Numero Uno: Halloween 2010. I was dressed up in a home-made costume as a certain creature from my country of origin, and I happened to talk to the only guy at the party not wearing a costume. I was unenthused, which takes a lot (c’mon, what kind of person cannot find a ratty t-shirt, pair of khakis and belt, a random purse lying around, sunglasses, fake plastic baby, grow some facial hair, and go as Zach Galifianakis from the Hangover?) but intrigued because he was wearing tweed.
I remember two main things from the conversation. One was that he kept bringing up his employer (OK i get it. You work for a large, powerful corporation headquartered in the Pacific Northwest (PNW). You work with numbers. You like Excel.) When he mentioned he was in the process of applying for an MBA, my mind started to wander. Living in the PNW, I do not often encounter people my age applying or giving much thought to the MBA, as the attitude in my city is quite laid back and anti-corporate big-business and mainstream things.
I had gone back and forth with the idea of an MBA earlier, but never gave it serious thought because I didn’t know whether it was a right fit for me. I’m pretty far from that stereotype of a Wall Street hot shot iBanker, though I like my suits and power lunches. I also recalled needing something called “work experience”, but I was two-plus years into my job. Here was some guy who obviously, was not creative enough to put together a Halloween costume, yet he was applying to the top programs?
The tiny competitive side of me that I typically suppress kicked into gear, and I told myself that as soon as I got home, I would start my research. This began Phase 1 of my contemplation towards applying, involving checking out numerous books from the library, running up late fees on said books, visiting school websites, visiting schools themselves, asking people questions, and doing internet research.
Numero Dos: On a Saturday last April, I attended a diversity event at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, which I had been accepted to several months prior. I was working overseas for the last two weeks and unsure if I’d be able to attend in time, as my flight arrived home late Thursday night, and generally being very indecisive as to the point of not making travel reservations. On the Trans-Pacific plane ride back, I made up my mind that I needed to go. Friday morning at 8, I check the Delta Skymiles website to see if I could redeem my miles. What would have cost 45,000 miles when I checked weeks ago now only cost 25,000. Was this a sign? I think it was! The rental car was only $39 including taxes…this was looking pretty good. My friend in the Bay area is cool with me crashing on the couch? Check! Some 12 hours after booking the ticket, I was headed to the airport directly from work.
I was counting on this experience to help me decide, once and for all, whether getting an MBA and getting one now would be the right timing. It’s silly to think that one day can really sway you toward one direction or the other, but this experience did not fail to deliver. From an amazing alum speaker, to student panels, a joint degree program that was a perfect fit, a lively class experience, super cool alums and just being on campus, I was wooed. The opening presentation hit me hard right away – innovation. idealism. Do you want to change the world? “Yes that’s me!” I wanted to jump up and say, and probably about 90% of the other attendants did too….the coffee had not kicked in for the other 10%.
I guess when it comes down to it, I had three main reservations:
1. How will an MBA help me in what I want to do? My background is in education, and I’ve always dreamed of running an educational organization, but I wasn’t convinced that an MBA was the RIGHT path for me; it was just one route of many. BUT it was a darn good one.
2. $$$ and time. Calculating the ROI and wages forgone, I estimated I was giving up two years salary and adding another two years of tuition & costs, a grand total of, in my mind, close to $300,000. Could I get to where I wanted without the MBA? Is I went would I end up a starving graduate student? I heard horror stories from Readers Digest as a young, impressionable child and did not want to subsist on cans of tuna for two years. I had become accustomed to the life of nice things, travel perks, and eating un-expired food. BUT I guess I have my whole life to enjoy those things.
3. Leaving my job and the PNW. As those close to me know, I love my job dearly. I love what I do, I love the ideals I hope we’re working towards, and I love my company and co-workers and clients. BUT something inside me is convinced that this is not the right place for me long-term, and my industry is so niche that I’m unsure of whether I’d be able to easily and successfully transition to another career in a different field.
So that all seems a bit gloomy, until I pondered the three reasons why an MBA and NOW would be right for me on the plane ride to California.