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The Berkeley MBA

As I’ve hinted at over the past six months, today I’m going to be starting the MBA program at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. This is quite a turn of events for me as I remember walking past the newly-constructed Haas building when I was an undergrad at Cal and thumbing my Engineering-snobbery nose at the whole idea of business school. There’s a whole set of things I could probably write about what got me to this point, but the truth is that most of the people who are in the same mind-set I was in still wouldn’t get it…guess I need to do a better job of marketing on that one. 😛

So what am I excited about? Pretty much everything. We had a mandatory weekend orientation down at the lovely Berkeley Marina Conference Center (sic) and while there was little actual class content it offered a great chance to get to know your fellow students. They say business school is all about the contacts you make but I’ve realized that’s true of every curriculum you take. The failed logic of anyone who claims you can get all the B-school education by simply reading the right set of books is that true learning comes from analyzing and discussing those books with other people. True learning comes from constructive analysis and then applying what you’ve read. Like in Good Will Hunting, “you can tell me anything you can read in a library, but you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel” (it smells like sweat).

Our event this weekend was obstinsively about “practicing our networking skills”, but I liken it more to speed dating, where you’re moving around in a large crowd and quickly sizing everyone up to see who you might click with. Finding classmates you are compatible with is critical for this, because so much of our work will be in small groups, and those are the activities where you will really make some life-long friends. Don’t laugh, my current company’s CEO and SVP Marketing met on their first day at Harvard and make an indomitable team to this day.

I have to add to this a plug the incredible level of customer service that the Haas school provides. My undergrad experience at Cal was an exercise in Darwinism, with little to no help from the staff to assist my educational efforts. The B-school staff is all about customer service (which makes sense with the ridiculous amount of money we’re paying), and there are some extremely valuable services I’ll be using today such as top-notch career coaching and positioning tools, and into the future such as an ongoing alumni services program for business research projects, as well as access to the extensive Haas alumni network.

So once more into the breech, work 40+ hours per week, commute on BART two hours a day, and 8-20 hours of classroom and coursework each week. Some people would say that having Alexis off on a remote dig makes it easier for me to concentrate during the week, but my biggest worry is that I’m just going to end up losing the few weekends we do get to see her to exhaustion for the next few months…

(And just to clarify, I’m going to be doing the Evening program, two nights a week for three years. This is a full MBA curriculum, not the hyper-accelerated “Berkeley/Columbia Executive MBA” program. Some people would call my curriculum “part time”, but since we’re all working at least full time and then attending school/doing projects at night I prefer to call it the “overtime” program.)

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The Josh Kaufman “Personal MBA” Program

A friend of mine pointed me at this during a recent discussion about business school. I don’t necessarily agree with his views on the value of the program, but he does present a good list of books.

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I was pointed at Paul Graham’s latest online essay through a number of different sources, and I finally got around to finishing it. The funny thing is, it’s based on a talk he gave at a UC Berkeley CS group that I really wanted to attend, but couldn’t carve out the time.

Its good, read it. I don’t really have a lot to add that he didn’t already say.

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