Marquis Parker: Why I’m Still Blogging Six Years After Completing My MBA
An MBA helped Marquis Parker go from software engineer to senior business strategist
When Marquis Parker started his blog in October 2003, he was one of the very first to blog about his MBA. Marquis hoped to get a place on Stanford’s highly competitive MBA programme, and wanted to offer support and guidance for people – like him – who didn’t know anyone with an MBA.
Before starting at Stanford, Marquis felt stuck in his job as a software engineer. After graduating in 2006, Marquis landed a job at McKinsey. He now works as Vice President of Global Operations for Aon Broking, having used his MBA as an opportunity to reinvent his career.
Realising that there was still demand for advice amongst MBA applicants, Marquis keeps his blog updated, answering MBA related questions on the same blog he began nine years ago. Despite having a large and faithful readership, he insists to us that he is still the most regular guy you could ever meet!
BusinessBecause caught up with Marquis to ask what questions he gets asked most often, whether companies understand the power of blogging, and what advice he would give to other business students thinking of sharing their experience online.
Why did you decide to study an MBA?
Prior to my MBA, I spent five years working as a software engineer. After a few years in the role, I realised that I didn’t really enjoy being a hands on coder, and started to feel pretty stuck in my career.
My aspiration was to move into business management, but I knew it would be a difficult transition to make. It seemed like I would either be stuck as a hard-core techie, or would have to take an entry level business role – if anyone would have me!
After a bit of research, I realised that an MBA would give me the chance to restart my career in a new direction, without all the experience I had gained pre-MBA counting for nothing.
How did you choose your business school?
Stanford was my dream school. They’re particularly strong in general management, and I wanted a course that emphasised leadership. I was also drawn to the small class sizes – it was important to me to be a name, not a number!
The diverse community of students at Stanford was a real positive. The course attracts people from all sorts of ethnicities, nationalities and economic background, bringing with them a diverse set of ideas. In the end, I knew Stanford was somewhere I just had to be.
What was the biggest lesson your MBA taught you?
This is difficult – my MBA taught me so much!
Immediately after graduation, I thought that the biggest way in which my MBA had impacted me was to give me real confidence in my abilities. Whilst my performance improved, it was equally important that my own perception of my performance improved too.
Pre-MBA, I tended to doubt my own knowledge, and whether people would believe in what I had to say. Getting some confidence was a big factor in helping me drive forward in my post-MBA career.
Now that six years have passed after graduation, I would say that the biggest lesson I learnt was time management. You have so many different priorities whilst at business school, and you have to juggle academic commitments, extracurricular clubs, and networking opportunities.
In my current management position, I’ve realised how important it is to prioritise what you do with your time. There’s no way you can do everything you want to, all at once!
Why did you decide to blog about your MBA experience?
When I was researching different aspects of the MBA, I found it quite challenging, as I didn’t have any MBA graduates to talk to. I went into the process completely blind. The idea was that my blog would help people like myself get some guidance through the whole MBA process.
After blogging for eight or nine months as an applicant, I realised that my perspectives on the MBA experience would also be valuable. People wanted to know about internships, about getting a job... And I could help them!
Another purpose of the blog was to show that Stanford MBAs are just regular people. There’s nothing distinctive about me, except for the fact that I work hard.
Why have you maintained it so long?
Actually, when I started blogging in October 2003, I didn’t think I would continue it! However, once I got to b-school, I realised that I was really helping people. I had readers of my blog stopping me in airports, asking me questions about MBA admissions!
When I moved to McKinsey after graduating from Stanford, I knew that I couldn’t blog about my work due to confidentiality issues, so I switched from writing about my own MBA to answering peoples’ MBA related questions.
I have gathered lots of different perspectives and experience, and my blog is such a great way to help people. Maybe I can’t change the world by myself, but I might help someone who goes on to do something pretty special.
Do you think companies underestimate the power of blogging and social media?
I think they used to, but they definitely understand it now. When you turn on the news, the presenters are reading out viewers’ tweets, and asking you to click the ‘like’ button on facebook! But there’s a bit of a delay between companies realising the importance of the media, and knowing how to leverage it.
We’re starting to see companies asking employees to blog about their experiences at work, which is a really rich and powerful way for companies to spread their message. This is the sort of opportunity that could have huge potential for firms, especially small ones which might not have loads of resources.
You help people with MBA admissions advice through your site - what's the most common question you get asked, and how do you answer it?
I’ve been asked literally thousands of times whether people will get in to their chosen business school with a certain GMAT score and whatever work experience they might have.
I have to remind people that I’ve never actually worked in an admissions office. I try to give an objective perspective and give my advice, but it makes more sense to talk to admissions directors or alumni. The last thing I want to happen is to have people complaining that I told them they would get in – and then they didn’t!
When people let me know what their weaknesses are, and ask how to make up for them, I can be a lot more helpful. Sometimes I tell them to try out some extra-curricular activities, to look into additional qualifications they could take to prove their academic record, or to retake their GMAT. It really depends on the individual.
What pitfalls have you faced as a result of choosing to share your experiences through your blog?
Initially, I didn’t realise how vulnerable blogging makes you, especially when you use your real name and write about what’s really going on in your life. It opens you up to criticism, and I had no idea that sharing my opinions and perspectives could have such an impact. I definitely wasn’t prepared for receiving hate-mail!
Now that blogs are so prevalent, new problems have arisen. Employers can search for your online presence, and might end up making an assessment of your character without even meeting you.
I’ve also found that once you’ve built up an audience of regular readers, they expect you to keep churning out content of a high quality. Now I’m in work, I have less and less time to spend on maintaining my blog, and rather than posting content every one or two days, I can only really manage an entry once a week. It’s disappointing when you see some loyal followers drop off!
What advice do you have for MBA students and/or business professionals who are interested in starting a blog?
Firstly, always remember that what you put on the internet might have a permanent presence. Even if you delete content, you never know whether someone might have already copied it. Make sure that you only write the sort of stuff you want to be associated with, and be ready for the implications of sharing it.
Although blogging is a great way to build a personal brand, you can also destroy it if you do it wrong! You should be mindful of the impression you’re giving, especially when commenting on current affairs. Never be under the incorrect assumption that private things can’t be held against your professional profile.
Most of all, though, blogging is a great way to have fun! If your motivation is to make money off your blog, you’ll probably end up disappointed – it’s really difficult to do. For me, blogging has meant I’ve been able to make new friendships – including with Jeremy Wilson, who you recently interviewed for this site – share my opinions, and it’s been a great way to pass the time.
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