Sunday, February 15, 2015

Rutgers Executive MBA - Two Years Later

I've written a post about why I chose Rutgers and another during the program. It's time a write my reflections two years later. What did it mean to me to get my EMBA at Rutgers and was it worth it?

Well, I must confess - now I'm teaching a course in the program (on digital marketing), so I can no longer write from an unbiased standpoint. I'm not only an alumni, I'm part of the program and an advocate, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

But perhaps this is the first point. That the experience was enriching and developed opportunities that I would have never expected - like the opportunity to teach. In pulling together the curriculum on digital marketing I learned as well to continue my own business learning journey and continued to find new sources to build upon my knowledge and capabilities. 

To the basic question: was it worth it. The answer is yes. In terms of career, I was promoted to Vice President soon after graduation. My income has risen accordingly. Many of my classmates have gone on to new jobs, promotions, and raises. One of my study partners was promoted to CEO of the U.S. office of his shipping firm. All of us had the potential but the MBA was a clear differentiator for each of us on our career track.

The real transformation, however, has been in my thinking. I hold conversations with our CEO, SVP of Corporate, and Board members of our public company and not only hold my own, but have insights to add. I see how investments and margins tie to EPS, can tackle a balance sheet or income statement with ease, have techniques to lead a room of executives on a new strategy, and routinely build risk assessment models for our business transformation. I had none of the tools or training to do these things before, and being able to think formally about finance, statistics, and corporate strategy has opened up new rewarding opportunities.

I have to confess, the biggest adjustment has been leaving the intense period of schooling behind. Getting back to having a life, having weekends, was at first a struggle, as I didn't know what to do with all that free time. I also had to learn how to not drop MBA terms at cocktail parties or work meetings. Eventually, however, I feel like the MBA has faded into the quilt of who I am and what I know - the same way I know how to develop and deploy software or write a short story. But it's a great thing to know and the Rutgers EMBA experience is one I'll always cherish. And work and life, somehow, always manages to rush in to consume the free time we thought we had.

Before I went to Rutgers, I wrote that "I'm doing it mainly because the material is relevant to my current job, it will give me the business background to make more strategic decisions, and it should, in some way, enhance my earning capabilities." Yes, it did do all that, and more. It exposed me to amazing professors and cutting edge business thinking. The quality of thinking and instruction in strategy, finance, and economics was as good as Ivy League, at half the price. It changed who I am and my confidence about my abilities. It gave me a new network of close friends. It developed my ability to relate to people, share life, and experience business in different cultures. It also gave me a community that I am still a part of and amazing experiences that will be remembered for a lifetime. But perhaps, most importantly, it made me rediscover my love of learning, and push myself to continually keep up with intellectual pace of change. It taught me how to be both a more insightful business thinker and a well-rounded leader. It was by no means an easy thing to do. But in accepting and meeting the challenge, it changed my life, in more ways than I had hoped or expected.