“Just beginning, the pen’s in my hand, ending unplanned…” Summing up my first month at MIT Sloan

Greetings, Beautiful Past, Present, and Prospective Sloanies, Friends, and Family!

I am so very excited — and honored! — to be a part of this amazing group of fellow Sloanie bloggers who get to chronicle life at Sloan for you! As you can probably tell from the array of backgrounds represented in the MBA ’16 bloggers, there is no such thing as the quintessential Sloan student.  Thus far, I have had the privilege of meeting and learning from the most diverse and talented group of people I’ve ever met:  investment bankers and chefs, doctors and physicists, engineers and policymakers, accountants and consultants — and the list goes on.  What I can tell you about my classmates is that there are a few “universal” attributes to all of them:  they are all wicked smart (but also incredibly humble), driven, passionate, and energetic.

The last month has been such a whirlwind that it is difficult to know where exactly to begin to describe this journey.  When I set pen to paper, I realized that there was so much to say and thus, it was difficult to plan out my blog post.  Eventually, I created an outline but then decided to just dive in and start writing.  I would liken this to the Sloan experience.  Each of my fellow classmates are at the beginning.  We have some semblance of a plan for what we want to do over the course of the next two years.  But we have also been exposed to new ideas and industries, and now want to incorporate new and unexpected opportunities into our plans.  As such, even though the ending is unplanned, there is something exhilarating about embarking on such a transformative journey!  I can personally say that I  already feel like I am a remarkably different person and I have only been living in Cambridge for a month!

A little about me…

Before I delve into talking about my first month at Sloan, let me tell you a bit about myself.  I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio for most of my formative years with a brief stint in Lahore, Pakistan in the early 90’s.  I am incredibly close to my family, and have the most adorable niece and nephew on the planet.  (My classmates know that I *will* start gushing and showing you a dozen photos if you let me!)  I have a penchant for reading fiction novels, a passion for community service, art, and the theater, and an unhealthy obsession with the television show Scandal.

Prior to joining Sloan, I worked as a corporate lawyer in Chicago for a little over 4 years, handling M&A deals, drafting general corporate contracts, and providing corporate governance advice to both private and public companies and private equity funds.  In the midst of this experience, I found that I was becoming increasingly passionate about assisting and empowering domestic violence victims (particularly those from immigrant populations), and began a legal program to assist them in obtaining divorces and custody of their children, without jeopardizing their immigration status.  During this time, I also decided to shift to higher education, and worked as a law school administrator for a few years.  So I definitely come from a somewhat “underrepresented” professional background, and hope that my participation in the Class of ’16 blog will help others from non-traditional/underrepresented professional backgrounds to get a sense of what life at Sloan is like.

Starting Sloan:  Pre-Term

Now that we have gotten the formalities out of the way, let me begin by telling you a bit about my first week at Sloan, which only included a fraction of my class and is known as “pre-term” for short.  Since I had not sat in a classroom in YEARS, I decided to take refresher courses in accounting and economics.  It really helped to ease the transition back to school, to remind myself that I still knew (at least a bit!) about economics and accounting despite not having applied it formally in years, and was also a great way to meet some of my new classmates in a smaller setting.  It also made the transition a bit easier in terms of taking care of administrative stuff like getting student IDs and parking permits.  (To that end, I have to give a shout out to my fellow blogger, Andrea Schneider, who showed me the ropes in my first week in Cambridge!  I don’t know what I would have done without her).

The weekend between pre-term and orientation has definitely been one of my favorite weekends at Sloan.  A classmate of ours who had a background in Improv organized an incredible outing to ImprovBoston and a fellow classmate and I were called onto stage to perform in one of the segments!  Needless to say, it is a LOT harder than it looks but it also was a lot of fun!

Improve Boston

Fran and I on-stage at ImprovBoston after our performance!

Had this been a year ago, I would have NEVER gotten up on stage let alone volunteered to be subjected to humiliation.  It ended up being a LOT of fun though and I am now taking a weekend crash course/workshop from my classmate!

That same weekend, I also got to enjoy dim sum in Chinatown for the very first time with a large group of Sloan ladies, and had the pleasure of benefitting from some of my international classmate’s language abilities and experience when ordering!  It was great to meet a few of the truly awesome women at Sloan and get to know them before the “hustle and bustle” of classes.

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Brunching in Chinatown with a few lovely Sloan ladies

Orientation

I actually think that most of what I would have said about orientation has already been said by my fellow classmates so I am going to leave my overview of orientation to my favorite part:  getting to know my fellow Caribbean pirates and bonding with my core team (the Penguins!) at the Warren Center.

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My Core Team -the Caribbean Penguins

Honestly, I was somewhat skeptical about how we would all get to know each other and become close in such a short span of time.  But our day at the center was a really great chance to bond.  I also found that I personally grew a lot just in that one day, as I pushed myself outside of my “comfort” zone and into my “stretch” zone.  (Sloan is very big on encouraging people to grow by pushing themselves out of their comfort zone and into their stretch zone — and occasionally their panic zone even).  I found myself climbing ladders that were constructed in trees and agreeing to be blinded and allowing my partners to guide me through hilly and rocky terrain in the woods.  While these may not sound like extraordinary feats to some, they were things I would not have pushed myself to do in the past, but was comfortable doing so because I had the support of my core team.

The Start of Classes 

After two amazing weeks at Sloan, the start of classes was surprisingly  anti-climatic in some ways.  I had been having so much fun getting to know my classmates for two weeks (and doing a LOT of socializing!)  But, it was great getting to meet our professors, and digging into the material.  During our first week, we also had an amazing “Sea Function” where we got to enjoy each other’s company aboard two ships.  It was great way to continue getting to know others in my ocean but to also meet new people from other oceans.  The views from the boat were also spectacular!

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Just one of the many gorgeous photographs taken from the boat! This one was taken by my classmate, Ellie Yogev.

Unfortunately, towards the end of the first week of classes, I was hit by a terrible cold (which made the rounds in each of our oceans), and learned early about how truly helpful it is to have a core team to be able to lean on!  Thanks to this experience, I also quickly realized why people liken being in business school to being in a marathon.  We are in class at 8:30 AM each morning and tend to pull 12-14 hour days that are comprised of class, group projects, career panels, club activities, and social events.  Each and every day, I have found myself learning something new and while things move at a dizzying pace, it is truly manageable if you plan ahead.  Another thing you quickly learn with such a jam packed schedule, is how to make the most of 15 to 30 minute increments of time — and that you actually can get a lot done in that amount of time, especially when you are really under the gun!

While there is so much more I could go into, I think that I will end on that note.  ‘Til next time!

Sahar Dar

Sahar is a first-year MBA candidate at MIT Sloan School of Management. A native of the Midwest, she comes to Sloan after 7+ years working in Chicago, first as a corporate M&A attorney, and then as a law school administrator and adjunct professor. While at her law firm, Sahar established and ran a pro bono program for domestic violence victims, which she later expanded to a citywide legal clinic that she directed for two years. Sahar received her JD from the University of Pennsylvania Law School with a certificate in Business & Public Policy from The Wharton School. She also holds a BA in International Studies, Psychology, and Economics, from Case Western Reserve University. At Sloan, Sahar serves as a Vice President of the Real Estate Club, the Travel & Hospitality Club, and the Net Impact Club, and is also on both Sloan Senate and the Graduate Student Council. She is passionate about community service, and enjoys reading historical fiction novels, playing board games, travel, movies, acrylic painting, and Sudoku puzzles.

Follow Sahar Dar: LinkedIn

1 Comment

  1. Sahar it seems like you’re really adding on to your already vast experience and learning a great deal more, so happy for you, keep us posted!

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