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Jumpstart: Reflections on the first term of the Manchester Full-time MBA

Reflecting on the last term to write this post makes me realise how busy we were even to notice. The highlights for me amongst other things were most definitely the pre-term meet-up, orientation week, the Nor-For-Profit Project, Brathay, the Venture Capital Investment Competition, a visit to Google, and lastly the Diwali Party. Some of these highlights deserve a post in themselves, but I will try my best to do them all justice.

I feel as if it were yesterday although it was mid-August when we had the first of many social events for those who had arrived in the city early. I vividly remember trying to meet as many people as possible by navigating through the room as though it were a speed-dating event and frantically trying to memorise their names. The fact that I would be learning from people with vastly different experiences accentuated that excitement, making me look forward to the 18 months that lay ahead of me.

Our term officially started on the 27th August 2019, in the new business school building. The orientation week was hectic and we were hit with a barrage of information. Little did I know that it was only a teaser for what the term had in store for us. The two-day introduction was the highlight of that week for me. I got to see students from different countries passionately talking about their countries, and each of their interests. I too, of course, got to introduce myself and my interests. The orientation allowed us to find common ground to break the ice with each other.

As classes started in full-swing, I realised how much I had underestimated the motto of "learning by doing" before joining the programme. Every part of the curriculum was designed to align with it, starting with our first Not-For-Profit consulting assignment, which we received within days of starting the MBA. To say that my Not-for-Profit team was excellent is an understatement. We were a very diverse team, not only in terms of geographic representation but also skills and personalities. We also had the opportunity to work with a 2nd year MBA exchange student from the Rotman School of Management as well.

I believe our time at Brathay, a retreat centre in the Lake District, contributed a lot towards our Not-For-Profit team getting to know each other on a personal level, and learning to manage friction while working together. During the project, we assisted our client in the area of diversity and inclusion and it is heartening to learn that they are looking forward to incorporating some of our ideas. Since this domain directly aligned with my post-MBA goal of working in a strategic human resources role, I felt fortunate to get the experience. Although none of us had prior exposure in this area, with the support of our excellent supervisor, we completed the project smoothly by complementing each other strengths instead of competing.

Speaking of competition, I had the opportunity to taste my very first MBA competition though the Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC) in the month of November. We had brilliant coaching sessions every Thursday preceding the event by actual VCs to bring us up-to-speed. Although we breezed past the prelims, the AMBS final was a different beast altogether. It was by far the most mentally challenging, physically exhausting and fun 24 hours of my entire term. After duking it out with three other fiercely competitive teams, we managed to take first place. I experienced an exponential learning curve in this journey, which I hope will continue as we prepare to represent AMBS at the VCIC Northern Europe Finals next year.

Although all the participants were completely exhausted from the competition, some of us were flying out to Dublin in the next few hours. Approximately 20 of us travelled to visit the Google EMEA HQ. An alumnus who is currently the head of one of the teams at Google was kind enough to host us and talk about his role. He gave us opportunities to ask a lot of questions, and of course, a tour of the huge office. The visit gave us insights into how the organisation works and possible career opportunities.

As they say, 'All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy'. We found time to take breathers and have fun as well, through regular parties at our friend's house, now dubbed 'Casa'. One that was special for me was the Diwali party in October, one that all the Indians in our cohort hosted at my place. It was special for us, as we got to celebrate this joyous occasion and also share our culture with people from different countries and vastly different cultures. We had a lot of fun organising it, from cooking sumptuous Indian food at home to decorating the house and its perimeter with lights and lanterns to organising dance-offs to Bollywood songs.

As all good things must come to an end I sign off, eagerly looking forward to seeing what the next term has in store for us!

- Navin Barathwaj Mahalingam
FT-MBA Class of 2021