Two MBAs Share The Most Important Things They Learned at Hult

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Now that it’s graduation time at Hult, we asked two of our Hult Labs MBA interns to share with us, and the world, what they learned the most while in the program. We wish them good luck in their careers and urge them to stay in touch!

“5 Things I’m Not” by Steven Freund

Two years ago, I was interviewing with a large healthcare company for a Project Management role – for what I thought was the opportunity of a lifetime. Not only did the position pay well, but I thought it would also be a great springboard into a corporate career track. It was where I would finally crack the “chicken or the egg” mystery and get that magical 3-5 years of “real” experience. All I had to do was get past the final interview – an eight hour juggernaut of future potential coworkers, supervisors, and, of course, HR.

In my last interview of the day, an unfriendly interviewer stumped me by saying, “Tell me five things you’re not.” The whole plane ride home I wracked my brain over how I could have answered it. “Who asks that kind of question?! I know who I am. Who cares who I’m not?!” It would have probably been more effective if I would have stood up and responded with “I am not getting this job. Thank you.”

Now, after a year at Hult, I can finally say that my time here has taught me who I am but also who I am not. I got to see my strengths, and, more often, my glaring weaknesses. And, somewhere in the arduous, sometimes sleepless, process of self-discovery, I can finally answer her question:

1.)  I’m not a team player for the sake of being a team player. The goal has to matter to me.

This is certainly not the most employable thing that I could have started the list off with, but it’s the most genuine. I loved being on high-performing and fast-paced teams – there’s nothing more challenging or more fun. But the team I hate to be on more than anything else is the one where there is a competition to see which team can juggle the quickest; which team can play a computer program the best; or which team can anticipate meaningless questions the best. I need to feel something about the team’s goal that will motivate me to respond and engage. I need to be passionate about it. I can’t be passionate about juggling – sorry.

2.)  I’m not a numbers guy – but luckily, I can make up for it in other ways.

I aced all of my undergraduate math classes, so I thought I could handle the numbers side of things. Wrong. I am not good at manipulating cash flows and balance sheets and I don’t like doing it. But, thankfully, there are people who LOVE doing it. As it turned out, many of the people who love creating the balance sheet don’t love to present in front of large groups of strangers. This is why knowing who you are and what you’re good at (and not good at) is such a vital part of the program.

3.)  I’m not comfortable being a cog in a machine.

To be passionate about something that nobody else cares about is a frustrating thing. I came into the program sure that I would never work for a startup. That was the farthest thing from my mind. I wanted big, monster brands, where I could have a safe career. What I realized in my time at Hult is that yeah, I could join a large organization, and I may be good at it, but I won’t love it. I take everything that I do personally, so when I am passionate, I want to it matter, and I want to see the results of my work have an immediate impact.

4.)  I’m not satisfied with the status quo – and neither is Hult.

Hult is clearly the business school that has embraced change more than any other in the industry. I love that the executive team loves change and is always trying to create a better future for the school. Sure, they won’t get it right every time, but what’s important is that the leadership of the school is determined to grow, change, and improve.

5.)  I’m not ready to stop learning. Not now, not ever.

Even though this may be my last formal school experience, I know that the learning habits I take with me into the workforce will stay with me forever, and I’ll use those habits to constantly improve.

“We’ll See” by Guy Larkin

I had a lot of reasons for deciding to get my MBA. Like most people, I was looking for a career boost. But I also felt an MBA might finally get rid of this feeling that, when it came to corporate or business life, I just didn’t belong. After all, I hadn’t studied business. I studied theater. I knew the business of theater pretty well, especially after having been the Treasurer of a “startup” theater company in New York City. But in my mind, I didn’t know “business.” Everything I knew about how corporations worked, I had learned by working (usually at temp jobs to pay for my theater “career”) in different businesses and keeping my ears open.

I can remember one meeting in my business career before Hult, discussing our segment marketing strategy and how best to approach a set of customers who didn’t know our company and didn’t buy the kind of research my company sold. I presented the information that I had, my conclusions on what to do, and then held my breath, hoping that I hadn’t sounded like an idiot. Because, underneath, I still felt like I didn’t really understand what I was talking about.

Before coming to Hult, the mysteries of profit and loss statements and different “ratios” just escaped me. How on earth was I ever going to be relaxed and confident enough in these conversations to make a contribution?

Before coming to Hult, I really believed that there was a single “right” answer, and I really believed I had to produce that right answer and that others had it more often than me. Now I know there is no “right” answer. Even answers that seem “right” may prove to be wrong during a different time frame.

After my time at Hult, I now understand that business is in many ways similar to the response given by the old man in the Taoist proverb to every situation he encounters – “We’ll see.” Business, like life, is a series of choices, and the best we can do is use our judgment.

The most important realization I got from my year at Hult was the confidence to be in the room and give my answers and know that they have just as much backing them as everyone else’s.  Confidence that I can justify my choices with some reasoned analysis and some effective presentation. And furthermore, confidence that being wrong isn’t a death sentence, but a chance to learn and improve.

So, was it all worth it? All the hard work, all the time away from the wife and kids, all the difficult personalities and the random schedules and sudden changes? I’d like to think so, and I’m sure this experience will lead me to new opportunities that I couldn’t have otherwise imagined. As the old man in the proverb would say, “We’ll see.”

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