So the last day of MBA took place a few weeks ago, concluded by a course ‘Catastrophic Failures in Organizations.’ To be honest, the last day felt like any other ordinary day. I went into the classroom, sat down in my usual spot, checked facebook a bit until the class starts, then the lecture. ‘I never was a woohoo we did it kind of energetic person since I was a kid to be honest’ but it does feel weird how much stuff I’ve gone through past two years.
I grew up enjoying drawing cartoons, moved to Canada in grade 7, liked music and arts, did well in math and graphic arts, not so much in science, went university, struggled my way through undergrad electrical engineering and after 5 years, I just finished my MBA. Time passed and the moments I experienced one by one, even though I did go through them, feels like fiction that never happened or someone else’s as I only feel present.
I screwed up and didn’t really spend my time at university to the fullest, so prior to joining Rotman, here were a few things I decided I would do once I’m in school. All these are basically quite opposite of what I used to do in undergrad
1. Sit in front of class.
I used to sit at the end and back of the class with my hoodies on (sometimes you see these creepy dudes in class that’s doing their own thing in darkness in the corner of the room…that’s me), and didn’t get to pay much attention in undergrad class. So what I did is I sat in front of the class all the time mostly. It didn’t matter if I had friends to sit with, felt awkward, it was just something I promised myself to do. Of course, at first I felt intimidated by how close I was to the prof, but eventually I enjoyed it. I could see lectures upfront, my concentration was to the max, I could hear well, I could see well (bad eyesight). This experiential trial helped me to not be bound by proximity and distantiation, and be able to more freely understand and engage spacing anywhere I go basically (sounds weird).
2. Raise hands and ask questions when I feel like it.
As soon as you got to this second point, you might be thinking, “owkay this guy spent 100k to learn how to raise hands and sit in front of class…?” well again, I never ever raised my hand at all during undergrad, didn’t ask a single question. So in my 1st year, I was extremely frustrated sitting in front of the class and also asking a question. Initially, it took me several minutes formulating how I can ask a question that does not look make me absurd. Frustration of my voice being heard by others all looking at me. This took practices, but eventually, I started to ask questions whenever I feel like it and when I want to know, or want to share something. Professors encouraged me to practice your skills as much as possible in a safe class setting and that’s what I exactly did. This might be a very simple thing, but coming from Korea and being a king of introverts, this skill feels invaluable to me now. Here’s an example . The video is in Korean, but basically President Obama gave a talk at G20 Press Conference in 2010, and afterwards accepted questions from Korean Press, except there wasn’t a single one, a room filled with awkward silence. The scenes shown are completely different in North American universities and conferences from my understanding and everyone is taught to ask questions when in need since youth.
In this sense, homogeneous culture is a double edged sword; unity synergetically brings potential intrinsic energy, but at the same time, any outliers or out-of-norm is seen as peculiar, weird, or even as a disruptor in a society. Silent gun effect kills innovation and great ideas. Have courage and ask questions. That way, you get to clarify any doubts without creating rooms for risks and extra time spent to later communicate on that.
3. Attend as many events as possible.
Indeed, I attended many workshops and talks in first year, but not so much in 2nd year due to job search and studies. Depending on how you value your time, networking and hearing others’ opnions may come as valuable, or waste of time or even make you feel dirty according to professor Casciaro at Rotman School of Management. I only got to understand the power of networking when I started to structure my thoughts more in 2nd year. How can you explain a concept of networking to kids? It is because I believe even kids have better understanding of networking these days. Put it this way. You want to go to Japan, let’s say, but need a friend or guide there. You remember that you have this Japanese classmate you met a few years ago, had a chat about international studies life, had coffee and he/she went back. So you send him/her an email about your visit, he/she gladly responds and am happy to show you around. Another very simple example might be that you might need help with drawing something, and you remember this person you chatted in classroom when you had nothing to do, and even that creates a connection point that allows you to contact the person and a higher success rate than simply when you contact out of blue.
4. Join clubs and become execs
Indeed, I worked as representatives, participated in workshops, organized events, and met many people. It felt so interesting because I didn’t do these at all during undergraduate, so I made sure I do these.
Perhaps one of my lifetime accomplishments along with weightloss success in 2014, but I participated in four running events: two 10ks, one half, and lastly, the full marathon which I successfully completed. I’ve been doing cross country running since highschool and enjoy running, but was never a good one to be honest. What I enjoy about running is the moment when you surpass your limits. that was what I felt when I finished my first half and when I finally finished a full marathon which was extremely challenging and I couldn’t use my left arm for four months somehow. How’s this really related to MBA you might ask? the thing is it does or it doesn’t. MBA is a great tool that will accelerate your career and help growth personal and professionally and MBA made me understand how important consistency and taking care of good health is. I’ve seen moments of happiness as well as sadness, just the ones I sometimes witnessed throughout my life and it makes me realize how fortunate I am to have chances to accomplish things as there are others that just can’t due to their circumstances. I was lucky to enter Rotman and I am glad that I learned to appreciate life. I guess what I want to say is, whether you want to do MBA or open your own startups or go corporate or whatever, remember to appreciate your surroundings and your opportunities. Don’t become blinded by small things-assignments, relationships, money, stresses- that distract you from your goals; time is precious.
6. Trip to China
I was involved in a research project last year and had a chance to travel to China. While research opportunities and learning were incredible, it was the trip to China itself that involved Beijing, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong so exciting. I’ve travelled many places – Japan, India, various US states, various Canadian cities, and every time I visit new places I learn something new (kind of cliche I know). I have many Chinese friends, hear about news about China all the time, and I was curious to find out what makes China so special in many ways and this travel did inspire me and learn a few things the same way I did when I was in Japan and India in particular. That is world is very big, there are always some things going on and we think differently.
7. Once again learn about humility
As mentioned in previous blog postings, I learned how there are so many smart, energetic, and enthusiastic smart people wherever I go. It was the case when I first started studying as an engineering student. It was also the case when I started working as a consultant in the US. It was again, the case when I started studying at Rotman. I recently learned a new phrase called ‘paralysis by analysis’ from business intelligence class I took. Basically, overabundance of data and misdirectioned analysis gets you nowhere and while that is why hypothesis-driven deductive approach is often necessary in consulting to design proper scope, I also sometimes realize that sometimes not knowing is better than knowing and interestingly, this applies to many parts of our lives including studies, sports, relationships, and fast food unfortunately. The point is, overeducation and overabundance of information makes you overconfident and sometimes even arrogant. It is without a doubt that there are social hierarchies perhaps by wealth, job positions, place of living etc, but as you have more power, you need to learn to become more humble and appreciate that you have such opportunity to influence others and make others’ lives better. I’ve witnessed throughout MBA and work that greed and power makes you more attracted to even more greed! It’s like Anakin Skywalker getting owned by dark side and Peter Parker not understanding the responsibility that comes from power when losing his uncle (ok I know I’m looking forward to reboot Homecoming as well). More successful you become, more cautious your steps should be and try to keep checking your inner self if you’re perhaps doing something unethical.
At this point, you – prospective MBA students or any audience – might think, ” what is this man? this stuff you all learn from kindergarten and you’re telling me you went MBA and paid $100k+ time for this kind of stuff?” Of course I made a few proud professional accomplishments such as certifications, jobs and stuff but they are results that I accomplished by getting insights from learning things such as the ones I mentioned above and have no intention to bore you with what kind of stuff I achieved in MBA to put on LinkedIn. Keep asking yourself what you really want to get out of, what accomplishments you want to make and be goal-oriented. Two years is such long time to just to get over with to put three letters, “MBA” to LinkedIn and you might as well find how you want to maximize this opportunity.
Last thing I want to say is, that MBA will provide many, many opportunities, but you must understand it is indeed masters level studies, so there will be predicaments, you will be tired and time-sensitive stresses and tiredness will 100% come to you, so get ready. However, such barriers need to be overcome by looking for right opportunities and you must seek them out as MBAs will transfer mandatory knowledge based on courses, but not all the time and many great, exciting opportunities typically need to be researched by checking club events, newsletters and professors; competitions, study tours, speaker events, networking are kind of things you will never come across if you only go to classes and go back home. Otherwise, you might become disappointed by MBA and walk away with bitterness questioning the value of your investment. Be diligent and become used to fighting laziness and you will succeed.
While my MBA journey is done here, I have received many questions and thankful responses from my posts that I will continue to have this blog remained although I’m not sure if the school will keep this. Nonetheless, I am planning to create a new integrated blog that talks about my job, hobbies, exercises, etc so stay tuned which will be posted here. Over the past two years, over 6700+ views accumulated by 3200 visitors from all over the world either from gmatclub, wordpress, whatever. As long as my journey helped you making decisions with Rotman MBA as well as life itself, then I think my blogs were perfectly worth it. Thanks.