Should I do a Mini MBA? 5 takeaways from mine.
From September to December I was enrolled in Mark Ritson’s Mini MBA in Marketing. I had considered a Mini MBA (mMBA) for a while but even after reading brochures I had reservations of parting with the money. So here are five things I learned during those three months. Hopefully this will help anyone else who has the same uncertainty, hesitation or even skepticism that I had beforehand.
The primary thing that held me back from doing this sooner was not really understanding and therefore respecting what a Mini MBA is. I was concerned by anything “fast-track” in learning. A Mini MBA comes in many different formats. Some try to cover all MBA learning in a few months, some cover one topic in a few days. I chose one focussed one of the dozen or so topics (eg HR, business ethics, financial management etc) that is normally covered by a full MBA. In short, it is MBA-level education, focussed on the marketing vertical only, over 12 weeks. I chose it based on furthering my knowledge and skills in Marketing and the legitimacy of the Professor and materials.
My biggest attraction to a Mini MBA was, of course, learning — gaining new knowledge and developing new skills; broadening my view of the whole industry, beyond the myopic perspective of marketing that agencies have view of. My biggest concern (perhaps arrogantly) was that after 15 years, I’d already be au fait with a broad share of the modules (particularly Brand, Segmentation, Targeting, Positioning, Research, and Media Mix). Both these points turned out to be true, but the concern was unfounded.
I learned plenty I hadn’t come across before. The joy of this MiniMBA is that whilst it is taught by a brilliant marketing mind of Mark Ritson (and he does it in a hugely engaging manner), the Prof uses not just materials from his own previous tenures at business schools but he also employs and provides access to respected resources from other business schools (eg Harvard, Yale, Darden, Columbia) as well as articles, videos, podcasts from other professors and in-field marketing veterans. Yes you’re paying for the Prof, but you’re getting a whole lot on the side too.
Regarding my biggest concern, yes, I did already know several areas the course covers, but there are two things to point out. You never really know something. You just know your version of it. I can read, listen to, watch multiples accounts of the Apollo 11 landing and still find something new. The same is true here. More unexpectedly, when I found myself going over material that was very familiar to me, I found that wholly reassuring — I knew what MBA holders know. That’s a real boost to confidence and chips away at any imposter syndrome. New knowledge is great, and incumbent knowledge is confidence.
The course breaks the wide purview of marketing into a manageable structure. As a strategist, I rely on models and processes to simplify the complex but without training, learning about marketing has always been fragmented and usually through osmosis — learning on the job. The whole marketing role had never been so simply broken down into something intelligible and practically applicable. I’m now armed with a wide view of the marketing role enabling me to diagnose a challenge and resolve it. Structure is simplicity.
In an industry where training is woefully lacking, it’s good to have a formal acknowledgement of a knowledge-base and skillset and perhaps even important when job-hunting given the majority of candidates won’t share MBA level credentials. Surprisingly, given the course is named after a qualification, I found this the least fulfilling of the takeaways, though this says more about those other takeaways than it says about getting a certificate. (Or perhaps I’m just being a bit too British about it.)
This was perhaps the most surprising element for me in a virtual course: being thrown into a group with unknowns, even online, was fun and hugely rewarding. The ongoing LinkedIn alumni group discussions are useful, but when the exam kicked off the community aspect came into its own. I found myself working with dozens of others from different backgrounds, different industries, different geographies, across different platforms that students had set up for knowledge sharing, study sessions or drop ins, from WhatsApp to Slack to Discord (take your pick). Everyone had each other’s back to get to the best answers, but also beyond — my WhatsApp group even helped each other with job interview prep and continues to share advice today. The twelve weeks are rewarding but depending on how much you integrate into the community, it can also create relationships that can last far beyond the course itself (and may even present career opportunities).
Without getting too sincere, last year was not easy, plenty of folk on the course had lost their job and were investing in themselves. Reading the post-course messages in the group, the feeling of achievement appears to be huge. It was for me. Self-learning was clearly the best undertaking I took in 2020 and probably in some years. It grew my knowledge, reignited a verve for learning, made me appreciate new aspects of my industry, grew my confidence, gave me a gold star to hang on my wall, and new connections that could last a lifetime.
If you’re considering such a course, research the right one for you and not only could it make you better in your role, but you may find it surprisingly fulfilling too.