Apr 5, 2009

To Darden or not to Darden

I've been agonizing since Darden admission notice as to whether I should enroll at Darden or at Kenan-Flagler.

I've continued to speak to various folks from different walks of life to help me make a better decision:
1) Current students and recent alumni at Darden and KF
2) Business people outside of the school community - including MBAs at other schools and current, successful businessmen without MBAs
3) Friends and family - for perspective ... just as a means of stepping outside of business world to overcome myopia.

I'll share the outcomes of these conversations separately.

The more I have talked to others, I became more convinced that in the end, I really need to talk to myself. Rather, listen to myself. At some point, additional information adds only a marginal value, and may have deleterious effect. To dispel confusion, and to renew my career direction, I felt I needed to find my own voice. Hence, I paused to reconsider my chief aspirations from enrolling: 1) to learn and challenge myself intellectually and vocationally, 2) to transition to a general management role and fill in gaps in my training necessary for that transition to leadership, and 3) to build and have a brand and network to serve as a tool or a framework of support throughout my career.

1) Learning - I'm leaning Darden on this count. I believe I will learn better through the case method, and 3 quarters of team learning at Darden appeals to me more than 2 quarters at Kenan Flagler.
2) General management career - This is comparable as I believe both schools would allow me to have a broad management education. That said, I believe the case method is more conducive to training a general manager. However, I also understand that managing is not an academic exercise, so I don't know that case method has any edge here. I am leaning Darden on this attribute as I believe this is a path more established at Darden. For example, by function Darden had greater % doing GM than KF.

Darden, class of 2008 - 21%
KF, class of 2008 - 13%
(I consolidated general management, operations, strategy/development, leadership rotation programs; I excluded marketing, though I imagine there is some overlap)

3) Brand and network - I think the two schools are very comparable here, and will matter especially little as my goal is general management. If consulting, I would go with Darden. If banking, I would go with KF. As it stands, I think there is no material difference. However, I will note that more Fortune 100 companies recruit at Darden than at KF.

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