Completing an MBA was the icing on my cake. Want to know why?
I’m a physician who has been in medicine for 30 years. I’ve worked in private practice and academics. I completed my medical training, a PhD, and neurosurgery training as well as two advanced training fellowships. That’s a lot of time studying, prepping, too many exams to count and countless hours spent studying. Nevertheless, something was missing. My work life dealt with many aspects of business. I owned a business that had nothing to do with medicine. I interacted with CEOs, investors, salespeople. I managed staff. I had learned on the job. I realized that as hard as neurosurgery is, the neurosurgery became second nature. What I yearned more was to get more out of my interactions with people, money and business. That’s why I decided (on top of a very busy clinical practice) to chase an MBA! Read on, if any of this resonates with you and think about it.
The Joy of Graduate Learning
I gotta say, I missed it. The thrill of deadlines, exams, essays. Pushing myself. Harder than medical school because I had a day job and a family. It was 20 hours a week. I skipped TV, sport and one hour sleep per night. It was eye opening exploring topics I vaguely knew about such as brand development, the link between various business reports, marketing concepts, how to do social media right, global thinking. At times I felt like was just soaking myself in immersive learning that I missed from my childhood. WOW! The exploration that we did at school came back and it was fun. I can pick up the Wall Street Journal or the Economist now and read the articles and understand the subtext and implications. It was a lot of sweat and sacrifice but gaining knowledge in new areas and satisfying my curiosity on topics that were not in my field, yet interesting was so much fun. Different people see it in different ways:
This was huge. Seven of us set up a chat line. We used it for group and single chats.
There are lots out there. Messengers, facebook etc. We used BBM Enterprise because it’s secure and you can retract things. We shared the ups and downs. Commisserated. Celebrated. Cajoled. Guided Supported. Most of my cohort were other fields but we shared a common experience and supported each other. I’m sure we will be indirect life coaches for each other and support each other. The camaraderie was special, like soldiers coming back from war (without too much PTSD!) and the nice thing was none of us will interview for the same job. We were not competitors.
Oh, and in 2020 we looked like this:
An MBA teaches you fellow students are not competitors. Success comes from working together.
You Still Have it
I had not sat an exam for at least two decades. It’s nice to know the brain has not started to rot and the old skills are still there. Like a veteran baseball player who after retirement is thrown a ball and it feels comfortable and natural. My skills learned in undergraduate studies in terms of time management and learning came to the fore. I love to write and entering discussions in fields that are not my own yet dipping into my own life experiences was fun!
Hey, the degree means you know something about business, right? I feel confident entering into business discussions. As a physician I am not just a clinician- I can put my other hat on. Creds matter a lot.
I touched on this in camaraderie. Our class was about 40.
Almost everyone was in a different field or if in the same field, a different part of it or in a different part of the country. We are not competitors. We developed a great network we can tap into.
Business is networking. Networking is people
Most of the cohort who want to do an MBA want to lead. It may be middle management. It may be the executive suite as some sort of CXO. Throughout the course it’s evident that there is a pathway to becoming a good leader. A good leader has vision but can roll his/her sleeves up and do the work with any department (albeit not as well as the frontline workers!).
Leadership is not a title. It’s a way of behaving and treating people, a way of seeing the forest for the trees.
Through the course I learned to how to become a better leader.
You can pay $200,000 for an MBA at Stanford or Wharton. You can pay a lot less. Whatever floats your boat. I was fortunate that the cost was not an issue. Remember it would be nice to recoup it in some way. $30-50,000 is a small investment in your long-term future. The opportunity cost is higher though- leisure time, family time, strain on relationships, hobbies etc. Be warned about that.
Why I Chose Locally?
This was easy. When you come out of school you bank on the school’s name to open doors. When you’ve been in the workforce for 10, 20 or 30 years, your leverage yourself. I did not need a Stanford or Wharton MBA. I still chose a nationally recognized top tier school (University of Nevada, School of Business) but I chose it because it’s local. Why local? Local networking. Local recognition. I’ve had national and international recognition in my life at various times and most people in my regular circle have no idea. Do it locally and you gain brownie points locally. At the end of the day, my town is a small to mid-sized University town. The program is recognized locally and nationally. I did not need a big name (mine is already pretty big) but by going local it married into the everyday fabric of my life. So glad I went local.
It’s not where you get your MBA but what you do with it that matters
Why I Chose Online
I pulled this off the Wharton website and it says it pretty well:
A lot of people get confused by the terms- MBA, EMBA, Online EMBA.
Ironically COVID has meant a lot is online which means bricks and mortar has become online.
Same degree, different logistics is about right. Most executive MBAs are working full time and have life experiences. In my mind this raises the bar from in-person MBAs. The demands are higher as there are more competing interests.
I would rate an executive MBA higher than a standard MBA
Why? Smarter more experienced cohorts. Harder to do this in the same way we did college- less time and competing interests. Life experiences count. Most EMBAs cost more- not sure why, but they do. They are not watered down regular MBAs. The cohorts are probably more challenging too.
The online part was a no brainer. I work 7 am – 7 pm and work all night, one night a week. Basically the only time I had was 8 pm- 11 pm 3 nights a week and then two of four weekends a month. It had to work on my schedule. That’s where I found my 20 hours a week.
What I Loved and What I Hated
Below is our program:
I’m not a numbers guy. I hated accounting, financial reporting and anything that needed a calculator or Excel.
Bear in mind I scored 95% plus in most of this through sheer hard work which was tough given the financial background of some cohorts. I LOVED marketing, strategy, organisational behavior, Personal Branding and Global Economies. I guess I’m a big picture guy, not in the weeds, but isn’t that how CEOs are supposed to be?
I Joined a Fraternity
Seriously. Beta Gamma Sigma. I’ll let you sort out what that is.
BTW, I Think This is Bullshit:
I found this article and as I read it I saw the conflict of interest in terms of the author selling her online product. No history, no validation. I find comments like this typically from those who have not done the grind. She of course is selling her competing product with little disclosure. My neighbor on finding that I had completed an MBA said he believed he does so much reading that he has done the equivalent of an MBA. There is more bullshit out there. Not sure you can do an MBA on a iPhone in 12 months either… You get what you pay for in terms of your sweat equity. You want access to university faculty that are experienced educators with experience in their field. I’d rather learn a language by living in a country rather than using Rosetta stone.
Your colleagues who have done MBAs will know the value of the one you completed.
Not to contradict what I said a few paragraphs above but you need to go somewhere recognized and then you need to use it. COVID has opened the door to a lot of entrepreneurial online courses and every man and his dog is offering an MBA. If you get yours in a way that is less than everyone else, people will work it out. There is no one year MBA that is of value.
By my reckoning I did 6 semesters x 12 weeks x 20 hours per week= 1440 hours.
The thousand hour rule seems fair.
It’s not just the letters, it’s what makes you grow. I quoted this in my commencement speech address:
You can get an MBA in 12 months or a summer school. There are plenty out there. Just don’t tell anyone where you did it. In the end you want credibility, confidence, pride, camaraderie and knowledge. I am not sure I could have done it any other way.
It was a great ride. Humbling, fun, hard, challenging and surprisingly shared, but it was worth it in the end!
So, in a nutshell:
It was the best decision I have made in the past 20 years
The final video is from our cohort’s finest (and me) who did the “2020 Zoom Commencement” address- who can say it better than the students who completed it? Thanks Ian and Jodi!
Feel free to leave comments below or share!