What is an MBA all about? Top 5 questions about the MBA

Over the holiday period, you may be able to give more time to the thought of doing an MBA.

Dave Lawton is a Process and Chemical Engineer from Cork. He has worked in the pharmaceutical industry for seven years, prior to starting his full-time MBA in UCD Smurfit Graduate School of Business. In writing this blog, he thought he would answer the more common questions out there about an MBA.

What is an MBA all about?
I was in this situation six months ago, and despite some extreme environmental conditions the exit from full time employment and entry back into education has been and continues to be a rewarding decision (hmm, something tells me the transition may not be so smooth – but more of than anon). So what would I have liked to have known prior to starting out? These are the top five questions.

1: What kind of people are on an MBA course?
This, of course, is a veiled question, which really means: is everyone on the MBA programme obnoxious, power-hungry, Gordon Gekko types who are out to get one-over on the “competition”?

Apparently, MBA programmes have been blamed a lot for creating the type of people who are partly responsible for the credit crisis: “Schools say mea culpa as they cash in on MBAs”.  And MBAs tend to be the type of people who want to go far in the world.

However, in truth, despite these assertions above, rest assured, UCD Smurfit MBA students are relatively normal, decent people who are extremely supportive of each other.

And I apologise for how sickly sweet this sounds, but the MBA, in my experience, has become a community of friends.  Sure, many are impatient during group assignments, and there’s the ‘odd’ Corkonian in the class but ultimately it’s a diverse group of people with backgrounds full of rich experiences (engineering, architecture, entrepreneurship, Army, IT….) who are willing to share their knowledge to enhance the skills of those around them. There’s a great sense of collaboration, but also enough competitive energy to keep everyone aiming to achieve their potential. If you’re ambitious: great, the MBA is for you, but you’ll need a lot of people to support that ambition, especially your classmates.

2: How will the MBA impact on my life?
If you’re the type of person who is up until at least midnight every night of the week, studying/researching, preparing questions for class/memos, and blithely ignoring any social obligations outside of your studies, congratulations – the MBA will have no impact on your life whatsoever.

For the rest of humanity, the MBA is a sacrifice, and requires the ability to achieve life balance. I’m three months in, and have totally misjudged this balance. Could I do it differently again? It’s doubtful.

Partners and family: Be realistic – your time is finite, and the people closest will see less of you – be honest with them, and be strict with yourself in making time for them.

Television forget about it. Thank god Lost has finished.

Physical exercise and keeping fit: everybody will tell you how important this is – it is – I wish I practiced what I preach.

3: How big a financial commitment is this?
In other words, do I have to sell the car, grovel to the bank manager, and scrimp change from the ashtray?

It’s amazing how quickly one slides back into student life. OK, so the pasta dishes are made with fresh pasta, basil and olives, but it’s still pasta for the fifth time this week. Prepare to scowl at the canteen cashier when she tries to charge you for your home prepared sandwiches. The prime example of reverting to student life is the prioritising of money away from food and onto your class socialising budget.

Yes, this is a big financial commitment. Yet, it can be lessened. UCD Smurfit provide generous opportunities for Scholarships and there are tax claw backs. But you do have to have quite a wad of money to subsist. That wad is different for everybody

4: What’s this GMAT thing, and should I bother taking it seriously?
Ahh, the GMAT. For most people taking the GMAT, it’s the first exam since their finals in their undergraduate degree. How hard can a MCQ test be? Well, it’s not too difficult, but it does require some study – mainly to brush up on your own academic learning skills. For engineers, the maths is a cinch – but the language components are frustrating.

Get the book, sit down and learn the tricks. Like every exam in the world, you’ll walk out of it thinking you could have done better.

Why take it seriously? If you’re seeking a scholarship, it is worth aiming as high as possible, and anyway, if you’re intending to do an MBA, it’s doubtful you’re aiming for average.

5: Will I be told what my dream career is?
NO! You have to figure this one out for yourself! But you will be given plenty of guidance and coaching to try and help you figure it out.

– Dave