5 Things We Learned in Mini 3

Ricardo Alvarez, Sofia Eliseeva, Shelby Livengood, and Ruben Tavakalov compete for racial justice.

“When one door closes, another door opens.” – Alexander Graham Bell

Likewise, when one Mini ends and another one begins immediately after. And with Mini 3 being over, it is time for the next installment of the blog series, “5 Things We Learned this Mini.” Below, I identify the most important lessons that other classmates and I took away from the Mini. Also, if you haven’t already, check out the first installment of “5 Things” for Mini 1 and 2.

1. Competing for Racial Justice Shifts Your Perspective

Ricardo Alvarez, Sofia Eliseeva, Shelby Livengood, and Ruben Tavakalov compete for racial justice.

In January, my team competed in the inaugural John R. Lewis Racial Justice Case Competition. Students at Emory University created the competition to get business students involved in developing innovative and actionable racial justice initiatives for major corporations. My team members were amazing and included fellow Part-Time MBA students Ricardo Alvarez, Sofia Eliseeva (check out Sofia’s post), Shelby Livengood, and Ruben Tavakalov.

We started well being the only team of part-time students to make it to the semi-finals. Then we were given the following challenge of helping our sponsor, Southern Company, best use its resources to address racial justice regarding income inequality, health disparities, and educational gaps. We conducted research, held focus groups, analyzed survey data, created a solution, and put it all together in a pitch to our client.

Even though we didn’t win, my team and I came away with so much more: expanded perspectives, critical conversations, and stronger friendships. The competition built on my understanding of these issues from my undergrad days, helping Baltimore inner-city students overcome racial inequality to compete in robotics competitions successfully. Check out what my teammates said about the experience here or the competition website to compete in the future.

2. Journaling Helps You Become More Self-Aware and Introspect 

journaling habit

“A personal journal is an ideal environment in which to “become.” It is a perfect place for you to think, feel, discover, expand, remember, and dream.” – Brad Wilcoxe

In our Leadership Communications class, Professor Evelyn Pierce assigned us to write daily journals regarding the people and events in our workdays. Throughout the weeks, she had us focus on various topics:

  • Identify the key internal and external stakeholders for our job, their needs, and their decision-making approach.
  • Become aware of our own and other’s listening patterns, skills, and barriers.
  • Assess leadership communication styles within ourselves and our leaders in terms of the level of task and relationships.
  • Capture how our organization and leaders within use advocacy strategies and consensus-building strategies.

After many days of journaling, I want to build this habit for my personal and professional life. After the workday, it helped me declutter my mind, examine opportunities for improvement, and prioritize opportunities. I become more aware of my own and other’s actions, needs, and behaviors.

3. Computational Statistics Helps You Make Better Business Decisions

R programming software

In our Statistical Decision Making course, we learned how to analyze data and use methods of statistical inference in making business decisions. From the start, Professor Dennis Epple tossed us into the deep end and had to quickly learn the R programming language and environment. The RStudio software is open source and made explicitly for statistical computing and graphics.

Skeptical at first, many of us learned R programming and adapted to the quick pace of material and coding to analyze data. This course allows us to practically apply the fundamental concepts from our earlier “Probability and Statistics” course to draw inferences from data. Throughout the class, our assignments had applications to real-world data in energy usage, housing prices, fuel efficiency, and more.

4. Team Meetings are Communication Opportunities for Growth

group meeting

Also, in our Leadership Communications course, Professor Pierce had us meet weekly in small groups of five to six people to work. Every week, we would assign someone in the group to lead the discussion. This weekly exercise built on the Smart Teams framework we learned from the Managing People and Teams course in Mini 1. Every team meeting was an opportunity to do the following:

  • Apply the material that we learned from the class and assignments that week.
  • Reflect on our own leadership style and communication from our full-time work.
  • Practice our leadership communication skills within the team meeting.

First, I had a great group to start with, so I want to shout out my fantastic group members: Alan Lo, Jake Paule, Ying Wang, and Matt Knudson. We learned from each other as each person was an excellent source of case studies and feedback. We gave each other space and trust to have open, honest, and vulnerable discussions. The result was that we coached each other, grew, and applied what we discussed in our jobs right away.

5. PBC Helps You Make a Difference in the Pittsburgh Community

love your neighbor

In late 2020, I signed up for Pro Bono Consulting (PBC), which is a Tepper organization that pairs up MBA students to volunteer in a four-month consulting engagement for local non-profit organizations and small businesses. I was partnered up on a team of six other great first-year part-time students: Sofia Eliseeva, Alex Fattore, Shelby Livengood, Caleb Lyman, Joe Nardi, and Juma Sankar. We hit the ground running as our group assigned roles and got to work. 

Our client is Brookline Teen Outreach, which is a non-profit focused on developing social emotional learning (SEL) for school students while also engaging them in activities and their community. We had been tasked with helping them identify a strategy for expansion into Pittsburgh and beyond. So far, our team has conducted research and had some discussions with our client. As the client liaison, I also got two opportunities to safely visit the non-profit to better understand SEL and the organization.

Now, our team is in the process of formulating our solution and documenting it. In late April, we plan to present the final deliverables to our client. Stay tuned for a PBC update in the next edition of “5 Things We Learned This Mini.” For more of my work, check out the first post in the “5 Things” series for Mini 1 and 2 or my productivity blog!

Dev Chandra | Part-Time MBA 2023
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