Ricky Cornejo, an EMBA student at Berkeley-Haas believes personal stories tell you what kind of leader a person can become. Sitting in front of a room full of new colleagues whom he had only known for a week, he started to tell a story from his own life: he was raised by a single mom who worked multiple jobs, and pushed him relentlessly.
“That type of work ethic and mindset, I bring that to everything I do and if it wasn't for her ingraining that in us, myself and my brothers, growing up I think we would have all been off in a worse place than we are today,” Cornejo said during a Panel of Peers event held at Hitotsubashi University during Global Network Week.
That push paid off, he said. He joined the U.S. military, flew missions in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and learned what it meant to be a leader in difficult circumstances. His mother had taught him to handle hard work in trying times. “She's my role model, she got me into the military, got me into the academy. All the success I've had in my life is a direct result of her raising us right and being there for us,” he said.
Other students at the Panel of Peers session at Hitotsubashi ICS shared similar stories of becoming leaders in difficult circumstances. Panel of Peers, a format originally designed by EMBA students at the Yale School of Management, allows for students to share personal and professional stories in a relaxed forum, while networking with their colleagues from across the globe.
Ines Amri, a student at ESMT Berlin, told a story of a time when she thought wasn’t ready to be a leader. Her home country of Tunisia was in turmoil. She didn’t know what to do, but she did know she had to act to preserve her core values and what she believed in.
“I didn’t want to lead. It was more, “How can I be part of the change that’s happening in my country and overcome my fear of change somehow?” I didn’t even know what to do, or how to lead people, but that’s the position I found myself in,” Amri said.
She started a nonprofit, and realized that she needed the skills that an MBA degree program could offer. She said her time at ESMT has provided her with those tools she needs, but also gave her access to the Global Network and a variety of other perspectives that she can draw on at any time.
“Out of the blue, I was finding myself managing but also fundraising, implementing programs, doing everything out of the blue, out of the scratch. All I had was only the passion and the vision and that's I think something much needed for any entrepreneurial person,” she said. “The MBA has helped me grow and develop a growth mindset. I’ve gone from a bookworm, to a schoolteacher, to a grassroots organizer to a think tank director…This (program) has helped me shape my self-confidence.”