Why I’m Trying a DIY MBA, & Why I Need Your Help.

Chris Stoneman
6 min readJan 13, 2019


The older I get, the more I enjoy learning new stuff and challenging my own (sometimes deeply entrenched) world-view. I’ve always been able to scratch this itch in my spare time and in my day job, but of late I realised I needed to develop at a faster pace and in a different direction. So, I decided to do a part-time MBA.

After getting accepted into a top school, I decided the formal route was not the one for me (more on why below). Instead I’m taking my first steps in documenting a self-taught DIY MBA, and I’m looking for people to share the experience with. If you’re intrigued by learning more about business in 2019 and beyond, read on!

I don’t have a solid plan yet but at the very least I’ll read lots and share my learnings, helping me to build a foundation of theoretical knowledge. So where do you come in? The experience will be more valuable with a group of people to accompany me, either in person or online. We can share real life examples from our differing perspectives and together devise more interesting ways to learn. In the process we’ll build a new network, and maybe even have some fun!

So, are you interested? Get in touch! I should probably share a little about me before you do…

About Me

Hi, I’m Chris. I live in Walthamstow, London with my lovely wife and cat. I grew up in Cornwall, and often find myself hanging out with other country bumpkins adapted to life in the big city. I work at Spotify, leading a team that helps artists and the music industry find fans and grow their business, whilst together figuring out what our industry could and should be next.

I don’t consider myself clever or talented in any particular way (though I do fluke a good stepover in 5-a-side footie every now and then). But just like everyone else, I like to think I can make a positive impact on some tiny part of this world. To do so, I know I must get better at lots of things. Way better. Hence this initiative.

Why do an MBA, and why DIY?

My three core aims for doing an MBA are to:
1) learn the theory
2) build my network
3) acquire the qualification

1. Learn the theory

I enjoy being curious and learning just for the sake of it. But I’m also aware of the impact this broader view and knowledge base has on my ability to achieve both my personal and professional goals. My recent career trajectory has moved me away from music marketing and towards broader business areas such as strategy, operations, and management. If I am to excel in these areas and more, I’ll need to develop a deeper theoretical knowledge base.

A formal MBA at a known school would definitely help me achieve this. But I also feel I can get a good way towards learning this theory with a comprehensive reading list, structured note sharing, and grasping opportunities at work to apply the lessons I’ve learnt.

2. Build my network

I have a deep network within the music industry, but would also like to meet those from other industries with different experiences and perspectives. Not only will this help me learn but I could also open up opportunities to one day work in a totally different industry (it’s well documented that many hires are made based on personal referrals).

I went on MBA open days and met many fascinating people, and I know that doing the full course would help build lifelong friends and contacts. I acknowledge a DIY route can’t replicate this, but I do feel that other steps can be taken to grow my network in other ways. I’m lucky to have built a strong network internally at Spotify, and as we grow I’ll continue to do so. I hope this project will grow my online network, and the group aspect of it will help build real world connections.

3. Acquire the Qualification

The MBA qualification is far more valued in the US than it is here in the UK, but it’s still an important mark on the CV of many C-level executives. Many executives I look up to have MBAs, and both recruiters and others in senior hiring positions noted it is still a worthy mark on a CV.

Of course, a DIY MBA will not be valued in the same league as an MBA from a named school and nor should it, viewed as simply a qualification the two are not comparable.

But what is a qualification? It’s a line on your CV that confirms to possible employers that you’ve succeeded at a challenging programme of applied learning. By documenting this DIY route, I hope that this goes some way to providing that confirmation to others. Also, I hope that the initiative shown will be valued by the kinds of employers I’d like to one day impress, who may not be from large corporate backgrounds but do appreciate me questioning what’s on offer and pursuing the right path for me.

The Elephant in the Room: The Cost

The main reason I’m not doing a school MBA, is obviously the cost. My preferred school, Cambridge Judge Business School, costs £65k for a 20 month course. Other schools fees range from about £20k for a less noted school (eg Manchester) to £200k for a top global school (eg Insead, Stanford). Even an online course costs a few thousand £’s.

Why so expensive? Because the teachers, facilities, and programmes themselves are valuable. I was hugely impressed with the day I spent at Cambridge Judge School, and can easily see where the money goes. Why the range? Because there is a huge level of prestige that comes with certain schools, and employers do look on them more favourably. (see the rankings here).

So how can people pay this much? Because often employers contribute towards the fees, and students’ salaries are guaranteed to rise upon completion of the course. My employer, Spotify, would not contribute (that’s no slight on them, they compensate well in other areas and offer courses internally), and there’s no guarantee my wage will increase upon completion. I’d need a student loan to fund this course, and returning in to debt does not appeal.

There’s no point me avoiding this point: The cost of the formal MBA is my primary reason for not doing one. For me, at this stage in my career and my life, I have ample opportunities to learn and grow my network at a fraction of the cost. It makes more sense not to go into debt, and hope that one day I can instead use my earnings to invest in a business venture of my own.

I’m not saying a formal MBA is not worth the cost, it is. I’d love to do one. But it’s just not worth the money or time for me right now in my current position.

… aaaand GO!

So here goes! Now it’s time for the real work to begin. This post is an attempt to make myself accountable to myself and (lets be honest here) the public perception of myself I’m aiming to portray. Publicly committing is a motivator to actually do what I’ve said I’m gonna do, to replace the motivation of spending loads of money and class deadlines. So now I’ve just gotta get started.

First step, publish my reading list in the coming week. Add your ideas in the comments.

And like I said, get in touch if you’d like to do this too and wanna chat more on how we can make it even better.



Chris Stoneman

Dad, Hub, LDN/E17 resident. Strategy @Spotify. ex Universal Music. Here I share my thoughts or things I learn, please help me understand them more. @CWStoneman

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