The new generation of the EMBA 2019-2020 had arrived, all dressed up, anxiously smiling, looking around and shaking hands with whomever came first on your right or left. We had a nice welcome gathering, our name tags were already on the desks, leaving no room to stress over the best seat in the classroom. Mrs. Danica Purg, the lady in charge of the IEDC magic, gave us the right push at the beginning: “Use this time fully, as it is the most valuable moment in your life. Be present, be committed because this is the only way you would enrich your life”. Prof. Jim Ellert warned us about plagiarism; as if someone would even think of doing that?! He pointed out one important thing that raised our heads: “This experience will change you, you will see”.
And, off we go! Three weeks at the beautiful lake Bled, Module 1, a lot to look forward to but still clueless about the real magnitude of events we would eventually face. We all came with ideas and expectations. They told us that the first module is the hardest, they push you hard. But, come on, we were all grownups, some more experienced than others, but with enough knowledge and skills under our belts. Boy, were we wrong! They gave us an easy start: a bit of personal development topics, introduction quizzes on our leadership profiles and 3D presentations using crayons and some various toys to present our lives and attitudes. That was fun! We laughed, we got to know each other, we questioned our prejudices and we built dynamics of our teams. We were sailing boats, Chinese trains, ocean waves, rowing boats. We showed that we understood what teamwork was all about. At least, we thought so. They assigned us to six teams, each team having six members. Life in teams was very transformational. We started consciously, pacing ourselves in direct communications and allowing everyone to have his or her moments. As the pressure with daily assignments increased, along with lack of sleep, we turned into working machines, trying to be as direct and as efficient as we could. Eventually, we became almost as a real family – knowing each other’s pluses and minuses, respecting our differences and trying to accept the variety of characters and personalities.
Some days were easier and full of love, some days were frustrating and with a bit of grudge. Being pushed to work in a team of people you never met before but having at the same time a clear task - to solve a case and have a team consensus - was not always easy or fun. We all got lost in the mysterious world of accounting. We looked at each other trying to figure out who actually had a clue about what Prof. Danny Szpiro was saying. But, Danny knew his way around and motivated us with accounting jokes. Every new session - a new joke. Poor accountants. It felt almost like an award for sticking with the accounting principles, methods, rules and logic. Danny had his inventory of jokes. But, at the end, you actually get to appreciate accountants no matter what.
After sleepless nights over the final exam in accounting, we finally got to the fun week – marketing management. The first day we met Prof. Joe Pons, we knew it would be a blast. The energy, the attitude and the way Joe pushed us to think was exhilarating. We knew that part of our grade was based on a high contribution in class and they warned us that a good preparation is essential for each day, but little did we know how mind-twisting that experience would be. Joe challenged each of us to go beyond our normal reasoning and dig for solutions we would, otherwise, never look for. There were moments when we thought we knew the answer (finally) and we looked for Joe’s approval. But, he would immediately challenge our reasoning leaving us speechless and even more confused, wandering whether we knew what we started with. And, what was really important, he did it with a great sense of humour and empathy. You just couldn’t help appreciating him for what he presented. The energy in class was great, we felt anxious and motivated when we were called on by the professor and were considerate of each other even when our answers didn’t fully make sense. Boy, did we laugh hard! But, it was the best way to accept our limits and to challenge our set logic. Professor Joe Pons taught us a valuable lesson: we just entered a long-distance race. Whether we will win or lose it, is up to us. But, one thing he left us with is something we should all remind ourselves every day: “The day you stop learning is the day when you become stupid”.
Well, the first module is behind us. We had a perfect weather, enjoying it during breaks at the school terrace, drinking coffee and eating local cookies… well, in the afternoon we had healthy snacks, just to keep the balance. Some of us even took walks around the lake or enjoyed a long run. New friendships have begun, some maybe for lifetime…let’s see what the next module will bring us. See you in May!
Jadranka Gojtanić, Class of EMBA 2019-2020