Semester Introspective – Part 1

Well, it’s been rough, but I’m in the home stretch, and the worst of the semester is behind me.  My Brand Management final was on Monday, and that one was a bear to prepare for, though the final was only half as bad as the prep-work.  (The weekend was a whirlwind of trying to figure out how to even prepare for a Brand Management final, studying what I could, a few minutes to help put up a handful of Christmas decorations, truncates Sunday church followed by hurrying home to be with my simultaneously pregnant and ill wife.)

I’ve still got some work to do for the final for Processes & Systems, but it’s a group project rather than an exam, so it’s a bit different.

So, with one final behind me, and the other on final approach, I thought now would be a great time for me to take a look back over this past semester and take stock of the lessons I’ve learned.  Of course, this is the first time I’ll have done this, but it’s my fourth semester in grad school, so I thought first I’d recap my experiences in the previous three semesters in brief.

The first two semesters, Fall & Spring of 2008/2009, were pretty smooth sailing.  Classes were on autopilot, with the fine folks at Emory’s Evening MBA Office auto-enrolling the class in Financial Accounting and Business Statistics (which they called “Decision Analysis”).  My work experience and prior course experience made both fairly easy to handle, with Statistics being a little more inline with the way my brain handles things.   Spring continued with the auto-enrolling, including Economics and Business Strategy.  Strategy was, primarily, a great class that got me thinking very hard about how to move my career in a strategy-oriented direction.  Economics should have been a very thought-provoking class, given the economic meltdown that was happening before our very eyes, and yet managed not to be.  Still, I did well in both classes.  Around this time I took a test provided by our program office called “Career Leader” that’s supposed to help us figure out what sort of career we might best be suited for within the business realm.  This threw some challenges into my overall plan as it suggested I should pursue a career path leading toward “Advertising Account Executive” (necessitating, I’m sure, a move to Madison Ave.) or a Product Development/R&D Manager.  These suggestions were based primarily on my high need for “creative” work tempered by a need for structure and other variables.  Advertising Account Executive is not really a career path I find realistic, but rather than answer questions about what I wanted to do with my MBA, the test only made the question more perplexing.

In May 2009 I took my first ACE class.  Negotiations wouldn’t have been my first choice, but my wife convinced me that it would be a useful skill, and the program was designed, perversely, such that we would not graduate in May of our graduation year (when the Full Time students graduate) unless we took at least 2 ACE classes (and you’d need more to realistically participate in OCR).  So, I took Negotiations.  Frankly, I did very miserably in Negotiations.  My non-confrontational nature made it very difficult to fully grasp the techniques of Negotiations, even though the primary gist of the course was in finding constructive, collaborative “integrative” resolutions to negotiating problems as opposed to traditional, confrontational “distributive” negotiations.  Integrative negotiations are just as challenging as the distributive sort, but at the end of the class I can say I at least had a set of tools to understand what’s going on when negotiations get under way, and a few tools to hopefully aid me in ensuring I am able to meet my interests when entering into negotiations.

Summer of 2009 was Marketing Management and Managerial Finance.  Finance is a topic I do decently well at, but for which I have little long-term career interest.  The class was good, though, in helping provide useful tools in analyzing a business case, and the tools there will probably be useful even in non-finance-related careers.  Marketing Management was a real test-case for me, as my Career test was pointing me strongly toward marketing careers.  I found the topics very interesting, but at the end of the day I felt a profound lack of innate aptitude for marketing activities, in general.  Still, that gave me enough motivation to try one more round of Marketing with my Brand Management class.

August 2009 was another intense ACE class – this one a topic I very much wanted to study further: Entrepreneurship.  I had taken an Entrepreneurship class in Undergrad school, but where I was then expecting a class where we would write a business plan I instead got a class with case studies that weren’t that effective in teaching Entrepreneurship.  The word on the street was that Entrepreneurship class at Goizueta was exactly what I was wanting in Undergrad, and it did not disappoint.  But it was an insanely difficult course – probably the best course I had taken so far in my Evening MBA experience, but the most difficult as well.  A big part of this is the challenge of doing everything necessary to write a successful and complete Business Plan within the truncated period of time available in an ACE class.

Toward the end of the Summer, I also applied for Goizueta’s Leadership Development program, called LEAD.  This is like an extra course stretched over Fall and Spring terms of 2009/2010 focused on developing a lot of the interpersonal, intrapersonal and goal-oriented skills that are hard to teach in a classroom setting and require more experiential approaches.  My application was successful, and I’m very excited about this additional opportunity to build my career skill set.

So, as the Fall 2009 semester was beginning, I had already been in classes non-stop since January without only a minor vacation/break from work (back in March, for a ski trip with my wife, which is another story) that whole, and was pretty worn-out.  Which sets the stage for where I am now.  Next time, I’ll continue this introspective by looking closer at the two classes I took this fall, Brand Management and Processes & Systems, and what they mean for my career development and my writing.