On April 29, the fifth annual Booth Emerging Markets Summit (EMS) went off (seemingly) without a hitch. Like a proud mama, I watched the entire conference unfold and basked in the enthusiasm and comments of attendees.
In the six months leading up to that day, I’d spent countless hours along with four other Boothies planning the details of the conference. I wrote hundreds of emails, made maybe half that many calls, and called in favors I was saving for life-or-death situations. But it wasn’t all grueling. Looking back today from the vantage point of knowing the event was a huge success, I would say that planning the EMS was a good way to see the changes that the past year and half has brought me, as well as effecting some of those final transformations.
I’m possibly Booth’s most well-known introvert, so I’ll skip over that and tell you what it meant coming into a leadership role for EMS. At the time I was offered an EMS co-chair position, I was already co-chair of three clubs, not to mention my work as an Admissions Fellow, and I already knew I was going to plan another conference. When I got that notification email, I asked myself what I wanted to do about it. I accepted it because I wanted to be part of acting on the feedback I’d given the previous organizers. Prior to Booth, I always had a lot of suggestions and feedback but I never volunteered to implement them, choosing instead to play the supporting role. Someone once gave me feedback that said, “You’re obviously a natural leader, I don’t know why you won’t lead particularly when people are following you.” I remember that comment because the truth of it hurt. Taking on the co-chair position was part of applying the leadership lessons I’d learnt up to that point.
When we first started planning EMS, which surprisingly was less than two months after the previous EMS, I still did not understand fully the amount of work I’d signed up for. EMS is Booth’s biggest conference and it averages over 300 attendees. Emerging Markets is a nice word but it really is a blanket term for a lot of heterogeneous geographic regions and putting together a conference with topics that are pertinent to those regions is, for lack of a simpler word, complex. We had to identify the different pieces of the puzzle and determine a broad approach. It wasn’t until I’d gotten several “unfortunately… I cannot make it” responses that I realized things were not going to be as easy as I’d planned.
I’ve always been persistent on goals, rarely on people, but this time I had to find that persistence from way deep within and apply it with people both within my team and across those I was trying to get to the conference. When it came to teamwork, we did not always function like the well-oiled machine that we functioned as on the day of the conference, but we always rose through it by focusing on our lofty goals for the conference and working hard to achieve them. To be fair though, we were a good and diverse team, and our different strengths made the experience worthwhile. Dealing with people requires a great deal of patience, especially when they’re not students like us and we are a student group with a severely limited budget. One thing worth mentioning here is the power of the Booth network. Alumni were the most responsive group I interfaced with for this conference. If they couldn’t make it, they were always willing to recommend someone else.
Then there were last minute cancellations, still I did not break down. Instead, I was writing emails and calling people within minutes of the cancellation. At the time when this was happening, I did not realize the full meaning of that but looking back, I think this is one of the truest proofs that I have been transformed since I got to Booth. I consider myself a planner and the most negative aspect of my addiction to planning is that when plans get derailed, particularly late in the game, I get stuck and refuse to adapt. Which makes me annoying to work with and potentially useless in that situation, but as some of the people reading this can tell because they got a message or a call from me, all that disappointment was practically rolling off me. And in the end we came through.
EMS 2017 was without a doubt, successful. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my fellow EMS co-chairs: Alex Sukhareva, Cedric Soh, Farah Mirboboeva, and Rikki Singh; we were exceptional! Our student life advisor, Stacey Ergang, was absolutely the best, showing up for our late evening meetings because we had typical MBA calendars that refused to sync at a ‘normal’ time. Also, I’m grateful for the support of all the regional group representatives and the volunteers who worked with us especially Dami Oyedele, my good friend and fellow African panel organizer. Most importantly, I’m grateful to all the speakers, moderators, and sponsors who said “yes” to our calls/emails. You are all part of my Booth story and my Booth Legacy.
P.S. 2018 co-chairs; please invite me to the event, I’d love to sit in the audience this time 🙂