Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

Pursuing an MBA

First of all, I'm not in the US, but I still would like to know everyone's opinion.

I've been working as a developer for the past 5 years (and I'm 25) and now I feel is the right time to move along. I'll be finishing my college degree sometime during the next 2 years and after that I would like to enroll on an MBA.

The reasons: I want to move higher up on the food chain; I am tired of development work - maybe it wasn't my thing after all, maybe it lost the luster it had; and I feel trapped working in only one area. Basically, I feel it's time to spread my wings.

What do you guys think? I'll be pushing 30 when I enter my MBA, with 10 years of software development under me. If you were an investment bank, how would you look at me? How hard would it be to find a management position in a non-IT organization? (I think the future lies in the health care sector)

Well, give me your 0.2c, I'll give you a receipt.

Friday, January 23, 2004

My decision was not to pursue an MBA, but to return to university (full time, in my mid forties) to read for an LLB.

Why? Because reviewing my career to date I see two things.

First, MBAs focus on management not leadership, but leadership actually the more important trait.

Second, law underpins every aspect of social and commercial activity. One can't lead without a clear idea of where one is going; law provides a vital map. There are *NO* aspects of modern business practice that are not touched by law. Moreover, you need to understand not only its strictures, but also the manner of its practice; and you can't get this unless you're immersed in it.

On a personal note, my first year public law lecturer said - more than half seriously - that he thought law schools shouldn't accept anyone younger than 30, on the basis that rarely have they had enough knocks truly to understand the concept of justice. It may be the same for MBAs.

I seem to have come across an awful lot of jumped up marketing droids and HR bods who see an MBA as a ticket to senior management. As a result, I don't have a generally high regard for the people who hold them. For some reason they seem to have brash, abrasive, even ruthless personalities. Whether it is the degree which inculcates these traits, that these characteristics are needed to get accepted for (or be successful in) an MBA course, or simply that only people with these characteristics brag about their qualifications, I'm not sure. I could be slandering a large number of really good managers who have MBAs, and who would attribute their success to having one, it's just that they don't feel the necessity to tell the entire world.

Of course, the proof of this argument will come in 18 months time when I emerge with a shiny new LLB, plus my original (1978 model) engineering degree and find that I still can't get a job. Be absolutely sure that I will be taking the module of European discrimination law....

I trust no practicing lawyers will be too offended if I sign off as...

Friday, January 23, 2004

Anybody who is thinking of pursuing an MBA degree should read the following article, originally published in _Business 2.0_ magazine:

The article is called, "What's an MBA Really Worth?".  (The answer:  not much).

Alex Chernavsky
Friday, January 23, 2004

In regards to the worth of an MBA, I started pursuing an MBA part-time but only finished about 3 semesters, here's what I got out of it:

1. I met and got to know a lot of really motivated and intelligent people, most with backgrounds not grounded in IT / CS.

2. I learned alot about the fundamentals of business - marketing , accounting , finance, economics,etc

3.  Just the mere fact that I was taking MBA classes helped me land a management job (I've been coding for about 10 years professionally but recently decided I want to work more with people).

If you think an MBA can be equated into a raise of some set amount, you'll probably be disappointed. 

I had to drop out due to relocating, but I will be continuing my MBA in Fall '04.   

I highly recommend pursuing an MBA with a good program if you are looking to move up the food chain.
Friday, January 23, 2004

It's all about the contacts you'll make.  Go to a place where investment banks hire, make the right friends, and you'll be good to go.  I was in your spot too but decided what I really wanted out of a career was to be my own boss and for that I didn't need an MBA.  You might investigate other ways of getting a job in an IB, sort of the back-door approach. 

Alex, if I remember right, don't you have an MBA from Yale?

Friday, January 23, 2004

What's your goal with getting an MBA?

a. Learn to run your own business?
b. Fill some requirement at a big company?

If it's a) then I'd recommend taking yoru 2 years and $100k and starting a company or two.  It'll cost WAY less than $100k and you'll get to do the kind of work YOU want to do, read the books YOU find useful, not follow some academic's plan.

If it's b) then you have to ask: are big companies hiring?  Are they good jobs?  (My limited experience says "NO").

My $.02 worth, as somone who started a company for about $1500 8 years ago. Support me and my family comfortably. (And gives me loads of time to post on JoS :-)

To echo the comment above:  I have a friend who is perpetually in school. He has a PHd in Software Engineering and now is working on an MBA here in the USA.  He thinks the key benefit is the NETWORKING.  I'd agree. That's true of ANY school, IMHO.  I always learned more from other students than from the instructor.

The real Entrepreneur
Friday, January 23, 2004

Get an MBA from the top tier schools or don't get one at all. you will not learn anything useful but you will meet smart people with smart ideas and ambition. When you are around smart motivated people good things happen. Also, take alot of marketing classes and golf lessons.

Tom Vu
Friday, January 23, 2004

My $.02 - go to night school.
The guys who are actually working in businessville aren't going to take eighteen months off work to get an MBA - they go at night.

Also agree with the suggestions to move somewhere where the contacts you make in the program will be worthwhile - I'd suggest NYC or DC, but if you love the left coast then LA or Seattle. Chicago in the middle, of course.

(In case you hadn't noticed, I think half the reason to get an MBA is for networking)

Also agree that MBA programs don't teach leadership, but I'd venture that they don't teach management either - from what I know they teach business, finances, and economics.


Friday, January 23, 2004

"Get an MBA from the top tier schools or don't get one at all. you will not learn anything useful but you will meet smart people with smart ideas and ambition."

This is not necessarily true. I used to consult for HBS and most of the students there seemed to fit into the following categories:

- smart but uninspired 2nd tier Ivy kids who worked for 3 years then decided they didn't make enough money. (Art History major from Wellesley; wants to get into banking)

- junior trainees from IBs or consulting firms trying to get to the next rung

- the responsible middle children of the superrich who will be inheriting the business. (guy from greece whose father you have never heard of but owns a 10 billion dollar container shipping business)

-  30 something IVY educated engineers or scientists who
are desperate to get out of the mess they got themselves into by choosing science or engineering careers

About 50% of the people: someone else is paying the tuition bill.

Smart people with ambition have the foresight to realize that 2 years off + $100K in debt isn't putting them in a great position.  MBAs are mainly to move up the rungs of a big organization. They aren't a great place for entrepreneurs.

Monday, January 26, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home