Joe Sinkevich, MBA alumni of Boston College Carroll School of Management, discusses the unique and unexpected aspects of his MBA program, and how his business school degree helped launch his career at Eze Software.
Name: Joe Sinkevich
School: MBA, Boston College, Carroll School of Management
Hometown: Wrentham, MA
What were the biggest challanges of pursuing your MBA?
Being in a MBA program and still working full time (along with a pivot in my role halfway through) presented quite a set of challenges the past 2.5 years. However, through this, more than ever, I learned the importance of being able to prioritize and hone my time management skills. No longer were there extra hours to simply let waste. This does not mean I had ever hour planned, but I learned early on to scope out and only worry about the items I have control over. In my job, there is a good amount of unpredictability (working for a fin tech firm dealing with buy side trading firms), however I knew when my classes had items due, and therefore was extra certain to plan out my weekends and allocate my time as best I could. I always tried to leave an extra buffer, as for those that are working, work will always have something come and that has to come first, so by building in as much of an interruption buffer, if things did go as planned with work and I stayed on track mid-week, I would find extra time on weekends where I could come up for air. Especially on the second half of the program, I caught my stride where my weekends were no longer a full wash of just catching up on school work.
How did you decide that an MBA was the next step for you? What advice do you have for students considering an MBA on how to make that decision?
As noted in a later question as well, in some ways I always “knew” I would go back for an advanced degree, however I also kept in mind that I would only go back to a program where I could see a direct correlation to giving my added value. I was not going to do it just for the sake of doing it, I’m not in a situation where I could simply have spent that money and go through the motions without having a well thought out purpose and plan. I decided on the MBA, keeping in my career that my job function may not explicitly call for it, but as an added (and large) item to add to my personal tool belt along with the soft and hard skills I would pick up in the program. I saw pieces of my job expanding into new areas where I had some gaps in my undergrad and work experiences, and knew the MBA would more than fill it.
In looking to decide “is a MBA right for me”, in the end it will always be a personal decision, but there are a few key items to consider. Some of the easy ones to answer is, in your current career is there a strong consensus that a MBA or some other degree is required to move ahead to the next in you work function or at your company? Do you feel you need to add more advanced skills/knowledge to take that next step forward? Are you wanting a way to uproot and alter your career but are missing some experiences or skill sets? Really any “yes” to the prior questions are a solid indication the MBA path is the right one for you.
What do you think makes your MBA program and experience unique?
The MBA is a tremendous opportunity experience where you can dive into topics and be exposed to much than what you could do through only your professional life. I did not have a deep background into marketing technique/strategy nor in depth back-end accounting (my job is typically more just trading focused), but through my MBA, I was able to venture into topics and gain much greater depth and breadth of knowledge. I feel hugely more comfortable in talking about these topics (and others) where I do know how I would have been exposed to it (outside of an actual job change). It felt as if I was able to get more career experience through both what I learned in class as well as picking my classmates’ brains on what they are doing day to day. The MBA provides the ability to cover a vast amount of business related topics, but also give you more than just a skim into them. It has inspired to dive in some topics in my own time into more detail even after school to catch up and better my ability at work (the accounting topic is something I am now much more deeply involved in with setting up our clients on a new platform that has an accounting function). Having the background of my MBA classes on the topics has been a huge value-add here.
What is something that you learned that was unexpected?
One unexpected item I picked up near the end of my MBA experience was that an idea that came up in a project based class is something I would like to consider building as a pet side project. Combining with some strategy courses and how to launch a product, I feel well armed to tackle this both as something fun to do on my own. The MBA gave me more of an entrepreneurial spirit than I envisioned, but also truly to arm me the tools to make it a real thing (though in full disclosure I am not quitting my day job). Tying it back to an earlier comment, because of my highly tuned time management from doing the MBA and working full time, I realize how I could utilize my non-working hours while still having a social life (skiing, hiking), enjoying being a newlywed, and still have a fun side-project to attend to launch.
When did you decide you wanted to pursue an MBA? What inspired you? Did you pursue your MBA in order to switch careers?
Shortly after starting my career post undergrad, I had the idea of going back for a graduate degree. My parents had instilled the value of education early on, and it was something I knew to take every advantage of should the opportunity arise. As my work years advanced, I was clear I would be staying relatively close to the field I am in, and was pretty set that a MBA would at some point be in the cards. In talking with colleagues, friends, mentors, and family on their experiences, I also came to the conclusion that I would wait to enter a MBA program after having a meaningful work experience, both from a perspective to have a strong application, but also to be at a more mature point in my career, to get the most out of the program. After about 5-6 years working post undergrad, I did light prep work, knowing in the next year or 2 I would like to enter a program. The exact timing played into my personal life where my wife was also getting a graduate degree (advanced nurse practitioner program). A small piece of advice, if you have a partner also considering an advanced/graduate degree, I found it beneficial to both go through the programs around the same time. It was easier on both of us when we had exams periods, or generally juts some added busyness to life, it is easier for the other to understand. Plus, it was wonderful when we both wrapped up our programs around the same time to then our now “post school” life.
The inspiration for getting a MBA was multi-faceted. I really see the value in adding more tools and educational training to better one’s career. Secondly, the network effect is providing you is certainly a huge value-add. Prior to the MBA, I felt there were a few pieces of my business/work knowledge set while certainly “ok” for my jobs and future, needed some further backing. The MBA would be the process/tool to bridge that gap along with my added benefits. While I definitely see how an MBA is the perfect step for someone who does want a full pivot in their career, I did not undertake going back to school for that purpose. I saw it as a way to beef up my skill set and in doing it deeper into my career (starting about 7.5 years in and being to balance work and school, I chose the part time to keep advancing my current work opportunities, having a current income, but still get the end result of the MBA.
Advice for Future Applicants
What are some dos and don'ts in the MBA preparation process?
For some do’s and don’ts for the MBA prep process (assuming you are already admitted) and getting ready for school. Create a system of keeping track of contacts/networking as you enter school. You meet a ton of people and it’s easy to look track of where their info is. I am playing catch-up now for people I interacted with or wanted to keep in touch with. It’s very easy nowadays and there’s really no excuse not to maximize your personal network.
For a don’t, avoid being the “know it all”, or trying to impress people with your past jobs/current situation. There will always be someone else that had a cooler job/experience or makes more money than you do, so just avoiding that type of attitude (even fi you are not meaning to) will avoid any sort of stigma you could put on yourself at the start. This experience should be about expanding your networking, and gives you a good controlled environment to see how you react in meeting new people in a quasi-professional setting (great opportunity to hone those vital skills).