‘Do we know each other?’ read the title of the survey that I rolled out to the Full-Time MBA Class of 2021 at UCD Smurfit Business School. Surprisingly, ~80% of those who responded agreed that they have never had a conversation (at least once) with each one of their classmates! Blame it on COVID, due to which the cohort faced radical changes to the new way of education. With this came layers of challenges, one of which was the reduced depth in conversations.
In an effort to lower the ~80% gap and increase engagement among colleagues, I decided to start ‘Unlearn with Naman’ video podcasts. Unlearn with Naman is a series of candid conversations with people from various backgrounds. In each episode, I unravel stories and interests to learn from people’s diverse experiences. It is a small initiative to help people from my class to get to know each other better.
Why did I decide to call it ‘Unlearn with Naman’? We all know the importance of learning but I firmly believe that unlearning plays an even bigger role in the life of an individual. Unlearning requires one to first question everything that they have assumed was ‘true’, in order to learn a new way of thinking and behaving.
Coupled with the decision to pursue an MBA, COVID-19 brought one of the biggest changes for people enrolled in a B-School. To embrace the new ways of viewing the world and to re-shape life, most of us had to adapt to new beliefs and welcome the change. To understand my classmates’ motivations to take on this challenge, I felt that the podcast should centre around ‘unlearning’.
Since the launch of my initiative, I have interviewed five profiles within the class. Below are the video features to date:
Conor Hyland has over 10 years of work experience, most of which has been spent working in the Middle East (Dubai). He has worked with companies such as LinkedIn, Microsoft, and Enterprise Ireland, amongst many others.
Jasmine Westbrooks hails from Chicago and is currently pursuing an MBA at UCD Smurfit. She has over 7 years of experience working in Finance and has been associated with Fortune 500 companies such as Abbott Laboratories and Constellation Brands–which, by the way, is the largest beer import company in the US.
Shashwat Acharya has over 7 years of experience during which he has worn many hats. He has worked at Mindtree Ltd, India’s leading IT and outsourcing company, and at ABInbev, the multinational drink and brewing giant. Shashwat also gone on to start his own company, Sababa Miteri, which is an eCommerce platform for maternity wear in India.
Nathan Jones has 6 years of experience working in the US during which he was associated with the American Psychological Association at Capitol Hill. He has also worked with two fast-paced startups including a project management education company and a benefits administration company which has been recently acquired by CVS Health, the largest pharmacy services provider in the US. In addition to this, Nate is a licensed cosmetologist. When he is not occupied with the burdensome MBA, he can be found writing songs on Budgets!
Noreen Mahmoud has over 7 years of experience in Architecture and Interior design. In her last role, she worked as a Senior Interior Architect with ECG Consultants, a legacy engineering consultancy firm in Egypt. Noreen’s work has been featured in an exhibition in Venice, Italy and she has also volunteered to help build a primary school in Kampala, Uganda.
It has been just under a month since I started interviewing my classmates. I had my fair share of scepticisms before starting the series. Why wouldn’t I? I had never been remotely associated with video podcasting. Four weeks later, my channel has garnered 600+ impressions and a watch time of over 28 hours. Not only has the experience been rewarding, but also it has given me the chance to bridge cultural gaps by getting to understand people’s experiences better.
Perhaps the biggest learning is that you will always be unsure – today or tomorrow. The best time to take a leap is now! So… what’s stopping you?
—Naman Kumar, FTMBA Class of 2021