Alright, Post #4! We’re doing this thing! So yeah, despite the fact that I’m late on this post (fell asleep reading work stuff last night…), I’ve been thinking about, playing with the idea of, and dreading this exercise all week. This post is also going to be my most -stream-of-consciousness style to date.
The reason why has a lot to do with the particular decision I’m going to analyze and how I’ve been trying to avoid analyzing this decision as of late.
Because I resent unsolicited suspense-building, the decision is:
To accept an offer to start an MBA on September 2020, moving away from Miami for 2+ years
To stay and see my current social impact work to the end (CPA very much included, by the way).
The vision for CPA Miami has actually been a pivotal factor towards actually making this a decision I’m struggling with.
So, more context – Since January of this year, I’ve been preparing myself to apply and begin to work on an MBA degree. This involved over 10 months of work with varying intensities, involving:
- Doing a surprising amount of research
- Paying for and studying 3 months for the GMAT exam (traumatizing experience, by the way, especially when you’re not satisfied with your score like me)
- Apply for an MBA prep service for minorities (and get rejected…)
- Wrestling with whether to retake the GMAT or not (and eventually deciding not to).
- Pestering my universities in both Chile and Australia for my official transcripts (again…ugh).
- Applying to 6 schools, which means:
- Including researching schools
- Paying and using a web-service to help me prepare my pitch to the schools
- Adapting my story for each school
- Writing multiple essays for each
- Harass my recommenders for letters
- Record videos
- Pay application fees (6 schools add up)
- Travelling to the campuses for interviews (4 schools so far, could be 5)
I’d only heard from people how exhaustive and stressful this process could be, but I admittedly shrugged it off by thinking “oh please, how bad can it be? write a couple of essays, prepare an interview and get over it”. Nope. Lesson Learned.
So far, I can’t complain with the support I’ve gotten along the way and my results so far:
- My boss has been incredibly supportive, both in being my recommender, advising me on how to shape my story and my vision for the degree. Hats off to him, especially considering that he’s helping me make a decision that involves me not working for him anymore.
- My other recommender and network have also been super supportive, allowing me to bounce ideas off them and refine my stories.
- So far, I’ve secured 4 interviews with schools comfortably within the top 10 in the world and an offer letter from 1 of them (the interviews for the other 3 have yet to happen at the time of writing this post). I’m waiting to hear back from the last school.
Further considerations on this include the fact that I’m evaluating whether to apply for a public policy dual degree as well. However, since the timelines for both applications do not overlap, I’ll probably only apply to the public policy program of the school that I actually end up going to for my MBA (if I go…more on this later). Still, its very painful to write yet another application and especially one focused on something so different to my background.
Given the results so far, I have the very real option to go back to school, starting August/September of 2020 (the lag time is pretty wild, right?).
Al throughout writing this recount of everything I’ve done, I can’t help but feel very victim-y for all the work as if it justifies a potential decision, but then have that wrestle with the notion of sunk cost. In other words, all that work and money is done and paid for, so all I really have to evaluate is whether to go or not (as opposed to having to decide between applying or not, which is wildly different because of the extra work and uncertain outcome).
Nevertheless, there are still very real costs for doing the degree even after having gotten the acceptance letter(s):
- Tuition, ranging from $0-160k, depending on school, fellowships and merit scholarships. Expected value as of right now is about $120k
- Living costs for 2-3 years in a new city which will probably be around $50-60k per year
- The opportunity cost of NOT working for 2-3 years (and at 30 years young, that’s a big thing)
Anyways, let’s get down to applying the decision making process in the prompt and see where that goes.
- Write down your goals, the outcomes this decision is supposed to produce. What is this for? You’re putting time and effort into this choice, why? What outcome do you seek?
Alright. Even though the whole process of preparing for and doing an MBA requires that we develop a vision for ourselves in the future and eloquently articulate the reasons for undergoing such an investment, I’m going to shy away from regurgitating that version of the pitch and I’m just going to stay higher level simply because, for the purpose of analyzing outcomes, the why is more important than the how. Also, I’m not going to go into detail analyzing which school I’d go to. The outcomes I’m looking for are:
- More opportunities to develop and grow into my leadership potential.
- Ability to command a higher pay, so that raising a family becomes financially feasible in the medium term.
- A process of intense intellectual and experiential growth and renewal.
- The opportunity to participate in an experience and environment of constant growth and reflection, outside of my traditional comfort zone, geography and people, regarding my path moving forward.
- A solid network that includes an inner circle of like-minded professionals who have similar passions, lived experiences and ambition.
- “Insurance” as I call it. Having a big brand educational institution in my resume also protects me, in part, from professional upheaval and opens doors.
- Peace and fulfillment with my professional life.
- Another idea I’ve been playing with is potentially transition out of consulting in general. Maybe I’m just ready to be part of a “thing” and not just an adviser/hired hands to other “things”. This goal is the opposite of why most people do an MBA. Many want to transition into consulting through an MBA as a stepping stone. Honestly, I’m a over the big brand consulting and ready to go deep.
I realize that some of these outcomes are kind of like matryoshka dolls in the sense that they are intermediate outcomes that could lead to the final outcomes.
Distilling only to final outcomes, then I end up with 3:
- Money to raise family and stay independent
- as a single father, since I am not looking to have to depend on anyone else, financially, to do it. If someone comes along who wants to do it with me and we get to that place, that’s a different conversation.
- Peace and fulfillment
- Constant growth
- this might not sound like a final outcome, but for me it is important to cultivate a lifelong habit/ mindset of growth.
2. Aggressively and promiscuously list every possible choice that’s available to you. Not just the few that fit your current frame. By writing down something like, “quit and go home,” it opens up options you were ignoring. Force yourself to unframe the problem before framing it.
- Do the MBA and transition to something else entirely (probably govt, NGO or something along those lines) in Miami or not (2 choices)
- Do the MBA and work on social impact but not CPA (in Miami or not).
- Do the MBA and work on CPA somehow (Felipe has expressed openness to this possibility, so that’s something that could be explored) and after graduation continue in social impact (in Miami or not).
- Stay and continue to work at Future Partners and CPA.
- Stay and quit Future Partners and just do CPA.
- Defer the MBA and do option 4 or 5 for a year and then do the MBA*
- Quit and do something else entirely, probably in Miami.
- Quit and go live a simple life working at a hostel at a beach in South-Eastern Australia called Byron Bay (if you’ve been, you’d know it’s totally THAT kind of place).
- * This one is very tricky. Many schools will not even consider this unless there are exceptional circumstances. Also, I am not even open to the possibility of not doing it now and having to reapply all over again some other time. NO.WAY.AM.I.GOING.THROUGH.THIS.AGAIN. It’s now or not in the foreseeable future (executive MBAs don’t count right now).
3. For each option available to you, list the dependencies, the things the outcome is contingent on, the events that have to happen for that option to be a good one.
Alright, 8-ish options, some will have overlapping dependencies. Let’s see:
For my desired outcomes to be realized under option 1 and 2, I’d need to:
- Choose an MBA that is a good fit for me and make good use of it (likely)
- Land a good internship and job coming out of the degree (this becomes less likely if I narrow my choices down to only Miami in the field I’m interested in, I’m not considering the possibility of working for the multinationals in Miami or the cruise lines).
- Do well at this and subsequent roles (completely unpredictable, but I want to be optimistic).
For the variant that any CPA related option provides, the dependency is that CPA is successful here in Miami (which I attribute increased probabilities if my current boss is involved) and that it and my job in general provides me the financial resources for my other life goals.
4. [Optional and advanced, but worth a glance] The Decision Tree:
Alright, for the first version of this one then I’m going to stick to my 3 final outcomes as variables that will determine which options are better. I’m assuming the first two outcomes ($ and happiness) are equally weighted and then the 3rd one of life-long learning is weighed at 50%, because having the other 2 at the expense of the third might not be that bad of a trade-off, at least for now. I’m also just going to consider the % chance of things going my way and some ranges. I’m also not going to branch out the possibility of everything blowing up and ending up a hippie pariah somewhere…oh wait, Australia….that’s plan Z.
In the spirit of Halloween, I will now summon a power point slide (boo! I’m sure Jonathan is cringing! ha ha):
Legend: $ is money, heart is happiness, brain is growth, calculator is probability and the = is the final score. To reach the final score, I kept the number values of the scores but without being percentages. I then added the midpoint of all 3 indicators (but the second weighed by 50%) and then multiply the summation by the probability of success.
For example: For the first row we’d do 135 (midpoint between 120 and 150) + 70 (midpoint between 60 and 80) + 35 (half of the midpoint between 70 and 80) * 0.75 = 180.
Obviously, and as is evident by this process, we humans are (I am) awful at calculating expected values from any potential decision because:
- We can’t reasonably assess the probability of practically anything meaningful happening or not
- We can’t reasonably size the impact of anything even remotely complex. Especially a decision like this whose results can be measured through many variables, many unmeasurable (happiness, fulfillment etc.)
The value I did find from going through is that there is a scenario in which I could “have it all”, but it would require that I double down on CPA for these next 10 months. However, and I’ll risk saying this publicly, but we’re undergoing turbulent times at my job right now (a coworker just quit, certain recurring frictions with a certain someone, general stress and nervousness at all levels etc.). In this scenario, the MBA also serves as my insurance should things take a turn for the worse there as well.
Also, this makes me realize I don’t have a clear idea on what the potential upside for people working in/on CPA is. Probably need to find out/think how negotiation could work for the scenarios (PS: my boss tried to convince me to not go to the MBA today…again…but he’s been my #1 support to get this far. Hats off to him on this, right?)
Also, a critical thing I’ve realized while going through this exercise is how important the timing of this decision is. I don’t strictly have to make this decision until like, July of next year. I could, in theory, pay all the deposits and make all the arrangements to go and decide last minute that I don’t want to go.
Also, the fact that class starts in July/August of next year means I still have another 9-10 months to set up CPA here in Miami and leave it in a place where it can continue without me (and maybe that’s enough for the universe right now). I could also continue part-time either supporting Felipe with something else or supporting CPA Miami remotely (I can imagine training or other kind of remote consultant-like support).
It also seems that writing this post has inadvertently trapped me in a travelling gravitational anomaly that seems to have moved me 8 hours into the future… what did I get done today? ugh…
Hmm…Looks like maybe the running decision is that I should take the plunge and get my degree while trying to support CPA Miami from behind the scenes while I’m away….
What do you all think?
RS: alright, so it was really fun and heart warming to read all the comments from my cohort (also now friends 😍).
If I go to the root of their comments, it was all about ditching the numbers and thinking about what I’m feeling and what I want truly.
what will make me happy and why? I honestly think an MBA is one of the biggest gifts I can give myself and I am fortunate (privileged) enough to be able to consider it, apply, get in and then actually go through with it. I also think I deserve it (I say this completely without arrogance).
I deserve the opportunity to undergo a new process of intense intellectual and emotional renewal, a new adventure. An adventure where I will make deep friendships, discover new interests, contribute in new ways.
Even if I consider some of the absolute worst case scenarios (like being stuck with debt for a loooong time or failing at work or not enjoying the experience that much), I’ll at least won’t be stuck with the “what if”.
I’ve heard a lot of things about people reaching the end of their lives and regretting more the things they didn’t do than things they actually did. I don’t want to be one of those people.
I think that, no matter what, I’ll be happy I did it. I’ll be happy I took the risk and saw the possibility and decided to play big. There is no reason to engineer smallness in my life.
I’ve often considered that much of my professional life is marked by a series of repeated “failures”. That I’ve come up short over and over again. That I try and constantly punch above my weight class and pay great prices because of it. But one thing no one can say about me is that I’ve been risk averse or a coward. If anything, it’s because I’ve been brave and willing to put myself out there that I’ve failed spectacularly, but I’ve picked myself up and found other successes that o couldn’t have imagined. Today, I’m undoubtfully better because of it, even though it has hurt like HELL.
This is how I’ve grown and this is what feels right. Even if I never make it, I will never be among those who didn’t think they could try. Maybe one day I’ll realize what my place actually is and that feels right, but until I get there I want to follow my heart. And my heart says I’m ready for a new adventure and level up this way.
And by the end of it, who knows? Maybe find a special someone. 😬