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The Value of an MBA For a Techie.
Being a techie-MBA and a former student ambassador for ISB, a question that I frequently get asked is if a management degree is relevant to a techie, and if it is, in what ways.
In today’s world, where learning is ubiquitous, it is easy to discount the value of formal education. More so, in the case of an MBA, the high direct and opportunity costs seem unnecessary (apart from the time and stress that one has to go through). Besides, there are hundreds of CEOs of technology companies across the world who have been quite successful without an MBA.
I was in the same boat, except, I took a leap of faith and joined the PGP at ISB after being in technology for over ten years. Here’s what I think with regard to how relevant an MBA is for a techie -
Take a break!
It is easy to say that one needs to be clear on what one wants to get out of an MBA. In reality, though, it is not easy to be clear on why an MBA is indeed needed for a techie. At a broad level, most MBA aspirants look at how they can supplement the depth that they have gained in technology with the breadth that they intend to get via the MBA program and achieve something phenomenal in their careers. However, with the rapidly-changing world, a one-year break from a job could mean that you might become the (same) person whom you hated when you were at your job. Do not be that person; consider an MBA only when you are sure that you plan to invest enough time in keeping your technology depth relevant to the changing world outside. With grueling assignments and academics, it indeed is a tough job, but no one ever said success comes easy.
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Networking like crazy
It is safe to assume for most, that an MBA is the last time life allows a formal break from a routine to rethink and re-plan the journey ahead. It is a break that allows you to discover or re-discover what you’re passionate about (important things) without having to think about the immediate needs (urgent things) in life. It allows you to finally formally focus on your long-term visions for your life. Even when your passion lies in technology roles and not necessarily taking up management roles, it helps you build the maturity to be empathetic enough towards the broader goals of an organization and how to keep looking for the 10,000ft view of things — things that are crucial in later stages of your career.
Resetting your career
In a top B-school, you work with some of the best brains from the industry and the finest in the nation. Just like how most learning in your job happens on the job, most MBA learning happens from your peers. For techies who buried themselves in code all their lives, an MBA gives an excellent and broad perspective of the various industries and opens up your ideas on how technology can improve the current state. The entire journey is a humbling moment of realization of how little we know of the world we live in.
Starting your own company
Many times (esp. more so, in the early years of your career), an MBA opens up opportunities to switch jobs drastically and make your mark in a new field that you found your passion in. It allows you to command higher salaries or faster career growth provided you strive to be a good learner about the domain. Every industry today is looking at how technology can help them sustain and grow their business. Understanding the domain (during the MBA), and being able to deliver technology solutions in that domain would be one of the best ways to contribute to the company you intend to join.
This is probably the most debated topic, as entrepreneurship and MBA never seem to go hand in hand. Despite the fact that running a startup helps you learn more things than an MBA program, in a practical sense, an MBA allows you to explore some of the most vital things that are needed to establish the company that you have been dreaming of building.
For one, instead of moonlighting on the job, or dreaming of “million-dollar ideas,” an MBA gives you the time, network, and opportunity to take the ideas to market by actually executing them.
Second, with academic and industry experts guiding you through your journey, you are only increasing your chances of success.
Third, the student network and alumni with some of the best brains in the industry are again here to help bounce off ideas, debate and build the company of your dreams.
There are so much more reasons I believe an MBA will help when you are starting out or even when you are not, but more on that later.
Last, but not least, an MBA helps you think at a macro level, and understand how the world economy is shaped into the way it is. It is an incredible amount of learning in a short span of time helping you understand the various dynamics of running a product or a business. It allows you to converse on a range of topics and develop a true sense of curiosity about everything around you.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list by any means, and there are a number of other reasons why techies should pursue their MBA.
Would love to hear your thoughts.