Education: What is the value of an MBA?

If you are a currently enrolled student in Rotman Commerce despite having a serious interest in another field – like myself with computer science – then it is important to decide whether to stay in Rotman while pursuing your other field of interest and take extra courses beyond what your degree requires (since the commerce specialization courses take up at least 75% of your degree), or to just complete your subject of interest and do an MBA after. Needless to say, if you end up doing both, there is often a massive overlap in course materials between the commerce curriculum and the core MBA curriculum. As a current student in Rotman, there are already numerous resources with which one can estimate the value of the Commerce degree and experience, so this section will focus primarily on detailing the value that an MBA can bring.

Batista, Ed. "Should You Get an MBA?" Harvard Business Review. September 4, 2014. (Accessed November 28, 2015).

Batista Ed argues that an MBA primarily offers three different types of benefits:

1.    Practical leadership and management skills: which come in the form of various interpersonal and leadership development programs, and come in addition to the cookie-cutter quantitative skills that one learns for finance or operations.

2.    A credential that sends a signal to the marketplace: while no career path absolutely requires an MBA, an MBA from a reputable school is considered a plus in many fields.

3.    Membership in a learning community and access to an alumni network: since good Business Schools try to put together classes with diverse backgrounds and experiences, students gain a diverse network and may learn as much from their fellow students as they would from professors.

Ed Batista graduated from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business in 2000 and has been an internal coach at the GSB since 2007, while occasionally publishing articles on the Harvard Business Review. His credentials and familiarity with different business schools present several credible points that emphasize the core benefits of getting an MBA.

Merrick, Micah. "Rethink the MBA." Rethink the MBA. March 7, 2014. (Accessed November 28, 2015).

Micah Merrick suggests on his website to think about an MBA not as an investment (for which a positive payoff is implied) but rather as a gamble. He suggests that the majority of jobs do not require an MBA, and that doing an MBA actually limits your employment options because a top school will often charge in excess of $230,000 over two years. As a result, many people who went into an MBA wanting to do volunteer work or entrepreneurship ended up in consulting to pay off their debts. Finally, he argues that the only situations in which an MBA may pay off are if you are going into banking or consulting, or are planning to switch careers or have your MBA sponsored by your employer. 

Micah Merrick graduated from the Wharton School of Business in 2009. He initially went in with entrepreneurial aspirations and performed well in school, but ultimately regretted the experience despite graduating from a business school that is widely considered to be among the top three. His advice, based on his own experiences, reveals the uglier side of the business school story and highlights the severe tradeoffs one must pay to attend a top school.

Education and University: Why should I add another major to computer science?

I am interested in adding one of two majors to computer science: physics or statistics. Statistics in particular, together with computer science, is generally the background for data science, so this section will investigate what roles are available for physicists and data scientists and what their jobs entail.

Tucker, Laura. "What Can You Do With a Physics Degree?" Top Universities. April 17, 2015. (Accessed November 28, 2015).

Laura Tucker informs in this article about the main career paths for physicists. Research roles and careers in space and astronomy are the occupations which often require at least a master’s degree. On the other hand, energy, engineering, and healthcare physics as well as geophysics are areas which can be entered without graduate training. Other interesting industries that are accessible to physicists are quantitative finance, which makes extensive use of physics-related mathematics, and entertainment industries, in which companies often consult with physicists for sci-fi and science related productions.

Laura Tucker is a journalist for QS Top Universities and frequently publishes articles on their behalf. This article provides a broad, albeit not in-depth, introduction to the possible careers that people with training in physics, and also reveals the value of graduate degrees in the field.

Holtz, Dave. "8 Skills You Need to Be a Data Scientist | Udacity." Udacity. November 7, 2014. (Accessed November 28, 2015).

Dave Holtz notes that data science is a blanket job title that describes four drastically different jobs:

1) Data analyst roles, good first jobs which involve pulling out data from databases, organizing them, and creating simple visualizations

2) “Please wrangle our data!” which is about setting up the initial data infrastructure and conducting simple analysis for a company which is rapidly scaling

3) Data science jobs in companies where data is the product, which require more academic qualifications

4) Data-driven companies which do not have data as their product. These require a more generalist skillset and flexible problem solving.

Also, he argues that you should have 8 core data skills to acquire a job in the field: basic programming languages and tools, basic statistics, machine learning, multivariable calculus and linear algebra, data munging (dealing with imperfections), data visualization and communication, software engineering, and a data-driven thought process. 

Dave Holtz is a data scientist currently working at AirBnB. This article is published on the public blog of Udacity, an online education startup which collaborates closely with leading technology companies to create and offer online courses. His article provides an experience-informed overview of the data science industry and the skills necessary to enter it.

Professional: How to Network effectively

A network has never been as important and as build-able as today, with digital technologies such as LinkedIn connecting many professionals across the globe. This section will investigate how to network effectively, both in physical events and online.

Daum, Kevin. "20 Critical Dos and Don'ts of LinkedIn Networking." October 25, 2013. (Accessed November 30, 2015).

Kevin Daum gives 20 pieces of advice for networking on LinkedIn in this valuable article. Several of the more meaningful pieces of advice include: treat your profile as your professional brochure, don’t tout connections that you don’t really know, be active in discussions in a way that adds value to it, craft thoughtful and personal messages when connecting with others, reach out and connect after figuring out how to bring reciprocal value, write meaningful recommendations for people, and don’t treat LinkedIn as a daily chore since it is one of the best networking platforms and it is right in front of you.

Kevin Daum is an Inc. 500 entrepreneur with more than $1 billion in his marketing and sales record, and this article is published in Inc., a New-York based magazine which publishes an annual list of 500 rapidly growing U.S. based companies. While some of his 20 tips may seem to be common-sense, there are also a few gems mixed in, and the advice presents a good introduction to online networking with the most used digital networking platform today.

Brustein, Darrah. "17 Tips to Survive Your Next Networking Event." Forbes. July 22, 2014. (Accessed December 5, 2015).

This article provides a series of tips on how to succeed in physical networking events. Some of the tips provided include being yourself if you want to keep long-term connections, setting reasonable expectations, not spreading yourself too thin and instead spending quality time in a few meaningful interactions, to not be afraid of joining in, and to treat connecting as a puzzle to be solved.

Darrah Brustein is a writer on Forbes and the founder of Network under 40, a networking organization aimed at promoting networking among young professionals. While the tips provided by this article are by no means ground-breaking, it provides a good set of general practices for networking at events. In particular, I will be keeping the ‘quality over quantity’ tip in mind for the next event I attend. 

Professional: How-to-Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship and start-ups are exploding today. With the internet providing the most powerful product distribution platform in the history of mankind, small companies can now outmaneuver their larger and more established counterparts with agile practices. This section will investigate what advice Paul Graham, a leading figure in the startup space, has to offer for entrepreneurial individuals.

Graham, Paul. "How to Start a Startup." How to Start a Startup. March 1, 2005. (Accessed November 23, 2015).

Paul Graham argues that an extraordinary idea is not necessary to build a successful startup, and that just three things are needed; to start with good people, to make something customers actually want, and to spend as little money as possible. What he recommends for idea generation is to observe other what other people are trying to do and doing it in a way that, in his words, “does not suck”. Ultimately, ideas are merely a starting point, and have little value without the ability to execute on said ideas – what matters are not ideas, but the people who have them.

Graham received his PhD in Computer Science from Harvard before beginning his own startup and later co-founding tech accelerator Y Combinator. Y Combinator is widely considered to be the world's most successful accelerator, with companies such as DropBox, Reddit and AirBnB once under their mentorship. Graham has more experience working with early-stage startups than perhaps anybody else in the world, and the advice he gives both exposes the reader to the current state of the technology industry and provides valuable insights for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Graham, Paul. "Why to Not Not Start a Startup." Why to Not Not Start a Startup. March 1, 2007. (Accessed December 5, 2015).

Paul Graham explains in this essay sixteen detailed reasons why people choose not to start startups. Some reasons, such as having a family to support or not having a co-founder, are perfectly legitimate. Many others, such as having no concept idea for a startup or not having business knowledge are fallacies and can easily be overcome.

Paul Graham provides sixteen gems in this article about the factors that affect startups as well as the rationale behind starting them. I personally find this to be the most insightful of the eight articles on this page, and enjoy the experience-driven explanations and interesting analogies made in the essay, such as comparing leaving a traditional job to pursue a startup to leaving one’s plot of farmland to go to the city just two hundred years ago.