MBA: Mediocre But Ambitious

Happy Friday!

You’ve made it.  Congratulations!

That ice-cold beer is only 8 hours away.  But first, your coffee.

Sorry, Nobody Gives a Shit Anymore

My buddy Ganesh once said of our Master’s degree, “I learned nothing here.”

I was shocked and appalled.  I didn’t learn all that much, either.  But I was surprised more at the cavalier delivery than the actual sentiment.  It was so… matter of fact.

Nineteen years to the day have passed since he said that.  Yes, it’s nearly two decades since I graduated from the venerable – in Europe, at least – London Business School with a Master’s in Finance.

No, not the full MBA, which I predetermined to be a sham before I ever heard Nassim Taleb confirm my bias.

I refused to do silly electives like entrepreneurship and strategy when I needed to get my hands dirty with derivatives and corporate finance.

I would’ve forgotten about the anniversary, but Facebook was there to remind me.  Since FB wasn’t around then, I must’ve had a weak moment when I uploaded the pic and predated it.

I’m the fifth one down (with a bit of hair), next to Ganesh.  We were in Windsor Castle – no, not that one – the pub next to LBS, on our graduation day.  The school has a backdoor entrance to the pub to make it even easier to get there after class.

I practically lived there for two years.  I certainly dumped enough money in there to qualify as rent.

I did my Master’s in Finance thanks to Credit Suisse’s largesse – they paid for it.  For two years, every Monday and Wednesday, I took the Jubilee Line from Canary Wharf up to Baker Street Station (of Sherlock fame) to attend night classes.

It was a nightmare.

But I had to graduate to start my clawback period.  That means I had to repay Credit Suisse in time – two years – after graduation, and I was eager to start the clock.

But I Got the Job Already!

Unbelievably, half of my trading desk got up and walked out on the same day we got our bonuses that February before I graduated.

My boss, a 6’4” Chicagoan named Ed, said to me, “Well, you always wanted to be a trader.  There’s your phone, and there’s your computer.  Good luck.”

Suddenly, I didn’t give a damn about my grades.

Top tip: unless you’re an utterly arrogant sod, when you secure your employment during school, do what I did.  Go to each professor and ask him what you need to do to ensure a 51 (the lowest passing grade) in each class.

Every professor was kind enough to tell me because they know the game.  So my winter and spring trimesters were littered with 51s.

I didn’t, and still don’t, give a shit.  It was the smart move.

Do you know why?

Because when that light on my dealer board lit up the first time, my new client asked me where Dec Eurodollars were.

I almost replied with a question: “What are Dec Eurodollars?”

If Drax was there, he might have asked, “Why are Dec Eurodollars?”

Instead of that debacle, I quietly put my phone on mute and asked my new mentor Shiraz where the Dec Eurodollars were.

He nicely pointed to the button that reads “CME,” and I pushed it.

“Hi!  Dec Eurodollars,” I said to the floor trader.

“94-95,” Said the floor trader to me.

“94-95,” I relayed to my client, realizing I had a phone in each ear for the first time.

“Pay 95 on 100,” the client said to me.

“Pay 95 on 100,” I relayed to the floor trader.

…….

“That’s done.  You paid 95 on 100 December Eurodollars,” the floor trader said.

“That’s done.  You paid 95 on 100 December Eurodollars,” I told the client.

“Thank you,” said the client.

“Thanks!” and I put the phone down.

I couldn’t believe how much there was to learn.

And studying for classes I didn’t care about when I already had the job I wanted was a complete waste of time.

Not only that, but nothing I studied for my Master’s prepared me for the sheer ass-clenching, squeaky bum sweat I experienced when I first picked up that phone.

Going to get an MBA, CFA, or any other degree when you’re already in banking is plain silly.

Ok, I understand why someone from Des Moines might think it’s important to impress a New York boss, but, even then, it’s unnecessary.

The only thing that matters is experience.  I’d say it’s better to start a blog and write down your thoughts so you can prove you’re genuinely committed to the field.

There are far cheaper alternatives, as well, if you must study.

I’m a massive fan of Udemy.  I took an 11-hour Excel course to expand and update my knowledge. I paid $10 for the course. That turned into – no joke – a $64,000 payday and counting.  Why?  Because every bank in the world needs Excel training.

What the Corporate Finance Institute has done is nothing short of extraordinary.  I love their FMVA (Financial Modeling and Valuation Analyst) program. That program costs $500. If you’re young and interested in investment banking, it’s very much worth a look.

And freecodecamp is a miraculous website.  I’m not a great coder by any means, but this is a fabulous way to get started if you like coding and banking.  They now offer two Python certifications.  That’s important because that’s the coding language all the finance world uses.

Oh, and it’s free like it says on the tin.

I think people who are happy to hand over $194,000 to the University of Chicago Booth School of Business EMBA program automatically disqualify themselves as people who can run businesses.

You see this stuff all the time with arts majors, but they’re not all that mathy, to begin with.  And they’re not going to run businesses that need to create a profit.

Why pay close to $200,000 for a degree when you can get the requisite skills for less than 1% of that?

Prestige?

Network?

Guaranteed jobs?

None of those apply anymore if they ever did.

Sure, you’ll get a rise out of a chick at a bar if you’re a Harvard or Stanford graduate.  But that and $5 gets you a latte at Starbucks.

Knowledge doesn’t matter anymore.  It’s all about skills.

And the cheaper you can acquire those skills, the better for you.

If you must, by all means, pay these institutions six figures.

But you’ll only prove you’re Mediocre But Ambitious.

Have a fantastic weekend!

All the best,

Sean

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