Executive Education: Basic Training

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

How has business school changed you?
I learned to make better decisions with less information. The reality is that you don’t need to know all the information, just the right piece of information. Many of the things you learn in business school can be learned on the job, but I felt that it was easier spending two years accelerating that knowledge growth.

How did you manage your business school preparation?
It was a struggle. I dedicated at least one hour every day to doing something for business school prep; even if it was doing flash cards or practicing some math I hadn’t seen since grade school. There were times when I just wasn’t motivated. Sometimes, I was so tired. After a long day at the office you just don’t want to study. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Study the next day.

Also, communicate to the stakeholders in your life that you will have less time; you don’t want to drop out of doing things with the mall of a sudden. You will need the people who are important to you to be on board.

Name: Michael Alston
School and term: Fall 2008, Rady School of Management, University of California, San Diego
Undergraduate major: Electrical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University
Graduate degree: Masters of Science in Electrical Engineering, U.C. Berkley; Masters of Science in Applied Physics, Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, U.C. San Diego
Work experience: 16 years, microchip design for  several companies, including Silicon Connections Corp., Metaflow Technologies, and V.I.P. Design, California
Career change: Possibly
Focus: Finance. Alston says: “In addition to semiconductor chip design, I am interested in perhaps one day influencing issues related to K-16 education, globalization, alternative energy, healthcare, and the current decline of the U.S. dollar.”

You’ve been a circuit design engineer for almost 20 years and hold a doctorate in electrical engineering. Why business school?

Recent trends in the field of microchip design indicate that, increasingly, white-collar, computer-based design and development work is following the route of blue-collar manufacturing work and going overseas. As design teams are downsized or disbanded in the U.S., design centers are being expanded or established in countries such as China, India, and Malaysia.

This globalization trend has compelled me to sit up and take notice. I’ve decided to create a back door for myself to transition from doing chip design work to managing chip design work. I believe that earning an M.B.A.—more than any other graduate degree—will best complement my electrical engineering degrees and provide new career options for me.

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