March 19, 2014

Startup Lesson 18: Getting an MBA is stupid

OK, a little link bait. Forgive me.  John Melanakos' post from last Thursday inspired me to go on a bit of a rant, so here goes.

I knew that I wanted to be an lawyer when I left for college. That's why I majored in English, with minors in History and Economics.  If I knew then what I know now (we'll shorten that to IIKTWIKN), I'd have doubled in English and Econ. I love the study of economics, and found that I understood it quite easily in college.  I digress.  My senior year at PC, I took the LSAT and the GMAT, just in case.  I did just so-so on the LSAT, which was not good enough to get me into a top tier law school. But, I absolutely smoked the GMAT.

OK, decision made: we're going to B-school.  I graduated from PC in May of 1989. During the year between PC and GSU, I worked as:
  • A lifeguard (don't cry for me, it was at the PDC)
  • A swimming instructor
  • A door-to-door salesman for the AJC (4pm-9pm, 5-6 days/week)
  • A waiter
  • Another waiter (different restaurant)
  • A landscaping grunt
  • A residential construction grunt
From August of 1990 until May of 1993, I attended Georgia State University's MBA program, with a focus on Marketing. During that time, to pay for grad school and to pay the bills, I worked as...

  • A graduate research assistant (small stipend, free tuition!)
  • Another graduate research assistant (more small stipend!)
  • An apartment complex manager (free rent!)
  • A door-to-door salesman for the AJC (4pm-9pm, 5-6 days/week)
  • A residential construction grunt (summers, $6/hour)

When I graduated, I didn't even "walk". I went unceremoniously to the Dean's office, picked up my MBA sheepskin, and hit the pavement looking for a job...a real job.

Why am I telling you all this?  Because, IIKTWIKN, I would have done one thing very differently. I would have sought out a technology startup.  Remember, this was 1989 (some of you weren't born), which was the same year Steve Case took AOL into a small percentage of America's living rooms, so the "tech startup" then was not what it is today.  They still wrote business plans. HA!

But I didn't. I got my MBA. Then I went to work for a funded, high-tech startup called ADAM. Three years later I left to join a high tech startup called TSI.  I learned more usable knowledge in 1 month at each of those small companies than I did in 3 years of MBA school.

For me, begging, borrowing, and working a dozen jobs just to get my coveted MBA was stupid.  If you're anything like me, do the math before you head off to B-school. I worked crap jobs and paid a lot of tuition for 3 years.  I could have worked in a tech startup making chump change and been far better off for those 3 years.

If you want to work on Wall Street or at McKinsey, yes, by all means, get your MBA. That's not for me. So I can look back with confidence and say "I was wrong."