The End of First Year

I am writing this on my six-hour flight to San Francisco where I will be spending the next three months interning at a tech company. The possibilities of working again, especially in a new city in a new industry, are exciting. Reflections are incredibly difficult to do in business school. Not just because you are too busy to sit and ponder, but because the lessons of business school are more nebulous and hard to realize while you are in the thick of it. Sure, I can read a 10-K infinitely better now than a year ago (thank you Prof. Noe), and think about a hundred ways to structure an M&A deal (thank you Prof.  Hanlon), and talk relatively intelligently about options pricing (relative being the operative word); but let’s be honest, Khan Academy does a fine job explaining option pricing. So what did I really learn this year?

You cannot be the best at everything, but you should be better than others at some things and know enough to converse intelligently about the rest with all your stakeholders. Business school attracts folks who are interested in being generalists, so this should be obvious. But figuring out and then nourishing what it is you are better at than most others is more challenging. And for first years just starting out, think hard about this one over the summer. And then challenge yourself to not be boxed as the quant gal, or the OP guy at least for the first semester. Save the ‘getting better at things you are already good at’ for the second or third or even fourth semester.

Allow people to surprise you. We all come in with pre-conceived notions, some of it dictated by experience, a lot of it dictated by not having any experience with something. Ironically, the less experience someone has in something, the stronger her convictions seem. But if you don’t put yourself in situations that don’t challenge these assumptions or engage with peers who think differently than you do, you are really wasting an incredible education. Seek those people out. That coffee date at Tatte with your friend crush is well worth it.

Relatedly, establishing relationships can be hard in business school because there is so much overload of the senses but strive to make it a priority. Go to a Yarn, sign up for Course XV dinners, hang out at E62 and strike conversations with a Sloan Fellow, go to Camp Sloan, go to that conference you know nothing about. Maximize experiences that involve people and those that you cannot get outside of school, and you’ll soon realize most of them boil down to people and relationships. You probably won’t regret a B in Finance 1 (I don’t) but you will regret not going to Camp Sloan (guaranteed).

Maintain your support network outside of Sloan, they are your rock because they have 10-20 years of data on you than most of your new friends. This is harder than it sounds, but you’ll be grateful for it in the end.

To the incoming class reading this, enjoy the summer off because you are in for a truly busy ride.


Lakshmi Kannan

Former economic and litigation consultant, first year MBA @ MIT Sloan, interested in technology and operations, podcast fanatic, Econ blogosphere enthusiast, coffee snob.

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  1. Great advice, thank you

  2. Correct. We can not be the best in everything, but we have to be better than someone else at some things and know enough to communicate intelligently about remaining with all of our stakeholders.

    very good

  3. Pingback: MIT Sloan Student Blogs: “Diamonds in the Rough”: Hidden Gems of the Sloan Experience | MIT Sloan School of Management

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