Monday, November 10, 2003

MBA Reunion - Good for Friendships, Not Networking

So I'm back from my MBA 10 year reunion this past weekend and had a good time. My biz school just added a new building, and the reunion consisted of a reception one evening in the new building, along with a tour (with the subtle message to please donate to help pay for this thing). A BBQ was held the next day before the big homecoming game (my MBA school is part of a larger university).

Unfortunately only about a third of the class showed up, despite the fact that probably 50% of the class is living within driving distance (four of us flew in). Those that were there included friends that I stay in contact with through calls and email and it was good to talk to them in person after not seeing them in a year or two (or three). I reconnected with a few people I was good friends with during school, but haven't seen or talked to in a decade, so that was good.

In answer to an email inquiry from one of my readers, this was not like a ten year high-school reunion, which everyone I know seems to have nightmares about (we actually talked about this at the MBA reunion, and as someone put it: a ten-year high school reunion just ends up ruining years of therapy). High school has a lot of emotional baggage, cliques and the like. My experience at biz school was that everyone was there to learn something, improve their career and get ahead and while cliques certainly existed, they were nothing like the hateful, polarizing ones in highschool (my experience at the 10 year high-school reunion was that those cliques STILL functioned, even after a decade). And since people taking their MBA ranged from their mid 20s to the early 40s, everyone acted like adults instead of kids.

While the reunion was good for seeing old friends, I wouldn't say it was good for "networking" for the following reasons:

1. Non-industry Specific - We had people there working in energy, government (lobbying as well as congressional aides), tech, medicine, banking, etc. While it is certainly interesting to hear about these industries, I just won't have a business need to call up the VP of an oil and gas exploration company since that is totally foreign to what I do or the industry I work in.

2. Regional Differences - I am on the Left Coast and most of the people there were not. So being in totally different industries and totally different parts of the country, I had nothing in common with a lot of people except we hold diplomas from the same university.

3. Different Business Models - The talk did turn to business deals, investment opportunities and the like. Those in tech talked about emerging markets (see below) and tech start-ups on the Left Coast , while those in energy talked about investing in 3-D seismic technology and drilling opportunities in the Gulf of Mexico. These two topics have nothing in common except money. The types of people, companies or venture capital that invest in each are different and how the investment done is totally different (I actually understand "third for a quarter", which is a common investment technique for oil and gas, but would bring blank stares at a tech venture capitalist).

So from a business point of view, it was a bit of a bust, but very worth it from a personal point of view. I am glad I went and will go to the 15 year - who knows what everyone will be doing in half a decade.

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