I looked at business schools all over the country when thinking about where to pursue a Master of Business Administration degree (MBA). In the end, I decided to go to the MIT Sloan School of Management.
Several years later, I couldn't be happier with my decision. Sloan offers the best possible experience for what I want to do as a technology entrepreneur and a management consultant.
While an MBA is expensive, it paid off for me quickly. I started a successful company my second year at Sloan, mainly from ideas generated in two classes -- Pricing and Industrial Economics -- that I took back to back. The analytical and strategic skills have benefited me both in running my businesses, and my parallel life as management consulting. It's not just about the financial bump though; it's also how rewarding it is to be able to accurately analyze and understand opportunities in technology that makes me feel great about the time I spent at Sloan.
Everyone's needs in an advanced degree are different, so choosing what to pursue and the right program for it can be difficult. It helps to have a few things in mind as you make your decision.
Why was Sloan the right choice for me?
As someone who is passionate about technology and entrepreneurship, the entrepreneurial ecosystem and experience at Sloan is just fantastic. A school like Stanford GSB is well situated in Silicon Valley, but MIT makes up for it by trying harder and really opening up and collaborating intra-university, and with companies in Cambridge, Boston, and globally.
Relationship building is key - where can you build the best ones for your career?
The Sloan School?s Entrepreneurship & Innovation (E&I) program and Trust Center for Entrepreneurship (aka the MIT E-Center), along with general entrepreneurial resources, are world class in terms of teaching the ins and outs of starting and building your own company. Ed Roberts and Ken Morse did a great job structuring the programs there, and now the team there with Bill Aulet and Justin Adelson is so energetic and does such a great job connecting people. I met an incredible number of the most successful global founders and, on many occasions, was taught by them. These sessions often extended into dinners, one-on-ones, and meaningful personal relationships.
What type of ecosystem do you want to join?
My experience benefited greatly from the rest of the MIT ecosystem. Getting to mix with the best and brightest from other fields is fantastic, especially if you?re interested in a vertical domain (e.g. energy, automotive, aerospace). MIT openly encourages and runs tons and tons of programs encouraging intra-school collaboration. I got involved with a health care project (Sana, winner of Vodafone $150K mHealth alliance prize), as that was something I was interested in and had never had an opportunity to work out before.
The MIT100K is the granddaddy of major business plan competitions, and the insane amount of energy around it is infectious. I watched scientists with little interest in entrepreneurship become passionate about it as they learned the ins and outs. It is really about open innovation. The value of getting research scientists, engineers, coders, MBAs and academics together is remarkable.
How do you need to be pushed and strengthened, and where will that happen?
In the E&I program, we committed to trying out a new venture. I tried two that were both out of my comfort zone. While one was painstakingly close to receiving significant funding, they both failed to launch. That made for some great lessons (which maybe I?ll share in another post). What I learned has led me to my successful venture, Upward Mobility. Third time was the charm at Sloan.
What type of experience will benefit you most after graduation?
The MIT and the Sloan way of doing things focuses on a lot of cross-disciplinary, collaborative projects. So you work closely with lots of MBAs (including Sloan Fellows and experienced Executive MBAs), as well as people from all over MIT. I think this simulates reality more than other approaches (e.g. cases, which you will get plenty of in any MBA program).
Are there any wild cards that make an MBA or a particular program a must do?
This hands-on global experience was invaluable. My suggestion is to investigate the possibility of experiences like these when looking at business school programs.
In fact, I only paid for one trip at MIT Sloan and I got to meet someone pretty special on that one.
If I sound unabashedly positive about Sloan, it?s because I know I picked a MBA program that best fit my needs.
Ted Chan is Founder and CEO of Upward Mobility and Noyo, two companies in the mobile education market, and a management consultant in telecom, media, and technology at Boston-based CSMG. Twitter: @upwardmobility
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