It’s no secret that math and I have never been the best of friends. Don’t get me wrong: I love its clarity, and am awed by the elegant and powerful insight it can provide. But I’m the person who is more comfortable facilitating a community development workshop with sixty herders in Mongolia, or designing a supply chain sustainability strategy than creating a business model or crunching the numbers on the net present value of a potential investment.
When I came to Cambridge Judge Business School, I knew I would love classes like Management Praxis – the equivalent of being a kid in a candy shop for a diagnosed “amiable” like me who thinks non-stop about interpersonal relationships and group dynamics – but what I didn’t expect was how much I would enjoy the “hard”, quantitative aspects of the MBA. Now, this isn’t because statistics or corporate finance are suddenly easy or comfortable for me, nor is it likely I’ll become a superstar data analyst; it’s because of that feeling of discomfort that tells me I am growing, perhaps in ways I never expected.
On our first day, program director Jane Davies asked us to embrace a growth mindset, to foster a passion and openness to learning by seeking out the things we find difficult, that push us outside of our comfort zones. At Judge – and at Cambridge more broadly – it’s impossible not to find such opportunities for growth. I am constantly stretched in new directions, whether that’s mastering how to calculate beta, a tough but thoughtful discussion on cultural difference with my classmates, or sitting down to dinner in my college with peers who are experts in computer science, sociology, biomedical engineering, and the history of MI5 (the British domestic intelligence agency, for those who aren’t James Bond fans). And best of all is the spirit of collaboration that helps me find my way – like when that dinner conversation becomes an impromptu tutorial on statistics.
For someone who wants to be an effective manager and leader in a world which is constantly changing, there could be nothing more valuable than learning how to grow. I have no doubt that not only will I benefit from the knowledge and tools I am gaining in the MBA itself, but that making friends with discomfort, recognizing it as a sign of novel connections and nascent skill, will help me dive fearlessly into the new challenges long after my time at Cambridge. As one of my classmates puts it: “Just think of it as adding to your Swiss Army Knife of Awesome”.