Busy at B-School ~ by Tiana Veldwisch '08

 

 

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"Tiana's core semester team completes raft-building orientation challenge"

Today is my second day of business school classes, and I'm learning already! So far, the atmosphere is a bit frenetic, with 400 new first-year MBA students trying to figure out what room their class is in, which article to read for the next course, how to consolidate various email accounts and calendars, and also what to be "when we grow up." MIT Sloan School of Management is a little distinctive in its admission process, in that it asks more about what you've done and how you behave rather than what you plan to do after business school, on the premise that we really don't know yet and will likely change our minds a number of times before we graduate in two years. That hasn't stopped us all from asking one another the same question as we attempt to meet all our new classmates and form relationships.

So far, I think I'm more organized and ready than most, since Olin prepared me well for time-management in extreme demands. And I'm confident I can take on open-ended problems and poorly-defined challenges, after the project work at Olin. We have been immediately thrown into group work here, which is new for some of my classmates but totally standard for me, and I've already been drawing on Olin lessons, as well as real-world lessons, on how to work together and set expectations with the group. One very exciting aspect is how diverse - geography, background, etc. - my classmates and groupmates are:  four countries of origin, in fact four continents of origin, are represented in my group of seven!

I decided to pursue an MBA now for a few reasons: I wanted to broaden my understanding of business and management practice, I felt my learning at my job had plateaued, my GMAT scores were about to expire (more on that later), and I wanted to do it before I got too comfortable with a salary and had further demands (children, mortgage) on my finances. I loved engineering as a way of thinking and solving problems, but I don't want to be an in-the-trenches engineer all my life. I really enjoy organizing and mobilizing a team to solve a problem, which I first realized while doing stage-management in theatre, but also in other areas of work and studies.  So I think I want to spend my time on the management side of engineering - starting new companies, managing R&D teams, etc. I expect that my MBA studies will give me a deeper understanding of the components of running a business or organization, so I'll be able to leverage both my technical and non-technical skills down the road. In my job (most recently as a Product Innovation Manager at athenahealth, inc.) I played a similar role, leading project teams of software developers to solve business problems, but within a fairly confined environment. I was beginning to feel that the rate at which I was learning new skills and concepts was slowing, so while I enjoyed my work and the company culture, this seemed like a good time to go back to school, especially knowing that it gets harder and harder to go the longer you are out of undergrad.

I chose Sloan because I felt that the school's close ties with the technical and entrepreneurial focus of MIT would be a good fit for the type of business leader I wish to become. Additionally, it was local, which meant continuing to live in Boston with my partner, and it has a "small-community" feel, though compared with Olin's 300 students, this place seems pretty huge to me. When I visited campus after being admitted, I was immediately impressed by the other students - their passion and energy and friendliness was very appealing, and so far that has stayed true to my first impressions. Business school, wherever you go, is a lot about building networks and connections - some think this is more important than the coursework itself - so there are a ton of events and mixers and drinking. Finding the right balance of coursework, "networking", and home-life/hobbies will be a challenge to work on over the coming months, though I foresee that I'll be as enjoyably-busy here as I was at Olin. I thrive on a busy schedule, so I'm looking forward to settling into the class schedule and getting going on projects.

Two pieces of advice, if you're even thinking of going this route: 1) take the GMAT while still in undergrad, and 2) open a credit card or other line of credit. To elaborate - I took the GMAT exam senior spring at Olin, while I was in hardcore "study" mode and in the habit of doing math and analysis, but before "senior-itis" struck. My scores were good for five years, which gave me the time I wanted to work a few years before applying, but meant I didn't have to take the time out of work to study for the GMAT exam (which I have heard from others is harder when you are no longer in study-mode).

To elaborate on my second piece of advice, business school is expensive and you'll likely need to take out a loan (or two or three). Establishing credit history beforehand is helpful in getting a good rate on your loan. I relied on only a debit card all through Olin, so when I got out, I had a tough time getting a reasonable credit card because I had no credit history and was no longer given the "grace period" of being a student. So start earlier, even if all you do is use it to buy your textbooks and immediately pay them off, having a credit card and establishing some credit will help you further down the line.

If anyone thinking about business school or MIT Sloan in particular wants to talk about it, feel free to reach out to me: tiana.veldwisch@alumni.olin.edu.

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