Why Does A Techie Like Me Need An MBA?
I gained admission into a PhD program as soon as I graduated from an M.Sc program at Middlesex University, London. Shortly after I enrolled in the full-time PhD program, LIFE gave me an ultimatum — start a family or forfeit the PhD. Being my stubborn self, I decided to take on both responsibilities for a while, but it was quite a struggle, it just didn’t work so I caved in and made the PhD the opportunity cost. I had dreamt and planned to become a Dr. before I turned 30 for so long - I had it within my grip, but I had to let go. I dropped out. It was not an easy decision at the time, but looking back, it was undoubtedly the right choice, no regrets whatsoever.
Nine years later, I felt it was time to go back to the classroom again. I considered two options: a PhD or an MBA. Guess what? I made the PhD the opportunity cost yet again. The PhD may be a third time lucky, you never know.
But the million £ questions are, why should a techie like me care about a Masters of Business Administration, is it worth the investment, will I ever get the return on my investment - yes, I am self-funding it, and considering that I have a full time job, I am a husband and a father to two young kids, where would I find the time to study? Lots of questions, lots of uncertainties, but I enrolled anyway.
I made the PhD the opportunity cost yet again.
Why MBA ?
Let me provide some context before I answer this question. A long term objective in my personal development plan (PDP) is to become a CTO someday. For this reason, I left a core Engineering role to become a Consultant and now an Architect. Having a PDP gives me a fulcrum, a yardstick, and it determines the type of job, team and mentor that I gravitate towards.
Being conscious of my limitations, I approached Jose Ramon Bronet to coach* me. Jose is a Senior Director at Cisco AppDynamics, and he is a great all-round leader that I admire a lot. I also know that he is the type of leader that will not sugar-coat his feedback - I needed a coach that will lay it bare, I was chuffed and extremely delighted when he agreed.
We started the coaching session by defining the type of CTO that I want to be; yes, there are too many types of CTOs out there. Then we started exploring my personality - learning style, SWOT analysis, MBTI tests, etc. We then examined the attributes of a great CTO: deep technical background, business acumen, strategic thinking, communication skills and customer-centricity bubbled up the chain. Next, we mapped out and created SMART development action plans using combination of the key “great CTO” attributes, personality test results and the identified gaps.
“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.” — Benjamin Disraeli
With Jose’s help, it became evident that I am way behind on the business acumen attribute compared to the other qualities. I suggested an MBA route, and he gave it the green light; we both agreed that I would immensely benefit from a good MBA. Pursuing an MBA affords me the opportunity to become better-versed in data-driven decision-making. I will acquire formal ethical leadership skills and take the time necessary to become better at the art of communication while building a stronger professional network. It will also enable me to learn how to set strategic goals and influence stakeholders from diverse backgrounds.
Simply put, it became apparent that I need to augment my technical skills with business acumen. Some folks are lucky to learn/acquire business acumen on the job, but I am on the reverse train - MBA first. Also, I am not oblivious of fact that some of the benefits listed above will manifest sooner than others, and it is worth mentioning that I am already seeing some positive difference.
Selecting a Business School
I knew almost nothing about business schools and what set them apart before embarking on this journey. These are some key factors that went into my decision-making process. They may come in handy if you are thinking of an MBA too:
Budget: MBAs are expensive. Like every other investment, set a budget and use that as a search criterion. I could not secure funding from my workplace, so I had to make some compromises whilst deciding the business school to attend.
Mode of Study: I am studying part-time. I went for a business school that is 100% online - no requirements to ever show up on Campus.
Accreditation: Accreditation from a reputable organisation is one good way to check the quality of a business school. The three most-coveted, international accreditations for MBA programs are those awarded by AACSB, AMBA, and EQUIS. These accreditations are not very budget-friendly though. There’s the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) accredited MBAs in the UK which is well recognised and not as expensive as AACSB, AMBA and EQUIS.
Accreditation is one of the (budget) comprises I had to make. I went for a CMI accreditated MBA. Upon graduation from the MBA program, I will be awarded the CMI Level 7 qualification in Management and Leadership, a fast-track route toward Chartered Manager status.
Modules and Concentration: The course modules are very important too, check to make sure that they are aligned with your core objectives. For example, the modules in my MBA program concentration are: Personal and Business Transformation, Ethical Leadership, Implementing Strategy, Sustaining the Business, Leading Transitions, etc. I stayed clear of business schools that had Marketing, Economics, Finance etc. in their modules because they don’t align with my objectives.
Also, select an MBA concentration that is in-line with your goals. For example, MBA - Business Analytics, MBA - Information Technology. etc.
I have no doubt I have made the right decision. I am also aware that the full benefit of an MBA can take a few years to come to fruition - it’s a long term investment. I am going to need a bit of luck knowing full well that it is better to be prepared before an opportunity comes knocking.
Given the amount of time, money, and effort that an MBA requires, it is important to think about how it fits into your personal and career development plan before deciding whether or not it is worth your while to pursue one. Start with the WHY.
My academic writing skill became very rusty after nine years of absence, it can be hard during the early days.
I hope to complete my MBA in year 2022. Fingers Crossed.
Finally, I am extremely grateful to my dear wife for all the support she’s affording me towards meeting my objectives.
“Why should a techie like you care about studying a Masters of Business Administration ?” was a question from John, my best friend. He inspired this blogpost.
*There’s a subtle difference between a coach and a mentor. Did you know that? Ref
I would like to know your thoughts, please post a comment or any questions below. You may also reach out via LinkedIn.