How an MBA ruins vacations for the rest of your life!

This post was originally featured in TopMBA Blogs 🙂


One of the biggest upsides of doing an MBA is the long summer, winter, and spring breaks you get.

Last year winter break was a long ordeal in prepping for consulting case interviews. After about putting in scores of cases your mind wandered to the carefree second year winter break that you would earn after having bagged enough offers to choose from upon graduation. The best part is customizing your winter break as you fancy. If you wanted to take off a few days before actual break started (of course you had to take a couple of exams from Airports around the world, not too bad actually) and attend your two best friends’ wedding or you wanted to go to Cuba on a Global Field Experience, or you wanted to just relax till you finished exams on grounds and still had enough time to decide what you wanted to do. You could come back first week January for a week of fast track classes to gain a few extra credits or take a lazy cruise from Miami to Mexico via Key West like I did. 18 months into the MBA you had become pretty darn great at customization.

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However one of the biggest downsides of doing an MBA is how it ruins all vacations for life. Whatever it is that you decided to do for winter break, one thing was for sure – You were eternally thinking about interesting business opportunities, or optimization of processes, or potential revenue growth encountered along the way. Your mind never ceases to calculate, analyze, and hypothesis. Even on vacation!

For instance, how could riding to the Dulles airport for an international flight from Charlottesville be made more certain and reasonably priced? Instead of hoping to hear back on your post in the Darden Facebook group for a ride share. You instantly start thinking about an “Uber communities” service option which could be created by students’ ridesharing activities. On your way to the airport you think about how you could pull data from various social media profiles to create a database of people riding to Dulles that morning.

As you stand in line for your boarding pass, you think about opening more counters during peak hours as you see airline employees standing chatting with each other while old passengers are close to collapsing, or howling toddlers are ensuring their voices outdo each other’s.

You always wonder why they don’t start boarding from the numbers in the back so people don’t keep waiting to get in as people in the front struggle with fitting their cabin bags over head. You mentally start calculating the minutes saved each business day with these optimized process. In turn the dollar value you could save on each extra employee hired by the airline or the additional tariff they pay at airports. When on board, you start sizing the number of meals served/items wasted and how you could estimate the cost savings involved.

When you deplane at your destination and see the serpentine lines for customs and the numerous closed counters you wonder why the variability in demand wasn’t accounted for or why weren’t flight arrivals staggered to manage traffic.

By now its 5:00am in the morning, you are jet lagged, and you can’t help but think about how you have absolutely nothing to wear for the upcoming wedding celebrations. You wish there was app which could customize your outfits based on your mood and theme for each event along with available items in your wardrobe, things you might need to order on amazon, or automatically order the most reasonable pins on your Pinterest board. You race through all the things you need to accomplish and how your life is falling apart without your outlook calendar.

At the wedding, you start optimizing seating arrangements and analyzing variability in buffet lines. Before you try to snap yourself out and decide to start having fun, you are on the second leg of your vacation – the Mexican cruise. All you can think about is calculating winnings the house made that night, by counting the slot machines, number of plays, winning odds, and pay out rates. You start calculating revenues from drinks made at the poolside and Jacuzzi and how if they had bundled them they would make higher margins.

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As the sun sets across the Mexican gulf, I pondered over the constant quantitative and qualitative analysis that MBA students often subject their mind to either in a line for a chipotle meal applying operations management principles or while reading a news piece on a tech firm buyout applying financial valuation concepts.

Will our minds ever take a break? Maybe, maybe not. For the moment I was too busy making a mental spreadsheet on which would be the best vacation spot for spring break!

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