This past spring, a new batch of students graduated business school, eager to put their MBAs to use.
And despite having spent countless hours spent studying the intricacies of finance, accounting, marketing, and operations, many of these graduates will tell you that the most important thing they learned at business school wasn’t from a textbook or lecture.
Alex Dea, a senior consultant at Deloitte Digital and 2015 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, discovered this when he recently interviewed nine new grads from some of the top b-schools in the United States for his blog MBA Schooled, which he started two years ago.
We went through Dea’s interviews with these graduates, in which they reflect about their past two years, and highlighted what they consider to be the lesson that will stick with them longest. The common thread is that while you don’t need to go to business school to learn about economics and statistics, the school experience itself is what’s most valuable.
Jeff Ellington (Wharton ’17) learned the value of trust in business.
Ellington was part of Dorm Room Fund, New York venture capital firm First Round Capital’s college branch as a student at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He was impressed with the way the First Round partners treated the Dorm Room Fund team with “tremendous trust and respect” despite their relative experience.
“This trust earned our respect and inspired the team to work quite diligently,” Ellington said. He found that this relationship building was especially effective in such an ambitious experiment — having college students spend the firm’s money on other college students. Over five years, Dorm Room Fund grew to more than 10 schools, 130 investments, and 400 partners and entrepreneurs.
“Treating people with respect and taking the initiative to experiment can have incredible compounding effects.”
Katie Ellington (Wharton ’17) learned that knowing oneself leads to better decision-making.
“I think I’ve emerged from business school a bigger feminist than I was before (which is saying something, because I already was a feminist!)” Ellington said.
Highlights of her time at Wharton include lectures from professor and bestselling author Adam Grant, “Feminist Fight Club” author Jessica Bennett, and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg that explored “how much further we still need to go as a society” when it comes to women in corporate leadership positions.
As she developed this passion, she also deepened her knowledge of heuristics and biases like “confirmation bias, anchoring, overconfidence, and similarity attraction.” She explained that working toward her goal of establishing “a more equitable workplace and country,” she learned how to better understand how the mind creates potentially problematic shortcuts.
“I hope that greater awareness about how these biases affect me will lead to better decision-making throughout the rest of my life and career,” she said.
Charlie Mangiardi (Stern ’17) learned to stop doubting himself.
With an undergraduate degree in history and a background in the nonprofit sector, Mangiardi found himself overwhelmed at New York University’s Stern School of Business when he compared his credentials to more typical b-school students.
But as he built relationships with classmates and pushed himself academically (he made the Dean’s list), he realized that effective teams comprise members with different experiences and skill sets that complement each other.
“Ultimately what I’ve learned is to stop questioning whether I belong somewhere once I’ve made it there, and instead focus on pushing myself to be better,” he said.