From Tuck MBA to Stand-Up Comic and Author
A funny thing happened on the way to the open mic. Paul Ollinger got a Tuck MBA, had a career in Silicon Valley, grabbed a gig at a little start-up called Facebook, and then wrote a book on MBA admissions. Let’s hear his story.
Meet Paul Ollinger [0:50]
He’s a Tuck MBA who discovered a passion for stand-up comedy – while in business school. We’ll learn about his subsequent career in Silicon Valley (including stints at Yahoo and Facebook). Welcome!
Why he chose to pursue an MBA [1:51]
He wanted to accelerate his career. He’d assumed he would go into a corporate job, and had never thought about comedy. At Tuck, he co-hosted a talent show and realized performing and comedy were important to him.
What he values most from his MBA experience [4:05]
The people and relationships. Tuck has the reputation of being a cozy, collegial environment, and it really is: he made lifelong friendships there, along with relationships that are still benefiting his career.
How did Tuck help his career? [5:20]
The standards he observed people setting for themselves showed him a model for business success – and also how to work extremely hard without burning out.
His career path and how he broke into standup comedy [7:40]
After working at Launch and then Yahoo, he moved to LA to do stand up full time. After that, he joined Facebook as a startup. After leaving Facebook 4.5 years ago, he started a blog and found that he enjoyed writing. He briefly went back to work for a small software company, but realized what he’d always been passionate about was writing and comedy. So he decided to write a funny book about business.
Writing You Should Totally Get an MBA [10:10]
He set out to write a funny business book, and realized it was becoming something of a b-school guide book. The title is tongue-in-cheek, but also kind of a sincere look at who should get an MBA.
What niche does the book fill? [11:20]
Hopefully the funny one! He thought he would write a snarky one, but you can’t really sustain snark for a whole book. He knew he’d had a great time in b-school, and it was great for his career. Humor is a tool for people to get through the book – a way to help people think about things.
He went through the application process 20 years ago and reviewed it for the book. He learned how much has changed in 20 years! Including changes in the classroom, changes in the application process, how we present ourselves online. Advice: be your authentic self in presenting who you are through the application process.
The book emphasizes knowing what you want to get out of the MBA – why? [15:30]
The things that will make you successful are your drive and ambition, and your clarity in knowing where you want to go. Knowing how the school fits into your plans will help you achieve your objectives – both in the application process and during the MBA itself.
His future plans [17:55]
He wants to continue using humor in business to help people with their careers and work lives – ie through standup, writing, speaking engagements. He’s planning a second book.
He writes about how applicants should not talk about money as a reason for the degree – why? [18:40]
The best moves in his career were not based on money: they were based on passion. If you’re lucky, you’ll find out it really isn’t about the money.
Linda adds: Another important reason not to mention money in your application is that it doesn’t answer the school’s question about your goals. There are lots of different ways to make money; why are you choosing this one.
Is there an irony in the fact that the book emphasizes the need for goals/direction, but he’s changed direction in his career? [20:40]
His greatest luxury is the choice to pursue his passion. He had great experiences and opportunities at Launch, Yahoo, and Facebook.
His next book [22:58]
He’s planning to write about finding your purpose. As well as his personal observations as a guy who grew up middle class and made money.
His thoughts on passion and business [24:00]
What’s your orientation to your laptop when you open it first thing in the morning? Are you eager to work on something new, or are you dreading opening it? If you’re dreading your work, it might be a red flag for your career.
• You Should Totally Get an MBA: A Comedian's Guide to Top U.S. Business Schools by Paul Ollinger
• Tuck Talk: IV With The Dean Of Admissions
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