Everyone knows the three reasons to get an MBA: connections, connections, and connections. OK, maybe, connections, diploma and [misplaced, according to the non-MBAs] self-confidence.
For me, the interesting overall themes have been:
- Changing my way of thinking about business (strategy/tactics, reality/perceptions, analytical/intuitive, market efficiency/opportunities to exploit);
- Appreciation of the learning process itself and recognition that it's a life-long process (I already have long-range plans for what I am going to study next: CFA, PMP, NLP, REAL, Spanish, and then, at the midlife crisis point, probably a JD, as well as continuing to read The Economist, Harvard Business Review, and many business/psychology/sociology books). As our strategy professor put it this weekend, "I am going to tease you with concepts, which you can then explore further and apply to your own situations."
- Learning the history of the business world - that's at least part of what the case-based approach is all about. We've all studied the war-peace histories of different countries; some of us have studies religious and political movements, but in no country have I discussed the actual companies that make up our daily experience. He, who does not study history, is bound to repeat it - and that's what B-school teaches you. It's both fascinating and highly educational, in my opinion. How can SouthWest and RyanAir be profitable while USAirways and BritishAirways have been struggling for years? How did Coke (and Pepsi) achieve their dominance? Why is Dell so much more successful then Compaq? How did Mary Kay get started? Why is the pharma industry "allowed" to have the highest profit margins of any industry year after year, if the stock market is supposed to be efficient?
The Law classes were spectacular. This is the second most useful class (after the personal-attention communications one) for me, and all because of the professor (and my complete and utter ignorance on the subject, so all of the material is new and interesting). In 3 classes we went over trial procedure (including alternative dispute resolution), constitutional law, and regulation, which are supposedly the 3 courses in the first year of law school. He somehow managed to make tort, quasi in rem jurisdiction, demurrer, levels of substantive due process review, takings, and the capture theory fascinating (we discussed many relevant cases - O.J. Simpson, zoning laws, abortion, dance-hall age restrictions, etc.). I enjoyed even the 7:30-9:30pm class entirely too much, considering, for the first time in my life, getting a JD degree in 10 to 15 years, once I get bored with my current career.
The prof was cold-calling on people all the time, which is quite rare in our program. The highlight of the class (for me, at least), was when he called me, and after reading my name-plate said, "Катя - ты говоришь по-русски? Я учился в Москве 35 лет назад, писал диссертацию по советскому праву." During the remainder of the weekend everyone in the class came up to me to ask what he had said, how bad was his accent, and whether he actually spoke Russian. I talked to him a bit after class, as well. Once he learnt that there are no other "Russians" in the class, he said that I'll get an automatic "A". I hope I won't need any special treatment to get there ;)