It takes a village

By Carla Harris, current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program

C_HarrisIt was Saturday morning, 8:45 am to be exact. This is actually one of my favourite times – just before a weekend class commences. It’s a time when you get a chance to catch up and connect with the people you spend unnaturally large amounts of time with on the MBA program, across an abnormal range of hours.

But despite all that time together, you feel like you’ve barely scratched the surface of knowing them outside of their professional self. Sitting down next to my friend, I asked how his family was doing. His eldest son was just starting school and I was interested in how his first week went (no tears, phew). Similarly, discussions shifted focus to yours truly, as to how I was settling back into work after a year of maternity leave (great, but full on)! Then the clock struck 9 and the notion of lives outside the MBA dissolved as we put our ‘leaders of the future’ hats on and got stuck into an intense weekend of learning.

Clearly, we all have a life outside of the MBA. Particularly fascinating to me is that the phase of life during which one tends to embark on an MBA also coincides remarkably well with other evolutionary life events – namely having a family. So perhaps what’s not fully appreciated (or at least something I’ve personally not sufficiently articulated), is the huge web of support networks that exist for many of us to be able to do an MBA in the first place.

To give you a sense of what this looks like as the primary carer of a young child, for me to be sitting next to you in class means someone else needs to give up their time to step in for me.  Partners need to leave work early, often entailing car swaps in the city with screaming offspring in the back; rearrange their work schedules or move conference calls until well after bed time to get our toddler home, fed, bathed and in bed.

Weekend classes mean that while I’m swanning around campus in a civilised fashion, there is a combination of parents, grandparents and occasionally neighbours rolling up their sleeves to help care for my son in order to facilitate my learning. In truth, the precision timing and strategy required for it to be possible for me to be on campus makes a hostile takeover look straightforward.

And it’s not just us parents; recall the family birthdays we’ve all missed out on, friends we’ve not seen in what seems like forever. Thank God we’ve mastered the art of recognition feedback.

There’s no doubt that it’s all worth it. Rather, as we start the 2015 MBA year, and classes and assignments begin to ramp up, I’d like to thank in advance the small to medium sized village that donates their time, blood, sweat and tears to make it happen for me and many of my colleagues. We couldn’t do it without you.

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