What does MBA mean to me?

The Commencement ceremony at University of Illinois at Springfield (UIS) on May 17th, 2014 marked the culmination of my pursuit towards an MBA degree. Last two years were extremely busy with a dedication of 40 hours per week for studies in addition to my full time job commitment with the same number of weekly work hours.  While relaxing at home this weekend without any stress for meeting an assignment deadline, I started to reflect on what exactly the MBA degree means to me. Am I a different person thinking in terms of the management and finance language?  Does it add more value to my current career and search towards a career change?  Was it worth the time and money as many potential MBA aspirants concerned about?

Unlike a medical or law degree, an MBA does not entitle one to do any specific thing professionally.  It will not automatically qualify a person to march towards the executive leadership position.  The fourteen courses that I took in five semesters imparted lots of new knowledge that I always wanted to learn about. I chose to do the electives in Entrepreneurship to get a certification in that field. It opened up more avenues in understanding how to capitalize on opportunities and the various stages of starting a company and how differently one needs to think when creating an actual business plan. But an MBA in Entrepreneurship does not guarantee success in my endeavors. Actually one does not need to get an MBA to be a successful entrepreneur or to get on top of the executive ladder. It is an individual’s personal drive and how effectively he/she can utilize the available resources and contacts make the difference. For me the Entrepreneurship concentration provided the tools and confidence to start my own venture and/or to identify the entrepreneurship opportunities within the current job in order to create or add significant value to a customer or end user. Attending the Springfield Angel Investor meet and the Chicago Startup Weekend provided a great practical experience that no textbooks can provide.

I attended the UIS Cohort program that enabled a batch of fourteen students to start and finish the MBA together by following a defined set of courses in every semester. It also facilitated more collaboration among the students. The classes were on  Friday evenings and on Saturdays at Peoria, Illinois; for certain electives, I needed to attend classes at Springfield or online. Learning from your peers is a true and fulfilling experience. During the class discussions or the course assignments, we had the opportunity to hear the real experiences and problem-solving stories from fellow-students. The quality of your peers can affect the way we understand a concept or like/dislike a course. Our batch was fortunate to have a wide mix of backgrounds that has enhanced our learning experience. Each subject ended with still more readings to be done and discussions to be made. We plan to continue our interactions through a social networking group and through annual get-togethers. Yes, an MBA can make you a different person in terms of your thinking and interactions; but like any motivational speech, the effects will be temporary unless you continue the momentum through your real and sincere efforts.

In your current career, an MBA can have positive effects if the employer mandates it for certain positions.  Also, the way in which you proactively project yourselves as a change agent in applying the newly acquired knowledge can make a big difference. For the risk takers, sky is the limit if you like to change your career direction or do a career progression by moving to a new employer. You should be prepared to accept a lower salary if your new interest or dream position is different from the current one and you possess minimal or no experience in that.  I strongly feel that I did the right decision to spend my time and money on earning an MBA and it will help me grow personally and professionally. It will hold true as long as I can effectively identify the right opportunities and act on it to add more value to all the stakeholders.

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