Anyway you slice it, a full time MBA is intense. You read hundreds of cases and articles, write thousands of words, take hours of exams, and it’s all over in a flash. Now that I am officially a Master of Business Administration, I thought it would be worth reflecting on the single biggest take-aways from each class I took.
My MBA lasted two years, the first of which uses quarters and the second, semesters. As a result this will be a six part series of posts.
First Year: First Quarter
With maestros Pete and Carolyn Wilson at the helm, this class was certainly one of the most memorable of my time at BC. Besides the lowest grade of my MBA career, however, what did I take away from the class?
- Having the right vocabulary is crucial! Without a finance background, most of the terms used in the class were new to me. It was a lot like learning a foreign language. The concepts were not too difficult but understanding what was asked was not as simple as it seems.
- Read 10ks! You don’t have to be able to author financial statements but being able to read and interpret them can make or break a good business person and teach you a lot about the company.
- Appreciate accountants! Their job is not easy but the better they do it, the easier it is for everyone else to do theirs. Given the importance of proper accounting, the whole company should be committed to proper accounting.
Prof Berger often talks about writing a book about his experiences. If he does and they turn it into a movie, Rodney Dangerfield needs to play the lead role. While every class was entertaining, two things will stick with me forever:
- You can do everything by hand, but why when you can just use Excel? This was the first and only class where BINOMDIST(10, 100, 50%, TRUE) was an acceptable answer on an exam. I definitely walked away with strong practical application skills.
- P-Value says it all! (no need for elaboration)
Whether you called it Cliffonomics or Holdernomics, we could all agree this was no normal economics class. It was highly based on illustrative stories that demonstrated principles, so what has stuck?
- There’s no such thing as a free lunch! Everything comes with a cost, even if it is subtle or hidden. Identifying these trade-offs can help with decision-making.
- Economic Costs-I entered the class with a general knowledge of sunk and opportunity costs, but this class really hammered them home and forced me to calculate them constantly. I think about both multiple times a day.
Managing People and Organizations
With Bob Radin at the helm, this course was essentially like having my own executive coach, just with more HBR readings. It was my first exposure to multiple CEOs, which helped to remove some of the mystique and allow me to see them as real people, but more importantly it taught me three key lessons:
- Strong and clearly articulated core values are crucial! Without these, we open ourselves up to the risk of making mistakes or bending to systemic pressure.
- Active listening is just as important as active speaking (sometimes moreso). Bob’s class was the first time a teacher ever told me I was participating too much and the first time I ever purposefully held back. It was hard but I learned a lot.
- Mentors make or break a career. Without fail, every executive or thought leader who spoke in class credited their success to finding good mentors early and often. That can’t be a coincidence.
Manager’s Practicum I
While the first thing that comes to mind from this course is the phrase “May I have your attention please,” there are two things I learned that I will never forget.
- The IDEO shopping cart Nightline clip: I would see this clip several times by the time I walked across the stage outside Bapst in my Cap and Gown but this course on Design Thinking has the distinction of being the first of many to show it.
- Market research is good, but sensitivity training is better: To demonstrate the principle of empathy with an unknown market segment, we were required to do research on groups of people facing incredibly difficult situations, such as young widows and the impaired elderly. With no sensitivity training, disaster stories of interviewees crying or lashing out were not uncommon. Remembering the human element during market research is both the right thing to do and also, in the end, the only way to see meaningful results.
That get’s us through the first quarter…part 2/6 will be up soon!