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A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and experience I will not soon forget

Posted By: Kadira Carter on February 22, 2018

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A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and experience I will not soon forget

The MBA class of 2019 during the Smith-Reticle Resiliency Challenge.

A-ma-zing! That is the only word that comes to mind every time I reflect on my experience at the recently concluded Smith-Reticle Resiliency Challenge for the Full-Time MBA Class of 2019. My friends and family in Barbados still think I’m crazy for choosing to take on such an ambiguous outdoor activity in the middle of winter in Canada, but I wouldn’t have traded it for all the beaches back home.

From midnight, following a full-day at school on a busy Friday, we were layered up and ready to take on the snow, daring to go where few have ventured before! However, to the dismay of several of my classmates, we started with some much-needed indoor military training to help prepare us for the missions we would have to execute in the 30+ hours that would follow. I learned some cool tricks like how to navigate and calculate bearings and I even met a former spy!!

By daybreak we were loaded onto buses and headed away from school and into the unknown – that’s where the fun really started. Somehow, we thought we might get a quick nap on the bus, having been awake for about 24 hours at that point. Little did we know, we would have to immediately begin to employ creativity and some negotiation skills to barter amongst our competing teams during our first challenge. That was an easy distraction from the length of the bus ride and when we arrived we launched into a full day of challenges, indoors and outdoors, pushing us mentally, emotionally and physically as we worked with our teammates to win the weekend.

I was a bit worried about how I would survive the weather as this is my first winter. In Barbados the lows in ‘winter’ come in around 21°C and a light jacket would suffice. Did I have enough pairs of socks? In what order should I put on these shirts? Will these pants keep me warm enough? Fortunately, the weather was good most of the time and we only had to battle the rain, slush and mud. In the midst of it all we were even able to find time and energy to have a snowball fight, obviously in the early hours when we were still relatively ‘fresh’ and the skies were clear.

The Smith and Reticle teams made sure we had everything we needed; note I said needed – water and “MRE’s” for days! Now for those of you who have never had the privilege, MRE stands for Meal, Ready-to-Eat. Imagine, you can have a nice 3-course breakfast, lunch or dinner with a piping hot, gourmet main course in the middle of anywhere, and with no stove nor microwave, all presented in a package the size of a small textbook.

The challenge really stretched us and encouraged us to find our better selves and draw on the strengths of each other. When fatigue really set in details became fuzzy, instructions were forgotten, tasks were not always completed, and friends became… even better friends! There were moments of frustration and tough conversations but overall it was about covering each other and having fun, even with the other teams. Knowing I had a team relying on me and supporting me made it all worth the while.

This challenge was a very interesting and effective way to replicate the ups and downs of navigating the business world – working with different people in tough situations, handling ambiguity without losing your wits and pushing past your preconceived limits to get the job done. I certainly didn’t think I would have managed as well as I did and I learned that I could survive with considerably less than the normal comforts of life. I also gained further insights on leadership and how I might respond to difficult conditions.

My major takeaway is that the success of a team is not measured only by a result, but by the team’s capacity to stay together and grow stronger as it faces adversity over time. Some great relationships were forged through this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it is an experience I will not soon forget. All in all, the Smith-Reticle Resiliency Challenge was truly an impactful and memorable event and one more reason that joining the MBA program at Smith was the best decision for me.


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