MBAnalysis Blog: The Menagerie that is the Business School Team

It is the most exciting and nervous making time you may ever have at business school. When you finally get to meet your TEAM; the people with whom you will be working long hours and on whom you will rely on to make your MBA experience all that you want it to be.

The initial meeting is like a first date but with five or more people. At first, everyone is on their best behavior but once you get that first problem set, you start seeing a different side of folks.

To give you a sense of what type of teammates you will have, here is something of a zoological guide to your soon-to-become second family:

The Paper Tiger

Ivy League, investment banking or consulting. They are likely to be called on the first day of class to present a case. They’ll nail it. The have it all together…until they don’t. If the team faces a situation that doesn’t quite fit into the model they’ve been working on since grammar school, they are stymied. At first they are overly confident. And then, they are overly humbled. You will have a late night conversation with them about how their life isn’t quite as great as it looks.

Strengths: will be the face of your team and know how to navigate recruiting.
Weakness: can’t think outside the box, will need a big hug halfway through the semester.

The Zebra

The one off, a non-profit professional, artist, or newspaper reporter. While their business knowledge is limited, they know they belong in business school…because they’re different. They won’t be afraid to mix it up and are confident in what they say. They’ll star in marketing and organizational behavior, but will need help with anything that includes numbers i.e., everything else.

Strengths: Will say, “I don’t know” and push you to explain. High EQ. The life of any party.
Weaknesses: they really have no business knowledge. None.

The Carpenter Ant

A former military officer or GE executive. Came with a spouse and even kids. They speak rarely but when they do it is always worth listening to. Whatever needs doing, they will do. Their life is in perfect balance, until it is not. They are one sick kid away from hard stuff. Life stuff.

Strengths: Gets things done, insightful always.
Weaknesses: You need to prompt them to speak more…you want their opinion. You need to prompt them…sometimes to have a beer and sometimes to go home to see their family.

The Deer in the Headlights

They’re not in Kansas anymore. Overwhelmed by everything. Be it class or where to eat. There is a lot there but it will be a while until it comes out. It turns out their knowledge is both broad and deep. As their confidence slowly grows, they become really pleasant to work with. New confidence brings new questions, like…can they date a classmate?

Strengths: smart and likeable, they may just know everything.
Weaknesses: have to be drawn out and need a confidence boost. And they may need help doing their laundry.

The Grasshopper

They already have their business plan in their bag. Great networker and can give the elevator pitch. They’ll actually know people on the other side of campus and people outside the classroom (what’s the weather like out there?). But they have huge, blind spots. “Sorry for being late,” “Actually, I didn’t get a chance to do that,” will become their tag lines. Eventually, they get it when they figure out a business plan ain’t a business and they have to learn some stuff.

Strengths: great out of the box thinkers, filled with energy, magnetic.
Weaknesses: you have to remind them that they are part of team and to start carrying their weight.

The Platypus

The CPA from a small firm in the Midwest, went to state U. Confident in what they do but not in what they say or how they say it. Knows accounting and can crunch the numbers. Won’t give the presentation but will answer all the questions. Solid, like a rock. When paired with the carpenter ant, they are the engine room of the team.

Strengths: knows how a business is supposed to work, knows when the numbers make sense and when they don’t. They’ll invite you for dinner.
Weaknesses: the soft stuff is hard for them. Will go out for a beer but won’t talk much.

Obviously, these are huge generalities. Nonetheless, representative of some of the traits you may find in your future teammates. While it is easy to throw others into one of these categories, it isn’t a bad idea to look at yourself through this map of the zoo. You may just find out that you are not the business school animal you thought you would be.

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