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Monday, February 16, 2015 at 9am

How MBA Knowledge Ruins Vacations for the Rest of your Life

MBA knowledge

One of the biggest upsides of doing an MBA is the long winter breaks you get. Last year, the winter break was a long ordeal, spent prepping for consulting case interviews. After putting in scores of cases, your mind wanders to the carefree second-year winter break, during which you’re sure to have what will rank among the best vacations of your life, having bagged enough job offers to choose from upon graduation.

The best part is being able to tailor your winter break however you like. If you wanted to, you could take off a few days before the actual break starts (of course you have to sit a couple of exams at various airports around the world, which is not too bad actually) and attend your two best friends’ wedding, or you could to go to Cuba on a Global Field Experience. If you wanted to, you could just relax on campus until you finished your exams; you’d still have enough time to decide what you wanted to do. You could come back in the first week of January for some fast-track classes to gain a few extra credits or you could take a lazy cruise from Miami to Mexico via Key West like I did – 18 months into an MBA, you become pretty darn great at customization…

MBA knowledge versus relaxation

One of the unexpected downsides of that hard-earned and generally quite useful MBA knowledge is how it somehow manages to ruin even the best vacations. Whatever it is you end up deciding to do during your winter break, one thing is for sure – you are eternally thinking about interesting business opportunities, or process optimization, or potential revenue growth. Your mind never ceases to calculate, analyze, and hypothesize.

The best vacations start with…process optimization!

For instance, your MBA knowledge leads you to ask: how could the chances of getting a ride to Dulles Airport for an international flight from Charlottesville be improved? Instead of hoping to hear back on your post in the Darden Facebook group for a rideshare, you instantly start thinking about process optimization. Maybe you could develop an ‘Uber community’ service option which could be created by students’ ridesharing activities. On your way to the airport you think about how you could pull data from various social media profiles to create a database of people riding to Dulles that morning.

As you stand in line for your boarding pass, your knowledge of process optimization makes you question why they don’t open more counters during peak hours, as you see airline employees standing chatting to each other while old passengers are close to collapsing, and the toddlers are having a  howling contest.

MBA knowledge makes you wonder why they don’t start boarding from the numbers in the back, so people don’t get stuck waiting to get in while those in the front struggle to get their bags in the lockers. You mentally start calculating the minutes saved each business day with simple process optimization, and what you could save on employees or airport usage tariffs. When on board, you even start looking at how much food goes to waste, and how much you could save here.

When you deplane at your destination and see the serpentine lines for customs and the numerous closed counters, you wonder why the variability in demand wasn’t accounted for and why flight arrivals weren’t staggered to manage traffic.

No winter break from MBA knowledge

By now its 5am, you are jetlagged, and you can’t help but think about how you have absolutely nothing to wear for the upcoming wedding. You think about all the things you need to accomplish and how your life is falling apart without your Outlook calendar.

At the wedding, you start optimizing seating arrangements and analyzing variability in buffet lines. Before you try to snap yourself out and decide to start having fun, you are on the second leg of your vacation – the Mexican cruise. All you can think about is calculating the winnings the house made that night, by counting the slot machines, number of plays, winning odds, and payout rates. You start calculating revenues from drinks made at the poolside and Jacuzzi, and how if they had bundled them they would make higher margins.  

As the sun sets across the Mexican gulf, I pondered over the constant quantitative and qualitative analysis that we MBA students put ourselves through when waiting in line at Chipotle, utilizing operations management principles, or how you can’t help but apply what you know about financial valuation when reading a news piece on a tech firm buyout. Can our minds ever take a break with all of this MBA knowledge floating around?

Maybe, maybe not…right now, I am too busy making a mental spreadsheet of vacation options for spring break!

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