10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting An MBA

April 15, 2021

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To help those looking to start their MBA, we asked business leaders and past MBA students this question for their best advice. From having prior literacy in finance and accounting to communicating your professional goals to your current company, here are ten things to know before starting your MBA:

  • Current Technology Trends in the Marketing Industry

  • Communicating Your Professional Goals To Your Current Company

  • There’s Value in Waiting to Get Your MBA

  • Prior Literacy in Finance and Accounting 

  • Existing Career Paths After Graduation

  • The Support of Your Cohort

  • Keep an Open Mind

  • It Changes the Way You Think

  • Ask the Right Questions

  • Ask For Support


Current Technology Trends in the Marketing Industry

I had a tremendous experience as an MBA student at the University of Arizona. As an international student, before starting my MBA in August of 2018, I wish I knew the current technology trends in the marketing industry in the United States and globally. I had a perception that only developing and testing services or products requires technologies. However, through the course of my curriculum, I learned that various cutting edge technologies such as SEO, Deep Learning and NLP help to build unique marketing. I believe a better understanding of this area would've not only helped me in choosing my electives but also in pursuing my career during and after graduation.

Sri Sagar Kalisetty ’20 MBA, Product Manager, at Markitors

Communicating Your Professional Goals To Your Current Company

One thing that I wish I knew before starting my MBA was the importance of communicating my professional goals to my employer. My employer was incredibly supportive of me earning my degree. However, I did not clearly communicate that when I completed my degree, I would be looking for some type of advancement or new position. I suggest communicating your professional expectations after you complete your degree and your goals to enhance and expand your current role.

Steven Fernandez ’20 MBA, West Coast and Latin American-Strategic Account Manager

There’s Value in Waiting to Get Your MBA

There is value in waiting to get your MBA while you build up more professional experience. I was on the younger end of my MBA class, and I could see that people who brought more experience to the table had an easier time translating what they were learning into how they would actually apply it in the workplace. They were also far better than I was at adding meaningful, real-world viewpoints to classroom discussions, and bringing more pre-MBA experiences certainly helped them when it came to recruiting.

Rick Smith ’91 BSBA (General Business), CFO of Parchment

Prior Literacy in Finance and Accounting 

I enrolled in a leadership and management program prior to starting my MBA. However, when I got to the finance and accounting courses during my MBA, I wished I had some prior literacy in those areas. 

Being a part of a Silicon Valley startup and being a part of the core team that defined the company as it is known today, I could have personally added more material wealth in making investments with that knowledge. So in nutshell, I feel having some preliminary knowledge in the courses taught in an MBA enriches the experience and helps one get more out of their MBA.

Satish Narayanan ’20 MBA, Chief Architect, at ripe.io

Existing Career Paths After Graduation

I wish I knew more about all the different career paths that I could pursue after graduation. I think anyone who is interested in pursuing an MBA should understand what a successful outcome after graduation looks like, and more importantly, how realistic is that outcome based on the kinds of roles that alumni have found in the past. I spent a lot of time talking to current students and alumni of various schools to see which one would best help me accomplish my goals. This not only helped me understand more about what my options were but also helped me eliminate certain career paths that were not a good fit for me.

Evan Reed ’14 BSBA (Marketing), Associate Category Development Manager, at The Wonderful Company

The Support of Your Cohort

I wish I understood how supportive my cohort would be during and after our program. In the beginning, I tried to complete coursework and readings on my own to reinforce lectures and subject materials for later recall. I was drowning. It wasn’t until I began connecting with my classmates that we started filling in knowledge gaps for each other. My MBA experience was absolutely team-based—we kept each other organized, focused and driven. Above everything, we kept each other sane. We still keep in touch and celebrate life’s milestones (there have been certificates, promotions, job changes, weddings and babies)!

Stephanie Lerley ’15 MBA, Customs Compliance Manager, at PetSmart

Keep an Open Mind

I had started my MBA assuming it would help me grow my existing career at my existing company, but the MBA opened my eyes to more opportunities. Throughout my MBA, I learned how to work with a much more diverse range of people and working styles and develop a better understanding of opportunities in my career. I ended up developing and learning skills that immediately took me outside of what I was doing before the MBA that I never knew existed. It taught me that my career doesn’t look like a ladder, but a jungle gym, where I can move into different roles and really stretch myself to try new challenging projects.

Allison Stein ’12 BSBA (Accounting, Operations Management), Senior Program Manager, at Remitly

It Changes the Way You Think

The one thing I wish I knew before getting my MBA is how it would change the way I think. For example, I used to think like a marketer and now I think like a business leader who happens to be a marketer. The primary difference being that I now focus on crafting marketing programs that support and integrate with a broader corporate strategy versus a single success metric like sales. Accordingly, getting my MBA has turned me from a subject matter expert into someone who takes into account the big picture and can lead a division.

Amy Zwagerman ’94 BSBA (Marketing), Founder and CMO of The Launch Box

Ask The Right Questions

Entrepreneurship has more questions than answers. But, an MBA can equip you with the ability to ask the right questions to discover the best answers. Going from a Cybersecurity Specialist to a CEO of an online learning company was a big leap made possible in part by obtaining an MBA. Looking back at the MBA experience, my education was critical to the success of my entrepreneurial journey.

Nick Santora, CEO of Curricula

Ask For support

After leading small teams as a military officer in the United States Air Force, I decided to start working towards an MBA. The thing I would tell any aspiring student is to not be afraid to reach out and ask for support during the MBA experience. Professors, teaching assistants, and fellow MBA students are all there to assist you in making the most of your academic experience. Rely on the people around you to make your experience all that it can be. 

Pete Newstrom, Arrow Lift

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