Poets & Quants

20 Oct
Dome, or no dome? That is the question.

Dome, or no dome? That is the question.

1.5 weeks in to the first term of the MBA here at SBS and one thing is clear – the playing field is not level. A lot of people refer to students in the MBA class as either “poets” or “quants”. Grossly speaking, the quants have had experience of numbers – accountants, investment bankers, economists, whilst the poets have more experience of… well, the creative side of the world.

I’m pretty sure I’m a poet. My PhD was in Genetics, but I actually consider it to be more like Cell Biology. I did the majority of my research on a massive deconvolution microscope making pretty pictures and movies of fluorescent yeast cells. In that respect I felt more like an artist at times. My main drive was to get the perfect picture or to make the ultimate 3D movie of one of my wee yeasties segregating its chromosomes.

In class I’m surrounded by people that have already done much of the work we’re going over. Some of my classmates have even previously taught the stuff I’m trying desperately to learn! That’s a pretty useful advantage and us poets have got a lot of catching up to do. I’m grateful that in my consulting work I’ve done some NPV calculations so the concept of a discount rate is not completely alien to me.

So here is this poet’s potted analysis of the first 1.5 weeks of lectures:

  • Microeconomics: apparently simple concepts can be turned in to equations and graphs and made very complicated indeed.
  • Strategy: Don’t try to build your fort at the top of a mountain. Or maybe just don’t try to build a fort at all. Or just sell electrical white goods to the middle of the market. No actually don’t do that last one.
  • Financial Reporting: Nobody knows if a company is making money or not. Nobody. Not me, not you, not the executives, not the accountants. Profit is an abstract concept – I have cashflow therefore I exist. Debit sometimes seems to mean credit and vice versa.
  • Marketing: Ignore Harvard MBAs.
  • Finance: Lulled in to a false sense of security because I once did an NPV. This is gonna get tough.
  • Decision science: Statistics taught by a Shakespearean actor will be the best lecture you have ever had in your life.
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One Response to “Poets & Quants”

  1. A October 20, 2010 at 9:11 pm #

    🙂 Nice summary.
    I indeed asked one of the profs about why discrminating between ‘Poets’ and Non-Poets who feel okh with Quants. He said because both can’t exist togehter. I said yes one can…like the one standing before him. 😉

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