Consulting and the MBA
April 22, 2010 4 Comments
And although it doesn’t seem like that long ago to me, 1991 is the year I graduated from college with a degree in Electrical Engineering. It’s also the year that I decided to postpone my entrance into the real world for a while longer.
Getting an MBA
I decided to go straight through and get a Masters in Business Administration (MBA). I reasoned that an MBA would be good for me in the long run and there’s no better time than the present to do it. So I went through the application process and dove in.
Coming from an engineering background with ump-teen advanced mathematics classes under my belt, I was accustomed to equations with more Greek letters than English numbers. So naturally I thought accounting would be a piece of cake. After all, it’s just adding and subtracting, right. How hard could counting beans really be? Ha! Was I wrong!
The same could be said for some of the other classes as well. In the MBA program I had to learn a whole new way to study. Gone were the days of learning to solve types of problems and receiving partial credit for my work. The new curriculum required a new way of learning. I adjusted pretty quickly though and did well.
After taking some heavy loads in an accelerated program, I graduated from the program in 1992.
Fancy Wall Paper
Now, fast forward almost twenty years. Has having an MBA helped me in my journey? Would I do it again? I get asked that question from time to time.
It may surprise you to hear me say this, but frankly in the days since I graduated, just having an MBA hasn’t really helped me all that much. It’ll really surprise my parents, who supported me financially, emotionally, and spiritually during my college years. But given the path I’ve chosen, it’s true.
Perhaps if I’d have joined a large company with a tall corporate ladder that has many rungs on the way to the top, having an MBA to frame and hang on the wall behind my desk would have mattered more. Maybe it would have gotten me promoted faster than my peers. I’d hope so, but I don’t know.
Instead I’ve chosen for the past fifteen years to run my own small business. So there isn’t really anyone to impress with a piece of paper on the wall.
But that’s not to say that my time in the MBA program was a wasted effort. Not at all!
The Value of an MBA
The knowledge and skills I gained while going through the MBA program have been invaluable to me as I’ve managed my own company and as I’ve served in volunteer roles for organizations.
Although I didn’t truly appreciate it at the time, classes in organizational behavior, marketing, corporate finance, and yes even accounting, have helped me tremendously over the years.
Whether I was serving as Executive Vice President of PASS or on the Budget Committee of my local church, having a good understanding of business administration has helped me to appreciate more, understand more, and contribute more.
This is especially true for technical consultants. We, on the whole, tend to focus on technical skills while almost ignoring the non-technical side of things. We increase our technical prowess while neglecting the soft skills and business acumen. When we do this, we do ourselves and our clients a huge disservice.
If you’re a consultant considering an MBA for purely the destination, that is if you’re looking to get an MBA just so that you’ll have an MBA, then you’re missing the point. Just having an MBA may help somewhat in the corporate world, but that perspective is still short-sighted.
It’s not about the paper on the wall; it’s about what you learn while earning the piece of paper. It’s about the journey, not the destination.
So, was it worth it? Absolutely. Would I do it again? You bet.
This is one of the reasons I enjoy giving back to the MBA program that taught me so much.
The College of Business regularly seeks input and feedback for how to make the program better and for the past three years, I’ve served on the MBA Advisory Board for Auburn University. We provide real-world insight and perspective that the program can use to adapt to the changing world.
And it’s worked. In the years since I’ve graduated, many good changes have been made to even further enhance the curriculum of the MBA program. I’m glad to see that happening.
And I’m glad to contribute.