Most of my former classmates are going back to school in the fall, many of them as candidates for JDs and PhDs, and I’m a little jealous.
Why? School is great! It’s a self-centered universe. You work for yourself and set your own schedule. No one tells you what to do, everyone wants to give you advice and you get to read and write all day. Sounds like heaven.
But at the same time, I’m not jealous. School is expensive and takes you out of the workforce for at least two years. While clerkships and internships are part and parcel of graduate school, it does delay a significant piece of professional growth.
How do I know? I’ve been at MongoDB for over 2 years and had the chance to be part of a real success story: a company with significant growth and transformation. That’s an opportunity you cannot pay for but is uniquely rewarding. When I walked in the door at 134 5th avenue in November 2011, I knew absolutely nothing about everything. I didn’t know anything about user acquisition, event planning, budget modeling or designing compelling presentations. I didn’t know how to apply tenants of experimental design to campaigns and I definitely didn’t know how to manage a team or run meetings.
Two years later and I’m not an expert, but I guarantee that my two years at MongoDB have given me a more practical education than an MBA. When I joined in 2011, we were just over 60 people, and while the marketing team was quite big — there were 8 of us and an outsourced PR team– it was all hands in all the time. We moved very fast, which meant everyone got their hands dirty with a fair balance of grunt work and strategic planning. I’d say the only terrible thing about being at such a rapidly growing company is that sometimes you let an amazing growth opportunity slip through your fingers at just the right time–but there were so many, you ended up catching one a few moments later!
While there are definite gaps in my knowledge– I don’t know much about project and people management, but I’m learning on the job– I do think that I am a better candidate for any job or business school now that I’ve gotten what I call my MongoDB MBA: an education that came with a salary!
I’ve spoken about this with a number of young professionals who want to go to business school and a number of my friends who keep urging me to take a standardized test and plan a path for my own future. So instead of doing anything productive, I’m going to start sharing everything I’ve learned at MongoDB that I could have learned at Business School — if I had gone at age 23 which is when I started at MongoDB.
I ersonally don’t find anything wrong with business school. In fact, I’d like to go at some point once working at MongoDB stops being such a rewarding experience. At the same time, I don’t think I would get nearly as much value out of being in school for 2 years as I have gotten out of my two years at MongoDB. So I urge you, think twice before locking away your career. You could always get an opportunity at a startup and get a second chance at a free MBA. More importantly, I think my experience working at MongoDB can show you how you can get the same growth in unlikely places–especially outside of a school.
So stay tuned. Next Tuesday I’ll be sharing the marketing fundamentals in our first session of the MongoDB MBA.