Taking time off work and life to get an MBA degree, is it really worth it?

Graduating from GLOBIS University

Saskia Rock reports on her MBA experience at GLOBIS University

The perceived value of an MBA

When I announced last year that I would move to Tokyo and start MBA studies at GLOBIS University, the reactions of friends and family were rather mixed. Ranging from an incredulous “at your age” (I was 38 at the time), to ”what on earth would you learn there that you haven’t already experienced as a business owner,” to “congratulations and god speed!” I heard them all. I listened to all the critics and tried my best to answer their concerns, but really I had no evidence – only a gut feeling that this decision was right for me. Now that I almost have my degree in hand I can reflect on my experiences as an MBA student and see if I can come up with some facts to support my claims.

You’re never too old to learn

Studying a full-time MBA literally meant going from a 24/7 entrepreneur job to sitting in a classroom four days a week. I will not lie to you, it was hard. Reading at least 12 and often more cases a week, absorbing new knowledge, preparing for classes, writing reports, and suddenly competing with mostly younger people for credits, my brain and body were certainly complaining. Although long working hours were no exception in my life before the MBA, having to use my brain this intensely all of a sudden was definitely hurting and it left me exhausted.

Learn I did, no doubt about it, but the best thing was that I didn’t have to do it on my own. My 27 classmates hail from 16 different countries, from widely varying industries and backgrounds and specialized in everything from accounting and finance to engineering, IT, and education. Being a newbie in the numbers department, I was struggling uphill until two auditor classmates voluntarily started teaching “remedial accounting classes.” We had study groups on subjects like finance, marketing, and quantitative analysis, during which we tried to figure out how to use the skills we were taught in class and apply them to the cases presented to us. Despite competing on a bell-curve system, help was always offered to those who asked for it and it was often only a text message away.

You’re never too wise to learn either

So, what exactly did I learn that I didn’t know already from my experience as an entrepreneur?

I studied a lot of frameworks, and I also found out when to use them and when to rely on gut instinct. I learned that your competency in English as a foreign language can drop spectacularly when you’re studying things in a field you know nothing about, and definitely when you’re trying to defend your point of view about such new topics to an audience. I learned to stand my ground when I was sure I was right, but also to accept positive criticism and bow to better arguments proving the opposite point of view. I learned to be more attuned to other people’s sensitivities, be they to do with race or gender or religion. I learned that I was right in thinking it’s impossible to do everything well and by yourself, and that it’s a good idea to carefully think about what you should be focusing on, and certainly to think about when to get into and especially when to exit a business as well.

I was able to evaluate my experience as an entrepreneur, and clearly see things I did right and things I could have done better. Thanks to the MBA, some mistakes I will not make a second time.

The real value of an MBA

I could have gone to a Belgian business school for my MBA, why go all the way to Japan? Well, I’ve had a lifelong love affair with Japan, and since I decided I wanted to live in Tokyo what better place to learn about doing business the Japanese way? Also, I was at a crossroads in my career, so the “kokorozashi” (personal mission) career focus at GLOBIS was definitely a big attraction as well.

Where do I find myself after a year in Tokyo? I find myself much more business savvy but also a better human being. Not only was I able to learn new business knowledge, I was also able to evaluate my past and think about my future as an entrepreneur and what I can give back to society. Studying, reflecting, and building a network of future leaders, it has prepared me well for a new life and new career in my favorite place in the world. To anyone doubting whether an MBA has real value, I can now truly say that for me at least it has been a life-changing experience. Don’t doubt, just go for it!

 

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