The MBA Choice

I wrote in my last post that I decided on a new direction, a new path in life, and so went with the MBA option. Now beyond the decision, I wanted to write about the reasoning behind my decision. Please understand that the following is my perspective and my opinion, and is based sometimes only loosely on facts and reality. I also have a terrible tendency to go off on tangents. Those who have met me can attest to this, though I take pride in circling around to come back to the point…eventually. Just enjoy the trip along the tangents I say. So with that being said, please take everything with a grain of salt.

I was talking with a friend over dinner this last week. She is a lawyer that is in the process of jumping industries and taking the huge plunge of starting medical school to be a doctor. Now that was a heck of a surprise and sounded like quite a risk to me. I can understand it as I’ve changed jobs myself. Life is far too short to spend time in something that you don’t like, or how she put it, “I felt like every day I was dying a little inside.” When I expressed my surprise, she said that I was taking quite a risk myself, going for my MBA. I did the impolite thing and laughed a little. I told her that while it’s a risk, MBA candidates and graduates are usually incredibly risk averse.

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The Why Question: Part 2

4.5 years into working at my consulting job another change came.  My father called to tell me that the family business was having problems.  The accounting software just wasn’t cutting it anymore.  The company had outgrown the simple software he had purchased years ago and tracking inventory with a piece of paper wasn’t helping either.  It was a hard decision, but I ultimately left my consulting job, with its comfy salary, fancy clothes, and Flavia coffee makers to head back to my home town to help the family business.

At that point in time the question “Why?” was asked a lot.  So naturally, I thought again about my goals.  Once again, in a car ride with my parents, my mom asked “Have you thought anymore about applying for your MBA?”  I talked with my parents that evening about a program my friend at the consulting firm had mentioned once and said it sounded pretty interesting.  “What school is it with?” Mom asked.  “Duke.” I replied.  “Well, you’ve always wanted to go there.  Why don’t you check it out?”

So that evening when we got home I opened up my computer and searched for “Duke MBA”.  There it was.  The Cross Continent MBA program.  I checked out the essay questions and there it was, the dreaded “Why?” question.  This time though there were light bulbs going off.  If I had my MBA the task of growing the company from a small start-up to a national and international brand would not be as daunting.  If I had a better understanding of the markets in China and India, the two places where our parts are manufactured, I could help ease the dealings with our partners and get a better quality product for our customers.  If I understand the markets in Europe, South America, and Middle East, then the potential to market our product overseas would open up.  There was one why question answered.

Why now?  Well that makes sense too.  The company is on the verge of growing.  If I graduate in 16 months the foundation for the growth will be solid and my MBA could then propel the company to the next level smoothly.  If I wait I might miss the opportunity or the company might not make it.

Why Duke?  It fits.  It’s not just a life long goal, it’s the logical choice.  I can keep working and growing the company and my career.  The markets I need to get experience with are on each of the trips.  The courses discuss the same topics I’ve sat around the dinner table with brain storming with my father about, and they’re going to be taught by the number one faculty.  When it clicks it clicks!

After that, the essay wrote itself.  The question in the interview was one I was excited to answer.  Now, I am looking back at what all started with a conversation in a Wal-Mart parking lot.  What a long road it has been, and the journey down this road is just starting.