A few weeks ago, I represented MBA Women International Indy on a current student panel at the Kelley Evening MBA new student orientation. I entertained questions from students in the January 2013 cohort.
As I sat in that chair for the fourth (and final) time, I began to remember what I was like when I began the Evening MBA program. I remember the feeling of terror as I walked into the business school, straight into a silent line of people being ushered in one by one for student portraits. Even though I kept my cool on the outside, I could feel my heart pounding and my face heating up as I passed the line of new students, each in a dark suit with a stoic expression. When I got to the end of the line, I smiled at the person in front of me. When she actually smiled back, I could feel my entire body breathe a sigh of relief. I was suddenly struck by the fact that at least one person in this line was not a robot but, indeed, a real human.
During the orientation, all I could think about was how I was going to fail accounting because I hadn’t done a math problem in years and how no one would take me seriously because I was starting my own company instead of working for a large corporation. Little did I know then, the people sitting around me were not robots nor cookie-cutter business people, but they were real people and would not only be some of the most interesting people that I have ever met, but some of my best friends.
As I near graduation, I realize if there is anything that I have learned from earning my MBA, it is I really understand that people are just people. Throughout the program, I’ve interacted with and have been exposed to so many different kinds of people. I’ve had conversations with CEOs, engineers, scientists, sales reps, financial advisors, and accountants. But I’ve also had conversations with people who are unemployed or those coming straight from undergrad. And it doesn’t matter who I’m talking to, that person always has an interesting story to tell. After several conversations with executives, I cannot tell you what a relief it was for me to step back and think that they, too, were in my shoes at one time. The only thing that separates me from them is time and dedication. And just as I can learn from their experiences, I have something to offer them as well. This seems like such a simple concept, but it takes time to learn it for real.
Now, whether I enter a room of full of top executives or a room full of new students at Kelley, that terror I once felt so strongly is not there. I have more confidence in myself and my abilities. I now enter those situations with excitement and anticipation, because I know that each person I interact with is just a person. And no matter what his or her story is, I cannot wait to hear it.