Conquent: Without Limits
Conquent: Without Limits
Kristen Fife's Blog

Experience + MBA + Experience=Executive

2011-10-11 19:49:10

There was a question over on LinkedIn last week from a software architect debating an Executive MBA or FEMBA program. He works for a global company, and wants to get into a VP/C-level position for a "major player". But here's the catch: his time frame is that he wants to do it in ~5 years. He was evaluating which MBA option was going to get him there faster and he wanted my opinion. And the truth is: neither is going to "get you there". An MBA is a great tool for someone that is an individual contributor and wants to get into management (or own their own business). But on its own, it's not enough to catapult you to a leadership position. You need to combine it with experience, and going from being an IC to being a VP/C-level employee in a "major" company (ie Fortune 500) in five years is unrealistic. I suggested to him that he move in his current company aiming for a Director level position, then he can focus on moving into another company. But with no department, then business unit/division management experience, he cannot just expect to move into a senior leadership role in a large company.

Here in Seattle, there are ads on the bus for a local Technical MBA program. It starts with a point that says "Technologist" then it has a line that says "18 months ROI" and at the end it has a picture that says "Technology Strategist". This ad makes me so angry because of the blatantly false advertising. Getting an MBA isn't going to miraculously change you into a "strategist". That takes several years of experience (which ten years as an Architect would qualify as). It's a fallacy to believe that getting an advanced degree is automatically going to guarantee you a job as a leader in whatever industry you are entering, unless of course you open your own business.

I'm not saying that advanced degrees aren't worthwhile or that they don't open doors. Education is rarely a bad thing. And if one is in business and hopes to join management and "climb the ladder" as it were, an MBA is certainly helpful and can give you insight into business from several different angles; I've recruited for senior positions where an MBA is a hard requirement. But your education needs to be leveraged in tandem with *related work experience* to be of great value.

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