Mailbag: Do MBAs stifle the natural curiosity of IT exes?

* More from the MBA mailbag

Last week, we opened the mailbag of responses to my recent newsletter on MBA programs for techies and we heard from two IT execs who have studied for an MBA to broaden their business knowledge so that they can better understand the needs of their business colleagues. Today, we hear from two other readers.

Incidentally, just this morning I heard from a PhD., bio-tech scientist friend who moved back to the U.K. a few months ago. She tells me that she is applying for an MBA program - clearly it's not just hi-tech tech pros who believe that to move up the echelons it's worthwhile getting a business degree under your belt. You go, Jane!

A reader, who asked not to be named, wrote saying that he disagreed with my statement that studying for an MBA doesn't have to mean you forget your IT roots. He writes: "IT staff are what MBA types would call 'early adopters'. They want to learn and implement the new stuff: Perl, PHP, Ruby, Linux, etc ... Nevertheless, the MBA perspective regards IT as a vehicle for keeping track of the 'stuff' that accounting and finance are most concerned with." He believes that MBAs tend to stifle the natural curiosity of IT pros as MBA programs don't encourage students to try out new technological advances.

One reader, Sean Farney, said he has spent a great deal of time researching professional degree programs. "The best with strong IT leanings ... still seems to be very small. The best one I came across was Northwestern University's Master of Information Technology Program."

The Northwestern program does look interesting. According to its Web site materials, the program is 70% technical- and 30% business-oriented. Students explore the latest developments in technology and take courses in finance and strategic marketing to understand the business and financial contexts of IT decision making, according to the university's site.

Farney also raised a point about the Walden University MBA program, which I discussed at the beginning of this MBA thread a few weeks ago. "The Walden program sounds interesting but like all other online programs, their worth is questionable by employers. In fact, my guess is that a hiring manager wouldn't even consider a candidate for a position that required an advanced degree if it was obtained online," Farney writes.

Let's open that question to the floor: what are your thoughts on online advanced degree courses vs. classroom based? Do you have experience of either? Please e-mail me at And thanks to everyone who wrote in with their thoughts about MBAs for IT pros.


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