Reflections from the 2016 Believers in Business Conference
The Believers in Business Conference (BIB) is a highly anticipated event (for some, the anticipation started even before starting at Yale SOM!). Held on February 19-20, the 2016 conference convened MBA students from around the world, from Ghana to New Haven to Manhattan. Through music, food, and speaking with each other and business leaders, the conference encouraged us to learn how to bring our whole selves to the workplace.
While many MBA conferences focus on specific professions, the BIB conference uniquely focuses not solely on our career, but rather on our spiritual maturity and its integration into our professional pursuits. More specifically, as we attended the conference, it became clear that one way to view the relationship of faith to life decisions may be analogous to accounting policy—concepts we are learning in our business school classes. Just as International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) provide the principles to guide a company’s accounting policies, faith provides a broad framework for personal decisions within the workplace and beyond. Thus, we found the conference to be particularly relevant to us as students who are temporarily shielded from the “real world.” It was inspiring to hear about the spiritual struggles and successes of professionals in functions ranging from general management and consulting to finance, social impact, and entrepreneurship.
A primary takeaway from the conference was once again the idea of authenticity, a concept that we’ve all had to grapple with throughout recruiting season. Questions of who we should be, and in fact, who we are are commonplace considerations in how we present ourselves and how we carry out our work—both of which inevitably face boundaries in a professional environment where boundaries for such expressions are blurred. However, as we sat in a finance breakout session titled “Faith & Finance: Your Walk & Wall Street,” we were met with the multiple realities that we can choose to be part of within finance, each of which allow us to carry our faith out in the workplace through different means. For instance, one of the speakers works at a large bank where she herself as a role model for younger members of her team because of her openness about her Christian identity in a possibly impersonal setting. On the other hand, a different speaker decided to carry out his faith by founding his own fund that invests solely in companies with Christian-friendly values.
Ending the first day with pizza and the final day with song—two valuable aspects in any Yale MBA’s lifestyle—was a timely reminder that our pursuit of questions and conversations is the same one that is tackled by various faiths and cultures. To this end, the diversity of SOM and richness of resources in the Yale community (such as the Divinity School and Chaplain Services) make our experiences replicable, even on campus.