Tag Archives: MBA

A New Kind of Hero for a New Kind of World, Hero #4

(This post is part of a pact I made. Click here for the full story.)

Meet Nigel, a high achiever no matter where he finds himself.

In his own words: “You see, I was brought up to believe that to be successful – and you had to be successful – you needed a good education, work hard and go for the money.  So, I got a solid education and worked hard for the money…”

In spite of his upbringing, Nigel has not been afraid to create his own definition of success. On several occasions, whenever he has felt that his values have been compromised, he has made changes.  That’s how Nigel has paved a way to his career Nirvana. 

Note to self:  Success is in the eye of the beholder.  Only you know what success means. Give yourself a chance to create your own definition.

Like many, Nigel began his career in the corporate world.  At that point, he went for money and flashy titles (and lots of toys).  During his first job out of college, he excelled as an investment banker in Mexico.  Later he jumped to a more tantalizing opportunity with a US multinational in the FMCG sector.  After almost two years he wanted to improve his business acumen and completed an MBA at Thunderbird.  Out of grad school he landed a dream job with another US multinational and worked his way up the ladder to Marketing Manager.  Achievement, timing and luck were on his side as he was transferred to Sydney, Australia as the Marketing Manager of a brand portfolio worth over a quarter of a billion dollars.  While at the top of his game in the corporate world, working 60 plus hour weeks, he decided it was time to re-evaluate his priorities and to re-define success. 

As he described it to me in an email: “The change catalysts for me were my health, values and reshuffled priorities.  Long work weeks (60hrs +) and short sighted senior executives…ate away at my health and pushed me to compromise key values – like respect and wellbeing.  I could no longer live unhealthily and according to the shallow values of others.”

He resigned his corporate job looking for a more balanced existence. That’s Nigel’s career Nirvana.

His next move is a paradox.  In search for what he calls ‘just being’, when most would’ve been content with lying on the beach and reading all day, he and his wife accepted a position as house parents at the Australian Institute of Sports (AIS).  The times when I visited them, they looked that they were far from ‘just being’.  Although it looked like he had shed the coat of stress that corporate life tends to brand people with, he remained very active.  A major part of the job description of an AIS house parent is to look after the emotional well-being of young athletes who are living away from home pursuing a dream to make it to the Olympics or to become professionals. At times that meant catering for the needs of 70 teenagers. Albeit, by most standards these teenagers were easy to manage since their training demands kept them out of trouble (drugs and alcohol), there’s no real way around the demands of a teen-ager, let alone 70 at a time.  Like the need to be driven to sports meets and matches, to have their injuries kept in check, to be entertained and in general a need to be recognized and acknowledged.   Still Nigel describes it as something that he did well – and could’ve done with his eyes closed.  I believe him.  The times that I saw him in action I noticed that all the kids loved and respected him. And Nigel seemed to be loving every minute of it.

After three years of ‘just- being’, Nigel and his wife agreed it was time for a change.  Based on his self-knowledge, he decided to move into entrepreneurship.  Once he explored several options, he decided that buying a franchise was the logical way for him to transition into business ownership.  Following a breach of contract from the franchiser Nigel decided to sell the business. 

Today Nigel lives a balanced existence – using his skills in communications, marketing and business at one of the world’s most renowned scientific research and development agencies, CSIRO – and exists in harmony and balance with his pillar values.

Note to self: What matters most is how you do things – not what things you do.

By most standards, Nigel is an analytical person. After all he was trained by some of the world’s top marketing machines; the FMCG sector and an MBA.  However, he recognizes that analysis and planning are not what played the biggest roles in his search.  He says: “There isn’t a magic formula or one way.   I believe that every experience teaches you something about yourself and what you like, dislike and are willing to accept.  The beauty of this life of ours is that we have a choice.  Choice isn’t the scary part.  What keeps us awake at night…is the consequence of that choice.  Ground yourself with a simple question: what is the worst that can happen and where does this stack up against my priorities and values?  If you see Mr. Death and his sickle on the horizon, maybe you should rethink your plan.”

Note to self:  Avoid paralysis by over analysis.  If you can handle the foreseeable worse case scenario, go for it.

Nigel also feels that what has worked for him is: ”Recognizing….no, understanding that I have a choice and realizing that I could live happily with the consequences of my decisions…”

Note to self: Decisions have consequences.  Today you are the product of past decisions you’ve made.  Start with the end in mind.  Decide what you want to become – and determine what decisions will get you there.

Looking back he feels that: “Listening at times to that inner voice might have saved me from some big mistakes.”

Note to self: Learn to listen to your inner voice. Trust it.

Nigel leaves us with one final message: “Try not to become too idealistic and remember whatever path you choose will take work and effort.”

To MBA or not to MBA? That’s Andy’s question

There’s a discussion going on over at brazencareerist.  Andy Drish is trying to decide whether to get an MBA or not.  His dilemma came about because his employer is offering to pay for part of his MBA and he’s finding that to be too good an offer to refuse.  Among the things that have been brought up in the course of the discussion are:

1. Whether or not he has enough work experience or will he be one of the youngest in the program – and feel that he cannot contribute as much as the more experienced students.

2. Are his two local schools the best choices?

3. How quickly should he aim to complete the program.

What I noticed was not being considered – and it was something I thought about when I looked into getting an MBA – is the opportunity cost.  While I was kicking the tires of local MBA programs in Sydney, something became evident early on.  In a labor market where everyone and anyone has an MBA, the degree no longer makes candidates stand out as much.  As a consequence the increase in pay is not as significant as it was a few years back when not as many job candidates had an MBA.  In a nut shell, I found the return on investment in an MBA to be questionable. 

That puts an interesting spin on things.  Ten years ago, getting an MBA was the no-brainer thing to do if you wanted to rise up the corporate ladder at a faster than average rate.  Today the answer is not as black and white as that.  In an increasingly diverse and complex environment, traits like entrepreneurship and resiliency are powerful commodities.  Neither of which can realistically be mastered in the comfort of an air-conditioned class room. Both are the result of living through real experiences and manoeuvring through real challenges.  As such, putting yourself on the line and starting your own business or taking time to travel and explore the world, are two experiences that will make you stand out from the pack.  Speaking for myself, I do not have an MBA.  I’m not saying that I never will get one, but I know that my experience as an entrepreneur has landed me jobs that I would otherwise not have been considered for. 

If it’s the knowledge that you’re looking for in an MBA program, today there’s so much information outside of the walls of academia that personally I do not see the need to sit in a class just for that.  As long as you’re making time to read quality material and to listen to pod casts, it’s possible to stay on top of the major trends in management, finance, accounting, strategy, change among other things.  Here are two of my favorite sources of information: Harvard Business IdeaCast and TED

‘What about networking?’ you say.  Sure it’s likely that you’ll meet like-minded go-getters and high achievers just like you in an MBA program.  But that’s not the only place where these type of people congregate.  If you have $50k to spend and the time to spare, I think you’ll be better off joining the most prestigious golf club, tennis club or sailing club in your area.  There, for even less money and more fun, you’ll get to meet the who’s who of the business world.  And even better than at a university, there will be a cross-section of people.  At clubs it’s likely that you’ll find more than just cubicle bound employees in their 20s and 30s like you looking to get ahead.  For example business owners, CEOs and other decision makers of a variety of age groups – who either got an MBA years ago or never got close to academia.  Another effective way to make good connections is through doing volunteer work.  The major perk is you get to support good causes while you meet people who may one day be key in your career. 

I’m not saying that MBA’s are dead – and that people should stop getting them.  Personally, I’m still open to the possibility that one day I’ll enrol.

However, I am asking people to look at an MBA degree for what it’s worth. I’m asking you to be open to other possibilities. An MBA is not a cure-all for career stagnation.  Other things like starting your own business, travelling and writing a book are also solid ways to breathe life into your work life.  If you do enrol in an MBA, I hope that it is for the right reasons.

I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts.