First impressions count…

Anita MitchellBy Anita Mitchell, General Manager Sustainability – Barangaroo South, Lend Lease and current student of the University of Sydney Business School’s MBA program

On a rainy morning 14 weeks ago, 50 people sat in a freshly painted lecture room, all of us looking like we were the new kids in school. There we were, all shined shoes and new notebooks with the air of apprehension and excitement that comes with starting something new.

It has taken me a decade to heal the wounds caused by my undergraduate and post-graduate studies (all done part time while working full time) to be able to even contemplate going back for more study. The idea of doing an MBA had been nagging at me for many years but I just didn’t like the course outlines in the “old school” MBA’s of the past, just reading about the module descriptions on-line were a cure for insomnia! Surely an MBA didn’t have to be so boring, where were the courses focussed on real world business issues that would strengthen my leadership skills?

Then the Sydney Uni MBA burst onto the scene in a blaze of publicity, it seemed that every website I visited or newspaper I opened carried the same sharply dressed and suitably happy and ambitious looking models saying that their MBA had been reimagined, that it was about ME, FIRST. It was like thinking of buying a new car and suddenly seeing the road full of the model you are interested in. Apprehensively, I read through the course outlines and was suitably impressed, lots of focus on leadership. Even better, they were offering scholarships via a competition with BOSS magazine, bonus!

After several months of writing essays and opinion pieces, attending a masterclass and going through various levels of the competition, I was lucky enough to win the scholarship. Just as well, by that stage I was hooked on doing the MBA at Sydney Uni and was impressed by the academics I met and their passion for making this a world class program. Suddenly three years of hard work looked like it would yield the growth and development I was looking for rather than just giving me more letters after my name. So, I signed up for three years of hard graft to make me a better me or ME, FIRST as the marketing spiel for the course screams in bold writing.

Looking around the room on that first day, I was pleasantly surprised, the other students all looked as apprehensive as I did! I also noticed a good spread of age, gender and ethnicity and it wasn’t filled with “cookie cutter” consultants all looking to get an MBA as their golden ticket to better salary… what a relief!

Within minutes, the lecturer had us interacting with the rest of the cohort, I met people with an amazing array of backgrounds and professions including surgery, research, medicine, banking, recruiting, engineering, law, consulting, media, police force, armed forces, government… the list went on and on.

Our first subject, Leadership Practice and Development has been a whirlwind of thought provoking and life changing experiences. We have learnt what makes a leader and more importantly, practiced the skills necessary to be a great one.

What we also learnt is what an amazing group of people the administrators of the MBA have chosen to represent the first cohort. Mike, our lecturer, taught us how a heterogenous team, one with great diversity, brings different points of view to the table and ultimately, builds stronger and more resilient teams.

True to this, this first cohort is a representation of that philosophy played out. After 14 weeks, we have challenged and learnt from one another and I have truly benefitted from different life and industry experiences being brought to the table.

If the rest of the course is as good as this starting subject, we are in for a seriously life changing ride together and I, for one, could not think of a better bunch of people to be doing it with.

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