The author, turned 3/4 away from the camera, wearing a white button-down shirt and smiling.
Hamzah Hassan

If someone had told me in 2018 (when I sat for the GMAT) that I would attend business school in a t-shirt and pyjamas, I would have dismissed them as some sort of nutter. Cue 2020 and the joke was on me. Or should I say, all of the full-time class! It has its advantages, being at the comfort of my sofa and dining table and snacking away on nachos while scribbling pages and pages of notes. 

Coming back to university after a nearly twelve-year gap seemed a little intimidating at first. Will I be able to make sense of everything? What about the workload? Am I going to sit through class like a confused dinosaur? I suppose many people face these thoughts on the first day. The simple answer to all of this I would say is “You’ll be fine”. We have all made it through the gruelling years of undergraduate study and working life and committed ourselves to achieving a goal, all that is left is to just “get on with it”. The first few weeks feel like a very steep climb, with new material to learn, assignments and presentations and so on, but quite soon, one just gets into a certain rhythm, and the weeks start flying by. 

Photo by Rohan Makhecha on Unsplash

The most rewarding part of study is that “Aha!” moment, which typically happens when you realise that you start looking at the world through the frameworks taught in class. You might look at the workings of a hospital and start thinking about how its management could do better to foster more teamwork or a better work environment for its personnel. You might look at a company and start evaluating its competitive advantage or the potential pitfalls of its business strategy, as if by reflex. You might even pull out an annual financial report and zoom right into the details to prove a particular point. The application of classroom study is much quicker. 

Every term has a course or two that are the most memorable for a student. Competitive Strategy, taught by Dr. Brian McGrath, is my pick for the first term, with its engaging and unique business cases. The class itself was never short of banter despite being taught remotely, and full of many eureka moments as the weeks went on. When we venture back into working life, we’ll all definitely be thinking about the ways and means to “capture and sustain a competitive advantage” every single day. 

The second-term course on Negotiation is probably one of the most challenging ones I have faced personally, as it takes me far out of my comfort zone, but I’m all the more thankful for it. With its multitude of handy frameworks and challenging simulations and role-plays, I think it is a great experience to practise and learn how to be a better negotiator… to “capture and sustain a competitive advantage”. 

Flashback to more-open times
When we could meet for a ‘Sláinte!’ moment to help us find more ‘Eureka!’ moments

Business school is a bit like a series of many lab experiments, each one building into the next. At the start, there is what feels like “the great unknown” looming ahead. Then, as one goes along, every couple of steps bring with them moments of unique insight, the ones where you think “Aha! I get this!” or “Aha! I can do this better!” Along with you are many fascinating and talented individuals, adding to those eureka moments. While the first few steps look daunting, just have a plan, stick to it and keep going. Those moments will happen!

Hamzah Hassan, FTMBA Class of 2021