My MBA from Smartly
The most asked question I get on LinkedIn and Twitter is about my MBA from Smartly. My experience, the pros and cons, would I recommend, etc.
So I dedicate this blog post to all the common asked questions.
I was raised by strict Asian doctor-parents, so it was expected that I keep a 4.0 GPA throughout high school.
I never wanted to go into medicine, instead, I was fascinated with filmmaking at a young age. I learned Photoshop at the age 9, before I learned English.
I had the great opportunity to soak up all the fine and digital arts class offered by my local public high school. During the summers, I took figure drawing and graphics design classes at Washington University in St. Louis.
When it came to applying to colleges, my reach school was USC Film School, my safety school was Washington University in St. Louis, and my backup was Carnegie Mellon University. Well, I didn’t get accepted into my safety school! By a miracle, I was accepted into USC Film School at their acceptance rate of 2%. I moved to California and never looked back.
I majored in Animation and Digital Arts at USC. I took advantage of their study abroad program and took more film and photography classes in Florence, Italy. After graduating in 2011, I had the honor of working on the TV show Robot Chicken. They had a complimentary program at a local vocational school, so I took more animation classes on the weekends.
I love doing deep dives on my own. I loved learning about visual effects and filmmaking online. From Video Copilot, to iTunes University, to Masterclasses, I kept learned on my own pace after I earned my B.A. from USC.
Why did I get an MBA?
With over 20 years of high education between my parents, they expected me to keep going. Since I used up all of my good graces convincing them to let me move to California to study animation, of all majors, I knew it was a matter of time before I needed to buckle down to get my MBA.
Jokes aside, during my time at USC, I found that no matter what you are doing in life, everyone will benefit from business and improv classes. I still stand by this statement.
When I started my own company in 2013, I knew I needed more business background. More info in my left brain to balance out what I had accumulated in the right brain. I didn’t want to go back to school full time, so I started looking at online programs.
Why did I choose Smartly?
To me, the two most appealing aspect of Smartly was that it didn’t cost anything, and everything could be completed in their app. What can I say? I’m a millennial, I dig free useful apps 🙂
Like I mentioned above, I love doing deep dives on my own. I loved that I could research more about say, compound interest after the compound interest lesson on Smartly because I had learned enough within the Smartly app to know where to go next.
I live in LA. Leaving working early, sitting in traffic for 2+ hours, paying $$$ for an on campus parking spot, going to a traditional classroom was not something I want to revisit anytime soon.
Since I still have a few years to go on my student loan payment plan, I also wasn’t in a hurry to take out another large loan to get my MBA. Smartly made sense for me.
After Smartly graduation and beyond.
I completed my MBA program in May of 2017. My company is still going strong, and I’m slowing seeing everything falling into place.
The biggest surprise was that I made the 2018 Forbes 30 under 30 list for Hollywood & Entertainment. I attribute my Smartly MBA degree for getting me to this point.
Pros of Smartly
I like that they have a regular MBA degree, as well as an executive MBA program. I completed the regular MBA degree, but I will probably check out their executive program down the road.
Once you are accepted, you do have access to the program for life. Even if you are done with the program, you can still take new courses that are constantly being added to the course library. Once I have some more time, I’m going to take the mergers/acquisitions course that recently popped up in the app.
I like the virtual study hours they have set up. You can video chat with other students and learn about their background. Similarly, Smartly sets up networking event around town every month or so in major cities, so you can network in person.
I have already recommended this program to three of my USC classmates and they are following suit.
Cons of Smartly
Smartly takes complicated subjects and breaks them down into bite size info. They use fictional examples when they try to convey concepts, like “Joe opened his first pizza shop in his neighborhood and made 1M in profit the first year.” Then they will dive into accounting using Joe’s Pizza and the 1M profit as example. I wish Smartly will swap out Joe’s Pizza with Michael Kors purchasing Jimmy Choo and Versace, and other real world business examples.
In the future, I wish Smartly will set up virtual office hours with professors that you can video chat with. As of now, whenever you are stuck in a lesson, you only have your peers in the class forum to help you figure things out.
Because I had already attended the top school for film (USC), and I plan to work for myself for the foreseeable future, accreditation wasn’t something that was important to me.
Having said that, this is something that is important to a lot of other people considering an MBA.
I reached out to Smartly, and here is what they have to say about it:
While we are not yet accredited, we are licensed to grant MBA degrees by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education here in Washington DC, and are in the multi-year process of gaining formal accreditation.
Because institutes of higher learning are accredited (rather than the degrees they award), once we have earned ours, ALL Smartly graduates will possess a degree from an accredited institution. Few are likely to evaluate the date on which accreditation was granted. We have to be careful how we predict the future, and there is certainly some risk that we do not become accredited, but we believe we are on track and are optimistic about earning this distinction in 2019.
Smartly made sense for me because I like learning things on my own time, with some structure. The MBA program, in addition to my hands on experiences of running my company, met up nicely in the middle and helped me with future strategies and implementations.
It was definitely challenging to run my company full time, and to attend the MBA program. I pulled a lot of late nights making sure we were delivering our best work to our clients, then going straight home and spend a few hours in the Smartly App. It took a lot of discipline.
Having said that, if you know that you need more structure, then a traditional in person learning experience, with professors, study groups and homework will probably be a better experience for you.
Some employers aren’t as agile and will not accept your MBA degree from Smartly. Plan accordingly if this is important to you.
I’m not big on collecting degrees. At the time I started Smartly, I was really looking for a flexible program that’ll get me the knowledge I need on my own time. The free price tag was of course, intriguing.
Smartly delivered all that for me and I’m glad I went through with it.