One-Year At Goizueta: Keiylene Strickland- The Summer Experience: A Balancing Act

The months leading up to business school, I crafted three specific goals I wanted to accomplish during the course of my year at GBS: to develop as a leader, to round out my business education both inside and outside of the classroom and, to launch a career I am passionate about. In theory, this seemed like a foolproof plan.

I felt I had a realistic expectation of the summer ahead of me walking into the first day of onboarding. I had spent the spring seeking out alumni of the program and had countless conversations about the “summer experience”. Along the way, I came up with the idea of drafting my goals to ensure I maintained perspective throughout the summer. Between the homework I had done before hand researching the program and my list of goals, I was all set, or so I thought…

Within the first two weeks, we had countless opportunities to get involved presented to us. They all sounded so exciting and I was eager to jump in. However, I felt the slightest reminder to compare the opportunities to those three goals. I signed right up for some of the opportunities, but others I made the decision to pass on. It was tough. I was not completely swamped and as someone without a history of saying “no”, ever, it was something I struggled with for a while.

The first summer block progressed and I recall saying aloud that the summer semester was much more manageable than I anticipated. You know when people say things and you instinctively respond “knock on wood!”? Well, let’s just say, I should have knocked on wood.

It was not a week later that everything took off. We had team projects, individual papers, finals to prepare for, and oh that little detail known as career prep, not to even mention life outside of school. The block one finals finished the week of 4th of July and I hit the wall. I was so worn out from the previous six weeks, I could not even imagine how I would tackle the second block.

The Sunday night before the start of Block 2, I realized I needed a new plan. The summer was intended to be intense but many before me had successfully lived to tell about it (and even had fond memories to share!). I went back to my list of goals. I was contemplating joining the Leadership Coaching Fellows as an opportunity to develop as a leader but was hesitant to take on anything else. I frequently referenced my goal of truly learning the material in each course rather than evaluating myself against the grade but continued to benchmark my success against the grading scale. And lastly, my goal to pursue a career I was passionate about, had almost entirely fallen to the backburner. So, in grading myself for Block 1, I was headed towards a solid “D”. Not quite the rosy picture I had envisioned back in May. Fortunately, I still had the second half of the semester to course correct.

I began Block 2 with a refreshed perspective. I decided to apply to the Leadership Coaching Fellows, tried to maintain a perspective of learning in my classes and made a point to make time for career preparation. While I will not say the new approach was flawlessly executed, I did find myself regularly checking my progress against my goals. I found that in some cases, “good enough” was just that. I was not able to sign up for every opportunity, but pursued many. I was not always able to outline the readings for each class, but I made it a point to make sure I was familiar with the main ideas. I was not able to always hit my target of one hour a day on career activities but I made sure to do something each day.

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Classmates Amanda Pegues and Brett Smith teaching a class on interview prep for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Atlanta. Even with the intensity of the summer program, we all saw the value in making time for activities outside of class.

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Team picture of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Atlanta volunteer event.

Looking back over the summer, I would say I was successful in working towards my original goals for my time at Goizueta but in a slightly different context that I had imagined. I saw the immediate value in having definitive ambitions and criteria for success. However, the greatest lesson I learned was the value in balancing competing objectives to craft a path allowing me to work towards my ultimate objective: to make the most of this once in a lifetime experience.

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Part of the balance is making time for the social events throughout the summer. Pictured above are the girls getting ready to head to our end of summer celebration: Cheesy Prom!

As an incoming student or potential applicate my advice would be to take the time before beginning b-school to define what success looks like for you during the program. Business school is full of more opportunities than you can imagine and it is so easy to get lost in saying “yes” that you miss out on accomplishing what is most important to you. Lastly, while I would strongly encourage crafting a few specific goals, I would encourage allowing flexibility to embrace opportunities outside of your original plan to fully engage in the MBA experience.

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