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MBA: What did you really learn?

For those of you who have done MBAs, what sort of things did you learn that were actually useful on the job, or just valuable for life in general?  If you could have paid somebody $5000 to directly upload the MBA knowledge into your brain, without any degree awarded for it, would it be worth it?

Conversely, if you took a blow to the head on the day after graduation that erased everything you learned in MBA school (but didn't affect anything else in your brain), would your career have been any worse off due to lack of that knowledge? (In other words, you have the qualifications but not the knowledge.)

T. Norman
Saturday, May 1, 2004

"""would your career have been any worse off due to lack of that knowledge"""

The fact that they have time to browse & post JoS indicates that their MBA hasn't really paid off. You're skewering your sample.

Saturday, May 1, 2004

> You're skewering your sample.

Ouch, that would hurt.

Saturday, May 1, 2004

But true. There's two types of MBAs -- those that move towards a "business" path (banking, marketing, senior management, etc) and those that end up doing the same job they would have done without the MBA (such as a former developer now being the team lead of developers). The first type is the one that really benefitted from the MBA, and obviously, they won't be hanging around on Joel On Software.

Saturday, May 1, 2004

"If you could have paid somebody $5000"

Are you thinking that you can get an MBA for $5,000? That seems a little on the low side. Ok, it seems a lot on the low side.

Mark Hoffman
Saturday, May 1, 2004

Yes, it is deliberately on the low side. For $5,000 I might be able to accumulate MBA knowledge by reading books on my own, taking a few business classes, interacting with experienced people, reading journals, etc. Just as one could accumulate the knowledge equivalent to a CS degree for $5000 or less.  The question was aimed at discerning the value of the knowledge independently of the formal qualifications.

T. Norman
Saturday, May 1, 2004

And if I am unrealistic in thinking that I can accumulate said knowledge outside of an actual MBA program, what and why are those aspects of knowledge?

T. Norman
Saturday, May 1, 2004

Don't forget part of my advice - if you pursue an MBA, do it at night school. Then you get two added benefits:
1) Class discussions are among people with actual work experience, which makes the lessons far more relevant.
2) Networking.

You'll get neither of these from just reading books.


Saturday, May 1, 2004

Only a small percentage of the value of an MBA comes from in-class learning. Yes, you could duplicate that yourself for under $5000. The real value comes from:
  * Networking with classmates and alumni (not just the opportunity to do so; but also the forced practice since you're essentially required to attend so many networking events).
  * Reputation - a guy who says "I have a Harvard MBA" will be perceived as having something more than a guy who merely read some finance books, even if they both actually know the same material. It's called "brand equity".
  * Access to recruiting opporutnities. Stanford business school gets dozens of CEOs and executives as guest speakers each year, plus hundreds of companies do formal recuriting. These job opportunities simply aren't available to someone who's self-studying the course material.

But I have to disagree about the night course MBA. I'm a believer that an MBA has value only if you get it from a top 10 school -- otherwise, the ROI simply isn't there for most people.

Saturday, May 1, 2004


take a look at the MIT Open CourseWare.

Also, d/l the course listings from any of the top 10 MBA schools, find the related books and start working on your MBA on the cheap.

What you will not get is the networking and knowledge from your peers, and you will not be able to tap into the Alumni network.

If you have already been networking your plan does sound good. Good luck and let me know how it goes.

Prakash S
Saturday, May 1, 2004

"You'll get neither of these from just reading books."

God, Philo you are just frickin' genius, are you not baby?

Saturday, May 1, 2004

I have an MBA along with an undergrad in computer engineering, and work as a software architect/project manager.  Could I do my job without the MBA?  Probably, but likely not as well.

MBA programs give you a set of specific skills.  You can analyze financial statements, define appropriate organizational structures for organizations, and think about business stragegy among a bunch of other stuff.  Do I do these things every day?  No, but I occasionally find myself arguing a point or making a decision based in part on specific knowledge or skills from the MBA program.

However, I attribute my analytical skills more to the MBA than to my undergraduate engineering program.  Engineering students spend a lot of time designing and calculating but do not learn to prioritize, evaluate, or deal well with incomplete or imperfect information.  The latter is what MBA's do well.

I second the previous poster's assertion that there's little career bump value from an MBA that is not a top ten program.  Mine is from a top-50 school, but that means nothing to an investment bank or top-tier management consulting firm.  MBA's from lesser schools can be of value when coupled with some good work experience and other academic credentials, but they're not worth much in isolation.

Would reading some books deliver as much benefit?  It might.  Don't read Jack Welsh's bio--instead, consider one of Porter's business strategy books.  And, if you are serious, think about organizing a small study group of like minded folks.  The discussions in an MBA classroom are valuable, but they might be replicable in a Starbucks as well.  However, a good professor does add a lot of value.

That's my two cents.

Sunday, May 2, 2004

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