Matthew Andrews
Product Manager ・ Software Engineer ・ Executive MBA Graduate ・ Tokyo Resident

IE Executive MBA Review — What I learned

I graduated from IE Business School’s Executive MBA programme in Madrid, Spain in December 2019.

The 15 month programme was conducted mostly online so I took most of the classes crouched over my laptop in the dead of the night from my adopted home in Tokyo, Japan.

Here’s me happily accepting my certificate:

A colleague of mine asked me today:

(How) do you think it has been valuable for you?

Before I answer I want to first write a short disclaimer.

MBAs are very expensive, many are designed for a world that is increasingly out of date and I am certain free or low cost online equivalents of the vast majority of the course content now exist on Udemy, YouTube, Coursera, etc. I genuinely believe a Harvard Business Review subscription, especially reading back through their greatest hits, gives you a third of the value of an MBA with less than 1% of the cost.

For me I was extremely fortunate in three ways that made the full MBA worthwhile:

  • Firstly, my employer chose me as one of the three candidates they put forward each year for full sponsorship.
  • Secondly, I joined IE: an incredibly forward-thinking school who have technology capable of running truly collaborative and engaging classes connecting teachers and students across all the world’s populated continents at once.
  • Finally, almost everything we learnt was new to me. I believe had I already studied business at undergraduate level and complemented it with relevant work experience, I would have got much less out of it.

Your mileage may vary.

(How) has an MBA been valuable for me?

  • Before, I might think of an idea for a business and fantasise it would make me a gazillionaire. Now, I feel I know more clearly than ever what needs to be done to take that idea, evaluate its potential, make decisions about the trade-offs between various ways of getting it funded, and how it might be brought to life. I also realise how much work and risky it is — and now feel almost (but not quite) all of my previous ideas lack the potential to make them worth the effort.
  • I can now read & understand basic financial statements, but despite having a numerical background (BSc Mathematics) I’m not as good at it as I thought I would be.
  • Basic knowledge of accoutancy has given me better understanding about how (and why) budgeting works the way it does at Nikkei and the FT, for example why it isn’t always possible to simply roll over unused budget from previous years into the next.
  • I realised I can write quite well. I guess 8 years working for a newspaper has had some effect!
  • I learnt how to make a marketing plan … and made a basic one for part of my current project at the FT (and it was received well!)
  • I learnt what is considered best practice when Negotiating … and now use this in my daily life …
  • Studying IT/Technology from an academic & business perspective made me re-realise I’m really good at it and how much I love it.
  • On the other side, it’s given me a much greater respect for those ‘from the business side’. Finance, Strategy, Sales, Marketing are crafts in their own right and are in my opinion far more difficult than the likes of IT and operations. Why/what questions are infinitely more difficult to answer than who/how.
  • I learnt what Networking actually is and realised I’m not as bad at it and enjoy it much more than I thought.
  • It will help the next step of my career — to move into product focused technology roles.
  • And finally, I’ve met a bunch of wonderful people doing crazy amazing things around the world!