The MBA Summit: Vetting Top MBA Programs

Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan

Byrne: Nate, you actually left a boutique consulting firm and now you’re using your MBA to transition into Boston Consulting Group. Did you know you wanted to continue with consulting when you enrolled in the MBA program at Yale?

Micon: I wasn’t 100% dead set on going into consulting. I was open to exploring some other things. I think that’s one of the important things to consider when you go to school. Even if you have a strong intuition of what you want to do, it’s helpful to stay open throughout the process. Not just about your career choices, but being open to all types of experiences because it’s a special two years that you’ll never get to repeat. There’s so many opportunities to test your boundaries, discover and learn new things, and approach the world in different ways. I think it’s important to always keep your mind open to that.

Nate Micon graduated this month from Yale’s School of Management with his MBA

I was open to other careers, but I strongly wanted to go into consulting. As I started going through the recruiting and networking process, I very quickly reminded myself why I was in consulting. Looking forward five years or so, I asked where do I see myself? I hope to go into public policy or something in economic policy in Washington, D.C. I feel like consulting is definitely a good base to get you there.

Byrne: And Ramu, you worked at Deloitte and now you’re going back to Deloitte. I need to tell people that if you go back to Deloitte after coming from Deloitte, you are basically reimbursed for your entire tuition plus interest. That’s a really great deal.

Annamalai: It is a good deal. In terms of Deloitte’s model from consultant to senior consultant, you typically have an up-or-out model. We’ve moved away from that so you have an option to stay with the firm. If you are going to leave the firm, you need to think really critically about what it is about yourself you need to have, in terms of business school, to fill those gaps. That’s why I talk about those strengths and weaknesses. What are the areas of competencies you want to fill in with business schools.

I think the other component of is what do you need to get out of business school. For me, it was the business fundamentals, the rigor of core accounting and finance courses. I did my bachelor’s degree in engineering. I knew the future of what I was going into in consulting was how financial service firms are increasingly thinking of themselves as technology companies. I wanted more experience in technology strategy and business model innovation. Those were courses that really resonated with me.

Byrne: Let’s go back to that spreadsheet you put together. Did you weigh such factors as academics, the co-curriculars, the career outcomes of different schools?

Annamalai: Oh yeah. I had a very rigorous matrix system and I had ratings for each of those that gave me a ranking. I did the same thing that probably a lot of rating companies are doing. You’re taking a very abstract idea of a school and you’re picking competencies on the incoming GMAT scores, the outgoing salaries, and boiling it down to a number. I was trying to do the same thing but on a personal level. What matters more to me? Is it location or is it culture? Is it the curriculum or is it the ranking itself? Those all have individual ratings and then I boil that down. But like I said, that went out the door.

Byrne: Right because it’s less about the result and more about the process and how that leads you to think about the different programs.

Annamalai: Yeah.

Byrne: That makes total sense. Tam, there are a number of different types of experiences in an MBA program. Experiential learning is a very big and important part of it. There also are case studies, lectures, immersion trips. What resonated with you in your first year?

Emerson: I really believe that simply reading hundreds of pages of paper and going into a classroom and having people talk at you is not an ideal way to learn. For me, at Ross, one of the things that stood out was our international business development course, which a good chunk of our students do and I am lucky to have been into it.

Byrne: Plus you’re going to Uganda soon.

Emerson: Yes, I leave in 10 days for Uganda where I will be there for three weeks with a team of four or five of my classmates. We’ll look at the country’s current state of tourism and create a business strategy that focuses on marketing. We’ll find out what’s working and what’s not. We’ve done a lot of rigorous research and it’s been really interesting. We’ll be in the communities talking to everybody that we can, doing interviews every day. I think that that opportunity to then put all that together and come back and present a plan is the best way to put all of these core classes into action.

Byrne: I should ask you Ariana because  at Michigan Ross, one of the quintessential elements of the MBA experience is experiential. It’s the so called MAP program. What did you do in MAP?

Almas: I worked on an education focused NGO in Cambodia. It was founded by a young woman who had survived the genocide in Cambodia. She went on to be very successful and had a moment in her life where she had noticed some children that were on a dump site. They were collecting garbage to try to find some food yp eat. She created this nonprofit to provide holistic services to lift children out of poverty. That was towards the last quarter of our first year. I had gone through the core. I had gotten my internship. I kind of wanted to go back to my social impact roots, but I wanted to challenge myself a little bit outside my comfort zone. I had never done international work. I’ve not done a lot of traveling, period. I was a little nervous to think about how to apply some of these concepts and the nonprofit work I had done domestically abroad and see what could be applied and what couldn’t.

I spent about a week there and got to visit all of the different sites the nonprofit was supporting. We worked on a fundraising plan for them. It’s interesting because in nonprofit you do fundraising and in for profit you obviously are revenue generating but there was a lot of concepts we were able to translate over. I became the go to person on the team because I had the nonprofit experience and I worked in corporate engagement so, I was able to bring a lot of my background into the work.

I also want to speak, just briefly, about another program I did immediately after my first year. It’s called Ross Open Road. It used to be called MBAs Across America. It was founded by a couple of Harvard folks. It used to bring together students from different MBAs and then they would hit the road in the US and support small businesses and entrepreneurs. Again, I’m much more focused on domestic work. I’ve not had a lot of international experience. I think there’s a lot of challenges in our own country, in our own society. I really wanted to dive deep into that. Immediately after MAP, I hit the road with three of my classmates and we started working for small businesses in Detroit. We have our new class this year. They just started this week. We focus on supporting a black-owned business in Chicago. Went to a Buffalo meat manufacturer in South Dakota. That was a really interesting experience for me as well, because it did force me to apply everything that I learned in a week for a small business. Small business is not something you talk about a lot in the MBA programs. We’re focused more on larger organizations and corporations. For small businesses, you need to create something that’s is going to move the needle for them. It was an amazing experience to apply what we learned and to make it super tangible and applicable to a business.

THE COMPLETE MBA SUMMIT

Candid perspectives from MBA students, admission officials, and employers

VETTING TOP MBA PROGRAMS

HOW TO GET INTO A TOP BUSINESS SCHOOL

WHAT AMAZON, GOOGLE & MCKINSEY REALLY WANT FROM MBA HIRES

About the Author...

John A. Byrne

John A. Byrne is the founder of C-Change Media, a global digital media company of higher education content. C-Change now has five websites, including Poets&Quants, and the author or co-author of more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers, and is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, and editor-in-chief of Fast Company. He also is the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools.