If you’re reading this, chances are that you’ve thought about doing an MBA at some point. Perhaps you are hesitant about some combination of the benefits, the time commitment, and – most importantly – the cost. Especially considering many MBA programs cost over $115k… an absolutely insane amount.
Hopefully, the experience I’ll share below might help you decide whether an MBA is something of interest to you, and, if so, share an option that you may not have considered.
I first started thinking about an MBA about 3 years ago. At the time, I felt I was stagnating in my career, and wasn’t finding many opportunities to keep learning and growing at my then company.
So I started thinking about doing some courses, certifications, or other qualifications. But after a number of degrees and a post-grad diploma, I had minimal enthusiasm to commit myself to another long experience of that sort again.
However, there was one major reason why the thought of an MBA was intriguing to me.
I had gotten this far in my career by improvising, exploring, and adapting. I’ve pivoted many times after encountering dead-ends in my previous careers. My career in tech didn’t start until I started my own small web design business, which then led to various opportunities that have taken me to the other side of the globe, and into a career I find interesting and fulfilling.
But as a result of this path, my knowledge of business has always felt very spontaneous, improvised, and limited by what I could experience at a particular company. And while I also read many business books over the years, it still felt like I was missing something that a well-constructed business curriculum might help address. I felt that an MBA might make me more appreciative of the many complex pieces that need to come together to make a company successful. And it would also help me understand some of the specific language used in areas ranging from finance, accounting, economics, to marketing, operations, data-driven decision making, strategy, and leadership.
So while knowledge was my primary motivator in considering an MBA, I also reflected on what wasn’t a motivator. Thinking about this was going to shape the options and appropriate path ahead.
I decided that there were a number of things about an MBA that held very little interest to me, although they might feel important to others.
Doing an MBA just so I could say I have an MBA was of zero interest to me. A lot of people around the world have MBAs and EMBAs. I don’t think it’s that much of a differentiator any more. And you absolutely can get far in business and your career without one.
MBAs are often associated with brand names, such as Stanford, Wharton, MIT, Harvard, UC Berkeley. There are some people that suggest it’s not worthwhile to pursue an MBA unless it’s with one of these top-tier institutions. The thought being that such a brand name on one’s resume provides instant cache and credibility.
And, you know, I don’t dispute that these names have an effect on people. We live in a world of brand marketing, exclusivity, and hype after all. Whether we like it or not.
But for an MBA, this was not something that was interesting to me.
I also wasn’t interested in doing an MBA to “impress” an employer or potential employer. Nor was it important to me if an employer recognized whether my MBA was from an important enough institution. For me, it’s all about the knowledge instead.
It often seems the desire to do an MBA is associated with an expectation of promotion, a pay rise, better opportunities, etc.
While these might be potential outcomes of an MBA, they weren’t a driving reason for me either. I certainly had no expectation that an MBA would lead to any automatic change in my career. From my own experience, great employers care more about the value and team-focused attitude you bring, not the letters after your name.
I say all the above simply to emphasize that my reasons for considering an MBA came down to the desire to learn, gain knowledge, and do this for myself, not for someone else.
But I still wasn’t sure whether I wanted to commit myself to a 1-2 year MBA journey (or 3-4 years part-time). So I did some research and compared the various options I had access to here in Canada.
The options didn’t fill me with hope. The “cheapest” options I could find in traditional universities still ranged from $20k-$50k, while more well-known options started from $80k in Canada, and over $115k in the US. And let’s not forget these options often require you to quit your job as well, thereby increasing the cost even more.
But I often look for creative and/or unconventional approaches to problems. So I found one that seemed intriguing…
Quantic School of Business and Technology
Traditional universities are excellent at marketing their programs, making you feel that they will somehow transform your life. But often the reality is quite underwhelming, leaving you with a large debt, and filling 3-5 years of your life with questionable value.
But I digress…
Quantic School of Business and Technology struck me in that they were offering something truly different. The business school of the future, with a mission to democratize elite business education globally.
Founded by former Rosetta Stone employees, Tom Adams, Alexie Harper, and Ori Ratner, Quantic launched its MBA and Executive MBA programs in July 2016. With its innovative and disruptive mobile-first Active Learning format, and award-winning curriculum, Quantic felt like an interesting, unconventional alternative.
Instead of boring video lectures, stuffy textbooks, dated content, uninspiring assignments, traditional exams, or a padded curriculum that artificially extends the length of the program, Quantic was offering their program through their own proprietary app, which focuses on delivering mastery-based progression through bite-size lessons (requiring interaction from the student every eight seconds), case studies, group or individual projects, modern exam formats, and individualized feedback.
Quantic was also offering an online library, paid research databases, lifelong access to all courses, as well as career services and a built-in alumni network spanning the globe (thousands of current students and alumni across 80 countries).
With a price tag of USD$9600, but with generous scholarships available (even reducing the price down to $0 for some students), Quantic was offering a truly accessible education.
And while other traditional MBA programs were offering a 1-2 year full-time program (or 3-4 years part-time), Quantic was offering an accelerated, 13-month part-time experience instead. Something that wouldn’t require me to quit my job. (An insane luxury that few of us can actually afford)
Did this all sound too good to be true?
The skeptic in me thought it did, but Quantic was offering an introductory Business Foundations course for free to give potential students an opportunity to sample its unique approach to learning.
So I tried their Business Foundations course and was genuinely impressed by how engaging and interactive their approach was. I was sold. If I was ever ready to do an MBA, Quantic was going to be my choice.
But then life got in the way for a year or two, so I put thoughts of an MBA aside until now…
When the pandemic hit and we all went into lockdown in March 2020, my thoughts turned to how uncertain and unpredictable the future was going to be. I didn’t think this was going to be a hiccup of a few weeks or maybe a few months. The global scale of the issue convinced me that this would be a crisis that lasts for years. Having experienced a lot of personal crises in my life to that point, I wanted to do everything in my (limited) control to mitigate the new challenges that were coming.
And if life was now going to involve lots of lockdowns, I may as well try to make the most of my time indoors. A year was going to fly by (even if the first few weeks felt like an eternity). I wanted to feel like, no matter what, I could look back at this time and feel I spent it as constructively as possible.
So in March 2020, facing the possibility of lay-offs (as we were seeing in many, many companies around the world), I revisited my learning plans from a year or two before and remembered how much I liked what Quantic was offering. By the end of March, I had submitted my application.
After being selected in their admissions process, I was invited to an interview, which further convinced me that I was making the right decision. Upon being admitted, I started my Executive MBA journey in June 2020.
And today, 13 months later, I am thrilled to be officially graduating.
So, what did I think of the Quantic EMBA?
Quantic was one of the best career decisions I have made. I absolutely loved it and do not regret doing this. I felt it was an excellent investment in myself, and, with a partial scholarship, even more so.
Quantic delivered on what it promised, something that I can’t say about a lot of my previous educational experiences, where the marketing never lived up to the reality (and left me with debts I was still paying many, many years later).
Strictly from a learning perspective, Quantic was, quite honestly, the best university experience I’ve had.
But enough hype. How about some specifics? What did I like?
Quantic’s app is modern, sleek, works beautifully on all devices, and is a joy to use. I loved being able to do most of my studying on a smartphone. In the mornings, during lunch, at night, at home, outdoors in the sun, or practically anywhere. No need to buy large, heavy, dated, over-priced textbooks either. Everything you need is delivered through the app.
Quantic’s curriculum is well designed and snackable. Lessons are broken down into 10-15 minute interactive modules, making it easy to make the most of pockets of time throughout the day and week.
Combined with its engaging and interactive format (requiring interaction roughly every 8 seconds), I never felt bored with the content, and did more learning, and did so more frequently, than I ever did with previous, more traditional university education.
The curriculum is broken up into two main areas:
There are 8 core subjects that are mandatory:
- Markets and Economies
- Data and Decisions
- Operations Management
- Leading Organizations
- Marketing and Pricing
It’s also mandatory to complete at least 3 out of the 9 available electives:
- US Business Law
- Startup Entrepreneurship
- Data Analysis
- Advanced Statistical Inference
- Supply Chain and Operations
- Strategic Thinking
- Advanced Corporate-Level Strategy
- Advanced Finance
Even though I only needed to complete 3 specializations, I enjoyed the program so much I ended up completing all 9 specializations. That’s something I wouldn’t have previously done in a more traditional university education.
Assignments and Exams
There were two aspects that I loved about Quantic’s assignments.
Firstly, I was given a choice to do my assignments individually or in a group. Many university programs force students into group assignments, with no regard whether this actually ends up being an optimal experience for some (it’s likely designed to reduce the grading workload for teachers). I actually focus and learn more while working independently - so it was great to get this option and really maximize my own learning. I already get lots of great experience working in teams in my day-to-day career.
The other aspect I liked was the format of the assignments. They were all very practical and relevant. From an accounting assignment involving writing up financial statements and then analyzing the financial health of a company, to analyzing the leadership decisions of the founder of ZipCar, to analyzing potential strategies for expanding formerly successful startup, Managed by Q. There were no forced, boring essays to write, or other assignments that have no real world application.
And the exams were also a breath of fresh air. All delivered through an interactive app. I’ve never enjoyed exams as much as I did this time.
The EMBA culminates in a 4-month long capstone project, which consists of two parts: a business plan, and a presentation.
I was really looking forward to this part of the program, as I wanted to work on my own business idea and dive deep into all aspects of it. I was so into it, I finished 6 weeks early. Once again, not something that would have happened in any of my previous university experiences.
I ended up writing a thoroughly researched 70+ page business plan for a business that I am actually contemplating trying on the side one day. The work I put into this also indirectly led to job interviews and a job offer.
I can honestly say that the capstone was the most enjoyable project I have worked on in all of my educational experiences combined. It was a great opportunity to combine all the things I learned throughout the EMBA, and apply it to something that had the potential for real-world value.
Duration and Pace
At 13 months long, part-time, the duration of Quantic’s program felt just right. I really can’t justify an education lasting longer than that any more, or being full-time throughout. Life moves fast. Many of us are are in quickly evolving industries, and/or have life circumstances that don’t allow the luxury to quit a job and study full-time for 2 years. The quicker we can learn things and apply them, the better.
But while Quantic’s program is accelerated compared to many other MBAs, the pace felt manageable. Of course, it did involve regular, consistent work and effort. But I felt like Quantic did a great job of eliminating fluff, by focusing on quality over quantity. As such, the material that was presented cut straight to the essence of what was needed.
It’s likely that more traditional (and much longer and more expensive) MBAs go into far more depth and repetition, but is that really necessary? If you end up forgetting most of the details of your MBA once you complete it, why bother spending years on it?
At USD$9,600 (but often lower with a scholarship), compared to $25k+, $80k+, and $115k+ options at traditional universities, this one is a no-brainer. Quantic’s EMBA has instantly paid for itself.
Why Quantic might not be a fit
But Quantic might not be for everyone. While the above highlights were important to me, I know that there are other aspects that might be important to others, and they might not get it from this program. Some examples:
If you absolutely crave in-person instruction and guidance, where someone explains concepts to you and you have an opportunity to ask questions and get feedback from a human being in real-time, then Quantic might not be for you.
Having said that, this kind of education model does not scale. Sure, great teachers can inspire and engage, and we all probably remember a handful of teachers that left a positive mark on our lives. But there’s always a very real risk of ending up with a very average teacher, or worse. And nothing kills enthusiasm and motivation for learning quicker than a mediocre teacher.
Quantic has done a great job by removing that variable, and presenting a well built curriculum with interactive content instead.
If you crave in-person interaction with fellow students in a physical classroom, then Quantic might not be for you.
Having said that, Quantic does make an effort to offer various, regular (optional) Zoom sessions, from Ask Me Anything’s (with interesting guests), to book clubs, documentary clubs, podcast clubs, location-based virtual meetups, and industry-based virtual meetups. Combined with the group Slack workspace you get access to (with over 100 students in each cohort), and there really is plenty of opportunity for interaction and development of new friendships.
Ultimately, this aspect of the program is whatever you make of it. Be as involved, or not, as you and your circumstances allow. Just be intentional with what you choose.
Personally, I thought Quantic went into just the right level of depth to allow us to broadly cover all aspects of business.
But for some, I can see how that might not be enough. If you want to do a deep dive into every area in an MBA, then Quantic might not be for you.
But I would argue that level of depth is unnecessary. You will rarely need to go that deep in every area of a company that you work at. I find it useful to have broad awareness across a wide range of areas, and then go deeper in areas depending on the direction my career takes me.
I would also argue that the 4-month, final capstone project gives plenty of opportunity to do a deep dive, not only in a specific industry, market, and business opportunity, but also across all aspects of strategy and day-to-day operations.
Once again, Quantic is what you make of it. The opportunities are there to go deeper, if you choose to. Just like life, it is what you make of it.
What did I get from this experience?
My main goal was knowledge, and I got what I was after. While everyone ends up forgetting most of what they learned in an MBA (let’s not pretend we don’t…), being exposed to so many business concepts, models, and terms definitely stretched my abilities. I now have a lot of new knowledge and confidence I can draw on in future.
I also looked for opportunities to apply some of what I learned to my current company, resulting in creating internal initiatives such as one about measuring team health and engagement.
While I’m not someone who is obsessed with business and entrepreneurship for the sake of it, working on the final capstone project (a 4-month, 70+ page comprehensive business plan and subsequent presentation) revealed a strong interest in potentially pursuing an entrepreneurial venture one day.
The EMBA also helped me discover and reinforce a few areas that really interest me: operations, data and decisions, and building products. It helped me reassess the direction my career was going in, and to recalibrate it with what my real strengths and interests are.
As a result, this exploration led to a number of new career opportunities, directly and indirectly. Through fortunate timing, I accepted a promotion into a role that feels like a much better fit than the one I was in when I started the EMBA. A new role where I can utilize my strengths and provide an opportunity to apply some of the things I have learned during the EMBA.
Lastly, my EMBA journey became another way to connect with friends and colleagues who were interested in pursuing something similar. Some of them are now also pursuing their EMBAs with Quantic.
I continue to encourage anyone who has thought about an MBA or an EMBA to consider Quantic. I really believe that companies like this represent the future of education.
But Quantic ultimately gave me something even more valuable than an EMBA. It reawakened in me a desire to continue learning and growing. And that should be the real purpose of education.