Someone asked me to write my thoughts on this profoundly philosophical question. It is so complicated that people fail to find answers even *after* an MBA. Heck, it makes the Kennedy assassination look like an open and shut case 🙂
Firstly, look at what an MBA help you achieve. An MBA, is at best a “general management” program. It is not a specialization even if you choose to take up some electives during the second year. Let me clarify by giving an example.
Let us presume that you get to be a CEO, CIO, CFO, CTO ……. in short any CXO, it equips you with general tools and tricks of the trade for you to do your job effectively. Think about it, you will have a dozen CAs working for you, so it is pointless to know the nitty-gritty of Mercantile law.
You just need to be able to pick up a balance sheet or a P&L statement and make sense. Rather go a step beyond what is the obvious and figure out the subtle implications. You are not expected to even understand each account the marketing team is handling. But you are expected to look at a sales graph and understand what is going right, and more importantly, what is going wrong.
You should be able to look at a sales report and figure out what is working and what is not. When the HR teams gives you the attrition rate, you ought to be able to make sense out of it and figure if its okay or not. If not, you should be able to figure out how to plug the leak.
Secondly, if it is a top school it gives you credentials and opportunity to build a network. Someone from IIM-A need not “prove” himself as hard as someone from say Mahaveer Jain Institute of Management Studies. What would otherwise take possibly weeks or even months of hard work from the latter is immediately granted to the former purely on basis of the pedigree of the institute.
In a country like India, which is so hung up on academic credentials, it makes a huge impact in opening doors, in giving opportunities, in shortlisting resumes, in impressing interviewers. All the more if it is used along with solid networking. If you have thousands of your breed out there chauvinistic enough to hire you any day, you already start with a heads up the day you get the admit.
But having said all this, if there is a reason to do an MBA for me it would be more because an MBA affords you an opportunity to take out two years of your life away from the remote corner of your isolated cubicle tucked away on B-wing at the 7th floor of one of the many buildings your company owns, away from the skulduggery of having to deal with socially challenged project managers who thinks working 14 hours a day including weekends is what the company pays you for, and more importantly – away from the realization that the rest of your life things are going to be pretty much the same. If you ever felt about doing a Rang de Basanti with your career, MBA seems to have a simple and seductive formula to effect the change.
Let me quote something that I had written someplace earlier. There are 2 extremes in the work arena. On the left side you have the most productive people (who actually do the work). For eg. a junior programmer spends every second that he is working producing actual code. On the far side you have the non-producers i.e. people who produce nothing tangible. At the end of the day they don’t grow food, they don’t help sick people, they don’t write code etc.
These are CEOs, lawyers, management partners, program managers etc. But the kick is – the left side gets paid the least and the right side gets paid the most so if you plot $ on the y axis its a 45 degree line. Almost everyone spends their time trying to traverse that line so the further to the right side you begin the sooner you get where you want to go. MBA helps us traverse that line faster. It gives you an opportunity to land that dream job with an ace company with a crackjack role.
With an ordinary BE + couple of years Software experience there is no way you are going to get to be an Investment Banker on Wall Street. Or a top notch consultant with McKinsey or BCG. I am not saying its impossible but the pigeonhole is simply too deep. An MBA I feel is one of the few reliable routes to a career change.
But at the end of it no amount of opportunity can really be of any use unless you have the ability to utilize it. Leadership is not about making decisions, it is about making sense. It is an ability to thrive in chaotic circumstances, to cut through the ambiguity and show a path when none seem to exist.
Leadership is about being passionate in whatever you do, in infusing a sense of ownership, commitment, pride and loyalty in not just yourself but everyone around you. Leadership is something no MBA – be it Harvard, Wharton or Stanford- can teach you.
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