How not doing an MBA has taught me more

I was never a big reader, more of a watch the movie type of guy rather than read the book and as technology advanced I became a watch the youtube video about it rather than learn things myself. Apparently I have been tying shoelaces in the least efficient way and have learned how to pack my suitcase to optimal capacity! This is when I realized that although internally I thought I was on the road to success the truth was I was good at my job and could fold socks very well. That’s when I decided it was time to level up.

Leveling up – easier said than done, I had to took to people I knew to determine what they’ve done so I can realize what I need to do too… The most successful people within the company I work for have hands on experience as well as an MBA. Both getting hands on experience and doing an MBA seem relatively easy right? Well no.

In one instance a VP telling me “I was a partner at one of the Big 4 consulting firms, I was dealing with $100m contracts on a day to day basis, then I joined this company as the VP of the Tax department and do you know what the first job I had to do was? Manage the opening of a fulfillment center! I had no idea what a fulfillment center was, it has nothing to do with Tax!! But I managed it.”

In another instance a colleague and good friend told me “Back when the company only had a few people in the UK I not only answered customer service calls, I picked and packed the goods and walked down to the post office to deliver them. We didn’t have specific duties we did what needed to be done. You hear a phone ringing you pick it up, you see someone packing shipments and you’ve a few minutes free you’d go and help”

Today though, in a large MNC would you be given the opportunity to do something completely outside of your work area? Probably not, so getting that hands on experience can be difficult, note difficult not impossible, there are some great places out there which if you have a proven track record the Executives will give you a shot at doing something outside of your comfort zone. If you won’t be given the opportunity to get hands on experience or learn about different areas how do you gain that knowledge?

That leaves the MBA. Which is the reason I’ve started down the path of reading, learning, mentoring and will be sharing with you some thoughts throughout my journey – expect tales from Arnie to Che to Steve Jobs and even the All Blacks.

First. MBA – Masters of Business Administration. From everything I’ve read an MBA is worth it if you go to the right school. Certain companies recruit from certain schools, therefore if you have the time, financial resource and know which company you’d like to work for you can strategically apply to the right Business School. This is obviously a major pro since you immediately stand above the majority of other applicants.

Choosing the right school also brings you into their network, the likes of INSEAD, Harvard, London Business School, Wharton and Stanford will have extremely successful alumni who you will gain access to easier now you’re part of that club. It’s often stated that one of the biggest benefits from an MBA is gaining this large network.

The top schools will often attract the highest caliber of student too, which I firmly believe creates an environment designed for success. You’ll have colleagues from different cultures, experiences and knowledge which will create a melting pot of skills and learning opportunities.

The program also gives you the choice of doing a placement which is strongly recommended since that will give you the opportunity to put some of the skills you’ve learnt in practice and also make you a more attractive hire, especially if you get a placement at the company you want to work for in the future.

Some people, including myself, have been skeptical though as it felt as though the high tuition fee associated with the business schools was essentially paying for the network. The truth of the matter is, although you can get hired because of who you know you can just as easily if not quicker get fired for what you don’t know. You still have to pass and to pass you need to learn and to learn you need aptitude hence the GMAT.

The question that I’ve struggled with is although it sounds worth it what if you don’t go to one of the highest ranking schools. Will the MBA I receive from “Sesame Street” still give me everything I need to be successful? To answer this I spoke with a few people I know who have MBAs from a variety of different schools and although they are not Senior Executives or CEOs one thing was clear, it has helped them in their careers. The MBA approach to problem solving and leading projects could be seen in the way they thought about problems as well as how they carried themselves. They explained to me that “Once you do an MBA you won’t look at problems the same way again, it’s not given me the immediate jump I wanted but its helping me accelerate faster”.

With the above in mind I gave serious thought to applying to do an MBA but realized I wouldn’t be able to do it part time because I won’t give it the attention it needs. I also wouldn’t be able to take 2 years out of my career at the moment because well I like being paid. Which has bought me here… I decided I will do an MBA when the time is right and until then I am learning by reading about the most successful people in various areas, understanding business and human psychology, taking lessons from leaders, sharing my knowledge through mentoring.

FYI I’m currently finishing a book about Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance but before I give away some learnings there will be many posts about others and the occasional short posting about particular thoughts.