Two months have passed since my last entry here. That was not supposed to happen. Yet, it did, affecting once again the German regularity on which I usually like to rely when it comes to structuring my schedule. As the speed of the program increased again during May and the first week of June, priorities shifted toward the execution of various tasks, leaving reflection and introspection on the side for a while. Boxes had to be ticked off. While some of it felt like jumping through the hoops, fuelling my more rebellious side whose disdain for grades seems to increase exponentially as I get older, going through the various simulations provided me with team experiences that I will cherish for some time and look back to as some of the defining moments of my stay here. Continue reading “Continua a muoverti”
As the TGV from Paris to Lausanne blasts through the French countryside, green patches of forests and yellow fields of rapeseed zipping behind the window, sounds of French, Swiss German and English colliding in this wagon number 6, I catch myself gazing into the distance, mentally going through the last twelve weeks at IMD before diving back into it after a short 4-day break over Easter.
Having put both mind and body through the MBA grinder over the past few months, I know more or less what’s coming now; the rhythm of the program has been internalised. Regarding how I approached the challenges of the past three months, my personal assessment remains – however – slightly tainted with mixed feelings.
Spending a tremendous amount of time and energy on group works, to the detriment of individual exam preparations, might have been a costly choice (I will find out about that once the marks fly in). On the other hand, as pointed out in a reassuring manner by a wise soul, coming here to focus on acquiring knowledge through readings and individual studies wasn’t the objective from the get-go. There are multiple other ways of doing just that at lesser costs than those of an MBA.
I also gravitated – naturally – towards tasks that suited my interests more than others, thereby missing some valuable opportunities to extend beyond the reaches of my comfort zone. I have to remind myself that strengths are not lost because they stop being used for a few weeks or months, but that not taking chances when opportunities to enlarge myself manifest ultimately prevents me from building up new ones.
As someone who usually requires a lot of space to roam and changes of scenery to thrive, spending so much time inside the IMD bubble sometimes felt like going against my very own nature. I must concede that – although I continue to believe that being here and experiencing all this is a real privilege – I did have moments when the routine of certain parts of the program felt constraining. After some initial resistance and just like during my previous studies, I arrived at the conclusion that the captivity and immobility of the body is sometimes necessary for the mind to unleash.
“…the overflow of my brain would probably, in a state of freedom, have evaporated in a thousand follies; it needs trouble and difficulty to hollow out various mysterious and hidden mines of human intelligence.
Pressure is required, you know, to ignite powder: captivity has collected into one single focus all the floating faculties of my mind; they have come into close contact in the narrow space in which they have been wedged. You know that from the collision of clouds electricity is produced and from electricity comes the lightning from whose flash we have light amid our greatest darkness.” (Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo)
The coming transition from a purely class-driven setting to a broader environment, encompassing Company Engagement and – later on – International Consulting Projects around the globe, hints at the importance of making the most out of this remaining period with the entire class before we all scatter like sand in the wind. Some of us are thinking of going into Venture Capital in Japan for the one-month break in July, others are keen to explore the healthcare sector in Switzerland, others again mention Hyperloop One in Dubai; the range is mind-boggling.
I personally find myself moving back and forth between the possibility of going for something completely out of the ordinary that will remain with me as a unique experience (think NGOs in Emerging Economies) or opt for a more strategic approach and select an industry I have a knack for in order to gain some precious on-the-job experience before graduating at the end of the year. The debate is still raging inside of me at this stage, fuelled by the desire for social conformity and a more risk-averse approach on one hand, while at the same time, I can’t deny the opposing desire to completely discard all those external factors and hope for the fire inside me to eventually burn brighter than the one around me. Rage on.
“Go meet your shadow” is what the former biologist turned Jungian psychoanalyst tells me on the way out.
I reply with a short “Again, thank you for your time. Au revoir Margareta.” before shaking the lady’s hand and exiting the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center on IMD’s campus.
Every IMD MBA student can – for a good part of the program – benefit from a personal coach and analyst to gain insights into what it is that makes him or her tick. This offering is part of the Personal Development Elective and plays a central role in the leadership stream.
I like the idea of the shadow – an image of everything a subject refuses to acknowledge about him- or herself, containing self-denied qualities and impulses – and the belief that the less it is embodied in an individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.
However, the very process of opening to an analyst and going through the layers of my inner workings is something that I am still not very fond of. Maybe that does say something about me, or maybe it simply says something about the culture and environment I grew up in and was shaped by. Either way, I am willing to take that red pill and go down the rabbit hole for a little longer (the cinematic reference in that sentence will most likely have been spotted by millennial readers).
Those introspective journeys remain a rarity though. The amount of time that went into reading, writing, analysing, preparing and presenting during the entire month of February and the fact that we will continue to be swamped with work all the way to Easter makes any attempt at procrastination futile. Time for self-reflection is a luxury these days, which I think is a pity. As a matter of fact, this post is actually overdue and the only reason I have opted to carve out some time for it now is because I have decided to choose this battle instead of the other ones revolving around Finance, the start-up project and their likes. I won’t even mention the countless books I brought with me from Zurich and was looking forward to delving into, but will most likely not even look at over the coming weeks. The false feeling of having entered a “rat-race” can sometimes resurge and although I believe that it is often much easier to lie about the state of one’s heart than we imagine, I find it relatively easy to dispel those feelings.
It is true that due to their previous studies and professional experiences, some of us are familiar with certain contents of the program. In fact, that is one of the benefits of studying here since a lot of knowledge can be gained through those participants. But so far, what I found out for myself is that I probably wouldn’t have been able to understand certain things without coming here and that this knowledge alone will hopefully serve me well beyond the program.
I have realised that growing up between two cultures and having worked in various places around the globe is not a vaccine against cultural blunders and I have apologised twice during the past two weeks for causing pain to people I consider myself very fortunate to study with.
I have come to understand how important it is to let go of wanting to control it all, since there is only so much one can accomplish over an entire day packed with personal and team deliverables. I must concede: the German in me finds this one very hard to implement.
I believe I have grown slightly better at putting more distance between myself and all the stuff that’s flying around us during the program, somehow insulating myself a bit better than I was able to during the previous years.
Despite the shortage of time, I have found ways and means to maintain regular contact with parents, siblings and close friends; something I wasn’t able to accomplish that well while working.
And although all this feels pretty new to me, I am also aware that some of the previous MBA batches most likely went through similar experiences. If that is indeed the case, I will hereby put the blame on my relative youth and finish by quoting one of my favourite authors:
“Young people get the foolish idea that what is new for them must be new for everybody else too. No matter how unconventional they get, they’re just repeating what others before them have done.” – Yukio Mishima, Runaway Horses
The first two weeks are in the rearview mirror and although there is plenty of work on my desk that needs to get done, now is a good time to take a step back and reflect a bit on what happened so far. Tuesday evening and a cup of tea for a moment of quiet introspection. Continue reading “On culture, values and connectivity”
As one of the four official bloggers who will share their MBA experiences at IMD, using this space to highlight both highs and lows (after all, experiencing setbacks and learning how to navigate through murky waters is also an integral part of a transformative journey) over the next 12 months, I think it only makes sense to use this first post of mine to explain why I decided to come here, describe what I hope to achieve through this blog and briefly introduce my background in the process, before Priyanka, Sathappan and Mohammed do the same over the next few days. Continue reading “Narrating the journey”