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should I get an MBA?

Here's how my life has gone so far:

I started preschool in 1983. I went immediately from there to Kindergarden, grade school, high school, college. I finished my bachelors' in 2002, went to work and almost immediately enrolled in pilot ground school. I wasn't ready to get a pilot's license though, so I took some backup classes to start graduate school in 2003. I got my masters in 2008. In 2009 I started flight training, and in 2010 got my license, and a month later I had Josie.

It is now almost 2015 and I haven't been in any kind of formal educational program since 2010, and I feel ITCHY.

I just got another promotion at work, I manage a department of 20 people, I have supervisors reporting to me. I feel like leadership could be a strength for me. Many people do quite well on this track. I am enjoying it, when it's not crazy.

But my education is all technical. I totally shunned business classes in college. Early in my career when I was working on my engineering masters, a supervisor told me "People look to you, your leadership skills could get you ahead, you should get an MBA. Where you'll go, it'll be important." And being totally self-defeatist I fired back "Screw you I'm a scientist!"

So I want an MBA for the prestige, and to make me better at my job, and because I just have to be in school again. My company even pays for it! Not being in school is like totally passing on thousands of dollars in fringe benefits, right?

The conflict of course is that I'm also a mother, I have an 18 month old and a 4 year old at home and when I look up MBA programs, my head starts singing "AND THE CATS IN THE CRADLE AND THE SILVER SPOON, LITTLE BOY BLUE AND THE MAN IN THE MOON... WHEN YOU COMIN' HOME MOM I DON'T KNOW WHEN... WE'LL GET TOGETHER THEN..."

(or)

"AND THE SEASONS, THEY GO ROUND AND ROUND. AND THE PAINTED PONIES GO UP AND DOWN. WE'RE CAPTIVE ON THE CAROSEL OF LIFE. WE CAN'T RETURN WE CAN ONLY LOOK BEHIND FROM WHERE WE CAME..."

I already emailed some programs and found one that a few coworkers recommend, it's made for 18-24 months but I can spread it out to up to 5 years. So I'd take an eight week class, then not take a class, take a class and have a summer off, that sort of relaxed pace. Nothing crazy.

And hell my mom went back to school when I was a kid. Well, she at least waited until my little sister was like three... but I think it was a good influence on me, knowing that my mother valued education and was one smart lady. She went on to get several more degrees. In fact maybe I inherited some of this school itchiness, when you think of it.

When's the right time for this? Should I shake off the urge, go home and spend my off-work hours with my face buried in Olive's golden curls, not a care in the world? Are ambition and motherhood designed to be opposed? Would a father have qualms about going back to school with little kids in the house? Is it bad to get it now, because the kids are changing so fast, or is it bad to get it in a few years when it might mean missing more dance recitals and school plays?

Are MBAs worth it, or are they bullshit? Will I learn things that will really help me at work, or is it just paper so I can be respected by other MBAs?

Where are the answers?

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( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
dreamsrundeep
Dec. 4th, 2014 02:29 pm (UTC)
I'm in grad school with twin almost-four-year-olds. It's tough, but do-able. I take two classes at a time and I have found it do-able. I don't do any school work from 4:30-8:00 PM when my boys go down (if I can help it - some weeks are packed and I just HAVE to). I work from 8:00 PM until I'm too tired or until 11:00 at the latest. I set aside a few hours (during naptime) on the weekends to read and try to get ahead for the week upcoming.

My classes are 100% online and I LOVE it. I was worried at first, but almost all the people in my cohort are parents that work full time. We all have challenges and the classes are flexible enough to let you manage your time how you want/need to.

I don't think ALL MBAs are bullshit. I am studying Instructional Design and so far just *studying* has gotten me promoted twice in the last two years. (Within my field) It sounds like you would really benefit from an MBA in Leadership, Organizational Effectiveness, or some other Strategic Leadership MBA. It doesn't just have to be in business. My company also helps reimburse, so it is a nice perk to not have to stress about the money. We have a cap, so I cannot take more than a certain amount of classes per year and not pay out of pocket... but I wanted to be done quickly, so I am paying 50% of my grad school with loans and financial aid. If you have to pay out of pocket, you have to weigh whether the cost of the MBA is going to earn you the promotions and salary in the long run that make it worth while.

It also helps to have a super supportive partner. I couldn't do this without my wife picking up some slack when I am snowed.
jennyrhill
Dec. 4th, 2014 04:55 pm (UTC)
Hey, person iperson Instructional Design, we are totally in the same field and should be friends on here or on Linkedin or something. I'd love to know more about your program!

:D

dreamsrundeep
Dec. 4th, 2014 05:51 pm (UTC)
YAY! I love running into other Instructional Designers :) I'd be happy to connect. You can find me on LinkedIn here: www.linkedin.com/in/blaircelli/


jennyrhill
Dec. 4th, 2014 06:30 pm (UTC)
Awesome! I sent you an invitation. Also, please ignore my confusing sentence up there, that "iperson" is supposed to be "interested in" and I guess my hands got confused in my excitement!
smittenbyu
Dec. 4th, 2014 03:20 pm (UTC)
everything dreamsrundeep said.

When I was doing my MBA (part-time) 90% of my classmates were engineers doing it for the very reasons you listed. They came from families with young kids to none - full spectrum. It's so hard but it's doable. A supportive partner is a must, so make decision jointly, as I imagine you would! It does take your time away from family! I remember as the MC at the graduation, instead of congratulations, I said, "We return our students to your life!"

I think MBAs are designed for older/returning students. Look for those. Don't get a general MBA but a concentration in something related to your field. MBA helps to understand the business model and the different ideas there.

p.s. I would try avoiding stretching it past 3 years. So many of our students who did that never managed to finish it! It brought down their morale so much! But it really depends on the personality and drive.

And I would do it now when you still are sleep deprived anyway, at least you know how to cope! ;)

Edited at 2014-12-04 03:23 pm (UTC)
astrogeek01
Dec. 4th, 2014 04:10 pm (UTC)
I think at least taking courses would be useful. I tool two leadership courses in graduate school (we had to take stuff "outside our field" and I'd already taken the requisite physics classes* and those sounded good). I'm glad I did. Like teaching training, most physics profs don't get any training in how to manage people and it shows. A lot.

Find a program that will give you the things you need. This masters I'm doing right now is getting me what I need. It's also online, and it's pretty great. I learn a lot but it's not overwhelming (well except this semester but it's thesis time so y'know). Find a program that you will learn things from that you need, that is good and not horrid. I think you will find it's easier than you think even though you learn a lot.

It will mean you'll have to work evenings after the kids go to bed though. But that's not too bad, if it's interesting and useful. Supportive partner will definitely be needed.
jennyrhill
Dec. 4th, 2014 04:57 pm (UTC)
MBAs can definitely be bullshit, but there are plenty of programs out there that are incredibly useful, especially for people who haven't had a lot of leadership courses or business courses in the past.

You're good at identifying snake oil though, I think, so you should be able to sift out the valuable programs from the "insert money, receive degree" type programs. And Masters degrees in general do up your prestige, with MBAs being pretty typical for leaders. So I think you're treading good ground here.
dichroic
Dec. 4th, 2014 05:36 pm (UTC)
I'd suggest taking a look at a major in Engineering Management (which may be offered as a separate thing, an MBA concentration or even in Industrial Engineering concentration) to see whether that or a classic MBA would make most sense for you.
aryanhwy
Dec. 4th, 2014 09:10 pm (UTC)
I have no idea if the MBA is worth it, but my dad quit is job to get his MDiv when I was 7, and that involved a 2.5 hour commute. At the time, I thought it was awesome that my dad was finally doing something he found important and meaningful, and once or twice I got to go along with him for the day, visit the campus, sit like a mouse in his classes, meet his classmates. It was way cool.
sandokai
Dec. 5th, 2014 02:26 am (UTC)

I would say-- realistically estimate how much time it would take (how many hours per week, etc.). Then figure out how you could spend the time-- what you wouldn't be doing instead-- and think about whether you'd resent the loss of what you wouldn't be doing instead right now, or not.

I think it depends on your individual life details. I wouldn't do the MBA or any other degree right now because 5 days a week I get approx. 1.5 hours a day with my little ones and I wouldn't risk decreasing that, and once they were asleep I'd be too tired. And really I'm just too sleep deprived. But I think there are parents of little ones who can figure out the time thing better, either because they work less or their kids are less high-needs or their kids sleep better or whatever...so I don't want to say I think no parent of wee ones should do it...

bitter_femme
Dec. 6th, 2014 04:49 am (UTC)
I like the idea of maybe waiting until Olive is a bit older. I don't have kids, but it seems as though things like dance recitals and school plays and what not are going to be easier to work into your MBA studies than developmental milestones. Plus, at this stage it seems as though your kids aren't going to care that you're furthering your studies, they're just going to care that you aren't available as much. It's not something that's going to seriously advance your career (is it?), and presumably your company will still pay for it in a few years, right?
meemo506
Dec. 7th, 2014 12:03 pm (UTC)
My dad got his MBA, so that he could change career fields, when I was in middle school. He did the 18 or 24 month track, and man I was really pissed at him for not being around.

Granted, he worked 30-60 minutes away, depending on the day, and then he went to class on Saturdays. My age had a lot to do with my reaction, too. I could have used a more present dad at 11 or 12. My brother had none of the same feelings, but he's three years younger than me.

So...do it now or at least when they're still fairly young, I guess? Or do it slowly so you still have plenty of time with the kids?
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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