Saturday, December 20, 2008

Maybe it's finally time to get my MBA..?..?

At age 36, with two young kids (3yrs and 2yrs) already consuming all my free time, I finally decided to go back and get my MBA.  Seems like a strange point in life for someone to make that decision, but there is some rhyme and reason to it, and a lot of history.  First, let me explain some of the history.

I can remember all the way back in 5th grade thinking that I was going to get good grades in school, go to University of Michigan, and then get my MBA.  It was a perfect fit for a Type-A, focused young kid.  And growing up outside of Detroit, surrounded by neighborhoods full of white-collar automotive managers, that was the mindset I had all around me.  Somewhere along the way, that path didn't exactly work out as smoothly as I had envisioned.

  • Instead of U of Mich, I headed south to Wake Forest for warmer weather, a great school and a chance to play college baseball.  After four years, I was pretty sick of being in school, but just before graduation I took the GMAT just in case I decided to go back in a couple years.  
  • A couple years into the real world, after some college friends went back for their MBAs, I looked into several programs.  But after looking at the "graduate salaries and jobs" listings, I convinced myself that I was already there in most cases and couldn't afford to stop working for 2 years.  
  • After the Internet Bubble burst in 2001, I looked at several programs again.  After seven years, maybe it was time to look at something other than technology, and an MBA might just help me find that new path.  But once again, the timing just didn't work out to make the sacrifice of time and money.
In the fall of 2007, I was invited to be part of an Executive Leadership program at Cisco Systems (my employer at the time).  The program was designed to identify 50-60 high potential Directors/Sr.Directors within the company, and give them a 3-4 month project targeting a $1B/yr new market opportunity.  I was invited to assist one of the project teams as a technology Subject Matter Expert (SME), but was allowed to be part of every aspect of the program and have direct access to Senior Leadership.  Not only was it a tremendous opportunity to impact the company, but it gave me a completely different perspective on the breadth and depth of thinking that occurs at that level.  When the program ended, I knew that I needed to make the sacrifices needed to get myself into an MBA program as soon as possible if I ever wanted to have the skills to succeed at that level.  

Now the biggest challenge was going to be convincing my wife that we could make this sacrifice together, because it was going to take a complete commitment from my family to make this work.  Not only would it require huge commitment and sacrifice from me, but it was going to mean a difficult two years for her and our girls.