Coming from an entrepreneurship background, I decided to go for an MBA program to get more experience and knowledge in international business and get a robust understanding of how an organization’s strategy can be executed from different business areas to positively impact the company as a whole.
There’s this misconception that after you get an MBA, job offers start flowing in. That is so far from reality. It’s really about setting your goals and finding out how your past work experience and the courses and opportunities from the program can lead you further towards your long-term goal.
Seeing that I wanted to work for a company with international business activities, I was intentional about aligning my long-term goals with the MBA program and the relevant courses and opportunities it offered. I recommend doing some career and reflection exercises to help you effectively align your long-term goals with what the program offers to be able to get more out of it.
You might be thinking of getting an MBA for a career change, to increase your knowledge and skills in business, or to take a break from the corporate world. One of the questions that would constantly be on your mind would be asking if getting an MBA is worth it? I wanted to share my experience and the top insights I picked up during my MBA program in Germany.
The perks of an MBA program offers many ways to build up your teamwork skills. For example, many of the assignments and projects I worked on were done in teams. Coming from an entrepreneurial background, where I had to make decisions myself, this was completely new and exciting. I got to work with people from different professional and cultural backgrounds with different ideas and ways of getting things done. We had to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses and find the best way to work together.
Collaboration is a great skill to develop because in business you would always need to work with people from different professional backgrounds and knowing how to collaborate well to deliver great results is extremely valuable. The plus for me was that my teammates were also from different cultural backgrounds so it helped me improve my intercultural competencies. This is a very good competency to build especially if you desire to work in a company that cares about diversity and inclusivity.
One of the main reasons people go for their MBA is to change their careers. Sometimes you already have a set career you want to get into and other times, you don’t. In my program, I got exposed to different career paths, what it entails, and if it was a fit for me. I should also point out that, you don’t need an MBA to change your career but it also helps if you are going from a technical position to a more business-focused position. I had colleagues going from Law to Marketing, engineering to project management, and many other transitions.
Through my international marketing class, I discovered and dipped my toes into product management during my MBA and company project. The biggest change for me was going from the wellness and beauty industry to the tech industry in IoT, data streaming, and Automotive.
With the number of presentations you do during your MBA, presenting projects, results, and strategies becomes second nature after a while. It doesn’t matter if you are a startup founder that needs to present pitch decks to investors or customers or if you work at a company and you need to present to your team, you need good presentation skills to effectively communicate ideas.
My international negotiation class started with us doing lots of reflection exercises, personality tests, alone, and with each other, and trying to understand each other’s personality types and cultural dimensions. It was helpful for me at the beginning to know my personality and management style but I didn’t understand why we needed a full course to do this. Until we started using it in actual negotiation and everything started coming together.
With all the personality types and management styles, we get to have an advantage in having some sort of knowledge on who we negotiate with and employ tactics that can help in negotiating with the other person. I did a lot of self-reflection and personality exercises to help me understand myself, my strengths, weaknesses, and how I can use them to give me an advantage in a negotiation.
Business strategy is more than using business tools
In my strategy class, we used a lot of business tools for detecting and understanding certain business and economic situations like the Porter 5 forces, Hoshin table, and many more. While it was nice and enlightening to learn and use these tools, if you can’t use the insights gotten from them strategically to create a plan that you can execute, then it becomes a problem. Not being able to execute with all the business knowledge is probably why Elon Musk made headlines saying that the problem in silicon valley is MBAs.
Another important lesson in Strategy was to supplement business knowledge with industry news and to pay close attention to the market. See how the market unfolds and what new strategies companies are employing.
Wouldn’t it be great if your credential alone can just get you your dream job? But the reality is that employers need to know how you have applied your knowledge in a real-life situation. This is why in my MBA program, you had to have at least 2 years of working experience before getting admission. There is also a mandatory company project to also get actual job experience. During interviews, employers are more concerned with what you have actually done, how you’ve applied your knowledge, and of course your personality than with an MBA credential.
If you decide to go through the entrepreneurship route, you also need real experience to help your customers. Your credential does nothing for them if you cannot solve their pain. While you learn some things about business from an MBA, there are areas of business that you learn by getting hands-on experience. Talking to users, following and observing new trends and technologies and how it applies to your business, innovating quickly, hiring, and many other aspects.
While I had 2 years of experience as an entrepreneur with responsibilities ranging from product development to digital marketing and hiring, I didn’t have any experience working in Europe or for an International company at the time. I had to do some projects for a couple of startups to give me that real-world experience instead of relying only on my lecture notes.
The MBA program in itself is extremely fast-paced with lots of assignments, presentations, case studies, research papers, group meetings going on. Also, you have to apply for internships, prepare for interviews and have tacos once in a while. This is something that sort of prepares you for the business world. There are always deadlines and things to manage, plan out, execute.
“Networking is not just about connecting people. It’s about connecting people with people, people with ideas and people with opportunities.” – Michele Jennae
One of my biggest learnings was networking. Before starting the MBA, even as an entrepreneur I wasn’t networking at all or even trying to build relationships. I saw networking as being sleazy because I thought that it was about using people. This misconception has since been corrected. I’ve gained and built some amazing professional relationships along the way.
At the MBA program, there would sometimes be a career fair or an Accenture workshop (where I met some incredible people) and you have to talk to these people from the companies and kind of “sell yourself” or build a genuine relationship. Not being used to networking, I froze on the day of the career fair but after talking to a couple of people and doing enough rounds, it became easier and felt a lot less awkward. As an introvert, this was an important skill to hone.
In general, don’t go into an MBA with the expectations that your credential and your school would do the work for you. You have a lot of work to do on your own to get to your goal.