Why I am Not in Business School

I first applied to business school at the end of 2009. One school, Oxford’s Said Business School, said yes. Not anticipating the sort of career path that might justify $90 Gs of debt, I applied for the Skoll Scholarship. No dice. The Rotary Foundation did offer me a scholarship, however, covering about a third of the total cost of the MBA–but I would have to defer admission until 2011-2012 to apply it.

So, thinking back to that $90K of debt business, I waited. And while I did, I conned First Light to keep me on full time by never quite finishing that one impact assessment project I started as an intern. Occasionally, Big Boss Bob would send me Economist articles comparing MBA programs to Ponzi schemes or linking the spectacular ethical failings of big-name MBA grads to the programs they passed through. But I was Oxford-bound, Lord-willin’-and-the-Creek-don’t-rise and all that.

On June 1st, my immediate boss John gave me details of a potential partnership between First Light and Shell Foundation. “If it goes through on June 16,” he said, we’re kind of in a bind–nobody else will go. You’re the last one left. If you’ll do it, First Light will buy you an iPad.”

“John–man, I can’t do that. The deposit at Oxford was outrageous, and I slept through that econ class about sunk costs so that still affects my decision-making. Plus, the Rotary scholarship is important to me and to my family. Out of curiosity, though, would it be the new one? With the front-facing video camera?”

“Yep. Think about it.”

I called Rotary, which happily deferred my scholarship by a year. I called Oxford, which did not. So: to go to business school or not to go to business school? I went back to my initial reasons for applying to reassess.

1. To move out of non-profit work and into a for-profit company that addresses poverty in emerging markets (or the developing world, or whatever). Check–having worked at Gray Ghost and First Light for a year, I’m in exactly the spot I’d hoped business school would take me.
2. To be taken seriously by my sister. I’m not sure how this works yet, but I’m pretty sure business school is what lawyers call not outcome-determinative.
3. To stay ahead of and contribute to degree inflation. There may be some moral hazard here, but I’m fine with that.
4. To learn how businesses fit together so I can start one. Will business school actually help with this? Many, including Gal Josefberg, argue that it will not.
5. I told my grandmother I would. One does not renege on promises made to a Southern grandmother. That said, I only promised I’d get a graduate degree–she hasn’t yet made me specify which.

Then, on to the reasons other people go to business school:

1. To switch careers. No thanks. This stuff is pretty fun.
2. To break the mysterious MBA ceiling at big companies. I’m less than interested in big companies, except as a path to starting stuff.
3. To drink for two years. I can probably figure this one out on my own.
4. Networks, prestige, and other sundry nonsense.

In the end, even business school students, professors, and alumni told me to come to India, put business school on hold, and re-apply later. What started out sounding pretty far-fetched turned into a near non-decision, and two months later I flew to London and Mumbai.

Will I go to business school? That’s the plan. My assigment here is for a year, after which I’m meant to hire my replacement and go off to Oxford, where I’ll reapply this October. I did meet a chap from Jersey last week, though, who came to India for three months, six-and-a-half years ago. He seemed quite happy and at home. Perhaps I could m–nah, I can’t do that. I’m Oxford-bound, right?

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad 2

(Photo Credit: Ravnen, via Wikimedia Commons)

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