Phil Regnault has already left an impressive footprint on the MIT Sloan School of Management. Last spring, Regnault and several partners in crime unveiled the school’s first annual E-Commerce Awards — a Wow! Project that required countless hours and boundless energy.
Aside from organizing this year’s awards ceremony and heading the student senate, Regnault — who interned this summer for Sprint in Kansas City, Missouri — continues to pursue a career in the high tech industry.
Last year, I helped found a new club at Sloan called the Sloan ACT — the Adventure Challenge Team. We organize group sporting events, like mountain biking rides, mountain climbing, canoe racing, and different outdoor events that bring people together.
Last January, we also organized a real course — an academic course — on winter resort management. Don’t laugh. About 30 people drove up to Killington, Vermont and participated in case studies on ski resorts. People from the Killington Resort business office spoke to us. It was a lot of fun.
A friend of mine came up with the idea. We proposed it to the program office and they were surprisingly supportive. We got one of the more prominent professors on campus to be our sponsor. He led group discussions a couple of nights prior to our field trip. We only had room for 25 people, and 50 people signed up, so we had to hold a lottery to decide who would go.
One of the great things about Sloan is that we have the whole month of January off. It’s called Independent Activities Period. During this time, you have the opportunity to take wacky courses like the one we created. We thought there was a gaping hole in winter-resort management, so we filled it up.
Resist the Temptation to Slack
It may sound kind of nerdy, but don’t fall behind in your work. It’s not like being an undergrad where you can slack off for the first month and then catch up. The workload piles up so fast and furious that getting your books early on is a good idea. Usually you can find out what books are necessary in advance. You can then order them cheaply over the Web, and have them arrive before classes begin.
Another reason to keep up with reading is so that you can achieve something of a balance. If you fall behind, once late September or October comes around, you’ll only be focused on academics and nothing else. If you don’t get too stressed out by just keeping up with academics, then it’s really important to take part in as many social events as you possibly can. The first month or two is really when most of the friendships are going to be forged, so take part in everything. Go out of your way to be around the other students because these are relationships you’ll have for life.
The students who were successful both academically and personally during the first year were people who demonstrated flexibility, and were able to adapt to a very different environment. People have worked hard before, and they’re going to work hard in business school, too — but it’s a different kind of work, a different kind of schedule. You’re going to interact with people whom you may not normally interact with and you’ll encounter many different personalities. Anyone who’s been admitted to B-school can survive it, as long as he or she is not too rigid in their approach.
Be a Comrade
At Sloan we have a very high degree of camaraderie. It’s really awesome. I could not have designed a better atmosphere. People are competitive in their own right — they’re high performers, and they’re all smart people, but they’re not cutthroat competitors vis-a-vis each other. In fact, people are very eager to help each other. I’ve never been turned down for help.
Grades are just not considered that important here. People want to perform well, but there are no rankings or anything like that. I think basically 40 percent of the class will get As and the rest will get Bs. Learning is more important than grades.
For me, the greatest surprise at school last year was the diversity of my fellow students, and the wealth of information I could get from them. At first I didn’t have a firm idea of what I wanted to do after graduation, but I just talked to people and was able to find out what their jobs were like, what their careers were like, and how they balanced those things with their other interests.
To further narrow your focus on an industry or a job, I suggest the career development office, the CDO. It’s a great source for information on companies. You can get listings of alumni at specific companies and arrange to meet with recruiters in the fall. For me, the bulk of the real research was done after I decided which companies to interview with. There’s just so much information out on the Net, it’s ridiculous. You couldn’t possibly absorb it all.
You’re expected to have a computer with Microsoft Office, which we use to do our email. You’re expected to be online. Laptops are preferable, but they’re definitely not necessary. In addition, I have a cell phone and a PalmPilot. As my first year progressed, more and more people were getting cell phones because they are very helpful during recruiting season. They are useful when you’re spending a lot of time at school and want people to be able to get in touch with you.
Spend Significant Time With Your Significant Other
You’ve got to institutionalize certain rituals like always having dinner together or always spending at least one weekend day together. Also, there are lots of social events organized for students and their spouses or significant others. It’s a great idea to invite your significant other because then they have a chance to meet the people that you study with and their significant others, too.
Maintain Passion and Revolution
You go through a lot of change and hard time in business school, but if you have enough passion for what you’re doing and remember to have fun, then you’re going to get through it just fine. You just really have to love it.
One way to keep that passion alive is to remember that right now there’s a revolution going on in business with Internet technology. Now is the greatest time ever to be studying these subjects and preparing yourself for that revolution.
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