Embracing ambiguity: A first-semester reflection on the MBA

2019 Smith Cohort

Before joining my first-year cohort at Smith, I had created an infallible 5- and 10-year plan for how my career and professional life would develop. Or so I thought. By February, the plans had changed entirely. That's when I transitioned from planning for a part-time MBA to receiving an opportunity to attend Maryland Smith full-time with a scholarship.

Again, I adjusted and crafted what I knew would be unshakeable life plans during the summer before returning to school. Seemingly having learned nothing from this February, I have accepted my plans from less than six months ago evolved even further, as the first semester winds down.

My greatest lesson from the changes, though, is simply that to succeed in business – and in life – you must plan for your plans not to go as planned. Some of my greatest learnings from the past semester have resulted from wrestling with the ambiguity that accompanies the MBA experience. Instead of feeling unsettled by the unknowns ahead of me over the next 18 months, I am anchored in a streamlined set of priorities, goals and values that this semester has unearthed for me.

Keeping an unshakeable core, I’ve learned, trumps any plan I could ever create. Remaining adaptable has allowed me to keep every possible opportunity open instead of becoming myopically focused on a single industry or job posting as a result of a plan I developed months ago. I’ve learned to offer myself guide rails for the next three semesters while letting the path I take ebb and flow as exciting new opportunities meet me along the way.

–By Virginia Pierrie. Pierrie is a 2021 MBA Candidate and a Dean’s Fellow. Pierrie is originally from Raleigh, N.C., and worked for four years in corporate communications for Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York before coming to Maryland Smith.

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