A fun networking event? Yeah right.
“Networking event” conjures the image of cheesy cocktail evenings. You ply complete strangers with elevator pitches and hope they don’t lose interest before the 10th second. Worse, you have to listen to such elevator pitches. They remind me of those pre-fab “work anniversary” and “happy birthday” messages that Linked-in has come up with. The words are right but you know they’re not for real.
A Kellogg alumni meet is the exact opposite. When I enrolled in Kellogg back in 2005, I realized that an MBA had three main benefits. There was the Brand, the Learning and the Network. The Kellogg brand means a lot anywhere in the world, of course. There was obviously the learning – I left Kellogg a lot wiser than before.
The network, though, was at the bottom of my list when I graduated. Now, “Network” has risen to the top. No, I don’t have amnesia issues. I remember most of what I had learnt. But that old adage – “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.” has proven to be true over and over again. I saw this yet again at the Kellogg India annual offsite at Goa.
Over a hundred people descended upon the Hard Rock Hotel in Calangute in September. The ages ranged from infants to people in their 60s. It wasn’t a packed three days. In fact, quite the opposite. It was a relaxed three days where we met old friends and made new ones. At the heart of the offsite was an entire morning spent “knowing the alumni”. This included spouses. Everyone shared what they did, and highlighted areas in which they could use help. The stuff that people were doing was impressive – from upskilling India’s youth or working on solar power to working with India’s farmers and so on. Many start-ups and VCs were in the room. So were most major corporations. The room was full of youthful energy and beer.
It was almost magical how the event worked. I mentioned in my introduction that I was working on a rural start-up which would make organic cheese. I also mentioned that we needed help with distribution. Later that evening two alums offered to connect me to people who could help us with distribution.
This is a networking event I want to come back to again and again. Not because it offers some professional benefit but because it is lots of fun! One of the sales types I was chatting with asked me
“Is this a farming event? Or a hunting event?”
“It’s a drinking event.” I replied
There were fun activities planned for kids and families as well.
So is this something unique to Kellogg? Or are all B-school alumni meetings like this? Poets and Quants recently described Kellogg’s MBA program as having “a nearly extreme emphasis on teamwork and collaboration”. I think that permeates everything – especially the type of people who go to Kellogg. The general character of Kellogg Alumni – maybe it is for all humanity, but I think it is more true for Kellogg Alums – is that they are helpful and friendly. And it’s impossible not to have fun with people who are bright, friendly and driven.
(Chetan Mahajan is a published author and award winning blogger. He runs writing retreats in the mountains under the banner of www.himalayanwritingretreat.com .)