The MBA and What It’s Good For

This is a guest blog post from Shahid Hussain, a Kellogg MBA graduate. Follow his blog at: https://shahidhussain.com.

Sometimes I wish I hadn’t done an MBA.

The reasons why are pretty plain – two years of my life and 120 thousand dollars. I’m a year out of B-school now, and I’m 30 years old. If someone offered to give me $120k and make me 28, that’s a pretty sweet deal. I could bootstrap a business for a year or two. But noooo … I decided to freeze my arse off in Evanston instead.

Cost versus benefit

I took my sweet time deciding which school to go to. Inside the top 20 or so, they all have their pros and cons. I chose Kellogg because the people there are lovely, and I felt instantly at home. I also heard the school band play (which I later joined), and they kick ass.

You normally do a degree to learn something they teach you. Do a degree in medicine, they let you fiddle around inside people’s bodies. Do a degree in marine biology, you can spend your life poking at fish. The MBA’s different. It looks like a degree, walks, talks, smells like a degree, but it’s not what you’d expect.

I thought I’d learn a bunch of management theory, marketing, finance, operations and that sort of thing. I did, but I don’t use it day to day. I can’t tell you how to do a conjoint, RFM or multivariate analysis right at this moment, but give me 20 mins and I’ll figure it out.

What stuck with me isn’t the technical skills. I just came out a different person than when I went in. I look at the world slightly differently.

Some of that comes from what I learned.

  • I think about inventory and production capacity when I go into a restaurant.
  • I think about repositioning when I see an ad for the Nintendo DS on the London Underground.
  • I think about design when I get confused opening a door. (Thank you Don Norman.)

Some of it comes from the experiences I had.

  • I tromped through some canyons in Utah, in the middle of absolutely nowhere. I did something I didn’t expect to be able to do.
  • I led the organisation of the 2009 Kellogg Tech Conference. I made a mistake, and learned something that I won’t forget.
  • I learned how to play “Don’t Stop Believing”.

The rest of it comes from the people I met. Kellogg has impressively low asshole ratio, and I met large numbers of people that I like and want to spend time with. They’re smart, decent and down to earth. I know I can reach out to them if I need help, and they know they can reach out to me.

What did that all give me? The realisation of what I’m lucky enough to have, and the ambition to do something with it.

Make me an offer

If someone offered me $120k and made me 28, that’s a pretty sweet deal. But I couldn’t take it, because I wouldn’t have known what to do with it. Now, I know a bunch of entrepreneurs, finance people, marketing people, engineers, and I realise that I can probably figure something out.

Have no illusions – the cost of an MBA is extremely high … but if you get to the right school and make the most of your time there, you can get even more out of it.