Friday, May 13, 2011

CEOs as MBA students - They were on budgets too!

Poets and Quants has an excellent article up about what CEOs were like when they were MBA students.  I really enjoyed the article since it takes these really remote figures and makes them feel really approachable and human.  Hearing about Immelt's (GE's CEO) feelings of being overwhelmed is really comforting.  It reinforces that no one is perfect or super human and that even if I can't get done everything I want to do in a day it doesn't necessarily mean I'm not CEO material. Though J P Morgan's CEO says he was always prepared for class.

Of course the article has several quotes that promote the value of the MBA degree and various programs, but it was the quotes from Pepsi’s Indra Nooyi that I found most interesting:
Nooyi recalled how she was virtually broke in her first year as an MBA student. “Those were very tough times.,” she said.  “At the end of the month, if I saved $5. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I was totally and complete broke. I had no money to buy clothes. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I worked the front desk of Hadley Hall from midnight to 5 a.m. at $3.35 an hour, the minimum wage. That money was the grocery money for the week.”

 When Nooyi first interviewed for summer jobs, she had no business suit, instead wearing a sari. It didn’t keep her from getting an MBA internship that allowed her to afford two suits by the time she returned to SOM for her second year. After graduating with the MBA, Nooyi first went to work for Boston Consulting Group for six years. She joined PepsiCo in 1994 as chief strategist, becoming chief executive in 2006.
It's really nice to hear an amazing success story of someone who's been in my shoes.  It's also really nice to hear that they too were on a really tight grocery budget. I've also been putting off buying a good interview suit for years.  Of course I'm not wearing a sari, just an older, less nice suit.  A budget like Nooyi's also implies that she wasn't taking out student loans for living expenses.  How much of that practice is new and if it is new, which I suspect, why did it come into force?  I imagine graduating without debt would allow you to take more risks with your career and reap more rewards.  You might also have an easier time with entrepreneurial ventures - able to take a lower or no salary and take on debt for the business perhaps.  I'd be interested to see the average debt loads of CEOs compared to their graduating classes though I know many are not MBAs.

Do you think there might be a correlation between success and graduating without debt?

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