Thursday, January 28, 2010

Inside the MBA: perspectives from an NYU Stern MBA2 - Vol. 3

My final semester of business school just started this week and I'm already having a hard time. But why? you may be asking. After all, it's the last semester! A large part of my current difficulty is due to my jet-lag. You see, I spent the better part of my winter break in Australia. One of the unique courses that Stern offers is DBi (Doing Business In), a mini-intensive study abroad course. Australia is one of the most popular offerings, but I had classmates studying all over the world, in India, Hong Kong and Singapore over the break.

This was actually my return trip to Australia because I had done a semester in Sydney in college, but I was excited about the prospect of traveling and studying with my Stern friends and classmates in Oz (as Aussies refer to it). Prior to the DBi, I spent two weeks traveling in other parts of Australia. Some highlights were celebrating New Years' Eve at Darling Harbor in Sydney with 20 of my Stern friends and sailing through the beautiful Whitsunday Islands on a 3-day trip with 20 other Sternies.

The DBi itself is actually a partnership with Melbourne Business School. In exchange for 8 MBS students spending a semester at Stern, 38 of us were there for two weeks, learning from various MBS faculty on everything from the Australian financial and legal systems, to how sport and wine are integral parts of Australian business and culture. The lectures on wine and sport were complemented by a trip to the Australian Open and a visit to a winery in the Yarra about experiential learning!

One of my favorite lectures was on innovation, which is something I'm already interested in, but was particularly interesting given the context of Australia's egalitarian culture. In the US (particularly as MBAs), we constantly strive to innovate, improve and excel above our competitors. In Australia, however, entrepreneurship and innovation are approached with the angle of what will benefit the greater good vs. individual success. For MBAs who are conditioned to constantly think about how to add and increase value, this seemed counter-intuitive in some ways.

But one of the areas where I think Australia surpasses the US in terms of innovation is sustainability. Full disclosure: I've never been one who has focused much energy (no pun intended) on natural resources and the environment; however, my interest in this area has been piqued recently, especially after living for a month in a part of the world where the ozone layer has been severely depleted. Hearing from the MBS professors and speaking with several Aussies who think about issues like sustainability on a daily basis, made me realize that there are large global issues that I haven't thought about much before but that I may need to pay more attention to ongoing. This, I think, is the value I gained from my experience in Australia - in addition to having fun with my Stern friends, I've also returned to New York with a new global perspective and new considerations for what I can do in my professional and personal life to contribute to global issues.

With this new perspective, I'm extremely excited about what the next two weeks hold. Stern Women in Business (SWIB) will be hosting its annual Conference on February 5th around the theme, "Adaptation: Creating Opportunity in a Changing Environment." As Co-President of SWIB, I am looking forward to the amazing keynote speakers we will hear from, including Andrea Jung of Avon and Terri Dial, both incredible women who have adapted throughout their careers with great success. Now that I think about it, I guess the time I'm having right now isn't so hard after all!