Sunday, September 15, 2013

The MBA Project: Graduation

So, let's get the apology out of the way first.  I'm sorry for not writing any new updates in 2013 until 3/4ths of the way through it.  For two years I got away with using school as my excuse for not having time to do x, y, or z.

Well, that excuse is no longer valid because I, Maria, have successfully satisfied all requirements to earn my Master's of Business Administration!  Yay!!! Pop the champagne!  Actually, don't--I've spent enough money celebrating for two solid weeks in Europe.  More on that in the next post.

New Experiences

When I wrote last on New Years' Eve 2012, I was about 2/3rds of the way through the program and ready to take on my second Intersession, Spring, and Summer sessions.  I would say that most of your first year in business school is spent getting your bearings on the whole thing, especially if you're juggling school with work, family, social life, etc.  For me, the second year was where I really took off and not only started to synthesize everything that I had been learning over the course of the first year, but also started meeting more people at school--not just in my cohort, which was beginning to disperse as people accelerated or de-celerated their studies.

Exploring the Jade Buddha Temple, Shanghai
January was a particularly exciting time, as I was coming off of a great visit from my parents over the Christmas and New Year holiday, and going right into my very first trip to Asia as a student consultant in Shanghai, China.  There were about 24 graduate students on this trip, and we were divided into four teams that essentially became three.

I was on one of the two teams that were assigned to the same company; we started out as different projects and quickly merged into one Super Team of 13 people.  Anyone who has worked in groups before knows that having a project team of that size can be extremely difficult to manage, especially in an academic scenario where everyone is more or less on the same "level" and it can be easy for some members to get a bit, how shall I say...lost in the shuffle.  Somehow, we made it work.

We managed to pull off an excellent initial analysis of the small fashion trimmings and accessories company we worked for, which was very well received.  They were very hospitable, treating the entire group to several meals and giving us gifts in the traditional Chinese business custom.  I wish the company every success!
Walking from the metro station to the office

The team, advising professors, and client exec team after our final presentation.

When we weren't working--which was rare when the projects really kicked into high gear--we were eating, drinking, and exploring bits of the city.  For every moment of chaos, noise, and suffocating smog, there were even more adventures in culinary delights and a fascinating juxtaposition of East-West culture and commerce.  Look, China may be a communist country, but Shanghai is a very cosmopolitan, international city.  I must've hit a Starbucks at least 3 or 4 times (peach blossom latte, mmmmm), and my friends and I dined on everything from local dumplings to Japanese teppanyaki to fresh shucked oysters at an upscale bar run by one of my classmates' old high school friends.  Transportation was cheap, shopping plentiful, and in a city 10x the size of NYC, there is plenty to see.  I would definitely return someday, though perhaps not in the dead of winter...

This could be any given city, right?

The Beginning of the End

Because the school only holds one official commencement ceremony every year after the spring session, I decided to go ahead and walk in May.  (Going 3 months early is a lot more pragmatic to me than 9 months later.  Who knows where I'll even be by that point.)  
So, over Memorial Day Weekend, I suited up in the cap, gown, and regalia to go get my diploma-holder.  Most of my family was able to attend, for which I am very grateful!  

I was so swept up in the whole graduation  thing, in fact, that I hosted a neighborhood pub crawl the weekend before.  Which, if I may say so myself, was pretty epic.  Check out the "trailer" I made for the event!


After May, I had a solid 2 months' break from class, as both of the ones I had left to take where in the latter half of the summer session.  It was wonderful getting a preview of life would be like with a free and flexible schedule--including having the time to fly to Orlando to see one of my best friends get married without worrying about missing class or reading case studies on the plane--and it was also pretty awful to cram two three-credit courses into 5 weeks.  By the time I hit the classrooms again, I was raring to go.  Fortunately, I had had both of the professors before and enjoyed their teaching style and the subject matter.  There were some dark moments in that 6-days-a-week-on-campus period, and maaaaaybe I was finishing my final project over the course of a flight to Munich and still had to put the final touches on once I got to said destination...but in the end it all got done.

Last week I received the final confirmation from the MBA program's administrative director that I was all finished, and my diploma should arrive at my home in 6-8 weeks.

So there you have it.  Two solid years, 53 units, countless case studies and presentations, and invaluable experiences that I wouldn't trade for anything.

What's Next?

I've gotten that question a few times now from family, friends, and even work colleagues.  The short answer is: I don't know.  I have ideas and options that I would like to explore in different areas of my life--personally and professionally--but until things are concrete, I'll probably keep the latter pretty close to the vest.  Even going back to school isn't off the table; I may consider doing a PhD eventually, but for now I'm just enjoying my freedom.

Thank you to all who have supported me in this crazy MBA Project!  Now to start working on the next one.