Thursday, September 20, 2012

And So It Begins...

The first six weeks of business school have been, well...a lot--a lot of new experiences, a lot of new people, a lot of fun, a lot of work, a lot of networking, a lot of stress, a lot of learning.   I think their strategy is to throw as much as is humanly possible at you, and force you to learn how to survive.  Then just as you think you're about to get it, they throw you even more.  I often feel like this:

So when I got the opportunity to write a blog for Darden, I had no shortage of experiences to write about. The challenging part was coming up with a blog name that would tie together everything I was experiencing. All the titles I came up with sounded so negative:  "Disaster of Business Administration," "Distrust the Process," (a bad play on Darden's often cited version of "everything happens for a reason"), "Running on Empty"...

These definitely captured how I felt about some aspects of the first month...but they didn’t even begin to capture how much fun it’s been, how much I’ve learned, the great people I've met, and how immensely happy I am that I made the decision to come here.

To understand this a little better, let me give you a bit of background about me. I graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in Learning and Organizational Change. When I declared my major in college, I felt like I had found the missing puzzle piece to my future that I didn’t even know was missing. After graduation, I worked at The Corporate Executive Board for two of our client programs: CLC Human Resources (formerly the Corporate Leadership Council) and CLC Learning and Development (formerly the Learning and Development Roundtable).   I wrote research studies on HR best practices, answering questions like:
  • What is global leadership and how do you develop it in your employees? 
  • How do you train and hold managers accountable for developing their employees given increasing strains on their time?
  • How do you measure the return on investment of diversity and inclusion?

Through my work, I had the opportunity to interview hundreds of HR executives at client companies around the world to understand these challenges and identify how they were being solved.  I loved the intellectual stimulation, the exposure to senior HR executives, the caliber of my coworkers, and the spirit of the company.  I had found a career that I loved in a company I really respected and enjoyed working for.

At this point in my story, people often wonder why I left for business school. Even though I was certain I had found the right career, I saw business school as the linchpin in being successful in it. Let me explain.

My experience at CEB developed my management skills and HR expertise. However, I knew that to be successful in HR meant truly acting (and being seen) as a partner to business leaders in achieving organizational objectives. To do that, I needed to supplement my skills and expertise with a strong understanding of how finance, marketing, strategy, and operations complement human capital strategy. Darden is renowned for its general management business program and I knew that an education from here would be the key to making my HR career a success.

So back to my struggle to find the right name for this blog. While this month has certainly been trying at times, it's already clear that Darden will give me what I need to be successful.  I actually really enjoy going to class and hearing what my professors and classmates have to say.  I was randomly selected for arguably the best of the five sections of the first year class (more to come on the Legendary Section E), which, in addition to being on the way to winning the Darden Cup for the fifth year in a row, is the most interesting, fun, caring, and supportive group of people I've met in a while.  I love going to meet with my learning team every night, even when I'm stressed out by how much work we have in front of us.  And I deeply appreciate how genuinely kind and interested all the second years, faculty, staff, and alumni are in making sure us first years are both happy and successful.

To capture all this in a single blog title was going to be tough. As any good researcher will do, I turned to some outside sources to try to drum up some more appropriate titles. I picked up ThinkerToys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques off of my bookshelf, and came across a quotation that struck a nerve:

“Life is like standing on a rolling ship. You’re going to slip. You’re going to grab onto things. You’re going to fall. And it’s a constant challenge to get up and push yourself to keep going. But in the end, the most exhilarating feeling in the world is getting up and moving forward with a smile.” 
-Richard Cohen, as quoted in ThinkerToys

I knew that these two years at Darden would be some of the most challenging of my life so far. But those people who I will grab onto, that will give me the strength to push myself up and keep going, are everywhere at Darden. And when I shake Dean Bruner’s hand as I receive my diploma in May 2014, I will most definitely be smiling, knowing that I will have earned that degree and enjoyed the process.

1 comment:

  1. Loved the analogy to a rolling ship. Couldn't have agreed more with you! :)