Our class is now deep in the heart of studying for our final exam in finance and accounting, scheduled for the early days of the new year even as we begin to hit the books in prep for strategy and operations management.
It is a funny juxtaposition to the season. Christmas is my favourite time of year in Germany. It is a time when I can see the bones of the country on many levels as much as I see the bare limbs of trees shorn of leaves. And thus it is also with the ability to use the academic tools we are being given to understand German industry and business as much as such tools are also globally applicable.
Accounting and finance here at FS, or so I am learning, is at least as much about the nuts and bolts of the world’s second oldest profession as it is about human nature. And if there is a “crucible” moment so far, for us as a class, this would certainly be one of them.
It is obvious to all of us, from our many diverse backgrounds, that unless we begin to pull together as a team, our individual brilliance will not get us through. Managerial accounting and finance at the executive level is not for the faint of heart. It is also a place where clearly there is nobody who is an “expert” or who will pull through on their own.
For those of us who are at the top of the class academically right now, this means that our group work is as critical as the studying we do on our own. For those of us who are struggling with the books but bring other talents to the mix, the group work leading up to class presentations as well as the study groups we have organized, is beginning to be an avenue for talents that are as equally important in the business world as bean counting and number manipulation.
You can’t run a company without both. Nor can we pass our classes anymore at this point without employing both skill sets.
This doesn’t come as a surprise to me, however imperfectly I execute. I grew up in the halls of academia on two continents. I know what this process is as much as I am not perfect at it. My imperfections are not what concerns me. I am here to learn to be better at this, as we all are.
What I love the most about this process, apart from the greater understanding it is opening for me, is watching my German classmates respond, in a new language and a new structure. Apart from the specific topics at hand, it is also teaching me how Germans respond to change, even as I work to change myself to be more “German.” In such knowledge is acculturation accomplished, along with cultural acceptance. The German brain is a fascinating organism. Finely tuned with top notch academic tweaking, there are few other cultures which routinely produce such excellence translated into bottom line results.
And not only that, but this experience brings a very German efficiency to the mix and conversation – which is both impressive and very instructive for me. There is a powerful cultural predisposition to this kind of thinking, even if some of these tools are new. But whatever else this experience is, it is for me a fascinating amphitheatre where German minds connect with this very different idea, adapt it to their own ends and uses, and make it their own.
Much of my life these days is engaged in exactly the reverse, but nevertheless the paths are the same in both directions. And we are finding ways already to meet in the middle.
Pictures courtesy Silke Arndt: Seeheim Training Center