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Leaving a Target Industry: The Value of an MBA

About Noah: Raised in Portland, Oregon, Noah was an undergrad at Northwestern University, where he received degrees in both Economics and Film. After briefly working in the media audience measurement space, he moved to New York, where he was a management consultant with Oliver Wyman. He chose to attend UCLA Anderson in the pursuit of an entertainment strategy or finance career, and will be working in DTC content strategy during Summer ’23. He loves movies, TV, board games, skiing, and is learning to surf in the sunny waters of LA.

As a management consultant, a common question I received when applying to business school was, “Why?”. For many, working in consulting is the goal of attending business, and the prospect of giving up two years of income and experience was certainly daunting. I loved my time in consulting, and can’t speak highly enough about my firm, but the nine or so months that I’ve been at Anderson have reinforced my decision to return to school, and have illuminated the myriad of ways in which business school can still enrich your life and career, even if you’re already in a target function or industry.

The Chance to Grow Your Network: It may be a cliché, but the network of like-minded colleagues you develop during your MBA experience is the single greatest benefit you receive. Not only are you given a chance to learn and grow alongside incredibly smart, driven, and accomplished classmates, but you are also handed the keys to a vast network of decision-makers and influencers across industry. In relationship-driven industries like consulting or investment banking, the opportunity to meet and connect with hundreds (if not thousands) of current and future executives and leaders allows you to better understand how to drive value via your professional services.

The Chance to Take a Breath: Consulting is a momentum-driven industry; engagements happen on tight timelines, and when one project ends you’re often immediately jumping into the next engagement with a new problem to solve, and limited time to reflect. An MBA gives you a chance to deliberately take a pause from your professional life to reflect on your goals, values, and experiences. Being away from it all has given me a greater appreciation for the pace and challenge of consulting, not to mention my peers and colleagues in the industry. I’m able to balance that perspective against my career goals, better defining what I want to accomplish on a career-long timeline, rather than simply pushing for success in the next read-out or project.

The Chance to Fill Knowledge Gaps: Much of consulting is learning on the fly; picking up what you need to in order to drive a particular outcome or deliverable. This method is outstanding for fast skill progression and improving your adaptability, but can leave gaps in your knowledge. Taking classes purposefully defined to give you a thorough and holistic knowledge of accounting, financial valuation, data analytics, marketing strategy, and more, will give you a more cohesive and complete toolkit. I’ve been able to identify the gaps in my knowledge and deliberately fill them with electives, and whether or not I end up back in consulting, I’ll be much better prepared to lead others and help educate them, a core activity whether in professional services or industry.

Losing two years of income and career progression can be a tough pill to swallow, but I have found innumerable advantages and benefits while seeking my MBA. Anyone who’s curious can learn, grow, and benefit from an MBA, even if you’re already at the firm, function, or industry of your dreams!

Student Blogger: Noah Piwonka ‘24

Undergrad: Northwestern University (’17) – B.A. Economics

Pre-MBA: Associate, Oliver Wyman

Leadership@Anderson: First-Year Director, Admission Ambassador Corps; Director of Entertainment Career Night, Entertainment Management Association

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