How I Learned I Wanted an MBA

Saturday, February 28, 2015

I knew I wanted my MBA from my junior year of college, sometime around 2001. 2002 came along and I had my undergrad in electrical engineering. The job market sucked. I started taking masters level classes while I looked for work. By the end of 2003, I had a master’s degree in electrical engineering and my first full time job.

Once I found myself in the workforce, I found it hard to justify the time and expense college would demand. Both my first manager and CEO didn’t value a MBA. Both of these knowledgeable, smart, and successful engineers helped shape my early career in many ways. They thought all business school could teach a person is a single mantra: cut costs. Now that I am most of the way to having my MBA, I have learned how wrong they are.

Working for a small firm with an interest in business I had the opportunity to work on not just engineering projects but HR, marketing, project management, team development and business strategy.

In 2010 my department was sold to another firm. At the new firm I didn’t have the opportunities to work on the non-engineering projects. I came to understand the joy this work had brought to the old job. Living through this experience rekindled my interest in business education. I had decided to go back to collage for my MBA. The only question was where?

How I choose the right MBA program for me

A majority of my engineering firm’s clients where located in Minnesota. Over time I learned that many of our clients were working in a Minnesota satellite office and reported to a corporate office in another state. I also learned that some of our clients were funded by foreign companies. This opened my mind to the fact that a degree from a college with international prestige may be of more value in my career.

I knew that I had to keep working while I went to school and I had a very good job right here in the Twin Cities. That left me to research part-time MBA programs that were either local or online. 

Early on I ruled out online only degree for two reasons. My learning style best fit a face-to-face lecture experience. I also doubted how a future employer would value an online degree vs. one from an established and fully accredited university. 

My research of local universities yielded two results. Three had a decent local reputation. Only the Carlson School of Management had the international reputation I was looking for. 

I was using logic. In my MBA program I learned I was performing a cost-benefit analysis.

Now that I am over halfway done with the MBA program, I have learned Carlson was right for me for so many other reasons that I didn’t consider before I started. The faculty is amazing, filled with strong teachers and researchers with real world experience. The quality of my fellow students was a pleasant surprise. When working in groups with other part-time students, you are working with the best this city has to offer. These are the future leaders of our community and our community will be in good hands.

My first employer couldn't be more wrong about the MBA experience. I have already been able to apply the lessons I learned and advance my career. Carlson has taught me:

  • Negotiation strategies
  • How to make strategic choices for the firm’s future
  • How to make decisions to invest and divest
  • How to manage innovation
  • How lead an entrepreneurial effort in a mature firm
  • How to lead, develop, and work on a team efficiently

And I still have a year left to learn more. How lucky am I?