June 25, 2017 John Tough 0Comment

To most aspiring MBAs, the tradition two year program offers a “reset button” to lateral into an industry outside of the applicants existing career track. And, depending on the target school’s strengths, the majority of applicants are usually aiming for a role within the services, advisory or direct investments field. When looking at the largest employers for the top 10 schools, similar names emerge: large investment banks, large consulting firms, select consumer goods firms and the occasional technology firm.

Most candidates have heard of the prominence and pay upgrades that these careers offer and give up two years of income and shell out around $125,000 for the right to prepare and pivot into one of these industries. Pause for a moment. That is $125,000 in after tax dollars of cost on top of (likely) a few hundred thousand dollars in lost income. So, around a $300,000 investment. Woah.

Everyone has their own unique reason to go to school. Some are even forced to by their firms.

For me, there were three main reasons:
1) The 2007-2009 crash showed me how isolating being strictly a finance professional can be during times of economic underperformance. And those finance professionals that were not balanced with a hint of operations experience and strong networks were the hardest hit. I saw the MBA as a way to expand upon my strong finance base, while simultaneously expanding my network to people in many verticals with many different areas of interest. I recognized that my network within finance was pretty homogenous and I wanted to expand.

2) I had developed the start-ups and growth bug and loved the fact that superior operating advice and financing structure can yield outsized outcomes when paired with the right teams. I knew I was not founder material – as I had way more interest in the strategic levers of growth and the ways to finance different business models to optimize growth & trajectory while limiting the downside. I realized pretty quickly that the start-up market is woefully inefficient as companies balance growth aspirations and capital requirements and my ability to provide insights into growth efficiency from Seed to a growth round was going to be a sustainable differentiator if I could develop those skills.

3) I dedicate 100% of my time to my current efforts. So while many people can spend half-ass a job while they are transitioning, I just don’t have that in my blood. I knew that two dedicated years to developing my skills and network was going to be way more efficient than doing so part-time or outside of my work hours at meet-ups, etc. Quite simply, I forced myself to create time in my calendar and hit a reset button of sorts. May have been an expensive way to do so, but I recognized my weakness.

And so, I took the GMAT (twice) and applied to a couple of schools. I got into Chicago, off the waitlist (woohoo! – found out on the tennis court in Florida, that was nice 🙂 )and from that moment on I started officially expanding upon my career plan that I had detailed in my application essay: to get into the venture industry.