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2.08.2004
  Applying to Davis?
I'm struggling with whether I should apply to UC Davis' Economics PhD program or not.

Of the programs I'm interested in (UCs Berkeley, Davis, LA, San Diego and Stanford), Davis is the only one that is still accepting applications.

The crux of the issue is timing. Can I put off this life-changing event for another year? Is it the right time to leave my job (which I very much like but I'm ready for a change)?

As I've mentioned before, my Berkeley undergrad degree in business didn't prepare me entirely for an Economics graduate degree. I only took one year of Calculus and my intermediate economics courses were not Math oriented (I don't think we did any Calculus in them). Also, I didn't take an upper division statistics course.

Besides that, its been almost 5 years since I graduated. I'm a little rusty.

Applying to Davis this winter is a great opportunity primarily because of the flexibility of the program. While they only let you apply to the PhD program, they offer a terminal Masters degree. This allows me to re-confirm that an Economics degree is really what I want to be doing and it gives me the freedom to look at the other programs while earning the Masters degree (possibly applying to the other schools in late Fall).

The Davis Masters will loosen up my school muscles while improving my Math/Econ skills. Plus, if I end up liking the program, I can stay and be satisfied that I'm in a good school.

There are two major downsides to going to Davis this fall. Both have to do with the fact that I would have to quit my job a year earlier than I had thought. First is the financial impact. Quitting my job a year earlier amounts to about $30k of savings forgone (not to mention the opportunity cost of lost wages). The second downside is that it won't be easy to leave my job on a personal level. I really like the people at work and its been a lot of fun over the last 5 years. Of course, I'm reminded of two cliches: all good things come to an end and its best to quit when your at your peek.

So what about the timing issue? Why not just wait a year? I explain below that the stars are lining up for an easy transition.

If I were to make a change, I would want to have as little impact on my company as possible. Smooth transitions are best for me and for the company. Luckily, the timing might be perfect to make this smooth transition happen. Over the last year, I've been making moves to transition out of my operations role (where I manage the systems architecture group) into a product management role. We've hired a manager who will be taking my position as I transition out of the team. Over the next 3 months or so, he would be shadowing me, learning the ropes and gradually taking more of a leadership position. Meanwhile, I've been doing some special projects for our chairman that are product management-like jobs (investigating new technologies, etc). The idea was that I would move into the Marketing department where I would do these special projects on a full-time basis. The only wrinkle has been that we've hired a new marketing VP and she has her own ideas of how her marketing team (including product management) should be formed. I'm in the early stages of talking to her about my role on her team. If I decided to go to school in the fall, I could back-off those discussions and concentrate on doing customer work in the systems architecture team.

So complicated! To make a long story short, I'm in the middle of a internal transition at work and I could just reorient that transition into one that takes me out of the company by the time school starts.
 
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