If I had only known then what I know now

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Last night on our Singapore campus, the Singapore alumni club presented a panel to our newest group of Executive MBA students in Asia entitled: “If I had only known then what I know now!” Kicked off by the Singapore Alumni Club President, Steve Golden (’06, AXP5), and moderated by Tom Vaswani (’11, AXP10) the panel included: James Nesbitt (’06, AXP 5), Saurabh Garg (’11, AXP 10), Ho Kuen Wei (’06, AXP 5) and Marijohn Sampson (’09, AXP 8). The alumni had a lot of excellent advice and some interesting stories to share. I jotted down some of the salient points they had for the students who are just embarking on their 21 month Executive MBA journey:

  • Personal reputation is important. Make sure to think about and build your personal reputation from the very first day. It will be important not just during the program but will carry forward through the rest of your career and relationship with your classmates and the school.
  • Take advantage of the network immediately. Be a willing participant- don’t just be here to take, but also to give. Be willing to share info about your job and industry freely with others. Come at it with an open mind and it will be repaid. Don't wait until the end - start networking early.
  • What you can learn depends on what you ask. If you have a question - the likelihood is many other students in the group have it. Be brave - ask. It’s how you learn.
  • You have to make your own success. If you are not ready for that then there is no point of being in the program. The tools are all there in the program. Don't wait on the school or others to make it a success for you.
  • Sharpen your mind against your peers. An overriding theme throughout the evening was that a very important part of the learning in the program comes from your peer group. Sharpening skills, learning from one another, interacting all create excellent learning opportunities.
  • The value of a 5 minute window. You’ll be surprised how much you can do in short periods of time. Learn to take advantage of these throughout the program. Reading a few pages, asking the professor or TA a quick question, engaging with a classmate, or even making a quick call to the team at your office - can all be done in just a few minutes.
  • Keep key management at your work well informed about what you are doing in the program. A short note to them after each session week about what you have learned and how it applies to your job can go a long way to engaging them in what you are doing - and demonstrate the value of the program. People want to know.
  • One key takeaway for everyone from the program was an extreme boost in self-confidence. How you approach problems and new opportunities, and how you interact with more senior levels of management and your peers all change as a result of the process. This is not the result of a specific course, but of the entire process and challenge of completing the program.
  • Eat fewer pastries! You've been warned.

Richard Johnson