As some of you already know, for the past year I have being working on my MBA mostly nights and weekends, which basically means that I’ve traded all semblance of a social life in exchange for a degree.
But it is so much more than that. Last night I finished this semester’s coursework and now I have a month off to reflect (and land a job!) before we start back up again.
It’s been an amazing experience so far; I can not even begin to describe how much I’ve learned in the past year. I often find myself reflecting on situations and decisions which I made in the past, and how I would have approached them differently given what I know now.
Like many technical professionals, I started my career on the technical side. I landed a job with a Fortune 500 firm right out of university, and only then did I begin my exposure to the business side of the world. Far too often technical people get caught in the trap of being technical for the sake of the technology, instead of using technology as needed to solve genuine business issues. I learned fairly quickly the need to have a business case for innovation, and much to my surprise I was able to play the game pretty well in the political environment that exists in any firm of significant size.
In 2003 I (along with 4,000 others) was “downsized” and ended up at a small startup. Now for those of you who have worked in a corporation of any significant size, you know that a corporate environment often has clear lines of demarcation; there are processes and proceedures for just about anything and departments to go to for travel, expenses, and HR. In a startup environment, it is the exact opposite. At the startup office, we had poster on the wall with the favorite phrase of our founder “Just Get It Done, Mate!” I was, for a long time, the sole US-based employee (it was an overseas startup). Somehow, calling it trial by fire doesn’t even do it justice. In the 4 years I spent there, I learned more about business than I had learned in 4 years of undergrad (ok, ok, 5 years of undergrad) and 3 years of corporate life.
I discovered two things during my 4 years in that startup environement; First, I discovered that I can, in fact, work 12 hours a day, every day. Secondly, I found that as much as I was learning, I needed more formal business education to become a truely well rounded professional. Someone once told me that I had great business instincts, but I needed more credentials to back up the decisions that I was making.
So, after scaling back my hours at work to only 8 hour days, I dedicated a solid 4 hours per night, on most nights, to pursuing my MBA. It has not been easy, but I can say, beyond a doubt, that it has been the best educational experience I have undergone thus far. It’s not for everyone, but for me it is the missing piece that I needed. The irony is, during undergrad, I did not take school nearly as seriously as I do now. All I ever wanted to do was be social and travel; the actual education part was never that high on the list. Now, suddenly, I am in an environment with people just like myself and I find myself competing to be better, actually caring about my grades and further, actually wanting to learn even more than the material being taught in class.
So if you can work another 4 hours after you’re done with a standard work day, if you find yourself wanting to know more about the area of business you find yourself in, and if, like many professionals, you find that you work better when the pressure is on, well, you might want to look at getting your MBA too.
I wish I could find the original source of the photo above, but it came to me in an email. If this is your photo, shoot me a message and I’ll give you credit.