Becoming “Citizen of the World” - Starts with the MBAPascal Prigent › Dum, 2011-08-28 10:52
Whether or not to pursue an MBA is likely to be one of the most challenging questions a young professional can face early in his career… Why leave a good job after a promising start? What could possibly justify such a large investment in both money and personal time? What kind of return can I expect? Is it worth it? Is now the right time? Which school is right for me?
There are many questions to consider and obviously no absolute truth... For every person telling you that an MBA is a must to be successful in business these days, you’ll find one adamant that it is a waste of time and money. For every example of a highly successful MBA graduate you’ll be told that Bill Gates dropped out of college or that Mark Zuckerberg never finished Harvard.
There is no absolute truth of course, every situation is unique, and the only good decision is to do what’s right for you. At the end of the day I think the key success factor is not so much whether or not you’ll do an MBA but whether you’ll do it for the right reasons.
First, do you need it to achieve your goals? Answering this question means that you have an idea about what you want to achieve, and that you’ve also given some thoughts about how to best do it... The decision to pursue an MBA does involve some soul-searching and unless you’ve done your homework you’re likely to be disappointed. Don’t do an MBA because it’s fashionable, because all your friends do it or because you have no idea what else you could do… You will need to have identified clearly why you want to do an MBA in order to list the criteria you’ll use to select your targeted school. For me, this is a key step because although people refer to an “MBA experience”, this generic term encompasses very heterogeneous situations. A prestigious program in a top academic institution or an online course from an unknown provider both claim to give you an MBA. We are obviously looking at very different investments but also (yes, the market is efficient!) very different returns. Once again, different choices are possible, just be realistic about how these choices will meet your needs and expectations.
I will not even try to theorize about how you should approach this endeavor. I am just going to share with you what was my situation, what were the choices I made and how I look back on it many years later… It is just one data point, but I personally found that looking at concrete examples can be more useful than very theoretical approaches. Let me start with a disclaimer: I’ll make no attempt at being balanced; I will not aim for objectivity. I have strong feelings about this and I make no apologies: my subjective experience is that my MBA was an emotional and life changing experience, I loved every minute of it and I consider it the best investment I ever made in my life!
Back in 1995 I thought I needed to make a career change. I had enjoyed a lot my first four years of work but believed the industry I was in had structural problems and was entering a crisis. I wanted a growth industry and sensed that my likelihood to switch sector will be improved with an MBA. I also wanted to accelerate my career and felt that a prestigious MBA would enhance my chances. Last but not least I had been exposed to different cultures during the early stages of my career and considered that the ability to better leverage the challenges of diversity would be important going forward. Therefore, I wanted to go somewhere where that international component would be part of the school DNA.
I chose to apply to the MBA program at INSEAD because I felt the school was the closest to what I needed. It develops business leaders for the world, leaders with cross-cultural insights, flexible thinking and creative problem-solving skills, who will have an impact on their organizations and their wider communities. I ended up joining a highly talented and challenging group of fellow students supported by a great faculty. I found an environment that was highly diverse (both in terms of nationalities and previous experiences), energetic, inspirational and conducive to learning. It was also a lot of fun! I met a ton of interesting people and made very close friends that I still see regularly more than 15 years later… It gave me what I had hoped for and more…