Master of Business Administration or MBA. Those words used to inspire awe in me. I remember a few years ago I was applying for a regional marketing position and a chap at headhunter firm, Korn Ferry, told me that experience-wise I had everything their client was looking for. The only thing that was stopping them from hiring me was an MBA.

A few years later, during the dotcom boom, I met this very young Vice President of Marketing working for a start-up dotcom company. He was probably under 25, had recently completed his MBA straight from University. His job was to steer his company’s business across Asia Pacific. I thought (to myself) whether it was his family connection or his MBA that got the job. Maybe it was both.

Fast forward to November 2008. I was attending the CA World 2008 event in Las Vegas. One of the key events (for me) was an open interview with Jack Welch, ex-CEO and now a celebrity business guru. One of the question raised was the importance of MBA in hiring people. Mr. Welch said that he himself didn’t have an MBA. There was laughter in the audience.

So do you need an MBA to succeed in business? If we look at what is dubbed the worst global financial crisis in modern times, you’d be surprise at the credentials of the people that led the world into the state of affairs we are in today.

Stan O’Neill, Merrill Lynch, Hardvard Business School
Hank Paulson, Goldman Sachs and now US Secretary of Treasury, Hardvard Business School
Dick Fuld, Lehman Brothers, Columbia Business School

For sure you don’t need an MBA to get rich (although I can tell from some of the people I know who did take on an MBA course – money was a motivating force). Abramovich, Branson, Buffet Gates, and Mittal are some of the richest people in the world and they are all MBA-free.

According to David Wee, founder and CEO of Asia Speakers Business (ASB), an MBA cannot teach you any of the important lessons of success: leadership, the art of hustle, personal bravery, resilience and risk taking. MBA cannot teach you creativity, daring, inspiration and real insight. MBA cannot teach you to become a successful entrepreneur.

I’m leaving this incomplete and hope that you’d share your thoughts on what can make for a successful career in whatever field you chose.