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MBA Offer

I received the acceptance letter from the UCLA Fully-Employed MBA program on Saturday. This is excellent news, as it is a new challenge and a great new opportunity.

I have questions, though: Is it the best opportunity available to me right now? If I were to accept this offer, would I get enough out of the experience? Would it be worth the time commitment? Am I doing this too early in my career, when I should be concentrating on growing other skills (e.g. technical abilities)? Where does it fit in my scheme of values? The world is large, and there are many interesting things to do.

I had spent some time on the application, even though it was submitted at the last minute. The essays are available at here, here, here, and here. The GMAT test required some preparation, too, and I am proud that my scores were quite high.

First, letís summarize the time commitment aspect. The FEMBA program is three years long, and my normal job with Honeywell would continue during this time. The first year, my classes would be during one of three sections: Thursday evening (3:30pm-7pm) / Saturday morning (8:30am-12pm), all day Saturday (8:30am-5pm), or Monday night (7pm-10:30pm) / Saturday morning (8:30am-12pm). Thatís seven hours of classwork each week, and I would anticipate maybe double that for studying and projects (a total of about 20 hours per week). There is also an intensive course at the beginning (August 28 through August 31, and September 13, all day). In the following years, the electives and such are at different times during the week, but I believe that they with the full-time MBA students. Even though Honeywell will pay for the entire thing, the tuition is $22k per year. It would require that I stay with Honeywell at least one year beyond graduation.

Okay. I know what I wrote in my essay, but is it REALLY the right time to be doing this? Iím not really making many financial decisions for my company, or plotting out the course of the business. My work is entirely on the engineering support side of things. In other words, I cost the company money and time, but do not bring in any revenues. But thatís okay: I would like to think that my work improves the productivity of the engineering organization. Three years is a long time, and I could imagine that I would have a larger role within the engineering community by that time. Yes. The studies will help me make better decisions when the time comes.

Perhaps it would fit well with a future at Honeywell, but does it work in the larger scheme of things? In general, I want to be good at EVERYTHING. (Could my entire post-college life be summed by the battle between that holy urge and the realization that I really donít have time / ability to be the master of all skills? This might deliver a righteous blow but the enemy is insidious. [I have no problem with mortality in an abstract sense, but, oh, I really could use a little bit more time than just a century.]) What is the long-term vision? I would like to be a good man (i.e. good at being a man): Productive (offering / implementing innovative solutions to difficult problems), independent (clear thinking and dedicated to acting on my thoughts), graceful under pressure, interested in and joyous at what I do, loving to my friends and family, a good co-worker and leader, and known as someone who makes good decisions. I hope that the MBA program would help to grow some of those virtues. In particular, I hope that it could give me tools to make better decisions (e.g. incorporating a larger picture), a wider background to draw on for ideas, and experience at being a leader. Given the recent wave of corporate scandals, I recognize that business school is not a course in ethics. (Still, it seems reasonable to believe that an ethical man has a better chance at being successful in the long run than an immoral man, as an ethics [properly understood] helps one to grow the kinds of virtues that lead to [long-term] success.)

So the MBA is a good thing, and fits in with my goals. But it is only one of many possible paths out there. Is it the best thing? (This is sort of like thermodynamic system design: The MBA is like a potential system sizing, out of many, but is it the optimal? Where is my Newton-Rhapson solver or my Simulated Annealing algorithm?) Iím afraid that I donít have the good answer for that right now. My course of action should be: List some alternatives (three, say), determine their strengths, and then compare them to the MBA.

  1. Do nothing (for now). Continue in my job at Honeywell, and work my various projects. This is the easiest of the alternatives, I suppose, as it requires no major change in my life. But I fear that I would be missing growth opportunities.
  2. Interview for other engineering jobs, perhaps with other large organizations. There are other firms that do similar work to Honeywell, and I believe that I could fit in well. But what would be different, in a fundamental way?
  3. Interview for other jobs, perhaps with consulting firms. I suppose that I want to move towards this alternative. I could offer IT or aerospace experience, as well as some general cleverness. I believe that the MBA could help with this.
  4. Start my own business. This is where I should end up. But I fear that I donít have anything special to offer right now.
  5. Go back to school full-time. I could get the doctorate in engineering (mechanical or computer). This would be an opportunity to student a different field (biomedical engineering, or take actual computer science classes, or something else). Maybe later.

It would seem like my best alternative to the MBA (at the present time) would be to interview with consulting firms. I should think about how to investigate this idea, as it would be a sort of "due diligence" before embarking on a three-year commitment. But writing these entry has helped to gather my thoughts about this opportunity.



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You've forgotten to mention a high contender on your list: become a plumber! :0) By the way, are you really interested in biomedical engineering? Cool.

Hi Jeff,
It's great to have many doors which can be opened and in so many distinctly different directions.
From what I have learned, the decision at each junction of a career is to address the question
"For the next 5-10 year objective, what development do I need to achieve it." You have the capabilities of the work you do now because you developed these (and other) capabilities in the past.
The decision of the present seems to be: Do I further test the strengths I have already in Consulting or other High Tech company jobs and let time tell me I was successful( or could have been more so with the MBA) or do I prepare better for the tests of all kinds I'll face in the high responsibility jobs either as a consultant, high tech manager or running my own company.
One plus of the MBA program is the opportunity to team up with 1-2 bright and ready classmates who also are ready to start their own business. Together, the strengths you all have together might just be the mix to make it go.
As a team (and individually), you will gain the savy in raising the money to get the business started as well as pick up on how to use the money in an optimal way to make the company successful.
So, each destination has its effective preparation.It's great that you have layed out the choices you see so you can analyze what each one offers and requires.
Whichever path(s) you chose, make it your total focus and business to make it work and never look back at the other choices that might have been until you achieve the goal you picked. From where you are then, list a new set. The process is amazing and most rewarding.
I look forward to hearing about your choice at this juncture.

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