Can I, should I get an MBA?
At a work dinner a few years ago, the conversation drifted to further study. There were discussions about the Women in MBA program and Executive MBA’s, the admission policies and the likelihood of a return on investment.
I admitted to a few colleagues that night that I’d applied for our internally supported Women in MBA program and was unsuccessful. Although the rejection was a blow to my confidence, the discussion I had that night was the best thing that could have happened. That conversation presented the opportunity for a trusted friend and mentor to confide that she was officially in her second term of an MBA in Innovation and Leadership and she was really enjoying it.
It didn’t surprise me in the least when she confessed that she’d waited until her second term before she told anyone that she was doing the program; because as a working mum, she wasn’t sure if she could manage it all. It’s a sentiment I could relate to.
I remember getting back to my hotel room that night and telling my partner that I wanted to pursue an MBA outside of WIMBA. We both acknowledged that we had too much on our plate; four kids, two full time working parents and two dogs meant we were already short on time. We left the conversation with the fact that he would let me make my decision and he would support me one way or another.
The following day I rang the admissions office. I’ll admit that phone call was daunting! I wasn’t really expecting the gateway to entry to be as robust as it was. I started questioning if my experience was enough to impress the academic panel. This little voice inside my head was convincing me that it was a good idea to just leave it, but I kept going with the process.
Much to my surprise, I was admitted as an MBA candidate into the Ducere Global Business School program, in partnership with the University of Canberra.
By this point, I’d almost entirely forgotten that I would need to pay for my study. Following my acceptance, there were two major things to deal with. 1) cost, 2) admitting to my partner that I’d actually applied and our family was going to have to make some serious adjustments.
To soften the blow to the back pocket, I decided… what the heck, I’ll apply for a scholarship. I had to ask myself the question, what value would I bring to the cohort? The scholarship essay was based on this. Considering at this point I hadn’t even thought I’d brought enough value to get accepted into the program itself, I really struggled to determine what characteristics and experience I had that warranted a sponsor. Nevertheless, I kept going with the process.
I got a scholarship and dove right in.
I finished my first term with a High Distinction and succeeded in securing a lifetime membership to the Golden Key Honours Society for top academic achievement.
I graduated with an MBA in Innovation and Leadership, without ever requesting an extension on an assignment, and never receiving a mark less than a Distinction.
Honestly, the achievement is ironic given the lack of internal belief I held in myself.
We’ve heard these types of stories time and time again. All too often, women second guess their abilities and our own internal critic stops us from pursuing our goals. Like many women, I share my stories because this lack of backing ourselves needs to stop. Unfortunately though, being the minority in the workplace, we don’t all have a mentor whose footsteps to follow – so my footsteps are yours to borrow.
Since graduating, I’ve been asked by the University and by my peers how my MBA has impacted my life, and for quite some time I’ve struggled for a response. Life didn’t feel like it had changed. I still work with my same employer, in the same role I was in before I started studying. My pay is the same, and my outputs are, more or less, the same.
However, today my graduation announcement came, it advised me that my graduating class will cross the stage on the 10th of April. This final milestone of my journey has put into clear focus what ‘the change’ has been.
The change: I just don’t feel I can’t do it anymore. Yes, I acknowledge that is a double negative and perhaps not the most ground-breaking realisation; but for me, it really does make the world of difference.
The process of getting an MBA hasn’t quite taught me that I can do anything I set my mind to. Rather, it’s helped me to clearly understand my limitations, forced me to acknowledge that every professional (male and female) has their own limitations, and most importantly, it’s taught me how to overcome my own limitations using my experience, the power of academic rigour and networks; all combined as a secret sauce.
For those of you on the fence, particularly females, I’d genuinely encourage you to consider pursuing an MBA. It’s true, there are good and better programs, and there are perhaps some arguments against the value that further study and higher education brings as a ‘one size fits all’ solution, but if you’re on the fence and you’re not sure; please reach out to a graduate (or a few) for some insight. There may be more value lurking under the surface than just the three letters at the back of your name.
With all of this said, I also thought I would leave you with answers to some common questions I get asked:
1) What was your favourite unit?
Business Ethics and Sustainability. My lecturer was outstanding and he blew my mind – I could spend hours reading research papers on this topic, it’s just incredible and it’s certainly reshaped my perspectives when it comes to business. I also think it’s quite valuable to do this topic in more detail after you’ve been in the workforce for some time. You see things you may have missed the first time around.
2) How many hours a week did you spend studying?
At least 20 hours a week. I admit that I chose to put in a lot of work, but at the end of the day, I’d invested in myself to really learn, so backing that up with ample time was a must.
3) What were some of the tools you used to help manage study and work?
Voice to text = life changing when you’re churning out 2,500-word assessments regularly. Organising your thoughts and content becomes overwhelming and I found voice to text remarkably helpful to understand if my thoughts and arguments were presented logically.
4) What is one bit of advice you would give?
When you’re writing your assessments, ditch the first 250 words; they never make sense.
Blog contribution written by Kanani White, a recent Ducere MBA Graduate.