Today I spent the day on campus listening to my classmates talk about their leadership journey after being invited by a classmate to hear their story.
These presentations are part of an optional Leadership Certification process through the Accelerate Leadership Center. We get so caught up in the day-to-day at Tepper that we sometimes forget the learning that happens from each other. I am so glad I was invited to hear my friend because I ended up listening to the stories of 7 other friends today and all of them were so inspiring and made me reflect on my time at Tepper.
The Tepper experience is an intense one. Many think it is because of the academic rigor but it really has to do with FOMO (fear of missing out). It’s not the fear of missing out on the many fun events that go on, but really the fear of missing out on opportunities to showcase skills and leadership abilities to get that perfect internship or job. Let’s be clear about one thing, there is no perfect opportunity but when you combine that notion with the academics, an intense recruiting process and too many leadership opportunities, it is a recipe for self-doubt and losing sight of who you are and what you really want.
I have seen so many people struggle to find their place and path including myself. There have been many times over the past year where I have doubted myself and my abilities. Even now, as I prepare to leave Tepper, I still doubt myself and whether I am truly ready to go back to the real world and whether I can live up to the expectation of being a good leader. But listening to my classmates talk about their fears and struggles over the past year and the reflections they have gone through made me realize that I am not alone and to stop listening to others. I have always been on a different path from my friends (in life and at Tepper). Today, my classmates reminded me that it’s OK. They reminded me that our successes came when we were true to ourselves and as long as we don’t lose sight of who we are, things will work out just fine.
As one of my classmates said today, you need to know who you are first before you can be your best self. Every person who enters Tepper will go through a rough patch. It is not part of the Tepper experience but part of your own personal growth while you are at Tepper. Everyone wants to be their best but getting there is a continuous learning process that involves lots of reflection and inner dialogue. What is right for you won’t be right for someone else. We are so concerned with how we think others see us that FOMO makes it easy for the ‘techies’ to jump on the consulting bandwagon and make the ‘entrepreneurs’ doubt if taking the road less traveled is the right choice. Your first year is all about figuring out who you are and what you like. The leadership journey is not about changing yourself to be better but about understanding who you are and finding what works for you. It is OK to be open to new things but don’t let it change you into someone you are not. You have one life to live and it’s your life so do things for yourself and not others. It is obviously easier said than done and I definitely do not practice what I am preaching but I am still learning and that’s what it’s all about.
We are a program that is focused on data analytics but we are also a program that is focused on people and relationships. It’s one of the reasons I chose to come to Tepper. Learning about yourself and using that knowledge to grow and improve is so much harder than anything you will learn in the classroom or while you recruit. I will not remember the things I have learned in classes but the lessons my best friends at Tepper have taught me about myself will be with me forever. I can confidently say that I will leave Tepper with a better knowledge of who I am.
I am so proud of my classmates who have shared their personal struggles today and I take inspiration from them for this blog post. For all you reading this, just know that the Tepper experience is real and it is tough but it is well worth it because you will come out of it better and wiser.