Good golly time flies.
It’s hard to believe the sun is setting on my year at Cranfield. Twelve months ago our class was wandering around Cranfield’s School of Management, trying to get our bearings and remember names, settling into a brand new life. Now, while we all move into new locations and jobs, a new group lands on campus and begins the process again.
There’s one thing I’ve been wanting to write about for some time now: “What is an MBA?” While applying for business school I tried to answer that question quite a few times for friends and family, as well as for myself. Fellow engineers often served as the toughest audience. An MBA isn’t really like an engineering degree, focussed on technical skills. In fact, it’s not really like any other degree that I know of at all. It doesn’t necessarily qualify you for any specific jobs (with some exceptions). It doesn’t necessarily mean you become more qualified than future un-MBA’d peers. Most of the leaders I respect the most in business and the community don’t have one. Some of the most impressive people don’t have any degree whatsoever.
So, what even is an MBA? I’d like to answer that by outlining what I’ve done over the past 12 months as part of my MBA at Cranfield.
- Completed a financial due diligence of GSK (the world’s 6th largest pharmaceutical company).
- As a Venture Capitalist, negotiated investment terms with several (actual) emerging companies.
- Written a complete business case for a revolutionary innovation in managing household supplies (look out for MyShelf somewhere in the future… patent pending).
- Completed a study of Product Stewardship, its potential as a model for sustainability, and created a number of tools for understanding the management of stewardship programmes.
- Outlined a business case and created a strategy for the launch of Premier Inn into the Australian hotels market.
- Waxed lyrical over the role and responsibility of business and profits in modern society.
- Evaluated the financial options for expanding a manufacturer’s warehousing capacity.
- Provided economic policy recommendations to the Government of Zambia (a great learning exercise, but ONLY a learning exercise).
- Created a 2 year strategic plan for the expansion of Netflix in the UK.
- Analysed the financial impact of the high profile bailout of General Motors by the US Government.
- Examined the strategic approach of Glock, a leading gun manufacturer in the US, amidst a highly charged gun control debate.
- Created a detailed plan for expanding a UK civil contractor into the Zambian construction market.
- Helped a Zambian civil contractor restructure key supply contracts and working capital to help complete a remote 109km road.
- Provided legal advice to businesses facing cases of contract breaches and negligence.
- Analysed Apple’s global supply chain, to see how it uses its influence in the global consumer electronics industry to drive quality, innovation, and profitability.
- And lastly: I’ve reflected. A lot. A real lot.
Now some of these things I could have had a go at prior to the MBA. Logic, rationality and curiosity get you a long way on most strategic issues. But I certainly couldn’t have done all of these things. And if I did have a go at them, I would have seen it as just that: an engineer “having a go” at someone else’s game.
My MBA has expanded my thinking. It’s expanded my thinking of the world, to consider many more economic and human issues than I would have previously. But ultimately it’s expanded my thinking of myself, and where I fit into the world. Ask me again 10 years into my post-MBA career, but right now I think that’s pretty darn valuable.