Collaboration Beyond the Classroom: The Value of an MBA Network and Cohort
I think many of us have been in this situation before: you are given a new opportunity to contribute to a new project at work. You may lack experience in some of the specific subject matter, but you know that you can provide value. However, you need some guidance, and you have questions. What do you do?
A few months ago, almost a year into my Part Time MBA career, I volunteered to review applications to one of my organization’s grant funds. These funds target social enterprises that work in the household energy market in the developing world. Assessing the potential impact of these applicants — something I already had experience with — was important, but so was critically evaluating their financial statements. I had already taken a class in accounting and finance with my cohort, but I needed more knowledge to help recommend the strongest shortlist of candidates.
I knew who I could ask to help support my goal: I turned to a friend who has an accounting and finance background to discuss analyzing financial statements. Through our conversation, I gained broader insight into applying one of the subjects we learned in our classes to a real world setting. I learned some new techniques for analyzing viability, leverage, and growth potential for social enterprises, and applied them to one of our grant funds.
The classroom setting provides many learning opportunities, but one of the best ways I have learned material from class was through friends and classmates in my cohort. This is a cliche, but it is absolutely true: the network you build through your cohort in an MBA program will prove invaluable to you very quickly. You won’t just learn new subjects and skills together; you will learn from each other and apply this knowledge to your own work and job.
Learning from my friend enhanced my professional development, and just as importantly, helped me contribute to my team’s efforts to select a group of strong social enterprises that will now have new opportunities to make an impact in emerging markets. I recommend to any MBA student that you get to know as many people in your cohort as possible. Yes, this can help strengthen your future network, but more importantly, it will enrich you as a person. You will learn more about yourself, and encounter new perspectives and ideas that you may ultimately pursue.