Ditch the MBA. Try MOD

You’re in a rut. You hate your job, you know you could do more with your life, and you think that if you could just get qualified you could get a better job.


You don’t need an MBA to succeed. You don’t even need a university degree. You just need one idea, one love or one passion and an internet connection.

Welcome to MOD.

Ministry of Defence? No.

MOD stands for Masters on Demand.

I've mentioned before that formal education is great if you live somewhere where it’s affordable, or if you have the time and money. But if you don’t, there are plenty of other options. And in many ways, they are better.

You can build your own Masters, on your own terms, and learn what you want to learn when you need to learn it.

A formal degree looks like this: several compulsory subjects, and four electives. It seems kind of exciting, until you realise that many of those subjects have zero interest or application to you. Or the things that you really want to learn about are covered off in one week in one subject.

An MOD is like a real degree, but in real time, offering real subjects when you really need them. Using the amazing learning communities available on the web for free, you can do a Masters on Demand that caters to your wants.

Like a real degree, but in real time

Sometimes you just have an idea.

Like — I want to get into management.

Or — I want to be a writer.

Or — I want to know what CapEx means.

Or — I really like fonts.

I use the example of fonts on purpose. Steve Jobs liked fonts. After he quit college, he started auditing courses. He knew that the certificate didn’t matter. Learning mattered. Jobs once audited a calligraphy course, and later said: “If I had never dropped in on that single calligraphy course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts.”

You don’t have to be an expert in something to become good at it.

So what is something that you like? What is something you want to know more about? Pick just one thing. And let’s start from there.

Beginning an MOD

There are only three requirements for earning an MOD:

  • You have to have one thing you want to know about.
  • It has to be specific.
  • You must be open.

These three points are crucial. By starting with something specific, and being open to other ideas, you will find yourself on a natural journey — a serendipitious education curve that will teach you what you want to know when you need to know it.

Over the next four articles, I’m going to take you on four different journeys, with the four different wishes expressed above. Here they are again:

I want to get into management.

I want to be a writer.

I want to know what CapEx means.

I really like fonts.

Four very different desires, but they can all be achieved using the amazing (free!) power of MOD.

But for now, I’ll give you a quick anecdote.

My personal MOD experience

My very first job, I was employed as a data entry clerk for a mortgaging company. It was a great job for someone without a degree, and without any experience. I stared at loan applications and input the data into a very old computer. It paid the bills.

In my second week, the business analyst quit. Just left. The management team were left in a bind. Suddenly, the boss remembered — ‘Hey Nat, don’t you know something about Excel?’

I’d mentioned in my CV that I’d done an Excel course, and it was true — I was about intermediate. Next thing I knew, I was asked to prepare business analysis documents for the upcoming board meeting!

I remember very clearly the day I sat at the computer recently vacated by the previous analyst. I fired up Excel and imported the CSV data. Behind me sat Angie, the financial controller.

“Hey,” she said. “You must be the Excel expert! I guess you know about Pivot Tables and stuff?”

“Yep,” I said. And carried on staring at the screen.

I AltaVista-ed* ‘pivot tables’.

And then I learned everything I could about pivot tables.

*Alta-Vista was the Google of the 90s

I stayed in that job for almost two years, and I did pretty well. Whenever management asked me, ‘can we add this to the report?’ I didn’t know enough to say, ‘hell no! that’s impossible!’ I would just say, well, let’s see. And I’d look it up, and see if I could do it.

I’m not saying I ever had a particularly illustrious career at that company. I made Excel reports day in and day out. But it was a fantastic learning opportunity, and I’m now an Excel expert.

Because I wanted to learn one thing,

and it was specific,

and I was open to learning more about it,

I became an expert.

That’s the key to getting your Masters on Demand. Over the next four weeks, you can read more as I explore some of the different ways you can get your own Masters on Demand. I hope you enjoy the ride!

Nat Newman is not an expert in anything much, except chasing and catching dreams. She is a firm believer in water and sanitation for all, straying from the path, and education for life. You can find her @lividlili and lividlili.com

Thanks for reading!

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