Exhaustion. That is the first word that comes to my mind after this amazing year as a student in MIT Sloan Fellow Program in Innovation and Global Leadership. I cannot find a word that describes better this year. Maybe High Intensity. With capital letters. Because this year has been that for me. Even since I was admitted and took the decision to come to live to Boston. Then, every day, every hour, something great and amazing was happening in MIT. Not only in the academic field, but in the life of the campus in general. The MIT has a halo of “magic” that involves it all, and that is what makes all programs here so special. And the Sloan Fellows Program, providing the opportunity to share this experience with extraordinary students, professors and, the most important, partners and families, perfectly fitted in this environment.
Because the MIT Sloan Fellows program is something really unique and special. I do not know how many times I have already explained the differences between this Program and the “regular” MBAs or the Executive MBAs. It does not mean that this is better or worse than the others. I just mean different.
All of these programs are great, no doubt about it. But to know the answer to which one to choose, it is more important –as usual- asking ourselves the right question. Probably for each person’s situation any of them will fit better.
In my case, MIT Sloan Fellow was what I was needing: One full time year abroad living the experience with other fellows with the same interests –and at the same time so different- in life as me. I was looking for a transformative experience in many ways. And it could only be given with a real intense break. One year of reflection was what I was looking for. And I was happy to see that all the students, no matter the age, origin or professional background, were also expecting that. We are very different persons, but with an interestingly common goal. And that is fantastic.
The Sloan Fellows is not a regular MBA. The age and experience of the students –average age of 40 years and average work experience of 15- makes it totally different. Actually, many Sloan Fellows have already a MBA degree. Sloan Fellows students are looking for a live transformation after very successful careers. And they want to live it so intensively that is also involving their families. It is a total break in one’s life, a change in all the aspects of live. It is a learning for all. At the same time, it is different to the Executive MBA. The age and professional experience of the EMBAs is similar. What is different is the way of living the Program and I would say the purpose itself of the Program. The EMBAs have great and successful careers, and in that process they come to that great program to be more well-prepared professionals and increase their horizons. During two years they regularly meet on weekends. But they do not have that break we Sloan Fellows are looking for. Their normal lives continue during the week as usual.
One year of deep reflection about academics and careers, but also about our personal skills, leadership styles, the way we understand and accept other cultures, the way we feel confident with people different to us, the way we have been living with our families in the past, etc. One year sharing and living with people from 35 countries, their kids, their partners, their traditions, their concerns, their dreams. Day after day. Learning the good aspects of other cultures and making them our own aspects, adopting the great styles from classmates and making them part of us, living with the families (what a nice learning from partners and kids this year!), etc. All in all, I would say that even learning about what we are and which purpose do we want to give to our lives in the future.
In brief, one transforming year where every day I learnt something new even from the most unexpected situation. An amazing place within an incredible environment like MIT. What a year (because it has been only one year, right?). Sometimes I think they were five.
If I had to describe the MIT Sloan Fellows Program, I would think of it from 3 perspectives.
First, I would say that a 30% of the Program is academics. The curriculum that we can access is diverse –including Harvard- and every Fellow can chose its own path, whether it is finance, entrepreneurship, sustainability, or just the development of soft skills. Top professors and the resources and options in the campus make the alternatives enormous.
A second 30% are the students and families from all over the world that we meet in the Program. Successful professionals and great families supporting them in this “crazy” year. My best learnings and memories of the year are not in the academic field –I have many as well-, but sharing experiences with the big “Family” that is the Sloan Fellow.
Finally, another 30% is MIT. The ecosystem created in this area along the Charles River is incredible. At least, I had never felt something like this in my life. Every day something amazing was happening: Top level speakers teaching every time, something interesting and new happening in every corner of the campus, students trying drones, Star Wars simulated fights at night, etc. In this year I have attended hundreds of conferences, meetings, lunches, exhibitions, etc. But the most incredible thing is that I have missed millions. Every day I had conflicts in my agenda, and I had to choose. I would have needed four lives in parallel here to use all the amazing resources of MIT. If there is a center of knowledge and action in the world, no doubt this is it. Now I take a look back and I understand why I am exhausted and need vacation!
And then reader you are right, we are missing a 10% here. And that is fantastic and probably the most important piece of the cake. That is the one we were probably missing before coming here and probably the one we did not know was lacking in our lives. This 10% is the one that helps us, leveraging on the 90%, to better understand which our next step is, where we want to focus our careers and, in the end, our future lives –professional and personal-. This is our personal learning that closes the circle.
This 10% was the time that everybody could find to use on its personal own way. The reflection year helped us to understand where to focus, our interests, our weaknesses, what we were missing. Some people used it to spend more time with their families –what a great opportunity to have a break in the usual life and spend more time with them-, some people used it to better understand where the world is going in their professional fields, others to explore their entrepreneurship side, some people used it to do sports again and remember past times of glory, some others found time to travel and discover new places to make the experience greater, etc. This 10% served everybody, Fellows and Partners, to become better persons and understand each other better.
The experience served to put all of us out of our comfort zones and learn how to be better and survive in those uncomfortable places. And that was the purpose of the Program: Become better prepared persons in a global and constantly changing world to be able to become Global Leaders. Sensemaking.
Because the good thing of the experience is that it has really been Global: Academics, Classmates and Families, MIT ecosystem, and finally –or initially- Ourselves. And that last part is key. Every one of us has found his place or is in the way to find it. And that is priceless.
That is why MIT Sloan Fellows is probably unique and the experience is so transformative. And that is what MIT Sloan Fellows, both students and families, will take away from this year. I do not know if I will have more successful jobs and career in the future. Actually, I do not believe that was the main purpose of the Sloan Fellows. But I can say that with the help of my professors, classmates and families I now understand the world better and I have grown for better in every aspect that I wanted and probably in others that I have not tested yet. I feel now confident about doing the right things. And that is the best take away from this one (or 5?) year experience.
What a happy feeling of exhaustion!