Leveling Up, An MBA Retrospective

Two years ago I embarked on a journey to get my MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. I’m happy to say I officially completed the program, and survived relatively unscathed. A lot of my friends from outside of Kellogg asked me about my experience so I figured I would try to distill my thoughts on the experience as succinctly as possible.

Why I thought I wanted to get an MBA.

My original thesis was that I wanted to build a network of people with more experience than me, sharpen my business skills, and get another credential. I can say I truly enjoyed myself while managing to learn a lot along the way. I had fully intended to write articles about how the MBA experience applies to startup life, I just ended up being too busy. I did write up a bit of my experience halfway through for the Kellogg student blog, which you can read here .

What I learned from my MBA

Throughout the two years of the program, we took classes on everything from accounting, to finance, to leadership, to operations, to negotiations, and more. Despite some classes being completely foreign to me, and some areas where I was already very familiar with, I did learn something in every class.

I learned about the right way and wrong way to manage balance sheets and other accounting concepts.

I learned about how and why brands market to us the way they do (hint: we’re all super gullible).

I learned about how the economy works, and what statistics really matter when discussing the world economy.

Oh yeah, and I learned about statistics. Wonderfully entertaining statistics /sarcasm

I learned about operational efficiencies, and bottlenecks, and throughput (on of my favorite topics).

I experienced Asia, TWICE! First getting to know Hong Kong and how Asian consumers behave and how deals get done in China, and later diving into India’s rich and amazing culture. (Tons of upcoming posts on India and China)

I learned about negotiating. Specifically concepts like BATNA and ZOPA (which helped me save thousands of dollars on 2 car purchases – instant ROI 😉 ).

What I really learned though, was it was all about people. Making relationships, building teams, working together, and making things happen. Good businesses are about their people first. If you can figure out the people component of a business, the rest falls together. Building, leading, and managing teams the right way are the only way you’ll succeed in business.

What am I going to do next?

I keep getting asked that question over and over. Long term, hopefully I can leverage the knowledge and network Kellogg gave me to do hugely impactful stuff. In the short term I plan on focusing more on my startup SimCase, which is trying to disrupt the higher ed marketplace, and Infinimedia, which has been building logistics solutions for over 10 years now. For now I’m happy to have made such great friends, a new family even, and to have learned so much from so many great people.

I’m happy to answer any and all questions you might have about the EMBA program at Kellogg in the comments.

Focusing on growth – my first blog contest
Things I’ve been thinking about lately
Leveling Up: Why I decided to get an MBA
  • Mick

    Hey Brian,

    Awesome stuff! Been binging on your content for a few days.

    Been flirting with the idea of applying for business school to get my MBA to not only learn but also enhance my network (which right now consists of podcasts and books).

    Started my own business about a year and a half ago and slowly growing. I would love to learn different strategies and concepts to apply. What would be your opinion on whether to attack an MBA program or simply read a ton of books/network/etc (at much less a cost)?

    Thanks so much!


  • Hey Mick
    So how I break down the value of the MBA:
    65% is network/social connections
    20% is reputational benefit (degree, prestige, whatever)
    15% is the materials and knowledge. (this is the only part you could in theory substitute for books).

    Lots of these books you could read from the site (he also has his own book which I think is good as a superficial primer before an MBA program). So I would recommend looking for a program with the best network profile for YOU.

  • Mick

    Awesome thank you so much!