My alarm clock jolted me awake at 8:45 a.m. on Saturday, December 19th. Having completed the last exam of my first semester at Stern just a day earlier, I was feeling relieved to have a relaxing, if temporary, respite from the academic demands of business school. With tickets in hand to see a morning showing of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” I was ready to slip out of MBA mode and into the “home-for-the-holidays” state of mind.
A few minutes later, my friend Sam, who I was visiting up in Boston, poked his head into my room. “Hey man,” he said, “I’m heading to the gym before the movie – there’s some Special K cereal in the cupboard and K-Cups for the Keurig if you want anything – oh, and feel free to eat in the living room, Apple TV’s all hooked up.” He started to walk out the door then added, “also, I figure we can grab some Chipotle after Star Wars if you want.”
As Sam shut the door behind him, I sat there, surprised at the thoughts that came rushing into my head. While on the surface, our morning exchange might have seemed rather innocuous, for me, it was the first time I truly realized just how much Stern has changed my perceptions of the world. In the time it took Sam to utter a few quick sentences referencing everyday items and brands, my mind was making linkages back to all I had learned and experienced in one short semester.
Rather than just thinking about which flavor K-Cup I wanted to make, I was again pondering Green Mountain Coffee Roasters’ acquisition of Keurig, as I had been just a few days earlier in Strategy. Mention of Special K cereal took be back to another case study on big companies like Kellogg contracting out excess production capacity to make store-brand cereal products for retail stores. And of course Apple, a company that, as Professor Scott Galloway eloquently puts it, has “moved down the torso” from the consumer’s head, to the heart, and beyond, to maximize margins while transforming from a tech company into a luxury brand.
I always believed that undergrad was where you “learned how to think,” and grad school was where you gained a specific set of technical skills. But my early morning exchange with Sam was revealing that at Stern, your way of thinking and perceiving evolves as well, and there is no such thing as “slipping out of MBA mode.” Where I once saw brands, products, and prices as a consumer, I was now seeing the fruition of behind the scenes business processes – strategic decisions, supply and demand analyses, complex pricing models, and the like – as an MBA.
Of course, as a result of my first semester, I can comfortably put together a CFFO, build a game theory decision tree, and analyze a regression. But more importantly, I can now see the world in a whole new light, and think in a way that would have never been possible without my Stern experience.