Sunday, May 27, 2012

Executive MBA: Things You Can "Apply the Next Day"

So, with Year 1 of Rutgers Executive MBA done (off to China in a couple days), I have a bit of time to write again about the experience.

The year was amazing. A little like the Matrix movie where you jam twenty different skills into your head in the course of a few minutes. Plus new friends who will surely be friends for life. Just now beginning to dust off and decompress. Where to begin?

First, it's been nearly two and a half decades since I've been in graduate school. I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed learning. Being in this environment you really do get out what you put in. I maybe got a bit carried away because it also consumed more time away from life and family than it rightfully should. I probably pushed the edge a bit too much. Next year is about achieving more of a balance, carving out time during the week to spend away from both work and school. Difficult because between the two that's about 90 hours a week. Something has to give a bit and it will probably be school. That's hard, though, when I am really enjoying what I'm learning and seeing directly how to apply it to my career day by day.

People do talk about this so I just want to list a few of the things I learned that I was able to "apply the next day." Literally I would be applying something the same day I was doing homework or studying for an exam.

The two courses I applied most were financial accounting and financial management. Having never studied accounting or finance in college these were new to me - yet I've been working with financial statements and project financial analysis for years. Day by day I would learn something that was directly relevant to my work: whether it was GAAP for revenue recognition or IRR and discounted cash flow for project valuation, the very next day I could open up a file at work and make an improvement.

Other courses were relevant in a different way. In my strategic transformation class, I wrote a paper on a strategic transformation of my organization as it unfolded in real time, and was able to submit the appendix - a series of management recommendations - to my boss at the same time as we were re-organizing our group. Our international business class discussed a case on a foreign market entry: six weeks later, I was applying the same principals to our own foreign market entry at work.

When it came to linear programming in stats, I actually haven't used this one yet, but am planning to. A linear programming model applied to our selection of books for publication could yield fascinating results. I'm also hoping to apply the same type of analysis to Michael's consulting business.

If this were all, however, it wouldn't be so significant. The biggest change I've seen this year has been my confidence in myself and abilities in business. New skills in negotiations, leadership, and communications - combined with "talking the talk" when it comes to business lingo - have given me a leg up in any business setting. It isn't that the new deals I've closed this year or the progress I've made at work would not have happened without this program. It's that I'm comfortable working in the "Big Leagues," as it were. There really does seem to be a club of MBA-educated folks in a lot of leadership positions. Having the experience and references to speak their language puts you on an equal footing that would be difficult - not impossible, but just more difficult - to achieve otherwise. Maybe it's in the ways you see to connect the dots: between global economics, corporate finance, strategic management, and your day-to-day decisions about who to hire, how to lead a meeting, what to spend on thingamabobs, whether the CEO is doing a good job or not, or how many hours of your day to focus on x, y, or z. It doesn't change who you are, your experience or background, but it does give you personal clarity, and that extra bit of sparkle. That's hard to quantify but probably more valuable than all of those specific skills combined.

Now, off to China, then summer to recharge and reconnect with my family and friends, and then next year, when the program really gets interesting. Now if I can only get through with my marriage in tact, that's something to look forward to.