Monday, July 13, 2015

Owning My Position

So, I have held my position of Vice Dean for Education at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School for a little over two years now.  Today, I felt for the very first time, that I fully "owned" the position.  I think it is worth thinking about what it means and why it took me so long.

Today was the first day for the fourth cohort of the dual degree program in which students get an MBA from the Carey Business School and the MA in design thinking program at the Maryland Institute College of the Arts.  We call it the MAMBA program.  That is MA and MBA together.  As a business school we generally emphasize the MBA part over whatever dual degree program we work with, but the pronunciation is so much easier as MAMBA rather than MBAMA that we decided to go with what students were calling it.

In any case, I was the first speaker after an introduction by the Carey Business School program manager.  While I did not have any slides to present, the screen behind me had the Carey Business School home desktop that is found on all the classroom computers.  It says "Teaching Business with Humanity in Mind."  That is a key phrase that clearly reflects the value of the school.  I did not go so far as to say, "This is my idea of what it means," but I did not attribute it to the Dean today either.  Next time, I will tell students, "This is what I think it means."  And while I mentioned the Dean a bit in the presentation (for the difference that he has made in the school), for this day I simply presented that as a useful fact for students to be aware of.  For the first time, I really focused on my story of Carey.  My ideas about Carey.  Giving credit where credit is due to parts of the school like Career Development, Student Services, Academic Advisors, and program administrators but it was my story.  Not any "standard" story.  Not the Dean's story.  But my story.  And in the process of telling my story, I had the chance to introduce myself to each student individually before my welcoming statements, and I had a chance to speak with numerous students during the first break. That included one who was interested in fashion, one who worked for Cover Girl, one who works at Under Armour, and one who was involved in a large capital campaign for Everyman Theater.  And in the future, I will talk to each of them to get a better feel for their incredible sets of interests.  This is now a class that I will begin to get to know. I will come to understand. And I will represent myself to--particularly in a case study that we will discuss on August 4.  Thus, it really is becoming my position, my set of ideas, and my set of interactions with the students whom I will then be able to follow through the entire program.

In the meantime, I do wonder why it took so long.  I believe that part of it was really taking two years to settle in to understanding all that I need to know about the field. But it is also the case that I now feel like I have a set of connections that I could ad for the students.  What do I know about Hunt Valley in the area where the Cover Girl offices are located?  What do I know about local fashion?  How about Under Armour?  How about theater?  I mean, the student said I sounded like a local theater aficionado.  I don't think of my life that way, but I do realize that I have been to see local theater maybe a lot more than others and that it is a critical part of my life.  So, this year, I truly felt that I had something to add to these students' experiences and to these students' lives rather than just giving a cursory introduction.  I could not have said that a year ago.  But I can say it now.  

And that is a good thing for staking out my place in the school.  Contributing to the success of the school. Contribution to the future success of the students.

I find it interesting to hear others' stories of how long it took them to understand their organizations well enough to feel completely comfortable in their positions--particularly when representing their organization to outside or brand new customers.  

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