Life is the sum of all your choices. ~Albert Camus
A wise man makes his own decisions, an ignorant man follows public opinion. ~Chinese Proverb
Don’t you ever wonder maybe if you took a left turn instead of a right you could be someone different? ~Unknown
As the beginning of the new school year nears, quite a few people have been inquiring about which business school I have chosen to join to pursue an MBA. If I have not updated you prior to this post, it is because my plans have crystallized only very recently…and they are very different from what I planned only a few months ago. As it often happens in life, my MBA adventure has been a process dotted with twists and turns. This is my personal journey. It is not a linear one. My choices represent by no means the path that everyone should follow. However, I do hope that it encourages others to consider less traveled roads to reach their objectives. Alternative paths can bring much satisfaction, but obviously there are inherent risks.
After scoring over 700 on the GMAT, taking the TOEFL, going through the entire application process to four of the very top business schools in the world, gaining acceptance to London Business School and INSEAD, and being awarded a coveted North American Student Ambassador Scholarship, I finally decided to postpone my MBA plans to join an investment firm.
Postponing my MBA Plans for a Venture Capital Internship.
The summer has been very good to me as several appealing opportunities came knocking on my door. I feel very fortunate the have had the luxury of being able to choose from a wide pool of high-class options. Until very recently, I was planning on slightly postponing my MBA to join a leading venture capital fund based in London that is headed by a serial entrepreneur renowned for founding several high-profile online ventures for an internship prior to starting my MBA in January or September 2012. I was truly honoured and extremely excited to have been selected for this internship. I took the last two months to read everything I could about VC, innovation and the latest trends in technology to be a contributing team member from day one.
A Unique Opportunity Changes Everything.
As I was enthusiastically looking forward to beginning my journey in London, I received an offer from an investment firm headquartered in Montreal, Canada. It is exactly in line with my professional goals. The job provides an opportunity to manage a diverse portfolio of direct and indirect investments across various asset classes. Moreover, I felt the values of the organization and its members are well aligned with mine. Last but not least, I bring to the team complementary professional experiences in management consulting and investment banking and I will have many occasions to create value. I very much look forward to joining the team in September.
Decision Time: This is as big as it gets in terms of career decisions.
The offer was highly unexpected and I officially decided to join the firm after having the opportunity to speak with its President to learn more about his vision. This decision also means that I am postponing indefinitely my MBA plans. It is not a decision that I made lightly considering all the significant efforts committed over the last year to be admitted at a prestigious business school, disbursing thousands of dollars in non-refundable deposits, obtaining the required visas, selling my properties to finance my schooling, etc.
It is definitively a major change in plans. I hope the schools and the numerous people who helped me throughout the lengthy process will understand my personal decision. I will not be joining any MBA program this year, but I don’t entirely close the door on doing an MBA one day. Perhaps the timing and the circumstances will be more favourable in the future. It looks like I may be part of an emerging trend of admitted candidates that decide to postpone their MBA (see BusinessWeek article here).
What feels right for me might not be right for everyone. Since I already have a Bachelor of Business Administration, a CFA, and several years of business experience, I would have benefited differently from an MBA than students with an engineering, social science or law degree for example. My decision is specific to my particular circumstances and career goals, so I am not necessarily encouraging others to take a similar path. I do not intend to downplay the value of an MBA and my decision is in no way a criticism of the merits of the schools I applied to. I would have pursued the MBA if I would not have unexpectedly found a very specific job opportunity (private equity) that I had been longing for a while and that appealed so much to me at this juncture in my life. Moreover, the shaky global economy and increasing obstacles to obtain work visas in Europe and the U.S. are realities that must be taken into consideration by prospective students.
The Value of the MBA Application Process.
Of course, it would have been very helpful to have been aware of all I know now before applying. However, my experience highlights that there are opportunities in life that arise unexpectedly and one has to be quick to seize them. I am happy to have had the chance to choose my own destiny.
I realized that there are few resources available that are properly adapted to the Canadian reality to guide prospective MBA students, especially French-speaking, seeking to learn about the process to get into a top international MBA program. I have already reached out to a few media companies to advise them about what I feel represents an opportunity. The Business Week, Financial Times, and Globe & Mail all have a very useful MBA blog. How come nothing similar exists for French-speaking Canadians? I would be happy to guide others and to share my experience.
While I am not doing an MBA this year, all my efforts have not been made in vain and the process has not been a waste of time. I met dozens of very interesting people from all walks of life. The process in itself has also been extremely valuable. Getting into an MBA program requires a lot of introspection. I now have more clearly defined career goals and a better understanding of my unique strengths and weaknesses. I could write at great length about this. What I learned through the application process will be the subject of my next post.
Next steps: My Tailor-Made MBA.
While I certainly could benefit from a comprehensive, structured business education, there are other, more affordable means to acquire that knowledge. I just came back from the US where I took advantage of the liquidation of Borders to acquire at bargain basement prices a truckload of books. For a few hundred dollars, I feel like I can potentially have access to much of the same material. I want to make clear that this is not a shortcut as it requires substantial effort and discipline to stick to a self-taught program. There is a reason why formal MBA programs are not cheap. There is value in learning from experienced teachers, experts in their field that are able to coherently summarize hundreds of scholarly material, bridge the gap between academia and practice, and engage with a class of students possessing diverse professional experiences.
Since I learn most through hands-on learning experiences, I intend to resume my active community involvement after a period of adaptation at my new job. I will seek opportunities to join existing initiatives or lead new ones that are in line with my passions: healthcare/sports/wellness, entrepreneurship, technology, innovation, and education.
Since I do not have to commit two years of my life doing an MBA and spend an estimated $200,000 to $300,000 in tuition and foregone salary on schooling, I have much more time to coach emerging startups and more liquidity to invest wisely in startups, the stock market and real estate.
I Will Continue to Regularly Update this Blog.
I intend to keep this blog active as I take the next step in my career. I deliberately avoided making the subject of this blog MBA-specific when I created it as I intended to cover many topics that lie outside the business school realm.
As I move beyond business school, I will write about entrepreneurship, technology, innovation, leadership, fitness, and travels among many other subjects. Our world is evolving at a frantic pace and I intend to continue sharing my observations with you in order to remain at the forefront of the changing tide. I believe that the title of this blog fittingly expresses the kind of state of mind that will keep driving me.
Thanks to everyone that kindly shared their experiences with me and guided me through this process.
Thanks for reading my blog and don’t hesitate to share your thoughts with me.
I look forward to keeping in touch with you.
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