Last night the outgoing and incoming Darden Student Association (DSA) teams had dinner with Dean Bruner. He thanked us, and we each received a framed copy of the photo below, which perfectly captures our playful spirit as a group (i’m the lady sitting on the left). It made me think – what’s the most important thing I’ve done at Darden? Looking back over the 65 (!!!) posts on this blog since beginning school, I seem to have learned a lot, including: how to successfully use massive levels of caffeine, play Words With Friends, function on 3 hours of sleep, what Vineyard Vines is, how to productively use the hours between 9pm-midnight, the miracles of Arch’s Frozen Yogurt Wow Cow, work through Princess Problems, read a 27-page Harvard cases in under 10 minutes, live half of my life/flirt via instant messages, enjoy cocktails often (and responsibly) and survive a cold call. When I really think about it, though, the top 5 most important things I did at Darden are:

5. Learned to use Excel (and became functional at finance in general): I’ve come a long way since Baby’s First If-Statement. Proof: I did a quick-and-dirty discounted cash flow in under 25 minutes last week – not because I wanted to, but because I didn’t catch that part of the assignment (oops!) and was scrambling to get it done before class. Who am i? – pre-Darden me could never have done that.

4. Landed a job I’m thrilled about: some people say this is what b-school is all about. It is a huge part of the equation, since i have to eat. I feel really lucky to be consistently over-the-moon-happy about my new job. I’m going to a great company in an awesome industry (beer), the function I wanted (marketing/brand management) all in an environment where they let me sparkle. It’s definitely worth the hours (months) I spent despairing about being unemployable, networking and interviewing.

3. Learned what I’m actually good at: if you’d asked me before Darden, I would have given you a very different list than I have now. Now I think I have a handle on my strengths and a clear eye on my weaknesses, all because Darden pushes hard and simultaneously doesn’t give you any room to fool yourself. Not to mention, I had to practice doing things I hate doing, like asking for help and saying “I don’t know” (both not so bad, once you get used to them).

2. Made some terrific close friends. I’m grateful to know amazing people at Darden, and my dear friends here are precious and wonderful. I am woeful at the thought of life without Miss MBA, Finn, SF and G within spitting distance and without my roommate to share living room floor picnics and daily dramas with.

1.The most important thing: served on the Darden Student Association as VP of Social. One year, 28 events (parties) and hundreds of hours of effort later, I feel like it’s been my honor and privilege to hold the role. Doing this job threw more challenges and triumphs my way than I could ever have imagined, and taught me more real-time leadership, communication and management skills than any class could or would have. Working with the 10 other people on the DSA was a complete treat, and I couldn’t imagine better colleagues to have. Not to mention getting to know my awesome Social Committee, tons more of my classmates, faculty, administration, staff and everyone who makes Darden run. I’m a better person and a better manager as a result.

To sum up: coming to Darden was the best personal and professional decision of my life. I did a bunch of hard stuff (gross understatement) and a bunch of fun stuff, and it’s been the best 2 years of my life so far. I’m pretty sure it keeps getting better and that I’ll keep blogging at this address, with perhaps a title change (Sierra After Darden?) and a few weeks off for travel.

Darden Student Association 2010-2011

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