Things You Learn At Harvard Business SchoolA Summary of MBA Lessons

Beautiful university building reflecting the prestige and history of a major ivy league institution like Harvard Business School

Whether to do an MBA or not is one of the more difficult mid-career decisions of the modern professional. It can be an important tool for career transition, acceleration and enrichment, but comes at a steep price. The best business schools in the US charge over $50k / year in tuition alone (and books and study materials are much more expensive than you can imagine), plus living expenses, additional costs to take part in the many travels and other activities offered, and the significant cost of foregone income. One half of the Tapwage founding team has an MBA and one half doesn’t. Both halves are simultaneously grateful for and regretful of their decisions in this regard.

A common question we get from career seekers is, “What do you actually learn at business school”. Ellen Chisa wrote an eloquent and instructive essay on Medium, about her lessons from her first year at Harvard Business School (HBS). We highly recommend reading the entire essay. Her lessons include:

  • Financial lessons such as the difference between technical debt and financial debt

  • Leadership lessons like understanding your worst self

  • Marketing lessons like value based pricing

  • Lessons on strategy, leadership, trust and much, much more

One of the most highlighted sections of the essay is also one of our favorites, and it’s on the entrepreneurial gap.

When an employee has more accountability than control, this is considered an “entrepreneurial gap.” It’s typically created via an incentive system that encourages the employee to go beyond their span of control.

A must read for anyone considering the value of an MBA. An important caveat — it may seem from the essay or from many other reads that that value of an MBA is largely academic and these insights can be gleaned from the right books on a Kindle over a lazy summer. What Ellen doesn’t fully address is the immersive classroom nature of a top-tier business school degree, the value of learning from experienced classmates, the experiential nature of so many of the lessons, and the importance of social and extra-curricular activities. An MBA is much more than classroom lessons and a way to compact many years of acquired business wisdom into a packed, frenetic two year degree. If you are considering a career change, one half of the Tapwage founding team highly recommends considering an MBA.

[We first learned about Ellen’s Medium article via’s article about it here

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Chris the Climber is a team of Tapwage writers who write about the specific skills that are needed in rapidly evolving careers