What I learnt from my MBA
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
Indian. Indian School of Business, graduated June 2022. Associate consultant, Bain & Company, Gurgaon, India
What advice would you give to prospective MBA students?
I have three main tips for those wanting to pursue an MBA. First, know what you want. Take some time to evaluate where you are and where you want to be — then see how an MBA can help you bridge that gap. Second, choose your business school carefully. Your time on the course will be one of marked growth thanks to the people around you — that includes the tutors, your classmates and all the extra support that schools offer. Choose the school wisely so you get the best out of your time and financial investment. And finally, be comfortable with being in an uncomfortable scenario.
As much fun as MBA life is, it can also be very stressful. You will be tested and out of your comfort zone most of the time. Whenever this happens, always go back to why you wanted to pursue an MBA and gain strength from your goals.
Colombian. Bayes Business School, UK, graduated 2022. Strategy consultant, Breakthrough, Medellin, Colombia
Why did you decide to study an MBA?
I majored in civil engineering as an undergraduate and worked in the energy and construction sectors for six or seven years. But my long-term plan was to become the chief financial officer or chief executive of a major construction or energy company in Latin America. As a first step, I wanted to transition from my technical role in engineering into consulting, and I felt an MBA would make this easier. The course helped me in two ways. First, the programme at Bayes is focused on consulting. From day one, you hear about opportunities, lessons, classes, books, activities, competitions, etc in the sector. Second, it improved my signalling.
It is not easy to move into consulting when you have a technical background, even if you have the skills. Without an MBA, I was an engineer trying to do something beyond my scope. Now, employers see me as a business graduate who also happens to be an engineer.
Egyptian. Ceibs, Shanghai, graduated 2022. Co-founder and managing director, Pulsar Microelectronics, Cairo
How has the course changed your work or career?
I was planning to start my own business after my MBA and the programme encouraged me to take this step. Now, as a managing director, the course has given me the knowledge and confidence to run different aspects of the business. For example, the marketing and entrepreneurship classes taught me to always think about our value proposition and the right profiles of potential customers.
The accounting and finance classes are also vital, enabling me to build financial models and make the audit by external accountants smoother. And the HR management class is helping me build a concrete foundation for team management.
Finally, the network I established during the programme has provided business opportunities and excellent access to the Chinese market.
American. Arizona State University, W.P. Carey School of Business, graduates May 2023
What are your survival tips for managing a rigorous course?
You need support and balance. In most cases, you will need to commit 40 hours per week to your course, with everything from attending classes to networking events and extracurricular activities. Having people rooting for you is key: family and friends help keep you motivated, accountable and determined to finish. Learning to lean on the other MBA students also helps. After all, they are in the same situation, even if they have their own challenges.
Balance is another big focus. You cannot pour into someone else’s cup if your own is depleted. I make sure to get an hour of exercise every day, meal prep each week and take certain business calls while walking outside.
I also do one fun activity minimum per week: hiking, going to happy hour with a friend, getting my nails done. You must do things that make you happy so you can show up to class ready to do your best work.
American. Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, graduates 2023. North Carolina
What is the most important lesson you learned on the course?
I thought I was a good multitasker and prioritiser before school, but it is making me even better. Alongside academic responsibilities, there are many extracurricular and social opportunities. For example, I am a co-president of the school’s veterans association and a fellow in a programme that places students on the boards of local non-profit organisations. My wife and I are classmates on the MBA and we have three children. It’s a lot of fun but also crazy at times. We have gotten a lot better at differentiating the important and immediate issues from those that can wait. This skill is often overlooked but will prove very valuable in the future.
And we have to go with the flow: children get sick and many times one of us will need to take classes remotely or catch up later. But we also take opportunities to spend time together. We probably won’t have another chance to spontaneously grab lunch.