So… I started an MBA

Not a light (… or cheap) decision.

Took a few years to think about it – but finally made the leap. Am now enrolled in the Executive MBA at AGSM. This will immediately not be a review of their programme, but will morph into it as the months ( and years ) progress.

After numerous talks with friends and colleagues that have gone through an MBA, those that started and some that bailed. It was imperative for me to understand the reasons behind each decision.

Contrary to majority of those with whom I’ve spoken, and a number of those in the current class, am not doing it to change my job. I love what I did yesterday and what I do today. To me it is simple. As the few posts here would indicate, coming from an engineering background, I found it important to not be so obtusely focused on technology alone. But rather the manner in which I can help make it as transparent to those consuming and interacting with services underpinned by it.

The greatest value of the MBA so far has been a concoction of several attributes:

  • Discipline of attendance and the need to learn new things. Some call it study, but for me that has a negative, wrote-learning connatation, that I highly discourage. Studying ≠ learning
  • Group discussions – whoa! I’ve arranged flights around my classes so that I can learn through osmosis and where I can, add back. These are the best and most vital in my opinion opportunities to get an insightful view from someone elses experience

School

There’s a plethora of brainwashed prestige-orientated school rankings available from FT, Economist and Businessweek as well as many others. Criteria that were important to me were:

  • no GMAT exam – say what you will, but am not sitting again for the HSC, or equivalent
  • location – am not always in Sydney, so an ability to attend a class elsewhere is important. Make sure that the institution you pick, provides a facility to walk into a class that is most likely to be in a location you’ll be traveling to often. This is easier said than done, especially if your role requires you to cover a wide geographic region
  • flexibility – for the times that you’re unable to attend  class at all, you want to make sure that you have access to all content that is possibly going to be covered
  • your experience – one of the reasons I held back from starting the MBA earlier is that I couldn’t add much to the class that I would be attending. Inversely, I too would be getting very little from it; as the course-work is a framework for your experience
  • experience of attendees / pedigree – as I mentioned earlier, you will learn more from those around you, than you will from pure notes. This is where it really matters of who is in your class, and where the prestige/ranking unfortunately matters
  • digital acceptance and leadership – not all schools are alike. This is one area where AGSM is not just behind the eight-ball but significantly lacking, and I didn’t realise how badly until I started. This will require its own post, but in summary – AGSM believes that supplying all material for study as PDF’s is ticking the  ‘flexibility’ and ‘quality’ boxes

Tips

This won’t carry too much weight, as at the time of writing this, am just half-way through the first subject. But having seen a number of other successful students and how they take to the course coupled with what’s worked for me:

  • study group – yup. The gatherings of the un-cool. Do it. Organise one immediately after orientation day. Make sure it has a good cross-section of ages, opinions and importantly – roles. If you are an engineer, and there’s another one looking for a study group – run immediately in the opposite direction. I started the MBA to get an understanding of the breadth of business dynamics and its applications. Not to see your favourite gcc argument combo.
  • time management – perhaps the most obvious one. Put away at least an hour each night not for catching up on House of Cards but to cover off material and anything raised during class discussions / study sessions
  • be ahead – whatever you do, don’t fall behind. Chances are, you’ll be working at the same time, and you never know when your job will kick you in the nuts. Be ready for it, as study will be the first thing to take the back seat in importance. Have the ability to take a week off, without being affected

The point I made above which relates to the cost, please don’t think of it as purely financial. There’s a significant personal commitment of time, energy and sacrifices you’ll have to make with personal relationships to see it through. I settled on AGSM, as it stood out more than the others in the vicinity mapped to what I needed from the University. So far, not bad.

That’s it for tonight.