Phan (third from left) with classmates on an overseas trek
I have finally graduated from business school, In recent weeks, I’ve been taking a lot of time to reflect on my two years at NYU Stern. It’s been a fun and amazing experience, and I wanted to follow my predecessor, Cortne Edmonds, and share the best parts of an MBA program. My MBA experience has been completely different than what I expected and has surprised me every step of the way.
1. THE PEOPLE
There was a point in my life when I wanted different things, such as more upward mobility and exploring a different career field. I had a set of goals I needed to achieve. At my jobs, the people around me (especially the more senior folks) had already accomplished what they wanted; they were content with where they were. Whether it be family, career, or personal life, they made me realize that I was not where I wanted to be and I was on the wrong track.
The MBA was going to be my next step forward. Being surrounded by people who had the same mentality was important to me. Throughout my MBA experience, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet people who were just as hungry as I was. My Stern classmates were some of the most accomplished and impressive people I’ve ever met. There’s a special kind of connection you have with your classmates because you’re looking for almost the exact same thing as one another.
This bonding experience is similar to when I was in the military. You get to actively contribute to making the school better, from planning social events to organizing diversity events with partners at large firms. These skills and experiences will carry onto your professional career, something I’m excited to continue doing once I start my job.
2. THE LEARNING
As someone from an Asian background, academics were of the utmost importance to me and my family. We knew that lack of education was the barrier to entry for economic opportunities. When I was an undergrad, grades were important. Memorizing the material and displaying your knowledge of it were the ways you showed how you absorbed the knowledge. However, this made learning stale and it became almost rote. I was afraid to take hard courses or challenge myself for fear of getting lower grades.
At Stern, I was able to take much harder courses that made me step outside of my comfort zone. For example, I took bankruptcy courses at the NYU Law school. They were heavy in legal standards and precedent, which requires years of law studies to understand. Normally, I would never have taken a course like this because I have neither the background nor the accounting and finance knowledge to contribute to the class discussions. However, during the group projects and presentations, I was able to spearhead and assign roles to the best of each person’s abilities, something we do a lot of in an MBA program…but rare in JD programs. We ended up performing really well and I exceeded my own expectations. It really goes to show that you don’t know what you’re capable of until you challenge yourself. I’ve been able to adapt my learning style as a result of my MBA. Not to mention, these classes were really fun and I enjoyed each and every one of them.
3. THE MEMORIES
I’ve always been a bit of a lone wolf. From my days in the military to solo traveling across the world, I’ve always relied on myself. It wasn’t until I was in my MBA program that I started taking trips with others. My classmates were just as curious, adventurous, and courageous as I was. They were just as cultured and well-traveled as I was too. So when I decided to take a trip with a group of close friends to Costa Rica for spring break, I realized how much fun we could have together and how aligned we were in discovering a new country and experiences.
We created so many memories from these trips and I will cherish these experiences forever. Rappelling down the side of an active volcano next to a waterfall is something I always talk about or skiing for the first time at the Matterhorn and being on the ground more than being upright! Since then, I’ve traveled to 20+ countries (mostly in part to studying abroad), and we’re already planning our next adventures together for the future.
Another great memory I have is from discovering New York City together. When you’re a full-time student living in one of the best cities in the world, you’re able to enjoy everything the city has to offer. From happy hours, dining, museums, and much more, we got to fully immerse ourselves in a place we would call home for two years. For example, I got to see Madonna perform live at a rooftop bar. Later that day, Dua Lipa did a set at another venue during pride weekend. None of these would have been possible if I didn’t live in the city. When my friends and family came for my graduation, I was able to take them to all of the best places and show them what New York City is all about. I’m grateful for my time here and was able to show them a wonderful time.
The MBA is truly what you make of it. I was able to get the full experience and take advantage of everything Stern has to offer. It’s no wonder that it’s a degree that’s for everybody. Whether you’re looking to pivot careers, explore opportunities, make close and long-lasting connections, or learn a different skillset for your personal and professional goals, an MBA, especially one from Stern, is the best way to do that. I look forward to the next chapter of my life and am excited to see where it will take me. I can’t wait to start my new role in Seattle with Amazon!
Bio: Phan Hoang, a first-generation Bostonian, is a second-year MBA candidate at NYU Stern School of Business. Prior to business school, he was enlisted in the United States Air Force serving in humanitarian and peacekeeping missions worldwide. He has also taught internationally in countries such as Honduras and China. He will be working in Product Management after graduation.