A phrase to sum up my first semester at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management? Enriching coursework, a thorough career search and self-discovery.
For me, MIT Sloan has lived up to its image: academic rigour, outstanding faculty and innovative subjects.
My autumn semester was filled with challenging core subjects, including economic analysis for business decisions and finance theory. Taught by talented professors, they incorporated radical approaches, lively class discussions and current events with seemingly simple theories. My professors and classmates would weave industry experiences and unconventional perspectives into lectures.
Our class of 393 students has been divided into six “oceans” – Atlantic, Baltic, Caribbean, Indian, Mediterranean and Pacific. Each ocean develops an internal culture and identity – wearing distinctive T-shirts, for example.
I became part of the Mediterranean ocean, with a superb core team. We worked on group projects, problem sets, case write-ups and mid-term and final reviews. I realise now that I could not have survived the core semester without my team. I particularly appreciated the close collaboration: days before exams, students would post samples, share formula sheets or invite others to join study groups.
The oceans also engaged in friendly competitions: we hosted a charity auction and raised $16,000. Each of us – including professors – donated items, ranging from a week-long holiday in Spain to driving luxury cars to offering one’s face as advertising space.
Aside from the curriculum, students can take up alternative classes on leadership, research and many activities across the schools within MIT.
About halfway through the semester comes a one-week independent activities period. I enjoyed my classes on “what every executive needs to know about getting business value from IT”, and “uncovering the leader in you”. During the winter break, I also participated in the Hong Kong banking trek, visiting banks, networking with prominent MIT alumni and touring the city.
On top of coursework, students are exposed to club activities, guest speakers, inter-school competitions and projects, and seminars on subjects ranging from transport and logistics to healthcare and company strategy.
Last year I was elected vice-president of Sloan Women in Management – a group dedicated to the personal and professional development of women – and was recently named co-president. As VP, I worked closely with admissions during
on-the-road presentations and online chats. As the new co-president, I will be implementing initiatives for female applicants and current students.
With the spring semester well under way I’m excited to be taking up more advanced subjects, including system dynamics – a must-take course in MIT – and China-lab, a real-life consulting project with partner schools in China.
Narrowing my choice from so many interesting subjects has not been easy. A good MBA programme enables students to achieve professional career goals. At MIT Sloan, the career development office hosts weekly sessions covering a huge range of topics, and includes mock interviews and one-on-one career advice. As well as on-campus recruiting from big companies, student-run clubs assist the career process by hosting networking events.
I went into Sloan with the goal of moving into finance, but I had only a vague idea of which field I wanted to enter. I thus attended a lot of company presentations, industry seminars and trips to companies and banks, as well as talking to second-year students.
What I found particularly helpful was the counselling provided by the careers office, as well as the insights from second-year students.
Midway through the semester, I realised I was inclined towards corporate finance: it combines my analytical skills and passion for finance with an interest in learning about industries and companies from a strategic point of view. I was surprised at the rapid pace of the whole career search: three months into the programme, I had to submit summer internship applications in time for January and February interviews.
My interview techniques were given a boost by the second-year students, who helped with questions and mock interviews. Students also provided tips on interview topics, sharing ideas and contacts within the firm as well as offering support.
The mindset is not “how can I beat the next guy beside me” but “how can we help each other get the job we want?”. This has helped me to realise that in a couple of years I will be able to count on my MIT Sloan network to help me along.
But perhaps the most valuable aspect of the MBA experience is the journey to self-discovery and the chance to meet and establish lifelong friendships with unique, brilliant individuals. I have honed skills by challenging myself to take on more leadership roles and pushed myself to join business plan competitions, attend conferences and develop networking skills.
MIT Sloan has a distinctive culture: work hard, but play harder. Each week student-run events adopt a different theme, such as Japanese or European, and classmates showcase talents such as singing or dancing.
My MBA experience has been so much more than I expected. Beyond the career boost and training,
I have met exceptional people and become
part of a supportive alumni network.