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Guest Column

Published on: Nov. 27, 2022, 5:26 p.m.
Myths around business schools
  • An MBA from a top institute is a golden ticket to a high-paying job

By Kunal Chowdhry. The author is CEO, Apollo Singapore Investments

There has been a lot of talk in recent years as to whether Business Schools still have a place in a new world dominated by tech start-ups gone global. Especially since the average full-time MBA lasts two years and, therefore, takes two valuable income-earning years out of the lifespan of a young adult. I had similar thoughts when I was applying to Business School back in 2008 and even had a few pre-conceived notions, which fortunately, were put paid to once I started my MBA! The five most common myths around Business School, in my opinion, are:

• Not everyone at business school is like a character on Shark Tank! I still clearly remember my first few days at Business School, thinking that I would be entering a dog-eat-dog world in which I would be left to my own devices in a highly cut-throat environment. However, I soon realised that an MBA is a highly collaborative programme, since it mirrors the real world and, in the real world, people tend to work in teams to accomplish certain goals. My classmates, by and large, were incredibly helpful and a couple even held exam prep sessions before the final exams to help their fellow classmates struggling with some of the material.

 • An MBA from a top institute is a golden ticket to a high-paying job. There is no doubt that the best companies come to recruit at the campuses of top Business Schools in the country. That being said, it is by no means a guarantee that a student will graduate with a high-paying job. First of all, competition is intense for the best jobs and, second, macro factors also play a huge role. I graduated with my MBA in 2010 in the midst of the global financial crisis and recruitment on campus was down significantly, compared to the previous years.

However, an MBA from a top school does guarantee you a foot in the door at almost any company you wish to work in for the rest of your life. Even today, 12 years out of Business School, more often than not, I am able to secure an interview at almost any company based on my educational credentials. What you do in the interview, however, is down to your skill and experience.

• A business school is all about studying for two years. In my opinion, someone who only studies for two years while at Business School and does nothing else, has wasted the MBA experience. There are three key facets to the Business School experience – academics, career networking and personal development. While there is no doubt that some companies focus on academic as a benchmark for a job offer, in my opinion, the experience you gain by forming close bonds with classmates will prove to be much more valuable in the decades to come.

And, 15-20 years out of B-School, several of your classmates will be CEOs of large corporations and will be much more willing to engage with someone who they formed a close rapport with during the B-School years and who actively stayed in touch in the years that followed.

  • A good entrepreneur knows what he or she does not know and can use B-School to fill those gaps in their knowledge

• Only quants should bother applying to business school. There is a huge fallacy that, if you did the arts in school/college, you are not cut out for B-School because you won’t be able to cope with the high degree of financial/mathematical rigour. This is not at all true as business is about more than just number crunching. It’s about leadership, it’s about marketing, it’s about strategy – courses which don’t require mathematical ability but yet are integral to the success of any business.

Accounting and financial management are much easier to teach than soft skills such as negotiation and leading teams. A successful CEO has to have a gut instinct and this has nothing to do with mathematical ability! Plus, if you are able to clear the entrance exam, you obviously possess the intelligence to ace your way through the MBA programme anyway!

• Entrepreneurs shouldn’t bother applying to business school. While several entrepreneurs founded successful companies directly out of college bypassing B-School, others found their true calling while at B-School. Most good MBA programmes provide an overview of all the functions within a company that a successful entrepreneur will need to understand.

Even if it can be argued that these skills can be learned on the job, several entrepreneurs have found their co-founders in B-School. More importantly, the social networks formed in B-School will be incredibly useful as today’s classmate could be tomorrow’s customer or supplier! A good entrepreneur knows what he or she does not know and can use B-School to fill those gaps in their knowledge. 

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