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MBA Has Big Costs But Big Payoffs, too

(page 3 of 5)

The CEO and Donor:
Today’s Edge: Specialization

Real estate tycoon Jay Shidler, a major benefactor and namesake of the UH-Manoa business college, values an MBA “as a plus,” even though he doesn’t hold the degree himself. Major organizations like Goldman Sachs use the MBA as a “sorting tool,” he says, to winnow out applicants.

But, more than ever, Shidler says he values specialization within the MBA. He sees ever more companies looking to those with both a broad MBA background and more focused training, such as in financial engineering. It’s those graduates who will be drawing down six-figure salaries while tossing around volatile terms like derivatives valuation.

“Twenty years ago, you asked the question – MBA or no MBA?” says Shidler. “But the second question (today) is MBA and what? What is the specific focus you wish to study?”

The Program Manager:
‘Whoa, This Guy’s Ambitious’

While the MBA degree has been around more than a century, the recession added urgency to mid-career executives who wanted to move up the ladder, and to young 20- and 30-somethings not sure which ladder to climb. It can provide the finely tuned financial, accounting, analytical and leadership skills companies look for as they plan promotions, and may bring younger people to the attention of the boss. But it also provides a broader view of an organization, how it works, and how to develop skills for leadership.

“It’s like you’ve got a shiny gold star on your resume,” says Paul Masters, Chaminade’s MBA program manager, whose own MBA landed him an immediate job as a national sales manager in Silicon Valley in the 1980s, with a bottomless credit card and an airline ticket expense account.

“Without an MBA that never would have happened,” says Masters. “The fact that you went and did it says to anyone who’s looking, ‘Whoa, this guy’s ambitious’ or ‘This girl’s on the ball.’ ”

The Financial Adviser:
Pay Shouldn’t Be Your Main Motive

“You quickly realize it’s not about money,” says Eric Fujimoto, one of the state’s top financial advisers. He went for his MBA at age 20, right after earning his undergraduate degree in economics and government. “If you’re going to get an MBA because you think you’re going to make more money, don’t do it. You get your master’s to build confidence, to be a better communicator.”

His MBA gave him a network of contacts he still uses and prepared him for a financial management career. It also gave him more than an ability with numbers. “It gave me the confidence to interact with business leaders of Hawaii. … I’m younger than their sons and I guide their finances.”

Fujimoto, now 37 and working at Ameriprise Financial, sees the degree as a universal need across many professions. “You talk to a dentist, and they wish they knew business,” he says. “You talk to a lawyer and they wish they knew business. They all want to know how to run their numbers.”

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