MBA Journal: Saying Goodbye to B-SchoolJonathan Stern
Well, t-minus 25 days until I graduate from UCLA's Anderson School of Management (Anderson Full-Time MBA Profile). I've been measured for a cap and gown (more I had to decide whether I consider myself 5 ft. 8 in. or 5 ft. 9 in., since 5 ft. 8.5 in. apparently does not translate to a gown size) and it's waiting at the student center to be picked up. I probably just had my last meal at my group of friends' favorite all-you-can-eat Chinese restaurant. (It offers the buffet to go, and I find that very confusing.) And the first of two thesis presentations will take place this Friday. So with business school clearly—and sadly—ending and the real world careening toward me like my beloved No. 6 train in New York, I suppose it's time to reflect on the last two years.
Ultimately it all comes down to whether I evaluate this experience as having been worthwhile. My initial gut reaction is an unequivocal "yes." But such an analysis surely deserves more-thorough examination and if we simply stopped here, this post would be far too short. So let's examine things a little further. There's certainly a cost to business school, both in time and money. And of course, there's the opportunity cost of the whole endeavor. Presumably, we MBA candidates could be in the work force, earning salaries instead of learning about NPV and M&A. However, MTV doesn't pay its minions the millions you'd imagine, so that was not a pressing concern for me. Nevertheless, I can now make calculations regarding opportunity costs, net present value, and mergers and acquisitions, so let's chalk up a point for the benefits of business school.
The fact of the matter is—no matter what happens after school—I'm a better-rounded individual because of the education I've received. For example, my brother came to visit me over spring break. During his stay, we met up with one of my friends so we could catch up. Over the course of that conversation, I peppered my friend with questions about her online business and proceeded to analyze how her insights would affect a venture I was thinking about undertaking. Later, my brother pulled me aside and commented that he'd never heard me speak like that before, with such nuance and command of issue. Business school had apparently changed me. Even though I was surprised to hear him say those words, I must admit: He was right. I just hadn't noticed because the evolution has been so gradual over the last two years. I am now capable of speaking to both silos of the entertainment world (my preferred field), creative and business. Consequently, I'm a more-desirable and -marketable job candidate. There's another point on the board for getting my MBA.
A True Friend at any Airport
In addition to an eye-opening education though, I'm also walking away with an invaluable network of friends. Those closest to me here at UCLA will undoubtedly be friends for the rest of my life. I remember when I was choosing schools and I went to the Anderson admitted-students mixer in New York: An alumnus told me about the incredible people he is now proud to call friends. He added that if he were to fly to Barcelona right then, he'd have someone to call to pick him up at the airport. I found that to be an odd statement at the time. (Not odd enough to prevent me from accepting my admission, though; now it makes much more sense.) My inner circle undoubtedly consists of people who"in a pinch"I'm sure would pick me up at the airport. Coming to Los Angeles from New York, I didn't realize how big of a deal that was, but a person who gives you a ride to or from the airport is the truest of friends. Even though most people don't have cars in New York, I'm not sure I had anyone who would take up the mantle of the sacred airport trip. That has to be worth the price of business school tuition, right?
These individuals are also supremely intelligent and talented. I've never been surrounded by so many exceptional people for such an extended period of time. They are always there to evaluate an idea and they invariably find some key insight. In fact, many of them have been extraordinarily helpful critiquing and improving a business I may launch (others are even part of my team), an endeavor that would have been very difficult for me before business school. (Yet another point for pursuing the MBA.) Basically, I have no doubt that many of my colleagues and friends will become successful titans in their respective industries and that we will be there for each other in the future because of the relationships that were forged here at UCLA Anderson.
At the end of the day, there are times to trust your gut and there are times to let reason win out. In this case, my gut was right. Attending UCLA's Anderson School of Management has molded me into a more capable and savvy person with the skills and network to succeed in the future. And if things ever go wrong, I've got a lot of shoulders to lean on.
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