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.

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It could be said that media people are spoiled. And I’m saying this because I’ve attended quite a few press events and public conferences where everything is laid out for you in near grandiose style. Take for instance the recent CA World (2008) event I attended in Las Vegas (November 15-18). The venue was superb, the attention paid to the media was ok as were the sourvenir – OGIO backpack. CA planned it well – as have most other vendors and organizers I’ve met.

So it would come as a surprise to me that yesterday (November 2) an event in Hong Kong hosted by Red Herring was less than usual. It was their 4th annual 100 Asia Awards. Two things that should have rang a bell when I arrived to claim my badge: (1) the registration queue was long with two gentlemen manning the registration table; and (2) the welcome kit was a piece of A4 paper with the agenda printed on one side.

The programme said introduction was to commence at 0800. Ok, people in Hong Kong are rarely morning people so you’d expect the event to start a few minutes late and sure enough by 0845 the host of the event, Mr Farley Duvall came up the stage to introduce himself and apologize for the delays. He ventured on to explain that the CEo, Mr Alex Vieux could not come to this event personally due to visa issues (email me if you are interested to know about this). Seeing as the programme was running late he invited the members of the keynote roundtable on “Global VCs’ Move on Asia: Too Much Money Is Investment Bubble” to come up on stage. When no one stood, he again apologized saying that due to the events in India last week, it is possible some of the members of the panel could not join the panel.

Mr Duvall then proceeds to invite Scott Martin, an editor for Red Herring, to come up to stage and say a few words. Very casually he also invited anyone in the group (about 100 people maybe more) to come up to the stage and share their experience on the issue of capital raising. No volunteers.

Mr Martin spoke briefly about how the US market was tanking and that investments in Europe were following suite. He did note that Asia seems to be a bright spot. in particular, China seems to be holding up although he has doubts about sustainability. (more…)