Residing on Locust: Surviving Yr One Of Enterprise Faculty
I failed in the middle of the semester and became the most improved student in my statistics class. I co-led several Lauder Institute diversity initiatives to increase the number of applicants with black US citizens by 30%. Oh, and I almost fell asleep during a few courses on Zoom.
The sum of these experiences enabled me to get through my first year of a dual MBA / MA program during the global pandemic. While I started as a scammer, I ended the year as an outspoken, positive, and tactical person who focused on renaming myself professionally.
I started taking lessons in July last year and “intensive” would be a nice word to describe the fact that I take 8 lessons per semester, given the dual course of study. Now that I passed my final exams, I wanted to think about how and what I did to get the most of the virtual experience during my first year of an MBA / MA program. An autopsy of your experience from the first year is always a good idea to realign your priorities and further build your self-confidence as a manager.
I had moments of impostor syndrome pretending to be something I wasn’t. I remember recruiting for counseling after being convinced by other fellow students it was the right thing to do because I felt professionally underexposed. After graduating, I only worked in two departments in one company. This is very unusual for millennials, so I followed the herd. After counting the cost of attending each recruiting activity, I stopped recruiting for advice. That didn’t ease my workload. Very quickly I was overwhelmed and overwhelmed with homework, group projects and my entrepreneurial goals to support Anima Iris, my startup. I had to reset and overcome my imposter syndrome – and I did that by thinking about my priorities and strategic career moves.
I knew I wanted to run a business and not advise someone else’s business. Recruiting forced me to stay true to my professional goals. I thought about the impact I would have on everyday business projects and society at large. I also wanted my global career to start somewhere in Africa, so I had to focus on the location first before encountering the industry or role. It’s both a niche and unusual, but this is my professional goal to rename myself as a global leader in Africa. Recruiting at the business school forced me to stay true to myself and my personal goals.
Each year, Wharton students vote as a class on whether to share our grades with employers and recruiters. This confidentiality policy of the grade gives students a special freedom when recruiting. The importance of this policy is to protect students from sharing their transcript and grade point average (GPA) with prospective employers. This allows students to take harder classes without fear of academic disadvantage. This enables them to explore new career industries where they have no direct experience without the burden of getting straight ones.
Academic achievement is important, but it is NOT everything when you develop new skills to begin a new professional journey. It’s more important to explore new courses that will bring you closer to your goals. The note’s secrecy may feel like “my grades don’t matter,” but it offers a real freedom that allows you to take risks.
I came to business school to change my job and to rename myself. Sometimes I felt like I had to constantly be sharp, over-professional and come up with the best version of myself, and that can be exhausting. When I struggled to keep up, I started attending every consultation hour for my statistics class. This is where I learned the most because it was a safe place to ask questions. Despite this extra time to learn the course content, I still got the worst grade on the intermediate exam. Then I got a tutor and took part in study groups to do homework and prepare for the final exam.
Not only did I pass this class, but the professor sent me an email saying that I was the best improved student from semester to final exam and that he was proud of me. Serendipity, I met this professor in May. We talked briefly and he ended the conversation with “Whatever you need, please get in touch”. This professor became an ally and advocate for me after what I felt was a disastrous academic achievement. I think he was impressed with my persistence when I could have stopped as my grades are never disclosed.
I quickly learned that successful people adapt by doing the little things; they achieve their goals through the sum of these actions. I’ve used tutors to make sure I understood my accounting and economics homework so that I am better prepared for the final exams. Other classmates worked together in case study preparation groups to improve their strategic thinking when recruiting for counseling internships. These supportive elements are critical to renaming yourself professional and there are a variety of solutions out there for you to pursue. Wharton is known as a “finance school”. This quantitative rigor is evident in the classroom, and as someone with no quantitative background, I gradually build up my financial acumen to acquire new quantitative skills.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how “behind the curve” I feel like a 30-year-old when I take my first corporate finance and statistics course with 20-year-olds. I quickly realized that over 100 classmates were taking courses in corporate finance and statistics for the first time. In addition, everyone around me is focused on self-improvement and the coexistence of our positive mentalities will move everyone forward faster. After expressing my virtual learning frustration, a group of students shared my concerns, so we started reviewing our homework together and sharing study materials. That was incredibly helpful and the key to success in my finance class. Despite the secrecy of the grade, I passed all of my courses and built stronger friendships during this experience.
Recently a classmate came up to me and said, “Azline, you always ask the best clarifying questions in class. Thank you for your comments because it helps me absorb the content better. By integrating a live example related to a company or business unit, multiple concepts are consistently explored and connected. ”That comment made me smile. Unmute in a class with 100+ students to show that you are confused by “XYZ” is tough and intimidating. In business school – and in life – not everyone is comfortable asking questions because it can damage their reputation.
For a rebranding, it is very important to ask clarifying questions to find out how you can improve in one area at a time. Additionally, these questions helped me realize that I shouldn’t have impostor syndrome as I take small steps to become a better leader. That’s why I’m doing my MBA and thinking about this anecdote has reminded me to be true to myself: open and tactical. I am confident that I can overcome impostor syndrome by centering my goals as I reshape my professional skills. That’s how I survived my first year at business school.
The biggest dreams are realized in small bites through consistent execution. Even with a positive attitude, you won’t be able to do everything in business school; it is not possible. I got bad grades, got turned down when applying to a club or internship, and asked stupid questions in virtual class. Survival is reflected in HOW people react to those moments; There is POWER in these next steps. Ask yourself, “How do I react to failure, rejection, and poor decision-making?” This will help alleviate the feeling that you may be incompetent and a scam syndrome when renaming yourself.
In the last year I got over imposter syndrome. Now I’m in the middle of my MBA / MA program. I’ve developed a number of tools to take on my next challenge: a summer internship. This means that new priorities and new relationships need to be built with the focus on my professional rebranding. Preparing for my summer goals means that I reflect on my previous experiences, continuously work on my quant / data skills and develop the MBA network.
I hope to see you “Living on Locust” with soul, determination and a spirit of collaboration!
A native of Waterloo, IA, Azline became a National Gates Millennium Scholar in 2009. She studied International Studies and French at Spelman College in Atlanta, GA, graduating with Cum Laude in 2013. During her bachelor’s degree, she studied abroad in Fort-de-France, Martinique and Geneva, Switzerland, as well as internships at Black Entertainment Network and Google, Inc. Azline worked for Delta Air Lines for seven years before embarking on a dual MBA / MA program the Wharton School and the Lauder Institute began.