054: MBA - Intro

Season Two Jan 4, 2021

Curious what people learn in b-school?

You've come to the right place!

Over several episodes, I'll discuss some of what I learned at MIT-Sloan*. Expect useful takeaways, curated links, and academic theory. Zero tuition required.

* Opinions and perspectives are my own

This series will aim to demystify the MBA experience and explore how some business ideas have applicability beyond the business world.

Maybe you've kicked around the idea of making a career shift, and you've heard that people go to b-school to do that. Or maybe you just want to decipher more office jargon?

Either way, I think everyone should have access to this knowledge: Finance, operations, negotiation, org design, pricing etc. These subjects are broadly relevant, no matter your profession.

We'll explore concepts like throughput, time value of money, and ZOPA.

I promise they're more intuitive and transferable than they sound 😬

Some things people say

"You must know how to invest / make money / sell."
"Untethered capitalism is destroying the world."
"Can't you learn everything online now for free?"

All valid and relevant perspectives.

Still, none feel exactly right.

Overall, my experience was challenging (intimidating) and valuable. I met smart, hardworking people from around the globe. Some of them became friends, and Fire Jar collaborators. It was a positive experience, with some surprises.

Why MBA?

I wanted to rapidly gain tools for a new career direction, broaden my networks and experiences, and venture outside of my comfort zone.

As an undergrad, I struggled through Econ 101. At 19, philosophy and art and soccer and the radio station and student dance shows were all far more interesting to me than monetary policy or demand curves. I felt most comfortable with movement and creative matters.

Later, I worked at a personal training studio, product design firm, arts non-profits etc. I saw that people could do great work - but an organization still might struggle. I didn't have language yet to explain why. Parts of the world seemed out of reach.

At the same time, the internet was changing everything. I wanted to add quantitative skills and fill liberal arts gaps. Massive economic shifts were afoot.

After (and during) Sloan, I did Product Marketing for two SaaS companies. I left my last job to join a small video agency and do freelance marketing and design.

What do MBA students learn?

  • Always refer to "pivots" and "innovation"
  • Show charts that go up and to the right*
  • Support every claim using exactly three points

* And if they don't, just reverse one axis  📈


My (real) view of b-school is that it teaches a way of thinking about systems:

🔬   Decompose problems into component parts
⚙️   Apply logic to common organizational issues
📊   Maximize specific objectives

It's a useful way of thinking. But it can also come with blinders.

Some things can't be categorized or neatly reduced. Organizations are run by humans, who are shaped by relationships, narrative, and serendipity. And there are many legitimate objectives beyond profit optimization or efficiency.

MBA experiences also vary widely, as students prioritize totally different things.

For me, the value has already revealed itself in surprising ways. I expect more to emerge over time.

"Should I go to business school?"

People ask me this often.

My typical answer = It depends.

Next steps

The series will unfold over a few months.

Exact topics and order TBD.
What would you like to see next?

Send feedback!
Email Jeremy



Want to learn more? 👇

MBA - The Fire Jar
Business insights. Limited-ish jargon.

058: Operations (I)
What exactly is “Operations”? Why it matters.
063: Team Dynamics
A quick summary of “The Four Player Model”.
052: Negotiation (I)
Ten negotiation tips. Sales insights from a friend. And a short story.