Where Implementation Meets MBA

When I was debating whether to pursue an MBA or remain comfortably nestled in the extremes of startup life, one of the primary arguments against MBA pursuits came from my bosses: “you or someone like you would be much more valuable to me with two more years of this type of experience than you would be with those same two years spent in business school.” The answer made sense to me in a kind of vacuum, yet did not explain away the fact that all of my bosses had MBAs, and most of their closest business connections had MBAs, and that none of them regretted collecting their own MBA. Clearly they had reaped enormous value of some sort from their MBA, yet in that moment they were speaking directly to the tactical – something that one could argue is indeed missing in that graduate pursuit. What they may not have realized, however, is how deeply aware most MBA professors are of the missing tactical piece, and what those professors are doing to remedy the stigma.

I am currently enrolled in two tech-focused classes, and both of the professors have gone to great lengths to underscore the importance of technical ability of some sort, and sought to at least introduce students to core concepts. I firmly believe that MBA programs should invest heavily in at least introductory technical training (even more than what I experienced this semester) in order to graduate students who are as prepared in this tech-heavy world as they used to be graduating into a management-heavy world.

One of my two classes focused on statistical analytics, kicking off with anecdotes from the professor detailing visits to companies whose own decision makers were not capable of running and analyzing testing (even in cases when they believed they were). This to me seems deeply irresponsible, all the more so in a world so rich with data waiting to change the path of a company for the better. While not all individuals will be naturally analytical thinkers, an MBA program has no excuse for not at the very least teaching the steps required in an analytical process. Worst case, the student will then be able to recognize the questions he or she should be asking and whether they are up to the task, such that if not, they can hire the right analytics team to keep their company competitive.

The second of the two classes focused on SQL, the importance of which I personally found to be incredibly high. Upon joining the ecommerce company I was a part of for three years I found that there were really only two of us proficient in SQL. In a situation like this one learns very quickly just how widely applicable company data is to day-to-day operations, how dramatically different individuals’ job performance can increase with access to pertinent data, and how critical good data is for making company-altering decisions. An MBA who can walk into a startup and immediately access, dissect, understand, and utilize that company’s data will be a very different MBA than the one who cannot. One can add value immediately in a variety of ways, while the other will constantly be adding to the bottleneck of those who can.

As it becomes more and more rare for companies to exist completely offline, tactical tech savviness only becomes more and more critical for those purporting to be leaders in the business world. While mobilization, attracting users, and monetization are all foundational, it is the implementation that allows them to be so at all. I look forward to the day when questions like mine – to-business-school or not-to-business school – will be met with absolute confidence in the implementation ability of those graduates, truly a killer complement to the softer value offered in MBAs today.

By: Anya Hayden

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