Over the Racetracks to Boardrooms series we have explored “between the lines” of my MBA journey, how I went from trackside at Formula 1 races to inside Boardrooms as a Management Consultant, whether my MBA helped, and ‘was it all worth it?’.
Was it worth it?
Toward the end of my program some of the comments that echoed through the halls were: “what now?”; “was it worth it?”; “I can’t remember what I used to do with my spare time”; “I’m going to the cinema, don’t call me”; “I’m going to spend time with my kids, don’t call me”; “I’m renovating my house”; and “I’m going to get married”.
A common theme was questioning ourselves and re-prioritising time. Sound familiar?
Have a go
Many of my friends typify what I believe is one of the great outcomes of our experience and perhaps just an Aussie attitude in general, “have a go”.
When I think about what some of my friends have gone on to do I am inspired and so happy. From corporate to education, medical and pharmaceuticals, online, sport and everything in between. Some have taken on more studies such as a Juris Doctor or Masters of Marketing. I think they must enjoy pain.
Some have gone onto start their own ventures. Others have built on their industry or organisation experience to be promoted or to make moves within their industry that challenge the status quo.
Not everyone has made a shift. I think many are taking a chance to stop and breath.
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Below are just a few examples of what some of my friends have been up to.
Abi, who was a part of my Shanghai subject team, made a switch from a financial role in the energy sector to a strategy role at a very well-known online company.
Bianca, is an educator and has taught students all over the world including in some of the most remote communities in Australia. Bianca has moved into a senior role within private education and continues to push innovative ways of learning that keep pace with the way society is changing. As if that doesn’t keep her busy enough, she is also a Board member for a not-for-profit focused on supporting remote and indigenous boarding facilities to offer the best care and high-quality student experience.
Clare has always impressed me, right back to our economics class – sitting in the back of the lecture theatre one night, Clare turned to me and said, “I’ve had enough of work, I’m going to start my own thing”
Boy, did she ever. Since that evening some three years ago, she has built a medical practice that now employs around fifteen staff and has recently opened a new clinic. Pure grit and determination. Clare also played the very important role of social gatherer, making sure our class took time out each year to catch up over a drink or BBQ.
From a career that spanned professional sports player to running restaurants, Joel made the move back to the Northern Territory to strategically develop Australian rules football in one of the most unique environments in the world. Joel has always been a great mentor for me and actually came up with the name for one of my businesses. I continue to bounce thoughts off him to this day.
Kisaku, is the social enterprise that Lenny (a friend who did the full-time version of our program) and her co-founder (one of Lenny’s MBA friends) started. Kisaku promotes modern heritage-infused fashion and home decor collections made by Indonesian artisans. Lenny and her co-founder believe in giving a ‘hand up’ instead of a handout and so part of Kisaku’s profits are set aside to form a micro education loan, allowing the artisans to upskill and remain competitive. The business allows Lenny and her co-founder an avenue to ‘pay it forward’ after being “lucky to have met so many wonderful people throughout their course and work lives”.
Linzie switched from the superannuation sector in a finance focused role, to the pharmaceuticals industry managing a portfolio of strategic projects during our program. I recall heading out for a late-night coffee on Lygon Street with Linzie during our program. We ordered our drinks, Linzie ordered an additional hot chocolate and delivered it to a gentleman on the street who was asking for some spare change. Never one to turn a blind eye to those in need, she has since gone onto developing social enterprises. Linzie was even my landlord at one point!
Steph, always the socially conscious kind moved into an innovation focused role and company. Annually the company is part of a judging panel for industry innovation awards. Steph was one of the crazies that did a half marathon with me.
Back over in Finland, Petra from my exchange term, is heading up a start-up that provides an online medical platform for patients with cancer to communicate with their Doctors. This eradicates manual files and provides a triage system so that bottlenecks and wait-lists are reduced, meaning those who are most in need receive the attention they need.
Nick and Jenn, my friends from Kellogg School of Management who did exchange in Australia, now live in Singapore. One of them works at a world-renowned technology company and the other at an equally giant player in the phone market. We also welcomed their new baby to the world recently!
So, funny enough my program ended much the same way it started on that very first orientation day, with the realisation that all kinds are drawn to an MBA.
Then and now
The world looks a little different to when I started. I completed by program between 2012 – 2016.
In 2012, the world lost singer Whitney Houston. News of her passing broke on Twitter, 27 minutes before the press covered the story. The “Kony 2012” campaign went “viral”; Kim Jong-un was appointed leader of North Korea; and Julia Gillard was the Prime Minister of Australia.
In 2016, North Korea, defying the United Nations , launched a long-range rocket with a satellite into space; Hillary Clinton became the first woman to be nominated to be president by a major U.S. presidential party and was subsequently defeated by Donald Trump who went on to become the 45th President of the United States of America; Britain voted in favour of “Brexit”; and the Prime Minister of Australia was Malcolm Turnbull… after Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott had been in office over the previous four years.
So, a lot can happen in four years and we really have no idea what the world will look like in another four years. This is why I believe a good MBA program is more than just the curriculum. It’s everything between the lines.
Boardrooms to dumbbells
So, was it worth it? In case you haven’t worked out my view, yes it was.
It was tough, but yes it was worth it.
Ultimately the learning never stops. I am venturing back into a space which grabbed my attention even before my program, the start-up and business worlds.
My MBA has given me a strong platform for continued learning, and ways to challenge my thinking. As I learn new methodologies, the foundations remain the same. The alumni community provides a connection and much more – being surrounded by curious and ambitious people who are highly successful in their own pursuits is both inspiring and educational.
For me the ultimate test of theory is to pitch myself against the market. It’s one thing to design great strategy and theorise market position. It is a whole other thing to execute in the market. Hence my ambition in this next chapter of my career is in driving my own business, starting initially back in fitness.
My goal is to gather the learning and experience of the past years and to see whether I can pull it off in the market. As I write, my journey to date has already been full of twists, turns and punches in the face.
Is it going as I scripted? Not really. Has it been tough? Definitely. But that’s the point.
I am not advocating that an MBA is for everyone. I’m not even advocating that everyone who does an MBA will make a career switch, or receive a huge pay rise, or found a billion-dollar start-up.
I think it’s important to keep in mind that everyone has different ambitions.
Not everyone who is attracted to a program like an MBA wants to create a start-up, or be a CEO, or sit on a Board. I think we lose sight of that sometimes when we get caught up in the hysteria of whether it’s worth doing an MBA.
In today’s world, loyalty at a company, a professional degree or multi-million dollar venture capital funding won’t guarantee success.
Nothing in life is guaranteed. Though, there are tools we can arm ourselves with that can turbo charge our journey around that racetrack.
Thanks for joining me “between the lines”, I’m truly grateful. I hope you enjoyed the ride as much as I have, reflected on your own journey and are excited for what’s to come – MBA or not.
Thanks to everyone who has shared their stories with me, I look forward to hearing about the road you take.
About the Author
Aaron Yeak is a highly motivated professional with a passion for business, social entrepreneurship and travel. He completed his MBA at the University of Melbourne’s Melbourne Business School in 2016 and is currently writing a book about his experience. He has extensive professional experience across sports administration, event management, and management consulting, covering fitness, motor sport, retail, energy and utilities, logistics, construction and health care. Aaron believes in the global influence of this generation to create positive change and impact via social enterprise, business and the values of sport.