Guest post! Brennen Ricks (Class of 2015) wrote a 4-part series on his blog, 1personsexperience.blogspot.com, to answer the question: “Was the MBA worth it?” We’re featuring an abbreviated version of the 4th and final part of the series here. For the full version of the article and more from Brennen, be sure to check out his blog!
The Benefit of an MBA
This is my last post of a series on if an MBA was worth it, even though there is still plenty more I could say.
This isn’t going to be a ‘tooting-my-own-horn’ essay. It’s an objective list of what I got out of the Foster MBA program that I could not have received through my own self-directed learning from books or online tutorials.
Let’s also be real and acknowledge that a formal upper-tier MBA program gets you access to some things that self-directed study just can’t…such as (brace yourself for buzz-words) access to networks of people, certain hands-on experience, job-placement systems, friendships, and a unique way to learn about yourself.
I have 4 main topics, and if you read any of them, I hope you read the last section.
I used to think that “it’s not what you know but who you know” was a lame buzz-phrase. Then I joined a small group of 140 people who (I felt) were more accomplished than me, quicker & sharper than me, tested higher than me, and had more forms of technical skills than me.
Being a part of that group mattered because I would have to do things that were new and difficult for me, and these new colleagues could sit down and show me how to manipulate that computer code in a software program to create a survey, or how to manage that horrendous workload, or show how to use some function I didn’t know existed in Excel that sped up my work up 10 times faster. Again, that is a very abbreviated, narrow list.
Having new networks of people taught me more on how other nationalities, political or religious creeds think or do business as I worked with them on really hard, time-consuming projects.
There’s a System:
I learned there is a super secret system that MBA schools, their alumni, and really big companies have made. Its code-name is “On-Campus Recruiting” or “Career Services.” The companies that hire MBA’s know the types of students the school will produce, so they directly connect to each other and bypass the traditional job hiring process. Here’s what the MBA school system plugged me into:
- MBA-only career fairs with interviewing & on-the-spot job offers. There are two major “National Career Fairs” hosted by the National Society of Hispanic MBA’s and National Black MBA Association. I went to one in a huge expo center in Philadelphia, talked with dozens of employers, interviewed with a few (including USAA), and lo and behold: I now have a job at USAA. I’m a believer.
- “Office Hours” where employers send “pre-interviewers” to the MBA school so students like me could sign up to talk with the recruiter in order to get to know the company (and interviewer). Using this resource correlated very highly with getting a job interview.
- Career Services & Alumni from your school. If I was interested in working for a specific company in Seattle or Austin or Denver, I would email my career services partner and she would reply in a day with 2-3 MBA school alumni who had agreed to either meet up with me or call them to ask them all about their job & the way people end up working there.
- “MBA Rotational Jobs” that cut out at least 1 or 2 rungs on the corporate ladder. Just about every large company has a rotational program. Some call it a Career Development Program, or Leadership Development Program. When I was at Fidelity, there was a standard career ladder that went something like: Individual Contributor > Senior Member > Manager > Director > Program Director > VP > Executive > President. These programs boost a person like myself 2 to 3 levels up from where I was previously working. More than a dozen of my classmates (including me) got into MBA Rotational program, and have jobs at (or approaching) the equivalent of a Director.
This system is a real thing and a huge benefit. Companies trust that my classmates and I are Director-caliber people (or will be in a year or two). There’s a lot of other pieces to the MBA School / MBA Employer system, but that’s enough to get my point across.
In the MBA program, I got to lead, create and decide things at a level that I would not otherwise have been able to. Here’s 2 examples out of “at least two-hands worth” of internship, projects and consulting opportunities.
- I and 3 other students created a 6-figure investment fund. We wrote the governing documents, hired the student analysts, wrote the curriculum and lead them on how to do research, then presented our findings & investment strategy to our donors.
- Teaching experience within a top-10 undergraduate program. I taught undergraduate accounting classes as a teaching assistant to over 300 young adults over the course of 4 quarters. I worked with professors to prepare lessons and materials, quizzes, and exams, and got to deal with kids who think someone should get special credit for trying really hard. False. This was important to me because I always have (and continue to) entertain the idea of finding a place to teach finance or accounting at a small university and build a managed investment portfolio. It let me try teaching and see “how the sausage is made.” Overall, I really liked it. I felt like I genuinely helped people in a difficult time of life where they were searching for guidance, and made something difficult not as bad. The experience taught me something I needed to learn about myself.
This leads me to the last point I would like to make:
I know (my Blue Dot) Christine better, and she knows me better, and I know myself better. We understand & love each other better, and I feel better about myself. Here are some reasons why:
- I know what I’m capable of, as well as where my limits are.
- I know what Christine is capable of, and what difficult things can strengthen or weaken our relationship. I feel empowered with more ways for us to be close.
- We learned how we deal with living in new places. We moved apartments across state lines 4 times in the last 3 years. It taught us how to expand our perspectives on how people live. It taught us how quick people are to judge how others live without understanding the context of what their living circumstances are like. It taught us how to adapt, and love wherever we are.
I could talk about the professors & their caliber, the study tours and access to some many other things, but this is already too long.
So, was an MBA worth it for me? Unequivocally, yes. But that is just one person’s experience.
About the Author:
Brennen Ricks (Class of 2015) left training new brokers at Fidelity Investments to complete the Foster MBA Program. While at Foster he co-launched the Foster Student Investment Fund, achieved Level-2 Chartered Financial Analysts (CFA) candidacy, and earned an average 4.9/5.0 student rating throughout his second year as an Accounting teaching assistant. He accepted an offer at USAA Federal Savings Bank serving our nation’s veterans and families, and currently manages various marketing analytics projects as part of an MBA Career Development Program.
Read more from Brennen on his website, 1personsexperience.blogspot.com