Business School: First Impressions

At the end of last year, I told you I was starting business school. I’m now not quite halfway into the first term, and I want to share some of my first impressions.

It’s Hard, But Not That Hard

First of all, it’s not that hard. It’s not that easy either, though, and I’ve had a head start, which changes things dramatically.

I did engineering as an undergrad (never finished it, though). I can do hard maths with numbers that don’t exist. Meaning I can do multiple-dimension calculus with complex numbers, but frequently can’t subtract simple integers.

I’ve been reading management books for years. On my own. For fun. Yeah, you heard me.

I’ve already read Porter’s Competitive Strategy. I have a copy of Principles of Corporate Finance, and Kaplan and Norton’s The Balanced Scorecard. Plus a lot more. This is a major advantage, particularly when I have trouble sleeping. Yet Investment Mathematics For Finance and Treasury Professionals is an oddly gripping read, so be careful.

I taught myself accounting so I could do my own books, and use GnuCash because I enjoy pain, apparently, though not as much as Intuit customers. I already know how accruals work, and what Net Present Value is, and what sunk costs and opportunity costs are.

I know what ratio analysis is, because I did the AICD‘s Company Directors Course. So Financial Accounting isn’t difficult for me, but I can appreciate what a mind-bogglingly hard climb it would be up that learning curve if you’ve never seen any of this before. Accountants are weird.

I’ve also read a bunch on people skills (Lister and deMarco’s Peopleware, Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, Cialdini’s Influence are all recommended), so I’ve got a head start there, too.

It all helps. I’m spending most of my time doing the work, not learning the material. If this stuff is new to you, and you’re thinking of kicking off an MBA, well, clear your schedule.

You Have Some Free Time

You need to be organised, but you can still have free time if you don’t find the subjects too hard. I’m not spending 18 hours a week learning accruals, so I just do the cases and I can take a day off on weekends, and maybe an evening as well.

But yeah, that’s about it. I work full time, and I have a wife and a son, so I don’t really watch TV any more, or read for fun. When I do, it’s in focussed bursts.

I don’t go out during the week for drinks and a catchup with friends like I used to, though that had tailed off a lot already since we had our son.

And I don’t blog much, as you may have noticed. Instead, I grab a few moments on Twitter, on my mobile.

But yeah, if you’re struggling with the work, you’ll have even less time than that, so have fun with your friends now.

There’s a Lot of Sacrifice

You don’t get as much time for fun, so you have to make the most of it when you do.

I don’t get to game. I would love to play CoD4 Black Ops, or StarCraft 2, or maybe actually get halfway through Oblivion. Portal 2 is coming, and I’ll probably miss out on that, too, for a while.

I don’t read for fun, much as I’d like to, other than the Australian Financial Review, and that’s more like work anyway.

I don’t get to hang out with my wife and son as much as I’d like, and I can’t just decide to go for a holiday with them whenever we want.

Hopefully it’ll be worth it.

Hah! What am I saying? It’s already worth it. The course is awesome.

But more on that later.

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