Is the altMBA worth it?

I took altMBA24 (batch) in October 2018. A lot of people ask if the altMBA is worth it. This is my answer.

tl;dr: It will lay a good business foundation, help you create a new network of support and friends, and help you “get reps” in doing leader-y things. It might be worth it depending on how good you consider yourself in these, and what you’re looking to improve.

What is the altMBA?

The altMBA provides content on the most important technical business skills (I assume similar content to a traditional MBA). You are rotated to a new group every week and work with them to ship projects (many of them!) related to those skills. In doing all this, you are almost forced to get over yourself and your fears. Fear of not having enough time, of not being ready, of not being good enough.

To generalize, the altMBA can help you with three main buckets: (1) Connect better (create a network of support), (2) Lead better (ship, get over fear of “not being ready”, take initiative), and (3) Get familiar with technical business skills (decision making, business planning, presenting, etc.)

My altMBA experience

I think it is a good foundation for all three, but it won’t take you from beginner to master in any of them. If that is your expectation, then it won’t be worth it. If you are however weaker in a certain area and you want to get a good foundation on that, it might be worth it.

Technical: I’ve already worked with several startups, including my own. I’ve also read a shit ton of books on starting and running businesses. The course brought almost nothing new to me in terms of technical business skills. Not worth it if that’s what I was looking for. It was valuable for a friend I met through the altMBA though. He’s been in a narrow area of banking forever, so he learned a ton on the technical side.

Network: I joined mostly to make new friends (“the network”) as I was planning my move to Germany. So despite being in the Philippines, I joined the London cohort to start making friends all over Europe. We “ate a lot of salt” together (the requirement to making deep friendships, according to Artistotle). I have made some really good friends who I still talk to to this day. Many of them were and is still helpful to my move.

Leadership: I also joined for the “Leadership” aspects. For me, it helped solidify the idea that the work is the people, and not some thing you have to do in addition to “the real work.” Many friends have also commented on how fast I get from idea to tangible thing in the world. The altMBA was good to get reps on this.

Linchpin Embodied

Finally, I also think of it as “Linchpin Embodied.” Linchpin is a book written by Seth Godin in 2011. It’s about the idea of being a linchpin, “the key player, the one who’s difficult to live without, the person you can build something around.” Why you should become one, the obstacles (mostly internal) to that, and the tools to overcome those obstacles. (My book notes from Linchpin)

I read Linchpin in 2013. As a direct result of reading that book, I have since become location independent working full time remote jobs with American companies. This, as a Filipino who started with no network nor credibility in America. I’ve also gotten yearly promotions and 100% increases in salary. Most recently, when I decided to move to Germany, it helped me get offers (and a job!) from several companies in Germany. Again, despite starting out with no network nor credibility in the country.

It took me many years to internalize and apply the ideas in Linchpin. My guess: If I read Linchpin and then took the altMBA, I could have done it in a shorter amount of time.

What the altMBA won’t do

You get what you put in. I think I spent at least 20 hours per week for four weeks, on top of a full time job. Don’t expect it to turn you into a “shipping machine” after the course (yes, this was my hope, my delusion). The altMBA gives you the tangible experience of shipping a lot in a short amount of time. But it’s a sprint. It’s difficult to work that intensely all year long. And the environment (cohorts, prompts for projects) is hard to recreate after the course. The alumni site provides some tools to help with that. I have not been as active as an alumni. Again, you get what you put in!

Here’s an article I wrote about how I felt towards the end of the altMBA: How to account for Alexander’s rise to the top? It’s more than just being nonstop.

I hope this helps you decide. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or email me at chiara@chiaracokieng.com.

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