What did I learn from my Executive MBA Program??

As part of my EMBA program, one of the final courses was a course called “Business of Life”. In this course we were asked critical questions like “How would you define success?”, and “How will you measure your life?”. This course started about 2 weeks before graduation and we were given about a month to answer these questions in our own way. I was still pondering them and trying to get answers and in the mean-time, it was time to do the Grad walk and complete the official ceremony, even though I was a month away from the actual graduation. 

I was almost done! Two years of commitment, arduous effort and countless sleepless nights and I was close to completion. The Monday after graduation, my team at work applauded for me and congratulated me on the completion of my MBA and a colleague asked me if I could tell them what I learned. I was stumped because I was not prepared for that question. I did answer something at that moment, but I was not satisfied with the answer that I gave. I mentally kicked myself for not having anticipated this question and prepared myself better. But as I sat and thought about it, after 2 years of late night studying, loss of socialization, sacrificing my time with my family and the monetary investment in the program, what did I learn??? 

I hope this post is a better answer to that question than the one that I mumbled in my team meeting. 

  1. Build with your Strengths

I had always been taught that I needed to work on my shortcomings. Even as a kid, it was important to recognize my weakness in studies and to work on it to help become a topper in my class. I was always geared to look for weakness in myself. But during my EMBA, during the first semester in the “Leadership” course, we were tasked with identifying our strengths. I sent out questionnaires to my colleagues, bosses, friends, and family to understand what my strengths were and I was pleasantly surprised. I was able to understand how my peers looked at me and how there were vital assets in me that I was neglecting. It was an “aha” moment for me when I understood that I stood to gain more by focusing my effort on my strengths and building them up over fixating on my weakness. This helped me focus on what I was good at which helped me see the brighter side of things rather than dwell on negative aspects. This not only helped my self-confidence but also helped me create my niche skillset and my USP. 

2. Preparation is Key

I have an engineering undergrad degree from India and as many of my fellow engineers know, we are known for doing things at the last min ~ from finishing a project to preparing for an exam by working through the previous night. But I have learned during my EMBA program that in order to get the maximum out of anything in life, one has to prepare for it. There were times when I was not as prepared I was supposed to be prior to my classes, but what I understood from my peers in class is that the more you prepare the more you learn. And it is essential to be deliberate about this preparation. 

3. Trust is Crucial

This for me was a twofold lesson. EMBA program is essentially a cohort full of Type A personalities that have been placed to work together. In order to identify issues and work out solutions as a team, it is essential to build trust in your teammates. Trusting your teammates is a process and I have learned that it often comes with being comfortable enough to be vulnerable and letting others see your personal journey. It was my belief earlier that in a professional setup, one shouldn’t reveal their personal story/self, that it was unprofessional to do so. But during this program, I learned that I was wrong in this assumption and that I could help build trust in my team faster and stronger by sharing by being vulnerable and sharing my personal story. By being vulnerable, I was showing to my team that I trust them implicitly and this, in turn, makes them trust me. This was a valuable lesson for me. 

The second-fold was that I needed to trust myself to do my best in the program. There were days when I was down with self-doubt, but I had to trust myself and push myself to do my best. Seeing others fighting through and overcoming their fears helped me face my fears and push through and learn to trust myself. This has been the greatest confidence booster in my life. 

4. Relationships

When I accepted a position in this program and started it, I never thought that the relationships that I form here were going to be special. MBA programs around the world are known to be cut-throat and high in competition. But my peers turned out to be highly compassionate people who were there every step of the way to help you learn and support you through every hurdle that came along in the last two years. The achievement was an amazing group effort in my opinion and there was no way I would have been able to do it without my awesome cohort. 

5. Global Perspective

I had worked in the Indian corporate world for about 10 months before I headed to the USA for my masters. I have been working in the USA for the last 9 years. This has given me a bit of global perspective, or so I thought. But it was during this program that I got a truly global perspective of business. As part of the program, we undertake a two-week tour to either Europe or Asia or Middle-east where we visit a multitude of companies in various industries and it is interesting to learn the different strategies of these companies and how it works for them. This has truly given me a global perspective. 

6. Refocus

Often times in life, we tend to get bogged down in the weeds and tactical stuff of putting out fires in everyday work. Also career and for that matter, life doesn’t always go as planned. Plans need to be revisited and remade as per circumstances that life throws at us. It is important to step back, look at the big picture and the path that I need to take, restrategize and refocus. I have learned that refocus is part of life and that it is something that is constant in this everchanging world.