When I told friends and family I had been accepted into Smartly’s MBA program, most were surprised, and they all had questions. Questions like “Why?” and “What’s Smartly?” and “How much are you paying?” and “Are you still working?” and “Are you leaving your job?” and “No, really, why are you doing this?”
After a month of taking courses as a Smartly student, I have better answers to those questions than my first fresh-faced week, and I’ve laid out my responses below.
A little background: I graduated from UCLA six years ago with a major in Spanish and a minor in film. I now work in the entertainment industry as a talk show producer. What’s kept me employed is not the formal degree I received, but the hand’s-on education I earned through interning, working at the college’s TV station, and scrambling through a number of one-season-only productions. Over the past several years, I realized I didn’t feel secure merely getting traction in the entertainment industry. As Marshall Goldsmith says, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, so I began to survey my situation, my career, and what I might want to do next.
To broaden my approach, I took classes, including an Entrepreneurship series through Coursera and a Product Management class at General Assembly. I also read (a lot). I considered both online MBA programs, and full-time, traditional ones. I held back from applying, though, as my inconsistent schedule as a TV producer could mean difficulties committing to a traditional class schedule.
Then I found Smartly.
What’s Smartly like?
Being a Smartly student is simple, as the platform is based online, and on mobile devices.
The danger of Smartly is also its chief feature – its seamless inclusion in your life. If you’re disciplined, it’s a massive boon – you can get an education whenever and wherever you want. If you need to show up to a physical place at the same time each week and have an instructor assign you work, then Smartly is not a good fit.
Classmates are diverse, contributing international experiences, different ways of thinking, and alternative perspectives to our discussions. This provides more ways to think differently than I might achieve through self-directed learning, a non-interactive course, or by only reading books.
How much are you paying?
Smartly is free, and it’s not. Consider how much you value your time. To do Smartly well means committing each and every week to at least 5 hours. Depending on how you learn best (flashcards? Repeating lessons? Supplemental reading?) that can easily become 10 or more hours. For 5 months. If you’re employed full-time, that means sacrifice, and internalizing the trade-offs. I’m not paying for this degree out-of-pocket, but I’m trading off other experiences for the satisfaction of learning and growing.
Are you working? Are you leaving your job?
I am still working. I am not leaving my job. But jobs change. And jobs end. What got me into Smartly was the idea of having a solid understanding of business. What continues to excite me is the potential for education and experience. Though my classmates and I are guinea pigs – one fundamental part of the Smartly business model, the career network, has yet to be launched – it’s an exciting format of which to be a part.
So, really, why are you doing this?
I found myself in an industry where formal business experience isn’t required, but it’s beneficial, and in a position of management, where management experience is crucial. Being a Smartly student allows me to shore up gaps in my knowledge for my current position, and empowers me to look toward a future where I can combine my experience with a new education to create better opportunities for my coworkers and myself.
But until that distant and rosy future, I’ve got a Macroeconomics course to complete.