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Professional Life at SOM

“Dream enormously big. You can literally accomplish anything.” said Liz. At the women’s event in New York, Mckinsey and Company’s New York Office Director Liz Hilton Siegel urged us to give ourselves the time and space, while in business school, to imagine our impact on the world. It was an inspiring end to an afternoon filled with incredibly insightful conversations and great learning experiences. Her talk was part of a half-day women’s event hosted by Mckinsey and Co. New York office last week for business schools in and around NYC.

The afternoon started with Mona Mourshed, founder and director of Mckinsey’s education practice, sharing her story and making a compelling case for a more integrated education-to-employment system. A system in which before even starting college, students would know their employment goals and get trained accordingly. Mona’s insights around this challenge were humbling. And as the talk went on, it became increasingly clear that the key to solving this crucial “skills gap” problem was thought leadership and collaboration across sectors, industries and countries. During her talk, I felt a sense of expansion that I’ve felt before when I was particularly inspired. I think it comes from the joy one gets from solving big, critical problems. The world can be changed with one kind act at a time, or with one “global system” at a time. Both are invaluable. During Mona’s talk I felt the earnest pull to be part of both.

Our conversation on thought leadership was complemented with a discussion on the skills and tools needed to be an effective “thought influencer”. Fortunately, instead of just telling us how to be effective, the wonderful women at Mckinsey led us through a “Gravitas” exercise (and of course it had a feedback component!). The exercise was a phenomenal learning experience. We learned the importance of structuring and starting meetings in the right way, of body language, of tone and much more.

Given the tremendous amount of complexity around us, the most effective problem-solving seems to require a “perspectives-based” approach (much like the curriculum at SOM). To ensure the level of collaboration needed for sweeping change, understanding all the stakeholder perspectives and gleaning insights from them is imperative (that is exactly what Mona was doing!). As I walked out of the event, I also found myself thinking about the importance of being a good “influencer”. Insights are valuable only if one is able to convince others of their relevance. And I couldn’t help but tie this back to some of our class discussions at SOM. Given the incredible diversity of backgrounds at SOM, we get trained in effective “influencing” each day. After Mckinsey’s event, not only was I incredibly inspired but I also had an overwhelming appreciation for SOM’s pedagogy and diversity.