If you are considering the full time MBA program, there is a very good chance that you are: in your mid-to-late-twenties, unmarried, ambitious, a few years into a good job, and currently trying to figure out if the Full Time MBA program is the quickest path to the job you think you really want. A much smaller percentage of you are a part of the over 30 crowd (4 times fewer than under 30 – see page 28) that B-Schools so dearly covet. You have spent 10 years or so in the workforce, maybe even have a previous post-graduate degree – and are likely looking to change careers.
If you are over 30 and have kids, you – well, you have clearly wandered onto the wrong page. The PMBA and EMBA pages are somewhere else, on an undoubtedly less hip part of the internet (probably written in html). You, I suspect, are reading this at 5:30 in the morning, before the kids wake up and you start your daily routine, before the sunlight has had a chance to wrestle the early morning New Orleans fog, and while the internet servers are trying to catch their breath before the inevitable Netflix onslaught in a few hours. Life has been over for you for some time, you just refuse to admit it.
[In a hushed tone] O.k. moms and dads, if you’re still reading – we just reminded the low attention span 20 yr olds that they need to pop another Adderall and finish that Netflix binge they started three days ago. Pardon the theatrics, but I had to make sure that you weren’t followed. I am, you see, one of you – and I’ve infiltrated the full time program.
We pass each other on the freeway every morning. We had the same boss. Our kids go to school together. We talk at youth sports matches and dance classes – er, I mean dance classes. I remember these conversations vividly because they always end the same way. You telling me that you’ve been thinking about the MBA program, and have been meaning to go back. Then I tell you how great it is and that you should.
I’m a second year full time MBA student currently in my mid 30’s, and have been happily married for over 11 years to my wife who is a Pathologist at LSU. We moved to New Orleans with our two children from Albuquerque, NM for both her career and also for me to attend Tulane. In Albuquerque, I spent nearly 10 years in the defense industry as a physicist, project manager, and in business development. Prior to my work in the defense sector, I graduated from the University of New Mexico with a M.S. in Optical Physics, and from Xavier University in Cincinnati with a B.S. in Physics. We live in Kenner, LA, about 10 miles West of New Orleans.
Planning for the Full Time MBA
In a lot of ways, the full time MBA is like undergrad (nee undergrad) – but with more focus and more ambitious classmates. With that in mind, there are many ways to experience the full time MBA program. The list (in full honesty) ranges from full time partying to full time studying to full time networking, and everything in between. What you get out of the full time MBA really boils down to a simple question: What do you want out of your business school experience?
In a lot of ways, this question is more important but less frequently thought through than the more obvious question (what do you want out of business school?). The former both shapes and is shaped by the latter. Like food paired to wine, a husband and wife, or the gravitational effects of the earth and moon, each are what they are, in part, because of the other.
For me, I had several objectives (aside from preparing me for my next venture) which helped me shape my experience:
Be in a challenging environment with very high caliber, motivated individuals of diverse ethnicities and backgrounds
Demonstrate sustained high performance
Be involved with my children’s youth activities
Stay in shape
That was my plan. I figured if I achieved those four everything else would take care of itself. Anything and everything ancillary to that would be considered on a case by case basis once 1-4 are satisfied. Based on all of my research I determined the full time program was a better fit for me to: accomplish my objectives, learn more, and have a better overall experience.
My weekdays start at about 5:45AM and usually end when I get home from my son’s soccer or baseball practice or my night class. I work hard to get all of my studies done at school in order to have family time in the evenings or meet obligations for my children’s activities. This doesn’t always happen, but my efficiency has increased as I’ve progressed through the program.
Weekends are a different beast altogether. While most of my classmates are enjoying the French Quarter until 8 in the morning or traveling around the southern United States to see another college football game – I am enjoying my daughter’s dance class starting at 8 in the morning or traveling around the southern United States to another youth soccer tournament. When there are no youth events on Sunday, I make the fam my secret recipe Belgian waffles with homemade whipped cream, Maple Syrup, fresh fruit, and slow cooked bacon, and then I play on my own soccer team. Sunday evenings are homework for everyone in my household.
The classwork is as difficult as you would find in a strong undergraduate institution. Here, however, the pace is accelerated relative to the undergraduate level, and the quality of the students is much higher on aggregate. Tulane has great professors – most of who go the extra mile to help students learn the material. Despite the significant studying time disadvantage relative to my classmates, I found that my experience in industry gives me significant efficiency advantages that more or less level the playing field. The first advantage is discerning useful information from the noise more quickly, and the second is that B-School students like to party.
One key area I really struggled with, however, was trying to find time to attend networking events. As someone new to New Orleans and looking to change careers, this was a critical element that I struggled to integrate into my experience. If you’ve attended B-School, you know they emphasize networking – perhaps even more than classwork. The B-School holds events all the time and I’ve had to miss many that have coincided with responsibilities with kids.
Networking while Raising Kids
For the first month of B-School, I was too preoccupied with: a new family schedule, adjusting to New Orleans, a hurricane, and not getting clobbered by Russ Robbins stats class to fret over missing out on a few networking events.
However, over the next few months in B-School I realized that having family actually created a built in advantage over other new-to-the-city-students. While I wasn’t able to attend some of the school sponsored networking events, I would meet many of the people brought in for these events though: A) Youth events, B) Discussions with my neighbors, or C) Spouses of my wife’s colleagues.
Practices, recitals, school plays, school concerts, after school pickup, games – each was an opportunity to talk with someone new and make a new connection. The real advantage is that many youth activities last a few hours and the practices and games go on for months. Over the course of time I’ve had opportunities to not just network, but develop good friendships with many professionals throughout New Orleans.
This isn’t to discount the value of school sponsored networking events, or any of the MBA conferences. These events have people typically looking to hire which is a huge benefit. Furthermore, after attending the NBMBAA conference, I can’t recommend these enough. If you do some homework on the companies before attending the conference, have a plan, have multiple resume types, get there early, stay late, and show you know something about their company, real connections come from these interactions and perhaps job offers.
The international travel is a huge highlight in the Tulane MBA experience, and probably what I’ll most fondly remember 20 years from now. Overseas, the class bonds in a way that many B-School classes don’t, because most B-Schools don’t have mandatory international trips (Tulane has 3). For people with kids, these trips enable two opportunities, both of which are great. Either enjoy the time away from the family and bond with classmates, or bring the family along to experience another continent with them. I’ve done both.
In March 2013, our class trip was to Athens, Greece and Tulane’s spring break followed our class trip. Following the class trip, many students took the opportunity to explore Europe. My wife and children flew to Greece halfway into the class time in Athens and explored while I was in school functions. On Tulane’s fantastic going away dinner, my family joined us and the whole class even sang happy birthday to my daughter who turned 5 – backdropped by the glowing Parthenon. That was one of the most fantastic moments I’ve had as a parent.
After the school functions in Athens, my wife had a fantastic trip planned where we hopped on a Ferry and traveled south though the Aegean Sea to the otherworldly gorgeous island of Santorini.
For Buenos Aires the following November, I experienced that trip without the family. This was a great opportunity to bond with classmates, stay out late, and experience the foreign culture with friends. I had as much fun as I did in Greece, but in a much different way.
Wrapping up my Experience
Given everything that I know now about the MBA program, I unequivocally made the right choice in both attending Tulane and also going the full time route. From the students to the professors to the staff, the school is top notch and it have helped to kick start my business career in this great southern city. For me, going in with some simple rules helped tremendously to help me focus on what I needed to accomplish.
Was I able to fully achieve my four objectives? With few exceptions – yes. Tulane definitely provided a challenging atmosphere with very intelligent, driven and diverse individuals. I worked hard in class and was able to earn an induction into the Business Honor Society. I’ve been very involved in my kid’s activities, including coaching baseball and soccer. Lastly, well this is a world mecca for food, so I’ve gained a few pounds, but not too many.
Finally, as someone who has ambitions of running a tech company, I feel infinitely more prepared to achieve that goal than I did before starting the program. My experience, however, in the full time program will be something that I look back on as one of the highlights of my life. I learned a lot, not just in class, but also from the other students, and definitely from cultural immersion on our class trips. In the process, I had a better experience that I had expected, and having my family to share it with was a big reason why.
Christopher S. Kletecka