Saturday, November 17, 2007

More On The MBA Sausage Factory

As I've mentioned before, I recently enrolled in an evenings-and-weekends MBA program focusing on technology management. One of the outstanding questions which remains to be answered is whether this is an actual academic program or just a really high-end diploma mill. The program recently had its welcome reception; based on my experience there I'm not impressed. If the reception was representative of what I can expect from the rest of the program then I fear that I'm in for a couple of years of hell.

Why would I put myself through that? Let me explain my motivations for attending this program, just so you know where I'm coming from. I'm an engineer, a fairly senior one, but not particularly a technophile. Unlike some of my colleagues I don't have a server room in my house; I work enough with computers during the day, why would I want to go home and work on them some more? At any rate, I'm looking to get out of the field and into a position that doesn't require plugging things into other things so much. I fear that I've hit a plateau of sorts and won't be able to progress without having someone stamp "MBA" on my resumé. As long as I'm putting in the time I'd like to get a useful education in the bargain, but I'm more interested in the letters. So that's where I stand, which will hopefully make the remainder of my writing on the subject more intelligible.

As I said, so far I'm not really impressed. One of the indignities of the particular program in which I've enrolled is that you get assigned to a small group that going to be with you for the duration of your tenure. Ostensibly the ability to rub along with a bunch of other people and get work done is a prime requirement for being successful in business, but I remain skeptical of the concept as a whole. I've worked in such environments before and thus feel qualified to make the following observations:

  • Getting along with others is something you learn in kindergarten. If you haven't picked it up by now you're pretty much screwed.
  • Successful teams are as much a matter of personal chemistry as anything else.
  • Group work allows the dull and lazy to take advantage of the non-dull and non-lazy.
I generally think that people should rise and fall on their own merits. One of the benefits of my current position is that I work autonomously; everyone knows who's responsible for my success and whose fault it is when things get fucked up. But the whole "small group" thing seems to be the trend in business schools these days, so I'm just going to have to suck it up.

But there's still the issue of personal chemistry (or lack thereof). I had to fill out a brief, online questionnaire about work habits/style which was then used as the basis for assigning me to a group. As far as I'm concerned that particular process was an abject failure. I've got exactly 0 chemistry with most of the people in my group. I mean, they seem reasonably intelligent, but they're sort of a dull grey; trying to engage them in conversation was painful, awkward, and futile. I'm obviously a biased observer and, being a computer guy, subject to all sorts of speculation about my own interpersonal skills. But my wife, who's quite the social butterfly, felt the same way; there really wasn't much intellectual curiosity on display.

That's going to be a problem if its endemic across the entire program. It's not important to me that people understand the difference between "modern" and "Modern", but they should at least be interested in the distinction. But I'm also becoming slightly concerned about the general rigor of the program. We received our "stats for business types" textbook at the reception and its not particularly challenging. There's a section on using the Intarweb for research, which definitely doesn't belong in a stats text, and it looks like linear regression is the most advanced topic covered. Which would all be fine and dandy if they just wanted us to have the text as a reference, but they're going to be holding a 2- or 3-day class on the subject. It's a little distressing that they don't expect people to have at least a minimal grasp of stats before entering the program.

Anyway, more to come. I'm going to go to the stats thing so I look like a team player; updates as events warrant.

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