Monday, January 31, 2011

Why You May Still Want an MBA

OK, this is not the post I was writing.  But I saw this posted on HN, so I replied.  And then I thought that it would be worth reposting here.  With some quick modifications.  The Economist has posted an article as to why it's worth less and less for someone to get an MBA.

I once spoke with the MBA program manager (or something, I can't remember what, he wasn't the dean for sure) at my university.  He summarized that an MBA is a professional degree, not an academic degree.  As such, the value from an MBA depends on who your classmates are, not what your profs/textbooks say.  He said that it's often the prof actually learning from the students.  They can discuss case studies and business issues in class, and each student can add something special to the discussion.  "Well, we experienced this exact thing back in our 2004 expansion push, and these were the issues that we encountered and how we dealt with them."  "That's funny, we experienced something similar in 2005, but it was in Japan, and dang, we had a totally different set of experiences; this is what we had to do, but we failed at this and that in the attempt.  These were our results from the whole thing."

Joe Schmoe with no real experience can try to mumble something that he learned back during his Marketing 303 class, but nobody will care.  If the university is worth anything, Joe Schmoe would not be accepted into the school in the first place.

So the guy emphasized to me that the real value from an MBA is not the fancy 3 letters, nor the fancy job prospects, though those were all nice bonuses.  He emphasized that the real value was the professional network that would be accumulated (the better the school, the better the network as a general rule), and correspondingly, the wealth of information and future opportunities that could be gathered from that professional network.

That exactly matches part of what I found valuable about my undergraduate degree.  I met some lifelong friends, some with whom I am continuing to do work even to this day.  Other friends, I don't work with them, but I enjoy staying in touch with them and seeing their trajectories in life.  We share stories, experiences, insights, and advice with each other.  I trust and value these people.  They number in the single digits.  They're my people.  And if I were to get an MBA, this would be the primary purpose why: to instantly gain an upper-echelon professional network and get to know them closely for a year or 2, maybe even work together with them on projects.  Maybe even make 1 or 2 more lifelong friends.  In all the networking and schmooze-fests I've attended, I've never managed to meet even 1 person who ended up being part of my long-term inner circle over the years.

I do stay in contact with many contacts from those networking events on a professional basis, some even on a friendly basis, but never found any who passed the test of time to become part of my group, the people with whom I'd be willing to go to hell and back on a project.  Contacts like that are invaluable to me, and I'd say $100,000 in tuition and books, plus living costs would absolutely be worth it.  Of course, it would have to be a school where I would be able to find high-quality classmates.  The big question is the cash flow analysis for timing, if I do end up pursuing it.  As a caveat, we're obviously talking about business projects here, not hackathons to create a new web application.  Techies rarely go to MBA school for the sake of becoming a better techie.  If you want to find good techies, you don't find them at MBA school, you find them at techie communities; even easier if you are one yourself.

On the flip side, many people will get MBAs for many different goals.  You need to do your analysis carefully to see if your goals will be met.  For example, I knew a director of marketing from when I worked in telco.  He had an MBA from Phoenix University online.  His class included a hotel clerk, if you want to get a reference of their class quality.  But he wasn't expecting anything big out of it.  He came from an engineering background and had gradually transitioned into sales and marketing.  But he found as he moved up the chain in sales and marketing, he lacked some of the fundamental aspects of business that many of his peers seemed to possess.  Simple things, like even vocabulary: what the heck is channel management and how do you know how your channels are performing? What's managerial accounting and how's it different from regular accounting?  So he enrolled into Phoenix just so that he could talk shop properly with his peers.  He's a lifer at that telco, a rising star, so getting an MBA from Harvard wouldn't help him achieve his goals any better than Phoenix would.  His goals were just to keep growing inside the company, not seek a high-profile exec position somewhere else; Phoenix provided him the tools he needed to do exactly what he wanted.

In the end, it depends on what you're looking for.  If all you're looking for is money and a promotion, maybe an MBA wouldn't be for you if trends continue.  Or maybe it will, who can see the future?  But for certain other types of people, it most definitely still will provide a net positive impact.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Filler - women shouldn't aspire to be filler

OK, while I still can't find time to write, I figured I should write some filler.  So here's an oldie (in Internet years) but a goodie.  I'm reminded of this whenever I meet any girl who just wants to do nothing, but still receive and spend lots of money.  I've met a few women in China who are exactly like the infamous girl that would rather cry in a BMW.  My roommate tells me that was just a TV stunt to boost ratings, but having actually met some girls, maybe it really was real.  That being said, I'll put a disclaimer that most of the girls I meet here seem relatively down to earth.  Maybe the shallow gold diggers only frequent the clubs and bars, which I don't frequent.

So this one will always reside happily in my memory and will be recalled whenever I meet any shallow girl.  The authors of both the original question and the biting reply are both unknown, but I'll never forget them.  Girls, please aspire to do something better with your lives; most of you are wonderful people, you can really help change the world for the better.  Look at Mother Teresa.  Or my personal favourite, Maria Dyer.  And I promise that my next post after this will be worth reading (at least I'll enjoy writing it).  :)  Copy and pasted just to do my part to cement this thing in Internet lore:
THIS APPEARED ON CRAIG’S LIST

What am I doing wrong?

Okay, I’m tired of beating around the bush. I’m a beautiful (spectacularly beautiful) 25 year old girl. I’m articulate and classy.
I’m not from New York . I’m looking to get married to a guy who makes at least half a million a year. I know how that sounds, but keep in mind that a million a year is middle class in New York City, so I don’t think I’m overreaching at all.

Are there any guys who make 500K or more on this board? Any wives? Could you send me some tips? I dated a business man who makes average around 200 – 250. But that’s where I seem to hit a roadblock. 250,000 won’t get me to central park west. I know a woman in my yoga class who was married to an investment banker and lives in Tribeca, and she’s not as pretty as I am, nor is she a great genius. So what is she doing right? How do I get to her level?

Here are my questions specifically:

- Where do you single rich men hang out? Give me specifics- bars, restaurants, gyms

-What are you looking for in a mate? Be honest guys, you won’t hurt my feelings

-Is there an age range I should be targeting (I’m 25)?

- Why are some of the women living lavish lifestyles on the upper east side so plain? I’ve seen really ‘plain jane’ boring types who have nothing to offer married to incredibly wealthy guys. I’ve seen drop dead gorgeous girls in singles bars in the east village. What’s the story there?

- Jobs I should look out for? Everyone knows – lawyer, investment banker, doctor. How much do those guys really make? And where do they hang out? Where do the hedge fund guys hang out?

- How you decide marriage vs. just a girlfriend? I am looking for MARRIAGE ONLY

Please hold your insults – I’m putting myself out there in an honest way. Most beautiful women are superficial; at least I’m being up front about it. I wouldn’t be searching for these kind of guys if I wasn’t able to match them – in looks, culture, sophistication, and keeping a nice home and hearth.

it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
PostingID: 432279810

THE ANSWER
Dear Pers-431649184:

I read your posting with great interest and have thought meaningfully about your dilemma. I offer the following analysis of your predicament.
Firstly, I’m not wasting your time, I qualify as a guy who fits your bill; that is I make more than $500K per year. That said here’s how I see it.

Your offer, from the prospective of a guy like me, is plain and simple a crappy business deal. Here’s why. Cutting through all the B.S., what you suggest is a simple trade: you bring your looks to the party and I bring my money. Fine, simple. But here’s the rub, your looks will fade and my money will likely continue into perpetuity…in fact, it is very likely that my income increases but it is an absolute certainty that you won’t be getting any more beautiful!

So, in economic terms you are a depreciating asset and I am an earning asset. Not only are you a depreciating asset, your depreciation accelerates! Let me explain, you’re 25 now and will likely stay pretty hot for the next 5 years, but less so each year. Then the fade begins in earnest. By 35 stick a fork in you!

So in Wall Street terms, we would call you a trading position, not a buy and hold…hence the rub…marriage. It doesn’t make good business sense to “buy you” (which is what you’re asking) so I’d rather lease. In case you think I’m being cruel, I would say the following. If my money were to go away, so would you, so when your beauty fades I need an out. It’s as simple as that. So a deal that makes sense is dating, not marriage.

Separately, I was taught early in my career about efficient markets. So, I wonder why a girl as “articulate, classy and spectacularly beautiful”
as you has been unable to find your sugar daddy. I find it hard to believe that if you are as gorgeous as you say you are that the $500K hasn’t found you, if not only for a tryout.

By the way, you could always find a way to make your own money and then we wouldn’t need to have this difficult conversation.

With all that said, I must say you’re going about it the right way.
Classic “pump and dump.”
I hope this is helpful, and if you want to enter into some sort of lease, let me know.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Writing, creativity, and visualization

This is exactly what my writing process feels like sometimes, except I never am able to make enough time to truly give the process justice (which is why I feel so dissatisfied with the logic and flow of many of my blog posts):
From there I add the title into WordPress. I probably have about 30 blog titles tee'd up to write for any day that I sit down.  I never really come to WordPress and think, "what should I write about today?"  Either it’s a thought I’ve had and have to get out of my head, or something I’m reacting to because I read a post that I want to respond to or – as is usually the case – I look through my titles and think, "which one am I passionate about today?"

And here’s where the formal structure comes in.  I almost always break up my post into sections before I write.  Just as in this post, I thought about the structure before letting the words flow out of my head and on to the screen. I organize the components of the topic, I write the section headings, I think about them each as individual titles, I think about whether the order flows and whether the overall narrative holds.

In a way, I’ve written the whole thing before a detailed word comes out of my head.  Then it’s just a function of writing each section, re-reading to test for flow, attempting to edit a bit and then hit publish.

The biggest problem is that I don't feel I'm doing this process justice right now, especially when the list of blog posts I want to write about seem to be so intertwined in subject matter the more I think about them.  Blogging something I feel happy about publishing to the web takes a lot of time and effort, the former of which I have little right now.  But one day soon I will have some posts up again.  :)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

You know you're back in China when...

Well, that was a nice vacation!  Lots of skiing, salads, and family and friends (they don't really eat salads in China).  Haven't blogged for a while, so I should start up again.  :)

Came back to the office on Monday and saw an email that if I wanted to claim expenses for 2010, I needed to do it by the end of Jan 10 (the day I came back).  Lucky my vacation ended so soon!  But I forgot the receipts for stuff I needed to claim at home.  Silly me.  No problem, quick trip home, quick trip back to the office.

Hmm, so what's the fastest way to go home and come back?  I decide to take a moped.  Guy says 20rmb for a round trip, I think that's a great price.  Get on and go.

I notice after a while that a lot of other mopeds are going faster than us.  Then I realize it's because my moped has a weaker engine and the guy is helping by pedaling.  Pedaling.  On the highway.  I love China.

Pick up my receipts at home, get back on the moped.  How do we navigate through traffic?  Well, there's a big red light, so start going in between two full lanes of cars in order to get to the front.  I hugged my legs and arms in close to make sure I didn't scratch anyone's car (or delivery truck).  We did this for maybe 10 car lengths.

Then we get onto the bigger roads and what do we do?  We start going against traffic.  We hit a bus stop just as a series of buses are pulling in.  So we navigate right in between the curb and the buses just as people are trying to get off.  Crazy.

But I arrive back at work safe and sound.  Only in China.  :)

There are 4 blog posts that I've been meaning to write for a while since before vacation:

Why I love to use IM at work
Science vs. Faith
Intelligence as a vice
Basic Laws in Human Nature


Also, 2 blog posts I've been wanting to write since after vacation:

Amy Chua and Chinese-style parenting - a study in stakeholder prioritization
Doing the right thing: how good leaders take responsibility and lead


Maybe not all of these would see the light of day.  Maybe they won't be written in this order.  But someday I'll get around to writing at least some of them.  :)