Why indeed? Just for fun's sake, I put in this question to Google and was pleasantly surprised to see the host of links it threw up on this topic! Then again, I probably shouldn't be so surprised. After all, most search engines today, Google included, aim to provide information on just about any & every topic under the sun – a fact that my otherwise Internet shy mom seems to have recently discovered and is keen to try out for any question that she may have these days :-). Jokes apart, top of the links that Google offered, were discussion boards on this subject proving one thing – though no one can claim to have answered this question completely and absolutely correctly till date, the question is foremost in the mind of many. Dare I add my own humble attempt to answer this conundrum? Of course!
They say it's good to start something with a clear mind. In that case, I have a confession to make. The initial thought that drew me to do an MBA was the sheer glamour that is associated with a management role. I was still in school and would hear family members & relatives speak of how successful so and so were after graduating from a B school. That's when I thought “WOW! An MBA is the way to go!”. Let's face it. This is still a popular reason for many students who opt for this course. But any individual worth his salt will tell you that while aspiration for a glamorous role is good, that alone will not suffice. You cannot go through two years of hard work & toil drawn only by a romantic attractiveness. The hunger for this excitement needs to be supported by a strong reason for your choice of MBA as a career option.
Before getting into IIM Lucknow, I worked for close to 2 years at Tata Consultancy Services as a software professional. I was a part of a small business group and consider myself extremely lucky to have superiors who encouraged me to think differently. However one thing soon became obvious – team members armed with a business degree were respected and their opinion more sought after. It is not that the rest of us were not valued, just that they definitely had a competitive edge. And why should it not be so? After all, these were people who have been through the grind at some of the best b- schools in the country & trained by some of the best minds in academia. So naturally, a graduate business degree plays a crucial role in advancing one's career and those armed with this arrow in their quiver are looked upon as leaders, as individuals with a keen & deep understanding of the business.
The technical role at TCS served my creative instincts – it was great to have hundreds of lines of code do my bidding simply at the click of a button. But did I see myself as a technical specialist for the rest of my professional life? Perhaps not. Introspection revealed that I was more inclined towards a role that gave me a chance to interact with people, lead and manage teams and shoulder more responsibility towards meeting the organizational goals. In time I would probably graduate to such a position in this organization, but I realized that a b-school degree would catalyze this process enormously. Not only would I get a chance to explore different options, I would also get the necessary training I need in my chosen field & thus be able to chart my career in a new direction.
With these thoughts, I gave CAT one try & then another and made it through the portals of IIM L. It is rightly said that an individual learns more from his / her companions than any book. At L, I met many like minded individuals who had their own reasons to opt for an MBA course. Key among them was in order to run one's own business. You could either be the anointed heir, the son or daughter of an industrialist eager to take over the reins of a successful business empire or the innovative ideator, one who has a flair for spotting a gap, an unserviced need that your business plan can address. Either way, an MBA degree arms you with all the whys and wherefores of running your business. You gain an overall business perspective; you learn how to manage finances, how to market your product or service, how to use people & technology power to further your business goals – in short, a complete practical education before you get into the driver's seat of your enterprise. Also the education you receive at a b-school can lead you to an exciting career in a niche area, be it brand management consultancy, e-commerce or mobile telecommunications.
Another vital reason that spurs many to opt for a management course is networking. Once you join a b-school, you become part of a pan institute chain of people who share your thoughts, your experiences and your background. The power that this network wields and the advantage of the same is enormous! Job, career, academic know how, medical – you may be stuck on any sticky wicket where you can summon help from a world wide association simply by an email or a phone call. And this fabric is one of the strongest that I have witnessed till date. I am sure that no query addressed to this group has gone unanswered till date. One of the most powerful impacts of this system that I have seen has been its effect on the Manjunath murder trial. The culprits had probably never imagined even in their craziest dreams that a body of students and professionals could command so many resources and so much influence to ensure that justice runs its course in a land where otherwise it seems difficult, if not impossible.
Money, is it?
One of my favorite movies is Jerry Maguire, the story of a conscientious but confused sports agent. This movie remains popular because of its memorable phrase “Show me the money!”. At the end of the day, its all about the money, ain't it? Truth be told, an enhanced financial position is one of the prime reasons for most people to opt for a higher education; for some, it may be the only reason. Hopefully none of us are neither too bashful about admitting this reason nor are too foolish to realize that more money is just one part of the picture. The rest of the image is made up of an exciting job profile, greater job satisfaction and job security. The degree does not necessarily ensure a flood of job offers. But as I have said in one of my previous articles a b-school education hones your inner skills and equips you with the right set of tools to ensure that you make a success of your job, your career and your life. The sheer joy of such gratification may well outshine the bonus of the additional moolah.
Odds and Ends:
Again borrowing from my previous musings, perhaps the strongest reason for doing an MBA is that it adds oodles to your personality! An MBA course is a hotbed of activity where the participants are constantly goaded to deliver. The competition is fierce and this really teaches you to fight and beat the odds. These are make or break conditions – you either shape up or ship out. I have personally witnessed a metamorphosis in many of my colleagues - an otherwise shy, unsocial individual growing into a confident team member and leader, a carefree, indifferent person abandoning his casual attitude and gaining a more responsible outlook in life. The exposure that the b-school offers beats the experience of a lifetime! You are familiarized with subjects that you probably never even knew existed – macro economics, psychology, operations & logistics, corporate evaluation...the list is endless. Some programs cover about 30 subjects in 2 years! Add to this the acquaintance of people from different places and backgrounds and the effect this has on your outlook is enormously positive!
So that's the end of that, friends! This small write up draws on my thoughts before & after my MBA course and talks of the reasons why I decided to do an MBA. These may not exactly be your reasons, worse still, you may not even agree with my reasons. Doesn't matter. I certainly hope that you were able to set aside your inhibitions for 15 minutes and enjoy the reading experience. And who knows? This piece may even have offered you a different perspective and helped reduce one of the many dilemmas of life!