Wednesday, April 20, 2005

This isn't really on topic with my MBA, as much as keeping up with the volumes of MBA blogs and news sources out there. That said... I've got to say, is pretty darn cool. I've known of RSS syndication for a while now, but never really truly used or appreciated it. I really don't know what I was waiting for (maybe a good reader...?) - it makes monitoring many sites so much easier. I like BlogLines in particular as a web-based RSS-reader over client-side RSS readers because:
  • My reading is up-to-date, whether at home or work
  • It's OS-independent
  • I can publish my links directly from there, so when I find a new site I want to monitor, I don't have to update my RSS reader, my blog, so on and so forth.
Anyhow, I believe they're owned by - I think Google ought to buy 'em out. Not only would it be a great complement to Blogger, but I think they'd have a field day with yet-more data to search and write algorithms for.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Waiting & Work

Not much new, here... I really can't wait for July, to get started. I'm sure shortly after, I'll probably be hating life, between work and school, but I'm really looking forward to it for now. I've got the detail of orientation and the first year's course schedule, down to the day, so it's all seeming very real. Now if I could just find a flight to AZ that meets my price... ;-) Past that, I just need to get in gear over finding the right financing for school. My company will pay up to $5,250 per calendar year towards school, providing you bring back satisfactory grades. Between that and my anticipated income/expenses, I should theoretically not need any loans, but I'd rather have the buffer.

Work is odd right now - on paper, I'm pretty busy, but in reality, I have some very busy days and some very lazy days. Between a six sigma training project, one project that's still in development limbo (on-track, but not much I can or need to do right now, save resolve some minor issues), one that's finished phase I, but am awaiting the internal customer for phase II, and two that are just starting up - I have a lot to juggle, but pretty much everything save the six sigma is in some manner of a holding pattern. I'm doing what I can to break some of 'em out, but ... well ... sometimes things just can't go as fast as we want, which pretty well sums this whole post up. ;-)

Monday, April 04, 2005

Rankings Update

Well, it looks like US News & World Report updated their rankings for 2006... somewhat aggravatingly, both ASU and IU fell a few notches; IU from 23 to 27 and ASU from 27 to 31. I guess the good news is that relative to each other, they are still ranked the same, so I can still rest easy on my decision. ;-) My undergrad alma mater Georgia Tech has lept up the rankings some, and is now number 32.

Where to accept?

I originally thought of IU as my number one choice, and also thought I stood a slimmer chance of admission there than at ASU, based primarily off of how my GMAT score stacked up to their averages. As luck would have it, though, I was accepted to both ASU and IU, so I had the luxury of making a choice, instead of having it made for me. It wasn't as easy as it sounds - sure, I had two great options - how could I go wrong? Well, it's way easier to make this kind of decision when there's at least one blatantly wrong option.

As in earlier posts, both schools satisfied the "main" criteria to me, and they are reasonably equivalent in rankings and the like (to me, anyway, and that's whose opinion counts here), so it was a question of weighing the particulars of each program.

The course of study for an MBA seemed very similar, judging from the list of courses. Both have two weeks in-residence, at the beginning of each year (technically ASU's is "optional, but strongly encouraged"). Both take two years to complete, and recommend spending 20-25 hours per week on the program. Not counting book/material costs and "extra" program fees at IU, ASU costs about $6,000 less than IU - a difference, sure, but not one to sweat for decisions like this.

The primary differences came down to these:
  • Secondary Degree - IU offers several dual-degree options (one of the few online programs meeting my criteria that did), one of which (MS in Global Supply Chain Mgt) is very appealing to me. ASU, though very well respected in the field of Supply Chain, offers no such dual-degree or concentration via online delivery. Point: IU
  • Online-friendly - IU's courses are taken 2 at a time for an entire quarter at a time. Books are not included; thus you have to make sure to buy all the books, etc. With ASU, you take one course at a time (heavier balls to carry, but fewer to juggle), all books & materials are included and sent to you, you are automatically registered for the next class, etc. It may also be simply better marketing, but ASU did a better job of showing what a course would look like (test-drive, etc), has 24/7 tech support, and so on. Point: ASU
So which factor was more important? In the end, I decided that a second degree would definitely not be a bad thing, but would only be a particularly good thing under certain circumstances. I decided at this point in my career, specializing beyond my work experience wasn't necessary, and could even have the potential to be detrimental (limiting, pigeon-holing, and all that). I further decided that two years is a loooong time to be working full-time and in school part-time, so if I was going to do it, I might as well set myself up to be as successful at it as possible.

So... It was a very tough decision, but I'm proud to say that in a few months I will be a student at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, in the online program!


Sunday, April 03, 2005

Application Process

[Note: This is a back-post, to catch-up this blog, since it was started after the whole MBA application process had begun.]

Well, let's see... The application process was fairly smooth for both ASU and IU. I won't do the whole recounting of preparing for and taking the GMAT, etc - it goes without saying that you need to leave plenty of time to study for and take the GMAT to get your score where you need it to be. My only other advice is that if you are thinking about applying to an MBA program within the next year - now is the time to be studying for and taking it.

Both required a "Program" application that was Business-school specific, in addition to a fairly general university application. Expectedly, both program applications wanted to know such things as how adept you are at certain technologies (spreadsheets, the web, etc) - nothing hard-core; just a demonstration that you are reasonably computationally proficient, it being - y'know - an online program and all. They also required the usual essays, resumes, test scores, transcripts, and the like.

Indiana's application could be completed entirely online, right down to recommendations. Indiana uses a stock form for recommendations (no free-form). However, my recommender - who is a pretty big technophile for a manager - had some issues with the online recommendation form. Apparently the it is generic through the university, and doesn't have corresponding information that the Kelley School asks for in their form. So, in the end, he just printed out their form, and faxed and mailed it in.

Arizona's application has two main parts - one online, and one offline. I found the fact that an online program required a part of the application to be completed offline to be a bit odd, but I suppose they're just making their own lives easier, which I can hardly argue with. The online part is the usual stuff - grades, scores, work history, essay, resume, etc. The "hard-copy" is just really you gathering disparate external requirements, like your transcript, letters of recommendation (they require two, free-form), and a copy of your GMAT scores (yes, they required you to have scores submitted directly to them, as well). You just get all those together and drop them in the mail as a single mailing - Not too hard.

I never liked writing essays about how wonderful I am. To make it worse, both schools did not have the required (maximum or minimum) length of the essays very easy to find on their websites. I managed to stumble across them after I'd already written, oh, about twice the max length of both schools. So it goes, though. You'd think that anytime you reference "Essay" (or "Personal Statement" or "Statement of Purpose" or "Statement on Why I'm Such a Swell Guy"), that you would also include the requisite length in that reference. Minor, in the scheme of things, but something to watch out for before you go banging away at your own personal version of The Odyssey.

My only other advice out there is to make sure and give your recommenders plenty of notice; the more notice the more "big" or "important" they are. Between people being out of the country, on vacation, off sick, or just generally busy with meetings and work, it took me more than I'd planned to get my letters acquired. I'd follow the normal project planning credo - take your original lead-time estimate and double it.

Both schools were great about contacting me before my application was even complete and after it was submitted - high marks for that. The were quick to advise any questions I had, timing on when it would be reviewed, when I should have a decision, and so forth.

All in all, it was a fairly painless process. Each school has a few minor things they could work on in the application process, but no major deal-breakers to be seen at this stage in the game.


Saturday, April 02, 2005

Where to apply?

[Note: This is a back-post, to catch-up this blog, since it was started after the whole MBA application process had begun.]

If it's not obvious, I had already decided that online was right for me. So where did I decide to apply, and why? I settled on applying to the online programs at the W. P. Carey School of Business (online page) at Arizona State University, and at the Kelley School of Business (online page) at Indiana University. I chose to apply to these two because they both...
  • Are well-reputed, ranked, and AACSB-accredited. IU is #18 in BusinessWeek, #23 in US News & World Report. ASU is "Top 30-50" in BusinessWeek, #29 in US News & World Report, and #66 in the Financial Times (global rankings).
  • Seem to have well-developed online programs, as opposed to having some two-bit hackery of a web-page that my little sister could have made with MS Word to say, "Look, we're online!"
  • Are priced in my range (ASU - $34,000 + travel; IU - $40,000 + travel + books/materials).
So did I come upon ASU and IU as options? My general search criteria for candidates to consider was "The best-ranked MBA program with an online version". Basically, I started working my way down the rankings of full-time programs at US News & World Report, looking at the homepage of each school to see which ones had online programs, and fell into my price range. Of course, I was cross-referencing with BusinessWeek and the Financial Times and others, and evaluated how each candidate school met my earlier criteria, but that's the short version.


Why Online?

[Note: This originally started out on my other blog as just a bit more than rambling stream of conciousness, in the fine tradition of blogging. Here, I have attempted to clean it up, but probably left all the rambling. Oh well - here it goes...]

There are some nay-sayers out there to online-learning, particularly for MBA's. Given the title and nature of this blog in general, my position is probably fairly clear, but I'll present some of my reasons for considering online in the first place, what to consider or look out for when looking for an online program, and what about online will be attractive to a prospective employer.

Why Consider Online?
Taking the general reason for anyone to consider an part-time MBA of "I don't want to quit work while I earn my degree" as a given, my personal reasons for choosing an online program versus "physical" part-time program - hereafter referred to a "resident part-time program" - are thus:
  • Ranking, Reputation, and Quality - Though there is a good number of excellent schools offering resident part-time programs in my area, there aren't any - save the really pricey one out of my price-range - that have any good nationwide "name-recognition" - Top-50 ranked, etc. Rankings and national (vs. regional) reputations aren't such a big deal to other folks. This is neither good nor bad; all of the earlier-listed schools have quite excellent programs and most are AACSB-accredited. It's just a function of your goals and preferences.
  • Convenience - Not being dependent on a physical location allows me the flexibility to work on it where and how I want to - at the local library, by staying up late or getting up early at my house, by staying late at work, at work over lunch, at a coffee shop - you get the point. I don't travel much with my job, but I would imagine an online program would be that much more appealing to a road warrior.
  • Ability - I've done a distance-education program before (Thermodynamics), so I think I have some idea of what I'm getting myself into, and that I have the discipline to study, review lectures, do homework, discuss, and so on without having to be in the classroom for extrinsic motivation.
What to Consider?
You should keep a few things in mind when looking for and comparing online MBA programs, as well as look out for a few things. I'll take as a given that you should consider things like the course of study, schedule, grading methods, fees and payment schedules, inclusion or exclusion of books/course materials, length of the program, time required per week, and so on. These shouldn't be under-emphasized - they were, in fact, the deciding factors in my own decision - it's just that you shouldn't really be considering those until you're satisfied with how your prospective programs stack up in these areas:
  • AACSB Accreditation - Pick an AACSB-accredited school, in addition to being accredited by one of the "Big Six" regional accrediting bodies, and pick one with a strong "brick-and-mortar" presence/reputation. You don't want a degree-mill where you're basically buying a degree, or worse, actually putting time, money, and effort into a non-accredited institution. If you have any doubts about a school's accreditation, check it with the source - it only takes a few seconds.
  • Ranking/Reputation - As earlier, you should only consider this if it's important to you. There are plenty of reputable, AACSB-accredited MBA programs that have stronger regional than national reputations. In my decision, it was a heavy factor, so I looked into the many reputable, AACSB-accredited programs that are nationally ranked by US News & World Report and BusinessWeek, and globally by the Financial Times. Many of these well-respected schools offer online education, requiring a variety of work experiences, academic/test scores, time and money - ASU, IU, PSU, Duke, Thunderbird, UM-Dearborn, CSU, and UF are but a few of them.
  • Degree Differentiation - In my own research, most reputable online programs do not seem to distinguish between a degree earned online versus one earned through a resident program, on the diploma or transcript. Note that some may, and this shouldn't be a cause for immediate disqualification; it's just something to consider. While this non-differentiation is good for the online student for obvious reasons, it also shows that the school has as much at stake in their online program being of high-quality as the student does. They are putting their own name on the line, and you can bet that they do not want to be associated with being a degree-mill or otherwise.
  • Interaction - When and how you interact with both your students and professors should be evaluated when choosing an online program. In many cases, the interaction of a reputable online program can rival that of a resident one (and it will probably be a lot less cutthroat!). Conversely, a degree-mill likely has little to no interaction between students and professors.
    • Level of Online Interaction - Some might say you're missing out on key interaction with faculty and fellow students. At least with the programs I'm interested in (ASU and IU), communication and collaboration seem to play key factors. Required participation in online discussions, group projects - you name it. My dad is in PSU's online program, and recently gave a group presentation (online, of course) - with group members in the US, Canada, and South America(!).
    • Logistics of Online Interaction - One thing to find out is if the online program is synchronous (everybody logs in at the same time) or asynchronous (everybody logs in whenever they want). Asynchronicity obviously allows even greater flexibility, whereas synchronicity might foster a little more of a community amongst the students, in addition to providing a bit of rigor to the schedule. There is no huge benefit to either method; it's just something you should know when making your decision, and determine what's best for you.
    • Physical Interaction - Most programs require at least some amount of "in-residence" at their physical locations throughout the duration of the program - anywhere from 1 to 8 weeks or more - providing the opportunity to meet and network with the faculty and your fellow students. More or less time in-residence might be either good or bad for you; it's just yet another point to consider.
  • Specialization - As of this writing, I had a hard time finding many online programs - meeting the above criteria to my satisfaction - that offered specializations. Again, this comes down to personal preference or goals. There are a few programs out there that offer specializations or dual-degrees. In the end, though, I decided that at this point in my career, it's not necessary (or perhaps not even advisable) for me to specialize as much. I feel that I am or will be reasonably specialized in the Supply Chain and IT due to my undergrad degree and my work experience. I'm not looking to make a drastic change into Finance, Sports Business, Healthcare, Marketing or anything like that. However, I do want to understand the principles of them (thus the reason I'm writing this in the first place!). If you are considering a career or industry change, then you should probably consider specializations more heavily, and spend the time looking for and finding a program that meets your needs accordingly. I suspect that in the future, as online education grows, online MBA programs with specializations will become more and more prevalent.
What Should Employers Consider?
The advantages to the current employer of an online student are obvious - they gain continuity, as the employee doesn't leave, the employee likely has some greater amount of loyalty to the company, and so forth. However, what about a prospective employer? In my mind (biased, of course), there are actually three advantages to going online, from an employer's perspective:
  • Initiative/Discipline- Having good discipline can be said about anyone attending any reputable education program part-time (online or resident) - completing your entire education outside of a "9-to-5" takes extraordinary willpower, endurance, determination, focus, etc. Going online, though, adds the need to be a for greater initiative - being a self-starter/self-motivator, since there is no pre-set schedule of when you must go to class and the like.
  • Immediate Applicability - This also applies to a resident part-time program. Lessons learned best are those quickly applied. Even if someone already has work experience in a full-time MBA program, they still have to wait for their summer internship (presuming they do one) to apply and practice what they've learned.
  • Written Communication Skills- Written communication skills are extremely important in today's business world. To earn an MBA online requires you to comprehend and express ideas, concepts, and philosophies via written format. The communication goes beyond assigned essays or papers - you must communicate and coordinate with your classmates and professors via e-mail, discussion forums, and the like.
Each of these three main topics could have (and probably do have) scores of websites and articles written about each of them individually. Hopefully this summarization is of some use to people thinking about and MBA online, but don't know where to start.


Friday, April 01, 2005


This blog will hopefully chronicle my experiences with earning an MBA, via online delivery. You'll likely notice that I've taken to referring to them as an "MBA - online" as opposed to an "online MBA" - There is a subtle yet distinct difference between the connotations and implications of the two references. But then, that's part of the purpose of this blog, so I'll not digress further at this point! I'm doing this out of personal interest at seeing exactly what the heck I was thinking as time marches on, and to hopefully be of some benefit to others out there trying to decide how to earn their MBA.

And with that, I'll jump right in.

Who am I?
As of this writing, I'm 25 years old, a B.S. graduate of Georgia Tech's Industrial Engineering program, and currently work for a Pretty Big(tm) manufacturer. At said manufacturer, I work in Supply Chain Development. It's an interesting job, as it requires knowledge of technology, "the business", business in general, some text-book Industrial Engineering concepts, project management, and so on. I'm recently married to a wife I love dearly, having met her while at Georgia Tech. Both of us being engineers, our dates are understandably geeky at best, but we have fun. I enjoy wood-working, beer brewing, and camping/hiking/backpacking. I volunteer with the Boy Scouts, Junior Achievement, and Habitat for Humanity on occasion. I'm a self-defined Libertarian, with a personal conservative bent.

Why an MBA?
I decided shortly after graduating with my undergrad that I would eventually want to get my MBA. Those reasons are various and sundry - in short, they all probably boil down to improving myself and staying competitive.

Why a Part-Time MBA (versus Full-Time)?
Online is a subset of part-time MBA's. I'll save "why online" for later - but why am I in this part-time market to begin with? I like what I do at work. I like my career options at my current employer. I like making money. I like tuition reimbursement. I like living in my house. I just don't want the things that so require attending a top 10-15 program full time - namely, I don't want to be a Wall Street Investment Banker, and I'm not looking to make a drastic career change upon graduation.

Why now?
From above, it's a given that I want to earn my MBA. Also from above, it's a given that I have a wife, and we do eventually want to have children. My thought even before graduating with my undergrad was, "If I'm going to go back to school, I'd better do it sooner rather than later." Between the time school (full or part-time) takes, and the general addictiveness of not having to do homework, being out of school is easy to get used to. If/when we have kids, I'll of course want to spend time with them. I've been in the "real world" for 3 years, now - to me, the time is right!

I guess that's enough for an introduction. I'll delve into why I chose online, why I looked at the programs I did, and why I chose the program I chose later.