What to think about if you're considering an MBA.
Many of our network have MBAs, both candidates and clients, and it has often helped them to successfully change direction in their careers, for example from law or consulting into investment banking or a move into a completely different sector. On the other hand they are expensive, time consuming and academically challenging and not always right or even necessary for everyone. If you’re considering an MBA, here’s some great insight into what to factor into your decision-making process.
Investment Professional (began their career in consulting before moving to a bulge-bracket bank, and subsequently a large-cap PE fund):
Tell me more about your decision to do an MBA and in your view, what are the main benefits?
I would say in certain situations, doing an MBA is a stepping-stone to move into finance, especially if you come from a consulting background like me. I wanted a full 2-year program; I didn’t want to rush in an accelerated program. 2 years gave me the opportunity to explore personally and professionally and in that time I did two internships – one at a major investment bank and another at a mid-market PE firm. In all honesty, the decision to do an MBA is a dilemma! It needs to be pondered thoroughly since it is an investment that requires significant investment: both money and time wise.
In my opinion there are three main benefits of doing an MBA. Depending on your individual situation and background each one of these three holds a different weight:
Academically. You learn important core skills such as accounting, finance, marketing and strategy which are vital for people that don’t have a business or finance background.
Opens new doors and provides second chances. Doing an MBA can transform your career, or facilitate a career change. Moving from consulting to banking would have been impossible for me without an MBA.
Network – both internal and external. Your network is the ecosystem and environment that helps you in the future. When I talk about internal relationships, I mean the peers you study with. You don’t always understand how useful this is when you are junior but you will grow with your network and become senior together and you may find that picking up the phone is easier than a cold call later down the line. In terms of your external network; I did two internships and cultivated a network that will always be there and with whom I regularly stay in touch with. It’s difficult to quantify and to put a value on these things, which I call intangible assets.
Product Manager at a mobile gaming company in California (formerly having spent 6 years in investment banking in the UK):
What made you decide to do an MBA?
I had been considering for some time a pretty dramatic career shift away from finance and into tech. Part of that was because I wanted to facilitate a return to the US and to California, and part of it was because despite really enjoying the work, I ultimately didn’t view the banking lifestyle as sustainable, particularly as I got older and my priorities shifted towards family and having more control and flexibility in my schedule. The MBA seemed like a good opportunity to make that career shift, plug some of the holes in my experience and skillset, and also build up a network in the US.
What advice would you give to someone considering an MBA?
I would think very clearly about what you want to get out of your MBA. Once you’re there, you’ll be overwhelmed by the sheer amount and variety of things that could take up your time, whether that’s social activities, international travel, academics, recruiting, or entrepreneurship. I think having a clear vision of what I wanted to achieve at the end of 2 years (a career shift into tech) definitely helped me navigate that and prioritize.
What have you found the main benefits of your MBA to be? Has it improved your network for example?
It definitely significantly improved my network - I met such an amazing cohort of classmates who are now going on to do really interesting things. The alumni network is also very supportive and responsive, and helped a lot while I was recruiting. The process of applying for and doing my MBA was also a great time for me to recalibrate and really reflect on my priorities and the direction in which I wanted to take my career. During your MBA, you get exposure and access to many resources and people that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to, whether that’s alumni who are founders of multi-billion dollar companies, or small group chats with people who are pioneers in their respective industries. That really opened my eyes to a variety of topics outside of finance and helped to inform what I wanted my path going forward to be.
Board Director and Investor (former senior investment banker who started their career as a barrister):
You were a lawyer before you became a banker. Why did you originally choose law and was your MBA a deliberate strategy to change direction in your career?
In order to make a successful switch to become a banker, I felt I needed to understand the fundamentals of corporate finance and an MBA helped me to do that by teaching me the frameworks that finance professionals used. The law is an incredibly important and helpful foundation in understanding legal corporate structures, but an understanding of corporate finance principles was fundamental to my progression to being a senior investment banker.
What are the main benefits of completing an MBA?
I don’t think they are particularly valued in the UK so I wouldn’t advise someone necessarily to do one unless they are changing careers.
Yes, the network is great, my MBA network has certainly helped keep me sane at times but it hasn’t really helped me get a job. It’s life enriching certainly, but in finance you get hired if you do a good job. You can build a network in other ways throughout the course of your career.
If you need to update and revise your skill set, you don’t really understand valuation and financing tools and are interested in learning these skills or you think it might be interesting, then it’s perfect. However, I’m a fervent believer that if you are an ACA you don’t need an MBA, or if you graduate with a degree in finance and join a bank, you don’t need an MBA.