The business school beat has always been a labor of love for me. Thirty years ago, there were no regularly published MBA rankings. Applicants often gravitated to programs based on reputation, paying little heed to fit or resources. Just a handful of consultants catered to well-heeled candidates, with application advice relegated to dusty and dated copyrights at the back of Waldenbooks. Business schools may have competed with each other for students, but they controlled information like cartels, too. Where there is a dearth of data, you’ll usually find an absence of accountability.
In 1987, I was a newbie management editor at BusinessWeek. Long on ideas and short on bearings, I made a pitch to produce the first-ever business school rankings. I really didn’t know what I had volunteered to do! First, there was the task of gathering reams of data from suspicious schools, all with their own agendas. Along with that, we decided to survey students and recruiters – the actual customers – to truly measure which programs were truly following through on their promises. Worse yet, we didn’t have survey software, with Lotus reserved for the bean counters on the 49th floor.
Bottom line: I printed paper surveys out on my Macintosh, stuffed them into envelopes and snail mail. Everything was tallied manually – and that made for a never-ending string of late nights…and plenty of double- and triple-checking, too.
WHAT’S TAUGHT IN BUSINESS SCHOOL ENDS UP IN THE BOARD ROOM
Why go through all this? For me, MBA programs are the incubators for the best business minds and practices. Over time, faculty research exposes the reasons behind the biggest successes and failures, along with identifying the broader tendencies and tears re-shaping the commercial landscape. They are increasingly emerging as ground zero for spurring global startups and instruments for social good. More than that, the school cultures – the values and critical thinking skills they instill – serve as an augur for how business decisions will be made in the coming decades.
Such insights were invaluable as I grew into roles like serving as Executive Editor of BusinessWeek and Editor-in-Chief of Fast Company. However, I always kept my eye on business education. For me, education is the great equalizer, a means to transform oneself, your best bet for social mobility. This impact also led me to launch Poets&Quants, with a mission to help readers choose programs that are best suited to their values, talents, and aspirations.
At Businessweek, I also learned the value of engagement, the need to regularly interact with readers to understand where they are struggling and how we can help them. That’s one reason why I make myself available on Quora, where I answer questions on everything from outlining the finer distinctions between Harvard and Stanford to offering strategies for appealing to top adcoms and employers alike. Recently, I collected my advice to Quora readers. Wondering how I truly feel about certain programs or practices? Looking for an edge to increase your chances of getting an interview or acceptance letter? Click on the links below for answers:
Comments or questions about this article? Email us.