With the sudden drop in temperature this past week, it’s as if the city is reminding us that fall is here and school is back in session full swing. It’s crazy to think that just a little over a year ago I was moving halfway across the world from Asia settling in this beautiful city. And what a crazy, busy, fun-packed year it’s been!
I haven’t really been active this summer as I’ve been busy completing my summer internship with Spotify here in NYC that ended a few weeks ago. I was part of the newly created Client Relationship Management Team (CRM) team, in charge of internal marketing strategy, and had an absolute blast.
As some of you may know, I came to Stern to explore the entertainment media and technology sphere. As a non-traditional industry, I didn’t really have the set timeline and structure that many fellow classmates of mine followed. Instead, I had gotten my internship through one of the many company treks that the student clubs host on Fridays.
Since my team was super new, I had a pretty atypical summer in the sense that I didn’t really get put on one intern project per say, but rather jumped right into the fray. I worked on about 5-10 global marketing campaigns at a time on average, all at a variety of stages: from strategic planning, customer insight result analysis to operational fixes.
Spotify, like many companies, also had an established MBA internship program. This included a speaker series, an intern weekend, and a summer project. Interns are also invited to all social events at the company, such as building and being part of the company’s Gay Pride Parade float, our Father’s Day special events, and of course, Open Mic and Karaoke night (we are a music company after all). At the conclusion of the internship, every intern also had the opportunity to present their project to the entire NYC office. The program allowed me to gain a better understanding the company as a whole, as well as network and make friends across the different verticals.
As many MBA students are career switchers, this helps you decide whether or not this company, or perhaps industry, is indeed what you want to pursue full-time. The summer internship is safest time to try this out, as there is always the opportunity to re-recruit once you’re back in school to complete your second and final year.
Personally, I’ve had such an amazing time this summer that I actually haven’t left yet! Like many entertainment media and tech companies, Spotify alas does not extend full-time return offers post summer, but I’ve been lucky and honored enough that my team has asked me to stay on part-time during the fall.
The sun is shining. The air is hot. The open area in front of Stern that is Gould Plaza is once again a concrete quad where hundreds of students cross paths daily, colliding at will—conversations shared, smiles exchanged, waves projected from afar.
Through the familiar swoosh-swoosh of the revolving doors is a hive buzzing with activity. Students run to and from class, meetings, and meet-ups. The first-years are rushing to their core classes and club kick-offs, as they feel the pressure to dive in and take in as much as the school has to offer (which can certainly feel like too much at times!). The second-years happily reconnect after three months of time apart, before breaking away themselves, away to their elective classes, away to lead the club meetings for the first-years, away to find full-time jobs.
As a second-year, things are a bit different, of course. I miss the ex-MBA2s who I looked up to as mentors. I miss taking classes with my block. I miss my dual-degree classmates who are off fulfilling requirements at their other NYU schools this semester.
Yet I love having another 400 people to meet and talk to. I love being able to offer my time and experiences to them. Even within my year, while our disparate schedules sometimes mean that my usual friends and I see each other less, I love that it is allowing me to continue to meet people who I had not yet had the chance to meet before.
Of course, it is a lovely feeling to be able to return to school with rich relationships already in place. Just this summer, I had the chance to meet and become closer with dozens of Sternies. If you’ve read my earlier post about the Cannes Film Festival class, you would know that I spent a week running around the French Riviera with 25 of my classmates, only five of whom I would say I knew well before the trip. Then right before school started, along with 20 Sternies (and seven Stern Partners), I attended the wedding of one of my best friends at Stern (despite having met him only a year ago!). In this case, almost all of us knew each other well already because we recruited with each other and/or are in the same block, but I still came away from that weekend feeling that I had taken part in something special with my classmates, something that will connect us for life.
Indeed, every time I reflect on my network I’m amazed at how much it has grown, how quickly it continues to grow, and how strong and healthy it is. I imagine that if one’s network were a wholly tangible thing, watching it grow would be like watching an oak tree grow from a sapling to maturity in two years.
And the growth continues. So far, I’ve had the chance to interact with the MBA1s at LAUNCH (orientation), where I met about a fifth of the class at the Club Expo and another nine on their LAUNCH Day of Service.
Also, this past Saturday I had the chance to chat with even more first-years at our MBA1/MBA2 mixer. While I was there, another MBA2 and I were especially delighted to run into the new MBA1 roommate of one of our dear friends, who was not present at the time. We promptly sent said friend the following message:
And so we’re back! A new year. New connections. New possibilities.
Over the course of last semester, I was fortunate enough to meet a handful of prospective students and take them out to lunch at a couple of our many neighborhood haunts. In case you didn’t know, having lunch is just one of the easy ways you can interact with current students on your visit. While you can also go on a tour, attend a class, and sign-up for coffee chats, the lunches are excellent due to their casual environments and small group sizes, which in my experience have always led to enjoyable conversation among everyone.
On my visit as a prospective student, I managed to participate in the tour, class, and coffee chat all in one afternoon (I probably could have squeezed in the lunch too but admittedly didn’t know its value at the time). I found the experience as a whole incredibly informative and highly useful when writing my admissions essays, but in general, for any school, I also think that being in a given environment can offer some powerful insights—say, an inexplicable sense of belonging or, more simply, a personal feeling of fit—which can be helpful in guiding your choices later down the road (or before you put in the time and effort to apply!).
ATTENDING A CLASS
I remember my visit relatively clearly. Shortly after arriving at the admissions office, a few other prospective students and I were escorted to a class by an MBA1. There are a number of classes that you can choose from based on your interests and schedule (and availability—don’t forget to sign up ahead of time online!). Having never taken an economics class before and wishing to sample the core curriculum, I chose to attend a Firms & Markets class taught by the amiable and dedicated Professor Larry White. For those with more exposure to the traditional topics (or not!), I would certainly recommend trying to get into a class that really piques your interest, as Stern’s breadth of courses is truly remarkable. (Note that the schedule of available classes to visit will be available in the Fall!)
PARTICIPATING IN A COFFEE CHAT
After the class visit, a few MBA2 Graduate Ambassadors escorted us downstairs to the Sosnoff Lounge to grab cups of coffee and then out to the lobby where we could converse among the usual goings-on of MBA life. This was perhaps my favorite part of my visit, as I loved being around the movement and sounds of students gathering together to work or chat, and I easily pictured myself in their place. Meanwhile, the other prospectives and I had the opportunity to hear these MBA2s share their backstories and to ask them any questions we wanted. In particular, I remember connecting with one student who had a nontraditional background like myself, and I found my sense of belonging vindicated as he continued to share with me the opportunities Stern had allowed someone with his background to find and take.
TAKING A TOUR
My visit concluded with a tour of the building. This part continued to be informative, as two of the Graduate Ambassadors not only took us through the various study areas scattered throughout the building but also continued to answer our questions and chat with us about student life and the valuable learning experiences they were having. For example, one spoke highly of her Stern Signature Project, an experiential course where she was able to work closely with her professor and a small group of classmates to tackle a real-world issue. The other highlighted his fall internship with NBC, which was made possible not only because he was attending school in New York but because a fellow Sternie who had interviewed for the position had no qualms about sharing the job lead with him as well.
In sum, if it’s possible for you to visit the school ahead of applying, I definitely recommend you do. Interacting with current students is the best way to get a sense of the community you’re trying to enter, and you never know who you’re going to meet along the way—the Graduate Ambassador I connected with gave me a lot of inspiration for my essays that I might not have had otherwise, Professor White became my genuinely affable Firms & Markets professor when I arrived in the Fall, and the then-MBA1 who escorted me to that class ended up being an MBA2 who would give me incredible advice during the throes of the investment banking recruitment process.
So come down to 44 West 4th Street in the Fall, and see if Stern might be a great fit for you!
I remember where I was two years ago—out in Los Angeles, still working, rather cheerless but resolved to make the changes in my life that I felt I needed to make. By this point two years ago, I was slowly withdrawing from the industry that I had worked so hard and had been so fortunate to break into, and I registered on the official GMAT website on June 16, 2014.
It was not an easy decision for me to start quitting the things I was doing, and I spent the following year assuring myself that I was not giving up or selling out but pursuing things that were better suited for me. I was not in the group of people who needed an MBA to continue forward in their job path; rather, I needed an MBA because I needed change (a sentiment that, I was relieved to discover later, was not uncommon among my peers).
July 2014—after spending a couple weeks on the East Coast having heart-to-hearts with family and friends, I returned to L.A. and got to work. With my preference for structure, I signed up for GMAT prep classes, which I attended every Saturday morning that summer. I also attended MBA fairs and school events, where I was able to meet admissions representatives and alumni and get a sense of the schools prior to making the larger commitments of visiting and applying. Having started the application process in the summer, I did miss out on some diversity and field-specific pre-MBA opportunities, but I decided that I would not wait another year to apply, and I used my shortened timeframe as motivation for me to focus on achieving something that I knew was going to alter the course of my future.
I completed my GMAT course at the end of September. Meanwhile, I finalized my list of target schools and visited them, taking advantage of diversity events if I could (for example, Stern hosts a terrific “Opening Doors for Women” breakfast every Fall). Under this timeline that I had decided for myself at the start of the process, I took my GMAT as soon as I thought I would be ready (in my case, late October) so that I would have time to focus on my application essays and retake the exam if needed. I applied to my list of schools in January, and after my interviews, I constantly had to remind myself that it was out of my hands until I got my first acceptance—I remember the wave of relief that washed over me when I received it, this letter that was my ticket to a new life.
July 2015—I had said my goodbyes to everyone I knew in L.A. and was driving across the country with my father. With the move back to New York a reality, I remember feeling for the first time in a while that my future was as open as the road ahead of me.
July 2016—After a whirlwind year, I’m working at my internship and amused at the fact that my classmates were correct—I indeed have transferable skills, despite my constant half-joking that I would not given my creative past. So far, I’m quite pleased with my internship at a media consulting agency, and along with that pleasure is my growing disbelief that I was lucky enough to land at a firm that really does seem to fit who I am and what I want to accomplish this summer. Having spent the year wondering about how my non-traditional background would be perceived by employers (as I did when applying to b-schools), I never expected to find a firm that would simultaneously value my creative background and allow me to grow in the professional direction that I wanted. Yet it happened because a Stern alum at the firm thankfully saw potential in me, much like how Stern itself saw potential in me a year before.
I’m prone to reflection, so I often think about all of this and feel that it’s really quite bizarre how far I’ve come and how different my life is from then to now. I’ve moved cities, met hundreds of new people, forged dozens of true friendships, and I no longer feel the ennui that I used to feel. I’m so grateful for Stern, so grateful for my classmates, so grateful for the alums who got me my internship interviews—so grateful that they’ve all changed my life for the better.
On June 16, 2014, this was all just a dream, an imagination to serve as motivation for seeking change. I never thought that two years later, in the process of earning my M.B.A., in this energetic city and at this wonderful school, I would actually live a life better than what I had hoped for.
For those interested in the entertainment business, the classic question that emerges is, “New York or L.A.?” As a native New Yorker who started her career in Los Angeles, I do think that the answer varies for every individual, as these cities and the schools within them each offer different opportunities and demand different sacrifices (as with any place or profession for the most part).
I admit that I have a personal bias towards New York, but when I was looking at which schools to apply to in both cities, I knew that nothing compared to what Stern offered–and what I’m experiencing now–in “The Commerce & Craft of Cinema: Cannes Film Festival” course.
It’s been nonstop for my classmates and me since arriving in Cannes last weekend (I actually had to write this post as I was waiting for screenings to start!). Led by the amiable Professors Al Lieberman and Sam Craig, my 25 classmates and I comprise the lucky 13th class to go to the annual Cannes Film Festival, the most prestigious film festival in the world. After receiving our official badges, we were free to take advantage of the festival however we felt best—binge-watching films, attending filmmaking panels, setting up meetings with producers and distributors. Even while standing in line for things, some of my classmates have met filmmakers, film executives, and film patrons (including the co-founder and creative director of a beloved L.A. indie theater).
The class concludes with a paper that challenges us to analyze one of the films in competition, specifically discussing how it compares to the other films in the festival, what the effect of the festival has been on the film’s distribution path, and where we think the film will go from this point forward. Prior to this, during the semester, my class was assigned group papers and projects designed to ensure that we were up-to-date with the current independent film landscape, and we were treated to guest speakers from the industry nearly every class. My personal favorite: the gracious Andrew Karpen, who happens to be a Stern alum, and who was co-CEO of Focus Features (Dallas Buyers Club, Atonement, Brokeback Mountain) before he started his own New York-based distribution company, Bleecker Street Media (Captain Fantastic, Eye in the Sky, Beasts of No Nation). As a longtime fan of Focus Features, meeting Andrew was a career dream come true and something that seemed like a longshot before I arrived at Stern and before our first Cannes class meeting, when I was surprised with the news that he was one of the class’s perennial speakers.
For my classmates and me, who are either coming from the entertainment industry or hoping to enter it, this entire experience has been invaluable and truly one-of-a-kind. With a one-essay application process that requires only a demonstrated interest in the industry, there are both full-time and part-time students in our class, as well as MBA/MFAs and JD/MBAs. The result is a nice mix of people who have been a pleasure to get to know or know better.
And getting on the red carpet with friends definitely serves as great inspiration for future career goals, goals that with my fellow Sternies beside me I believe are very possible.
It has been a while since my last post. The semester is almost over and as I reflect on the last two years, I realize how much work we have put into it. Today I wanted to highlight 6 startups and projects that were started by my peers while in business school.
Lenore Champagne Beirne and Ronica Reddick met at Stern and they are both currently working on a project called the Little Bright Notebook. It is a project design tool for creators and innovators. They combined their experience in coaching, entrepreneurship, and creative work to build a notebook that helps you plan for your next big idea.
Leah Shisha and Isha Vij also met at Stern, and they decided to launch Caper: a company that plans and organizes bachelorette parties. They both realized that there was an opportunity to take the stress out of the planning and to create an amazing experience for the bride-to-be and her friends.
Chris Shaw has decided to use his previous military experience to start an innovative leadership program, called CORE leader. His company offers different team building and leadership activities that can be tailored for your team.
Sarah Manning started Colabas, an ecommerce store. She started it in her ‘Social Problem Based Entrepreneurship class’, where she got a chance to visit India and to conduct on the ground market research. Her company curates and sells socially conscious jewelry, accessories, and décor products handmade in India. Some of the proceeds are also donated to charitable organizations.
Juan Sebastian Cadavid started Grou(sounds like Grow), a marketplace for farmers in Latin America. The marketplace aggregates products from multiple farmers in order to provide the quantities that large buyers need. At the same time, it allows smallholder farmers to identify opportunities to sell their crops at fair prices.
Finally, Perryne Vyas Desai startedTujaTravel, a travel service company. Her company helps individuals and groups organize their trips by helping them build their travel package. So far, Tuja Travel has organized trips in Tanzania, Costa Rica, Fiji, and Spain among others.
I hope you take a few minutes to check them out! I will be back soon with a personal post reflecting on these last 2 years.
Until next time,
*Disclaimer: All the pictures on this post belong to the respective businesses.
I had a wild realization this morning on my subway ride to school: I only have two full weeks of classes remaining here at NYU Stern. Wow…..
As I sit here beginning to type my latest, and probably last, blog post, I thought I would use this opportunity to reflect back on quite possibly the best two years of my life. Business school has been a whirlwind of a journey, filled with a mixed bag of intellectual exploration, professional development, career advancement, network building, and yes, even the occasional academic stress. My time at Stern has truly opened my eyes to so many different possibilities, and knowing everything I know about the school and the experience now, I undoubtedly would do it all over again!
Furthermore, now that I have gone through this process, below is my Top 5 words of wisdom to potential b-school students and Sternie-hopefuls:
It’s ok to not be 100% clear on what exactly you want do with your life post-business school before you hit submit on your application or fork over your enrollment deposit. You will not be alone! However, come the first day of orientation (or even the summer before) the onus is on you to place some serious thought, due diligence, and effort into learning how to transfer your passion into a career opportunity. The resources are out there for you – current students, alumni, professors, industry professionals, career services – but it is up to you to leverage them in finding the perfect opportunity.
Don’t discount the intangibles of this experience. Obviously, your top priority should be on securing an opportunity that advances your career, but building close friendships and a strong network along the way is equally important. As you explore different schools, try to imagine yourself fitting in with the particular culture of that school. You will be surprised by how much time you spend at school, and amongst your peers, so the fit truly has to be there.
Location, location, location! Choose a school that gives you increased networking opportunities because of its specific location. There are a number of fantastic business schools out there, but because of their location, students are limited more to the employers who come to them, as opposed to students being able to go to the employers. Specifically at Stern, for example, it is so easy for a student to take a 10 min cab ride or subway for three stops to visit a connection at a New York office during a lunch break. However, students in more remote locations either have to pay considerable amounts of money consistently to travel for networking, or rely on the standard on-campus corporate presentation and interview routine.
Challenge yourself in areas where you are weak. See my previous post about my hesitations with taking finance courses!
Have fun! A lot of business school students refer to these two years as “fun-cation”, myself included! Yes, times will get stressful with recruiting; yes, you will have to pull a late (or all)-nighter every now and then; yes, you may even question your decision once or twice. But at the end of the day, this will hopefully be an opportunity to expand your network with awesome people, get some traveling in, and attend a happy hour or two with new lifelong friends!
One of the main reasons that I decided to matriculate at Stern, and a factor that really sets Stern apart, is just how diverse our student body is and more importantly how we embrace that diversity.
But first, I should really start with a little background about myself.
I was born in Virginia (hence the name), but had left the country and moved abroad to Asia at a mere 6 months of age. My family moved frequently, and I as a result I spent 6 years of my childhood in China (where we are originally from), 11 in the Philippines, and the last one divided amongst several Central Asia countries, with a base in Uzbekistan.
Being a Third Cultural Kid, one of the main things that drew me to Stern was in fact how international our Full-Time MBA student population is, a fact that is evident both inside and out of the classroom. One particular event that really lets everyone celebrate their culture, background, and heritage is the annual Passport Day organized by the Stern Student Government (SGov). The event allows students to sign up to represent their country and showcase traditional cuisine, costumes, music and/or performances.
This year, 47 of the 63 countries had participated in Passport Day. We had amazing performances from a variety of countries, including dances from India, Azerbaijan, and Morocco. All the dances were choreographed and performed by students (here’s a performance of the India dance!).
Personally, a couple friends and I had decided to collaborate and do a combined South East Asia booth for the event. We represented three countries in the region, and had local delicacies from each, including Tea Leaf Salad from Burma/Myanmar, Lumpia from the Philippines, egg tarts from Singapore, and a combined mango coconut sticky rice dessert. The last in particular we all made as a group and was a huge hit!
It was an impressive event and reminded me of why I chose to come to Stern, a place that is brimming with culture and collaboration and what amazing international people I get to have as my fellow classmates.
Diversity is a difficult topic, whether it’s a matter of race, gender, or sexual preference. Though organizations like Friendfactor have ranked Stern first in LGBTQ support out of all MBA programs, we know that there is still so much we can do to make sure that we are continuously building an inclusive community where everyone can feel safe learning and being who he/she/they are.
As a testament to that effort, this past week my hardworking classmates organized and hosted Stern’s second-ever Ally Week, which ran in conjunction with the sixth year of university-wide Ally Week programming and helped to spread awareness about diversity and allyship through the Stern community. Though I’ve always believed in equal rights for all, even I had a bit of an awakening learning about the difficulties my classmates have endured in their lives and how they have still felt marginalized in their interactions with others. As someone who tends to be a bit of a free agent when it comes to showing her support for things, the past week proved to me that there is a difference between believing in what is right and supporting what is right. For me, I learned that it is not enough to be open-minded and kind, but rather that I must stand up for my peers and help them achieve the same quality of life that every human should be able to enjoy.
The university defines allyship as “an active and consistent practice of unlearning and re-evaluating beliefs and actions, in which a person seeks to work in solidarity with a marginalized individual or group of people.” Kicking off the week by asking the student body to “Pledge Your Allegiance,” the Stern Ally Week team put on a full week of programming:
On Monday, Google representatives joined us for lunch to host “Being Google-y: An Education in Allyship,” a presentation about the firm’s diversity and inclusion efforts, followed by an interactive workshop co-led by Stern MBA1s. In an abbreviated version of the day-long discussions Google facilitates with its employees and outside organizations, we broke out into groups to brainstorm answers to questions such as what mindset allies have and how allyship manifests itself in actions. Each group then presented their answers to the room and answered questions from the “Naysayers,” who were tasked with voicing difficult but common objections to allyship that marginalized people often face. Personally, I was able to walk out of the workshop feeling more confident about how to recognize offenses against allyship and more determined to tactfully address them.
On Tuesday, the Asian Business Society (ABS), Association of Hispanic and Black Business Students (AHBBS), Jewish Students Association (JSA), OutClass, Stern Women in Business (SWIB), Military Veterans Club (MVC), and Stern in Africa (SIA) each hosted Lunch Circles, small lunches led by student club leaders and each featuring a different topic of discussion around various diversity issues. In the evening, ABS co-presented with the Asian American Federation “From Yellow Peril to Islamophobia: How Asian Stereotypes Impact Our Lives Today,” a panel moderated by Arun Venugopal, reporter and host of WNYC’s Micropolis, and featuring Deepa Iyer, racial justice activist, lawyer, and author of We Too Sing America; Kermit Roosevelt, professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Allegiance; and Chris Kwok, civil rights activist and mediation supervisor at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Focusing on the internment of Japanese-Americans in the 1940s, the panel related the prejudice and fear the Japanese-Americans faced then to what Muslim-Americans are facing today. The panel also spoke about how the lack of attention to these issues, as well as the continued lack of knowledge about a group of people overall, can continue to propagate these prejudices until addressed.
On Wednesday, during lunch we gathered for a screening of Academy Award-winning short film “Trevor,” the story of a 13-year-old boy whose discovery of his sexuality leads him to contemplate suicide. In the following Q&A, the film’s director (and NYU Tisch professor) Peggy Rajski explained why she decided to make the film, stating that as a straight female she still resonated with the alienation and mortification faced by the titular gay male protagonist (who first appeared in a one-man show created by the film’s writer James Lecense). The success of the film alerted Peggy to the unaddressed needs of LGBTQ youth across the country, and consequently, in the three short months preceding the HBO premiere of her film, she and her producing partners set up the Trevor Lifeline, the nation’s first crisis intervention and suicide prevention hotline for young LGBTQ people. The hotline has since evolved into The Trevor Project, a nonprofit offering numerous intervention and prevention services to young LGBTQ youth, and Peggy cites the importance of the nonprofit in letting kids know that “someone is there for me” so that they can “get through and choose life.” Afterwards, Jason Daniel Fair of The Trevor Project’s New York office took the stage to reiterate Peggy’s point and highlight the importance of allyship, citing the fact that for many LGBTQ youth, getting in touch with people who can help them can be exceptionally hard when their community acts in a way that prevents them from doing so.
On Thursday, the Ally Week team organized an “Ask Anything” Forum where everyone in the room had a safe space to ask any questions they had to representatives designated by AHBBS, Outclass, and SWIB to represent the black, gay, and female communities. While I had to sit this one out for a class, a friend told me afterwards that although the purpose of the session was to remove judgment from the conversation, she could not help but notice how inherently hurtful some of the questions were, even though she knew that the people asking them had no intent of upsetting their fellow classmates.
Ally Week wrapped up with its Days of Service. On Friday, a group of us did some weeding and planting for the Riverside Conservancy Park on the Upper West Side, and on Saturday, a group of Sternies met up for the New York Cares Spring Day of Service, joining thousands of other volunteers to clean up the city’s public outdoor spaces.
Again, we know there is still so much we can do to support diversity and allyship, but I can promise you that we at Stern are dedicated to seeing this effort through.
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.