Sorry for another MBA or not question but please hear me out...

Should I apply to a dual MS (Engineering) / MBA Program that starts next June, June '11, or otherwise?

Prospective School: Top engineering in the world, top ten MBA program. Dual degree program that combines engineering thesis with internship at "partner" company and MBA curriculum in 2 years, full-time i.e. I would have to resign from my current job. Partner companies are very large, well known, and "subsidize" 75% of tuition for all students in the program. They also like to hire graduates...

My profile: BS Mechanical Engineering at a "state" school, not ivy league, top rated, etc. but graduated top 10% of class. 5 year "co-op" degree where several internships with Fortune 500 Aerospace companies were injected between or in place of academic semesters. After graduating, I spent another 2 years in engineering, gradually transitioned into quality management, and took a promotion as Quality Manager in May '09. My boss is the CEO, relatively small and immature company (~130 employees, <$50M revenue).

My outlook: I realize my straight line "plan" will most likely transpire much differently than I ever expected, but this is my current outlook. The small company I work for is a great place to get my feet wet in management, learning experience, and opportunity to grow. That said, it's not a place where I want to spend my entire career, or even many more years with for that matter. At this point I'd like to go in one of two directions. 1) Join a larger company with more established practices where systems are already in place and I'm not constantly re-inventing the wheel. 2) Join a team and embark on an entrepreneurial venture using advanced technologies.

Why MBA?: Well it's not just MBA but the two degrees together... I'll still entertain the question. I've met a lot of brilliant people around here and it's getting harder and harder to discern between people for top positions based on accomplishments and references only. Seems like for the younger folks the game is changing. Maybe I'm off base, but I think you'll find MT content infiltrating the work place faster than you thought. I also love science/engineering and the 2 in 1 degree just gives me a warm/fuzzy that I have a hard time ignoring. The school itself is famous for technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship (many start-ups come out of it).

The catch: In order to be accepted to such a program, since I haven't gone to the moon, found a cure for cancer, or otherwise, I should probably use my boss for one of the recommendation letters. I've already run the school by him (he's got a BS from the same place) and he encouraged me to attend a part-time MBA-only program instead... the company would pay for it if I stay for so many years afterward. I've been to several info sessions at the school, know people who attend, and believe my mixture of engineering and management accomplishments make for a solid application. My boss is an understanding person, but I don't want to burn bridges or create poor sentiment if I wasn't accepted.

Timeline: Applying now would put me at 1 year in the "full time" management position (resign June '10); I was half/half for 6 months prior for what it's worth. An alternative is accruing more accomplishments until the following winter and starting June '11. Or something else... tell me what you think.

Closing: I think I can make some good short-term jumps in the next several years, but do you think the prestigious degree and network associated with it will be more beneficial long term? I don't think I'll have much of an opportunity for this when it's time for marriage and children 4-6 years later...

"I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had time to make it shorter."  - Blaise Pascal

I appreciate any of your input.


P.S. I hope there are a lot of Quality Managers named Dave. Ha!

ManagerDave's picture

Does anyone have an opinion about this?... I appreciate any input.

SteveAnderson's picture


Personally, I think this is too valuable of an opportunity to pass up.  Let's say you ask your boss for the letter.  What happens next?

A) He writes the letter (or maybe refuses to write the letter, depends on your boss) and becomes resentful.  From here he either lets you go or the work environment becomes unbearable to the point that you leave.  If you get into the program, you're out some good will.  If you don't get into the program you're out some good will and out of a job.  Despite the economy, there are, in fact, other jobs out there.  You said you didn't want to spend much more time at your current company and while leaving in this manner isn't likely your first preference, sometimes these things happen.  If this is your boss, you'll probably lose his good will no matter how you leave the company.

B) He writes the letter, says he's sad to see you leaving but understands you want to pursue your education at such a great institution (he came from there, after all).  If you get into the program, you work and work hard until June 2010.  Think of it as an extended version of the process illustrated in How to Resign.  If you don't get into the program, he'll probably be likely to help you reapply and you've put in extra hard work since you've asked for the letter.  Never a bad thing.

Maybe I'm being idealistic here but I've never had a superior hold grudges over my pursuit of education - even if it meant the loss of my continued employment.  If you're in the financial situation to do this, I think you owe it to yourself to try.


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ManagerDave's picture

Thanks for your response Andy.

I think I will lose some good will, but I don't envision getting fired or the environment becoming unbearable. After thinking about it for quite some time, I am leaning towards asking him for the letter soon.




davisjc's picture

Sounds like a "take the chance" to me. If I had a chance and the opportunity to create 2 degrees over my 1 MBA...I'd do it. Combo degrees from Eng & Business are something my Eng school was starting as a I left. I like to think I helped push them that way but that's not really the truth. I see this as a bigger and bigger differentiator, particularly Working (Engineering) Managers.