Thursday, February 19, 2015

Insight : Life as an MBA - Gerard Atkinson

( I am grateful to Mr.Atkinson for having contributed so well to the incoming class of 2017 with this fine article which can also be found on his personal blog at . So, I won't speak much here as I think it would be wise for the readers to find out for themselves about the life of an MBA student at COX. Well, I can say just one thing- its beautifully presented. Thanks Mr. Atkinson .Happy Reading ! )

5 Things you should Know before doing an MBA from SMU

(This is a piece that was requested by the incoming class  for 2017, and I thought I’d oblige. It has been a tough week this past week, lots of ups and downs. But enough of that for now.)

So, you’ve decided to do an MBA. And you’ve decided to do it at Southern Methodist University. Congratulations! You’ve picked a great program that will open up a wealth of opportunities for you, if you are willing to put in the effort.

However, there are some things that you ought to know before you touch down in Dallas and head onto the beautiful campus grounds. You’re about to go through an incredible two years of your life. Be prepared.

1. Your life will be the MBA

If you had plans for an external life outside your MBA over these two years (and who doesn’t?), you will have to curb your expectations. The MBA is going to be your life over the next two years. You will be drinking from a firehose of knowledge from day one, and it’s your responsibility to keep up.

You’re expected to put in the effort. And sometimes that means a lot of effort. Your professors will challenge you, and push you to (and sometimes beyond) your limits. You will have to make the MBA your number one priority. It will be your life.

2. No, Seriously. Your life will be the MBA

That picture above? That’s my calendar. That’s 5 classes (and time spent on deliverables for those classes) and an internship. This is admittedly, more than what most MBAs will take on. Though not by a huge amount. The MBA is your life. 

That means your time management skills are going to be sharpened to a fine point. Every hour will be managed to ensure that you are on top of study, assignments, and social life (because you still need time to chill out and to sleep).

3.  Take Advantage of Every Opportunity

And with all of that said, I am still going to say to take advantage of every opportunity you can. Being at SMU gives you access to a wealth of knowledge, people, and programs that can help you develop professionally and personally.

Whether it is the Business Leadership Center with their seminars on topics ranging from personal financial management, to advanced Excel tips and tricks, to applying behavioral economics in designing product packaging. There’s even the opportunity to go to Disney world to participate in their corporate training programs (definitely worth it).

Or the networking opportunities that abound in the school, from career meet-and-greets, job fairs, student clubs (join the rugby club!), the weekly coffee sessions hosted by the Dean of Students, or the pre-football game boulevarding (they don’t call it tailgating here) where students and alumni meet up in the grounds of the school to hang out before the game. Forging connections is a big part of the MBA experience at SMU. Where you end up often comes down to who you know.
On that point, the mentoring program is another fantastic feature of the SMU MBA. You get matched with a business leader in the Dallas area, that you can reach out to for advice and guidance on anything from your career to finding a good restaurant in Dallas (though the program coordinators obviously prefer the former). My mentor has been a great resource in helping me define where I want to go after graduation.

4. Your Sense of (Free) Food Will Increase

Weekly coffee, boulevarding parties, meet-and-greets… there’s an underlying theme here. Yes, all of these have free food. You’re on a student budget again. Your instinct for a free meal is going to become uncanny. And the quality of the food is pretty good too.

Just make sure to do the right thing and stick around for the event. It’s another opportunity that you won’t want to miss out on.

(And FYI, the fresh baked cookies at the Business Leadership Center seminars are sublime.)

5. It’s Worth It

If you’ve read this far, great! I haven’t scared you off. You probably knew already that this was going to be a challenging but rewarding experience. And it is. The opportunities I have had, the people that I have met, the friends that I have made, it has been amazing. And it will be amazing for you too.

One final thing, in facing all the challenges you will have a natural support group. The biggest strength of the SMU MBA is your peers. People look out for each other, and want to make sure that everyone succeeds. Having studied at four other universities in three other countries, I can tell you that that kind of support group isn’t something common to university life. It is the greatest asset that this program has. And naturally you can reach out to me if you have questions. I’m more than happy to be of help.

Again, congratulations on choosing to be a part of one of the best MBA programs in the world. You won’t regret it. 

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