Get your REAL MBA through experience, not a classroom 4

I saw a tweet posted by Mark Suster talking about getting your REAL MBA by working for yourself and it reminded me of where I learned so much, outside of school. I made this decision early on by going to a small tech school that no one knew about and taking a telemarketing job at a tech company, when I was 18 years old. “Hello future, I’m knocking on your door”, that’s all I could think of daily while I amassed experience and knowledge.

The truth is that I learned most of what I do on a daily basis on the job while I was going to school. No matter how much I learned in school, I was always learning an order of magnitude more by solving real world problems on a daily basis. There are no case studies you can read or tests to take that could compare to this knowledge. From integrating technology/server infrastructure to web development, and learning to manage clients to figuring out sales/revenue growth strategy. There was no classroom environment that could team me any of that, the pressure of being on the job and solving the problem is what separates the men from the boys. Having that experience at such a young age, provided me with the ability to deal with situations with much more ease as I get older.

What most people don’t realize when getting into school and wanting to become an engineer of some sort is that it’s not just about learning theory. But, it goes deeper than that, it’s not just learning the theory or the programming language. It’s about understanding the theory, the practice and dealing with real world problems that sets you apart. Dealign with real world problems allows you to gain experience of how to deal with situations, both from a programming standpoint and a person standpoint. As I start doing less and less dev work, I forget the little things that I use deal with on a daily basis. When you aren’t facing problems in the real world on a regular basis and you just learn something in school, it takes much longer to figure out the solutions because of the amount of research you have to do to figure it out.

Similarly, dealing with business issues has the same challenge. You could learn all about the 3 P’s and how to access your competition in Marketing 101. But, the fact of the matter is that if you haven’t actually done it in the real world or faced real world situations, it’s going to be much harder when you do. When I was asked to deal with all the day to day operations, while I’ve run Visible Factors, and when I managed my various sites, I learned how to deal with many things. From how to incorporate and the types of companies formed to dealing with clients and managing a budget. I learned so much daily that I stopped caring about my school work and it was more of a hobby than actual education.

My education was happening while I was working and continues on to this day running the first online event venue marketplace.

I learn so much every single day I run eventify because there are things that I haven’t dealt with before. I find myself leaning on a support system of really smart entrepreneurs and mentors when I’m in need. Which reminds me that I built that support system networking with folks in the industry, which I learned was important early on. And, those were the days after I graduated Mt. Sierra College, sitting there wondering if I should get an MIS degree or go back for an MBA. I’m glad that I didn’t because everything I learned and everything I continue to learn daily is way more important than any degree I could have gotten. If I got my MBA I never would have started my own consulting company at 22, I never would have taken contract gigs to work for startups, and I never would have gone to work at PayPal. All of those have been extremely instrumental in my career.

I’ve always been apposed to those that get their MBA, but, I know that it’s important to many, so I don’t discredit it entirely. But, what I will say is that if you come out of grad school with an MBA and a chip on your shoulder, you’ve got another thing coming. There are hundreds of people waiting to knock that chip off your shoulder, including myself. It reminds me of some of the people that I worked with at Yahoo! and why I disliked the marketing organization there so much, and, why I would never hire anyone I worked with their. (yes, at the risk of hurting some feelings and burning some bridges, even though that’s not like me at all). Now, you might ask, “why, working for Yahoo! could be great experience!?” The problem with that logic is many kids (yes, to re-iterate, “kids”) get their MBAs and work at big companies, but don’t face real world problems. They don’t know how to solve situations creatively and they don’t know how to be scrappy with costs. That isn’t a valuable resource, that’s an overpaid MBA that will never provide startups and entrepreneurs any real value.

4 thoughts on “Get your REAL MBA through experience, not a classroom

  1. Reply Kim Oct 12, 2011 1:02 pm

    I agree with you to an extent, but every time I hear Peter Thiel harp on higher education, I cringe a little bit. I think certain fields lend themselves to rewarding the scrappy go-getter. But before I joined the online marketing world, I worked in advertising, and I can tell you from experience, had I not gone to a graduate program, I would not have been able to work in my chosen field. Decades ago, there were tons of stories about people coming up through the mailroom and then taking over the agency. But what happened through the 80s and 90s was on-the-job training effectively went away. The pace of agencies quickened, so unless you were a SERIOUS anomaly (it does happen, but it’s rare), it was impossible to get your foot in the door if you didn’t already know how to conceptualize an ad. No one was willing to pay you to learn that craft, because it takes a really long time before you’re any good. And I’m sure there are other fields where that is the case… a master’s degree is simply the price of entry. I’m always glad when someone like you can show their entrepreneurial spirit and succeed, but I’m uncomfortable when bettering yourself through a formal education is any way denigrated. It’s not for everyone, it’s not always the right thing, it’s too expensive, and grade inflation is a real probelm. But still… there is a value. You build a network you may not have already (or ever) had, you often learn from the best, and you have an opportunity to fail without serious consequences. I’m going to qualify all this by saying I don’t actually have an MBA, I have a Master’s in Communication and my program was REALLY specialized. But still… I refuse to believe school is worthless because not everyone can be an exception to the rule.

    • Reply tonyadam Oct 12, 2011 2:01 pm

      Great points Kim and I agree on a few and you might be right when it comes to advertising careers and getting a Masters in other careers is still definitely important. But, when it comes to working in the online world, I don’t find that it really brings any value to the table. Things change too rapidly, there are no degrees that teach you anything about traffic acquisition, viral marketing, etc. They still almost all exclusively focus on old school tactics that don’t really help. I liken it to getting a degree in tech and someone saying that the theory of that is more important…the problem is the application lets you see and be in way more situations that helps you understand how to solve future problems.

      I got into tech in 2001, so i know what it’s like to be in a market when there is no job, and, I can’t stand when MBA students say there is nothing out there for them…it’s because people don’t actually want to put in the work. No MBA student wants to come in at the lower levels because they feel they have an MBA and that makes them more qualified. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t. People need to learn they need to suck it up, take a gig where they are learning the ropes and doing the grunt work. For any MBA that comes out of school and says there are no gigs, come to me, I’ll find you about 20 gigs at various startups in LA that are looking for people that just want to get shit done. :)

      • Reply Kim Oct 12, 2011 2:20 pm

        No, I get that. The prick MBA that feels in any way entitled is annoying to everybody. But I’m just not comfortable with the idea that everyone who goes and gets an MBA is a moron. The converse of this, of course, is not everyone who has an MBA is intelligent or ready for real-world work. Trust me, I’m willing to call almost anyone a moron. But not for that. Or, at least not *because* of that. Also, I’m probably just mad because you accused me of being a tyrant yesterday :)

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