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Fridays from the Frontline: Diving into the Bustling MIT Ecosystem – Reflections from the Core Semester

During the first semester of business school, students are thrown into the deep end of diverse opportunities to explore their interests. At MIT Sloan in particular, the sheer number of clubs, groups, conferences, and activities tailored to various professional interests are so vast it’s referred to as an “ecosystem.”

Current student, energy industry enthusiast, and “Texan at heart and in mind,” Pervez Agwan, took to the MIT Sloan blog to reflect on how the Sloan ecosystem informed his first semester.  Read on for his rich account about business school life at MIT Sloan.

Diving into the Bustling MIT Ecosystem – Reflections from the Core Semester

by Pervez Agwan MIT MBA ’21

My first semester here at MIT has now officially come to a close, and the experience has been nothing short of incredible. I came into the semester with a basic level of knowledge on what to expect in the ensuing months, as I’m sure many MBA students did, but now as I reflect back on the journey, I realize how heavily rewarding the experience has been.

As the months unfolded, the first semester MIT-Sloan experience continued to amaze me, and it opened up windows of opportunity I hadn’t realized were so plentiful. I was introduced to such a lively, and energetic campus ecosystem of clubs, groups, conferences, and activities that allowed me to immediately immerse myself in all things of my interest. Classmates, and fellow MIT peers, all of whom were just strangers on day one, formed connections and friendships that we’ll carry well beyond our time here in Cambridge. The classroom experience really challenged the way I approached problem-solving, and being presented with a world of business/finance concepts that in my former life as an engineer I had never encountered has me feeling better prepared to tackle the challenges that lay ahead in my future.

Looking back on the first semester, I find that there are certain key facets of the experience that allowed me to better understand what MIT is truly about, and at the same time allowed me to grow into a better version of myself. Many of us here in business school are on the hunt for those measurable, yet sometimes elusive markers of personal growth, so I’m thrilled to testify that MIT offers an abundance of opportunities to seek your own personalized avenues of development. I’ll dive deeper on my personal growth at the end of this entry, as well as how I see the next two years playing out.

Tapping into the Lively MIT Ecosystem, and Making Immediate Impact (with an energy focus)

I quickly realized that being a student at Sloan allows you instant access to everything MIT, and how being at Sloan is completely synonymous with being at MIT: The two are inherently, and indisputably intertwined. It is awesome. I come from the energy industry, and I am actively seeking to return to the energy space after my time here at Sloan. MIT possesses some of the best resources available to those seeking a future in the energy industry, and amazing institutional structures in place to foster a vibrant, robust, and welcoming campus community of energy enthusiasts. From my time dipping my toes into other campus communities, an open and friendly nature seems to be pervasive throughout all of MIT’s various ecosystems.

I was initially very surprised by how easily students who are interested in making an impact in a certain space are given the keys to the car, and allowed to shoulder instant responsibility. Whether it’s running a conference, holding a leadership position in a student organization, or communicating directly with top-level managers at some of the largest firms (who hold key relationships with the MIT ecosystem), any one student’s impact can go as far as he/she desires! Some examples are below.

Right away, I immersed myself into the amazing energy ecosystem here at MIT. I had a general idea of the institutional resources available, but found myself surprised by how much actually goes on here in Cambridge. I’m grateful to have experienced the strength of MIT’s energy ecosystem so quickly. Climate change, sustainability, and green energy are top of mind here at MIT. I am a firm believer that the inevitable climate crises that humanity faces is quite possibly one of the most arduous challenges of our time. I am very thankful that I picked MIT to not just study business, but also energy. At times I felt like a kid at a candy store with the excess of options available to learn about the newest technologies, the latest science breakthroughs, and the state-of-the-art businesses making an impact in the new energy space. Over the semester, I found myself immediately involved in panels, lectures, education series, symposia, and campus wide energy events. Some of these include:

  1. MIT Climate Symposia (climate.mit.edu)
  2. MIT Energy Night (mitenergynight.org)
  3. MIT Energy Hack (mitenergyhack.org)
  4. MIT Energy Club (mitenergyclub.org)
  5. MIT Energy Conference (mitenergyconference.org)

From the first day on campus, my fellow energy-industry enthusiasts had given me the opportunity to make an impact, and have real responsibility right away! I am fortunate enough to serve as a finance director for the 2020 MIT Energy Conference, and serve as a VP in the MIT Energy Club in charge of budget/sponsorships. These two organizations transcend the Sloan experience, and tap into a network of peers, academics, and professionals in the broader MIT sphere. I’ve been given the opportunity to directly work with, and connect with the highest levels of management in the energy industry; my network has exponentially expanded, and spending time in the trenches with a like-minded group of folks has enriched my MBA experience in ways that are tough to place into words. I strongly feel that this group of folks in the MIT energy space are going to be thoroughly involved in solving the world’s toughest challenges related to the energy crises.

The People at MIT

The 2019 Baltic Penguins

The people here are wonderful, and MBA students are rapidly exposed to the warm, humble, and affable nature of students across MIT (both Sloan and non-Sloan). There is so much to be learned from the diversity in the Sloan classrooms, in the first-semester core teams, and the off-campus environment. Sloan does a fantastic job of ensuring that there is a diversity of backgrounds, opinions, thoughts, and ideas in the oceans that each MBA student is placed into. Beyond Sloan, diving into the MIT community exposes one to the global, and multi-ethnic/multi-racial nature of MIT. I’m currently involved in a campus-wide interfaith dialogue initiative (MIT Addir Fellows), and I’ve absorbed so very much from my fellow peers who hail from such unique backgrounds. My experience alone has allowed me to learn from believers of the Hindu, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths.

Describing the core semester experience is not complete without the core team that you’re assigned to. Myself, and 6 of my classmates formed the 2019 Baltic Penguins! Our first semester core team was so carefully created, with a broad range of backgrounds, experiences, and life goals. At times, I found myself with a severe case of imposter syndrome given the accomplishments, and accolades of my brilliant core team members! The experience with the core team is definitely a memorable one, and allows students to really sharpen their collaboration, communication, and prioritization abilities. My core team (pictured in purple, and in penguin suits!) is such a fantastic group of folks that was always around to help me when I needed it. There is absolutely no MIT-Sloan experience without the core team, and we definitely had a phenomenal time to remember! 🙂

The 2019 Baltic Penguins

The Classroom Experience: Prime Opportunities to Grow

As a former engineer, I never had formal education in business, or finance fundamentals. I’m currently enrolled in the MBA-Finance track, and the classroom materials have really opened my eyes to a world of knowledge I had so desperately been seeking. The fundamentals taught in the first semester core curriculum have changed the way I approach problem solving, and business challenges. The introductory managerial finance, and financial accounting courses have been useful to me beyond what I initially expected.

Sloan offers courses for anyone seeking to learn more about anything…really! What I’ve found is that students who possess a natural and inherent curiosity for knowledge will immediately find themselves enveloped in a learning environment that is everything they could’ve hoped for. The key areas in certain core class where I’ve found that I’ve measurably improved in/learned more are:

  • Communications for Leaders: Refined public speaking, and impromptu speaking abilities.
  • Managerial Finance: How to apply a finance and quantitative lens to business problems.
  • Organizational Processes: Sharpened soft-skills, and people management abilities.
  • Financial Accounting: How to understand/analyze large & complex financial statements.

How have I bettered myself from this experience? What has this taught me?

So what I have measurably, and noticeably taken away from this first semester? (Outside of classwork/course materials)

I’ve been given the opportunity to sharpen my time management abilities, and understand the true meaning of perseverance

  • The first semester is busy…very busy. It’s actually quite cumbersome to navigate everything that’s thrown at you without being as organized as possible. The MIT firehose analogy absolutely holds true, and many times throughout the semester, you’ll truly feel as if you’re drinking from a firehose. (Except it doesn’t turn off until the holidays!
  • From recruiting, to classwork, to homework, to other campus obligations, the core semester is inherently challenging, yet rewarding to those who are seeking to polish, and push themselves to be the best versions of themselves.

Prioritization and organizational abilities

  • Given that such an inundating amount of work, activities, and recruiting opportunities come at you, it’s absolutely important to prioritize what matters most to you. Along the course of the semester, students truly discover what means most to them, and how best to align their time with their priorities.
  • It’s also absolutely important to rely heavily on your support system. With an intense recruiting season unfolding in parallel with the classwork, I would not have been able to make it through the semester without the patience, & support of my lovely wife, Sofia. 🙂
  • My core team was also absolutely important, and very supportive. They shouldered the load for me when I was unable to carry my weight in certain portions of our group projects. Rely on your core team!

EQ, EQ, EQ, and Soft-skills!

  • The organizational processes, and communications courses really allow students to sharpen their soft skills, before hitting the workforce again.
  • From impromptu speaking, to giving/receiving feedback, and listening with a sympathetic ear, the emphasis on emotional intelligence is strong here at MIT-Sloan.

How will the next two years play out? I see a lot more room for growth, and opportunities to help grow the amazing energy ecosystem here at MIT. Stay tuned, and you’ll definitely be hearing from me again!

Posted in: Fridays from the Frontline

Schools: MIT Sloan

About the Author

Jon Pfeffer
Jonathan Pfeffer

Jonathan Pfeffer joined the Clear Admit and MetroMBA teams in 2015 after spending several years as an arts/culture writer, editor, and radio producer. In addition to his role as Contributing Writer at MetroMBA and Contributing Editor at Clear Admit, he was also a co-founder of the Clear Admit MBA Admissions Podcast. He holds a BA in Film/Video, Ethnomusicology, and Media Studies from Oberlin College.

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