By Abhinav IYER, ESSEC Global MBA Class of 2017
Around this time last year, I was in India grappling with the dilemma of whether I needed to do the MBA. A critical life incident involving my family had made me question my choice.
In situations involving no easy answers, I took the plunge based on what my family and well-wishers at work recommended. One could argue that "free will" was suspended and I decided to come to ESSEC amidst several cobwebs in the mind, full of questions and with some anxiety.
Perhaps, I kept telling myself that time would simply fly past me and transform the journey into a surrealistic blur.
As I reflect, the time has indeed whizzed by and I take this opportunity to articulate what this experience, especially this group, has offered me.
1) A humbling voyage
Despite having had experience of working in multiple groups and contexts over 10 years, the MBA experience was humbling as it signaled that past records and experiences could not earn the seat at the table. One has to start from a clean slate, continually operating in a "learning mode".
As I write, I recognize the limits of my ignorance. This humbling experience may not have always been offered to me if not for this MBA, and I might have simply been operating in auto-pilot mode in my job.
2) The Mirror offered by an internationally diverse cohort
I kept asking myself - "What does having 18 nationalities in a batch really mean?" Beyond the fluff around diversity or global outlook, what does a diverse cohort truly offer?
Based on my experience, such a diverse group shows one “the Mirror”. I recognize that this Mirror is always available for one to view, but may not always make for pleasant viewing.
Thanks to such a diverse group, I could experience first-hand multiple realities within a group. There is no standard way of influencing, processing a message, interpreting a "yes" or building trust. I stumbled many a time, often bemused by my gaffes.
Each project experience was a greenfield venture that provided new insights into interpersonal intelligence.
I have had a good hard look at this Mirror over months and gleaned one idea, amongst several others:
I could work more on developing warmth - it has never been a core aspect of my persona; I must confess that I had become too certain about it, something that might have prevented me from working on it. However, I have become more actively cognizant of the need to take action.
3) Several Lindt Moments
France has spoilt my culinary palate. The fromage, the desserts, and the chocolates have been delightful for the tastebuds, but not easy on the body's geometry. Nonetheless, there have been several sweet "Lindt" moments. I will cherish profusely the deeply illuminating conversations with so many people, the excursions, late night tea conversations in the room...Those moments of delirious joy that suspended me from the anxieties and dilemmas that were circling around me like ravenous vultures.
I will remember the efforts of Josiane and Claire who have been intimately associated with the GMBA. Josiane's diligence, empathy, responsiveness and the role of an academic mother of sorts is inspirational. Claire's generosity, the spirit of abundance and sensitivity have struck a chord with me. If I could emulate even a quarter of their qualities, I would be blessed.
4) What RoI?
When I started the MBA, I was asked in India about how I would gauge the "return on investment" (RoI). I was even advised about increasing the RoI by looking for jobs in Europe as the adjusted salaries would account significantly.
But that logic makes the assumption that both the input and the output would be indexed in financial terms. But then, how do you measure the RoI when the output itself is non-financial and deeply intangible - such as cherished relationships, greater self-clarity, renewal, enhanced cultural intelligence, honing of the global mindset etc. I like to believe that I have built substantial muscle during this period with the cognition that eureka moments may occur further ahead as well. Therefore, how can one really even measure RoI? Is it even a relevant measure?
To my mind, the Global MBA is essentially an investment, not an expense, that will keep blooming continually in myriad ways. For which, I am thankful to ESSEC, all my colleagues, the faculty members who invested in us, Aarti, Jeanine, Eric, Sandie & the career staff and the administration for holding us together.
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