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Project Management and MBAs

Perhaps it's just me, but has anyone else noticed that project management and MBAs are the next big bubble that have far more people in the training queue than could possibly be accommodated in the workforce? Everyday on the radio now I heard ads on the radio about institutes, colleges and universities offering project management training: These are the same style of ads that pushed a fabulous "career in IT" several years back. MBA-wise the educational institutes (many of whom are run just like any other business: They just want your money) have been adding and expanding programs like crazy, and MBAs already are somewhere around the value of an MCSE.

I just mention that because I see a lot of the "I'm going to move into project management!" and "I'm going to get my MBA!" mentality as a saviour from the IT doldrums, yet it seems to me to be a very poor choice.

Just a thought.

Anonymous Cowboy
Thursday, September 04, 2003

My ex-girlfriend now does project management.  Oh, she was nice and everything -- I'm not saying *that* -- but she was as dumb as the proverbial box of rocks.  I pity her clients.

J. D. Trollinger
Thursday, September 04, 2003

If you don't get your MBA from one of the US News top 10, there is no point. The point of getting an MBA is to spend two years making friends with the sons and daughters of people who are already super rich. 

rz
Thursday, September 04, 2003

PM's are the hot thing in our company right now. Developers can be outsourced, so you need manager and PM types to keep the place running. I have seen small projects with three PM's coming at it from different angles. Our company is going through massive confusion trying to figure out if the day to day work of developers should be managed by the PM - if so, what place does their manager hold? I wonder how this works out for others.

m
Thursday, September 04, 2003

For the last two years or so, I have been receiving monthly PM junk mail from various colleges and organizations promoting project management seminars.

Without any hard data it is difficult to know if there truly is a PM training bubble going on throughout the country.  It might be a case of training companies simply revamping their curriculums with the hope they can cash in on the outsourcing phenomenon. 

I don't know if these training companies are trying to create a demand where there currently isn't one or if they really are trying to fill a job market need.  With so many programmers currently unemployed, my guess is my first explaination is probably closer to the truth.

One Programmer's Opinion
Friday, September 05, 2003

I can’t say too much about the PM courses, but MBA’s? Oh gosh, I can think of at least 3 or 4 people I know with a MBA. There is more MBA’s then there is Starbucks coffee shops!

It is always so laughable to see a bunch kids in the local college doing their MBA’s stuff like:

How would you re-organize the Best Buy Chain of electronic stores! Off they go writing these incredible large papers.

Yea, right...that is going to be your job!

1 out of a million of those grads will actually be the CEO, or manager of a company. However, it does not stop them dreaming of that great power management job where they head up the large corporation. 

There is SO FEW jobs opening up for MBA’s right now.

As someone else noted, unless you are talking about the top 2, or 3 prestigious institutions, forget a MBA from the local college. They have zillions of grads per year...

Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada
kallal@msn.com
http://www.attcanada.net/~kallal.msn

Albert D. kallal
Friday, September 05, 2003

Hmm. Well, I'm doing an MSc in Software Engineering, and if the job market continues as it is right now, all I'm doing is extending my misspent youth and I'll never amount to anything.

I was, however, thinking of doing the Project Management module. I figure one management module to nine technical ones might stand me in good stead, if anything will. Does anybody think this is a good idea?

Fernanda Stickpot
Friday, September 05, 2003


I think PM is a sub-discipline of software engineering, so heck yeah, take the course!

In other news:
>1 out of a million of those grads will actually
>be the CEO, or manager of a company.
>However, it does not stop them dreaming
>of that great power management job where
>they head up the large corporation.

I know what you mean.  I'm taking CS 643 now - Info Systems Policy - and the point is to study IS as if we were the CIO.

How many people in the room are every going to be a CIO?  Maybe two.  How many people in the room, including the professor, have ever BEEN a CIO?  None.

It feels a little like the blind leading the blind. I guess our professor is the one-eyed man, I dunno.

There's a point in there somewhere, but I can't quite get to it.  sigh.

Matt H.
Friday, September 05, 2003


Personally, I think our industry would be in better shape if CS students took a few more project management courses and a few less "techy" courses.

Things may have changed since my day but when I went to school they offered compiler writing courses. Sounds like fun (it was), but I'm as likely to work on a compiler as I am to be CIO.

All of my project management skills (such as they are) I had to learn the hard way. Maybe that's the best way. But it wouldn't hurt if CS grads knew as much about the profession of developing software products as they do about the latest cool and froody programming language.

anon
Friday, September 05, 2003

One real problem with PM as it is practiced by a majority of people is the lack of real measurements.  This is especially difficult in software, where an entire day spent coding one line is sometimes more productive than a day spent coding 3000 lines.

Some of the least understood concepts in PM are milestones (no, its not necessarily a big event like a pilot or beta), deliverables, critical paths, and tasks.  Gee, that's pretty much everything you can measure right there, and people don't get it.

Every PM class teaches things differently, but if you take the general PM teachings, really understand the items stated above, and throw in a little bit of Goldratt you'll be just fine.

Unfortunately we tend to end up with people who have never coded, or never managed (either is equally bad IMHO), ticking off meaningless tasks from 10% to 15%.  How's that procedure coming along?  Well, I spend the last 3 days doing research to get around a bug and I think I have it sorted.  Oh, so I can move "Coding" to what, 80%?  ????

PM isn't about tracking things, its about managing them... thus the name.  Its not just assigning tasks and watching them magically increase in percentages, its a constant reworking of the project plan and resource allocations to maximize the chance of producing a solid final deliverable on or before the due date.

Lou
Friday, September 05, 2003

You people crack me up.

First, you bitch endlessly about how stupid PM's and MBA's are; about how they don't get technology, etc.

Then you question why any techie would want to get their MBA or become a PM.

Seems to me, that if you have ever had to experience a PM who couldn't turn a computer on then you would encourage any fellow techies to go that route. Much better a techie with PM training or an MBA that some snappy dresser fresh with a marketing degree, right?

Not me.
Friday, September 05, 2003

"First, you bitch endlessly about how stupid PM's and MBA's are; about how they don't get technology, etc."

Uh, you do realize that we're all different people right, with our own opinions and perceptions? Simplifying a group into a chariacture is a pretty weak technique.

However I don't see anyone picking on techs turning to PMs and MBAs: Rather it's a realistic assessment, perhaps learned by what happened in the tech industry, that perhaps the educational institutes are taking _lots_ of money (MBA programs especially. A friend took the executive part time program - $25000 per year for two years) from a lot of people, when the realistic prospects of most of them profiting from it is incredibly low. We can't _all_ be the decision makers and the project managers, and already we've seen that the value of a MBA quite literally is equal to the value of an MCSE: There are a couple of places that request them, but many others actually disparage them. I don't blame the people with them, but the false perception that "higher education" is a beneficial, sanctimonious institute striving for a higher world, when in reality it is a profit center capitalizing on fads like any other business.

Anonymous Cowboy
Friday, September 05, 2003

"Simplifying a group into a chariacture is a pretty weak technique."

Didn't stop Fedex though.

http://www.fedex.com/us/about/advertising/tvads/?link=4

and view the "MBA"

UI Designer
Friday, September 05, 2003

Personally I'd love to move into PM work.  I've always enjoyed the big picture, as well as technical details.

Unfortunately I work for a small company with very few opportunities for PM work.  IMHO PM has best opportunity to understand the project from end to end.  As a developer I feel you become to pigeoned holed.  Even the best developers will only know small portions of the big picture.  A lot of developers I know like it this way.  They want a list of requirements (ie marching orders) that they just pound out and go home. 

I don' t like working on anything that I don't understand why I am doing it, so inevitably I end up trying to figure out our market, etc. 

This has often lead me to positions where it was made clear that I was overstepping my bounds.  I personally feel that my management holds developers back.  I've even come up with some ideas what were eventually sold, but still I sit as a developer, basically doing the same work I did the day I walked in here.  That is frustrating as hell.

I would start looking for other work, but I have a vested interest in the company which puts my salary way above market.  My stock is about 2/3 vested.  So I have 18 months before it makes any financial sense to leave the company.  After the 18 months I'd like to move and find PM work.  I have a large breadth of technical experience. 

Everything from securing servers in the Data Center to designing UI frameworks, and just about everything in between, yet limited PM experience beyond a few perposal that I have made.  Any suggestions on how I could go about it getting PM work, with limited experience PMing? 

christopher

want to be a PM
Friday, September 05, 2003

---Any suggestions on how I could go about it getting PM work, with limited experience PMing?  ---

make friends with a bunch of people who do what you want to do. continue hassling them until something opens up, and they recommend you for the job.

rz
Friday, September 05, 2003

That would be difficult considering there are almost no software companies in this area.

want to be a PM
Friday, September 05, 2003

"This has often lead me to positions where it was made clear that I was overstepping my bounds.  I personally feel that my management holds developers back.  I've even come up with some ideas what were eventually sold, but still I sit as a developer, basically doing the same work I did the day I walked in here."

Sorry to tell you this, but crawl back to your cave and do what you're told to do. The way I see this is that there aren't that many "big" decisions that need to be made in a given project. Thus managers (especially the dumber ones) will take it really personally if you try to replace whatever little they actually do, i.e. the "important" decision making. See, they politicked their way to where they are in order to make decisions and feel important. Regardless of the fact that your decisions can be better informed and generally better, they will still prefer their decisions to yours just because they are after all the decision makers!

Cunning politician
Friday, September 05, 2003

_Business 2.0_ magazine ran an interesting article in July, 2002.  The article was titled, "What's an MBA really worth?".  The answer:  not much.  Academicians had determined that getting an MBA doesn't enhance your career.

The article is reprinted here:

http://cbet.uwaterloo.ca/MBA-reallyworth.html

Alex Chernavsky
Friday, September 05, 2003

Alex,

there are better obeservations made on the business week website, take a look at the MBA Journals there.

Prakash S
Saturday, September 06, 2003

Prakash,

Do you mean this site?

http://www.businessweek.com/bschools/mbajournal/index.htm

All I see is a bunch of people saying that they think business school is great.  There's nothing there that contradicts the study I cited earlier.

Alex Chernavsky
Saturday, September 06, 2003

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