Business school: does it have a place in our technology-driven, digitalized times or is it a relic of the old world? After spending several years building up a resume brimming with business experience, I hit a wall. Having risen to almost the top of my game, I found that reaching the next step required further skills, management expertise, and leadership insight. In other words, I needed knowledge the working environment alone couldn’t offer.
While my journey began with a mixture of anticipation and skepticism, it quickly became clear that an MBA has a lot to offer anyone hoping to enhance their career. An MBA isn’t like other masters courses; instead of specializing in one specific field, you’ll cover multiple disciplines including marketing, accounting, finance, and human resources.
The roll call of MBA graduates who lead global companies is extensive: Vittoro Colao, CEO at Vodafone (Harvard), Shantanu Narayen CEO at Adobe (Stanford), Tim Cook, CEO at Apple (Duke University), and so on. I myself, an alumna of New Brunswick University, founded and currently work as CEO of a fast-growing media platform. Of course, it wasn’t MBAs alone that got us to where we are, but they certainly helped.
The most important thing my MBA taught me is that learning is a never-ending process. In a constantly evolving market there are always new things to discover and deciding to pursue higher education is a great way to increase your brainpower and upgrade your skills.
To outpace your competitors, a complete view of the marketplace is essential. You need to understand not just your own position, but also that of rivals, which is exactly what an MBA provides. By taking a wider view of the business environment, my MBA enabled me to see each industry as a whole and formulate effective strategies accordingly. If you know what the market wants, you can pinpoint the differentiating factors that will allow you to do it better than anyone else and avoid being pegged as ‘just another company.’
No matter how high-tech your offering is, the infrastructure behind it and the deals that fund it are still powered by people. For me, this makes the advanced communications and negotiations capabilities my MBA helped develop two of the most important skills I have. The course taught me how to zoom in on the needs clients are aware of — and those they aren’t — align them with my own business requirements, and present a solution for both. It also showed me the importance of gathering a team of people with diverse, complementary skills, who motivate each other and how to harness individual abilities to boost results.
A professor of mine once said; “perception is the only thing that matters”. At first I didn’t agree; I argued the accuracy of the phrase, pointed to the indisputable nature of facts. But eventually I had to acknowledge that it makes sense. Everyone has a different way of seeing the world, conducting business, solving problems. If you want to work efficiently with others or even influence them, it’s vital to understand things from their point of view first.
When you’ve got infinite time to make a decision, it’s easy to consider it from every angle and arrive at the best conclusion. Business, however, isn’t often leisurely — you still need to consider all of the variables, but you must do so quickly to ensure deadlines, expectations, and goals are met. MBA studies were ideal for building on my previous experience of this; you’re given high volumes of information and tasked with solving challenges rapidly yet effectually.
Although my course afforded more pluses than minuses, there were drawbacks and they must be acknowledged to give potential students an even-handed view. While my course simulated real-world business scenarios as best it could, we never actually left the classroom. Theory is great, it’s the foundation of good business practice, but you have to understand how to apply it in the real world.
Some MBAs may need a reality check, but I still wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them — and they certainly aren’t just a remnant of times gone by. If anything my course provided a clear view of the future, it highlighted what I already knew and what more I could achieve. An MBA is not a magic pill for all the issues you’re likely to face, but it will show you how to address them and where to get the solutions. Now that’s what I call a bargain.