By Ahmed Sharawy
MBA specialist Ahmed Sharawy looks at the options
It was a very busy morning, when my phone rang and displayed an unknown number from abroad. What a pleasant surprise! It was a good old friend, who I haven’t spoken with for the past fifteen years.
We shared news, what we are up to and where we got in life. We had a nice talk that lead us to the purpose of his call. He asked me if, based on my experience, I recommend he invests money, time and effort, pursuing an MBA degree. Hmmm…thinking about the response out loud with him made me stop and reflect on my experience to evaluate the value my MBA brought me and come up with useful insights and thoughts to share in this article.
In a nutshell, the answer to his question is “It depends”…It truly does!
The reason this is the only accurate response is the subjectivity and variance in people’s career and life objectives and how far they are from achieving them, which leads us to the best starting point in the thinking process; what are your objectives? When are you planning to meet them? And how far are you, today, from celebrating your achievement?
If your objectives aren’t SMART and clear to you, then you’re unlikely to commit to neither the endeavour nor its readiness routine, because even if you’re strong, you’ll, probably, lack the endurance to complete the marathon.
Plan carefully to make it count! It’s very important to make sure that you have enough time to extend your networks and capitalise on your knowledge to build enough experience to take a leap, not just a step, towards your objectives. It’s safe to say that the MBA is an enabler or a mean to an end.
This explains why business schools refer to the MBA as an ‘experience’; in which 20% of what graduates get out of it depends on the strength of the schools’ brand names, networks and facilities and 80% depends on students’ and/ or graduates’ knowledge, nerves to start new endeavours and make mistakes to build their experiences.
A common misconception among candidates, students and even some graduates is that employers are willing to settle for the knowledge and/ or brand names – raw meat – rather than the experience in knowledge application to deliver value and meet targets – the employer’s favourite steak cut cooked to his taste.
I learned this, when I went to my boss, a few weeks after I graduated asking for a raise and a promotion. He simply asked me about my contribution to the business’ bottom line and saving, so I told him what I can do, but his response was clear, fair and precise “First we try, then we trust”…Think about it. Why should Perry White, the editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet, believe that Clark Kent is Superman?!
A very critical, yet subjective, element to the effectiveness and efficiency of the mean used in meeting your life and career objectives is to use the proper progress measurement metrics in the right times. This leads me to another critical and common mistake that candidates, students and, unfortunately, some graduates do.
The nature of the MBA investment to people, is similar to that of the R&D investments to corporates. R&D costs are booked as expenses in corporates’ income statements, till they are capitalized into patents or intangible assets, which are valued based on the present value of a future cash flow that directly attribute to them.
Only at that point, it makes sense to use the ROI as an indicator of financial success. Prior to the capitalization of the MBA expense, by a promotion or a sound business start-up, these expenses should be evaluated and controlled using cost accounting formulas, which includes break-even and net income analyses, to secure cash flows, ensure sustainability and realization of gain.
Going through the due diligence exercise and being fit for an MBA is a significant milestone in all successful true leaders’ lives, regardless whether they, finally, decide it’s the right mean to their end or not.
The process gives clarity in objectives and purpose and makes them set a structured plan to make things happen. It also puts their day-to-day routines in a context that serves their goals, focusing on the activities that drive value and halting the ones that don’t and above all makes them look at the world with a different eye.
* Ahmed Sharawy is a Risk Management Specialist, MBA 2013.
Very interesting and articulated article. I had the same questions and concern while I was considering MBA couple of years back.
Very insightful for the young generation!
This is an excellent article that came very useful to me.
Excellent article, I tend to agree to most of it. I would just like to reaffirm the importance of the network. To me, it was the main reason I stepped ahead and continued with my program. The knowledge and the structure of the program as well should be added to your selection criteria. How do you plan to implement what you've learnt? These are all factors. SMART and with the end in mind.
Thanks Shaarawy for a well written article.
As for all personal and/or professional endeavors, always make sure you utilize your resources wisely. The MBA trip is demanding, yet enjoyable, challenging, yet rewarding, tiring, yet eye-opening. Trade-offs are constant, but your resources' arsenal not unlimited. So think, before you print (your application), as Ahmed implies. Not all MBAs are the same, not all business schools are the same, not all your chances are the same, so due diligence should come first. Don't be intimidated by what you hear, the least you need is to consider it being of awesome difficulty; not the case, believe me.
Finally, keep in mind that the MBA will not make you an expert in any of the courses you'll take. But it will certainly give you tastes of everything. As someone told me before I took mine, think of it as a buffet, not as an a-la carte menu. You can try everything, it's up to you to decide what you want to eat more of.
So I agree, Ahmed, it certainly depends!
Must read for the MBA decision making.
Very well-put. You hit the nail on the head!
One factor not mentioned is age.
I decided not to pursue an MBA when I reached 50, having thought about it for nearly a decade.
I was in a relatively senior and well paid position and had my career path pretty well mapped out (or so I thought!).
I simply felt that the law of diminishing returns had kicked in by that time. However, the career shock for me was being Emiratized! Now, some months later and in my mid-fifties, not having an MBA probably weakens my employability.
Had I set aside the time and resources when I started to consider the MBA option 15 years ago, it might have been a positive differentiator today. As it is, I'm dependent on recognition by potential employers of the superior value of my extensive experience - which is not always easy to put across succinctly enough to make the cut.
Also, now that I am starting a new business, there are some specific skills that I lack that an MBA would have provided.
On balance therefore, I would recommend an MBA in most cases.
Totally agree with the purpose and importance of the exercise. I think you highlighted an important point here.
In a discussion about the same topic; should I go for it, I was advised that MBA's are done for one (or more) of three reasons; brand name, network and/or knowledge. But after all, any of these reasons are pointless if they're not put to action.
Nice article. Thanks.
very interesting as a father , I forwarded this article to my three young men (sons).