Why MBA?

Few weeks ago someone asked me why I decide to do an MBA and I stumbled because I didn't have something cool to say. Now that I have graduated with my Cornell MBA, I can finally pen down my thoughts on it.

Quick thoughts on MBA

MBA graduates usually gets a job in Consulting or Finance, with some going into Tech and even few into Entrepreneurship/ other industries. The cost of doing an MBA in the USA is easily >$100K.

I believe an MBA isn't about learning business knowledge, it is more about making connections, self-development and earning a badge of credibility. You can easily learn accounting/ finance/ marketing etc by yourself online and save $100K. But spending 1-2 years with people from different backgrounds, doing things you normally won't have the chance to do and earning an MBA from a reputable institution can open opportunities otherwise you wouldn't have access to.

To substantiate what I mean, I had the opportunity to learn from classmates from different countries and industries, and I had access to recruiting programs from top firms through the MBA which would otherwise be harder for me to get in.

Was it worth it?

It depends on the person's goals. I have classmates who got their dream jobs and some who went on to start their startups in the USA. I believe as long as you know what you want and work hard to it, it is worth it even if you do not end up succeeding.

My personal goal is to access resources previously unavailable to me with the MBA. For example the opportunity to work in a company/ new country that gives me access to new knowledge and insights. So far, it seems to be working out for me.

By-products of an MBA

I think something that is rarely discussed is external validation from a top MBA program. I don't have such a high self-esteem to say that I totally do not care about external validation (but I am working on it by building my Superpowers!).

I do notice that in an average setting, people automatically assume I am "smart" simply because of my Ivy league MBA. This is one of those 90% of everything is crap things. I believe I am indeed smart and have a good work ethic, but just having that MBA seemed to have blown other's perspective of me out of proportion.

It is however, a big investment. I think because of the sunk-cost fallacy, I am working double hard nowadays just to make my time and MBA education worth it.

I will probably write another post 5 years later to see how the MBA affected my life, but for now, I think it was a great year I spent with my wonderful classmates.


Update on 18th Sep 2023

Just thought I'd write a quick TL;DR version of why I did my MBA:

1. I wanted an Ivy League stamp of credibility because my undergrad Nanyang Technological University, while having a strong brand in Asia, just does not sound as impressive as Cornell.

2. I wanted to land a Product Management (PM) job in a reputable company in USA. While I love to tinkle with code, I hated working as a software developer. Software developers are seen as cost centers in most companies because management views us as "$xxx cost-per-year" so they want to squeeze out all the code that we can write. They do not understand that code quantity =/= code quality. Pivoting to PM correlates to my career aspiration: I want to develop the skills to build software products and businesses. I am decent with my software skills, what I want to dive deeper into are PM skills, aka, how to build the right things and how to distribute them. I believe getting into a PM role in a good company is a good step in that direction.

3. I am not looking to build a startup immediately, and using an MBA education to be a tech entrepreneur is laughable. I am always interested in startups, but more accurately, I am obsessed with getting things to work. The MBA is a stepping stone for me to access the people and resources for me to learn how to build software better.