To MBA, or Not to MBA, That Is the Question

I've starting taking some business classes that are prerequisites for starting an MBA program in the fall. So you may be seeing a lot more business-school-related musings than computer-programming-related musings for a while.

Why Go Back to School?

I haven't made the final decision about whether I am actually going to start the MBA program. It will be expensive, it will take up a lot of my time, and I don't really know why I'm doing it.

For a few years, I've wanted to go back to school. I didn't take college very seriously the first time around, and I've had this romantic notion that if I returned, I could have the wonderfully educational and enlightening college experience that our high-school guidance counselors told us about. I know it wouldn't really be that way, particularly since I'm old and can't be a full-time student, but the notion still appeals to me.

I considered going back to get an M.S. and Ph.D. in Computer Science, but not for very long. I did well in my computer-science studies while pursuing my B.S., but the academic side of things never appealed to me as much as practical skills.

I considered law school, as it seems like it would include a lot of activities I like: reading detailed technical documents, applying abstract principles to concrete situations, etc. But that didn't feel right either.

Which brings me to Business School. I have never really understood how business works. I write my little programs and collect my paychecks, but that has been the extent to which I've understood about the forces that shape my career. I had a brief stint as a manager several years ago, and while I found it stressful and unpleasant—I eventually quit and took a year off from work—I found a lot of it exhilarating. I found that I really enjoyed talking to customers and being involved in the company's higher-level decision making. However, I felt completely incompetent.

Looking back, I wasn't as bad as it as I thought, and really should not have expected myself to do any better in my first asssignment. But I'm the kind of person who wants to feel prepared. So before I do such a thing again, I want some training.

I started looking into MBA programs, and eventually found one that fit well. Classes are held in the evenings in a nearby city, and the school offers some accelerated courses to teach non-business-majors the stuff that they should have already learned in business school.

Am I Giving Up Programming to Become a Manager?

I'm not one of those programmers who wants to give up coding to become a manager. Developing software is something I do well, and so I'm not looking to replace my programming skillset with a managerial skillset. Rather, I'm hoping that this new knowledge will supplement what I already know, making me a software developer who doesn't look down at his shoes during business meetings, and who is willing to give useful answers to executives rather than a lot of it depends answers.

Maybe I'll start my own company someday. Maybe I'll rise up through the ranks of a corporation. Maybe I'll design and develop the software that business people have always wished they wanted. I don't know, and I don't think I need to know yet.

But Why Go to School, When I Could Just Be a Manager?

Of course, there are plenty of arguments against getting an MBA. Many people say that it is a waste of time, and the best way to learn about business is just to dive in and start a business or start managing people. But, you see, I tried that, and I know I'm not going to pick things up that way. I need a foundation. Formality gives me confidence. When I feel like I know a little bit, then I'll be ready for the sink-or-swim educational method.

I've started my first prerequisite course, and the first two chapters of the book have already given me some insights as to what I did wrong and how stupid my expectations were. Maybe these business people actually know some things worth learning.

This is exciting.

© 2003-2023 Kristopher Johnson