There are a number of MBA students across the country who feel uncomfortable or apprehensive about registering for certain academic subjects; typically, financial courses top that list. Needless to say, I was one of those students for the first 3/4 of my MBA journey. But then I had an epiphany of sorts, and decided to challenge myself in this daunting field. First, however, a bit of background.
I knew that finance was arguably my achilles heel when it came to subject matter comfortability. I had taken a couple of required finance courses in undergrad, and I admit that I was not the student receiving the highest accolades from my professors after each quiz or mid-term. So when I was considering applying to NYU Stern, the strength and popularity of its finance curriculum flat out scared me. Would I feel uncomfortable amongst the masses of future I-Bankers? Would I constantly be falling behind in said courses? I even told myself that I would only take the Foundations of Finance core course, which isn’t even required. But that would be it. I never saw myself working in a financial position or working on financial models, so why even bother to use course credits in a subject matter that would not be directly applicable to my future career endeavors?
And then my epiphany occurred sometime in late October or early November when we all had register for our last semester of classes. What was this epiphany? What was this blaring realization staring straight at me? It was that I had one more semester, one more shot, to make the most of an incredible and fortunate opportunity set before me. I had three and a half months before I graduated with an MBA – an MBA from a top school highly regarded for its finance program, nonetheless – and I had only taken ONE finance course! There was no way I could take pride in my degree and accomplishments without pushing myself to be at least a little more well-versed in this subject matter.
With that rude awakening, I put aside my fears and enrolled in two of our school’s most popular financial courses – Corporate Finance, taught by the legendary Aswath Damodaran, and Financial Services Industries, taught by former Head of Investment Banking at Credit Suisse Charles Murphy. I am halfway through the semester at this point, and I cannot believe I am saying this, but it so happens that these two classes have been some of my favorite while at Stern. Who would have thought?
This new-found interest is not to say that I am sitting in the center of the front row, and am making the highest scores on exams, or am now considering a major career change. But I can now comprehend with a better financial understanding top headlines in the Wall Street Journal; I now understand the relationships between Private Equity firms, Hedge Funds, and Investment Banks; I can now hold at least a basic conversation around financial events in networking scenarios. Above all else, it was naive of me to think that I wouldn’t touch finance at some point in my future career. It will happen, and I will now be prepared. I will at least be a little more knowledgable, and comfortable, when sitting at conference tables with finance managers.
So for those of you out there who are like me, and have apprehensions about a certain subject, whether its finance or not, I would highly recommend stepping outside your comfort zone and challenging yourself. You have an amazing opportunity within an MBA program, and it is what you make of it. For me, I want to graduate as a very well-rounded business leader, and in order to do that, I had to face my fears of that daunting subject that is finance.
Best of luck,