10 Takeaways from My Full-Time Berkeley MBA Experience


berkeley-mba-takeways-imageTo cap off finishing my last final of my last class at Haas today (?!?!!?) I wanted to share 10 MBA takeaways—written for future me so I never forget—for anyone thinking about going back to school or the skeptics or just to prove I learned SOMETHING!

It’s been the BEST two years of my life, hands down. I can’t believe it’s over.

1. Say yes. 
This is about going outside your comfort zone. And then hanging out there, awkwardly. Saying no and just being alone is the easiest, most comfortable thing—I know this as an introvert—but it’s the yeses that have brought me the most learning, and as a result, the most delight. From Lean Launchpad to Storytelling to the Marketing Summit to Women in Business to Elite Eight, I’m so grateful I said yes. It’s also about (in NickKroshus' wise words) self-creating moments. Like being an enabler, but for yourself. Saying yes to scary things creates a type of satisfaction (bordering on pride) that can’t really be achieved by anyone else inviting you to experience. (Say yes to travel with friends, most of all!)

2. Everyone has Imposter Syndrome. 
Literally everyone. It’s ok to talk about these vulnerabilities (thanks Sheryl!) because you realize how much everyone else wants to succeed too and how much they want you to succeed and the you get out of your head and throw your shoulders back and smile and lead with confidence (without attitude) and the rest is trusting the value you bring. Also, there’s no such thing as being over-authentic. So just pull back the curtain all the way.

3. Job-hunting is a numbers game. 
One of the best things about taking two years to craft your next career step is being able to consider all the job functions, companies and industries that interest you; not only talking to people in those roles but meeting relevant alumni, visiting offices on treks and networking with founders. At that point, why narrow your job search?! Apply the law of large numbers and rejoice when something pans out. (Because it always will, Peter)

4. Pull as you climb. 
The reality is, women are still a minority at the top. Don’t just focus on your success; help grow the careers of the people around you. As our WIB guest speaker (Kelly Thomspon from Walmart) said, “your muscles should be sore from both climbing and pulling.” 

5. Suspend judgment. 
It’s just not worth it to a) jump to conclusions b) write someone off or c) be a Toxic Thomas because you’ll miss so much! I often hear (in response to telling people about WIB) that it often seems like women are hardest on each other. THIS IS SO TRUE. But we don’t have to be! Suspending judgment about the reputation of other women, their directness, the way they allow their personal life to intermingle with their professional life (because, big surprise here, it is, in fact, one and the same life) or even their choice of dress is critical to breaking down woman-on-woman hostility.

6. Diverge. 
Haas’ legendary PFPS instills the importance of always thinking broadly before drawing conclusions. Diverging to converge. This makes brainstorming much more interesting and leads to crazy-clever solutions 100% of the time.

7. Celebrate success. 
Be good at finishing things and patting yourself on the back. School is the perfect environment for closure—you literally take a FINAL to wrap the class—but the real world has fewer opportunities to recognize accomplishment (despite lots of opportunities to recognize failure, no matter how small). So celebrate the little wins too! (This works best if you have a Virginia in your life who is always up for a celebratory glass of rosé or a Christine to supply an 80s costume.)

8. There is nothing wrong with Millennials. 
I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with this group because I’m on the bubble so I’m sometimes Gen Y and sometimes Millennial and feelings of belonging and rejection don’t mesh. But after spending two years with them, I can tell you with authority THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH MILLENNIALS. If you work with a Millennial and you think their expectations are too lofty, check how low your expectations are and revise. Srsly. As one of my favorite Millennials (Stephanie White) said last night, “The world needs idealists.” You may hate MBAs who think they can do anything when they graduate but I’ve been in classes with them as they ask piercingly sharp questions about how to get companies to care about investing in women in developing countries. I’ve worked with them on massive group projects requiring commitment and flexibility and seen them patiently teach each other (ok, mainly me) the tricky stuff. I’ve attended events entirely organized by visionaries who aren’t afraid to invite Hilary Clinton to speak or commit to 10 party buses (because Anthony KNOWS his marketing will get 500 students to buy tickets) or to tell their brave personal stories, in front of their peers, at Story Salon. I’ve helped them start companies that aren’t driven by profits but by passions. This group will work hard to change the world for the better and smile while they’re at it. They may have an inordinate amount of pop culture references at their fingertips but by golly they are the smartest group you’ll ever have the pleasure of working with.

9. Go beyond yourself. 
Our Haas Defining Principles are the best. This one is about volunteering your time—particularly with kids, as they have no filter for letting you know how much they love it and that is hugely rewarding—but any time you can give is precious. It’s also about helping your friends. Opening up your network, writing a recommendation, attending an event (outside your comfort zone! Say yes!) Anytime you can be supportive of your friends’ endeavors, do it. Haas’ supportive and generous culture is so antithetical to the working world I came from and so much better. Bringing support to the workplace (as opposed to competition) will make your career brighter and bigger. 

10. Dance. 
I’m not talking about going to a club and getting grinded on (or getting your grind on) or some formal event. I’m talking about in-the-middle-of-dinner-tabletop and kimono-karaoke-fueled-by-sake dancing because life is short and dancing leads to singing leads to laughing leads to the time of your life. Every. Single. Time.

Thank you for your love and support! Especially my sweetheart, honorary MBA John Vanderwilt. #haasome #mbalife #disoweek14

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