Monday, July 23, 2012

Should I get an MBA?

It's been a year since I graduated from Presidio.  People considering MBAs ask me whether doing an MBA is worth it and whether Presidio is worth it.  So I'll share my thoughts lest it helps you decide on this fork in the road.

The real value of an MBA depends on two factors:
1. Personal Growth
2. Network



Personal Growth
Presidio helped me grow as a person.  My MBA experience helped me understand people and the world in a different context from my engineering undergrad.  In pure engineering, issues are black and white.  There is a right and wrong answer that yields a working or non-working product. And while there are trade-offs involved, there is often a formula, or at least a partial formula, that is useful for optimization.  In business, there are many more moving parts with no correct answers.  The answer is always "it depends."  Much of the depending is linked to other people.  So having a context for working with others in a group is important.  My MBA helped me understand how to work with others most optimally.  I learned the difference between managing and leading.  I picked up frameworks for understanding human group psychology using tools such as 5 Dynamics.   I learned the importance of words, stories and cultural context in team work and leadership.  While the one-line conclusions of such lessons may hardly surprise you, hearing the lesson and living the lesson are two very different things.  During my MBA, I had a chance to read about, discuss and actually live these teamwork and leadership lessons.   And because Presidio is a young school, I had a chance to experience change management as a part of the organization.  While you may have a chance to learn these lessons in your career, having a safe place to explore these lessons is valuable. Since MBA is the broadest grad degree available, no matter your undergrad and career background, you will have a chance to learn outside your comfort zone and expertise area.  You will also connect with others who have expertise different from your own.  And that brings me to the next value factor, network.

Network
Every school has its network.  In a world where select MIT and Stanford classes are available online for free, this alumni network is ultimately what you are paying for.  Only one year out of graduation, I do not have enough data yet to gauge the value of my network.  At Presidio, we had a small but very tight-knit network of people who want to make a real difference on the planet.  I found my startup co-founder at Presidio, and connected with a potential customer through the network.  It is still too soon to tell the end of the story.  However, the network is important to examine in the course of an MBA selection.  Generally, a larger, more established school will give you a larger network, and a smaller, more niche school will connect you with a tighter group of passionate people who share your values.  Both are valuable, depending on what you want to achieve.

Feel free to leave me a comment if you have questions. I'm happy to share my experience about Presidio.