Weeks 0-1-2

I am completing today my third week at the GSB, and time is already a very constrained resource. So I will post here a comprehensive update for the month of September, and I will aim for one update a month from now on. Short summary: my experience has been amazing so far — inspiring, challenging and rewarding. And this is only based on the academic and social part of the MBA, since extracurricular activities and recruiting will only start in a month.

Academics and Class Experience

I am enjoying every course, including topics, professors and teaching methods. It is so interesting being a student again after 7 years of professional experience. Almost every lecture reminds me, in a way or another, of some situation that I have lived during my time at Morgan Stanley and Universal Music.

Week Zero consisted of one intensive ungraded course, Managing Groups and Teams, which served as a gentle introduction to the First Quarter (and 1 completed unit out of 105, yay!). The course analyzed through experiential learning all aspects of working in groups/teams — team formation, structure, processes, influence and decision-making. Each session was based on a group exercise, which we would then analyze in class. I found the course extremely funny and impactful. All the key learnings are now stored in my brain from direct memory of what I felt whilst doing the exercises, and this is more effective than simply having read a book about the same topics.

In Week Zero I also took two placement exams for Data Analysis & Decision Making and Optimization & Simulation Modeling. I found one exam relatively easy, and another pretty challenging, but thankfully I passed both, and I am very interested in the topics taught in the Advanced class — in particular learning SQL and R to analyze big sets of data in the Winter quarter.

In this Autumn quarter I am currently enrolled in 5 courses, with 2 more to come at later stage: Financial Accounting, Strategic Leadership, Organizational Behavior, Leadership Laboratory and Smart Pricing & Market Design (i.e. the advanced version of Optimization & Simulation Modeling). I will write my full considerations on each course once the quarter is over, but so far I am really happy. In particular, I am finding very effective the diversity of teaching methods: every course is based on a bespoke combination of theory, case discussions, side projects and experiential learning. I can clearly see why different teaching methods make accounting or strategy both enjoyable on their own merits.

Class participation is a new challenge, as it was never part of my academic experience in Italy. However, I am trying my best and I feel satisfied after the first few weeks, although there is surely room for improvement, and I look forward to receiving feedback from the professors. I participated to a useful workshop last week, which gave me confidence on my approach. I have committed myself to make the best comment I possibly can in each class — advance preparation helps, but timing and structure of the comments are also important, and I am learning on both sides. At the same time, I decided to never speak more than twice per class, in order to give air time to my classmates, and have a balance of quantity and (hopefully) quality.

On a side note, I applied for a Global Study Trip in Spring (necessary to fulfill the Global Experience Requirement) and I got assigned to Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore, with a theme of “Creating Value in Resource-Constrained Economies”. So excited about it!

Social Experience

Being surrounded by such incredible, inspiring and nice people is the most priceless part of my MBA experience so far. After the summer trip in Tanzania and the first month in Stanford, there are at least 30 people which I consider as dear friends.

I could mention the precious small group dinners with very interesting conversations, or the entertaining casual sing-alongs with me playing the guitar. Not to mention TALK (more to come on the next post), whose weekly tradition will kick off this forthcoming week for the class of 2017. But I will share for the moment something more personal, and incredibly meaningful to me.

My life has taken a big turn a week ago, as I got engaged to my lovely girlfriend (now fiancée!) during her first visit to the Bay Area. Beyond my immense happiness, the reason why I feel mentioning this personal event on this blog is due to the reaction within the community of my classmates.

On Monday morning I could not walk more than 10 meters on the GSB campus without someone stopping me to hug me and congratulate me (sincerely). It felt like being part of a huge family, and the feeling was genuinely amazing. And on Friday an awesome classmate, whose name I won’t mention, has thrown the funniest engagement party in his own flat for me and my fiancée. He invited 30 classmates, organized a graphic theme for the event, created a video with pictures of me and her, and much more. It was one of the most memorable nights of my life, and sharing this private milestone with my GSB friends made it even more special. What more can I say?

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