I thought now is a good time to wish luck to all 2011 MBA applicants as well as fellow MBA students since our official Fall session starts this Monday. Let me not blow it out of proportion but I am quite excited to be a student again especially an MBA student for I see lot of action lying ahead rather than just theory and exams. I am also excited because I think I’ve laid a good groundwork of what I want to achieve professionally and hopefully it will result in a more holistic experience at school. In past one year, my interest in entrepreneurship has increased leaps and bounds. To this effect, I planted seeds for 2-3 ventures in India in my last month’s trip to India. I will admit that the consequent thought of postponing my MBA plans did cross my mind fleetingly but after some deliberation, I find the pros of MBA outweigh it’s significant monetary and time investments. So, I am dedicating next 2 years to school and focusing on my ventures. I am hoping these dichotomous roles will inherently complement and feed each other.
Some quick words about my so-called venturing experience:
- Leverage your expertise: I feel ‘career switching’ becomes a cult word at some point in life. But the fact is you can benefit most by leveraging your current expertise. Starting in a completely different domain puts you at a disadvantage wrt experienced professionals already working in it. And there’s no alternative to a sound understanding of your domain. So, you can either leverage what you already know or spend some extra time in learning a new thing. Neither is right or wrong but you should be aware of the investment you will need to make before committing yourself. Even if you decide to switch industry or domain, do try to stick to your functional expertise. A programmer trying to become a writer is going to have a hell of difficulty 🙂
- Be flexible: I had seriously frustrating experiences trying to get anything started in USA due to my visa status (I’ve rambled on it quite often). So, I turned my focus to India where I hold many advantages: no legal issues, significant contacts and understanding of market. Within a week, I could assemble a team and kickstart few projects. In fact, Indian market presented many advantages that I had overlooked. So, always keep adapting your ideas and be as flexible as you can. We often overlook the most obvious or simple ideas in life. Mostly, the answer lies at ‘home’. Go to your roots and do what you can do best.
- Stay inspired: Its easy to get distracted and enthusiasm often fades out as a project progresses. Try to stay on an even keel. Stay positive and do not be affected by what others are doing. 9 out of 10 times, they do not have a clue.
- Stick to your love: Follow your priorities and make the journey worthwhile. No gold or treasure can compensate for the satisfaction of achieving your dreams.
I would be blogging my NYU Stern experience as sanely as possible and if you are a MBA applicant harboring entrepreneurial ambitions, I suggest also following Dino‘s blog. My biggest agnosticism of MBA programs is that they are designed to qualify you for getting jobs but not for creating jobs. So, as an entrepreneur, you should be prepared to be on your own and that’s why I admire Dino’s sticking to his plans while being at a B-School. Some schools are more entrepreneur friendly and I love MIT Sloan for that but in the end, I believe that entrepreneurship is self driven and a school or course can help you only as much. But, one should use MBA for quality learning, getting out of one’s comfort zone and making contacts.
Lastly, I would like to touch base on candidates focusing on Venture Capital because entrepreneurs and VCs are essentially the two faces of same coin. VC firms usually hire entrepreneurs, finance professionals or industry specialists. It is an extremely competitive arena for MBA graduate with no finance background. In the beginning, I was adamant on getting into either my own venture or becoming a VC post MBA. Usually anyone interested in one of these field is and should be interested in the other as well. Especially VC aspirants should love entrepreneurship because if you don’t, you are going to have tough time spotting the passionate and potentially successful startups. I strongly suggest reading Stephen Windsor’s post on navigating VC as a MBA. The path that appeals most to me and seems most logical is that a successful entrepreneur can eventually become a successful VC rather than the other way round. IMHO, to have successfully started and run your company is the utmost testimony to your capability and a VC firm will prefer you over anyone with just finance or any other work experience.
Agree/disagree? Feel free to reach out with your comments.
Note added 19 Aug: Some additional thoughts on lessons on entrepreneurship by a MIT Sloan graduate.