Advice for MBA-destined Techies

Last week a current UC Davis full-time MBA student contacted me via email asking for an interest interview.  He had gotten my email from the school or alumni database rather.  I agreed, as if you can’t tell by now, I love to talk.  So he introduced himself saying that he had a PhD in Software Engineering, etc etc.  Then he started asking me questions.  Keep in mind that I attended MBA school as a working professional, so my perspective is a bit different.

  • Unless you switch jobs within your company, your MBA does not mean anything.  No one ever looks at your resume while you are still in your current job.
  • Not all jobs require an MBA especially in the tech industry.  Make sure that you’ve done your homework with what type of job that you want when you finish your MBA.  For instance, if you want to be a software manager or get into management, you don’t need an MBA.  Another thing to point out, if you are start-up bound, the first people that start-ups hire are not business folks.  At the early stages, they want people who can get their hands dirty and help develop the product.  What good is a business person if you don’t have a product to show or sell.  Perhaps you can argue that the business person can focus on customer requirements to bring back to the developers.  OK, I buy that, but then you only need one of these types of people.  This means less opportunities.
  • If you want a job that requires an MBA, make sure that the company’s headquarters are located in your city.  I see very few corporate jobs located outside the corporate headquarter location.  Increase your chances of getting that job and look for where the company headquarters are located.
  • Do a business plan competition.  What better way to showcase your business skills that cuts across marketing, sales, accounting, etc.  If you happen to place, what a better deal.  This is something that you can put on your resume.
  • If you are a full-time MBA student, get involved with club leadership.  I see very few MBA students who decide not to take on any leadership.  Take it one step further and make sure that the club was better after you got involved.  These are the types of things that companies want to hear during interviews.
  • Take advantage of networking events.  You’d be surprised at how many alumni are willing to help current students.  Don’t be afraid to get contact information from class guest speakers/panelists or alumni at a local happy hour.  Also, stay in contact.  No one does favors for just anybody.
  • Check out the MBA school career center.  How does the school prepare its students for internships and jobs?  What sort of companies does the school attract?  If you are still debating which school to attend, perhaps you should attend one of the school’s career fairs.  See who shows up and how aggressive they are recruiting the MBA students.
  • If you are currently working and have an employee directory, do a quick search for MBA education and see what job titles these folks have in your company.  When I did this, I realized not many MBA jobs were available in California except for sales positions.  It was an eye-opener.  However, for those that were not in sales, I sent them an email asking to chat with them some more.  I wanted to see how did the MBA education help them get the job that they currently have and if it was worth getting an MBA for that job.  The feedback was 50/50.
  • If you are looking into part-time programs, don’t focus so much on the part-time program rankings.  When you get your MBA degree, it doesn’t say part-time MBA.  So look at the full-time program rankings and based your decision on that.  You may encounter some part-time programs w/o full-time programs, in that case you are out of luck b/c how can someone compare your program with the full-time programs.  Make a careful decision as to what you want to do.  My advice, first consider part-time programs with full-time programs.

Alright, I hope that some of this advice helps someone out.  If you have more that you want to add, add a comment and share with the rest of us.

Sophia Perl

Sophia Perl is a product manager for a database tool at IBM. She has over 10 years of software development and management experience. Sophia holds a BS in Computer Science from University of Southern California and an MBA from University of California at Davis. She is the creator of iPhone apps PicPredict and Eventabulous.

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