What to Consider Before Investing in an MBA Education - Nina Godiwalla

In Chapter 10 of 14 of her 2010 Capture Your Flag interview, "Suits: A Woman on Wall Street" author and Wharton MBA graduate Nina Godiwalla answers "What questions should early career professionals ask themselves before applying for an MBA program?" Godiwalla reflects on her experience researching and then attending the Wharton MBA program at the University of Pennsylvania. There, she learns the importance of preparation and research going into school. While in school, Godiwalla encourages students be open to possibilities while also maintaining a clear purpose on larger picture investment returns. These may be building a network or developing expertise in a particular business field. Godiwalla cautions against planning the future too far and overlooking the often randomly occurring opportunities that pop up. For her, it was creating a meditation program for MBAs, which then helped her start a business years after graduation.


Erik Michielsen: What questions should early career professionals ask themselves before applying for an MBA program?

Nina Godiwalla: I think the whole business school experience is pretty – it can be transformational if you allow it to be so I don’t think they have to know exactly what they’re doing but think they should have a sense of what they’re going there, what they’re going there for. I don’t think it has to be laid out the way we do lay out our business school applications and I think a lot of people say ‘I just laid it out because that’s what I was supposed to do.’ But I think you should have a sense of what you’re going in there for and I also think a lot of people when I was in business school, especially entrepreneurs, felt this was a very stifling environment and there were a lot of people that were a little bitter that they were there. There was a group of people that thought ‘This wasn’t the right experience for me’ and a lot of them had wished that they had researched it a little bit more.

Business school is an animal of its own and just going in to go to business school to get the letters, I just don’t think it makes sense and especially when you’re putting – you’re investing in it in that kind of a way. So you have to, I think you should have to have a clear picture of what it is, if it’s ‘These two things I’m trying to get, I’m trying to really create that network for myself and I’m trying to find something that really resonates for me in the business world and I want this broad exposure’. I think that makes more sense than saying ‘I know for sure I’m going to be a management consultant specifically in the health care industry’ because if you completely define what you’re doing after that you can put blinders on.

And one of the things that was a little surprising to me, I never thought I would ever use this in the business world, is when I -- I did something I was really passionate about while I was in business school, I was involved with a lot of different things, but I started the meditation program there and who would have ever thought like later on I would’ve actually used that in the business world, I did it because I wanted to, I wanted to expose business school students to something that I felt was very valuable and then later in my life I’ve actually used it to create my own business. There’s no way me or anyone else that was sitting there would’ve thought that that’s something I would’ve used in the future in terms of business and I think that was a good example of taking that opportunity to do things that you’re really – you’re excited about because you’re going to learn something about yourself through that experience.