The myth of the well-rounded MBA, part 1

As the second of the six Fuqua semesters is starting to wind down, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I intended to get out of the Duke CCMBA when I applied last December, what I think the Fuqua staff is hoping that we take away from this experience (now that I’ve seen two residencies), and whether there’s been any divergence in my opinion of the MBA degree in general since I’ve started.  I’m pleased to say that I’ve gotten way more out of this experience than I expected going in!

When I first decided to go back to school, I wasn’t really the classic MBA-type person.  I hadn’t been dreaming of going to Wharton or Stanford (or Duke!) all my life, working as hard as I could to get a 750 GMAT and reading test prep blogs out of the wazoo.  I didn’t pay for any admissions consulting, and I didn’t seek out any MBA graduates from top schools to be my essay readers.  I just filled out my application, thought a bit about why I thought an MBA from Duke was important to further my career, and rolled the dice. 

After being admitted, I was hoping that the cost of tuition would be offset by meeting some interesting people, improving my technical skiils, and going to a few exotic locales that I probably wouldn’t have visited on my own.  After the first residency in London, I had already touched on all three goals, but it wasn’t until Dubai until I started to really understand the value of this program. 

Sure, London is where we all met for the first time, but who you talked to was somewhat a function of your section and where your hotel room was located, and the frantic pace didn’t allow for a whole lot of personal interaction.  I knew going into Accounting that I didn’t like the material, but I definitely did learn something.  And given that I had already been to London before, and that England isn’t a whole lot different than the U.S., there wasn’t really a dramatic culture shock.

The Dubai residency/second semester was where I really started forging quality relationships with my classmates.  There were a lot of great discussions about the technical side of business, from hedge funds to corporate strategy, and even a discussion of the lack of capital/credit available for boutique clothing retailers.  With my background, I went into the two core classes expecting to have an easier time, and yet I’ve been pleasantly humbled by how complicated business problems can be (not just in banking).  It’s one thing to know how to use the computer tools, it’s quite another to solve logistics problems under limited information (olive oil case study) or dynamic production/shipping issues  (molasses case study).  Finally, the culture shock from Dubai has been well documented on this blog, and I have even a few more post ideas about the experience I haven’t quite had the time to write yet.

All that being said, the outstanding questions of “What is Duke hoping we take away from this experience?” and “What do I think the purpose of the MBA degree will be going forward?” are a bit harder to answer.  In the past week, I’ve read two conflicting articles about the latter question, which leads to makes the answer to the former question a bit more interesting…


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3 comments to The myth of the well-rounded MBA, part 1

  • Ian Comandao

    i’m actually in the middle of writing an post right now about the purpose of the MBA degree going forward. i feel that it’s going to be way harder to get a middle management job, especially when your VP has less of an educational pedigree than you do… you don’t have the work experience, but you are trained to learn – however you can’t get his position.

    so what do you do? start your own company? when you do start your own company, will you hire someone with a “bigger, better” degree than you do? it takes a bit of pride-eating to do that.

    and what does that leave each and every company? in a self-reinforcing loop of mediocrity?

  • Cool, write it up! Mine is a little less specific than your topic…the articles that I read have to do with the purpose of the degree itself. Should the MBA degree move towards general education, or should it still be catered towards specific knowledge. Can it somehow be both?

  • Naveen Venkataraman

    I personally feel experience trumps education. Maybe thats the reason the VP still gets to keep his job?

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