“My philosophy is that education isn’t found in the classroom, but rather in conversing and doing. As such we have every reason to seek out alternative methods to acquire our education.”
- Alan Doan
From the time I was seven years old until now, I’ve maintained an unorthodox approach to education. I attended public school ’till 2nd grade, then effectively dropped out to pursue other interests. There were other factors in play that made this acceptable at the time, but I ended up with tons of free time, and an opportunity to seek out education through new channels. I took a college course with my dad at age 11, I entered contests that required me to write and study new topics, I read, I worked jobs in fields that interested me, from botany to construction, from database engineering to web design, this is how I gained my education as a youth. Further, I served a two year service mission with my church in Ukraine, where I honed my study habits by maximizing my two hours of allotted study time and then spending the day working to apply that knowledge, a priceless lesson, not to mention becoming fluent in two foreign languages (Ukrainian and Russian, and they are definitely different). By the time I was 22 and entering university, I didn’t feel like I needed a degree to have an identity or to prove anything, I’d already established myself, but rather I was seeking pure education as I enrolled in classes.
I want you to think back to your high school or university experience for a minute and remember that paragraph in that one textbook that really defined your college experience. Dimes to donuts says you can’t think of anything here, well don’t feel bad, neither can I. I graduated my undergrad with a 3.92 GPA and can’t think of a single class that motivated me to do more than study for tests and jump through hoops. It’s all about playing the game right. Well, almost.
What I can remember and where I did learn was through interactions with professors, through after hours business clubs and service projects. It was through crazy business ideas I’d have with buddies as we’d try to create something worthwhile. That’s where my learning came, it was when I went beyond the textbook and used a professors office hours, or tried to do something on my own to the point where I had questions to ask of my professors. It wasn’t in writing insincerely verbose term papers or late night homework pushes.
Now anyone who has worked in a corporation before knows that an undergraduate degree alone is almost laughable. MBAs are everywhere, and if you want to fit in, you’re getting one. The problem I see with that is that MBAs are everywhere, it’s hardly a distinction anymore, is just another notch on the resume. There are good programs out there, don’t get me wrong, but there are crummy ones as well, and the fact is that MBAs are becoming more and more predictable. I’ve hired a few in my time, and I can predict how they’ll analyze a problem, I ask for a report and can generally foresee the exact result that will end up on my desk. The MBA process is churning out smart guys, but they’re predictable. Not bad, but not exactly what I was after. But still, the expectation of an MBA remains.
So when it came time for an MBA I started preparing for grad school because if I planned to be competitive in the marketplace, I knew I had to get one eventually. So I started saving money, studying for the GMAT, preparing to leave the job, etc. Here I was, getting ready to pay 40-100,000 dollars to go through a two year program of jumping through hoops again. No doubt the experience would be great – spending time around smart students who are clearly ambitious to a degree, working with professors who are intelligent and willing to teach and share, as well as being involved in after hours projects that would give me opportunity to learn. The draw for me was all around things that were of my own making and nothing proprietary to business school.
What if, I thought, what if I saved up a comparable sum of money but instead used it to fund my experiences in business know how and building out my network with people I was interested in working with? What if I went and apprenticed or interned at different places in order to allow me to learn the skills I was seeking / expecting out of an MBA? The more I thought about it, the more attractive this option became, knowing that the network of people I would use would be the people of my choosing, industry leaders that I sought out by design rather than came upon by chance. Strategy became a big part of the experience, which is something I love, let me build my education using all the elements I will need down the road, and let me construct this curriculum in a way that I know I will learn from it. (More on this in the Strategy section)
So to summarize, my philosophy is that education isn’t found in the classroom, but rather in conversing and doing. As such we have every reason to seek out alternative ways to acquire our education. By constructing a year that gave opportunity to learn in an apprentice type fashion, and supplementing that with books, articles, and other media to gain access to others creativity, I am tailoring a program that is going to fill in the gaps in my education and establish a network of my choosing that I will subsequently use throughout my career.