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Kellogg MBA: The Aftermath (a.k.a. the “Was It Worth It?” post)

Yep, that's me during commencementSo I'm Pamela Ramali, MBA now - officially so since June 20, 2009. Kellogg was an amazing ride, and I will never forget the two years I had there. I learned so much, but as any other Kellogg MBAs would tell you, it's the people I got to meet that made the most significant impact on my experience. Not only do you have an amazing mix of nationalities and backgrounds, you also get to spend your whole days with the smartest, most intelligent, most personable bunch.

It wasn't all glitz and glamour obviously - I am significantly poorer, because the MBA didn't come cheap. I'm also significantly closer to developing an uncanny amount of gray hair, given the amount of stress and work over the past 2 years - not the least of which was the application process. Good Lord, even remembering the number of weekends I had to stay in to do essay revisions makes my inner socialite wannabe hurt.

So was it worth it?

I'm sure you can do all kinds of cost-benefit analysis to justify an MBA, and you can decide for yourself whether the financials make sense. If I could choose all over again, I would still do the MBA - yes, even in the current economic conditions.

  • It was a two year journey of self discovery. I was unsure what to do next, and where to go - all I knew was that I was getting lost in the daily grind. The process was a time for me to reflect on my life, my career, my relationships, and my person. The many different project teams and activities led me to knowing my strengths and weaknesses better than I ever had - and thus allowing me to work on them. There were things I wouldn't have attempted otherwise, but Kellogg was a safe place for me to experiment, try, and do - being crazy enough to offer up my arse for absolute kicking in Finance II, for example.
  • It opened up a whole host of new opportunities. I was feeling restless and - for lack of better word - stuck in my career. I wasn't unhappy, but I was itching to know what else was out there. I had no idea about the options that were available to me, until recruiting started at Kellogg. This is likely not the case for most Americans, but being from a non-metropolitan city in Indonesia, it was an eye-opening experience - I didn't know a single product manager or consultant growing up.
  • It granted me an amazing network of incredibly smart, talented, and good people all over the world. I had drinks with people of more nationalities in my first week at Kellogg than I had all my life prior! There are so  many countries I want to visit now, especially after the excellent trip to Greece hosted by a dear Greek classmate last month. Talk about a global perspective!
  • Then there was the academic learning. I must admit that the quality of teaching wasn't as consistent as I had hoped, but in any educational institution, I guess it is to be expected that some academics are better than others at teaching. The excellent professors were the best I've ever had - the access to such passionate teachers was just invaluable, and it made up for the poorer ones.

A few considerations, however:

  • Despite what a lot of people say, b-school probably isn't the best for extreme career switchers. I found that the jobs I was a great fit for had a lot to do with what I'd done before, i.e. tech, project / client management, etc. I attempted interviewing for a healthcare-focused company as I thought it was a good idea at the time, and boy, did I bomb that interview.
  • Funds are a great concern - and this is definitely as big an investment as I'd ever want to make in post-grad education. There are intangible benefits that you just can't calculate financially however (see list above), and there are always the loans. Yes, even for international students!
  • I'm not sure if it's a good idea to hide under the MBA shell for two years while the economy is not doing so great. The plus side is that hopefully, by the time you graduate, things have fully recovered, and you can go on your merry MBA ways. The danger, though, is that you may be adding a whopping $100k+ of debt onto your already-squeezed financial situation. An MBA is not a get-rich-quick scheme, and as thus doesn't guarantee you - or me, or anyone else - a fat paycheck and a secure management job upon graduation. As with any other path in life, you'll have to work hard for the gain.

I think I want to do an MBA. What do I do?

The biggest help I received during my MBA-exploring process was from alums - specifically this one Kellogg alum, but also alums from other schools I was considering. They gave great insights to the culture and selection process of the schools, and most were very willing to help. It was also very helpful for me to peruse the various rankings to see which schools would suit my personality and career aspirations best, as a lot of them (such as BusinessWeek's) had detailed information about the specific schools, e.g. academics, alumni network, career services, the split of banking vs. consulting vs. tech vs. marketing jobs, etc.

I've often been asked why I chose a US MBA program, instead of one in Asia Pacific, which would have been closer to Melbourne, where I was. The short answer is that the US ones are better. The longer answer is this: even the best rated Asia Pacific MBA program (which was, incidentally, Melbourne Business School when I was applying), was ranked around #40 in the global rankings - and it was dead tough to get into. Now, I'm not saying that rankings are everything - but I could have easily gotten into the  US school ranked #39, given the decrease in competition for schools outside the Top 10, yet I would have had no chance whatsoever getting into Melbourne Business School, given its reputation in the area and the competition from the whole of Asia Pacific. It made more sense for me to expend that effort on the US b-schools.


I didn't want this to turn into a "Why an MBA?" or "Which MBA?" post, but since the topic was something I struggled with prior to my b-school application process and starting Kellogg, this is my way to wrap it up, what with the supposedly 20/20 hindsight I now have. I hope this would be helpful to at least one of you 🙂

Comments (6) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Interesting post. I’m currently studying at Melbourne Business School (and I’m American, although I’ve been in living in Melbourne for a few years now).

    I agree that an MBA isn’t a platform for an extreme career switch, but definitely helps to find direction in your previous sector.

    Best of luck!

  2. Definitely – I think of it as a way of finding out how your previous work experience could work well in other capacities. The illusion, however, seems to be that either (a) you have to work in exact same industry / capacity, or the other extreme: (b) you can do whatever you want post-MBA. Rather, I believe that the key is finding the link between your pre-MBA work and your post-MBA aspirations. Sometimes it can be as minor as the company hierarchy or a focus on customer service, but the link has to be there.

    Hope you’re enjoying MBS, I’m jealous that you get to be in Melbourne!

  3. Hi,
    It was great to see you post, and after reading it..i just picked my OG11 book and started stuying again.thanks for this.It tinkered my mind.Undoudtedly.

    But, as I read on different school websites and other blogs, I strongly feel one has to have a very very strong profile to get into the top notch colleges of the world.Somehow, after my graduation and 3 yrs of workex in IT industry, I feel there is no scope to build that profile again, because I cant change my acads,I dont have any national/international certificates to boast of ! & there is not so much of time that I start something from scratch.Maybe its my mental block.
    Reading your post i felt ,its something like my life,,dont know where career is heading and all.

    what do you suggest as to how should I proceed in building my profile.?If you can what was that you think you had something different which got you selected.what was your profile like and probably you batchmates too?i know its no mail & i dont know if i stand a chance…but appreciate your reply.

  4. Mukul,

    A lot of people in my class definitely had accomplished unbelievable things in their young lives. Having said that, it doesn’t mean you have to have invented Polaroid to be accepted into a top b-school. Often, there are other parts to one’s story that can spice up a personality, and thus, the application. For example, career wise, I was no different than where you are right now, having worked for a web development company for 3 years before I applied. However, there were learnings and progress within the career that I could write about. I also wrote about my extracurricular, which involved freelancing and design (see: As you can see, nothing extraordinary or world-changing, but definitely different, and those things shape who I am and my goals in life.

    I would recommend finding one or two things you are interested in (or, better yet, passionate about) outside of work, and pursuing those – they will help give you a better perspective on where you are in life and what you would want to do long term, which, in turn, will help your case in applying to b-schools.

    I hope this helps!

  5. Good read. By the way, what happened to the home page?

  6. It’s still up and running, I guess:-


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