MBA Journal: Changing My Tune

Photograph Courtesy Anderson Graduate School of Management

Exhale. I wrote in my previous entry that my first action upon handing in my final midterm exam was exhaling. Well, final exams were a different story. After four consecutive days of three-hour exams, I handed over my fourth exam to the teaching assistant, walked out to the sunny Marion Anderson Courtyard, and joined my classmates for celebratory mimosas. We made it.

Gregory Paige

I began my time at UCLA Anderson School of Management quite worried about the requisite quantitative workload of the MBA. Having minored in business administration as an undergraduate, I had taken most of the core business courses, but my six years of work experience in advertising were relatively light on the quant front. Furthermore, the GMAT quant section and I never did become the best of buddies.

In my B-school applications, I had defined preparation for a career in marketing and comfort with financial statements as key reasons for pursuing an MBA. I therefore anticipated marketing and accounting classes to be among my favorites. Paradoxically, I most enjoyed my statistics and economics classes, which also happened to be the most quantitatively challenging.

My stats class, formally titled “Data & Decisions,” applied the filter of managerial decision-making to the statistics concepts I had previously studied. Professor Rakesh Sarin adeptly demonstrated how statistical analysis could challenge the most intuitive or widely held assumptions—and he taught some practical lessons, too. A subject matter expert in the study of happiness, Sarin has analyzed millions of data points regarding the determinants of happiness. He explained that as MBA students, we likely feel the stresses of juggling many balls, including academics, recruiting, and personal responsibilities. He proposed that it’s OK if we occasionally drop a ball, because eventually it’ll bounce back up. But there’s one ball—a crystal ball—that cannot be dropped: family and friends. Keeping that ball in the air, he concluded, is the absolute key to happiness. His second lesson was that there’s an approximately 20 percent chance that California will experience a significant earthquake in the next five years. His advice? Buy insurance.

“Managerial Economics” changed the way I approach even the most mundane of decisions. These days I cannot help but roughly determine the marginal benefit of any decision, while identifying relevant costs and opportunity costs alike. My professor asserted on day one that the primary objective of the class was to develop in us the “economic way of thinking.” Despite some impossibly difficult problem sets and exams, he was unquestionably successful in my case.

Mentally drained from the final exam period, my classmates and I remarked over those aforementioned mimosas that although we had survived first quarter, we had five more to go. After pausing to reflect upon the incredibly fun 10 weeks we had just experienced, we changed our tune. We had only five more quarters to go. Summer internship recruiting will be the name of the game in the winter quarter, and I’m looking forward to sharing my recruiting experiences and insights in my next journal entry. Until then, here’s to a beautiful 2013.

Between journal entries, you can keep track of Gregory’s business school adventures at the Business Schools Facebook page. Follow the Bloomberg Businessweek B-Schools team on Twitter.

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