My MBA – an unlearning and learning experience

Selecting a school for my MBA is one of the most important decisions I’ve had to make.

Even when I had read all the material, had all the conversations and visited my short-listed schools. Even when I had made my application and accepted the offer. Even when I packed up my life and moved 13,000km away from home, there was still a little voice wondering whether I had made the right decision. Our introduction to the Cass MBA could not have validated my choice more.

The first three weeks were dedicated to induction. I initially thought this seemed rather vague and a little drawn out, but I was wrong. It was a valuable opportunity to learn more about myself and my cohort through personality, psychometric and strength testing. It was an opportunity to get a feel of the dynamic teaching style and exciting content we will work with. It was an opportunity to build business fundamentals like teamwork, presenting and networking skills. It was an opportunity to really think about what we want to get out of the next 12 months. It was also an opportunity to learn more about this incredible city and critically to have fun.

Refilwe Maluleke with friends

I knew what I wanted to get from my MBA experience before I had chosen a school, I wanted to learn and to contribute. One of the defining traits of the people I admire, is a high degree of self-awareness, and for me that’s where learning begins. What I hope to get out of this experience are numerous opportunities to learn more about myself. Working with a group of people who have different backgrounds and life experiences forces you to acknowledge and accept that there is no such thing as the right way to do anything. The diverse student body and faculty at Cass will force us to re-evaluate the things we believe to be true. This will undoubtedly be uncomfortable, but that is how we learn.

Another key component of learning is experimentation. The opportunity to experiment is a dynamic that business school presents which is not easily replicated in the work environment. The risks associated with failure mean we often focus on proven approaches and known strengths. My hope is that the next year will provide numerous opportunities to build and test new approaches and develop latent strengths. This will undoubtedly be demanding, but that is how we learn.

Learning is not only about what happens at Cass, it is also about the extraordinary city in which it exists, and London has so much to offer the curious. Living on the doorstep of some of the world’s best theatre, sports, live performances, speakers, museums, galleries and more is why I chose London as the city to pursue my studies in. It would be a waste not to experience any of these and the question is not only how to balance this with the rigours of a demanding academic calendar, but how to use it as a part of our development. This will undoubtedly be challenging, but that is how we learn.

Equally important to what we learn, is what we contribute. Our experiences, strengths, and passions mean we all have a lot to offer the cohort and the school. Having a meaningful, positive impact is fundamental to my definition of a successful year. Continuing to have a positive impact long after graduation is the kind of legacy I would like to leave.

During this induction period we’ve often had to consider the question – what do you want to get out of the next year? The past few weeks have helped me distil my answer: I want to feel equipped to make a meaningful difference to everyone with whom I engage. To the people I work with and the clients we help, to the clubs I join and the charities I work with, to my family and friends. The philosopher Herbert Spencer wrote “the great aim of education is not knowledge but action”, it’s a truth I hope we all carry with us for the rest of this year and beyond.

Refilwe Maluleke
Full-time MBA (2017)