To Be or Not To be: 5 Reasons Why I think I need an MBA

In the summer of 2010, I took a visit to Columbia University during a family trip to NYC after college graduation

In the summer of 2010, I took a visit to Columbia University during a family trip to NYC after college graduation. I didn’t graduate from there :)

I loved college. I loved going to lecture and being inspired by the professors. I loved studying at the library, and I even loved taking naps at the library in between classes. I loved attending professor’s office hours to gain new knowledge and perspective. And most of all, I loved being engaged in a vibrant community of like-minded folks composed of young individuals who were hoping to do something in their own special way. I loved the idea of college so much that I aspired to be a professor. That’s what brought to me to the Philippines in the summer of 2010.

The plan was that after graduation, I would go to the Philippines to take a one-month Tagalog class to “enhance” my knowledge of the language that I supposedly “spoke,” spend a couple of months in Manila – to better understand the culture that I supposedly already “knew”- and then go back to the States to apply for doctorate programs in Comparative Literature with a focus on Philippine Literature and Culture. We all know how that story went. Obviously, it didn’t happen the way that I had planned.

I speak in broken Tagalog. I can barely read Filipino, and I’m not pursuing my doctorate.

In fact, I was admittedly against higher education when I returned to the States. I had trouble finding a job, and the job that I ended up finding had nothing to do with what I learned in school. I had this misconception that a college degree would fully prepare me for life after college. Why couldn’t I understand that a degree in English Literature wouldn’t prepare me for the “real world?”

Beats me. However, this stage of angst and indignation definitely passed.

So here I am: three jobs later and two trips to Manila within the past two years, and it looks like education is creeping into my life again.

College Graduation from UCI, June 2010

College Graduation from UCI, June 2010. I’m an Anteater for life! ZOT ZOT! ZOT!

I feel like the culture of education is all around me. In the past two months that I’ve been working with Juan Great Leap, I’ve been learning about startups and entrepreneurship in the Philippines on the ground. Business meetings are like professors’ office hours for me. Coffee chats with fellow entrepreneurs give me that intellectual peer interaction, in which we get to bounce off ideas. The academic grades given are based on a pass or fail system:

Pass- the business makes enough money for you to live.

Fail- the business doesn’t.

The key difference in my life now is that I’m not in school. This is real life. Unexpected stuff happens. There’s no formula to success.

Yet, I’m still thinking about getting that MBA. While I’ve learned that no formal education can prepare you for the spontaneity and challenges of business, I still think that completing an MBA program would benefit me because of the following reasons:

  1. I’m not a genius. Some of the most successful people don’t even finish college let alone pursue an MBA, but I’m not as good as them.
  2. An MBA provides the training and education from some of the brightest and experienced teachers in the world.
  3. It provides its students with an incredible network, much needed in today’s globalized society.
  4. An MBA opens the doors for even more opportunities.
  5. It gives aspiring business leaders a deeper knowledge of business from a bird’s-eye view.

After listing these reasons, I’m not really sure that an MBA is the way for me to go. I haven’t completely convinced myself.

I’ve been learning on the ground and it’s a very effective way to learn, but the pace of learning and the vast knowledge that I will acquire from an MBA is what I feel is necessary for me to take a business to the next level.

I know that there are many different perspectives on the MBA, and I’d really love to hear people’s insights. I think this is a much needed discussion for juniors like me.

Whatever your position on this topic may be, I say CHEERS to aspirations and life goals!

Comments

  1. I’ve been thinking for a long time for studying again, whether it is MBA, short course, another diploma, etc.

    It’s really not that I love studying but I want to re-assess myself and challenge myself on how “good” I really think I am. If I come to think of it, I feel underpaid with my skills/knowledge in my work, but most employers would really look in the years of experience which is really what I have. Sometimes I want to tell them, “what do you know that I don’t?”, in fact most of the times I feel I know more than my boss.

    I’ve been eager for a startup but it seems everything is in the wrong place, I’ve done some “desperate” measures just to kick off my startup. I want to challenge myself to know .. “am I really good at what I do” or “i’m just an average like the others”

    So if I am going to study again, it’s not to learn anything, because I can do that now, but to prove something, that hey I’m a “nerd” hire me or partner with me.

    does it make sense?

    • mattlapid says:

      I can truly relate to what you’re saying. In this journey of trying to startup, I feel like I’m always lacking. I doubt myself a lot and I’d think that the idea of an MBA attached to my name might give me more credibility somehow.

      Perhaps, there’s never a perfect time to startup. Perhaps, discontent with oneself and doubt is inevitably part of the startup journey.

      You should join us for Startup Saturdays sometime.

      I’m sure you’re doing a great job in all you do, unknown. Keep it up and don’t give up on your dreams!

  2. http://qz.com/42233/if-you-cant-get-into-a-top-five-mba-program-dont-even-bother/

    Check this article out. MBA would help in managing a BIG corporations but stuff like entrepreneurship et al (i think) wouldn’t be taught in MBA classes. I guess a better question at first would be what are your goals for now then checking if an MBA would truly suffice.

    Snippets:

    “MBA programs were created in the 1950s because large corporations felt that new employees lacked general management skills and as a result, many talented hires had to be taught on the job the basics of business such as accounting, finance, market research, etc.”

    “many schools designed MBA programs as a two-year crash course for talented individuals to get a fundamental overview of how big business worked. MBAs were not designed to help you advance your career, they were designed to make you a great employee at a large firm.”

    • mattlapid says:

      Thanks for sharing the article, Nicole.

      I’m really just trying to figure out how I can be best prepared for the path that I’m taking, as an individual with high hopes and no educational background in business.

      The article you’ve shared puts my idea of an MBA into perspective.

      Nicole, out of curiosity, how do you think the case study’s title, “If you can’t get into a top-five MBA program, don’t even bother,” plays out in Manila? Many Filipinos go to a school outside of the Philippines for their MBAs and there are also business-related graduate programs like Ateneo’s Master’s in Entrepreneurship that entrepreneurs have found value in. Would you agree with the author of the article about not bothering if you can’t get into a top-five MBA program?

      In addition, in your opinion, are there any existing graduate programs that would be good for aspiring startup entrepreneurs?

      Thanks for your insights, Nicole! I know that we don’t have all the answers to these complicated questions. Just want to get your opinion on things. I enjoy discussing these types of things :)

      Thanks again!

  3. Finally, we have a topic we disagree with Matt :)

    I do agree with looking at education as a lifelong process.

    However – if you want to start a company (as opposed to joining one) – I think there are better ways to spend 2-3 years of your life and thousands of dollar in money.

    Topic for another post :)

    • mattlapid says:

      Thanks for helping me learn, Peter!

      I’m most definitely open to disagreement about this topic, especially since I’m just trying to figure it all out.

      Excited to hear your thoughts on “better ways to spend 2-3 year of your life and thousands of dollars of money.”
      :)

  4. Same sentiment as with Peter. I think you’ll be able to learn much more (and spending less) by creating a business rather than studying an MBA.

    If you could pinpoint what specific skills you are looking for, you could probably just join groups/attend internships that are really good with those kinds of skills.

  5. mattlapid says:

    Thanks for the insights, Ace!

    I like what you said about pinpointing the specific skills that you’re looking to develop. Great advice, bro!

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. I’m going to take Matt’s side on this one with some caveats. An MBA degree is very flexible. What you get out of it depends on you. You can graduate without really mastering or even conceptually understanding hard skills like accounting and finance. On the other hand, you can also graduate being Wall St. ready.
    For most people, it’s a simple ROI computation. You spend a certain amount of $$ which translates into a higher corporate position with a higher salary. The payback can be as quick as 2 years or as long as forever (if you don’t find a job)! The average is usually 5-6 years.
    Most top MBA programs invest heavily in entrepreneurship programs that encourage start-ups. You join start-up competitions to win seed funding. You network with the science & technology, medicine and law schools of the university to get complimentary expertise. You are mentored by successful post-MBA entrepreneurs and professors. You gain access to VC firms looking for promising start-ups from MBA students. You get exposure to a very mature market such as the US.
    The network you develop in an MBA program is the most valuable thing you gain. IMO, this is why it makes more sense to take your MBA in a top program in the US. You will have potential business partners from all over the world. In an increasingly global economy, what more can you ask for? The diversity is just not geographic but also in terms of expertise. Some of your classmates would have done amazing things before joining your class: 1) Started and sold a business for millions of dollars 2) Participated in a leveraged buyout 3) Written a program for a stock exchange. The list is endless and half the learning comes from your interactions with amazing people. These potential business partners are passionate about succeeding and they will give you their time and trust because you were in school together. Some of them might not be ready to take the leap right out of school, but maybe in 5 years. Some of them are ready right now.
    The most important thing in deciding whether to take an MBA or not is to be clear about your goals and to be realistic with your expectations. For example, if your goal was to be a full fledged entrepreneur after graduation, then you should have the strength to resist applying to all the high paying jobs. As for being realistic, if you come in with little relevant business or professional experience (I would say 3 years is the minimum), the odds are against you for maximizing the degree.

    • Benco, thank you very much for sharing these awesome insights in the comment you left a couple of weeks ago. I truly appreciate the fact that you’ve shared your experience and knowledge with the group, and I fully apologize for giving you such a late reply.

      I thank you again for your efforts in communicating very thought-provoking insights. I would like to highlight one of your insights. I think this is something that young people, who are thinking about taking this route, need to really hear:

      “The most important thing in deciding whether to take an MBA or not is to be clear about your goals and to be realistic with your expectations.”

      Thank you again, Benco. I truly appreciate that you’ve taken the time to comment and share.

      Cheers,
      Matt

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