The Top 5 Things I learned during my MBA program.

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This post originated one night when John Sterrett (blog|twitter) was asking for a good place to find salary information. I was able to quickly refer him to O*Net, a government database of job descriptions, and extensive salary info based on IRS return data. I mentioned that it was one of the top five things I learned about during my MBA program.

I’d like to just add while I don’t know if it’s totally a worthwhile endeavor, I really enjoyed going to business school. My company at the time paid for most of it, so I took advantage of that benefit. It was a great opportunity to network with a bunch of really smart people, and change the way I looked at a lot of things in business and IT.

John mentioned that he hoped to learn about the rest of my top 5–I had to step back and think about what those were. So here goes my attempt at classifying them.

1) O*Net — As I mentioned before this is a Federal website, that shows both salary information and detailed job descriptions for all professions. Need a job description for a DBA? It’s here. I’ve used this before when our HR org didn’t put together a job description of my liking.

2) HR–I learned how HR works, how to work with them to hire good people. I learned the legal process behind the review process, and the performance review process in general. I also began to understand that in really successful companies, HR is used as strategic asset, and not just a gatekeeper and processor of information. There are other better writings on this, but it’s a good topic to study further on. I also learned that the best way to get hired, is to avoid going to HR, and network your way to the hiring manager.

3) Managing Your Career–Tom LaRock (blog|twitter) wrote a book on this, but one of the key bits of wisdom I picked up in my second take at college was that you and only you are responsible for your career. Your manager probably doesn’t care, as he/she is focused on their own job.

4) Statistics–Or the class where I really learned how to use Excel. I had some vague knowledge of statistics, but a management statistics class gave me knowledge of confidence intervals, how statistics get used in business situations. And despite what some say, marketing is more than liquor and guessing, you can use statistics to model and focus in on a target audience.

5) Don’t murder anyone. As much as I wish it did, this has nothing to do with a product liability class. Unfortunately, one of my classmates, who I witnessed having a liaison with another student on a class trip to France, is on trial was convicted for the murder of his wife. Last month I got to have thewonderful experience of testifying in the case. That sucked, what really puts in perspective is he was a fairly normal guy, with some priorities a little out of whack. I don’t intend this to be one of those “it can happen to anyone things”, but it does really make you think.

So I’ve covered salary, HR, career, stats, and felonies. There were many other interesting things I learned about including a great class on Organization Culture and a series of very interesting Supply Chain classes, but overall these were my top 5 takeaways.

Well, that and I hope I never have to testify in a criminal matter ever again.

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