Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Darden Connection

Darden was one of the best decisions I ever made. I continuously say that and I think with each time, I mean it more. When I first started my position, I received a welcome email from a guy named Charles. I'm not sure how he knew I had joined the organization and I didn't bother to ask. He set up lunch a group of us including an intern and other alumni. Needless to say, I missed that lunch as Lotus Notes, our email system, doesn't include an automatic calendar reminder. You have to manually check a box to get a reminder, which I still forget to do. After missing that meeting, he was incredibly understanding. Then I traveled for a couple months off and on. Finally, two weeks ago I reached out to setup a new lunch meeting.

Charles graciously accepted and after a couple confusing exchanges, we missed yet another lunch. Today was the day that we were going to get this right. Sure enough, I waited by the lunch trays. Noon came and went, but about ten minutes after, he showed up. We grabbed our respective meals and found a place to eat. As most people do, he asked me how I picked Darden, having been from San Francisco. I explained to him that the Darden networking reception sold me. When looking at business schools, I suppose everyone has to consider HBS. It's known as a gold standard. The HBS reception was a mock case with roughly five alumni in attendance. I spent more time discussing the GMAT and tips with college kids than speaking to anyone about the school. Darden was different. The head of admissions spoke for five minutes and told us if we wanted to know anything about the school, talk to them, pointing to the alumni. She explained that they were the appropriate people to answer my questions. I spoke with people from the class of 1984, 1993 as well as some recent graduates. I was grilled by the head of Alumni Relations. Every person I met had their hand on their business card and wanted to know what they could do for the school. They wanted to give back. There was something about that interaction that simply stuck. HBS may be able to run circles around Darden in terms of network size, except the large class size doesn't give you the bond and connection Darden does.

Charles, who graduated almost 10 years ago and has had a very successful career, thanked me. He thanked me for reminding him why he loved Darden so much. There's nothing better than the Darden connection. When I mentioned the name of a coworker in my organization, Charles said he knows him well. I proceeded to tell him that he reminds me of Elliott Weiss, a Darden professor who wears a bowtie every day. This guy wears a bowtie daily. I guess that also speaks to the tenure of Darden's professors.

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