When I was a teenager, I cavalierly decided that “I’m going to school for Engineering!” I had no clue what engineering was, or if it suited me, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. It turns out I’m utterly suited for engineering and that was almost total luck. I had the benefit of attending a co-op program which gave a real taste for what I’d signed up for, and I grew into the idea as I grew to understand what engineering meant.
Fast forward a few years, and I had another idea: why not an MBA?
The reasons I signed up to get an MBA and the reasons why I’m glad I did are different.
I thought that an MBA was a good idea because: I’m mildly ambitious, I enjoy school and learning, it was subsidized by my workplace, and I wanted to differentiate myself from other young engineers. I started out in my career feeling inexperienced, and when you’re brand new, it seems like everyone else has loads more than you. And they do, but it’s a temporary situation. Besides making the most of the early days, you can train in a complementary discipline.
I worked through the first year courses – finance, stats, HR, etc. and liked most of them well enough. It wasn’t until I got to experience the second year courses (where I took primarily startegy-based ones) that I really started to appreciate what was on offer.
Why I’m glad I did it: I found out that I love it.
Like anything else, it’s in the doing of the thing, more so than the having of the thing, that is valuable. I’m glad I got my MBA for reasons other than the ones above: it helps me be a better coach, I understand and appreciate the business better, I learned about myself and what I was capable of – how to manage stress and prioritize effort.
The most important benefit from that degree, though? Learning a new language – the language of business. Market forces, early adopters, strategic plans, supply chains, communication…leadership. It gives me a more holistic view of what’s at play. When senior leaders talk, I can understand more. Just as an engineering degree gives you a new way of seeing the world, a new language, so to does an MBA.
And always, it’s what you do with this new knowledge that counts.