An incredible 31 day sprint

The inaugural session of altMBA wrapped up last week. I'm still in awe of how quickly the weeks flew by, how many projects our students shipped, and how tightly-knit the community quickly became. We had a rhythm: on Mondays the prompts would be released, Tu/Thu/Sunday had group meetings on video, the in-between days were for writing comments for your peers and reflecting on feedback.... We were running in the same direction and the momentum was infectious.

Because the altMBA is an online program, I originally had doubts about how deeply we could create bonds and foster connection between people.

It took only two days for me to change my mind: I am now fully convinced that the internet world is as real as anything else.

With high-def video conferencing 3x per week, Slack chat rooms for direct messages and group chats, and a variety of real-time ways to connect, we were able to get people from 13+ countries around the world to feel like colleagues and friends, because we really did become colleagues and friends.

We had high expectations about altMBA from the beginning. I was doubly impressed during the program because with each project, I'd scan through the student work on our Featured Projects page and think, wow this is good. And the next project deadline would come along, students would publish, and though I didn't think it was possible, everyone kept raising the bar.

Our students created 13 projects in a month, and given the complexity and ambiguity of each prompt, the work could have easily taken weeks to complete. But they rallied to get quality work out of the door in 2 days. This required doing creative work at a fast timeline, with constraints, within groups or individually, filming videos, creating slides, writing articles, deconstructing ideas, asserting arguments, etc. What an incredible body of work and trail to leave behind.

All of this was on top of the people component: working with new people each week, learning when to push or relent, getting to know working styles that may be really different from your own.

Since we were doing this for the first time, there was a lot of co-creation with our inaugural class. I'm so thankful for everyone's involvement, feedback, and mainly, for caring so much.

It takes emotional labor to want to make something better and to take initiative to make it happen. Our inaugural class did exactly that, and proved that this wasn't about being a cog in an industrialized educational system.

One student created a survey to capture the skill sets of all the students, so there could be a knowledge exchange within the community or for side projects.

A small but mighty group contributed regularly to our #techtips channel in Slack, helping to answer questions from other students and offering pro tips about the technology we were using (WordPress, Zoom, Slack, Disqus).

Many students started interest groups surrounding certain topics -- writing or film-making, for example -- and hosted webinars or listservs that benefited everyone.

We had students on the corporate side (Fidelity, Google, Kate Spade, PwC), non-profit sector (charity:water, Planned Parenthood, Bay.org), as well as entrepreneurs, small business owners, artists, filmmakers, teachers, a military captain, and more. The fact that we drew such strong, driven, collaborative leaders to leap with us despite knowing little about the details of what altMBA would be like, is a true testament to the trust that Seth has built over the last few decades. It's also a nod to recognizing that there are ruckusmakers out there who are in a hurry to make a difference, comfortable with ambiguity (a rare trait), and simply unstoppable.

There were times during the planning phase when I wasn't sure if this would work. I'd get caught up in the nitty-gritty and become overly literal. Of course, I had faith in Seth, and he'd say, "Trust the process." It's something we said to students, and students said to one another, during the program. And sometimes I had to remind myself of it too.

Trusting the process feels natural when you respect and admire the people involved in the process, and I'm thankful that this was the case.

What I've learned boils down to is this: when you are surrounded by people who are going places, the forward momentum is magical.

The sense of possibility, the contagious energy, the palpable inspiration. It's hard to find, and so precious. If and when you find kindred spirits who spark something in you, go forth with gusto together to create work that matters.

I know we had magic during that 31 days in altMBA and beyond, from what I've seen with alumni meeting up in person and continuing to interact. It's been a great experience getting to know our ruckusmaker students, working daily with five amazing coaches behind-the-scenes, and learning from a boss who teaches me something new every day.

Here's to the next section of altMBA. If you're interested, check out Seth's blog post, or you can find program details and apply.

Hope to see you on the flip side -- we're just getting started.

UncategorizedWes Kao