Decision Review: Pursue my MBA

My first Key Decision was to Pursue my MBA. Let’s see how that decision worked out shall we?

After only one semester it became quite clear that pursing my MBA was a poor decision. Hmm… so far I’m 0 for 1. You might think I quit before I even gave it a chance, but I struggled just to finish out the semester. After a lot of reflection on what exactly went wrong, I was able to narrow it down to three things. The impact on my family, the educational aspect was disappointing, and the opportunity costs were too high.

Time with family

Going in, I knew that class time would reduce the amount of time with my family, but that didn’t fully sink in until it became real. A 3 hour class, sandwiched between a 45 minute commute meant that two days a week, I wouldn’t get to see my wife or kids. How could I possibly be so cruel as to deny my family the pleasure of my company? My absence did put a lot of additional burden on my wife and the kids missed wrestling with me, but mostly I’m just selfish; I missed them too much.

Disappointing

After my first class I was super excited. The instructor was fun and engaging. He asked open ended questions and joined myself and others in debate and discussion. Unfortunately that didn’t last long. As we approached our first exam it became clear that grad school is merely a continuation of undergrad. You’re still graded and evaluated on what you know, not on how you think, reason, or your ability to learn and execute. Multiple-choice Scantron tests…SERIOUSLY!? The entire dynamic of the class changed. Boring lectures attempting to “teach” the “right” answers to unimportant questions.

I was really looking forward to learning from my fellow students, from their experiences in industries and business areas new to me. Sadly, most only cared about their grade. “Is that going to be on the test” was the most common question asked. The lack of interest in true self-improvement and overall “quality” of the students admitted to the program was disheartening.

To be fair, I only took one class at one university, but as UNCG is a highly ranked university, I have to suspect that my experience isn’t all that unique.

Opportunity costs

Similar to how my time focusing on school reduced my family time, it also took the place of other career-related opportunities, specifically uTest. The additional 20 hours a week meant that I had to completely abandon uTest. My good friend Rex helped me realize what an expensive trade-off that really was. I had spent two years building my reputation as a tester and done so quite successfully. I was invited to best projects, I was able to participate in various company initiatives (like the TTL training and evaluation program) and I had a large, visible presence in the community. I was sacrificing a opportunity that provided me continuous growth opportunities, respect, and enjoyment for the chance to become one of the select 100,000 MBAs that graduate each year.

What I learned

Structured, standardized learning no longer appeals to me. I learn more from conversations over a few beers than I do listening to a lecture. The ability to execute is more important than the ability to memorize business trivia. Doing something just because it’s uncomfortable is not a good reason. I thought I was being courageous by stepping out of my comfort zone, but know I see I was just being an idiot.

In the end I realized that the expectations I listed in my decision post can be fulfilled by continuing to develop my testing career. I was already working towards all of them and making great progress. At this point in my life and career, the benefits of an MBA program didn’t outweigh the costs. Maybe someday I’ll regret not having those three letters after my name, but today is not that day.

Key Decision: Pursue my MBA

Decision

The key decision I made is to pursue my MBA degree. I’ve been wrestling with this decision for several years now. I’ve always enjoyed learning and studying but it just seems like there are so many reasons not to do this. I have two children and a wonderful wife that I want to spend time with, I just started a new job, I coach hockey, I’m heavily involved with uTest, etc.

There are also philosophical reasons pulling me away from the MBA. Is an MBA really the best way for me to learn? I’m mostly interested in testing so why not focus on testing courses from AST or personal mentoring and training from some of testings leaders. I should also quote Will Hunting :)

…you dropped a hundred and fifty grand on a f@#$% education you coulda’ got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the Public Library.

So why did I make this key decision? Well… because it wasn’t an easy, comfortable decision. Whenever I find an uncomfortable situation, I try to force myself through it. I don’t know if this is the right decision but I know I’m a bit scared so I know I will learn plenty whether my MBA related goals are met or not. Also, the financial risk is tolerable at UNCG.

Expectations

  • Develop a more complete understanding of business – I know plenty about IT and testing, but other aspects such as finance and marketing are mysteries to me
  • Gain experience working with people from different business areas and different cultural backgrounds
  • Influence the education and growth of others
  • Learn new ideas and new ways of thinking
  • More challenging and rewarding career options