Pranav Sharma









By Pranav Sharma

The Journey of a Player – Team Player – MVP – Leader – Mentor

It’s almost the end of my MBA journey, which is hard to fathom. This past year has been an eye-opening experience for me. While business school took 75% of my time, much of the remaining 25% was spent on the squash court as I competed for the Oxford Blues Squash Team.

The 2017-2018 season had been a disappointing one for the Blues, losing a tough 3-2 in the annual varsity squash match against Cambridge and finishing outside the UK Premier League. However, in the 2018-2019 season, with the addition of three players to the first team, we managed to blank Cambridge 5-0 in the 88th Annual Varsity Match and finish in the UK Top 4. As we prepared for the final match of the season, I took an opportunity to do some self-reflection as it has always helped me to perform better and look forward to the next year. The subject of my thoughts this time around was on the nature of roles on different teams and how they can evolve (in my case at least).

I realised that my squash career had spanned close to 20 years. I began playing squash as a 9-year-old on an Army Base in India, then honed my skills during my High School and University years, and then competing professionally and semi-professionally. I started off at the bottom of the ladder and managed to break into the State Squash Team when I was 14 years old. I was a Team Player back then, playing number 4 on the roster (out of 5) and listening to the coach and the captain at all given times. As I got older, my skills improved, and I eventually became a Top player for my State.

Fast forward to my university career, where again I started at the bottom of the ladder for the University of Waterloo and then rose through the ranks to become the Most Valuable Player (MVP) and a Provincial and Canadian All-Star. During these years, I was a key member of the Waterloo team and one that the team relied on for big matches. I held this title for a couple of years and then during my Master’s degree I eventually rose to become the Team Captain. I felt like I had reached the pinnacle of my squash journey and that it did not get better than that. After university I played part-time on the professional tour. Fast-forward 5 years and I found myself doing an MBA at Oxford and giving University Squash one more shot. I realised that I was in a different environment and culture, I was no longer the MVP (due to an aging hip) and since it was a one-year program, I would not be the Team Captain. However, there was a new role open to me – being the Mentor on the team. The youngest player on the team was 11 years younger than me and the second oldest was still 6 years younger, but I had more experience to offer when it came to training, recovery, player morale, match temperament and strategy.

In parallel, I realised that I had undergone the exact same transformation at my professional workplace. I started off in the Consulting world as an Analyst and then climbed up the ladder to become a Consultant. As a Consultant, I felt like the MVP especially since I was a key member of multiple teams. I played this MVP role for a couple of years before becoming the Team Captain or as we call it in the Consulting world – Team Lead. As a Team Lead, my tasks entailed playing a key technical role within the team but also laying down certain rules and principles that would form a highly effective and efficient team. However, once I was selected for admittance into the MBA program at Saïd, my boss and the Director of the company gave me a new role – act as the mentor for the team and as a process specialist for the last few months prior to my departure. This role helped me gain a better understanding of team dynamics and complete a full circle when it came to ‘being on a team’.

In short, over the past year I realised that, whether applied to professional work, a student study team, a project group, or a sport a simple transformation model is one if the easiest ways to traverse from one role to the next. There are always a few mountains to climb in every role, the learning part however does not stop and is one that is always consistent.

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