Aaron Schwartz graduated from the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business because he knew he wanted to work in a startup.
"In April 2010, just before graduation, my cofounder Gary and I started Modify Watches for fun. The idea was that we put into practice what we had learned from school and sell watches for three months before we got our 'real' jobs. I just never went back to the real world," said Schwartz.
Why did you pursue a master's degree?
"I went to grad school for two reasons. First, while I had worked as a management consultant for four years, I was a history major as an undergrad and lacked a strong foundation in operations, marketing, finance, etc. Second, I wanted to start a business, and thought I could use the two years to not only gain a 360-degree understanding of how to build a company, but also to experiment with cofounding my own company."
What would you tell someone who is considering returning to school to earn a master's degree?
"Anyone getting into a master's program is capable of holding a great job. My counterintuitive perspective is that you should not be focused on being the best student in graduate school, nor in building your resume with leadership positions. Instead, all of your time should be spent figuring out exactly what you want to do for your career, and then doing it. As I wanted to do a startup, what this meant in practice was doing well enough in my finance and accounting classes (classes I didn't think were relevant to my success as an early entrepreneur), while focusing all of my classwork on projects that were tied to my business. Spend your time doing instead of just being a student."
What was the biggest challenge you faced when pursuing your master's degree?
"Taking myself out of the workforce for two years was daunting, as I watched some peers make a ton of money in investment banking, consulting and other fields. But I looked at the Berkeley MBA as a two-year booster that would impact me for the next forty years of my career."
What was the biggest reward for earning the master's degree?
"I started Modify Watches right after school started. Our founding team and employees were all connections I made through school. Our first investor earned his MBA three years before me. Some of our first clients were in the Berkeley community. Our business in many ways couldn't exist without my MBA experience and connections. A nice benefit is that with this degree, my risk level of being an entrepreneur is lower, since I can pursue another career if our business were to struggle."
Robin D. Everson is a native Chicagoan who resides in Dallas, Texas. Her appreciation for art, food, wine, people and places has helped her become a well-respected journalist. A life-long lover of education, Robin seeks to learn and enlighten others about culture. You can find her work at Examiner.com
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