Is there such a thing as a pocket MBA?
October 19, 2012 11:58 AM   Subscribe

Please help me acquire a working simulacrum of an MBA. I'm currently undergoing a career transition into a field where many if not most of the folks have MBAs, and MBA-related knowledge- specifically related to investing, public and private equity, and enterprise funding- is part of the air the profession breathes. Getting an MBA isn't really an option for me for a number of reasons, and I'm wondering if it's possible to assemble a syllabus for myself- through online and print resources- that will be a quick and dirty way to acquire some of the knowledge and rhetoric of the field- a kind of pocket MBA, if you will.

I'm specifically a former academic and non-profit management type trying to ease myself into the world of impact investing. I know I'm just not qualified for the actual jobs handling private equity, different asset classes etc. and stuff that's heavily on the quant side, but there are some aspects of the field that could use qualitative research skills, which is where I'm hoping to land. I just want to improve my literacy and with it, my skill set. I've perused my local university extension courses (UC Berkeley), but all they have is a course in business analysis, which is more organization theory, and accounting. Thanks for any and all suggestions for books, websites, or better online extension programs etc.!
posted by Corrective_Lenses to Education (13 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
You want the Personal MBA Reading List.
posted by gauche at 12:03 PM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

The books on my shelf:
The Entrepreneurial Venture (Sahlman et al)
Marketing Management (Kotler et al)
Economics of the Public Sector (Stiglitz)
Developing Managerial Skills in Organizational Behavior (Maineiro and Tromley)
Knowledge Horizons (Despres and Chauvel)
Managerial Economics and Business Strategy (Baye)
and so on.

Those are just the ones I bothered to keep. I must have my accounting book around here too.

I'm sure you can find something similar.

But the thing is - that's not where I got the knowledge from my MBA. It was from the lectures, the answering questions in class, the case studies we had to analyze on the fly, the case studies we had to work through, and all the reports, essays, projects, presentations and discussions.

So I'd suggest finding an opportunity to do case analysis. Maybe you could get together a group of people who want to do their own self-study program. You could buy Harvard case studies and review them together, while also reading through some textbooks. This would give you more depth and breadth without requiring you to go do an MBA.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 12:04 PM on October 19, 2012

Yes and no.

"Yes" in the sense that an MBA doesn't confer nearly as much substantive knowledge as other professional degrees. You can "fake" an MBA with experience and self-study in ways that you can't fake, say, a law degree or a medical degree. There are tons of books out there specifically designed to fill this sort of niche, and there's nothing stopping you from reading the actual textbooks used in MBA classes.

But "No" in the sense that an MBA, even more than other professional degrees, really isn't about what you learn, but who you meet. B-schools are feeders for businesses looking for talent for their managerial and executive positions. The networking that you do and contacts that you make while getting an MBA can't really be replicated, and there are plenty of companies that, when they're looking to hire new talent, just hire people straight out of B-school and don't even look elsewhere.

"No" also in the sense that the MBA is, for good or ill, a credential, and many employers use it as a kind of tool to weed out potential applicants, of which there are always more than there are open positions.

So if what you're looking to do is bone up on some important information and make yourself comfortable in business and managerial contexts, go for it. But if you're hoping to actively compete with people who have MBAs for the same jobs... I'm afraid the only way to do that is to get an MBA.
posted by valkyryn at 12:07 PM on October 19, 2012

I'm doing a part-time MBA now at NYU. This might give you an idea of how to simulate the MBA and what the fundamental core courses are: When to take what
posted by Borborygmus at 12:15 PM on October 19, 2012

MBA as some general credential as it relates to a specific knowledge base is pretty meaningless.

Maybe clarify exactly what topics you want to focus on? Do you have a job in your new career or are you still looking?
posted by JPD at 12:26 PM on October 19, 2012

There's actually a lot of variability as to what it means when someone has an MBA. As others have said, it's really more about the credential than a specific set of skills or subject matter expertise.

It sounds like you just need/want to learn more about finance and investing. I don't know if these would be too basic for you, but Khan Academy has some good videos on finance.
posted by Asparagus at 12:45 PM on October 19, 2012

You can get a ton of course material from MIT's Sloan School of Management online via the Open Courseware site.
posted by cushie at 12:45 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These suggestions are great! Valkryn, I know I can't compete with people who have the actual credential; I just want to gain some fluency in relevant concepts. JPD, I'm in the middle of the job search now.
posted by Corrective_Lenses at 1:45 PM on October 19, 2012

I think that right now, since impact investing is such a nascent and still evolving field, your background and skills are not unusual in the area. Are you keeping up with all the reading on the developments? For eg E+Co's recent reorganization of their investment model? It seems to me that an MBA might have less understanding of the challenges of patient capital and social impact assessment than someone learning experientialy. Are you willing to start at a lower level in a firm like Acumen Fund or some such, watching the industry evolve and learning as you go?
posted by infini at 1:49 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're looking for more "nuts and bolts"-type of stuff, I'd suggest the self-study and online courses at Training the Street. These are the people hired by investment banks to train their newly hired undergrads and MBAs.
posted by mullacc at 1:53 PM on October 19, 2012

Response by poster: Infini, absolutely- I'm in the Bay Area, but a place like the Acumen fund would be an amazing place to start. I'm trying to keep up with industry trends (which, like you say, are evolving at a very fast pace) and would be grateful for any further recommendations for reading, RSS feeds, blogs, etc.
posted by Corrective_Lenses at 2:26 PM on October 19, 2012

I know I can't compete with people who have the actual credential

No, no - that's a misinterpretation of what he said. You can compete with those people. They only built in advantage they have is their network. That's what you should be focusing on.
posted by JPD at 2:28 PM on October 19, 2012

Seconding JPD.

Network matters but also leveraging your own background and strengths, if they're in qualitative research rather than the quant. Start thinking and writing about your area of interest, its good practice. You're in Bay Area, visit the Stanford Center. Connect to people, ask to learn, exploratory interviews and meetings might help. Imho only, the field is so new that its early enough to shape parts of it such as "what qualifies".

But also keep in mind that I'm likely to have strong opinions on this and don't think highly of the bean counters who often overlook the individuals, especially if its social impact in the developing and thus far away and remote world.

CGAP has a good site as well and the world bank's blogs can occasionally show a glimmer of insight ;p
posted by infini at 2:45 PM on October 19, 2012

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