Rob Johnson was in the Intelligence branch of the US Army before getting his MBA and moving to London to cofound Makers Academy. Here he talks about his MBA experience.
It really did seem like a good idea.
I wanted to build businesses, therefore I should get an MBA. On the surface, it made sense. But I was wrong.
I graduated at the top of my MBA class in the spring of 2012 and I can firmly say that I wouldn’t do it again and here’s why:
1. An MBA does not help you build a business
Well, maybe it does slightly. But the very slight way that it does help can be learned much faster than in two years (I got my MBA in the US) and much cheaper.
If you want to be a management consultant or go into finance then yes, you still probably need to get an MBA. But be forewarned that those paths have devils of their own.
Building your own business is highly experiential. I would have learned way more if I had found a group of people with a burning pain, validated that I could solve that pain and then built a business around this, learning things as I went.
2. It’s too expensive
America is known for our expensive colleges, but even the European MBA programs are overpriced. I was lucky in that my MBA was paid for by the military, but a lot of people saddle themselves with tens of thousands (or sometimes hundreds of thousands) of student debt.
If your primary driver for signing up for an MBA programme is to break away from the masses and build your own business then starting off with a boatload of student debt is totally counter-productive.
3. The theory is disconnected from practice
It’s difficult to study business in a box. MBA students usually learn about business theory and read case studies about 90% of the time. The other 10% of the time is spent trying to put these things into practice in organisations that partner with your university.
This distribution should be flipped.
If I was teaching you to be a chef and I said that I was going to teach you cooking theory 90% of the time and only let you practice cooking 10% of the time, what would you think? It’s the same thing with MBA programs and it’s unlikely to change.
4. “The greatest value is the alumni network”
This has to be one of the strangest reasons for spending tens or hundreds of thousands of your hard earned cash that I’ve ever heard. If you’re given two options: the first is to spend 1-2 years and $50,000 learning business theory with a bunch of other people (who are also learning business theory) or giving yourself $50,000 in seed money to actually build a business – which network do you think will be more valuable in the end?
There are much cheaper ways of networking, in both time and money.
MBA programs are great institutions for academic research. Clayton Christensen (author of The Innovator’s Dilemma) is one of my heroes and has been a business professor at Harvard for many years. The degree is useful (if not essential) if you want to get certain types of jobs.
As our workforce is going through a monumental shift from full-time wage slaves to an ever-increasing number of people who want to strike out on their own, let’s not get sucked into the mentality that things that worked well in the past will continue to work well in the future.
More and more brave professionals are taking the leap into entrepreneurship. They’ve decided they’re done with the rat race and over waiting for someone else to ‘choose’ them. They’re taking the initiative.
I’m here to tell you: you don’t need an expensive piece of paper to make it happen.
Read more about Rob’s adventure in creating in his own MBA: The NON-MBA.
POST EDITED BY CELIA
Follow Celia’s blog “Dared, Determined, Done!” about making big career and life changes.