MBA Alternative - Is it really MBA or bust?
So I have been asking myself this question for years, and think I finally found my alternative.
I have been working is Strat Consulting for 6 years now and I am keen to "reset" so to speak. To re-skills, to change locations, to learn a language, and importantly to specialize in something to give a little color to my generalist consulting background.
My first thought was to take a year and do an interesting internship like impact investing or working with a water solutions start-up in India. Something really... different. Then after talking to a few people who did similar things they didn't really make it sound appealing - its really difficult to make an impact and it probably wasn't going to be a very "different" experience from what I was used to.
So then I thought maybe I should just do an MBA after all. I talked to a sew senior guys at my firm about it and they all said variations of the same thing, "after 6 years in Consulting there isn't a whole lot you're going to learn from an MBA, but I still recommend you do one." Basically its a boys club - everyone has an MBA at the top and they look favorably on others who have made the same life choices. Not to mention that MBAs are very marketable to clients int the consulting space.
I thought about that for a long time and in the end I decided, f**k that, I'm not gonna do something that doesn't excite me and costs a shit load of money just because "its what you do" as a Management Consultant. But I was pretty keen on going back to school, unleashing my intellectual curiosity again. So what about a specialized Masters degree? It would help me shed the "generalist" stigma that consultants often had and I could finally choose what I want to learn instead of clients deciding for me. So I asked around and most people said: "nah Masters are for kids just out of school, you need to do an MBA". But I wasn't convinced. I thought if I can just find the right program it will give me the personal and professional gas I need to get motivated again.
So what's the right specialization? At first, I thought Marketing - fits well with the strategy background right. But everyone said thats too fluffy, and I tend to agree. So how to gain the technical skills to fit into the rapidly growing digital economy? Computer Science? Nah I'm never gonna be the guy getting his hands dirty building apps and doing the hardcore coding. So how about Analytics? It has elements of coding and computer science but is fairly firmly rooted in applying these tech skills to business problems. As I looked more into the field, many of the applications I would study such as Machine Learning algorithms would allow me to give answers to clients that I had only dreamed of in the past (or given them and supported our conclusion with "insights from subject matter experts" lol).
So I found the perfect school in Spain - I am an American (working in Asia) so having a big US school on my resume would be really helpful for the future. But in the end I decided that personal satisfaction with my life and learning a new language (I absolutely love language study) would have to outweigh my ego boner for a big brand school.
So that was my journey - wanted to take some time off to re-focus my career but knew that an MBA wasn't for me. So it took about 3 years of mental flailing and countless discussions to finally decide what I wanted to do.
How about you? Who else is considering or have their MBA-alternative plan?