On July 27, 2013, we arrived on campus for our orientation and in-residence period. It has been a year long journey getting here: figuring out which school was the right fit; cherry picking recommenders; taking GMATs; negotiating with family and boss for time off; writing those 500 word essays; interviewing and finally rationalizing the expensive tuition fees for joining a top business school.
The anticipation about starting our in-residence period was overwhelming. They scared us. Every one of them – alumni, admissions officers, senior classmen. The two week in-residence orientation period (aka, boot camp by those who had already experienced it) was the test for whether we could survive the two year MBA for Executives program. We heard stories of people crying. We received a gigantic pile of readings before arriving to campus. We struggled through hours of preparatory online coursework ending in mandatory final examinations. Of course, we were all working full time, and most of us hadn’t used the word ‘homework’ in years.
Boot camp officially kicked off and the program directors introduced us to what the experience would be like for the next 22 months. Prof. Barry Nalebuff, an expert in business strategy and game theory, started off introducing us to ‘negotiation’ ugh... the one you never win at home☺. Prof. Nalebuff co-founded Honest Tea with a former student Seth Goldman. The company was making $70 million in sales when he and his partner sold it to Coca Cola in 2011. In a nut shell, his presentation gave us a perspective on how to negotiate and what facts to consider while negotiating with anyone, friend or business counterpart. This was followed by a speech from SOM Dean Edward A. Snyder who served as Dean at two top business schools: Chicago Booth and Darden before. The day ended with a contemplative and exhaustive discussion on ethics and our role as leaders. Later in the evening we attended a dinner at David Bach’s (Senior Associate Dean for Executive MBA program) home.
Grueling 10 hour lectures and tons of assignments to complete ensued on Day 3. Day 4 was a disaster; insomnia had kicked in and taking jabs at everyone’s can-do attitude. There were conference rooms booked, both at the hotel and school, so the sleep deprived teams could get together to divide and conquer class assignments. We were literally living in a no-cell phone zone; we had not called home, nor did we have a chance to check office emails. Despite the insomnia and crazy schedule there was something exhilarating about this.
Boot camp was a life changing experience. We met and got to know really well in a very short amount of time, a fascinating group of classmates, from surgeons and psychiatrists to scientists and CEOs. Dealing with crises really brings out the best in people. We shared life stories, supported each other through difficult problems, battled stress over cookies and chocolate, and built a network for a lifetime.
And then there were the professors. The amount of practical, perspective-changing learning we amassed in those 2 weeks still amazes us. When Professor Barry Nalebuff, co-founder of Honest Tea, asked us a simple negotiation question, none of us had a great answer. He claimed to change our way of thinking with a 30 minute talk on negotiation. He did – now, before any negotiation, we first ask: ‘What is the pie?’ Professor Heidi Brooks, in just 1.5 hours, instilled in us the value of soliciting feedback from the numerous resources that surround us every day. General Tom Kolditz inspired us with personal stories of recovery from failure. Professor Art Swersey connected with every one of us with his down-to-earth humor and his collection of bobble heads. Professor Sharon Oster made us understand the concepts of microeconomics through real-world examples. Professor Sonnenfeld amazed us with the amount of information he has on every topic in business. Professor Kolev brought an unusual energy to an unexciting subject like basic accounting and Professor Tori Brescoll helped us open up our hearts to our classmates through insightful team-building exercises.
Through this experience there were a few things that stood out. Although we are all very competitive, we were not competing with each other, but rather were collaborating to achieve a common goal. No one in the class was willing to give in to the frustration and brain freezes they had to deal with in completing the assignments. The level of maturity, the diverse background and the knowledge transfer after class hours is something that makes the Yale experience one of a kind. By week two, we knew each other so well that one of us would go out and pick up dinner for everyone without having to ask the others what they wanted to eat.
We walked away from this experience learning many things from basic economics to writing our own asset equals liability plus equity statements. What makes this program truly unique are the opinions and professional differences of our classmates brought together under one roof in a classroom environment.
Every professor who lectured during boot camp was top notch; we hear from our senior classmates that there are many more to come. These professors are highly regarded in their fields and they have been the absolute best. When boot camp was finally over, it left an impression.
At the end of this two week roller coaster ride, we headed home to our families, exhausted, but inspired. With these daily interactions with world-class professors, we were left to wonder if we were just being enticed with the best at the start or will it continue for the rest of the program. All we can say now is that we are in spring semester of year one, and we feel like we are married to Yale forever. Loving it!