After over 5 1/2 years with Google, it will be time this summer for a new chapter in my life. Starting September, I will join the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) to pursue my Master in Business Administration (aka MBA).
The reactions I got so far ranged from heartfelt congratulations and encouragement to (equally heartfelt) skepticism and questioning. Especially over the past few years, people have gotten to know me as a very entrepreneurial, creative and energetic person whom they would rather like to see kicking arse in the start-up world as opposed to pursuing a degree that is not only highly controversial (especially in Tech) but also intimidatingly costly.
And frankly speaking, it wasn’t the easiest call to make. I got admitted in early December, but it took me several weeks to accept it and many more to feel ready to share it with my team and friends (I don’t think I have ever been able to keep a secret for that long). I’ve always wanted it, but moving from 90% to 100% certainty was a hurdle I had to overcome first. And believe me, with decisions of that magnitude, you want to be in the range of 100%+! So consider this is less an attempt to “defend" my decision, but more one to explain the rationale that stands behind it.
While many people pursue an MBA to change their careers, sharpen their business acumen or increase their compensation (among many other “primary goals"), these are just byproducts of why I decided to go down this path.
The reason why I decided to pursue this opportunity at the GSB very much roots in who I am and how I see the world – my life philosophy if you want. The last few years have taught me one of many life's truths, namely that there are two things in life that no one can ever take away from you: the things you learn and the things you experience. Your friends, fortune and family – all of that might vanish before you die. But education and experiences are the two things that you will take with you into your grave. This idea goes hand in hand with my three objectives of making every single year of my life as i) unique, ii) rich and iii) growth-fueling as possible. If there is one thing I can say for sure, then it’s that the next two years at the GSB meet exactly the aforementioned criteria I have set for my life and every single year of it.
Also, what I have come to realize about myself is that I thrive in communities. Most of my creativity and energy come from the people I surround myself with and the stimulating environments that I make myself part of. I’ve seen that during my 3 years at the European Business School (my undergrad alma mater) and during my many years with Google. What I’ve found in the GSB is exactly that type of environment where one can find very smart and accomplished people who can help me unlock more of my own potential. An institution that is at the forefront of education and a place of boundless intellectual liberty.
Needless to say, business school isn’t the only place that allows me to achieve such goals. I would be lying if I told myself that this is the only path that can help me reach those goals. But for me, this has never been about the MBA as a degree. If it was, I would have applied to many schools, trying to get into some program after all. Also, this is not about leaving Google. I couldn’t be any happier with my job, team and the impact I’m fortunate to be having on other peoples’ lives.
Living and working in the Valley has clearly shown me that I don’t need such degree to be successful in life. But as time went on and as I got to know myself better over the past years, I started to look for new opportunities of "transformational growth.” Ways for me to learn from the best, to both contribute and to take away, to change my perspective on things and challenge my underlying beliefs based on which I act and interpret the world. Turned out that I didn’t have to look far to see that Stanford was the answer for me (actually, I sometimes just had to look out of the window on my shuttle ride from San Francisco to Mountain View as I drove by Stanford almost every day of my last ±4 years).
The admiration that I had always held for that school soon turned into an aspiration – fueled by the interactions I was fortunate to have with many students and alumni from that school. To this day, I yet have to meet someone from the Stanford GSB who does not impress me with his heart (kindness), brain (smarts) and vision (ambitions). The more I learned about the school, the more I desired to be a part of it. So much that I decided to apply to Stanford only.
So while I was able to see different ways to reach my goals, this was the single most exciting path that accompanied me throughout the years. After my first application to the Class of 2016 was rejected (as one of the last 40 people under consideration on the wait list), I was frustrated and initially walked away from the idea of reapplying (this was last year). But the more I walked away from it, the more I realized that I can not. This feeling of wanting something really bad can be quite daunting, but it’s also a feeling that is hard to ignore. That’s how I ended up reapplying and getting in.
I hope this gives you an idea into my thought-process behind this decision! ...and on the topic of kicking arse in the start-up world – well, stay tuned :)!