'The innocent peek through the window'
Author: Ivan Spajić Buturac
Have you always wondered what it would be like to take a big step in your life?
I personally stopped wondering. Ever since I've joined multinational corporations, I must admit I've lowered my expectations when it came to big steps. Multinationals do everything big, and you just glide along, not easily impressed after a while. So when I saw an ad for the Algebra MBA, I was sort of „meh, let's see what this is about“. Then, when I read the syllabus, I was a bit taken aback about how close it was to what I wanted out of my career, but I was still „meh, this is still Croatia, and everything only looks good on paper around here“. And then suddenly, through a couple more “mehs”, I found myself on the testing day, in a room filled with high level executives and incredibly smart people from all possible industries, all competing for the same thing. At that point my „meh“ turned into a „hem“, as in the sound you make when you choke ever so lightly on a piece of apple.
Suffice to say, the competition itself was already beyond any expectation I had. I believe it took almost 9 hours and I remember telling my wife afterwards: “Even if I don’t get into this thing, I think I’ve learned more here than I’d probably learn in a semester at a Croatian college.” The hands-on approach was like nothing I’ve seen around here, it was so “American” people loved it or hated it. If there’s one advice I could give about that day, it would be: open your ears and listen ahead, because the answers are in that room.
The big day passed and the waiting began. With such a tough competition, such amazing professionals in the same batch as you, your mind tends to race to a comfort zone, only occasionally daring to hope you had some chance to win. You ignore the email for an hour or two, then you sneak a preview, then you feel stress, then relief. It’s not important… it’s just another learning in life… who needs it anyway… it’s going to consume two years of your life… it would be nice though… it sounds just like a fit… but what if I win only a partial scholarship and don’t have enough money for the remainder...
Boom! Second place. 75% off. Jumping through the roof.
The wife “knew it” of course. Everyone “knew it”, of course. But it’s… It was just enough to make me feel like a winner, and yet the remaining scholarship was really outside my current comfort zone. It was that “careful what you wish for…” thing that tends to laugh in your face every once in a while. I was in neck deep and had to make a call quickly. Finally, a few days in, I got a confirmation from one of my line managers: my company would cover a portion of it, if I covered the rest. They wanted to see my commitment as well. So there you have it: everyone is rooting for you, but you need to man up and pull your own weight. What the hell, I’m in…
They warn you about the lack of time and the pressure from getting an MBA alongside having a job and a family. They really do warn you. However, until you feel it, you have no idea what they’re talking about. These days I always remember to take a lot of vitamins and get regular exercise, because once you get the pre-reading materials, the crazy race begins. You’re out for 3 weeks. Forget about your hobbies and try not to forget about your loved ones. Then a week and a half of rest, and then back at it again.
But, the upside is awesome. The weekend-long modules are an amazing way to switch off the rest of the world, to become obsessed with whatever task is at hand. One month you’re a security analyst, another you’re crying your soul with T-accounts… You feel it, and the whole group feels it with you. The energy in the room has a life of it’s own, but at the end of the day you connect with these truly amazing people, create business contacts and learn so much…
And then you know it – this MBA was the right thing to do.
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