What is the best investment right now, and always? (WIP: Updated 12/3/15)

Invest in yourself. If you're not going to believe in yourself, how can you expect others to believe you. 
Though there are going to be questions about leadership qualities of Steve Jobs, a calligraphy course played a crucial role in the success of Steve Jobs. In the same way, invest in an education (go for a bachelor's degree from a reputable program; need not be an expensive one) that aligns with your interest, and you might reap the rewards in the future. At the same time, also remember that times are changing, and having a holistic education capturing different areas would help in navigating through the changing times, and will give confidence to face adversities.

Does it mean that you need to get as many degrees as I did? 

Not necessarily. In my case, I got two Masters in Engineering degrees while pursuing my PhD, and it took almost the same time. Similarly, though I was getting involved on the business front, there was this general market notion that PhDs can't move to business side. I could have fought hard to justify it, but getting a MBA appeared to be an easier choice. Moreover, marketing of the MBA degree certainly makes it sound attractive and relevant for business decision-making, and was my dream for a long time. I value the MBA that I secured, but figured later out that my prior knowledge acquired over the years was instrumental in shaping me who I am, and directed me to get my MBA.

Further, taking the break from the PhD degree, and working for a startup helped in gaining better understanding of the big picture, and connecting different areas, especially,  on the operational point of view. Though academic role was not my primary interest, and I was always focused to hold a leadership role in the corporate world, academic role happened as a detour, and it remained that way, most probably, due to powerful forces limiting me in getting fair opportunities to move out (especially, in this networked world). At the same time, I thoroughly enjoyed my academic experience during the years of 2009-2014.

Now, having been in both academic and industrial roles, time has come to exploit my experiences over the years, and try to fulfill my father's dream to transform this startup to something of substance. 

Suggestion:

Recently, an experienced academic faculty member of stature similar to mine or lesser mentioned in one of the presentations that data analytics based certification should help in performing data analytics on par with PhD graduates in different areas. If that were the case, Universities should reconsider the need to offer PhD programs. I also noticed that individuals with not much knowledge in this area still working in this field through whatever means whereas, a PhD researcher especially, in the STEM area who performs extensive data analytics in his/her research work ends up getting stereotyped as an expert in one area. Please note that this observation has nothing to do with me. I have decided to move the entrepreneurial route to test this space after seeing the recent trends in the marketplace, and after building years of experience.

From my experience, the one advise that I have for students is not to have the illusion that PhD experience (5-6 years of hard work similar to high performing data experts, and with compensation 1/5th of what data experts get paid),  or any advanced degree for that matter would be valued, and will fetch better salaries than someone who has right connections irrespective of relevant qualification/credentials. If salary is your primary focal point, consider opportunity cost, and also perform thorough research on the value of the PhD degree that you're getting prior to enrolling into that program. 

What is the value of high quality PhD/Doctoral degree?

Different people have different views on doctoral degrees. 

Personally, PhD helped me to improve on patience, work through ups and downs in research, and in turn, life, self-monitoring of work, effective planning & implementation of projects & products, connecting diverse areas in a meaningful way, and to apply different kinds of research methodologies to solve complex problems; it also helped me to improve on my attitude towards respecting people irrespective of who they were or where they came from. For that matter, PhD stands for Doctor of Philosophy, and Philosophy means love of wisdom. 

If I were given the opportunity to time travel backwards, would I do it again? 

At that time, knowing what I knew, yes. Now, knowing what I know, and with so many different opportunities out there accessible around the globe, I will do my own due-diligence prior to enrolling in a PhD program. It is also important to find the right academic advisor, who will work with and for you during the research process, and in helping to gain contacts for future opportunities. At the same time, graduating students, who got the support from the University and advisor, should reciprocate the same way in the future.

Just in case, if your support network was not sufficient to land a right opportunity, take personal initiative, and attend conferences (which is how I got my job - in a conference in Boston), and self-market using various online tools available. Though professional network systems are out there, there are millions of individuals sharing their profiles, and it might be difficult to stand out. For that reason, have your own website and/or apps, and figure out various different ways to market yourself. If not, take initiatives to start your own start-up. 

What is my opinion on part-time PhDs?

We need new programs adapting to changing times, but there needs to be standardization of the requirements as much as possible. We should not have a system that would allow those with power to flex their muscles (irrespective of gender and color) to get an easy and many times free PhD (or, any other degree) for various reasons whereas, students coming the traditional route struggling to get those degrees, and later, fighting hard to find relevant jobs.
Interesting Steve Jobs videos
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQKis2Cfpeo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHkJEz_HdTg