EPISODE 011
Like Batman But With An MBA
This episode is a conversation with Dee Acosta, better known as Batman, but with an MBA. This interview is riddled with his candid thoughts on the impact (or lack thereof) of the MBA on his career, but mostly importantly how it inspires his family.
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Guest - Dee Acosta: 

This is awesome. Yeah. I'm excited. I wore my special shirt today.


Host - Monique Mills: 

Well, this is an audio recording, it's a podcast, but you know what? We can do a screenshot, of you and I both here. So when it's released, it'll show that it was you and I, so we can both just kind of look in the camera right now, if that's what we want. And then from there, we'll use that as a screenshot. How's that sound?


Guest - Dee Acosta: 

Fantastic.


Host - Monique Mills: 

Welcome to the Unpolished MBA podcast 

On this podcast we have conversations with tech startup founders and entrepreneurs and traditional corporate MBA’s.

Many say that Startups = The Unpolished MBA because those without the formal business education are scrappy and do many things untraditionally to achieve business success.

Anyone who has built a business from an idea can attest to the fact that the experience is another level MBA and there’s nothing quite like it. The candid conversations shared here is helpful to both sides of the fence.  One is not better than the other, just different. Let’s jump in.


Host - Monique Mills: 

Hi I’m your host Monique Mills. In my work I get to have great conversations with a lot of smart and interesting people. 

In this episode I share a conversation I had with Dee Acosta. We met on LinkedIn and He is truly a funny guy as you can tell from how the episode started out. It continues to get even better as we talk about his career where he’s pretty open about his thoughts on the MBA. Listen in.


Host - Monique Mills: 

I think on Linkedin, everyone, well before everyone was so stuffy, and afraid to just be themselves. And yeah, I, I couldn't be in that kind of platform, so it didn't get utilized as much. So once people were able to kind of just be themselves. Some good, some bad, right. We know it's not all good, but I prefer the authenticity.


Guest - Dee Acosta: 

Yeah. I think authenticity is there. There's still a lot of professionalism, but oh, it's such a refreshing change of pace. You know, you go to Facebook and you've got the aunt posting racist memes and you know, these days it's, you know, you're like, what has gone on with people? And then, you know, for the most part, on LinkedIn, it is a professional network. It is people who, like us, who are trying to better themselves. So yeah, it is. I love the authenticity. 


Host - Monique Mills: 

Here's my first question. I'm gonna take you through to the fast round, the first few questions. And the first question is, are you an entrepreneur or corporate employee?


Guest - Dee Acosta: 

Yeah, that's a great question. I like to pretend that I'm an entrepreneur, but I've been at the same company for over 10 years. Yeah. Two breaks during that time. So, you know, I think there's an entrepreneurial element to sales. I think these days you really have to be on the hunt outside of your primary place of work. You know, maybe if you work at a large, you know, like a Salesforce or Oracle, it's a different story, but I still think you need to be networked and active and trying to build business other ways. So I have worked for the same company for over 10 years. I did work at, I took a break and did work at two other companies briefly in that timeframe. And now I'm working as a strategic sales advisor for a small startup that my contact and friend runs. And that's been a good experience, kind of honing my skills as well. You know, I like to think I'm an entrepreneur, but you know, my resume might say differently.


Host - Monique Mills: 

We have one episode where I talk about that, because entrepreneurs can be a little snobbish when it comes to people calling themselves intrapreneurs when they work inside a company and they'll say, no, no, no, you have not put it all on the line like me. And so it's this whole competitive thing. Do we define it by who gets tortured the most in their daily life? (laughing)


Guest - Dee Acosta: 

You know, it's, it's hard and the lines are blurring. I think about, I had a CEO who I really respect and believe he's CEO of a Urgent Pulse now, I can't remember, but you know, he, was our CEO for a long time and he said, you know what? You should still interview every six months. And I have a lot of respect for him. And I said, well, that's kind of aggressive, you know, six months does go by fast, but he's right. You know, you should still, even in a sales role where you're very successful, you should still interview every six months because it is a good way to network. It is a way to build. So, you know, in that respect, it is. You're in a sales role. It is entrepreneurial, you know, looking for that better way to make money.


Host - Monique Mills:

Startup founders. Once they get funded, they have a base salary that they get, you know, it may not be much. It depends on what stage they're in, but it's typically around $50,000. And then, you know, other things are based upon performance. And, so I would say, you know, you eat what you kill in sales. So that's the same way it is in entrepreneurship. And I really wish more would've started out as salespeople. I think we might have even more successful companies.


Guest - Dee Acosta: 

Yeah. And, and, you know, I've run into that where an owner founder doesn't have a sales background. And they, you know, they're an entrepreneur, but they don't have a sales background and they run into challenges with that part of the business with, you know. How do we scale? How do we sell? How do we tell a story? And, you know, every owner, founder of a small startup is going to be, they have to be coached and supported to get away from that micromanagement. So it can be kind of, you have this person, who's not a, doesn't have a sales background pushing bad sales theory to their team as they micromanage. So it is, you know, it is a challenge. But you know, that's the way of business, right? Like if it's the dry cleaner across the street, or, you know, the hot tech startup with the new app, it is a curve, right. That small dry cleaner, their management style will be very different from the first year to the 25th year. So that, you know, it's the way it is.


Host - Monique Mills: 

I wanted to get back to your, to your LinkedIn headline because you know, it really gives you a personality without someone actually meeting you. And was that by design? So basically for those who are listening, his headline says he's like Batman with an MBA, but for sales and marketing. So was that by design and what made you change your title to say that?


Guest - Dee Acosta: 

Yeah, that's a, that's a great question. So people really like Batman, like they really, really liked Batman. You know, I, I have a daughter, she has Batgirl action figures. There's a show, Teen Titans, that Teen Titans DC superheroes Batgirl's one of her favorites. So people really liked Batman. But it's more than that, you know, Batman. Why do people like him? Well, he's very, very resourceful, right. You know, he's got his utility belt, he's got new devices, he runs a business as well. He networks, you know. He's got powerful allies. He's got villains. So people really, really respond to that. And then the MBA part, you know, I do have an MBA. I don't think it taught me anything.


I didn't network much during it. It's just because I did it part time. And, you know, I do frown upon people who put MBA in their title or their LinkedIn line. I'm like, look, the only people who should do that went to Ivy league and an Ivy league people don't do that on purpose. So no one should do that. I think it's. So I put it there just to be kind of cheeky. I've thought about changing it, but, you know, Batman people like Batman, it resonates with Batman. It doesn't, people aren't afraid of Batman, but it's still cool, right. It's still like dark. And you know, the new Batman preview came out and you've got Robert Pattinson wearing eye shadow. People were like, Oh, it looks cool. So it resonates. Well, people love it. I might remove the MBA part, but it's stuck with me.


Host - Monique Mills: 

In this next part we talk about when and why he decided to get his MBA and we discussed how many people go back to get their MBA’s during an economic downturn like we’re experiencing right now during this pandemic. It’s really a personal decision either way and somehow Dee managed get that point across in a fun yet humble way. Keep listening.


Guest - Dee Acosta: 

I don't think it's going anywhere. I think the experience is different for everyone. Right. you know, I have friends that got their MBA from Stanford and MIT and that's much more, you know, they went full time. It's much more involved. The networking is a big factor in that. You know, I, I got my MBA as the great recession started, but like a lot of people were getting their MBAs. Right. It was a personal goal. Like it was something important to me and I don't regret it. You know, everybody regrets the student loans that, you know, have recently been paid off. But, you know, I don't regret it. But, you know, it's more for self affirmation. Right. So Monique it's not because I wanna, you know, I go, Oh, I got an MBA to hiring managers more because I say, you know what? I did something really hard.That was difficult. Not just because it's the MBA, it was hard to do, but because I was in a sales role, you know, being the stress of sales and getting an MBA and I got married at the time. It was very hard. Yeah.


The, the frame means more than the experience. Yeah. And so the thing is like we have, you know, I have children. I don't know if you have Oh, awesome. Yep. Well, it sounds so cheesy, but I think it's important. Did they have that standard set? You know, so to see their mom be educated, like not just a college degree, cause you know, that's pretty given, but she did more than that. My daughter see her dad. He did more than that is important. I don't know, that's cheesy, I'm actually Hispanic, you know. I'm the first to get an MBA. My uncle was the first to go to college. He actually went on a football scholarship for Kentucky. And that was so inspirational to me growing up. Like I remember him coming for spring break and how excited I was to see him and you know, these images of college.

And so I think that that's important too. You know, that's a side effect that you get from having graduated. 


Host - Monique Mills: 

Are you one of those people who think that good salespeople are usually extroverted--meaning they get energized from engaging with people? I’ll admit that early in my career I thought that. If you haven’t noticed yet, Dee has a great, jovial , don’t take myself too seriously even though I’m accomplished type of personality. I mean he’s someone I would invite to one of my karaoke parties. But in this take he talks about how his personality works against him many times in his sales career. And yea, we have a few more laughs in this clip as well. Keep listening.


Guest - Dee Acosta: 

And so I think that that's important too. You know, that's a side effect that you get from having graduated. There's a lot of introverts who are good at sales, you know. And the big important thing about sales, you know, is the hunt, right. Always looking for that next opportunity. Being able to empathize, being able to talk money of course. But you know, delivering against the process is really important too. So yeah. Yeah. You know, honestly, my personality sometimes betrays me because people like me so much, they tell me what I want to hear and that is so necessary. 


Host - Monique Mills: 

So they don’t want to tell you no.


Guest - Dee Acosta: 

Yeah, exactly.


Guest - Dee Acosta: 

Anyone can be in sales, if you can manage the stress, you can be in sales. And there's only so much in your control as well, right, you can't control. The usual territory, is a hundred accounts, right. You can't control when they're spending, what you’re messaging against.

Do they already have a solution they're embedded in, you know. There's a lot there and you know, it takes empathy, sales leadership. And it takes some realism too. When I started in sales everybody's Oh, here's a million dollar quota, you know, like telling some 20 something year old kid to sell a million dollars is quite something.


Host - Monique Mills: 

And your job now, what is it that you sell?


Guest - Dee Acosta: 

So for the company I work for, Aberdeen, for the company I've been at for over 10 years and primarily sell marketing services. So we have an analyst team, we create content, we have a readership, we do demand generation. We have contact data. That's, that's really good. And we capture really powerful intent and we have our own in house ad agency. And so there's a lot of cool stuff that we can do. You know, everything's data and analytics now.

And then the other company I worked for, they provide a ROI platform. So value engineering, you know, think about 20 years ago, 30 years ago, going in to sell an ERP system to manufacturing company. Like that's a huge investment for them. And they have to really be sold on ROI. You know, back then it wasn't a given so that whole kind of industry set up there. And this is a tool that allows definitive ROI to be shown for it, to scale for it, to work with different teams and products and look good and integrate, which is really important. So that's what I'm doing now. I love working with marketers. They're the best. I sold to higher ed for a short while, and that was horrible (laughing)


Host - Monique Mills: 

What was so horrible about it? The long sales cycle?


Guest - Dee Acosta: 

Sales cycle, procurement was tough, but just, they're not goaled by business. They're not goaled by dollars. At the end of the day, they're very concerned about what their peer institution is doing and keeping risk low, which I get. But marketers are great to sell to. There's this, you know, I love IT guys too. Analytics guys. But it is, you know, there's different personas. I do help manage the SDR team. That's something I've done, but I don't, you know, they are, we're small enough. 


There's no need for a lot of managers, but I've been there so long. I had so much success that I'm allowed to do, I have a lot of autonomy. And that's one of the benefits of sales. You know, it is that flexibility, right. And it's kind of needed too. So I think all the stress you're on, you can't control when someone's signing, something with their budget, what their boss is gonna say. Tons of things you can't control. So having that autonomy is sometimes needed. And you know, with everyone working from home, I think even more so. I think everybody deserves that autonomy. You know, if you need to take an hour, go to the gym in the middle of the day. Don't go in the morning. Don't go at night. Go to when your workday,


Host - Monique Mills: 

Do you believe your MBA has had any impact on your career and the way you operate. It sounds like you didn't take advantage of the network because you were doing it part time.


Guest - Dee Acosta: 

Yeah. I mean, no, I wish it did. That's not to knock MBAs. Right. But everybody has a different experience and, and you know, self. And some sales, not all, but some sales positions, there is a little animosity towards MBA's. You know, somebody will be like, Oh, you know, Oh, you have an MBA. It's not necessary. It was a waste you can have, but you think you're better than me.


Host - Monique Mills: 

I knew you were going to say that. I think you think you're better than me.


Guest - Dee Acosta: 

It's like, no, no. This was my personal choice to torture myself for however many years. Like, everyone's the same. Right. You know, we're learning, just learning different things. And I know a lot of people with Ivy league degrees who are in marketing, right. Or they're in sales. So, you know, I don't, it shouldn't threaten anyone. If anything there should be new ideas that could be brought to the table. But if you want me to do the numbers on, if an acquisition makes sense, you know, the M and A, like, I still, I can't go. Don't ask me. I'm in class and I was like, what is this? You know, the, tables we had to look at (laughing). But in corporate, it might have more benefits.


Host - Monique Mills: 

And that’s it? Did you enjoy it as much as I did recording it? Although there was some jokes, don’t overlook the insights Dee shared with us like how there is an entrepreneurial component to sales and how you should be on the hunt outside of your primary job and interview at other places every 6 months or so. He also talked about how he doesn’t regret doing his MBA, but he doesn’t feel that it has added to his career success since he didn’t take advantage of many of the benefits of going full time, networking, etc which is really where a lot of the value is in business schools, especially at Ivy league schools. Despite all of that, he’s set a valuable example for his family and continues to be a rockstar in sales.

The Unpolished MBA conversation continues, and you can be a part of it by going to unpolishedmba.com. Thank you for listening.


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