Quora CFO On How To Make The Most Of Your MBA Education
In the United States, an MBA programs generally lasts two years. Those two years can go by fast, however. For those who want to get the highest return from their time, look no further than this advice from Kelley Battles, CFO of Quora and an alumna of Harvard Business School. Battles recently discussed in a Forbes article how students can make the most of an MBA program.
“As with most things, you get out of it what you invest in it,” she says. “Business school is expensive both in time and treasure, so make it count.”
Take Time To Invest In Your Network & Take Advantage Of Resources
Investing in your MBA also means investing in your network. Battles argues that students should put whatever extra time they have towards getting to know colleagues — both students and professors. The majority of an MBA’s value is in its network, she says, and it’s important to put time into investing in deep relationships with colleagues.
“In all honesty, I worked very hard (especially my first year) and went to HBS with at least two very dear friends, so I did not practice what I now preach on this as much I would have liked,” she says. “That said, in the beginning of my second year at HBS, I randomly met probably the single biggest career influencer in my life (and now a dear friend of both mine and my husband’s) and over time was lucky enough to build a meaningful relationship with him. I feel very fortunate about this – to this day – and wish I had invested more here.”
In a past Quora post, Battles cited the importance of an MBA network. Specifically, she noted that attending a top five business school can open students up to the following:
- New industries and their business models.
- What other functions do.
- An academic view of what constitutes good leadership and management skills.
- How to self-advocate – if you really spend time with your professors talking them up and convincing them how smart you are (which I invested no time in honestly).
- If you are in a school that aggressively uses the case study method (which I heartily recommend), you will definitely be encouraged to practice public speaking. As a person who needed to “lean in” more when I entered business school, this was particularly valuable for me.
Another important aspect of the MBA is the career resources center. And Battles says students should take advantage of career resources to help find summer and full-time jobs.
“I don’t think I ever had more superlatively strong career services support than I did while at HBS. Leverage this asset while at school and beyond,” she says.
Work Hard, But Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff
While it’s important to put your best foot forward to ensure your investment pays off, Battles adds that it’s crucial to remember what you’re working for. She recalls how many students at HBS “freaked out” and “hit the screen” or failed out.
“I am convinced that HBS has a reputation for having “overly-competitive” students because of this ‘mania,’” she says. “In the end, most people I knew who hit the screen either didn’t speak English as their first language or really were uncertain about wanting to be in business school in the first place. And more importantly, once students chilled out, they learned more, had more time to invest in getting to know people, and importantly, had more fun.”
Aspects of business school, such as business cases, often require a great deal of time. While it’s important to approach them with efficiency, it’s also important to set limits.
“At HBS when I was there, most everyone made the same grade so if still true, work to learn, don’t work for work’s sake or for the grade,” she says.