Relevance of MBA degree – An open letter to Elon Musk, Sheryl Sandberg, Scott Cook and Mark Cuban
I happened to come across this video (https://www.facebook.com/TheBornRealist/videos/1134331346717582/) on a friend’s timeline on Facebook. I am an IT professional with 13 years of work experience. I have worked on projects of several European multinational companies in the past. I worked for 10 years before I headed out to take up a one year international MBA program. I have not been able to find proper employment after completing my MBA though I did work for an international startup company and IBM for a short time. In the video all of you have made broad assumptions about why MBA degree is no longer valid so I thought of breaking down the current scenario and provide you with a clearer picture.
Mr. Musk, you are absolutely correct that MBA programs do not teach anyone to become entrepreneurial and start companies. A true example of this is of Rownaq Singh, the founder of Apollo Tyres in India. The story goes that as a kid with little or no education, he was working in a car repair shop when one day a new car came for repair. They did not have the spare parts for the particular car model so Rownaq cycled all the way to the next town to buy them. He made his first profit there and that’s how he gradually learned the trade and built up a tyre manufacturing company. But he had two challengers to contend with; Dunlop and MRF. So he went to the best business schools in India, put together a team and gave them the task of taking Apollo Tyres beyond Dunlop and MRF. In 3 years’ time, Dunlop and MRF stopped manufacturing tyres and handed over their entire tyre manufacturing operations to Apollo Tyres. Rownaq Singh did not need MBA grads to start his company. He needed them to make Apollo Tyres the best tyre manufacturing company in India. Entrepreneurship is about taking risks and no one would understand this better than you. MBA programs teach people to understand and how to mitigate risks. This is similar to managing a financial portfolio. To succeed in business, risk taking has to be balanced by risk mitigation. The common understanding is that A graders from MBA programs become excellent employees, B graders become Consultants and C graders become entrepreneurs and they are the ones who end up hiring the A graders. So here you go. Moreover 90% of MBA grads are not using their education in their current jobs because they are not getting the right opportunities and are forced to work in whatever jobs come their way to support themselves and their families and to offload the burden of their educational loans.
Ms. Sandberg and Mr. Cook, both of you are correct when you say MBA does not add value to the tech industry. The companies that you represent, what do your products essentially do? Nothing except manage the data of people and products and the information people exchange. I use Facebook only for news and informational articles because I have shunned mainstream media completely. Truly happy people are busy in the lives doing the things that make them happy and they have no time or interest in putting up and updating their own information on social media. The curse is in the fact that because of the way your companies have been positioned in the market, MBA grads fall for the dime and charm and aspire to work for your companies. What is there for MBA grads to do in your companies? By the way, what do you mean when you say tech industry? Tech industry makes software tools and provide services to run and improve business, just like a blacksmith makes tools and a mason uses them in the construction of office buildings. Just because the money involved is huge, tech has become an industry just like a NBA or a La Liga or an IPL. Otherwise every single game in the world would have had a similarly big league and every profession would have been an industry like the tech industry. I learnt enough about business environments from tech jobs in 10 years, so I took up the MBA program to move away from the tech industry. The MBA grads you are coming across are the ones who just want better jobs and are willing to work in any job roles as long as they are employed by the top companies and get tons of money and fancy lives. And yes, they would need to be retrained. The top companies have created an illusionary system of top business schools by hiring MBA grads consistently from some of them. Its because your companies do such skewed hiring that people blindly enroll to these colleges and when these grads, blinded by money and fame coming out from such a system are dying to work on anything in your companies, why would you have value for their MBAs?
Mr. Cuban, during my MBA orientation class, the professor told us that a degree from a better college would help people get jobs faster. I disagreed. A degree from a better college would only help me get to the interview room door faster. During the interview, irrespective of what colleges people are coming from, everyone has to prove their worth to be employed. The problem is with MBA grads aspiring to work for successful companies when they should be aspiring to work and make companies successful. During the MBA program, we were told not to expect miracles with jobs after our course. We were told to go back to our respective industries and then figure out our way from there.
I have been consistently facing the problem of getting work permits to work in any of the countries outside India over the years and an international MBA degree does not have much value in the Indian job market. I have switched over to supporting and mentoring startup companies in the Engineering college incubators in my state. I am also helping my parents enter the food business. Engineering degrees are intended to sharpen analytical skills and makes people problem solvers in their respective areas. MBA degrees sharpen business understanding skills and help people become problem solvers at the business level. Why is MBA a master’s degree? Because it requires people with a certain level of maturity, understanding of the world and the business environments and work experience to become successful after the course. At your levels, you shouldn’t be making such broad statements without enough analysis and understanding as it would demotivate and derail people who look at you for inspiration and are aspiring for greater success in their lives.