The Value of Being Comfortable with Ambiguity

Alexandra Wibowo
Alexandra Wibowo

Alexandra Wibowo is a current MS in Information Systems student at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. She is highly involved in the Carey community, serving as the Graduate Assistant Student Volunteer Coordinator for Student Ventures, the Technology Network Intern for the Career Development Office and the Secretary of the Information Systems Organization. She is also interning with a FinTech company that focuses on data aggregation and analytics of crypto finance data. Alexandra obtained her BSBA degree from the University of Arizona, majoring in Management Information Systems and Accounting. She volunteers monthly in the DC community, having volunteered at the DC Central Kitchen, Central Union Mission and The Greater DC Diaper Bank.

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This past spring, I attended the Admitted Students Day at Carey Business School to speak with admitted students about my Carey experience. During the event, one of the professors who taught the Discovery to Market course said something that stuck with me. He said, “Students who achieve everything in the project description get a B. They did a great job. But do you know which students get an A? Those who present a solution to a problem that the client didn’t even know they had.” That made me reflect on my thought process and whether I was comfortable thinking in original, innovative ways.

During my undergraduate studies, most of the assigned class projects were structured around specific deliverables, and the instructors knew what they wanted and how they wanted it. These projects usually allowed for little flexibility on what I could add or take away since I had to meet all the requirements to get the grade I wanted.

As I transitioned to graduate school, I realized that most projects I was assigned had room for suggestions that were not explicitly stated. Most projects have some sort of description of the final deliverable and what it should achieve. However, there is ambiguity as to what the final deliverable should look like and what methods we need to use to get to the final deliverable.

In most cases, having this flexibility to shape the final deliverable is appreciated, but it does cause anxiety because, at the end of the day, the project does contribute to our final grade and if the professor or teaching assistant does not like it, it may affect our grades. What I value about my graduate education is that getting used to such projects with some unknowns prepares me for the working world.

Many students don’t consider that projects in the working world closely resemble graduate-level work. Many projects I work on for my internship are like projects assigned in class, with a final objective and description of what it should achieve, but not the methodology on how to achieve it. I have to learn how to be comfortable with ambiguity and think creatively to get to the final destination.

So, when you are assigned a project with ambiguous deliverables, embrace it and make it your own. Treat each project as though it were a real client project, and you will get the most out of the class.

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