Success in an MBA program: A Self-directed Journey

A few weeks back, a prospective MBA student asked, “What really determines success in an MBA program?”  That got me thinking about how I would define success here at Fisher.

Most Fisher MBA students have very different backgrounds. That includes financial services, consulting, dance, education, engineering, auditing and many more. We all join the program with our own objectives in mind, which are similar but very different. And, we’ll no doubt go on to have many more distinctive experiences following the program.  To successfully get to that point though, each of us has to focus on our personal and professional objectives and allow those goals to shape the activities and opportunities in which we involve ourselves as students. Those activities definitely start in the classroom, but experiential learning is a huge part of the MBA program as well.  There are three specific aspects of the program that come to mind as things that shape the MBA experience and help determine success:

Coursework: In the first year of the program, MBA students take a variety of coursework in every functional area of business. That includes some that you might be extremely interested and ones that allow you to build on areas where you are not as strong. The reasoning behind that is you want to be a well-rounded leader and have a breadth of knowledge about business.  In your second year of the program, the courses that you choose should continue to strengthen areas of weakness.

Professional and Leadership Development: Staying true to you in this area is incredibly important.  We each have different sets of developmental opportunities that we need to identify and strengthen.  There are many formal and informal ways to do that at Fisher. There are over 30 student organizations, a corporate mentor program and a host of experiential learning opportunities such as business case competitions.

Internship: The internship between the first and second year of the program allow you to experience what its really like in your desired career. I really enjoyed my internship experience this past summer as and Associate Brand Manager at Abbott Nutrition and it definitely makes me excited about a career in that field. Not everyone had same experience; others have decided to refocus on a different functional area of business after interning this past summer. The internship is great for that reason; we have an experience that helps shape the final year of the MBA program in term of choosing a specialization and long-term career goals.

How well those things are executed really determines success in the MBA program. Ultimately, success in the program will mean something a little different for everyone. The great part about it is that Fisher has incredible career advisors, faculty and mentors to help along the way.



Stand Up and Speak Out!

It is the final week of classes. That means that final exams are next week and class presentations are upon us. This is the time when roles switch. Students supplement class discussions with some quite impressive deliveries—informing the class on different topics, including companies’ performance, information on CEO compensation, and even how to best manage generation “Y” and get their best work. Just admit it—as you walk to the front of a room for a public presentation, every nervous tension comes along with you.

After practicing for days and building up all confidence known to man, it all begins to deflate as you approach your big moment. You want to deliver. After all, there’s a lot of work that goes into the preparation of a great presentation. Rest assured: this is normal.  Here are two simple things that I have learned that will help relieve some of that nervousness:

  • Stand Up:  Although this may seem a bit obvious, posture is shown to increase the clarity of your voice. Here’s the trick: as you walk to the front of the room erect, take the deep breaths as you have always been told. Then, inhale one last time before you begin speaking.  To avoid what I call the “shaky voice” syndrome, after you take that last breath very slowly exhale as you begin speaking. The pressure of the air will help reduce the shaking. Try it. It works.
  •  Speak Out:  Be sure to project your voice. The important thing is that it should be natural but don’t lose control. This is your moment so just let the audience hear what you’ve practice many times. And remember that your presentation should be very similar to the flow of a normal conversation.

Now that you know what to do, practice as much as possible in front of friends and family.  Don’t forget the two steps! As  you walk up to give a presentation, “stand up.” And as you speak, speak out to the audience.