Three months ago, sitting in class for the first time with the inaugural cohort of the new Sydney MBA, I had a bit of a ‘be careful what you wish for’ moment. I put it down to nerves…
I’d been selected for admission to the University of Sydney Business School Master of Business Administration (MBA) program, and here I was – terrified, and questioning what I could bring to the table, surrounded by a quality field of participants. I reacted the way I normally do in circumstances like this: loudly.
There’s a saying, often attributed to Abraham Lincoln, that it is “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” I have always struggled with that idea, and chose to introduce myself to the other students with my best approximation of wit.
In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the greatest way to start my MBA career, but it did produce some beneficial results; by breaking the ice en masse, I was in a position to strike up conversations with my new classmates, which is when the learning really began.
I’ll admit that meeting the talented and experienced people in the room did little to assuage my fears of being out of my depth. What did make me feel at home, however, was the attitude to being there that seems to be universal among the cohort.
Everyone involved in the MBA program is committed to two principles: We are here to better ourselves, and we’re all in this together.
All of my fellow students are open to sharing their experience and knowledge – and that spirit of collaboration and camaraderie is infectious. The end result is a very tight-knit group, greater than the sum of its parts.
There are plenty of people who turn up to business school solely as an opportunity to network. However, I know I’m getting more than just a cool list of LinkedIn connections. I’m getting access to a group of incredible role models.
The notion of a role model has been on my mind a lot in the first three months of the MBA program. What became apparent very quickly was that, no matter what I wanted to learn, there was someone in the group who was both able, and willing, to teach me.
That is the real value of the MBA program. Being able to pick and choose from such an array of positive, experienced role models is invaluable. I’m constantly humbled by the other students in the MBA program, and I feel privileged to be able to count myself among their number.
As the youngest member of the cohort, I must confess I initially felt somewhat out of place studying next to such experienced people. The nagging doubt that I didn’t really have anything to offer remained. A particularly pointed question asked during my pre-admission interview had resonated with me. I resolved to get involved in everything, and make sure I contributed as much as possible.
Having learnt so much from those around me, I was determined to pay it forward whenever I could. The first opportunity was on the Data Analytics module. Confession: maths and I aren’t particularly close friends. To say that modelling economic principles was pushing me out of my comfort zone would be somewhat of an understatement. Nonetheless, I like a challenge.
Study groups formed organically, as we wrestled with the material together. Some of the most rewarding experiences on the course so far have been in helping other people with concepts I have struggled with too. While this has felt like the blind leading the blind at times, it has been incredibly enriching.
At the end of the first semester, the students were asked to give one another feedback.
I was surprised that a consistent theme of the feedback I received was that I was considered a role model, for the way I had helped others. I had no idea I had that impact, which got me thinking, how many of us are role models without knowing it?
Who are you a role model for?
The answer might surprise you too.