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Should You Get an MBA?

Contributed by Mary Ann Kelly

In the spirit of back-to-school, we decided to examine why people in our industry decide to pursue an MBA. We wanted to find out why they felt it was important, what they hoped to gain and if B-school lived up to their expectations.

I interviewed 3 successful women at ad agencies, in Account, Strategy & Analytics disciplines that opted to return to school while working full-time. (Two even got married at the same time! We’re talking about true ninjas here… high-performance multi-taskers!)

Reasons for pursuing an MBA

The advertising executives we spoke with decided to get an MBA to support a career change. They came to this conclusion after logging 5-10 years in the workforce. Some had a client-side/brand manager role in mind and the cost of entry was an MBA. Another had migrated into advertising from accounting and wanted more formal marketing training. In all cases, they didn’t want future career opportunities to be closed off to them because they didn’t have an MBA.

What are the greatest benefits?

  • Teaches you a structured approach to solving business problems; encourages more rigorous and comprehensive thinking with the end goal of driving business
  • Lends more confidence in responding to challenges in the moment; making decisions more quickly and with facts vs. gut instinct or assumptions
  • Provides improved communication and presentation abilities
  • Trains you to think about things in a more expansive & innovative way, which is not to accept current parameters, but to consider different staffing & financial models

Among their favorite courses were Creativity & Innovation, Advanced Leadership, Business Law, Management Information Systems, and Customer Relationship Marketing. The content in these classes not only helped to build expertise and confidence, but also helped them explore their strengths, weaknesses and tendencies… as a boss, mentor, colleague, employee, etc. The curriculum inspired revelations about career path and goals. Other topics that these students found particularly useful were running successful brainstorms, ideation methods and dialogue creation.


Biggest challenges

  • Time management. Every minute needs to be productive. Procrastination or deliberative time is no longer an option. The most successful students developed a routine that worked for them – e.g. setting aside time each day to focus on school work – and sticking with it.
  • Setting clear expectations with professors and co-workers. As soon as the syllabus was delivered, students let their co-workers know about important presentations and deliverables, and vice versa. The women I spoke with also described different tolerances for class attendance. For the most part, professors could be understanding about business travel and deadlines with advance notice.
  • Clearing the decks. On the theme of setting expectations, sometimes it became necessary to “dig in” at school… meaning that social activities, relationships and otherwise had to take a back seat to studying.

Tune in next week for Part 2: Advice to those considering an MBA

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