Thursday, October 14, 2010

6 Reasons Why an MBA is Good for You (Part 2)

The University of the Philippines has one of the strongest MBA programs in the country (image from Butch Dalisay's Pinoy Penman)

4. You feel like what you pick up from experience is not enough.

The MBA is the only academic program in the universe where work experience is an explicit requirement. Credible (read: "not diploma-mill") programs in the Philippines and around the world require anywhere from 1 to 3 years of experience, with a higher experience requirement for part-time or "executive" MBA's. This rule reflects the accepted wisdom that hands-on experience is critical to effective business management.

At the top of your head, I'm sure you'll have no problem coming up with names of successful entrepreneurs and business persons who didn't even go to college, much less business school. Still, many of those who've already had several years of corporate work under their belts continue to feel the need for formal training and further education to complement what they learned through experience. MBA education can only either confirm and strengthen what you think you already know, or challenge and disprove what you initially believed as truth; either way, you end up a better informed and equipped manager because of it.

5. An MBA provides opportunities for you to interact and solve problems with other people--just like in the real world.

Unlike in college, in the MBA program focus does not solely rest on theory and problems with black and white answers and pen and paper solutions; in many of the courses, students are immersed in real-world situations and problems that require practical and implementable solutions. While theory is still a very important part of the program, the process goes beyond learning and understanding these theories and delves into the realm of practical application. While the use of traditional evaluation methods like homeworks and exams still pervade the classroom (much to the disappointment of "seasoned" students), these are supplemented by group reports, presentations, and case studies where students are required to make business decisions from the point of view of a key corporate personality--the finance officer, the production manager, or even the CEO--in an environment that simulates actual corporate conditions. Most of these activities are done in groups, so students are trained to work with other people just like in actual corporate settings. So we see how, with these activities, students are provided with sufficient opportunities to develop important management skills like leadership, effective communication, public speaking, and others.

6. You're very interested in how businesses work, but you had a completely different kind of training in college.

Six years ago, I found myself wanting to know more about the ins and outs of businesses. My training and background was in engineering, and I had zero exposure to accounting, economics, and statistics, so back then, joining the MBA program was practically like starting from scratch, in terms of theory. Fortunately, that "weakness" later on turned out to be a major advantage: starting from a clean slate somehow provided more motivation to learn completely new and novel ideas. Plus, my "better than usual" background in mathematics helped me better understand and appreciate technical concepts in finance and operations management.

But it's not just me. From anecdotal evidence that I've gathered over the years, it turns out that the ones who get the most out of MBA's are those who had unrelated undergraduate degrees: the engineers and architects, the doctors, the physicists, the computer scientists, and the journalists, just to name a few. On the one hand, business management/administration undergrads would, of course, have a natural advantage because they have already studied a lot of the topics they encounter in the MBA program, but somehow this becomes not that important in the course of the program. On the other hand, students coming from unrelated backgrounds benefit from the fact that they can look at things from multiple perspectives, and this advantage, in my opinion, is more persistent: the combination of the two kinds of training (engineering and business, in my case) results in some kind of synergy or additional, intangible value that is manifested even after graduation.

Click here for Part 1.

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