Why an MBA and why now?


The MBA is, for me, not an end in itself, but a means to an end. I regard it as a degree which enables me to develop my career to its fullest potential, from a specialist position to an entrepreneurial role in my field of expertise, by gaining from the MBA's main value proposition in terms of general business knowledge and skills, networks, and brand.

After having developed in my role as a specialist for the last 4-5 years, I took a step back to think about my professional development to date and what I wanted to achieve next. The bottom line was that I loved my specialist area and I wanted to stay in the industry. Moreover, I felt I could and would like to contribute to the way the business ran.

At that point, I knew well my expertise area, which was the core competency of the business and I had a good knowledge of the products we were selling. Moreover, I was aware of what the competitors' approach was in the field and I had a clear idea of how we could strengthen our competitive advantage on the market.

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Although I communicated my improvement ideas to the management, the reaction was reserved. The reasons for that are manifold. One of the reasons was the risk adversity of the management, proven repeatedly by its refuse to even implement changes which were generally perceived as necessary. The explanation given to me was that the implementation of my ideas would involve a certain risk the business was not prepared to take. Moreover, the organizational culture was not one that encouraged improvement ideas coming from non-managers. And so, an unspoken reason might have been that I was perceived as a specialist and the kind of suggestions I was bringing about were of a rather strategic nature concerning the repositioning of a product on the market. Not having business or managerial experience I was lacking credibility in front of the management. Furthermore, my personal assumption is that the fact that I am lacking the business jargon contributed to me not being convincing enough and able to transport the feeling that we were speaking the same language.

Having the confidence in my proposals and their clear benefits once put in practice and being passionate about my job, it felt very frustrating for me to accept that they will never see the daylight. At this stage, I decided that the chance for me to have the freedom to implement my ideas was to start up my own small business.

At this stage, I decided to pursue a MBA as a means for me to facilitate this change.

An MBA has clearly benefits and limitations. I agree that doing an MBA is not "a license to manage" (Mintzberg, 2004) and that "the idea you can parachute in and manage anything is absolute nonsense" (Mintzberg, 2005) because without knowing the industry you are in, your products, customers and competitors it is hard to make the right decisions. The MBA cannot substitute this kind of knowledge which is gained through direct experience. Moreover, being a manager implies managing people which is a competence which can be gain though experience. From this point of view, I think that "a manager cannot be created in a classroom" (Mintzberg, 2007). The MBA can be helpful in terms of seeding some ideas about how to communicate effectively and motivate people, but cannot replace the learning on the spot. Why?  

Although, having a BSc and MSc in my field of specialism and a good knowledge of the business sector, suppliers, potential customers, and competitors which I gained during my work experience, makes me confident in my capabilities as a specialist, in terms of my capacity to manage people I am "a black box" even for myself. I intend to stay receptive to helpful ideas I might get during the MBA regarding the things to know when managing people. However, I think I will only be able to realistically get an idea of my strengths and weaknesses in managing people when I will be actually exercising this role. Only then I can start to learn how to correct potential weaknesses.

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Being a good specialist and knowing the market I want to enter are my strengths. Nevertheless, what I need in order to manage successfully my business is a portfolio of general business management skills. The skills set I need to develop during the MBA include the "hard skills" of economics, finance, accounting, and marketing as well as the "soft skills " of being proficient in business English and being able to deliver a convincing presentation.

To manage my business successfully, I need, for instance, the capacity to identify macroeconomic trends which can translate into market threats or opportunities for the business. To me, it is of equal importance to understand the microeconomic workings of the business in order to be able to elaborate a proper response reaction to the macroeconomic market trends as to maximize profit or minimize loss. For example, having recognized a trend in increasing demand for certain products my business would supply on the market, I would be facing the decision to adjust the supply. But, how much to increase production? At what price in order to maximize profit and taking into account the given cost structure? During the MBA, I aim at developing macro- and microeconomic analytic tools to be able to make adequate decisions in such contexts.

Facing the need to raise capital, to support or extend operations in order to meet a higher demand, for instance, I would have to take financial decision. What are the sources of financing a business? Shall I borrow the needed capital or rather invest in a portfolio of shares? Or rather in bonds? How shall I assess the riskiness of different investment projects? What is the value of money in financial terms? At the end of the MBA I expect to be able to answer these questions so that I can take informed financial decision.

A business can adopt a reactive market behavior by trying to identify trends in demand and adjust its supply. However, a business can choose instead to actively create needs and demand for its products. Whether we follow or anticipate demand, we make use of marketing strategies with the main goal to obtain, grow and retain customers. This is why, my objective is to gain a solid understanding of how organizations can capture insights into buyer behavior and how to develop integrated marketing strategy, including segmentation, positioning, distribution, partnerships and branding.

Although I believe that the hard skills are crucial in succeeding in business, being a successful entrepreneur is not only about being the sharpest financial analyst or the best marketing strategist. There are particular soft skills which I need to train during the MBA, such as business English and presentation skills. Being proficient in business English is important in my business sector because many potential suppliers and customers are located abroad. This is why, to improve my business communication skills in English, I chose a MBA program in UK. Additionally, I will need to introduce convincingly my new business to potential suppliers, business customers, and partners. To be able to do that, it is critical to hone my presentation skills.

When planning to start a new business, a particularly important benefit of doing an MBA degree program is that it offers access to a network of MBA students and alumni with managerial and professional experience. Meeting new people during the MBA, one of the most common questions is what your profession is. This is a chance for me to introduce my business plan. This network can be very useful in terms of building business relationships. Some colleagues might find the business plan interesting and might be willing to invest in the business, become business partners, suppliers, or clients. Simply having them spreading the word about what I do can be beneficial in terms of potentially developing my client base.

MBA programs often recruit students from countries all around the world. If I will ever need a supplier or I want to enter the market of a certain country with a product, I may want to get in contact with MBA colleagues from abroad. Even if they might not be interested in playing a direct role in the business, they can introduce me to other people who may be interested in the business, such as their business partners, colleagues, and friends.

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Particular MBA programs are recognized brands that can help open doors by enhancing your personal branding. Starting a new business, I must build up its reputation. One way of building up reputation for my business is through my academic credentials. Therefore, choosing a reputational MBA program would contribute to my credibility as a business specialist which would positively reflect on the image of the business. How??!!

The idea of transfer of the hard skills in practice since I have only classroom experience

It was a choice, it is a challenge, and I hope to be a chance