Ekaterina joins Imperial from Russia, following her role as a Business Analyst at AB InBev and six years at PwC Russia.
In the second part of her MBA Diary series, Ekaterina shares her musings on the second two weeks on the MBA including class challenges, group presentations and dropping eggs.
I’m going to talk about eggs and how they make people a team. We had a wonderful task in our Organisational Behaviour session: to make a ‘thing’ from straws and tape (in 15 minutes) that would catch an egg dropped from eight feet high and protect it from breaking. You can imagine how many newspapers and garbage bags our professors had on the floor – one of them pointed to the huge pile of things on the floor and said “that’s how much confidence we have in you.”
Bottom line: in 15 minutes our team made a device that looked more like a champagne glass than safety mattress – also I was completely useless because there were some engineers in a team. Then we took a look at the other team’s egg-catchers – ours was called ‘egg-stronaut’, while there were also ‘chick magnet’ and ‘high eggs-pectations’. We understood ours was the most unstable one with the smallest catching square. We went last and before us only two out of seven teams succeeded.
What we did was watch all the previous experiences and understand that failures happened mostly because of bad aiming and had nothing to do with a catcher itself. So our egg thrower tried to practice a straight drop down with a pound and also we came up with a point of trying to start with holding an egg next to the target on the bottom and then to go higher until we needed eight feet to aim better. You could’ve guessed already by now – otherwise I wouldn’t describe it in such detail – that our egg didn’t break! I mean, what were the odds?!
As always, the exercise was not really about egg catching but about teamwork, time management and task planning – pointing out things you can see are going wrong, practicing before doing and of course learning from yours and others experiences. One of the most useful things Business School has taught me is two simple words: You. Can.
To stop the egg madness and people’s thoughts that I’m in a place where students get a degree after dropping eggs, I’ll tell about a serious day dedicated to consulting and trial case studying. We had an invited guest speaker, who’s been working in consulting for the past 10+ years and now has his own boutique firm. He presented to us and then we were split into teams and had to read the materials provided, make a short four to five slide presentation and deliver it in 45 minutes after we saw the data for the first time. There were two rounds: first based on (Googled) assumptions with no data given and second based on statistics and other information provided.
The funny thing was I felt like I was 10-years-old when I was taking part in modelling shows – all the stress when you’re getting ready and you have 10 minutes before the next dress round, but when you get to the podium, you shine. In our case we almost sent our laptop keyboards flying while doing research on the healthcare industry, compiled slides surrounding our presentation maker in such a tight formation that somebody would think we wanted to pick his pockets. Coming up with our company name we were asking ourselves:
What will be our name be?!
I don’t know, let’s do… err… HI. As in ‘healthcare innovations’. And the slogan: Say HI.
Okay, let’s do. Oh even better – Aim HI – that’s the team spirit!
When everyone contributes something to the team work, the task doesn’t seem so bad. We only saw our slides five minutes before the presentation for the first time, everyone demonstrated confidence (that we lack), understanding of the subject (that we didn’t have) and behaved like we truly had 20+ years of experience in the industry.
I remember when I was 18 years old, working as a technical assistant at PwC, I told my best friend that someday I dream of getting an MBA abroad. He told me “What for? Do you want to be Nerdy Nerdinson?” And frankly, back then I didn’t know why I wanted it. It sounded cool and it is cool. I also remember how opened the GMAT simulator to get a broad idea of what a person has to go through to become an MBA student and how I closed it in approximately five minutes after opening thinking that it was rocket science. I thought only very smart people got their MBAs and dreamed of becoming one myself ‘when I grow up’.
Today, GMAT is already in the past, I’m an MBA student in London and I’m delivering as part of a group presentation on driving demand elasticity in English in front of 70 people. Today, I felt natural, complete and o-k-a-y. The first time always leaves much to be desired and I have things to work on, for example controlling my accent when I’m stressed. But when stepping outside your comfort zone becomes fun, there’s nothing else to be afraid of.