May 20, 2020

Be Intentional & Challenge Your Inner Critic: My Tuck Journey

By Vivian Guo T'20

Two years flew by fast at Tuck. I felt that not long ago I was sailing down the coast of Maine with my fellow classmates, and now in a little less than two weeks, we will graduate. The memories of how it started are still very fresh, yet the finishing line is already in sight.

Reflecting on my last two years at Tuck, I first remembered the last day from Outward Bound: the day was fresh and bright, the clouds were light, the wind was right, and we were cruising across the ocean with ease, like a bunch of pros, working seamlessly as a team and tacking the sails into the winds again and again effortlessly. I could hardly believe that just three days ago we were struggling with even telling which side is starboard. I was so amazed by and proud of what we had achieved in just a few days.

Now writing this post, I am having the same feeling as I had the last day on the boat. Looking back at where I was before Tuck and where I am now, I am proud of how far I have come and excited to take the next step in my career. Of course, it’s not always smooth sailing. During these two years, there were days I felt I was beaten down (more often in fall B) and there were days I felt I was invincible. Those highs and lows and the learnings from those moments are what made my time at Tuck so tangible and precious to me. For those who are ready to embark on an MBA at Tuck, here are key takeaways from my journey at Tuck, which I hope are useful to your own Tuck experience.

1. Figure out your career goal, early.

Try to reflect early on what you really want to do after Tuck, not from the perspective of the admission, but genuinely from your own career planning perspective. Having a clear idea on what you want to do in the long-term will save you a lot of time and struggle during recruiting, as the overwhelming amount of job options are likely to disorient you or drag you to group thinking, and to reflect on what you really want to do then during the intense fall B will put another layer of pressure on you and take up the time and mental capacity that you could otherwise use on academic or recruiting efforts, so reflect early!

2. Face and challenge your inner critic.

This is one of my biggest takeaways from my Communicating with Presence course (one of the best classes at Tuck). What does your inner critic tell you? Write it down and argue your case. Not until I wrote mine down and challenged every single one of them, did I realize just how unreasonable and harsh I was on myself for no good reason. Thinking back, on some

occasions I let my inner critic talk me out of trying out opportunities at Tuck that could further enrich my experience and stretch my capabilities. If this sounds remotely like something you would do to yourself as well, then try this practice and don’t let your inner critic be the reason for not trying out new things or not letting yourself take risks. I am very much aware that this is easier said than done and this requires continuous effort. I am still battling with my own critics, but I take the comfort in being more aware of them now than I was before.

3. Be intentional and prioritize.

Time is the scarcest resource in these two years, so accept the fact that you simply do not have time for everything. From the first day of your MBA, your calendar will be filled months out with classes, social events, club activities, visiting executive talks, class reviews, study group meetings, company briefings and networking events, often many of which will be happening at the same time, so how do you prioritize?

That is the first and the most important lesson I learned at Tuck, in a hard way. At the beginning, I tried to do everything, and I failed miserably. In the first month, I found myself running from activity to activity, meeting to meeting, and social event to small group dinner, afraid of missing out on these rewarding experiences Tuck offers. Well, I guess you wouldn’t be surprised if I tell you the first month stretched me thin in energy, mental capacity, and even words. I wasn’t able to fully immerse myself in any of those activities I participated in and I didn’t get much out of those efforts. If setting priorities is the first course at Tuck, I would have been given an LP (low pass)—Tuck equivalent of an F.

Tuck challenged me to think hard about my priorities. To prioritize, I had to step back and think about what I wanted to get out of Tuck and be intentional about what I will spend my time on and what not. Coming into Tuck with a non-business background, I was eager to learn business knowledge and its application to real world problems, so I devoted a big chunk of my time to academics, case competitions, and global First-Year Projects (FYPGO) work. The teachings and real project experiences taught me how to think about business problems, what matters, and why—which is a big part of what I wanted to get out of Tuck.

Two years can pass quickly. Make the most out of your time at Tuck and have fun!

Best of luck!

Vivian Guo is a student/soon-to-be-alumna of the 2020 class and a Center for Digital Strategies fellow. She is from Xinjiang, China. Prior to Tuck, she had a career in law, working as Asia general counsel for a multinational media and advertising company in Shanghai. Post MBA, she will join Bain’s Chicago office as a consultant.