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Second Years have these things called electives, where they can choose their classes. (Seems like a delicious luxury to a core-curriculum-mired First Year). At the class add/drop deadline, there’s a flurry of activity on the Darden intranet classified board as people proclaim “Have Entrepreneurs Taking Action, Need Mergers & Acquisitions”. It got me thinking…

This week I was on an admissions panel to answer questions from prospective students. I wasn’t surprised at the questions, but was surprised at my own answers. Worst thing about living in Cville? The only thing I could muster was expensive airfare. The biggest challenge so far? I surprised myself with my answer: Being non-“quanty”, as I call it, in a sea of quantitative whiz kids. Meaning, I have had no formal training or deep workplace experience in numerical reasoning, elegant mathematical analyses, or even Excel shortcuts, for goodness sake. I barely eked through Trigonometry in high school, and never took pre-calculus or calculus or stats or really anything else mathy. Business school is about far more than that, of course, but I think people here fall into two big buckets. Have quantitative skills, need soft skills – and have soft, need quant.

We had a special Learning Team group presentation also this week – a combination of Finance, Ops and Management Communications. Deliverable was a 15 page PowerPoint deck and 30-45 minute group presentation. During debrief after the presentation, some expressed frustration at the unclear scope of the assignment. As with so many things Darden, I suspect the assignment’s inherent ambiguity was deliberate and meant to lead towards discovery and consideration of the critical elements of the business problem. But, how do we know what’s important? Darden is a general management school. I’ve always taken it quite literally, in the what-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up sense and thought “yes, yes, the world needs general managers, but I’m a marketer. Those general managers can go manage whatever it is they manage and that’s fine and dandy.” Of course, the Darden website says “General management is both the mastery of all elements of business, from accounting to operations, communications to ethics, politics to finance, and the ability to see strategically across all functions.” Sounds super duper, but isn’t that just great marketing prose?

Today it really clicked for me. Maybe I’m the last to get it (wouldn’t be the first time), but today proved to me that general management scope, skills and acumen send you far beyond functional proficiency in quant or soft or marketing or ops or finance. General management teaches you to see and solve using all of those tools. What’s the best way to make sure you are trained to see the whole, whole, WHOLE problem? And then solve? I think it starts with knowing yourself enough to know the holes in your own experiences and aptitudes – and work to fill them. Which is why i’m here, right?  As a true “have soft, need quant”, i’m hopefully getting closer to “have quant” status one spreadsheet at a time.

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