• Beth Williams

Turn yourself into your greatest investment

Investing in myself through my education has transformed my life. I earned straight A’s all through high school, received nearly a full-ride scholarship to attend UC Berkeley for undergrad, and by age 23, I was already managing a team of 8 employees. As luck would have it, a mentor took me under his wing and encouraged me to apply to business school and after 4 rounds of taking the GMAT, lots of essay revisions, and 4 interviews at Yale, Kellogg, UCLA Anderson and Haas, I was accepted into my first choice - Berkeley Haas.

Getting an MBA from a top-tier program has turned out to be one of the best decisions I've ever made, but also the most expensive. I almost decided not to attend business school.

The day I got the acceptance call from Haas’ Admissions Director, I was ecstatic! Just a day later, I drafted a spreadsheet trying to figure out exactly how I was going to pay for the program. And looking at the numbers, I got cold feet.

Luckily, Haas had their selling committee ready, and they put me in touch with several current and past students. I spent time learning about their own stories and the financial trade offs of business school. At the time, I was working in the nonprofit sector and had an interest in returning to nonprofit work. Financially it just didn’t seem to make sense. I spent a couple weeks pouring over my excel file and tinkering with the different inputs. How on earth was I going to pay for a two year program where the tuition alone was ~2X my annual salary?

Getting my MBA opened new doors

Fast forward, I decided to enroll at Haas, and while the journey didn’t turn out to be what I planned, it also brought me places I never expected. This is a great life lesson — everything we experience in life is simply the result of the narratives we’ve created in our head. One year later, I ended up landing a summer internship at Google and an offer to return full-time.

I’ve now been on Google’s finance team for about 3 years. It’s been one of the best financial decisions I’ve made in my life - granting me amazing benefits unlike anything I’d ever experienced working for startups or in the nonprofit sector. For me, going to business school opened up doors that otherwise never would have existed. Less than three years out of business school, I am debt free and have increased my net worth by ~5X what it was just 5 years ago.

Getting an MBA is not the only way to work for a company like Google, nor is it a guaranteed path. It probably would have been much less expensive for me to get my undergrad degree in business. Yet, I’m glad I didn’t do that. We all have our own path to take in life, and mine led me to create Future Wallet, and for that I am grateful.

Elite schools & inequality

My business school experience was also a real world crash-course in how the exclusive nature of our nation’s top graduate programs perpetuates economic inequality. It’s pretty tough to get accepted without knowing someone who has been through the experience. I was fortunate to have a former boss and a friend who guided me. I never would have considered a MBA, nor understood the process had it not been for them. Let’s be real - most folks do not have these connections or luxury.

Paying for my MBA

The financial fears stayed by my side for my entire program. Had I not taken the initiative to find new sources of income to pay for my education, or had I chosen to go back into the nonprofit sector, getting an MBA easily could have been a bad decision. For anyone consider going to business school - it’s not a topic to be taken lightly. Talk to people who have done it before you, ask them about their experiences and if they would do it again. Ask them about the financial calculus — not just how much fun they had taking trips around the globe with their classmates. How much debt did they take on and when do they think they’ll be able to pay it off?

In summary: find your strengths and invest in them

Scott Galloway — one of my favorite entrepreneurs — often says that “finding your passions is bullsh**. Instead, find out what you’re good at, invest 10,000 hours in it — and become great.” His advice is to stand out from the crowd by becoming amazing at what you do.

I think becoming successful requires a bit of both worlds: 1) Find something that you’re curious about to no end, and then 2) invest in yourself and build your skills in order to become a master. For me, that’s meant investing in my own education and pursuing my interest in financial inclusion. I’m excited that you’re here with me for the journey!