среда, 2 ноября 2011 г.

Anna Puzey, SKOLKOVO: “Studying turned out to be harder than work”

Former marketing director for Arbat Capital, and now a student of the third intake of SKOLKOVO MBA programme, is sharing her impressions after two months of studies.

8 weeks have passed since I started my SKOLKOVO studies. Since then I have heard 6 courses, solved around 60 cases and passed 10 exams; two times a week we have met businessmen of Dmitry Grishin’s level (Mail.ru Group); I had a picture with Medvedev (my mom is pleased now); and I learned some basics of Chinese (the Russian part of our group is studying Chinese).

The only thing is that it all turned out a bit different than I expected. That’s why I will try to dispel some myths here again, this time about MBAs, basing on my SKOLKOVO experience, and also to give some advice to those who are choosing a programme for themselves now.

Studying turned out to be harder than work

When I was preparing to my GMAT exam, I thought that scoring 710 at it is the hardest thing about the whole MBA idea. As one of my classmates at pre-MBA courses told, “The thing is to get yourself into it, and then we’ll see”. Well, I’m afraid to disappoint some of you who are not really ready to stick to some intellectual labor – but here is the picture of my study materials for two weeks. Actually, all the first months at SKOLKOVO are pretty intense; this is done to prepare the students for corporate projects (all in all we are to pass through 6 projects).

Aren’t you scared? Then here is the spread of my study book.

So this is like SKOLKOVO study books look like.

It is impossible to manage to do everything, even if you don’t sleep at all (trust me, we have counted that). This is how they teach us here at the MBA programme to set priorities. All I all, full time MBA turned out to be not like a vacation at a 5-star hotel with a glass of wine and SPA in the evenings. SKOLKOVO student’s working week lasts from 9 a.m. (and sometimes from 8.30 a.m.) till 8 p.m. with a one-hour lunch break. Here we have 8 hours of studies, lectures by guest speakers (Russian business elite), tests/exams, plus homework.

Our student initiatives of the first days, like Art Club, Sport Club, GR Club, or Volunteer Club, are forgotten; the only one left is the Entrepreneurship Club. At the same time, we have made a “full-scale study” of a student’s schedule of some other MBA programmes, and have calculated that a very busy day of a student at any of the “academic” MBA programmes consists of 5 course hours plus couple of business cases as a home task.

Negative cash flow vs. Freedom

Some words about the money issue. To tell you the truth, I was really scared to give up positive cash flow; it seemed that the quality of my life should go down. Well, I do spend much less now, and my main costs are taxi and food, but there is no feeling that I deprive myself of something. It is the attitude toward shopping-therapy that changed: I see now that most of the things I can buy are unnecessary, and prefer to spend my free time on communication with interesting people, education and other new activities. All in all, my life has changed a lot, and, it seems, for the better.

It’s better to pay yourself for an MBA, instead of studying on your company’s charge

Greed is the best motivation for work. Self-discipline is a real issue for me, but having paid for my expensive programme myself I was surprised to discover a responsible student in me who says “NO” to all the temptations of Moscow and studies hard. Well, greed is not working all the time, but the thought that you have invested your own money in yourself makes you work hard to make this investment attractive. So I am using my greed to fight my laziness, and it really helps.

One “oligarch” is better than ten

SKOLKOVO gives a lot of networking opportunities, which we even don’t have time to use, and actually it is not always clear how to use them. Before our meeting with the President, we were “killing time” together with ten school’s founders, listed on the Forbes list. They answered our questions, and it was a bit boring, whereas the model “one founder and the students” worked much better, and here we managed to talk to the speaker on some interesting topics.

After the 60-th case you will be tired by “Learning by case-studies” principle

Do you know that 2/3 of American MBA-schools’ enrollment fell down compared to the previous years? (Source: The Economist, Oct. 2011.) Finally people started questioning the 2-year case study based model of an MBA programme. After you have solved 50 cases, it becomes clear that such a “dry meal” is not enough for you for these two years: it is too boring, and (which is the biggest MBA secret) you forget it all in a month’s time without real practice. As for me, case studies let me relax: you have all the data at your hand and this is just an analytical task. Real projects are a different story, for example having real business with a real company, say, in China. That’s why my advice is not to concentrate on the school’s name and high GMAT scores; choose the programme carefully, you will live in it for 1.5 – 2 years. If you miss fundamental academic studies – you should go to a school of one type; if you are looking for networking – of another; if you seek practice doing real projects – choose the third one. I advise you to honestly answer yourself, what you need an MBA for.

All in all, the time is different now. And, as one of our professors says, “You should not look outside the box; you should create a new box”. So don’t be afraid to try new educational models, and do take risk! In any case, it can’t make it worse.

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