Saturday, October 07, 2006

Driving a Degree

Earning a degree for me is like possessing a brand new car. The first time I entered a new car, the unique odor greeted me. When I turned on the key, the sound of the new powerful engine filled my ear like music. When I drove it, the experience was unforgettable.

Those nice things, however, didn’t last forever. No matter how gorgeous, expensive and prestigious the car was, within four to five years it would be soon outdated. The value would be less than one-third of its original price, and the confidence to use it would decline. It’s just like having a degree.

***
ITB, Institut Teknologi Bandung (Bandung Institute of Technology), is the oldest and the best school for science and technology in Indonesia. With a very tight competition to get a seat, it accepts only the best students from cities around the country.

The first time I tried my luck to enter ITB in 1977 (for 1978 class) resulted in a painful failure. I’m very grateful that I’m blessed with a steely-will. I told to myself that no matter what happened I must study in ITB. I closed my heart for others.

Immediately after knowing the bad news, I made a written schedule of self-study at my home starting from 7.00 to 17.00 from Monday to Saturday. The subjects were only math, physics, biology, chemistry. For the first several months, I studied alone, everyday. Then a friend, son of one of my teachers in elementary school, by the name of Djoko, joined me. But he’s on and off. I was not affected.

During that period, I didn’t cut my hair. After almost one and a half year, it touched my hips already. My sacrifice was paid off. I was one of ITB students for 1979 class.

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ITB for universities is just like BMW for cars. So when I graduated from ITB in 1985, it was just like I drove a brand new BMW 1985 model. It was really cool at that time. But in the year of 1990s, BMW 1985 model looked old and outdated already.

I therefore took a graduate program in business management at IPMI in 1994. At that time it offered a dual degree with Monash University. With Harvard case study teaching model, and with first class quality of faculty members, while all interactions were conducted fully in English, IPMI was just like BMW for business schools. It’s the best.

Hence, when I graduated from IPMI/Monash University in 1996, I was just like riding a brand new BMW 1996 model. It looked good, I felt good. Now, in the year 2006, that BMW model doesn’t look fancy anymore. My MBA diploma doesn’t look quite good either. So, I was thinking to take a postgraduate program!
Now, you’ve probably got the point already, why we need a continuous long-life education.

***
Possessing a higher degree does not guarantee a better success for us in life. For me, however, higher degree means a lot more doors that I may enter. After entering the door, there are a lot more factors other than degree that will determine success in a job.

For example, without the MBA degree, my previous company’s door might not be opened for me, and without the degree I wouldn’t even be considered to teach at BINUS University.

What about taking a course? It’s probably like making small or big improvements to your old cars. It still matters. It makes your car looks up-to-date, trendy and stylish.

In fact, I was thinking to take an advance course, such as in INSEAD Singapore, until I realized how expensive it would be. For a 10-day advanced course, I need to invest US$12K. I told to myself, wow it’s too expensive for my pocket. But I believe that there’ll be a solution for it.

When I took the MBA degree, the tuition fee was also around US$12K. Half of it was supported by the company and it was for two years. Actually, when I enrolled it I didn’t really know where I could have the money from to pay the US$6K. But I had a strong will, so there was a way. I believe it will still work this time around.

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