important, but do make sure you spend some quality time with your buddies and families.

Suggestion: Visit a different country. Get drunk (you will be anyway, but like more relaxed I guess). Go to a cottage with a family. You will have less time to do these especially if you will be moving to a new place for MBA.


2. I practiced how to use an Excel, especially pivot tables, and creating charts.

I never knew how important to be able to play around with data efficiently. Regardless of your educational or professional background, knowing basic excel will help you a lot with homework and most especially for hunting internships.

Suggestion: Take a basic excel course online, or borrow excel books from libraries. Learn how to create basic pivot tables and be familiarized with manipulating data. There are prep courses on excel too by school too.


3. I knew that I’m not the best (duh)

I was #1 in my highschool calculus class, but as soon as I started undergrad engineering, I was in bottom 10 of the class (uh…would be a lie if I did study a lot). The point is, wherever new places you go, there are people better than you, or I should say people who are more knowledgeable and wiser in certain areas. World is wide and there are always people who come from different experiences which you can’t comprehend or understand. Confidence and arrogance are two different things.

Suggestion: Share what you’re best at, and learn what you’re missing.  Most importantly, don’t try to become that person. Be who you are and let geniuses pass. You are not that genius and you can be a genius of your own.


4. I did not undermine my classmates’ opinions because my major/professional experience is more related to a certain task.

Related to #3. Besides various technical and soft skills, what I am learning the most, is humility. Just because I come from a certain industry does not 100% mean my ideas are accurate in that area and in fact, I was surprised to see that often my classmates and buddies are a lot more thoughtful, and knowledgeable in my areas and brought great insights during group work and competitions. As Chinese president Xi Jinping said, you have to really become a blank, whitepaper to be able to see things from a new perspective and appreciate others’ opinions.

Suggestion: Don’t kill your classmates/teams’ ideas just because you think it might seem outdated or ‘out of context to the situation’. Try to see if there are ways to incorporate them into the situation and if not, sincerely appreciate and see a workaround, not just pretending to listen while your eyes are onto something else.


5. I had found my own ways to relieve stress sooner.

First term MBA (Fall 2014) was extremely tough for me that I completely neglected exercising and mostly lived off poutines (Canadian) and hot dogs every night. As a result, I quickly gained back at least 8-10kg by December. Eventually, I started hitting a gym again in January, but I wish I realized sooner and continued to do so since starting MBA and then I would’ve been in a top shape right now.


6. I joined a lot of clubs (Rotman MBA-specific possibly).

Of course, club signup fees aren’t cheap and your time should be spent on things that you’re only interested in. However, you don’t get that club’s specific info sessions/workshops/interviews if you are not in the clubs. In fact, I sometimes heard about a certain event or workshops from my classmates, but I wasn’t a part of that club, so I signed up for it and it was worth it for sure.

Suggestion: If you have a doubt during clubs fair going ‘hmmm should I sign up for this…?’, just do it anyway. More information is better in my personal opinion.


7. I started looking for off-campus internship opportunities starting September.

While MBA does have career centres to help support with your internship opportunities, most likely you will be one of hundreds of students fighting for that one position and in the end, you might even be out of hands to play and applying to positions that you might not be interested in. That is of course not to say I don’t like my current internship as I am where I want to be fortunately, but I could’ve been way more efficient with my time allocation and don’t go to every single job session which some of them I just felt peer pressured because others are going.

Suggestion: Start researching for off-campus opportunities right away. Try to go to event sessions and see when that company’s internship season starts and if they do hire interns. School is there to help, but won’t spoonfeed you

8. I took basic statistics course from MOOC or pre-program.

I assure you, statistics will play a role in various aspects of your MBA.

Suggestion: Take basic stats course from the internet or pre-program.


9. I took some global programs/language learnings in consideration.

MBA is a great place to consider global opportunities and you will soon find out that Canada or North America is not the only region you can work in. There are also so many international students that you can also start doing language exchanges even. Of course when things become easy, who cares about language exchanges and stuff, I know. However, use all the possible chances to learn something new when they are there for you.

Suggestion: Consider how your MBA can also give you a different aspect/opportunity with your life in terms of your location.


10. I attended more events in Toronto, both Rotman and outside Rotman.

Honestly, there is so much to do to visit everything all the time and you just want to go to bed. However, looking back my 1st year, which one would’ve given me a more long term memorable experience, going to a cultural event/festivals in Toronto downtown, or studying until 3-4am to solve that one more question which might be on the exam, or not.

Of course I’m not discouraging perfection and effort of studying. It’s just that after 9 years of undergrad electrical engineering + 6 years of work, I’m hitting 30 in less than 2 years and I start to think more often how I will best have fun and make that time meaningful. If what you are doing right now might be the last thing in your life (owkay now I’m getting too serious, bear with me for a sentence or two lol),  you might want to think if that is indeed a valuable way to spend your time: with books or with friends/families. There is no right answer. I’ll leave this to you.

Suggestion: yep open ended answer 🙂

I’m happy to answer any questions.

-Josh

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