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To MBA or not to MBA That is the Question

Situation

Large Company
30ish
Not single
No kids
Technical knowledge superior to peers in key areas
Entry level manager for more than one year
Transfer with slight promotion expected within the year
Am certain that all of the above is invisible to HQ and upper management
Currently, free time available on nights and weekends
Starting to get... bored?
Fairly certain that the next three promotions will get... see above

Please provide your thoughts.

Personal experience is a plus.

Many thanks,
- poncho_57

poncho_57's picture

Addendum to MBA or no
poncho_57 forgot to add the following.

Tidbits
My performance reviews - thus far Meets Expectations

My key metrices to date - quantifiably exceeding all department goals

My current boss - The predesessor was superior to all I've experienced. Current boss is tied for first place.

My daily work fulfillment - I enjoy my job immensely. Hourly in fact.

So, I'm in a pretty good place.

I'm just asking about and pondering the next ten years.

I have the time to get the MBA.

I'm just unsure about whether it is worth the investment.

The beach is calling, there is fishing to do, beer is good and so on.

By the way, in case you wondered High D and some I.

Many thanks,
- poncho_57

trandell's picture

I decided against an MBA because I took a look at all the senior technology execs in my firm and found a very small percentage holding an MBA. I am a technologist and enjoy this field and I have a lot of real world data that shows you can be wildly successful with or without the degree.

That said, if you want to move towards the finance and business side of your firm, then I can see an MBA being useful. As far as MBAs go I don't think a degree from a mediocre school is worth it. Go to a great school and do great if you really want it.

The key question for me was, "Why do you want an MBA?" My answers did not convince me I wanted it for good reasons. My answers were that I was a little bored, thought it would be cool to have an MBA after my name, and maybe it would get me some more respect. My answers were either superficial or flat out wrong, so I moved on.

harry's picture

One of the important things in life is that one must be happy with what he/she is doing. If you are happy with where you are, that's your choice, enjoy yourself. However if one is not happy with where he is now, then you need to think and look further.

The answer to the question MBA or not is really simple. If you are a boss and you need to promote one subordinate as CEO (non technology company), whom would you choose? One with a wide field of knowledge and some specialization in certain scope or one with a narrow-focus scope but highly specialize knowledge within that scope.

peloton's picture

I agree with Terrence. I also consider(ed) the cost to my family and determined it was too high (for MY family and me). I also talked to an old friend who went back and got his MSEE and he felt that he would NOT do it all over again given the bang for the buck he received (he also has a family).

Your mileage may and will vary.

Al

tjordan's picture

I am currently 3/4 of the way through an MBA. I didn't start the MBA with the thought that it would get me promoted or help me get promoted. I'm doing it because I thought it might help me be better at what I do and that I'd enjoy the learning... and I was right.

My gut feel is if your doing an MBA just because you think you need to, then you're probably not in the right place. My experience (mining industry in Australia) is that an MBA is a nice to have, it's not a key consideration in employers' hiring thoughts.

When I was making the decision to study I spoke to a manager a couple of levels up about it and I thought his advice was good. He said "having an MBA is just providing you with a good toolkit, if you think you already have the tools then don't bother". But if, like me, learning some theory and practice behind finance, economics, organisations, business law etc... is new and interesting - then it's worth considering.

So the questions I would be asking this forum would be more along the lines of: here's what I already know about business and management, what else will I learn from an MBA.

fab5freddy's picture

 Hello

 

I am part way through an Executive MBA at a top business school in London.

I selected the school as it was the best fit for my learning style and the logistics were good (had offers from other high ranked schools and turned them down)

 

It’s a two year course and I attend school once a month for a very long weekend. There is also a format where students can study in the evening 3 nights a week

 

Clearly as someone who has made a large financial and time commitment to the program my views should be regarded with a healthy scepticism, but I hope this is valuable.

 

My opinions/observations are:

Doing the course is incredible rewarding and I have seen a marked increase in my ability (and the ability of other on the program) to manage time, communicate, manage, work in teams, understand myself, and problem solve, etc. Basically become “Me 2.0”.

 

It is not that technically challenging to pass (but very hard to get a good mark is very hard) but the sheer level of work has placed strains on all our lives and on our relationships. You would be looking at between 15 and 20 hours a week.

 

At my business school there is a huge amount of emphasis on the softer right-brain stuff outside of the lecture theatre (seems that most programs these days have taken on the criticisms of the MBA as made is such books as ‘A Whole New Mind’).

 

After having read many of the books on the personal MBA I can safely say that the program is greater than the knowledge you learn, and whilst those books were great, they are no way close to doing the course.

 

Full Time Vs. Part Time – from my experience and also from general discussions. The part time students are much stronger than those on full time course (remember I’m part-time). The impression I and others have is that the full-time students revert to a student mind set, where as the part time people who can apply the theory to the real world and have to have more dicipline are stronger. The full time student range from 26 to 55 in my cohort and come from all level and all types of company. The full-time students are about 23 to 28.

 

Hope this helps

kaeman's picture

Like to get some input on my situation:

Small international (in Japan) company just acquired by a leading US player in the industry.

Have been in several mid level manger positions over the last ten years, promoted mostly on my technical knowledge (until I found MT, that is ;-)

Background in Humanities - under and post grad degrees

Feel that there are opportunities to move up in the org (Director/VP) but need more business/financial knowledge and experience

Am considering an online MBA such as EBS' Herriot Watts

I am 50 years old

Mark once said that at senior levels it is 90% relationships and 10% skills. I am working on the former and wonder if it worth the investment in time and money to bolster the latter at my career stage with an MBA.  

jaredavd's picture

I'm in my final MBA course and will be graduating in June.  I'm 28 and in a management position with 8 directs at a large organization.  I was actually having this conversation with my wife last night.  I decided to get my MBA to do certain things for me.  I am not going to a top business school and think the only reason to attend one of those is if you intend on being an entrepreneur or working on wall street (not literally, I just mean working in higher finance).  I plan to do neither-- I wanted an MBA to bolster my experience as a manager.  My place of work also assists financially ($3k a year tuition reimbursement) so it was a pretty easy decision for me.

I look at the MBA as just one more tool to get me where I want to go.  I don't expect to be magically put in an executive suite by getting a degree, but when/if I move out of town, my experience as well as the MBA (that has a focus in strategic leadership) will do two things for me:

1. It will move my resume up and will get me into an interview faster than other similarly-skilled applicants without an advanced degree.  If I can get into an interview that's usually all I need.

2. When being evaluated at a new organization on how much they should pay me, the masters coupled with my undergrad degrees, certifications, and experience will increase my starting salary.  A lot of large businesses have a starting salary range and HR will typically calculate where in the range you fall based on your credentials and experience (not the hiring manager).

So, my answer to your situation...

If you have long-term plans to stay at your existing company, ask yourself a couple of questions: Will they reimburse any tuition? Will getting an MBA change my salary or make me more attractive for promotion?  If the answer is yes to either (especially the second one) then it's probably worth it.  If not, keep your spare time and enjoy not having to write papers and make presentations.

If you have long term plans of moving to a different organization or to a different city, and your industry/specialty gives weight to an MBA degree or it will open doors that your standard resume may not, it also may be worth it.  I assume you have an undergrad degree since you're looking to get a masters-- a lot of the time, an undergrad is all you need.  I'd do some research on your industry and the term MBA in some job searching boards and see if people are interested in the degree or not.  If you can't find interest from other organizations in the degree, save your time and money and develop skills that they ARE looking for.  For instance, a PMP might go much further than an MBA would; focus on a PMP rather than an MBA if you're looking to further yourself.

Tuatara's picture

T. Jordan is right, accepting the fact that you decide on a reputable MBA programme, it is an excellent toolkit. I completed one and at the end wasn't sure I had come very far. Then I went back through my first few papers and compared them to my final dissertation and realised it had helped me grow significantly. I also looked at the results in my area of responsibility and have noticed a marked improvement. Part of that was Manager Tools, but a larger part was the MBA. (Sorry MT, I only discovered you late last year, so still need time for it all to take affect).

You say you are an entry level manager with high technical skills, but that it is probably not recognised by upper management. The process of doing an MBA teaches you about all aspects of a business, so when you talk to one of the senior managers outside your area of expertise, you will still be able to keep up with the conversation. Being able to talk with a CFO, when you are primarily associated with a technical function, will get you noticed. A good MBA programme gives you an excellent grounding for understanding business theory, and you are still young enough for it to affect your career in a significant manner.
 
You also say you have the time to do it, so use that time. There may come a time where you wish you could but lack the time. Our company has a learning assistance policy where any Team Member who does an outside course (assuming they are approved prior to starting the course) and passes will have half their tuition fees reimbursed. See if your company has something similar. Even if they don’t, someone in upper management will have had to have been asked about it and will then know that there is a person keen to improve themselves in the organisation. Any company worth working for will then track that persons’ progress and then ensure they don’t lose them when they have graduated. If they are not, you have a wonderful MBA that makes you a very good candidate for another company.
 

mooreric's picture

I think you seem to be doing pretty well for yourself and an MBA sounds like icing on cake. If you have the time, money, and willingness to invest in higher education, then by all means you should go for an MBA. It will help you not just advance professionally, but also pick up new skills and widen your knowledge base. In fact, I was reading somewhere that employers found marked improvement in the performance of their employees once they completed an online MBA degree as compared to their earlier performance. All the best!