230: How to Get an MBA Education (and more!) for Under $1,000 with Laurie Pickard

By November 15, 2017Podcasts

 

 

No-Pay MBA guru Laurie Pickard explains Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and reveals precisely how to get quality education for under $1,000.

You’ll Learn:

  1. All about MOOCs! What they are, where to find them, and how to pick the winners
  2. How to use Loss Aversion to avoid quitting online courses
  3. How to build a prestigious network without going to a prestigious university

About Laurie

When some of the most prestigious business schools in the world began providing free versions of their courses online, Laurie Pickard saw an opportunity to get the business education she had long desired, at a fraction of the typical MBA price tag. Her “No-Pay MBA” project (NoPayMBA.com) has appeared in the Financial Times, Poets & Quants, Fortune, Entrepreneur, CNN/Money, and the Wall Street Journal. Don’t Pay For Your MBA is her first book.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Laurie Pickard Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Laurie, thanks so much for joining us here on the How To Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Laurie Pickard
I’m really happy to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, me, too. Me, too. And I understand that you have some twins who are happy to be in the world as well. Tell us, how is that adventure going for you?

Laurie Pickard
Having twins is totally crazy and enjoyable and amazing. I actually wrote my book while I was pregnant with them. Twins are usually born early so I was kind of like under two deadlines because I was under the book deadline and also under the deadline to get it finished before they were born, which I did.

Pete Mockaitis
Congratulations.

Laurie Pickard
So that was really good. Yeah, thank you. They’re eight months old now. I don’t know if I mentioned that. But when they were born it was like, oddly enough, it felt like you’re managing two – my babies were only slightly premature – but managing two premature infants felt like kind of like the ultimate operations management challenge, so I actually, oddly enough, drew from some of my coursework to figure out how to do that.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that is fantastic. We’re expecting our first child shortly and I am into that sort of knowledge. So, could you give us one example just so we could nerd out hardcore one time?

Laurie Pickard
Sure. So, well, with two everything is multiplied obviously, but we were under doctor’s orders to feed them every three hours. And when babies are born they’re not all great at learning out how to eat, so it often took us an hour and a half to feed them. And then there were all these other little tasks that have to be done, you know, diaper changes and, “Oh, yeah, we need to sleep a little bit and we need to feed ourselves,” so I have my parents helping me out.

So, it’s me and my husband and my parents, there were four of us, so I was all about like mapping out our time. We were in shifts, going three hour shifts and trying to figure out. It was kind of like if you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, it was kind of like having the dinner rush every three hours.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Woo. Okay. And you’ve made it and so, so far everyone is alive and healthy and sleeping maybe more better now than before.

Laurie Pickard
Yeah, everyone is doing great, and it is definitely an amazing time and you’re going to enjoy it. I wish you luck and you’ll have a great time.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. Thank you. Well, I’ve also been having a great time, I love those four segues. I’ve also been having a great time checking out your stuff, your website. So NoPayMBA.com and Don’t Pay for Your MBA the book. It’s pretty cool. And so, I’d like to hear a little bit of the backstory here in terms of how did your quest begin in terms of you said, “I’m going to take an online approach to getting an approximate equivalent to an MBA”? How did that work for you personally?

Laurie Pickard
Well, so I guess I could say I was a little bit of a late-bloomer career-wise. I sort of didn’t exactly know when I went to college what I wanted to do with my degree. And even when I got, I got a Master’s degree in Geography of all things, which I didn’t know what I was going to do with that either. I just really love learning. And by the time I figured out that what I wanted to do was to work in international development, and I wanted to work particularly on economic development and business development type of stuff, I felt like the other people I’m competing with have degrees in economics or finance or they have MBAs.

But like I’m not going to go back to school now. I’ve been working for years, I’m a little bit older than most people who would get an MBA, and I don’t necessarily need another credential to get the job that I want, but I need this knowledge and I need some kind of background in business so I thought there could be a potential for me to educate myself, and I had thought that for several years.

And when I heard about Massive Open Online Courses, I actually had a friend who was taking a course, and he literally said to me, this was somebody who had an MBA, and he said to me, “This course is great. I could refresh my entire MBA.” And I felt like a lightbulb went on. I was like, “If this person who has an MBA is saying there are enough courses out there that are free that I could refresh my MBA is somebody with an MBA,” I just thought, “Wow, okay, I could actually maybe do the equivalent of an MBA using these courses.”

And I thought for sure because this was after MOOCs had been around for a while. I thought for sure there must be somebody else who had already done this and I’ve kind of Googled around and saw that there wasn’t, and so I saw, in addition to the opportunity to get this education that I wanted, there was an opportunity to be the person who blogged about it, so I took that spot on the internet.

Pete Mockaitis
There you go. Double up, okay. I love it. So, very cool and it served you well, yes. I mean, can you tell us what have been the benefits? Well, I guess there’s the public relations media angle of benefit that has accrued to you from your position doing the blogging, but also just sort of a classic career opportunities that one might go to an MBA have also gone to you, yes? Can you share how has that unfolded?

Laurie Pickard
Yeah, absolutely. Well, so when I started this project my goals were pretty modest, I didn’t really expect to get a whole lot of attention for it. I really just wanted to have kind of like a blog that would help some people. I hope to get a little bit of media coverage because media coverage is such a powerful social proof that that could be kind of evidence that I had really done this and that it meant something, but I really just wanted to get promoted in my field which is international development, and I wanted to be competitive for roles that were focused on private sector businesses and developing relationships with private businesses.

So, within, I guess, two years or a year of – I can’t remember the timeline now, but shortly after completing most of my studies, I managed to score a promotion with my employer and moved into a role that was private sector-facing trying to build partnerships with private sector for the purposes of international development.

So, I reached that goal much more easily than I expected actually. But interestingly, I guess from my perspective, my goals kind of shifted over the time that I was doing this, and I really realized how much interests I have in entrepreneurship and how interested I am in working for maybe smaller businesses, being involved in education and education startups, and I feel like that’s kind of a whole other avenue that opened up to me, which of course is something that happens when you’re involved in an educational program of any kind.

You sort of can see these new pathways. And with this book, and I’m doing some consulting work now for an Ed Tech startup, so that pathway has become available as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s excellent. Cool. So, happy ending there. And so, for those who think that they need the MBA, I know you have some special messages for these folks or those who say, “Well, I have to have it. It’s sort of a required in my field. Easy for you to say, you were the first blogger to get fame and recognition for doing this. Now, I don’t have that anymore. Thank you, Laurie.” So, what would you say is the response to, “But I have to have an MBA, Laurie”?

Laurie Pickard
Well, I think some people do have to have an MBA, so I don’t take issue with that argument in particular. I think there are some careers and some pathways where an MBA is the most efficient way to rise within your industry. But I don’t think that that applies to the majority of people. I think a lot of people are using the MBA when what they really are thinking is, “I don’t really know what to do with my career next, and this is something that seems safe.” And I don’t think that’s a great reason to get an MBA.

So, I think it really depends on your personal situation and I think you have to ask yourself a few questions. Questions like, “Is it an industry standard to have an MBA? Like if I don’t have the MBA, is it impossible for me to rise?” And in some industries the answer is yes, but in most industries the answer is no.

I think you also have to ask the question, “Can I do anything with just learning with the content of an MBA? If I learned something new in the job that I’m in, do I have the ability to put that into practice and to kind of grow in the position that I’m already in?” “If I can’t do that in my current position, do I have the opportunity to do some volunteer work, some consulting, something on the side that allows me to grow this new skillset?”

So, I just think that there are lots of different ways to kind of get to the endpoint if you know what the endpoint is. And that’s almost more important than having the MBA.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Thank you. Well, so then, let’s talk about these. You’re all about the Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs as the acronym goes. Tell us, where are these alleged MOOCs? Where are they hiding? How do we find them? Where do we point our machines to go get them?

Laurie Pickard
Sure. So, there are a couple of MOOC platforms, as they’re known, that have a lot of business courses. Coursera.com, I believe, is one of them, edX.org is another, but actually I think probably the very best place to go, if you’re getting started, is a website called Class Central which is kind of like a Trip Advisor or a Yelp for online courses.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, cool.

Laurie Pickard
It’s a review site, a search and review site that has very extensive library of, I think, almost every online course that’s ever been created.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s good. That’s good. And, boy, I got to ask about our friends and sponsors LinkedIn Learning, Lynda.com. How’s that fit into the mix?

Laurie Pickard
Yeah, another great place to find some courses. I find that Lynda is a really good place when you have kind of a targeted skill that you’re trying to learn. You know, if you’re trying to get really good at Excel, or you want to learn how to make an amazing pivot table, that’s a place to go.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Understood. And that makes sense in terms of the branding as well and what I see available there. And so, I know and love Lynda.com genuinely, even before they gave me money to say so, but you’re opening my mind to some additional places to go, and that’s great. And even a place to get reviews, and so that’s intriguing.

Now, we had Barbara Oakley, who had a big MOOC about Learning How to Learn, on the show in a prior episode, and she was fantastic. So, shall we just go right to the websites and then you’re just done, you just kind of go? And so, there are fees or how do this work?

Laurie Pickard
Well, so the MOOC platform, this has become a bit of a confusing landscape, I think, for the learner. So, the MOOC platforms they’re experimenting, so when these courses were first introduced there were no fees anywhere. You could earn the certificates that were completely free and they were based on an honor code, and it was this very utopian kind of experience, and the courses were massive, and there were maybe 100,000 people taking the course at the same time as you, and the forums were very active. It was pretty amazing.

But as time has gone on, the platforms have really been trying to figure out, “Well, how are we going make enough money out of this to become sustainable?” So, they’ve introduced kind of a premium model in which people pay for various elements of courses. So, it may still be possible to audit an entire course but the assessments, for example, might come with a fee.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Laurie Pickard
But it’s a very checkered landscape so even on a single platform there may be courses that kind of work in a different way, where there are some courses that are completely free, other courses that are completely behind the paywall, and then some other courses that are in this middle space where parts of them are free and parts of them are not.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, what kind of price ranges are we looking at here for those that are not free?

Laurie Pickard
Those are really varied as well, so in some cases 50 bucks for a course which is a pretty good deal for a college course granted you don’t get any credit in the traditional kind of credit system for these courses. But then other courses can be quite expensive ranging up to $1,000 plus for a course, and those are usually more like professional courses that can lead to either like an industry certification or that type. They’re more meant for a professional audience continuing education that perhaps an employer would pay for. But most MOOCs are kind of in the $50 to $100 range per course.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s fantastic. And I will admit, I have on three occasions now, purchased courses that costs more than $1,000, and I feel good about it actually. It’s like each of them I had a specific mission I was looking to accomplish, and they delivered on them. And so, well, I’m a believer in learning, and sometimes you got to pay for it, and some things are available for free and some things are not.

And it’s interesting how it varies based on, well, who is putting it out, what are their goals, and how big is the audience because you got to spread a fixed cost of producing the thing over different numbers of folks. And if it’s millions, well, then that’s easier to have a tiny fee than if it’s a hundred folks who want to learn it. It could be trickier, so it makes sense to me then the landscape is all over the place.

And then, when I hear about MOOCs, I guess I think of big-name universities and professors associated with them sort of at the helm there. And so those websites that you listed, which we’ll mention in the show notes, do those include those as well? Or do I need to go specifically over to Stanford.edu, or whatever, to access what they’re offering?

Laurie Pickard
No, it’s actually better, I think, to go through one of the platforms or to Class Central, and Class Central in particular. And just to let you know, I do some consulting for Class Central and that’s not why I’m plugging them, but they are actually the best search engine in this space. In fact, the only search engine to my knowledge.

But the websites of these universities, I don’t even know that they always list all the courses that the university has. They may but it is probably better to just go to the platform where you can kind of get the entire picture.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That’s cool. And so, then, we see it all, and then what’s the daily with iTunes University? Is that still up and going and cruising? And is that worth visiting as well?

Laurie Pickard
You know, it’s kind of a mystery to me. I think iTunes U it predates MOOCs with kind of the MOOC hype and the news about MOOCs and that acronym, and I thought it had so much potential when it first got started, and there are even some classes on there that I took as part of my NoPayMBA. But I haven’t seen them being nearly as active and I don’t really know what the story is with that.

I do think it’s worth visiting just to check it out – it is free – just to see if there happens to be a course there. But the courses on iTunes U don’t tend to be as fully featured as the courses on MOOC platforms. I think what’s really cool about these courses on the new platforms, it’s not that they’re doing something that has never been done before. I mean, online courses have existed. I mean, what’s the big deal with, all of a sudden, five years ago. It’s not like online courses were suddenly invented.

What’s interesting about these courses is that they’re much more high-fidelity versions of university courses, so they actually do feel like a university course in the sense that they have the same rhythm and the same pacing, they’ve got the professor obviously, but then they have good assessments often, and they were really striving for the feel of a classroom. Like, “How do you take a classroom and put it into a digital space?” Well, that’s kind of one of the questions that I think that a MOOC is trying to answer.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s so intriguing and exciting. And so, understood. And, by the way, if folks want to check out iTunes U, even if it’s less the fully-featured that’s right there in the iTunes platform where you see music and books and podcasts and movies and TV shows. It’s another thing you can drop down, but it’s good to get oriented there. Thank you, Laurie.

Because I kept wondering, “Well, shouldn’t there be more? Because Apple is amazing and they’re big on education, and it’s right there in the iTunes platform, and iTunes rocks at music and movies and TV shows and apps and podcasts, so iTunes U is probably amazing too. But I’m having a little trouble really getting into it.” And you’re saying, “No, Pete, you’re not crazy. There are, in fact, that is not an area where Apple is dominating right now.”

Laurie Pickard
Totally. Well, you know what I think is really another kind of boon to people everywhere? I mean, MOOCs do have the most. If you’re trying to learn, I guess, a topic that’s really challenging, perhaps one that involves math or that involves really kind of buckling down and trying to master a new skill, I do think a MOOC is a better bet than something that you kind of more passively listen to.

But what’s amazing about the world that we live in is that you can be learning really pretty much constantly, I mean, while you’re walking, while you’re commuting. If you’re listening to business podcasts, I mean, I pick up so much knowledge listening to TED Talks, subscribing to business podcasts, just kind of here and there. I just became so interested in really the whole world of business that was inaccessible to me before.

And, suddenly, I just felt like this whole world opened up. And not all of it required me to sit down and be in study mode, and have my paper out, and be taking notes. Some of it was enjoyable and a little bit more passive but still extremely valuable.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, absolutely. Well, I kind of want to hear now about that buckling down outside of things here. When it comes to the challenge of self-study, I think that’s, in many ways, probably one of the biggest hurdles to be overcome. Because if we’re comparing it to university courses, well, one, you spend a healthy sum of money which you don’t want to lose.

And then it’s on, you know, the time marches on with the curriculum and the calendar and the quizzes and tests and writing assignments and group projects. And you either kind of rise to the moment or fail. And so, there’s sort of an intensity and accountability element. Whereas, when you’re on your own it’s a different ballgame. So, what are some of your best practices for staying in the game and not falling to the wayside?

Laurie Pickard
Yeah, I think this is such an important question because you’re right, this is the main thing that makes this difficult for people because the information is out there. It’s presented in a way that’s accessible. And I think most of the people for whom an alternative could be an MBA, well, people are pretty good at knowing, “Yeah, you know, I could get an MBA. I could go to school and I could do this.”

So, it’s not your personal ability either. It’s, “Are you going to set yourself down in your chair and actually learn this without clicking on every pop-up, or thinking about your email, or wandering into the kitchen to get a snack, or whatever it is?” And those temptations are really great especially when you’re at your house, you’re not necessarily accountable to anybody, you haven’t paid this huge sum of money. So, I do think that you have to kind of like trick yourself in a way into doing this.

So, one of the ways to do that, I think, is to employ a little bit of loss aversion even if you’re not on the hook for over $100,000. Even paying that $50, like, “I don’t want to lose $50,” so I think that can be a way to keep yourself accountable. I also think that another way to do it is to really be intentional about your goals. And when something is free it’s very easy to click on it out of curiosity, which I think accounts for MOOCs famously have a very low completion rate.

Pete Mockaitis
What are we looking at here maybe?

Laurie Pickard
Oh, I don’t want to give you an exact number and be wrong about it, but it’s in the single digits, I’m pretty sure about that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, under 10% of folks who start like the first course end up going the distance.

Laurie Pickard
Right. But when you look at people who have purchased a certificate that number goes way up, and I think it even goes up over 50%. I don’t want to be quoted on these numbers because I’m not sure about it, but research has come out, and I think I’m remembering that it was something like 60% of people who have actually purchased a certificate do complete the course. So that makes sense when you think that a lot of people are just curious, like, “What’s in this course?” And you have to click on a couple of buttons and enter your email address to get access to any of the materials.

But I think about it like the book that you picked up in the bookstore and kind of browsed through versus the one that you bought and took home with you. I don’t want to be held accountable for, “Can I finish reading the book that I just picked up because I was curious about what’s inside of it?” And then even the one that I purchased and brought home with me and have sitting on my nightstand for a little while, if I wasn’t really intentional about why I needed that book I may not finish it.

But I think that kind of goal-setting can also really help people in a course. Like if there’s a real reason, and you’ve thought through what that reason is, you purchased a certificate, you’re a whole lot more likely to finish the course. And I also think scheduling is a big deal. I think, sometimes, people don’t give online courses, especially if they don’t cost very much money, they don’t carve out enough space for them in their lives, and that’s a huge thing.

A lot of these courses could take six to 10 hours per week to really do a good job, just like a college course. So, if you don’t give, if you don’t budget that kind of time for the course, you can fall behind and then it becomes less likely that you’ll finish it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, understood. Those are great tips there. Anything else or is that kind of your top?

Laurie Pickard
Those are my top, but one other one would be the social element. So, I think either having a buddy in the course, having somebody who you’re accountable to, even I think often these courses can be really helpful at work especially I think for people who work in smaller companies that maybe don’t have a budget for training or sending you to training.

And this kind of gets into maybe some other areas of, “How does this relate to your job? And how does this make you better at your job?” But if you’ve made yourself accountable to somebody, whether it’s a boss or a parent or a friend or even somebody else who’s in the course, having that level of accountability can help you finish as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Perfect. Well, so now, I’m thinking, so, okay, we got the browsers pointed to the whole universe of courses available to go after, and so your thing is Don’t Pay for Your MBA. So, how would we actually kind of assemble those together in such a fashion that, if that were your goal to have an MBA on the other side of this, that you would kind of accomplish it?

Laurie Pickard
Well, I wrote an entire book about this, so I would say your first stop should be the book Don’t Pay for Your MBA. But to just give you kind of a little bit of what I put into the book and how I structured it, when I wrote the book I really envisioned this role for myself as the MBA adviser to independent business students.

When you go to an MBA program one of the things that you get as part of that bundled package is an adviser who helps you go through the program, and that person helps you put together your coursework, that person helps you find your internship opportunities, that person helps you kind of think through where your career is going. And, to me, all of those are really important elements of the MBA. So, to get the full package, you have to go through all of that, and all of that’s covered in the book.

But as you’re thinking through your curriculum, you know, I’ve been asked for like the checklist of like, “These are the 20 courses that are in MBA,” but that’s not how I think about an MBA. I think about it much more in terms of a tailored business curriculum, and that’s really another opportunity that we have with this huge library of courses that are available.

You know, I think the last time I checked, there were over 1600 business courses, so who am I to tell you which 20 courses are the ones for you? I think it’s more important for people to kind of like walk through different kind of steps in putting together a curriculum. And what I mean by that is I think you have to start with kind of a foundation in some general business topics, business language, things like finance that is a language that everyone in business is capable of speaking, subjects like management, marketing, things that people who have studied business all have some kind of grounding in those topics.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Laurie Pickard
And then I think you need to move onto certain skills. I mean, if you’re going to present yourself as somebody who has the equivalent of an MBA program you better know how to do an Excel spreadsheet, you better know how to make a pitch deck, or a presentable slide deck, you better know how to talk to people. There are just certain skills that you ought to have.

And then, from there, so foundations, skills, from there, I think it is really important to build some kind of a concentration in an area that’s kind of like your main area that you’re really going to take with you to kind of go deep on that level, or to go deep on that subject matter, and then translate that into your career. So, that’s kind of the third area: so foundation, skills and then an area of concentration.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, perfect. Thank you. Well, so now, I’m thinking, all right, let’s say someone is really digging this, “Yes, Laurie, I am so in. I am not going to go to a traditional MBA. I’m going to the No Pay MBA approach.” But if someone does do that, there are a couple of things that they’re missing out on, with regard to the business school experience.

And so, I want to talk about a couple of those here. So, one of them is the network, “Hey, you go to Harvard or Stanford Business School, and you graduate.” You got a whole lot of folks in your LinkedIn and friendship circles that are Harvard and Stanford MBAs which sure could come in handy over the course of a career in terms of a network. So how do you recommend kind of compensating for the notion that that’s not going to be built into the self-paced approach?

Laurie Pickard
Absolutely. This is another really important consideration if you’re kind of going on your own. But I do think that anybody can build a really great network, and a lot of it is just being intentional about trying to meet people. I do think that an often overlooked and amazing tool in job searching and building a network is informational interviews, and that’s useful not just for growing your network but also for knowing kind of where you belong in the world of work and figuring out what your next career step should be, and it’s a very low-pressure way to build your network.

And I think it never hurts to ask for an informational interview with somebody who works at your dream company or in your dream field, or even somebody who is at a fairly high level in their career, somebody that you might not have access to just to cold-call for a favor. For an informational interview, people really like talking about themselves so that can be accessible if you do it in the right way.

So, yeah, I think it really just boils down to being intentional about it, setting aside the time, and thinking through who do you really want to connect with and making the time to try to get those connections, and to being determined about it even if you don’t get a yes from every single one.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Very good. Well, so then, I also want to get your take then on some of the other benefits. Like when it comes to having the MBA also sends a signal to prospective employers like, “Oh, so you got into that school?” They take a good look at show smart you are and they decided you’re smart enough to come on over to the University of Chicago or wherever.

So, if you’ve got that benefit as well as the benefit of, “Okay, you did take the courses and you passed them,” so they evaluated you and such, as well as just sort of the resume itself. It’s like, “Oh, that sort of counts. It’s accredited and it’s on there.” So, I’d love your take on how do you try to incorporate some of these MBA benefits into the No Pay MBA approach?

Laurie Pickard
And, again, these benefits are huge and shouldn’t be overlooked but I think it’s interesting. I like the way that you’ve kind of broken this down because it is. You know, I think people often use like the network or the degree to signify all these different things that you talked about, and they are kind of different things, so let’s kind of look at a few of them one by one.

So, if you’re talking about the brand signaling, you’re talking about is somebody kind of impressed with your sort of overall what you have to offer. And maybe if you’re on a Stanford MBA or on a Harvard MBA, like that kind of sums it up. But I don’t think that those are the only people that anybody is impressed with so I think it’s important to kind of build the way you present yourself, your resume and kind of the other elements of your personal marketing strategy.

Is there anything else impressive about you? Have you had internships or jobs at companies that are well-known? Have you earned a promotion quickly? Have you written articles? There are all kinds of things you can do to kind of stand out in that way, and I think that’s a good way for people to approach that piece of kind of, “Are you impressive?” aura.

And then I think there’s another piece of that, when if you’ve got the credential that it’s a powerful signifier that you might succeed at the job. But, again, it’s not the only way to show someone that you can succeed at a job, and it may not even be the best way to show that you can succeed at a job. And in this area, I think having experience, having letters of recommendation, those kinds of things can go a long way to showing that you are capable of succeeding.

And then there’s another element of this which I would call, again this kind of concept of social proof, which, to me, means, “Is there evidence in your life that you can succeed by other people’s standards? Can you present yourself in a way that reflects well in the company that you worked for and on yourself?” And, again, some of these same elements can be used in that way, “Have you had articles published? Or do you keep a blog? Have you been promoted? Have you been hired at companies that are well-known in your industry?” All those things contribute to the signaling in your personal brand.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Perfect. Well, tell me, Laura, is there anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Laurie Pickard
I think that people can really gain a lot by taking online courses even if they’re not trying to replicate an entire degree program. There’s just so much out there that it would be a shame to not explore that universe just to see if there’s anything out there that could work for you.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Absolutely. Yeah, and I’m excited myself to dig in and see many of these courses just sort of arrayed before me across everywhere and then people’s input on them, so I’ve not done that before in a way that goes across platform, so, yeah, I’m right with you.

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Well, then, could you share with us, for starters, a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Laurie Pickard
Sure. So, one of my favorite quotes has to do with online learning is, I’ll read it out to you, “Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today,” and that’s a quote by George Siemens who is one of kind of the founders of the modern MOOC movements. And that quote just really resonates with me because I do feel that our world is changing so quickly that I don’t want to be evaluated on like what I learned in college or in high school or what I’m kind of carrying around in my memory, but my ability to learn what I need to know for tomorrow is extremely important and is a major factor in why you should hire me if that’s what I’m going for.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And how about a favorite book?

Laurie Pickard
So, one of my favorite books that I read while I was studying business is called Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux. I don’t know if you’ve heard of this before but it’s incredible. It’s like a handbook but also kind of a case study or several case studies of self-managing organizations kind of a study in the silo-holocracy but this is a more general kind of look at self-managing organizations, and it’s just so inspiring to think that we might be moving towards organizations where like you don’t need a boss to tell you what to do, that teams can really manage themselves.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that is cool. Thank you. And how about a favorite tool?

Laurie Pickard
So, I thought about this question a lot since it was on your list of fast-paced, and I have to say one of my favorite tools is just the good old Google Sheet. My life is really a series of Google Sheets. That’s how I organize everything.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I can relate in terms of I’m just thinking of for getting married, it’s just like, “All right. We’re looking at the rehearsal dinner venues, new Google Sheet.” Now, to home improvements, like, “All right, new Google Sheet.”

Laurie Pickard
Exactly. Exactly. That is me, too.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, have you done anything creative or kind of slick since you’ve taken all these courses about how to be awesome at spreadsheets? Any cool things you do with Google Sheets that we can learn from for the rest of us?

Laurie Pickard
Oh, I don’t think I’m doing anything all that amazing with Google Sheets. I mean, sometimes it’s the simplest tool that is the most powerful, so I think Google Sheets are pretty good just even if you’re using them just as a matrix, which is one of the more commonly-used frameworks in an MBA program. It’s just like the good old-fashioned matrix. I think if you’re trying to break down an idea, what better way to do it than just have a couple of columns and a couple of rows, and you’re kind of good to go.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yes, I dig it. I dig it. One of my favorites lately in terms of like time-based planning things is to use the NOW or TODAY functions, and then you subtract like that time from a future date, so you just sort of see, “How many days left do I have for this thing? And, thusly, just based on how long all this stuff is going to take us, how much time do we have to spend per day?” So, that was kind of the clock was ticking that leads to wedding.

Laurie Pickard
Yeah, that’s a good one.

Pete Mockaitis
And we’re just like, “Okay, we either spend three hours every day between now and wedding day. Do we have all this done? And then we’ll be set.”

Laurie Pickard
You know, I’ve also tried like conditional formatting where you kind of like if the day has passed, if the deadline has passed it turns red. But I don’t do that anymore because it just stresses me out.

Pete Mockaitis
I hear you. Well, I also think it’s effective in stressing others out if you want some accountability. Like you don’t want to be the guy or gal who’s responsible for a cell turning red, like, “Ooh,” that’s no fun. Okay. Cool. So, that’s a tool. And how about a favorite habit?

Laurie Pickard
Favorite habit. And this applies to, definitely applies to completing an open MBA or any educational program, but also just applies in life and certainly to writing a book. I love to just divide a task down to the very smallest actionable step. So, my husband always says to me, “You don’t procrastinate at all. You’re like the only person I’ve ever met who doesn’t procrastinate.” And he’s right, I really don’t procrastinate.

But the way that I do it is I don’t necessarily, I don’t set myself up to have like a big chunk of work that I have to get done on a certain day. I start really, really, really small. Like, sometimes, the task for the day is like open the attachment, that’s literally all it is. And I think that habit of just like, “What is the very, very, very smallest actionable item, even if it’s just click that attachment?” Getting started sometimes leads to doing a little bit more.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I like that a lot. And so, as you’re planning it, do you have a master list of all the steps associated with that project, or only the very next step?

Laurie Pickard
You know, I have kind of milestones. Like I’m thinking about how I wrote my book because that is probably the single biggest project that I ever took on, and I did it in a series of word counts, like, “I’m going to do 300 words. Like, every day, if I do 300 to 600 words I will finish this book.” And I just kind of plod along, and so I kind of like mapped it out like that. But I don’t map the entire thing out from start to finish on the very first day but I do try to keep myself kind of on a pace, so if I were to keep up this pace I could finish by the deadline.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. And then, tell us, is there a particular piece that you share that seems to really resonate with people that gets them nodding their heads, taking notes, retweeting?

Laurie Pickard
You know, I first made headlines for this project, a reporter covered the project in its very early days, and the title of the piece was something like An MBA for Under a Grand. And I feel like that’s sort of like followed me around and that became something that people were really interested in. And it’s funny because I didn’t have a particular dollar figure in mind for how much I would spend.

That didn’t mean all that much to me but it did really kind of speak to people, and I kind of embraced that, to say like, “I did have a budget that I thought maybe might be around $1,000 that was like kind of my fund for me,” and that kind of second people’s heads. But I think that’s a nice concept for how you approach your version of an MBA. Like whatever you have that is kind of your “fund for me,” like maybe it’s 500 bucks, maybe it’s 2,000 bucks. Whatever you’ve got that can kind of like be your MBA.

Well, how much of the MBA benefits can you get with that amount of money? That’s the way I really like thinking about this project and that I hope others would take with them.

Pete Mockaitis
And, tell us, if folks want to learn more or get in touch with you, where would you point them?

Laurie Pickard
The best place would be the contact form on NoPayMBA.com, that goes directly to my inbox. And then the other place is, I run a Facebook group, the No Pay MBA Facebook group which is a group of people who are interested in self-directed business learning, and I’d love to have any of the listeners who would be interested join that group.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. And do you have a final challenge or call to action you’d issue to folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Laurie Pickard
Yeah, so I was a person who was a little bit like, like I said, a little bit of a late bloomer, and I did spend some time in my early career years thinking like, “Oh, if only I had gotten the business degree,” or, “If only I had studied economics undergrad,” or, “If only I had done this,” or, “If only I had done that.” I felt like I didn’t have that much kind of foresight into what the world of work might look like so I felt like I was always playing catchup.

But what I say to your listeners, if any of them feel kind of in that same space of thinking, “Oh, if only I had done this,” to really dig into that. Like, “What would you be doing at work if you’d gotten the education that you should have gotten?” And then find a way to learn what you would have learned and then start doing that work.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, Laurie, that is fantastically exciting. I am really looking forward to digging into some of these extra resources that you’ve mentioned here, and I really appreciate you taking the time to share this with us. So, good luck and keep on leading the charge here.

Laurie Pickard
All right. Thank you so much. This has been a real pleasure.

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