Investopedia says, and I quote - Return on investment (ROI) is a financial metric of profitability that is widely used to measure the gain from an investment. In the context of an MBA, the usual way to calculate ROI is to measure the “package” of your placement vs the total course fee/ expenses. Higher the package, better the ROI.
If the “package” exceeds the expenses, the general opinion is an exceedingly positive one. “Paise vasool ho gaye”. If it doesn’t, the dissatisfaction is directly proportional to the value of expenses minus the “package”. What this line of thinking does is ignore the intangible benefits of an MBA degree. The parts that are hard to identify, notice, measure and appreciate. Allow me to extrapolate.
Let’s talk about people. An MBA classroom boasts a rich collection of people from different walks of life. Be it the education or the line of work, the variety is simply unprecedented for a graduate program - which tends to have a homogenous classroom and a narrow focus. There’s the opportunity to know these people, befriend them or simply be part of an environment that is buzzing with different points of view. There’s the opportunity to be of help to someone or be helped by someone in ways that can span space and time. It could be in the classroom, or outside of it or long after your group has moved on from those old academic halls. Relationships matter. It takes a village to raise a child.
Then there’s the curriculum. You get to be trained in a variety of tools and frameworks to understand the world. Be it finance or marketing or operations or strategy or economics or organizational science – there’s the chance to try on different lenses for perceiving this world. Knowledge cannot be valued. Perspectives cannot be weighed. And while it is true that most of the knowledge today is free, there’s something to be said for being in a space that is aligned for learning. When you pay for an MBA degree, you pay for 2 years of concerted learning along with people who want to do the same. Things will get tough and heavy, but it’s the kind of pain that lets you grow. The group assignments, the rush and the deadline life – can build resilience that stands the test of a professional life outside these walls. Of course, the onus is on us to receive the hardships of an MBA degree with a can-do spirit. Things can get tough, and times like this should move us to come up with value systems and strategies for managing time, deciding priorities and making trade-offs.
Last but not least – the badge of credibility. An MBA degree, along with the weight of the brand of your college is a significant perception multiplier. Of course, doors won’t magically open for you and thrones vacated – but you get an “in”. You get considered. The tag has value. And that is a precious thing to have in a world where everyone is vying to be heard and considered. You enter a family that is storied and old - the alumni of your college. And this value stays on, long after you leave the place.
So when you select an MBA college – try and measure these intangible values. How old is the alumni base of the college, and how successful? How are the professors and the curriculum, and how is the culture geared for enabling you to take full advantage of the same? How rich are the classrooms? Because these benefits can be multipliers as time goes by, as opposed to the “package” which is a simplistic, reductive, one-time perk you get. But we do live in a pragmatic world, so ideally, your decision should consider both equally. When we consider both, it’s rather difficult for a good MBA program to have a negative ROI! Used well, you profit from a good MBA degree. Inevitably. Regardless of the “package”.
And if you are already in an MBA program, stop and smell the roses! Strive to extract value from the pros, and let the cons evoke a measure of growth in you. It’s probably the last time you get to be a student, for better or worse. Enjoy its unique beauties and pains. It’s up to you to drive home the advantage of your degree. To bring to bear the knowledge, the relationships and the “in” factor it gives you - on challenges both personal and professional. Used well, even an imperfect MBA degree is probably one of the most powerful education degrees to have in your pocket. But only if there is a conviction to redeem it. Only if we smell the roses. Some even grow in wastelands.
Batch of 2020
Xavier Institute of Management