Sep 16, 2005

Should software engineers go for an MBA?



I wrote this article some years ago for a online recruitment portal called CIOLjobs that does not exist anymore.

MBA is a post-graduation qualification given by Universities (the IIMs, XLRI etc. grant Diplomas) to certify that the student is ready for a business role in an organization.

How is a business role different from the ones that Software engineers usually do ?
A software engineer usually works in the delivery side of the business. That is , after a project is won and comes to the firm, the delivery people get to work on it and follow specifications. Therefore a delivery person only sees a part of the business and works on it.

Is it necessary to know all the parts of the business ?
No, it is not. But a delivery person can rise to only a certain level in the organization. If he/she yearns to rise higher or faster having knowledge of business management is very useful.

So what does an MBA have ?
An MBA course has various courses that cover all aspects of business operations. They are clustered in the following areas:

Operations
Strategy
Marketing
Finance
Human Resources
Systems

In the first year most courses require you to do "core" or necessary subjects in all areas. The first year is followed by a Summer Internship in which students do projects in a specific area that they and the sponsoring companies choose. This enables a student to get a feel of real life situations in business.
The second year is mostly dedicated to "optional" subjects which are called "electives". A student can choose to specialize in area in which he/she is interested in. Specialization is a decision that most B-Schools take on their own. In some schools you can specialize in one area. In others you can specialize in two. In others, it might not be necessary to specialize at all.

So is it worth your while to leave your job and do an MBA ?
In my view, it makes sense to do an MBA when :
You want to explore other careers and not get stuck in a software /networking
career.
You like seeing the big picture and want to rise up where you can influence that big career.
When you want to remain in software and yet explore other career tracks like business development leveraging your software experience.
In most schools work experience of any kind between 2-4 years is a desirable quality in a business student. But you need to be aware that while this work experience might be helpful in getting certain kinds of jobs and companies, it might work against you in certain companies that prefer to hire fresh MBAs and mould them in their culture.

So if you seek to make a career as an MBA go for it ! Don’t forget about trying out the top online MBA programs as well!