[syndicated from my blog at blogs.ft.com/mba-blog]
Five weeks ago, I left the comforting environs of Cambridge, Massachusetts and MIT Sloan for the unknown challenges awaiting me with the California Fisheries Fund.
Anticipating a huge cultural shift, I was prepared for pretty much anything, other than the highly professional, financial district high-rise in San Francisco where the CFF is co-located with the EDF.
I was also not expecting that I would find myself using nearly every subject I covered in my first year of MBA studies. Within the first two weeks.
No, that is not an exaggeration.
In my role so far, I have used pretty much everything taught to me during MIT Sloan’s (in)famously quantitative Core, including accounting, data modeling and statistics, micro-econ and intro game theory, marketing, organisational processes, finance. Check, check and check, check, double-check. And how about branding, sustainable business strategies (S-Lab), and systems dynamics? Again: check, check, check. Is this unprecedented? When talking to my closest friends and classmates at other internships, absolutely. I think I have used a broader-based set of skills than any MBA intern I know (hopefully not mis-using them!), including all those folks who ended up in management consulting roles, tech start-ups and especially you out there in investment banking.
So let’s take a look at how that has been possible and take you back a bit to those first few days, when I first ran into this bunch of economic thought leaders, PhDs in Marine Ecosystems and entrepreneurs. I arrived and found myself climbing a three-day cliff of a learning curve about catch-shares, a highly innovative fishery management system the EDF has been backing and which is finally gaining traction in the US regulatory system due to its success around the world in defeating the Tragedy of the Commons. The training was called “So You Want to be a Catch Shares Rock Star?” and to this day is one of the most well-structured and informative training sessions I have received anywhere, with a great balance of theory and practical application.
But more to the point, this training was geared at folks who have been immersed in oceans issues such as fishery management and declining commercial stocks for years. I had been through a two-day simulation exercise in MIT Sloan’s S-Lab, but was certainly not even close to the level of expertise of my colleagues. Intimidating? A bit. Intellectually challenging? Indeed. But awesome and inspiring? Absolutely!
After three days I had a good grasp of the underlying policy situation surrounding California’s coast groundfish fishery and of the market forces CFF was trying to harness through its innovative lending structure. And that is when the fun really began.