I admit, I’ve always been a bit of a geek. My biggest passion as a teenager was playing Laser Tag, a laser arcade competition. Laser Quest, the town’s premier arcade, was the center of my world back then, and where I was employed as an instructor.
However, Laser Quest was not a very lucrative establishment. In fact, it was teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, but it had a few young, repeat customers. These loyal customers represented untapped potential, so I proposed establishing a Laser League to spur continuous competition and more social interaction. The league was a hit, greatly increasing our revenues.
No less importantly, I learned a vital lesson, which over the years became one of the guiding values in my life: If I realize the full potential to make a change and take the initiative, I can make a real difference. With time I learned that empowering others to do the same is equally important, and can lead to unusual impact and results that were seemingly impossible before.
I remember the first time I felt I can really encourage others to make their lives better. Before I started my undergraduate degree I traveled in India and spent 3 weeks in a small village. Our group befriended our guesthouse owners, who a year before experienced a disaster when a fire burned their guesthouse and home. Now, they were very poor and considered relinquishing their business and moving away. Yet I was eager to help them stay.
While analyzing the situation, I noticed that most guesthouses around don’t have a modern toilet room. I told the family that if they would be able to build a toilet, their guest house would be immensely more attractive. The father was reluctant, saying “costs are too high.” I then pitched the idea to other guests and convinced them to help build the toilet room.
We traveled for half a day to buy the necessary materials and everybody helped to build the rest room, which was up and running in 3 days. The word was out, and more tourists came to spend their time in the guesthouse, helping cover the debts of rebuilding their home. Again, I learned that initiative and empowering others can make a real difference.
I took this attitude with me to my professional career as well. I was a young project manager appointed with the development of the international corporate site of one of the largest food companies in my country. Soon after, my client rejected the initial site design, saying it had no “vision or excitement in it”. I quickly realized that to succeed in this project, we would need to deliver quality creative concepts.
However, this was a problem. For one thing, our company rarely provided creative services. Moreover, the project’s budget included no allocation for such services. After some thought, I realized that some of our employees were skilled enough to produce quality creative concepts. I then decided to pitch to management forming our own in-house creative team.
I talked with my CEO, but he was initially against my idea. A day later I came up with my final “sales pitch”. I offered that we do a pilot by delivering an initial creative concept just for the site’s homepage and present it to the client. I was thrilled when my CEO agreed to give my idea a chance.
I assembled and led a 7-member creative team, we built a new creative concept, and presented it to our client. The client‘s Corporate Brand Manager was excited: “This creative team adds huge value to our project” he said. He then agreed to enlarge the original project budget by 15% to include our creative services. Eventually we delivered the corporate site and it was approved by our client, securing $1.2 million in revenues.
This experience reinforced what I already knew – if I succeed in empowering peers and subordinates to realize their full potential, we can do great things together as a team. This is exactly the attitude I want to take with me to Kellogg.
Surrounded by fellow students, the sharpest minds from a wide range of professional and cultural backgrounds, I want to do my best to empower follow students and work together as a team to get the most of our MBA experience, in study groups, group projects, and any program we take part in.
Moreover, I would love to share both my international and corporate experience and insights with fellow students during classes and in Kellogg’s clubs, such as the Entrepreneurship Club, while helping other students realize their own initiatives.