Friday, December 19, 2008

Value of an MBA, or Continuing Education as a Career Boost pt 2

Yesterday, I noted that earning an advanced degree may or may not be worth the time, cost, and effort. Sadly, I believe that some of my fellow students will soon be disappointed when they discover the limits of their new degrees. That said, those who have planned ahead may find the degree will be well worth the investment.

It’s a fact too often missed, that to bring in the big money you have to give the company good reason to believe that you will produce commensurately higher revenue for the company, thus justifying your high price tag. Therefore, you do not just need to be good enough to do the job, you need to be so good that the people considering you feel that they must have you. An MBA can play an important role in that campaign, provided you learn the things you need to be able to reflect in your resume and interviews, and provided you learn from your studies where you are weakest and strongest.

When I first began my MBA efforts, I mentioned that there are basically two roads you can travel; getting into the best school to which you are accepted, or the best school you can afford, in terms of time as well as money. This decision is critical. In my case, I chose the second course because of my experience and prior education. My Bachelor’s degree is from Baylor University, well known for academic excellence. If not a top-tier school, Baylor is certainly known internationally as a school with solid credentials. Further, I decided to go after an MBA to complement 23 years of work experience, which both limits my ceiling and establishes a floor of positional ability. A top-tier school, say the Chicago School of Business or Stanford, would not be a good fit for me because my resume will not make a top CEO position possible for me. That’s not defeatism; almost no one is truly qualified to be a Fortune 500 CEO, including about one-third of those people who actually became such executives. What I mean, is that an effective job search starts with understanding what you can and should target. A lot of frustration people get in hunting, is that they chase some jobs that they either could not get, or for which they are not a good fit. In my case, my experience is sufficient to apply for a mid-level management position, and the MBA improves the profile both for the management position and in promising executive potential for anyone bringing me on board. That is, multiple talents and a proven track record. The kid with no experience, for him a solid internship would be critical. The MBA buys you a ticket to a lower floor in that case, but if it’s a solid school and you do a job that gets you noticed for the right reasons, it can lead to a fast track that the more experienced managers do not get to experience. On the other hand, a more experienced manager gets work contact sooner with upper management, and if that is done well it can lead to opportunities that the kids won’t see for years.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Worth of an MBA

With the recession likely to be aggravated by the policies of the Obama administration, many people are naturally concerned about not only their jobs, but their long-term prospects as well. Some have asked me, since I am finishing up my work to earn my MBA, what the reason was for earning that degree, and whether I would recommend it for someone trying to move up in a company or improve their income and job security. The answer, like so many times, is ‘that depends …’

MBA, of course, stands for Master of Business Administration, a title which may seem vague to some but which can represent a great deal. The reason that the degree may or may not worth what it takes to earn it, is that you have to do more to use it properly than just have it on your resume. The MBA is an advanced degree, and in most conditions it is expected to be an indicator of advanced position and a complement to advanced experience. If you are just starting out in the world of employment, or if your resume does not already reflect management experience, then the degree will be less valuable as a lever to gain a desirable position. That’s not to say that an MBA does not help you in finding a management position, but in general it is most appreciated when accompanied by evidence that you have done this before.

Inexperienced candidates compensate for that problem in two ways; acceptance to a premier school, or internship at a prominent firm. The problem there, however, is that you are still starting at a relatively low level in the company. Of course, the flip side is also true, that if you go to a less-prominent school but have experience you will be considered for a higher position, but with weaker long-term prospects initially. Or not, depending on the company and how well you do your job. The MBA, then, is a tool, but like all tools you must choose according to what you need to get done what you want.

to be continued

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Money Only Exists In Motion

People are worried about a number of financial crises this year, and there are a variety of suggested responses. Part of the problem, is that each crisis is covered by the media in excruciating detail, which ironically muddles understanding of the causes and available choices. While a specific situation may require in-depth analysis of all the details, the public needs to comprehend the essentials in order to have confidence in the people making the decisions. Basically, what all these crises (mortgage, banking, auto, outsourcing) have in common are the following:

[] Created by response to prior problems
[] Caused in part or made worse by prior government action
[] Primary effect for the public was fear of unemployment or loss of revenue

Similarly, the resolutions of these crises all have similar qualities, specifically the assurance that employment and the continuation of revenue would be protected. That is, that life as we know it will go on.

To some degree, everyone in the modern world is concerned with money, particularly income. To the individual, the first concern is making sure money will come in to pay his needs, and the company or corporation has basically the same worry – make sure they can pay the bills. And this focus reveals the true first law of money – it only really exists when it’s in use, when people are buying and selling goods and services. The Great Depression of the 1930s did not happen merely because of the stock market collapse, or even because of bank failures, nor even because unemployment shot up, but because of the cause of these symptoms and others – the public confidence in the economy collapsed. People stopped spending, which caused businesses to fail, which took down banks and further lowered confidence, repeating the cycle again and again. Regardless of political party or doctrine, the primary focus here is to improve and protect consumer confidence. If the people continue to buy and consume, then the economy continues. If that confidence fails, so does the economy. This is not to say that consumption and spending is all to the good – just as an individual cannot afford to live beyond his means, so too the nation must be careful in how much it spends and where. But right now that discussion is set to the side, in the same way that a patient fighting to recover from injuries received in a car accident does not worry about trying to trim down to fit in his old college clothes.

Consequently, the response from the new Administration will focus on improving consumer confidence, and will be judged strictly on that measure, regardless of other effects.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

No Immortals

Question for the day – people do not live forever, why should corporations?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hail Now A Defender of Camelot

Last week I wrote about a wedding. Today, I must write about a funeral. Or rather, about a man whose death should not pass without remark. And about the sort of ideals and purpose which make such a man.

Sunday, December 7, 2008, Houston police officer Timothy Abernethy was gunned down by a man who fled after being stopped for a traffic violation. After surprising the officer and shooting him three times, witnesses say the suspect walked back to the fallen officer and shot him again at point-blank range in the head.

By itself, this would be a tragedy, a public servant killed by a young man throwing his own life away. But Tim Abernethy was not ordinary by any means. A twelve-year veteran of HPD, Abernethy had volunteered to work overtime to help fight crime in the community. Abernethy was also a veteran of the US Navy (his son also enlisted, and attended his father’s funeral in his navy uniform), who had worked on bike patrols and community support groups in order to help folks directly.

About four thousand people attended Officer Abernethy's funeral on Friday. When trying to give a sense of what kind of man Timothy Abernethy was, Chaplain Montgomery "illustrated the theme by telling of his encounter with a Houston policeman who had been comforting members of the slain officer's family at a local hospital. As Montgomery approached, the officer bolted. Concerned, Montgomery followed, finally finding the officer in a hallway with his face pressed to the wall. Under gentle coaxing, the officer confided his emotions.

"He looked at me and the look in his eyes bespoke the love he had for this man," Montgomery said.

"He would do anything for me, any day," the officer told Montgomery. "He would do anything for anybody. He truly cared about what he was doing that day. ... It wasn't fair that his life was taken."

After Abernethy's murder, hundreds of citizens held a candlelight vigil where he died, promising that his death would have meaning. The next day it snowed in Houston for the first time in two decades. "One fellow officer recounted how Abernethy loved the snow but did not live to see this week's rare Houston snowfall. He told mourners this snowfall is a sign that Abernethy is OK now in heaven."

Timothy Abernethy was a good man, who loved his family and was a devoted husband and father. He was a very good officer, who loved his community and the people of Houston. He was a veteran and loved his country. Timothy Abernethy gave up his life in service, and we are all the poorer for the cost but we must remember the value of such a man,

Roger Zelazny once wrote a story about a man whose ideals never dimmed, even when the things he prized were forgotten or mocked by all around him. Zelazny called that man 'The Last Defender of Camelot', and in this I disagree slightly with Mister Zelazny. Men like Timothy Abernethy prove that ideals such as personal honor, valor, sacrifice for a worthy cause, and dedication to the defense of community and nation, while rare and always in too short a supply, have not died out nor even diminished to the one last futile stand, but remain vital and alive, the mantle taken up by the new generation in honor and memory of the fallen heroes who taught them these ideals. In this way Camelot never dies, the hopes and integrity built upon the past deeds of integrity and courage, in defense of and in support for the people who depend, as always, on the few who truly face evil and fight it every day.

(photos courtesy of KHOU and HPD, respectively)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ideas and Lost Socks

I think we have all run across the question about where ideas come from. Every so often, something just pops into your head on its own, a fully-formed idea. Since all matter comes from someplace, all matter (per Einstein) is derived from energy and energy like matter cannot really be destroyed but only transferred in form, it follows that concepts and intellectual constructs, formed from energy, are similarly eternal in existence, changing only in form and use. It’s not a big leap, therefore, to conclude that ideas have an essential existence apart from creation in our craniums.

But what else is interesting to me, is the question about where ideas go? We’ve all had ideas just about to finish forming in our head when –poof- they just disappear. This seems to happen the most often during exams and important conference meetings, but we’ve all had it happen; we sense the arrival of a great idea, when … it’s gone.

Whenever they finish that Grand Unified Theory, it won’t be done unless it explains where ideas come from and go to … and what really happens to all those lost socks?