The Babson MBA in general, and the Babson Fast Track MBA in particular, like most things, is a mix of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. You can play a snippet of the song yourself to get in the mood for the rest of the column. Ennio_Morricone-The_Good,_The_Bad_And_The_Ugly Try not to whistle out loud as you play the clip.
First there’s the Good- There is plenty to choose from when selecting the good part of the Babson MBA. First and foremost you are studying with a great cohort of classmates – people working in a variety of industries, companies, and roles from all over the world. The professors are another strength as they really are in a class of their own because Babson purposefully chooses professors who have ongoing businesses and careers outside of the academic ivory tower. This provides a real world touchstone to all classes and lectures elevating the discussions from the normal theoretical perfect world scenarios to practical reality based solutions. Which is where most of us work.
Finally the intense entrepreneurial focus is intertwined throughout every case discussion, project and class. Whether it is finance, marketing, operations, sales or technology – an entrepreneur has to be comfortable with all of those disciplines and many more. And know when to bring each to bear on a business issue or problem. Whether it’s internally on a project within a company or as part of bootstrapping a new entrepreneurial venture – your chances for success are greatly enhanced when you both work hard and have the tools for that success.
Back to my classmates. One of the strengths of the Fast Track MBA is that the average work experience of my classmates was 8-10 years; with some having over 20 years of experience in their fields. And they weren’t there just to get a ticket punched, but rather they were there to learn practical and useful skills. This dramatically changed the MBA experience from a passive rote learning of facts and formulas to an engaged, passionate, dynamic learning environment incorporating experiences from real-life problems and challenges applicable both to startups and to projects within more mature organizations.
Babson in general attracts people who want to get things done, but the Fast Track program specifically attracts people who don’t have the time or patience to take two years off from the workforce to go back to college full-time. This lack of patience meant my cohort was pretty good at preventing anyone from dazzling them with powerpoint and baffling them with Bull***t style solutions. Once in a while when someone was babbling on a bit too long – a well-timed fake stage cough ala Val Kilmer in Topgun would signal to the speaker that no one was buying their load of …..compost. In reality this only happened a few times and was done with a smile. Usually asking pointed questions was the preferred method to cut through to the heart of an issue. Click on video below for a perfect example of the stage cough technique.
And now the Bad- First let it be said that there is nothing bad about the Babson MBA, but sometimes earning it wasn’t a lot of fun because you had to make sacrifices. I think I saw one movie in a theater during the two-year program and I pretty much gave up watching any television on a regular basis. The work is hard, you never have enough time. As soon as you master one concept you move on to a new one, and then another one, and still more. All the while incorporating those new skills into both your classwork and in your professional work. The breakneck pace is intoxicating, but it does require supportive, understanding friends and family. I missed more than a few parties and get-togethers because I had a conference call or a study group session.
You just can’t sugarcoat it. If you want to earn your MBA by coasting through, then Babson isn’t the place for you. There are lots of other MBA programs where you can do just that. Entrepreneurship is hard work and Babson starts getting you ready for this hard work from day one. It forces you to work longer, harder, smarter and more efficiently. You quickly learn that the perfect becomes the enemy of the good because if you spend too much time making one thing perfect you’ve missed your chance to spend extra time on another assignment or on getting ahead or just catching up. I’ll say it one more time, if you aren’t ready for the hard work, Babson probably isn’t the place for you.
And finally the Ugly- Name Recognition. Despite Babson’s continued plaudits and recognition for being a global leader in entrepreneurship, it sometimes seems that few people outside of the Northeast or those not tuned into the MBA rankings, have ever heard of Babson. This lack of name recognition is Babson’s biggest weakness by far, especially when you venture out of the Northeast.
Among people who zealously examine MBA rankings and the recruiters who hire actual MBA graduates, Babson’s strength is no surprise after 16 consecutive years as the #1 School in Entrepreneurship ahead of Stanford, Harvard, Wharton and the rest of the usual suspects. But among mid-career and senior professionals my mention of Babson would often elicit a blank stare equivalent to mentioning Safety School University or Slacker Community College. So you quickly learn to tout Babson’s strengths and explain entrepreneurship. Hopefully the addition of Babson’s new Fast Track program in San Francisco and their continuing Portland, Oregon Fast Track MBA will begin improving name recognition on the West Coast and around the world.
Despite Babson’s success in marketing it’s entrepreneurial strengths, some of the overall name recognition problems are a result of Babson’s focus on entrepreneurship itself. After all Entrepreneurship is a 16-letter french word defined by wikipedia as:
Entrepreneurship is the act of being an entrepreneur, which is a French word meaning “one who undertakes an endeavor”. Entrepreneurs assemble resources including innovations, finance and business acumen in an effort to transform innovations into economic goods. This may result in new organizations or may be part of revitalizing mature organizations in response to a perceived opportunity. The most obvious form of entrepreneurship is that of starting new businesses; however, in recent years, the term has been extended to include social and political forms of entrepreneurial activity.
As you can see it is not nearly as simple to explain as say an MBA in Finance, Marketing or Operations. However Babson’s reputation and name recognition are growing, especially among companies who hire people who have to be ready to work from day one. As one employer said to me – “A Babson MBA candidate is valuable to my company because they quickly pay for themselves, while MBA candidates from more prestigious schools often take 6 or more months to adapt to the real world and begin earning their salary.” That’s a pretty strong endorsement of Babson’s entrepreneurial focus.
If you can’t tell, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to choose Babson in general and specifically the Fast Track program. You should also check out my MBA Tips for Babson students. What about you? What’s your experience like working with Babson MBAs or earning your Babson MBA? -t