February 1, 2017

How MBA Study Changes the Way I Think

The following is a guest post by Yan Tang

In January 2016, on my 27th birthday, I received a letter from Seattle University informing me I have been accepted to the Professional Master of Business Administration program at the Albers School of Business and Economics. When my celebration woke up the whole household, I knew I was not crazy. I was just trying to tell everybody, my birthday wish became true: I could go all the way to United States studying as an MBA student.

Time has gone too soon. After one year, I remain excited of living and studying in a different country. I could not help to think lately that in my MBA program, what I have changed after one year study?

So many things have changed: lifestyle, networking, expectations, etc. However, fundamentally, it is the change of the way I think that really makes a big difference in both my life and career pursuit. I call it independent thinking.

Our MBA students usually are assigned to do a lot reading before classes, and to write reflections or summaries based on the reading. Then students need to prepare ideas or thoughts for open discussions during classes. It is always amazing to hear the furious discussions or even debates between students or between professors and students. There are no right or wrong answers, as long as you have evidence your arguments; and everyone is encouraged to express opinions and raise questions. In this process, students learn to find relevant information to form our own opinions instead of depending upon others. In addition, the independent thinkers are able to go a step further to think critically or strategically.

I grew up with the China education system where students are used to being told how to complete tasks. Independent or creative thinking might not be appreciated. In another word, it is disrespectful to challenge teachers' authority. So students usually depend on solutions offered by teachers.

Back to the time as a junior student in college, I was appointed as a project coordinator in the Austrian Pavilion in Shanghai Expo 2010. Supervising around 60 staff who are much senior than me, I was in panic every day as I expected someone to tell me how to manage these employees in a right way. Even though I worked very hard to make sure everything went on smoothly, I did not think independently or strategically as a leader is supposed to do. I did not think about what was my expectations to myself and to the whole team, what was the goal we should achieve, and how was that job linked to my future career.

Things could have been done so much differently but I did not know that back to 2010. However, studying for an MBA makes me realize the importance of independent thinking to approach problems differently. If I were in that situation again, I would take advantage of it to act as an independent thinker to understand different backgrounds and perspectives bring different ideas and solutions.

Interestingly, many people make changes by inside or outside classroom learning.I am glad that I consciously have made this change through my MBA study, and I appreciate the value of thinking independently to generate your own thoughts and expressing your thoughts bravely. Especially if you are a team leader, being a hard worker is not enough. It is essential for you to be able to think independently and strategically.

Halfway through my MBA program, there are still so many things to learn and so many goals to achieve. Having developed the ability of independent thinking, I feel confident when facing complex situations in life as I know I will keep calm and find solutions for problems. It is the same when it comes to pursuing my career. I will no long expect to be told what job I should take, instead, I would think independently to analyze my strengthens when applying for positions and to seize the opportunities.

Yan Tang is enrolled in the Professional Master of Business Administration (Marketing) program at Seattle University. She also serves as a Business Relationship Management and Small Business Coach at Seattle University's Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center. Previously, Ms. Tang worked for Manpower in the company's Shanghai, China office where she served in several roles including Service Consultant, On-Site Project Manager for IBM Shanghai, and Recruitment Consultant. Ms. Tang may be contacted at yantang1126@gmail.com.

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