Should I attend business school or go work at a start-up?

I recently had the opportunity to talk to a smart, friendly guy who’s working at a well-known investment advisory firm. He wanted my advice on whether he should go to business school or take the risk of working for a start-up.

This person had recently been admitted to a top 10 business school in the Northeast. He’s already told his employer that he would be leaving this summer, but hasn’t made up his mind about what to do. Given his background, he eventually wants to work in venture capital and invest in start-ups. He felt that he was more of an investor than an operator.

Network vs Experience

Being part of an elite network could give you access to top executives. It could certainly help you close large deals. It could even help you find a job if you get laid off. MBA is a great networking tool. It will certainly help you build your LinkedIn connections. There’s a reason a lot of the partners at top venture capital firms have MBAs, although that’s not necessarily the case with some of the younger partners at newer VCs.

On the other hand, there’s nothing that can replace real life experience of working at a start-up. If you want to be able to relate to founders, you must either bring personal operating experience or have experience working with many entrepreneurs. You cannot learn venture capital by taking a class on entrepreneurship or venture capital investing. HBS cases, as good as they may be, do not reflect how difficult it is to fight for deals. They do not help you understand what it’s like to sit across the table from an entrepreneur who has poured every ounce of his energy and his entire life savings into the company and say “no.”

This person is a career switcher, sort of. An MBA is great for that. That’s why people take summer internships. However, if you have the opportunity to do something new now without an MBA, you should definitely take that opportunity. Salespeople says, “Always Be closing.” To those contemplating choosing between an MBA program and a start-up, I say, “Always Be Learning.” Remember that most of the learning in life occurs outside the classroom.

Getting an MBA is safer than working at a start-up

We get health insurance not because we want to get sick, but rather because we want to be able to pay for all medical expenses in case we do get sick. An MBA is a great career insurance, but it’s also an expensive one. Weigh the costs. What is your drag coefficient? Can your tolerate the start-up lifestyle? The chance of achieving monetary success is probably bigger for an MBA than it is for an entrepreneur. Most start-ups fail while most MBAs will steadily climb up the corporate ladder. There’s nothing wrong with climbing the ladder. It’s a good way to make money and your family will appreciate you for it.

However, you also have to consider the cost of missed opportunities. Let’s face it. Life is ridiculously short. One of the top five regrets of the dying is, “I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” Many people have unfilled dreams. Give yourself the freedom to pursue your passion. If everyone played it safe, our history books would be mind-numbing and boring. That said, it’s important to note that the second  most cited regrets is “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.” Starting a company or working at a start-up is a lot of work and most of that is not glamorous work. Honestly, a lot of it is pure grunt work. It’s a huge time investment.

What matters the most is you. 

It’s not the degree and it’s not where you’ve worked, no matter how “hot” that start-up might have been. If you want to be a venture capital investor, or anything really, you have got to try your best to make the right connections and equip yourself with the right skills. I’ve seen both successful MBAs and entrepreneurs become venture capitalists. I’ve also seen the reverse where mediocre former entrepreneurs and MBAs, despite wanting desperately to become a VC never quite get there. As we’ve all been told byour parents and teachers, we are are responsible for our own actions.

Therefore, whatever path you choose, whether that’s getting MBA, MS in something cool, or joining a start-up, make sure you have the end goal in mind. Go do what you love. Don’t do something because you think it’s the right stepping stone to something else you want.

By: Jonathan Lee
Twitter: @hi5at5

Life at a start-up, one year in

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve already passed the one year mark at Rixty. Holy schnikes! Has it really been over a year? Time sure flies by quickly when you are working your butt off. It’s been a crazy ride so far and I’ve learned a ton.

This is now my fourth, but first full-time, start-up experience. I had a typical pre-MBA path: consulting and finance. I could’ve gone back to that life, but I’m happy I didn’t even though I’m not rolling in Benjamins like my friends in consulting or banking.

Start-up life is not glamorous

An early-stage startup is of course not as established as a Fortune 500 company. For small companies, there’s no formal HR department (which means I can get away with more random BS) or an IT Help Desk (which means you can’t blame anyone when your laptop crashes). When something breaks, you have to roll up your sleeves and fix it. An MBA does not get a special treatment. Titles are meaningless. Everyone is equal. Leave your egos and personal agendas at the door. We all work extremely hard to make things happen and keep our partners and customers smiling from ear to ear.

It always takes longer so expect the unexpected

Building a new product or adding a new feature to an existing product always takes longer than expected. Sure, large companies miss deadlines too, but the impact of a delay is much bigger for a smaller start-up. Whether it’s because you found a bug or you had some external factors that you couldn’t control, delays really suck big fat you-know-what. It doesn’t happen often, but when we are delayed, I’ve learned to not freak out like my head is on fire, but stay calm and work with what I’ve got to close a deal instead of complaining about what I don’t have.

You grow professionally and personally at start-up

I used to believe that strategy consultants and investment bankers, because of the breadth of their work and the long hours they spend working, learned at least twice as much as employees at other companies. That could be true, but I now believe that you have more unique opportunities to acquire new skills and grow as a person at a start-up. When you are building the bridge you are walking on and are wearing multiple hats in a single day there’s no shortage of opportunities to grow. I could be in a new role with new products in new market all in a single day. If you don’t like uncertainties, life at an early-stage start-up is probably not for you. If you want to be challenge until you don’t want to be challenged anymore, then a start-up is the perfect place for you. We only take ambitious, hungry people who want to rock like a rock star on steroids.

Don’t take rejections personally

There are days when building something totally new could be a grind. You love what you have helped build, but what if it’s not getting the love you feel it deserves? When that large deal that would have helped the company tremendously doesn’t go through, it could feel worse than kicked between your legs (well, maybe not literally). However, you can’t take rejections personally. Large companies get rejected all the time, although the pain is probably not as great when you have hundreds of million of dollars in the bank and have a thousand other products you can ship to your other partners. Either they are not smart enough to see the value-add of your product or you need to refine your pitch. Or perhaps you need to change your product. Iterate, iterate, iterate, and go do it some more until it’s perfect. Change it up so that it becomes relevant to the party with which you are trying to build a long-lasting partnership. But never take rejections personally. If you are a start-up, most likely, you are building something so new that it’s difficult for some people to immediately understand the value you bring. That’s okay, just keep trying.

Stay hungry. Stay foolish– But be Patient and Smart.

Your company is probably not going to IPO for $10 billion in 10 months. It’s unlikely to get acquired either. Build, scale, sell. Repeat. Do it over and over until that day comes. Stay hungry and foolish, but don’t be delusional. Start-up life is like running a marathon; it’s not a sprint. Success isn’t built over night. At the same time, you have to know when to quit. Don’t listen to the naysayers, but don’t ignore them either. In poker you have to know when to bluff to represent a hand you don’t have, but you also need to know when to fold to minimize your losses. Be hungry, but also be patient and smart. Wait for the right cards, the right moment to go all-in.

By: Jonathan Lee
Twitter: @hi5at5

How to pick the MBA program that’s right for you

Over the course of last couple of months, I had the opportunity to interview several highly qualified applicants to the Duke MBA program. Yes, we are in the thick of MBA application season. You are probably starting to see the fruits of your labor now from your Round 1 schools and perhaps even Round 2 schools .  All the hours you’ve put into studying for the GMAT, making countless revisions of your essays, crafting the perfect outline of your “story” for your recommenders, and  practicing for your interviews have paid off big-time and now you’ve been accepted to several schools. Now what?

Eeny, meeny, miny moe. Catch a tiger by the toe?

You may be ecstatic to have gotten into a school high on your list. It’s ranked highly by all the magazines and newspapers that precisely measure the quality of hundreds of MBA programs (sensing my sarcasm here?). The choice here is easy. It’s a no-brainer. Or is it?

Should you go to the highest ranked school with the most prestigious name? What’s in a ranking or a name anyway? How do you even measure that? And more importantly, how do you decide which one is best for you?

Rankings and prestige are meaningful, but there’s more.

Three years ago, I cared a lot about rankings. I cared a whole lot about which program had a better name recognition. Also, I cared about which program provided the most support for aspiring entrepreneurs. The rankings are helpful and brand is certainly important, but there is so much more to a program than what the editors of a magazine think of them. After having completed my MBA and having interacted with students from other MBA programs, I now have a different perspective on what the MBA degree means and how applicants can decide the best program for themselves.

The Top 3 Program recruiting advantage is a myth. 

One of my former colleagues said to me, “If I can’t get into Harvard, Stanford or Wharton school, then I’m not going to get an MBA at all. It’s just not worth it.” Firstly, that’s an arrogant statement. Secondly, it’s just not true. Yes, there’s a difference between a top 5 program and and, say, a top 50 program, but that’s partially because recruiters at top consulting firms, investment banks, and tech companies can’t go to all top 50 programs to recruit. And again, very generally speaking, people who go to a top 50 program often do not have the same goals as those who aim for a top 5 program.  However, as long as you are in a top 20 or top 25 program, you are going to get similar opportunities when it comes to recruiting. Let me show you an example.

For instance, 24% of HBS Class of 2011 went into consulting, earning a median base salary of $125,000 according to the  school’s recent employment report.  Some of the consulting firms that recruit at HBS are: McKinsey, BCG, Bain, LEK, and Deloitte. In 2011, HBS was ranked #2 according to US News and World Report. Assuming that its student body of 1,840 was divided evenly between the first year class and the second year class,  approximately 221 HBS class of 2011 became consultants. That’s impressive and I can certainly see why people would want to go to HBS. The school does a fantastic job of providing career opportunities in consulting for its students .

Now let’s look at Duke MBA (Fuqua), which is where I went to school. With an enrollment of 901, the Fuqua School of Business, which was ranked 12 last year by US News and World Report, is about half the size of HBS. According to Duke MBA’s employment report, 34% of its students in the 2011 graduating class accepted a job with a consulting firm. That’s about 153 students going firms such as McKinsey, BCG, Bain, LEK, and Deloitte. Median salary? Same as that of HBS. $125,000. I am not at all saying that Fuqua is better than HBS for getting a larger percentage of its students into consulting firms. That’s definitely not the point.

The point I am making is that similar firms go to top 2o or 25 schools to recruit. Not just top 3 or top 5. You will be given the same or at least similar opportunities if you attend a top 20-25 school.  Once you step in the interview room, it’s all on you. It doesn’t matter a whole lot where you went to school if you suck at interviewing.

Consider the intangibles

Someone I know got a high paying job as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs. This person left the firm in less than three months. I know a lot of investment bankers who applied for a job at GS, but didn’t get an offer. So why did this person leave so soon? Because he hated it. On the outside, GS looked like a great firm for this individual, but when he got there, he absolutely hated it. It just wasn’t a good fit for him. Similarly, a business school can be that way too. You have to find the one that is right for you.

You may believe that you must go to Wharton, Columbia or Booth if you want to go into banking. Maybe you want to work at a non-profit so you think Yale SOM is perfect for you. If you are marketing-minded, you might think Fuqua is the right school for you. Think again. Take a look at the employment reports of those schools and pay a close attention to the companies that recruit there. While there certainly are differences, there is also a large overlap.

Don’t buy into the stereotype that there’s a program for the quant jocks and another school for the creative types. MBA is a general degree. It gives you the training and the tools to be a great executive.

You want to become well-rounded. What you must consider, then, is how you fit in at the different schools, where you can contribute the most, and where you will have the most enjoyable experience.

Do you like large classes or smaller, more intimate classes? Do you want to live and learn in an urban setting or do you prefer a campus experience? Do you have kids and want to live in a house with a backyard while you are in school? These questions ought not to be secondary. I heard Brad Feld of TechStars  once say that you should pick where you want to live and then find a job there. To a degree, I say the same about MBA programs. I say “to a degree” because the MBA program is for less than two years. It’s temporary. But then so is life.

Why I chose Fuqua

There were three factors that led me to choose Fuqua over some of the other schools.

  1. Before meeting my wife, my top choice was Tuck. I had met several people that had gone to Tuck and was impressed by their intelligence and friendliness. However, my wife spent most of her life in the South before moving to Boston and was not particularly fond of long New England winters. I actually like the cold winters in NE, but I have also come to learn that a “happy wife is a happy life” so we decided to go somewhere a tad bit warmer. I ended up not even applying to Tuck.
  2. After attending several info sessions and visiting a few campuses, I decide that I wanted to have a classic campus experience. For example, I love New York and am a huge “city person,” but I didn’t think I would feel like a student at the largest city in the country. I couldn’t shake off the feeling that some of the New York schools had more of a commuter feel to them. I wanted a campus with large libraries, statues, open quads, maybe even a bell tower or a chapel, and a great sports program because I went to a small college and felt like I had missed out on an important part of the college experience. I was looking for a place with a strong culture. That’s just me though. You might want the opposite.
  3. The third reason I chose Fuqua was for the “Team Fuqua” experience. As a side note, I hear Ross has a similar culture to that of Fuqua. During my visit at Fuqua, I sensed that Duke MBA students were serious about learning, but weren’t serious about themselves. In fact, that was my biggest takeaway from my visit. The professors were very friendly and I knew that Duke would provide a fun learning environment.

Where my MBA has led me

I am now doing exactly what I intended on doing after getting my MBA. I am working at an online start-up in San Francisco doing business development. It took a lot of work for me to get this job, but fortunately, I was able to leverage the Duke network. Could I have gotten a job at a start-up in SF had I gone to another school? Probably. But I ended up where I wanted to be after having the best two years of my life so I don’t ask myself, “I wonder what would have happened had I gone to XYZ instead.” In the end, it doesn’t matter whether the school is ranked 2, 5 or 25. If you are ambitious and smart enough to get into a top program, you’ll be able to use the resources around you to get to where you want to. I think that’s in part what the MBA teaches you– how to be resourceful and network effectively.

If you are fortunate enough to be deciding between two or three great schools, congratulations! Forget about which school your friends or managers think is more prestigious. Don’t let a person like my former co-worker make you think that you are “wasting” your time and money if you decide to go to a non-top 5 school. Go with your heart.

Go where you will be happy. Visit the campus and talk to the students and the alumni if you can. Two years is simultaneously too long and too short for you to just get a stamp on your resume and not embrace the full MBA experience. Invest in your career, but also invest in yourself. Let it be a time of self-discovery…. and have a great time!

The Dean of Admissions at Fuqua said during our orientation something to the effect of, “This is an expensive gift you have given yourself. Make the most of it. Learn about yourself and enjoy the journey.” I couldn’t agree more.

By: Jonathan Lee
Twitter: @hi5at5

Why I am learning how to code

I’ve decided to learn how to code. I’ve been teaching myself Python over the past couple of months. The progress has been much slower than I expected, primarily because I don’t have enough time during the week to dedicate to coding. In fact, I only have a few hours (at most) on the weekend. Unfortunately, life happens and I get distracted sometimes.

Why am I learning how to code? Simple. I want to be able to build stuff without having to depend on someone else. I don’t expect to have a second career as a programmer. I don’t expect to code full time at all. I just want to be able to prototype ideas and mainly just hack stuff together. Plus, it would be awesome to be able to help out my engineering team when I finally get my own company off the ground someday. I need to be able to communicate with the engineers. Therefore, I am learning how to speak their language.

I remember learning Mandarin in college. It was an arduous yet fun process. It was fun to be able to communicate with the local taxi driver and shopkeepers in Mandarin, albeit imperfectly. I could always understand more than I could actually speak it. The same is the case with Python. I can understand more complex code than I can write, for now anyway.

Here’s something very simple I wrote over the weekend. It’s really elementary, but I plan to build on this and create an interactive “game” over the next month or two. I am curious what I am going to come up with!

print “Let’s figure out what you would be if you were a number.”
print “To do so, I’m going to ask you a series of questions.\n”

gender = input(“If you are a male, please enter 1. If you are a female, please enter 2. If you are unsure, please enter 3:”)

if gender == 3:
print “I’m terribly sorry, but I cannot give you a number.”

elif gender == 1:
height = input(“Enter your height in inches:”)
weight = input(“Enter your weight in pounds:”)
lastname = raw_input(“Enter your last name:”)
malevalue = int(height) + int(weight) + len(lastname)
print “Your numerical value is”, malevalue

elif gender == 2:
height = input(“Enter your height in inches:”)
weight = input(“Enter your weight in pounds:”)
lastname = raw_input(“Enter your lastname:”)
femalevalue = int(height) + int(weight)/2.2 + len(lastname)
print “Your numerical value is”, femalevalue

else:
print “That is not a valid option. This calculation works only for those who can follow directions!”

– from xkcd.com

Innovations in the payments space are accelerating the extinction of cash

I have several payment apps, including PayPal, Square, Card Case, Serve (American Express), and Dwolla on my HTC Inspire. They are similar in that they all facilitate payments, but are also dissimilar in that they serve different purposes. I’ve been using PayPal for years and I’ll probably continue to use it, but I am a big fan of Square as well. I haven’t been using Serve and Dwolla for too long, but I’m playing around with them to learn more.

I’ve been reading about various opinions on what will be the next big thing in the payments space. Will it be Google Wallet? PayPal? Square (and Card Case)? Maybe even Dwolla? I think that all depends on the consumer, merchant, and the transaction type because, as I said earlier, these solutions serve different purposes. While they are all different, the commonality with all these companies is that they are making hard currency obsolete.

Dwolla— will it kill credit cards?

While I think Dwolla offers a unique product, my humble opinion is “No, it will not kill off credit cards.” Dwolla is great for merchants in that it’s cheap, but it’s not solving any real problems for the consumers. It will have to give me an incentive to use this for my everyday shopping experience before I can be convinced to dump my credit cards, which give me loyalty points or cash-back.

Dwolla is relatively simple to use, but it doesn’t offer me any incentives or consumer protection. It will need to give me something to change my behavior that’s been ingrained in me for years.

However, I do see this as a great tool for peer-to-peer money transfer or for those who do not have credit cards or prefer not to use them in certain instances. For example, I love how I can pay my friends through Twitter using Dwolla.

Having worked at Rixty, I have become more knowledgeable about the cash-spending consumer segment. According to a Federal Reserve Bank of Boston research in 2009,

more than 40% of consumer transactions are still made via cash, check or electronic bill payment, not with a credit or a debit card. About 70 million Americans are under-banked, yet spend $1.1 trillion each year in cash.

Those are some astounding figures since I hardly carry more than a few dollars in cash in my wallet. And since Dwolla is skipping credit cards altogether, it could tap into this huge cash-paying consumer segment. There’s a lot of money out there. Making it economical, safe, and convenient for consumers to make online purchases with cash or transfer money could be a very lucrative business.

Square— the next step in credit card processing?

Critics of Square say that what Square is doing isn’t all that revolutionary, that they are just making incremental changes to the status quo. Even if that were true, so what? It’s ridiculously difficult to change established consumer behavior. And why change it if what’s in place isn’t all that inconvenient? Proponents of alternative payments say that credit cards are costly to businesses and consumers because merchants have to pay nearly $50 billion annually in transaction fees and that the fees are ultimately passed unto the consumer. Yes, that’s a lot of money but that tells me that consumers are happy to be swiping away. It’s difficult to get them to switch to something totally different. They like their plastic cards, whether they are literally swiping it or punching in their numbers.

What I love about Square is that they are enabling small merchants to easily and economically accept credit payments without the hassle. For example, there are many street fairs in San Francisco and most street vendors only accept cash payments, but I am seeing an increasing number of them starting to take credit cards via Square.

With Square, small merchants don’t need to deal with complicated credit card contracts or hidden fees. All they need is a free Square dongle. No wonder more than 800,000 merchants have signed up with Square and have processed more than $2 billion in payments in the last 12 months.

Even with the ubiquity of the Internet, more transactions are done offline than online, and Square has the potential to be a leader in this space.

In addition to making it easy for merchants to accept payments, Square also helps them track loyal customers. That’s obviously great news for customers as well. Square’s loyalty program therefore incentivizes both the merchant and the consumer. That’s a smart way to drive adoption from both ends. It puzzles me that credit card companies and payment processors have not offered this service to merchants before. Not only did Square nail it with its loyal program, but it’s bringing customers closer together with merchants through Card Case, which allows users to open a “tab” and pay just by giving their name. Now that’s innovation!

I am eager to see whether Jack Dorsey truly does have the Midas’ touch. I admire his entrepreneurial aptitude and insane drive.

Google Wallet— Is NFC here yet?

Google says,”In the past few thousand years, the way we pay has changed just three times– from coins, to paper money, to plastic cards. Now we’re on the brink of the next big shift.” I absolutely love Google for making such bold claims. I love crazy ideas and Google doesn’t have any trouble coming up with them.

Google Wallet is an Android app that turns your phone (Nexus S for now) into a wallet. You can store your card information on your phone. When you want to pay, all you have to do is tap your NFC enabled phone.

Wildly simple, right? The big problem here is infrastructure. It’s a Catch 22. Until merchants are equipped to take payments from NFC devices, consumers won’t have much reason to have an NFC enabled mobile phone and merchants aren’t likely to embrace NFC until they know that consumers are able to pay via NFC. I do believe, however, that new payment methods must be adopted by merchants first before they can be embraced by consumers.

In other words, introducing a new payment method is more of a sell-driven proposition. For this to succeed, Google will have to assist with the roll out of NFC readers at major retail channels.

I see this happening at my local Peet’s Coffee so it appears Google is going about this the right way.

Also, the success of Google Wallet or NFC payment in general will depend much more on the mobile phone manufacturers’ willingness to bet on this technology as a standard method of payment than consumers’ decision to adopt it. If it comes with my phone, then I’ll use it when I see a merchant who has the ability to take payments through NFC. However, I am unlikely to go buy an NFC enabled device to push my favorite stores to let me pay with my phone.

While Google is betting on NFC, it’s not focusing only on the technology. It’s focusing on using technology to add value to credit card users and making all kinds of transactions more streamlined. What do I mean by that? Because Google Wallet is a virtual wallet, it can store multiple credit cards, coupons, and probably eventually even ID cards. Think about this application beyond payments: When you are trying to get through security at an airport, you currently have to take out your wallet, take out your ID, show the TSA agent your ID, put your ID back in your wallet, and then put your wallet back in your pocket. That’s messy. Eventually, you might be able to just take out your phone and tap it to an NFC reader and then your face and boarding pass information might be displayed on a screen for verification. That’s simple. Google Wallet isn’t just about payments although I am sure that’s the primary purpose and it’s easy to think of similar applications for monetary transactions.

The million dollar question is, “When will NFC become mainstream?” Square COO, Keith Rabois doesn’t seem to think NFC will become mainstream with most Americans any time soon. I think he’s at least partially right. NFC alone won’t become mainstream. I think traditional swipes will co-exist with NFC just like credit and debit cards co-exist with cash today.

Square’s value proposition is that it turns any smartphone into a credit card reader. Google Wallet’s value proposition isn’t just that it uses NFC to transact payments, but that it uses the app to organize payments for the consumers by leveraging NFC.

There’s an important difference. If Google used NFC to try to replace swipes, that’s not very innovative. It’s only a very costly alternative that requires new infrastructure. Most likely such attempt will fail. Google has many tools to combine users’ spending data with location based services. Google will be able to track users’ spending data across various payment methods and learn a lot about their spending habits. Information is valuable and can be monetized. Think of Google Wallet as Google’s way of collecting our shopping data even when we’re offline. That’s incredible.

Bottom line: I see Square becoming insanely big. It has the potential to be bigger than the current version of PayPal because of its simplicity and cost-effectiveness for the merchants (But let’s not kid ourselves. PayPal isn’t going to just sit and watch; it’s going to evolve.). I see a potential in Dwolla as well for its ability to cheaply transfer funds between two parties. And I see a huge upside for Google Wallet because of its ability to replace the bulky wallet and use consumer spending data to better target ads and offers (even in real-time). As payments companies keep innovating, we’ll eventually see the extinction of hard money. My guess is that my next generation will have to go to the museum to see cash and coins.

By: Jonathan Lee
Twitter: @hi5at5

Working at Rixty

This is an overdue post. I’ve been at Rixty for a month now. It’s been a great experience so far. I’m learning a lot while having a lot of fun. At Rixty, we are making it possible for cash-paying customers to be able to make online purchases. How? Click here to find out.

How not to conduct a job interview

I’ve conducted a few job interviews. Whenever I interview someone, I try to create a comfortable atmosphere for the interviewee. I try to get to know them a little bit on a personal level. Unless the interviewee is relaxed and at ease, he or she is not going to be able to well in the interview. I want them to do well because awkward interviews are difficult for the interviewer too!

What I recently experienced illustrates how not to conduct an interview.

I’ve interviewed with several Internet start-ups lately. Most of my interactions with these companies were very professional and pleasant. However, one of my interviews, which was with the company’s CEO, left a bad taste in my mouth.

I initially contacted him via email and told him about my interest in his company. His response was that my resume was “impressive” and that I should talk to one of his VPs. I talked to his VP a few times on the phone and later met him for breakfast. He was great. I thought to myself, “I really like this guy. He knows this space and he would be a great person to work for.” That afternoon, I met with a couple of his co-workers, one of which was the CEO.

We started the interview in a standard fashion by going over my resume. As I was walking him through my resume, we talked about my education– i.e. why I chose Babson and Duke MBA, etc. I told him that one of the reasons I chose Babson is because “Babson is probably one of the most entrepreneurial schools in the country.” He seemed quite surprised and said he had never hard of Babson. Judging by the look on his face, he looked as though he was offended . How dare I claim such a thing in front of someone who went to Stanford?! That’s fine, but it’s true in my opinion. The Babson Alumni Magazine I receive every quarter is filled with updates from alumni, including recent graduates, about how they are now founders of their own successful companies. In fact, U.S. News & World Report has ranked Babson #1 in Entrepreneurship for more than 14 consecutive years (18 consecutive years for Babson MBA).

When I told him about my passion for start-ups and desire to be where he’s at in 10 years, he said,

“But you, you have been out of school for 6 years, yeah, about 6 years and you haven’t worked besides at your two internships.” When I asked for clarification, he told me that “consultants don’t work.”

I didn’t quite know how to respond to that and I was confused by his contradictory reaction. Was he impressed by my resume like he had said in his email or was he not? Maybe he was just getting cranking because it was late in the day? I’m still not sure.

I know what he was getting at. He was trying to say that consultants don’t actually implement any operational changes. I agree that consultants focus primarily on making sound recommendations based on their research and analyses. I get that. He kept on questioning why I went into consulting instead of joining a start-up. He found it difficult to believe that someone who claims to be entrepreneurial would go work for a consultancy after college rather than join a start-up. We must have spent at last five minutes on why consultants don’t actually do anything! For the record, he was an investment banker before working at his first start-up. Ironic, isn’t it? What ever reason I gave him (e.g. wanting to learn about various industries, gaining analytical skills, etc), he always went back to, “but consultants don’t work.” I knew the interview was over at that point.

Maybe he thought that I was jumping on the start-up bandwagon because that’s the “cool” thing to do right now. I’m still not sure why he behaved the way he did. And, frankly, it doesn’t matter now. My time pursuing a role at that particular start-up wasn’t a complete waste though. I learned a valuable lesson, which is that I should show more respect to all my interviewees and not make assumptions about their career decisions without knowing their background. I never received an official “rejection” email either. Strange. Unprofessional. Annoying.