At Georgia Tech's Scheller College of Business, Ricky Schwartz leveraged opportunities inside and outside the classroom, and successfully positioned himself for career success.
Name: Ricky Schwartz
School: MBA, Georgia Tech, Scheller College of Business
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia
Why did you choose your MBA program? Do you have advice for students on how to make a decision?
I chose to attend the Scheller College of Business for the same reason I chose Tech for undergrad: the focus on getting a job after graduation because I believe post graduate job placement and opportunities should be one of your most important criteria in choosing your MBA program. In my opinion, Scheller’s greatest asset is the career placement office. For example, the job placement rate up to 90 days after graduation is consistently ranked top 5 every year. Even before you step foot on campus, you are assigned an experienced career advisor and you are preparing your resume and elevator pitch. Over the course of your studies there, you are constantly practicing and training for interviews and polishing your resume. Scheller even offers a mandatory career workshop class during your first semester. In fact, I still keep in contact with my career advisor! For me, going back to get my MBA was about changing my career. Considering Scheller’s top overall ranking, their focus on getting a job after graduation, it’s leading role as a cutting edge technology and innovation institution, and the cost of attendance compared to other top MBA programs, Scheller was the clear and obvious choice for me. Looking back 4 years since graduating, I must say it was the best career decision of my life.
What was your favorite classroom experience?
My favorite classroom experiences were not limited to one class in particular and although there were many great experiences from amazing teachers to great class participation to exposure to amazing new technologies and innovations, I have to pick one: the “real world” experience. I’ve already mentioned that Scheller is all about finding a job when you graduate, but what better way to prepare you than to work on real world projects. Not only does almost every class provide you with the opportunity to work on a “real world” class project, but Scheller also offers multiple practicums that enable you to network, work with, and even travel (sometimes internationally) to companies where you will solve a problem they propose. As an extra benefit, oftentimes the sponsors of these projects have the authority to offer a permanent job to members of the project team!
What is something that you learned that was unexpected?
Going back to graduate school and especially to Scheller was one of the best decisions of my life. It enhanced my confidence and decision making ability; especially dealing with the unknown. As an undergraduate, I did a summer studied abroad program at Tech’s campus in Metz, France and it opened my mind to new possibilities. I learned there’s a whole new world outside of the United States that I didn’t even know existed. Even more so, I learned I could survive on my own in a foreign country. I liken this life changing experience to what I learned at Scheller. The most unexpected and most important lesson is that the answer to every situation is “it depends.” To me, this phrase translates to mean there is not always a right answer that we immediately come to because some things are just ambiguous. As a former engineer, this can be hard to accept. This means that decisions must be made with incomplete data and information to the best of our ability. Putting all this together, the epiphany that I had was that leaders are not leaders because they have the answers to all of the questions. In fact, the opposite is true in that they generally don’t have the answers at all. What they do have though is the ability to deal with ambiguity. For example, in my current role which is heavily tied to technology and innovation, ambiguity is the norm as I am working with technologies that are cutting edge and thus far rather untested and immature. So, as long as you have sound logic and can back up your reasoning for making a decision, don’t be afraid to make that decision and, to quote a line from Meet the Robinsons, “Keep Moving Forward.” Be confident in your decision making and don’t fear failure. Most of the time, if you have confidence in yourself, it is contagious and others will believe in what you are saying. This belief is extremely powerful as it gives a leader and his team the ability to look at situations from different perspectives and oftentimes come to a solution even when one was not immediately obvious at first. In other words, confidence and belief have a way of making a solution come to life or believing it into existence.
When did you decide you wanted to pursue an MBA? What inspired you? Did you pursue your MBA in order to switch careers?
Prior to attending Scheller, I worked for 5 years as a Mechanical Engineer. It was rewarding, but I wanted more than just equations day in and day out so I decided to pursue an MBA in order to switch careers. I wanted to deal with ambiguity and make real impacting decisions and understand the impact of those decisions. I wanted a faster track into management and leadership roles. I wanted to be judged on the merits of my performance rather than based on my years of experience in the field. Finally, I wanted to be exposed to the most cutting edge technology, research, and innovations. Looking back 4 years since graduating, my Scheller MBA experience has put me on the right path for the opportunities I was seeking while preparing me to become a successful technology and innovation thought leader in my company and in my field.
Advice for Future Applicants
What was it like to transition back to school after being out for a few years? What advice can you offer students returning for their MBA?
Transitioning back to school after working full-time as an engineer for 5 years was not difficult for me. I had a family to take care of so when I left my job to attend Scheller full-time, I treated my MBA as my new full-time job. As such, I was highly motivated to put in the hard work to succeed and achieve my goal of landing my “dream job.” One thing my marketing professor said that has always stuck with me is to “never eat lunch alone” meaning network as much as possible. Through networking, you can leverage the obvious benefits of building a strong, broad contact base. In fact, networking and informal relationships are often how things really get accomplished in the corporate environment. Additionally, you can learn so much from others. One of my favorite quotes is: The smart person learns from their mistakes, but the genius learns from other’s mistakes. Basically, we all learn differently and what works for one person will not work for another. So, we should learn as much as we can from as many people and situations as possible, then take the key learnings from each and piece them together like a puzzle. In this way, we can learn from other’s experiences and use those lessons learned in the most advantageous way possible to build our own experiences. In short use your MBA experience to build your network of contacts for life and never stop being a student of learning.