Executive Education: Basic Training

M.B.A. remains degree of choice for executives, entrepreneurs

Name: Frederick L. McPherson
School and term: First-year student, Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College
Undergraduate major: Mechanical Engineering, Florida State University Graduate degree: Master of Science,
Manufacturing Systems Engineering, Stanford University
Work experience: Four years, design engineer at Ford Motor Co. in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico
Career change: Yes
Focus: Venture capital and private equity. Says McPherson: “There will always be excitement in bringing new technologies to market, whether I’m designing it or investing in a company that’s working on it.”

Which schools did you apply to and why did you decide on Tuck?
I considered Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth (Tuck), and University of Virginia (Darden). I did not get accepted to Harvard or Stanford, but was admitted to Tuck and Darden. I felt that the alumni base at Tuck was stronger with more access to professionals in private equity and venture  capital.

Describe your first year at business school.
Intense. Undergraduate and graduate level engineering were technically challenging, but the business school curriculum will challenge any person. It is a huge workload that seems unreasonable until you learn to thin-slice the content and extract the real information you need. It’s also about learning to operate in a team environment, and once you create a protocol for the team to get deliverables completed, you’ll be able to relax a bit.

What are some challenges you faced during school?
There are so many things competing for your time such as course work, sleep, career prep, social outings, and family responsibilities that can get you really stressed.

If you could do the preparation and application process differently, what would you change?
I knew in 2003, when I graduated with a master’s in engineering, that I would most likely go to business school within five years. I should have prepared for and taken the Graduate Management Admission Test then. The test scores are good for five years after taking the exam, so why not score your highest when you are still in active study mode?

The second thing, if you can help it, plan to take at least two months off between leaving your job and starting business school. I took only three weeks off. If I had known that the program would be this intense, I would have stopped working sooner. Create a plan for the GMAT, the essays, the school visits—the process of planning two years before beginning your M.B.A. program is critical so that you are mentally, academically, and financially prepared to get the most out of the program.

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