Many of us who belong to a non-finance background, have at some point in our lives been in that uncomfortable situation where people are throwing numbers at each other and we draw a blank. It becomes even more difficult when reality hits, and you realize that all your personal and professional dealings are directly or indirectly related to finance. From an individual’s financial security point of view, knowledge of financial analysis is unavoidable, especially in this dynamic international business environment.
Well! I was sailing in the same boat till one fine day I learned about “Leading with Finance” from Harvard Business School- HBX. The perks of the program wooed me, and the first thing I wanted to do was to enroll. However, I had all those ifs and buts running around at the back of my mind, My biggest misconception was that I have never been good with the numbers, and I was plagued by worries about how I was going to get through this when it was coming directly from HBX. I finally got my acceptance letter, and I jumped in the driving seat, only to begin this journey and never look back.
Some of the basics that I absorbed from the program have helped me overcome my phobia of finance, so in the hope that it will help you snap out of your phobia as well, I will share them with you:
Use finance as a common language
Numbers have stories to tell, and comparison of two or more items is required to understand financial analysis. Finance provides a medium, a common language for two people to talk, irrespective of what background they are coming from. Understand the story behind those numbers and start communicating with your loved ones, and as you feel comfortable start talking about financial concepts with other people. The first module itself of “Leading with Finance” was mesmerizing. I was glued to my laptop screen. Dr. Desai first removed the fear of numbers by keeping it simple and interesting. A lot of interviews with financial experts from different industries join him to further this technique. It continues to the last module. What more do you need? In this first step, your fear of numbers is gone, what comes next is talking to people and exchanging finance jargon.
It is okay to be wrong!
Once you start using the finance terminology in class, you are on the roller coaster ride with your classmates. You will experience the same emotions as they do: excitement, enthusiasm, and a feeling of belonging and learning from each other. You will not be laughed at, even if you are wrong. Rather, your diverse cohort corrects, welcomes, and supports you. We kept learning from each other throughout the course, and each helpful comment or discussion opener was cheered on by our classmates with a “very helpful” response. We had a feeling of accomplishment as our classmates reassured our new found feelings of confidence. An added perks: students get tips on concepts which are similar or dissimilar in their classmates’ countries. I call it more of a practical, hands on experience from across the globe. It is like working as a team of an organization which has great scope for peer support, learning, and growth.
Learn from your mistakes
If you get a concept or a reflection wrong, analyze your mistake, learn from it, and make sure you do not repeat it. Apply the concepts to situations that you encounter. Ask more and more questions. Do not let the impetus to learn die. The more you read, learn, absorb, analyze, and ask, the better. Interact more and more with the cohort to get a 360-degree viewpoint of a problem and look for the best solution.
Once you start getting involved in learning and analyzing financial concepts, try to find out whys and hows behind the problem. We all are working in real-time situations, and finding the root of the problem and its best solution is a must to ensure no repetitions of the problem. Finance is a subjective and dynamic field; solutions are unique to problems.
It is a boon to be from a non-finance background
We all are working on a collaborative approach. Being a master of one field and having no clue about the other field will not help you survive the dynamic and innovative business world. If you are a marketer working on financial products for a bank, you will not succeed without some knowledge of finance. Coming from a marketing background, you would be in a position to contribute a great deal to financial study and work because you will pick up glitches related to marketing at once. The study of finance relates to all business fields.
As I conclude, I would say that I recommend this program to one and all because I strongly believe that an understanding of finance is for everyone. At this point in time, many of us are enjoying our comfort zone which is not leading us to a path of growth. Professor Mihir Desai rightly says that this program is designed around the concept of “learning through challenges.” Besides all the wonderful things about the program that I have discussed above, some underlying features continue to be developed by finance maven, Professor Mihir Desai: a certificate from HBX, the easy to use HBX platform, vibrant, diverse and intellectual cohort, supportive HBX team, interactive live session, Facebook group for networking and discussions, most interesting and self-engaging modules, videos, reflections, polls, quizzes and assignments, and most of all, the program which helps you learn at your convenience and pace. By the time you are done with the program you feel emotionally attached to the HBX team and to your cohort because you clearly experience yourself feeling comfortable with all complex finance principles and concepts. All intense research based finance articles start making sense to you, and you feel comfortable in grasping the underlying concept behind the research. I feel so excited saying –“Numbers are now my ally.” I feel grateful and happy for this major transformation and to have achieved this milestone. If I can do this, you can do this too!
Author: Dr. Neeti Mathur
Leading with Finance (Nov-Dec 2016)
Assistant Professor (Management)
National Law University, Jodhpur (India)