May 24, 2009

"Injure / Kill a Worker, $7500 + 15 Years"

Or the social commentary of Michigan's R5-18B road sign.

As my brother and I drove toward the Detroit Metro airport along South 39 toward Romulus (Not Rome, not Star Trek), we passed a road sign that read "Injure / Kill a Worker, $7500 + 15 Years". While the practical intent of the warning was clear, something about the sign rubbed us the wrong way. And I'm sure it would be apparent to most people that it's very odd to associate human life with monetary value (although this is often done at various levels in our society). And only $7,500?

While I guess the sign suggests many things about our social values, I think the bottom line is that its designers believed that a dollar sign would get people's attention and alter motorist behavior. Wasn't it enough for motorists to know that reckless driving and harming a fellow human being is wrong and unacceptable to our society?

May 4, 2009

How many MBAs does it take to run the world?

The answer is about 10,000 people. That, according to Peter Kiernan (Darden 79), a well known wall street executive and a New York philanthropist.

Kiernan made the remark in the context of pep talk to new admits to Darden over the weekend. His point was that a handful of leaders are catalysts for what happens in the world. Darden MBAs will be looked upon as leaders, and as such, we can expect to be either one of the 10,000, helping someone become one of the 10,000, or advising a member of the 10,000.

While I understand the nature of his remark about the opportunity before us, I couldn't avoid thinking how elitist that sentiment is. I supposed that as the chosen (which I gather may include other brilliant minds and MBAs from other top schools) run the world, they will iron their own shirts, look after their own children, mow the lawn, brew their own coffee, and pave the roads when the potholes get too large?

But, I think the lesson is that there is a need of leadership at various levels in our world. And getting an MBA, while not a guaranty, likely will help open up doors to leadership opportunities in the corporate world (though MBA schools generally do not limit the claim to the corporate world, which is a bit presumptuous - an MBA isn't like to turn out to be the next Isaac Newton).

May 3, 2009

Darden Days 2009

I returned yesterday from Darden Days 2009. In short, it was an amazing few days. I stayed with a student host, met with future classmates, faculty, and listened to school officials welcome our class. It was all fantastic fun and it was all amazing.

For me, the weekend also marked a clear dispelling of any remaining reservations I had about enrolling back in school. It was evident that I will be studying and working with some amazing people in the next two years that can not be priced. It was also evident that the next two years will be very fun and challenging, and will present the kind of break from the rut I experienced at my current employment. Strictly speaking from monetary perspective, it's also clear that the financial rewards of the MBA degree will far exceed the near term costs. Finally, I'm convinced that this is absolutely the right thing for me to do and will allow me to focus on my talents and skills that I will allow me to become a person of impact. To be that consequential person in the world, remaining in my current job simply would not do.

Apart from all that took place, points from two keynote addresses particularly come to mind.

1. Peter Kiernan - His speech was reassuring because he delivered it with such charisma and assurance. Basically, his gist was that coming to Darden is a good decision and is the right choice. Don't worry about the cost (I recalled the math that I performed a few days ago) - the degree will pay for itself. What the naysayers note about the program or MBA is hogwash. Don't listen to them. You're all special and great; you'll all have a chance to be great leaders. Welcome to the ranks.

2. Rob Bruner (Dean) - Dean Bruner's speech was more academic and philosophical. He started by painting a picture of 1907 - he co-wrote a book called "The Panic of 1907" - and compared the challenges of the day to those of today. Again, he was driving at the need for leadership. However, I think the real point of his speech was that we have an opportunity to become people of importance and of impact in the world. I liked that. His sentiments articulate what's on my mind. That is, in the end, going to Darden is not about the six figure salaries or even the networks, but rather what you'll do with those. Will you help an organization become great? Will you help address some of the corporate issues that challenge the world today? Will you make people's lives better? Will you matter in the world?