Elena Kalina always knew that she wanted to continue her education. However, after her post-graduate degree she got into the Hospitality industry and found her job too interesting. How old is ‘too old’ for business school?
My answer is “never”. I always knew that I wanted to continue my education. However, after my post-graduate degree I got into the Hospitality industry – an industry which you either love at first sight and stay in forever or hate right away and leave very shortly. I was immediately sold and fascinated by the business. It was mutual – working in this industry took me to another country, introduced me to a number of international professionals and gave me the opportunity to work on some of the world’s best brands and projects. I always continued to study in between, attending short term courses and programmes at different universities, but never was I ready to drop work completely and go back to school for a year or two. My job was too interesting to stop.
When I finally took a pause and thought about it, I was 37. I looked deep inside myself and said to myself “If I am not doing it now, I will never do it”. And so I did, and a few months later I found myself sitting among the brilliant, kind and beautiful people that were to become my Copenhagen MBA classmates.
Funnily enough, I think I could not have picked a better time in my life to do this. I have 15 years of experience prior to doing my MBA and, hopefully, will have another 25 after graduation. And very often we perceive studies as something meant for young people only. Therefore, it is no wonder we have a workforce which is split between “young and clueless” but enthusiastic vs experienced but old-fashioned and “don’t-fix-what’s-not-broken” types. I can’t say I am in the first category anymore, but I do not want to become one of those in the latter category either. Of course, I could have enrolled in an Executive MBA, but I believe in being present in everything I do – whether it is work, family or study – so whilst balancing it all is absolutely possible, it would have been extremely exhausting… I think breathing in, taking a year off to discover and learn was the best gift I could give myself.
Being an older student gives me multiple benefits – firstly, I know how to manage my energy and my time. I know that I cannot study all night before the exam anymore as I could in my twenties, hence I structure and prioritise my learnings well, which gives me a stress-free study experience.
Secondly, my experience gives me the opportunity to relate to many cases and problems we discuss in class, but I am still young enough not to be “set in my ways” of doing things and able to absorb the learnings. I notice that when you are a younger student with little experience, many concepts may sound too theoretical and too far-fetched, hence the gain is smaller.
Thirdly, I am less worried about employment after the MBA, since I am not perceiving the MBA as a “transformation experience” but rather as an important addition to my life experience and as an opportunity to catch up with the world outside of my industry and learn things I would have not have learnt otherwise. I do not have expectations and simply enjoy the experience, which makes me appreciate every class and every professor.
And last, this MBA actually made me feel much younger – I changed my suits to jeans, my car to a bike, my team of executives to dynamic people I am learning alongside. I have just thrown myself into it, forgetting about my age (and any other factors). I can already see that this experience gives me fresh ideas, expands my skill sets and helps me to become a role model for my future staff. I strongly recommend this experience to anyone. It is never too late for learning. After all, an investment in yourself is the best investment you can make in life.