In this post, Margherita Guerra (MBA Class of 2021) reflects on her first year and explains how coaching from our CDC team supported her learning journey in the MBA.
Can you please tell us more about yourself?
I can’t say I grew up aware of it, but I did grow up in a multicultural family. My father was born in Italy and migrated with my Italian family to Brazil as a newborn. My mom is from the countryside of São Paulo. These two realities are so distinct that I think it helped me to grow up seeing things as more than universal truths.
I never felt that there is a solid line that delineates different fields, I believe things are more connected than we tend to assume and that is why when I was applying for college, I couldn’t decide between engineering and law. I could see myself doing and enjoying both courses.
I ended up doing engineering more because of the challenge rather than my personal aptitude. Many vocational tests tend to assess one’s curiosity for deconstructing and assembling things as an important attribute for future engineers, but honestly I’ve never considered myself in this category. I generally prefer it when things work properly and there is no need to fix them 🙂
I may already be anticipating myself here, but that was one of my first self-reflections at IESE while going through the Career Essentials course. I do love to deconstruct, recombine and assemble, but instead of doing it with objects, I’m passionate about doing it with ideas. What I most like about the power of ideas is that we can always extract a new meaning from an old thought and apply it to add value in a different context.
Even before realizing all of that, I always knew that my key driver was learning, and that has been my main criteria for choosing which experiences I decide to pursue in career and life.
What brought you to IESE?
My wish for learning and for developing myself made me decide to pursue an MBA, my desire to stay loyal to my values and to pursue my true goal made me choose IESE.
Talking about values may seem abstract but I consider it as one of the most practical and straightforward ways of approaching life. Once you know what you value most, you can easily identify your goals and align all your actions to what you aim to achieve in order to be happy and successful. Otherwise it is easy to get lost by following what everybody else is doing and end up neglecting what means the most to you.
Choosing an MBA was not that simple. There are a lot of rankings, a lot of myths and a lot of opinions. That is why I always had it clear in my mind the reason for which I was pursuing an MBA and while collecting all the tons of information about schools and programs, I was filtering and prioritizing the ones that were relevant to my own criteria of personal growth.
What do you enjoy the most about your MBA? Did it meet your expectations? Any surprises so far?
I think that precisely what I like the most is how much I’m being surprised. I came here knowing it would be challenging, and I was right about that, but I was a bit wrong on which kind of challenges I would face. But that’s where growth comes from. If you know what to expect, how to react, and what you are going to get from it, than I would say you will probably not change a lot.
I like the fact that things that I was most insecure about, ended up not being a problem at all. The people here are amazing and they helped me to see that these “ghosts” that I had in my head were all just insecurities rather than true shortfalls.
On the other hand, things that I thought I had totally under control, surprised me and revealed themselves as critical vulnerabilities that I had to take care of.
I cannot stress enough how much I value everyone I met here, not just my teammates and classmates but the whole community… professors, career coaches, staff. Everybody is so inspiring that it generates a virtuous circle and when you least expect it, you become a part of it. Soon you start to believe in your transformational potential too.
You have done individual career coaching sessions with our CDC team, what were your main learnings or take-aways?
I started this coaching program towards the end of the first year and it was one of the best decisions I made. Initially, I confess I wasn’t expecting any major revelations from it. I wasn’t doubting the super powers of my coach, Manuella but I was pretty confident in level of my self-knowledge and I couldn’t see what else we would be able to squeeze from it.
When we started, I put energy into it but I couldn’t see where we were going. Things were going slowly in terms of applicable results, in the fourth and last session I was even a bit frustrated because I was supposed to brainstorm a list of possible careers and I was totally blocked. I could not write down a single option. At this moment I was feeling lost! At this point, I had not secured a summer internship and even worst, I didn’t have any idea of what I wanted.
At this moment I was expecting two kind of reactions from Manuella, either she would send me to therapy or say “Well, that’s it. Good luck!”. She did neither! Instead, she drew a plan to help me to go deeper on my emotions, understand what was blocking me and how to break free. It was amazing! From this exercise on, I could connect all the dots and could give a new meaning for a lot of things.
The irony is that I came here looking for personal growth and I wasn’t able to recognize it knocking on my door. And that is because when looking for personal growth we cannot be too attached to our old self, in order to change who we are, we need to let go of some parts of the person we used to be. That is definitely not easy. I would say that it’s mind blowing, it’s hard and it can be super tricky, and that is why it’s so important to find people that you can trust to help you in this process.
I’m super grateful to Manuella and to my friends that supported me in this process. When the ¨magic¨ happens it is never because of just one thing, it’s always a combination of small and key components along the way. In this case, after combining my learnings from this process and my thoughts during quarantine about online classes, I realized how much I care about education and how much I think it could be improved at many levels; mixing it with an extra shot of encouragement to try something new at the entrepreneurial / startup side of business and with a last minute offer from a high-growth startup in education, it happened!
Can you share with us what have you discovered about yourself? If you have to present yourself to the world now, what would it be?
I discovered that I value the feeling of human connection and care a lot. It motivates me and at the same time it is my vulnerability, I fear being rejected.
I have spent most of my life until now convincing myself that I was more Thinking than Feeling (according to Myers-Briggs personality types). That was an easy task because I’m super rational, good with logic and I can have a pretty straightforward view of how things work, what outcome to expect from each action and how to shape actions to optimize expected outcomes. I discovered that I can adapt to different environments and even be successful there, but it doesn’t mean I am at my best.
Upon more reflection, I realized that what I appreciate more is the Intuition, the creative process like connecting ideas, facts, different fields and coming up with hypothesis and solutions. I’m enchanted by the process of thinking and idealizing how things could be better.
I’m excited to do things that I believe can make a difference and add some value. I’m purpose-oriented and before engaging with something I always ask myself why. I like to help people with things that I believe are worthy causes. What I believe is worthy for example, is any work that contributes to build a better version of ourselves, of others, of communities and the world.
The MBA could be stressful experience for many MBA students, what is your experience so far? What would be your advice to students?
My view is that yes it’s stressful and it’s supposed to be stressful. I’m sure that one of my main learning will be how to manage stress and this is a lifelong asset because at the end of the day stress doesn’t come from the program but from our own expectations. These expectations will be with us forever, but our expectations should guide us and not take control over our lives and that is one of the most important lessons I’m taking from here. And the good side of learning it here is that it’s a safe environment with a strong and humanized community to support us on this challenge.
However, this is a delicate topic because stress can trigger mental health disorders and that is completely unrelated to our competence in dealing with stress. It’s important to talk about it because we need to be aware that it can happen and we need to be able to identify this condition and look for help instead of judging ourselves through the “ability to cope with stress” perspective.
My advice would be to invest time knowing yourself, knowing what matters most to you and prioritizing it. Always remember that prioritizing something means missing out on something else and we should not suffer from fear of missing out if we chose to do something that we value most.
Anything else you would like to share with us?
This whole experience is giving me the opportunity to test things that I’ve never imagined would bring me so much joy and motivation, and I keep thinking on how this is one of the best things of the MBA. Here we have the opportunity to test things, to test even the things that we didn’t know we would like to test. All I can say is the famous phrase around here, “trust the process”.
Sometimes we tend to focus all our energies looking for the answers without asking the right questions. I think we should focus more on the “whys” and have faith that once you have it figured out, the answers will come.
Thank you Meghi for sharing your journey so far, wishing you a fantastic and memorable second year ahead!
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