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March 17, 2008 12:23 pm

Sage of Omaha highlight of MBA

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It is February 28, 2008 and I have just 49 more days as an MBA student at the Rotman School of Management.

Time sure does fly by when you are having fun.

Getting close to the end has got me thinking about the difference in pace between the first and second years at Rotman. It has taken some getting used to.

Unlike in my first year which was graced by constant daily “on the go” pressure, the second year has been characterised by periods of calm followed by periods of intense fire-fighting.

I look upon the first year’s hectic pace as comforting simply because every morning I woke up knowing I had deadlines to meet that day and the consistent pressure filled me with purpose.

In retrospect, I have concluded that the first year of business school was about developing a disciplined approach to work and moulding thought processes while the second year has been about exploring specific professional passions.

It has been interesting to observe current first-year students as they scramble just as I did last year.

Later this afternoon, 79 classmates and I will be flying to Omaha, Nebraska, courtesy of a Rotman alumnus, to spend the day with Warren Buffett and tour some of Berkshire Hathaway’s businesses in Omaha.

I find it unbelievable that only 10 years ago I had never heard of Warren Buffett, one of the greatest investors of our time.

Now, thanks to my value investing class at Rotman, I actually get to fly to Nebraska and meet him.

During the Christmas break I returned to Nigeria to visit my sister and her family. I had not been back for more than five years.

All of my siblings were there, making the family reunion very poignant for me.

As well as traditional classes, Rotman offers second-year students a number of options during the final semester including a two-week study tour in a foreign country.

This year there will be four trips. Tours to China and South Africa took place in January and the next two tours – to Europe and India – will take place later in the year.

The alternative option, which I chose, is an intensive class during the winter that compresses a semester-long course into a two-week period.

I took two courses, which meant I had nine hours of classes and associated work in the evenings for 10 straight days.

However, the two classes, Venture Capital and Learning to Learn, an Integrative Thinking class, were fantastic.

A third option was to take the three weeks off with no school. But I am still looking for a full-time position and I am intent on maximising my Rotman experiences, so I did not consider this to be a viable option.

In addition to academic study, there have been quite a few alternative activities that have enriched my Rotman experience this year.

I convinced some of my classmates to join me in hosting a forum called Stock Talk during which we discussed current affairs in capital markets and the economy.

The regular discussions and presentations we held on regional and global economies and the issues facing companies such as Northern Rock were phenomenal.

As an avid photographer, I have also been involved with the recently launched Rotman Photography Association. This society was started by a classmate who also has a passion for photography as well as being a qualified anesthesiologist, highlighting the diversity of professional backgrounds at Rotman.

Right now, in terms of study, I am taking three and a half classes this semester: the half class refers to my year-long value investing class; the other three are financial management, financial statement analysis and the opposable mind.

These classes have been intense, engaging and make me wish I had a lot more than my remaining 49 days to explore the topics further.

I have particularly enjoyed the greater teamwork component of our academic interaction during the second year. Just last week I had back-to-back group presentations.

The members of my group and I burned the midnight oil and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it; or rather I enjoyed the feeling of confidence I had that regardless of how much work we felt we still had to do, we would complete the task with flying colours.

On a more serious practical note, one of my classmates commented a few weeks ago that he only had enough money to cover his expenses until May.

Fortunately, he has a working spouse and has now secured a full-time capital markets position, but his predicament highlighted the stress that my classmates who have yet to secure full-time job offers are feeling, especially those looking for work in capital markets.

I have a number of prospective jobs on the horizon and the opportunities have increased as we get closer to graduation.

It has helped that the initial wave of uncertainty and panic in the capital markets last summer that led to the freeze in credit liquidity has subsided.

There is still reasonable hope that most if not all my classmates will find suitable employment.

For my part, I have dealt with the stress of not knowing what my professional life holds next as I always do – by considering the worst-case scenario, taking it in, and … exhaling. And then continuing my job search.

Just yesterday when I returned from class, a neighbour stopped and asked if I had graduated yet.

At that moment, it hit me that I was almost done with my MBA.

As I walked away from her, I could not help saying under my breath, “Rotman MBA. What a ride.”

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