The summit is only the halfway point: thoughts on the first year of the MBA

mount st helens summit A few short weeks ago, the MBA class of 2016 breathed a collective sigh of relief as the last final was turned in, we had our end of year celebrations, and said our farewells to the graduating class of 2015. The class of 2015 is now transitioning into their post-MBA careers, and the class of 2016 is already starting their summer internships. We are now officially “second-years.”

For anyone looking to embark on their own MBA journey, here are my thoughts on the first year:

New Careers

As a career changer, this last year has been huge. This experience has opened up new opportunities that were previously closed when I left the Air Force. Part of this is because of the networking opportunities from alumni, peers, and the MBA program’s career management office…but the other reason is because the MBA is an inflection point in your career and an opportunity to gain new skills. These new skills and new ways of thinking allow you to know more about business challenges and find ways to overcome them. This also helps you look back at your career and gives you deeper insight into your past successes and failures, which in turn helps you tell your story and learn from your past.

In other words, the MBA program helps open new doors through the network, and the knowledge you gain helps you walk through them.

New Challenges

This year was incredibly intense from a time management standpoint. We were warned that the first quarter would be the most intense, but I would say that each quarter had its own unique challenges. Fall quarter was rough because of the number of team assignments in the core curriculum, and because of all the extracurricular activities. Winter quarter was tough because you needed to balance the internship search on top of the core curriculum and team assignments. However, Spring quarter was the most time-intensive. In addition to the coursework and team assignments, we also had to juggle multiple long-term commitments, like club leadership, entrepreneurship competitions, paid work, and independent study (consulting) projects.

The lesson I learned out of all of this is that you will always be busy during every waking hour. Everyone gets the same 24-hour day, so have a strategy on how you’re going to spend it. You’ll have to make tradeoffs. You could spend all your time focusing on your career, but suffer academically or neglect your club leadership position. Or you could spend every waking hour on writing the perfect essay, and skip out on peer networking events or neglect your family. You want to do everything equally well, but it’s just not possible. You gotta make tradeoffs!

New Friends

There’s nothing like a shared experience or challenge to bring people together. This MBA class has people from all over the world, from a diverse set of backgrounds and histories. We’re all here to get an MBA together, and it’s not hard to find a group of people that you connect with. I love connecting with people through the outdoors, and there are so many destinations and miniature adventures within driving distance of campus…and after a year, we’ve been yearning to leave our little MBA universe in PACCAR Hall for a spell.

Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of hiking to the top of Mount St. Helens with a small group of friends, and got to peer inside an active volcano. The hike wasn’t easy, but the view was amazing. These are good moments. We are living in the good old days.

The summit is just the halfway point, but it’s a great spot to take a breather and admire the view. We’re halfway through this MBA program, and it’s remarkable to see how far we’ve come in such a short time. Congratulations to the Class of 2015 on your graduation, cheers to the Class of 2016 at the halfway point, and bring on the incoming Class of 2017!

nelson tang portrait
Nelson Tang, Class of 2016, is an Air Force Veteran and is excited to be working at Nike for his summer internship! For more about Nelson, follow him on