Mailbag: MBAs take IT pros to higher places

* Two readers explain why they pursued MBAs

A few weeks ago, we talked about MBAs that have a hi-tech spin aimed at tech pros and I received quite a few e-mails from readers with their thoughts about such advanced degrees.

The first note in my inbox was from Colin Lewis in Australia who told me that if he hadn't taken his distance-learning tech MBA program "I wouldn't have been able to realize a career jump at the start of this year that brought a 62.5% boost in [my] total remuneration package."

An IT pro with 20-plus years of experience, Lewis says he had seen plenty of poor decisions based on inadequate understanding of some of the technological choices. "Now I have a consulting role with a major chartered accounting firm, with a clear business focus. While strong technical skills were obviously needed, it was the business skills I had been developing and the evidence of the MBA that made the difference," he writes.

He says his combination of business and technical skills has led him to approach problems in a different way. "Too often we jump to the 'how' much too soon - proposing a 'solution' before really understanding the problem. With a mix of technical and business knowledge and skill, that questioning process can proceed further and faster ... and throw up more options (yielding better solutions) when we finally turn to the 'how'."

Lewis says having the MBA also adds credibility when dealing with CXOs, adding that an MBA for a tech pro says more than it does for an accounting or law professional. "For an accounting, law or sales professional, there is a tendency for people to assume a degree of business knowledge ... For tech professionals, the assumption tends to be that they are completely ignorant of business issues, being all hung up on 'irrelevant' technical stuff ... An MBA for the tech pro says: 'Yes, I do have a clue about business. Not only did I earn this qualification that says so, but ... I realized the importance of this stuff which is why I undertook it in the first place.' "

Mandi Turner, IT director at a law firm in Louisville, Ky., also wrote in letting me know that she is 6 weeks out from graduating from her MBA program with a technology management concentration, which she began three years ago. Turner says she embarked on the program when she was promoted to IT director at the law firm where she previously held network-engineering roles. Her new job required more management skills, and she wanted to be able to better integrate technology and business at the company. On her own dime she enrolled herself in an MBA program with St Louis, Miss., Webster University, which boasts 100 campuses across the U.S., Europe, China and Thailand.

"I've learned more than I would ever have imagined," Turner says. Aside from learning accounting, organizational development, operations management, finance and strategic planning, Turner has been able to hone her presentation and writing skills, which have been noted by her seniors. And now when she communicates with her CEO and the board of directors, she has a better understanding of what they are talking about and is able to present IT solutions from their perspectives.

Next week, more from the MBA mailbag.

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