MBA: Mediocre But Arrogant?


When I first told a good friend that I was going to do an MBA he responded, in true Irish fashion, by swiftly cutting me down to size. He responded by saying “Why would you bother? You do know it stands for Mediocre But Arrogant, don’t you?” As much as I knew that this wasn’t the generally accepted view of an MBA, I could not get the idea out of my head during both the application process and the run up to the start of term 1. I had a genuine fear that the class would be full of cutthroat, pompous narcissists. Thankfully, after a few weeks I could say that our very diverse class (73% of which are international students) was certainly not arrogant but instead a very down to earth one that quickly gelled into a close-knit unit. This was critical in putting me at ease about the year ahead.

The fact that I am a constant worrier meant that it was not long before my focus moved to the Mediocre part of the phrase. Did we lack arrogance because we had no reason to think highly of ourselves? Were we inferior to those that attend the top ranked business schools such as those of the Ivy League, LBS, IE etc.? Was Smurfit only able to attract mediocre candidates? After all you don’t need to be in the 700 (GMAT) club to gain entry. I was scheduled to go to Yale in mid-October for the GNAM (Global Network for Advanced Management) Global Immersion Week so I knew that would be a good opportunity to gauge the abilities of our school against some of the schools that are perceived to be the finest in the world.

The Yale trip was a fantastic opportunity. The chance to briefly attend an institution that is known across the globe and is synonymous with excellence was an honour. Upon arrival it didn’t take long to realise that many of these students had an air of arrogance about them but more importantly it did not take long to realise that we were every bit as good as them. I’d go so far as to say we were better than the majority of them and we were far more craic. Being able to see this comparison really reassured me about my decision to choose Smurfit. The fact that I didn’t feel the need to sell my kidneys to cover the considerably lower tuition fees was an added bonus.

Ok so now that we know that the Smurfiteers are as good as any MBA students, maybe it is that all MBA students are mediocre? I guess this really comes down to the perception of what an MBA graduate is. Some people who enter an MBA programme do it because they believe that companies will be lining up at the finish to throw money at them. Anybody with an ounce of sense knows that this will never happen. So why is it that certain hirers believe that by taking on an MBA graduate they are getting some super human that will revolutionize their business? If people think like this then they might think that MBAs are mediocre. Maybe that is how the rumour started.

The truth is that an MBA will not revolutionize you. How could it? Does any other degree work such magic? Of course not. What an MBA will do is equip you with a vast array of skills across many disciplines. These will not make you a subject matter expert but they will give you an edge in whatever field you choose to work. You may not use these skills immediately but at some stage I’m sure that they will be invaluable. You will only be mediocre if you do not commit to the programme and do not soak everything in.

Cathal Murphy ~ Full-Time MBA