A New Direction – The MBA

As this is my first post, I thought I would give a bit of background. Please bear with me as I’m new to this. I’ve had a whirlwind of a time with the MBA application process and I’ll start out from the beginning. In much the same way that Randy Zwitch began this blog back in 2009, I first had to decide on a direction.

So my background is a tad unorthodox. I did a fine job on my undergrad at a local school and graduated with my bachelors…in European History. Now, at that time, I thought teaching was the direction for me. After a few years, I figured out it certainly was NOT the direction for me. I love to teach, but kids’ parents are annoying, admin is a joke, and the pay is absolutely insane (in a very bad way). So a career change was in order.

Looking around, I figured I would give business a shot. I landed a job as a secretary of all things. I did well at my job, though I’ll admit part of that is I’m very good at looking busy/intelligent/industrious. I know how to work when I need to, but I also know how NOT to work. After a couple of years, and a few promotions, I was the office manager of a nice little consulting firm in S.F. Now I had the problem of hitting a ceiling. In that position, there wasn’t much higher I could climb. Darn it all to heck and back, I was frustrated (I’m a tad ambitious)!

So, again looking around, I thought of how I was good at using my company’s accounting software and seemed to just ‘get’ numbers. Now why I ‘get’ numbers is beyond me, but I find myself counting random things in a meeting. If someone is throwing around numbers, I naturally start adding them, or doing something with them mentally. Also, not that I really understand it, but according to those funky tests you take in school for aptitude, I seemed to always score high with pattern recognition and pulling order out of seeming chaos. Whatever.

Now, knowing I had a knack for numbers and such, I thought accounting was the way to go. So I jumped right off that safe (and highly overpaid) bridge to take a big pay cut as a lowly bookkeeper. At the same time I was back in school taking a huge number of courses (working and going to school full time is NO joke) to prep for the CPA (did I mention that I’m ambitious?).

Fast forwarding a few years, I now have my CPA, an additional piece of paper as a CFE, and am manager of my company’s accounting department. Quite a jump in only a few years (stupid ambition). The problem is, I don’t know what the heck I’m doing half the time (remember my comment earlier about my skills at looking industrious?). The accounting is fine, though I could wish for more challenges. My weakness is the management stuff. I just don’t seem to get it. So, once again, I’m looking for a way to fix this and came up with the idea of an MBA.

In the early part of the summer of 2010, I was meeting with my boss and, as we often do, our conversation was all over the place. We talked about our projects, our clients, our company’s current cash flows, etc. I mentioned to him that I had been thinking about going back to school for my Master’s. I am already a CPA as well as a CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner) so I imagined that an additional degree couldn’t hurt. When I said that an MBA might be a possibility, he jumped at the idea. I went back to my desk and started doing some serious research on the MBA. I found out what I had to do, which schools made sense for me, and all the little bits I’d have to take care of to start down this new path. I know there are holes in my knowledge, I admit them, and am very motivated to fix this.

What I find interesting in this process is how each of us as students came to the decision to pursue the MBA. As you can see above, the journey to my decision was a long one. I’d be interested in hearing from others on how they decided to go this ambitious, challenging, and dare I say costly direction.

Review: The Unforced Error

The concept of the “unforced error” is a pivotal one in tennis…”a mistake by the player who hits a shot…when the player has time to prepare and position himself to get the ball back in play and (still) makes an error.”

In professional tennis, the player with the fewest unforced errors usually wins.  The same is true in business.  (Pg. 1)

Management CEO MBAOverview

The Unforced Error is a book by Jeffrey A. Krames that I picked up in the Orlando International Airport for my return flight home from my honeymoon.  At 155 pages long, with big type, small overall page dimensions, and using tennis examples as metaphors, it’s not a particularly taxing read; in fact, I read the entire book about halfway through my flight from Orlando to Philly.

What drew me to this book was not that it was short, but rather the secondary headline:  Why Some Managers Get Promoted, While Others Get Eliminated. This is definitely a topic that I’ve always wondered about!  When I was starting out in my career, I would just chalk up confusing promotions to favoritism or something else unobservable to the general workforce.  Now that I’m a bit older, completing an MBA and developing a ‘bigger picture’ view for my career, it’s becoming quite clear to me that there are behaviors that improve your career, and we’ve all observed career limiting moves (or, “CLM’s”).  According to this book, I’ve got quite a few CLM’s…but here is the main one:

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