One error I’ll admit immediately is I neglected to take advantage of the mentorship program that was implemented for us. I’d been given the opportunity to talk with a current MBA student and ask them about the program and find out what I should expect.
If you take a similar path as me and ignore this otherwise excellent opportunity to meet with a current MBA student then here are some other discoveries I made that would have been useful prior to starting the program.
It’s still not the hunger games
As I pointed out some time ago and this does deserve repeating: The SFU MBA is still not the hunger games. Whenever I tell someone I’m pursuing an MBA I have to immediately assure them that it is not just a competitive environment. This years MBA cohort is a truly diverse and exceptional group of people.
Reading The Economist is more useful than you think
By reading The Economist others will be impressed by your range of knowledge because the publication deals with a variety of business matters and issues, additionally you will gain a reservoir of material to relate the ideas and concepts taught in class. This makes learning easier and is why I wish I had spent more time reading it in the months prior to starting.
Plus, reading The Economist means you will know to ask your classmate who comes from the part of India near Bangladesh what it’s like to live with the reality of a series of enclaves and exclaves all over the place. Of course they also have pod-casts of every article each week and an app for your phone.
If you have never taken an economics course in your life
Don’t worry if you aren’t familiar with economics you can still survive with the help of a condensed economics study guide. I read through the rather short Coles Notes Study Guide: Economics, which gave me an excellent refresher for the introductory economics course I took during my undergraduate degree 8 years ago. The information is fairly intuitive, but without a rudimentary grounding in the basic concepts some of the coursework you will encounter will be that much harder to grasp. I happened to read the study guide while in the Dominican Republic last summer—I received a fair amount of harassment from my brother for that decision—but the point of the matter is it took only a couple of hours in total to read the entire thing.
In fact if you bounce between reading a short summary guide to introductory economics and reading The Economist, you will find examples of theoretical frameworks applied to real-world situations.
Put as much time as needed into understanding the material in the accounting prep course
While Doug Hayhurst made the course fun and enjoyable for my class, the reality is that you need a solid appreciation for some fairly elemental accounting principles. Take the time to become familiar with basic accounting so you are not completely lost. The point is not to become an accountant but rather just to understand what is going on in the accounting industry and what the concepts and principles at work are. The rest you will cover in the course work. Also, the SFU Accounting Prep course teaches you all you need to know, and I found a very basic introductory accounting study guide useful too. By understanding accounting basics it will also help you in finance, especially when you need to make a business case for assignments throughout the program.
Excel at Excel
For better or worse Excel dominates any time you need to do any analysis. The more comfortable you are using this program the easier your life will be in nearly every single course. A former SFU MBA student when asked, after she gave an excellent presentation to our class, what she wishes she knew in retrospect from the working world to her education was how critical Excel is. There seems to be no way to escape this so you are better off embracing it and learning it as quickly as you can. This is especially true if you think that you won’t need it except to get through the Data and Decisions coursework.
Ryan Cross is a current MBA student at Beedie. Alongside three of his MBA classmates he just founded Rubix Consulting, a consultancy of complementary skilled individuals with a passion for solving complex problems and vexing challenges. He spent a number of years prior to starting his MBA conducting research, publishing, and presenting papers on military intelligence tools, on UN peacekeeping operations, and the ethics of war. Ryan tweets at @ryanwcross and can be contacted at email@example.com.