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Do you need an MBA?

Byron Connolly | Nov. 27, 2014
Three IT executives discuss why they pursued a master of business administration qualification, and can MBA stand for ‘marriage breakup assured?

"I felt that an MBA would help to round out my technical skills," he says. "While I can't directly attribute all of my career progression to my MBA (my university may beg to differ) there's little doubt it has helped greatly.

"It's not necessarily what you learn but the confidence you can have in other business fields, you know that you can hold your own in the boardroom."

Keen says he hasn't had one discussion with any executive about his MBA, although he's sure it helped him stand out from the 250-odd applicants that applied for his current role.

CIOs need to be multi-lingual, the need to speak effectively to both technical teams and the larger business and an MBA helps to achieve this, says Keen.

"It gives you the skills to talk about NPV (net present value) with the CFO, contract law with legal counsel and I'm still working with the HR director on the emotional intelligence part," says Keen.

Consultant and former Servcorp head of business technology, Syed Ahmed, earned his MBA at the University of New South Wales' Australian Graduate School of Management in 2011.

"I reached an inflexion point in my career where I wanted to decide whether I should focus on professional or managerial skills. These aren't mutually exclusive, but to really excel, you have to focus more on one set.

"I was fortunate that I was able to speak to at least a couple of dozen c-level executives about career paths, and there was a consensus that an MBA was a good investment in myself."

Ahmed feels that CIOs who have grown up through the technology ranks benefit immensely from gaining exposures to other disciplines such as accounting, finance, marketing, economics, strategy, and operations.

"Could this be achieved through pure work experience across multiple domains or self-study? Sure, but it would take a long time. An MBA provides a structured mechanism to get this knowledge in a relatively short time from experienced practitioners and instructors," he says.

Gaining an MBA also gave Andrew Mitchell, CIO at law firm, Griffith Hack a better understanding of the needs and wants of other c-level executives such as the CEO, CFO and CMO.

"Whenever I start a new job, these are the first people I reach out to so I understand their expectations and outcomes they expect from me," he says.

Mitchell believes modern IT leaders don't necessarily need an MBA but it helps if there's a skills gap.

"For a CIO with a technical background then I think it is a must. But for those with a commercial/business slant, it's just a bonus," he says.

However, Bridget Gray, Australian managing director at Harvey Nash, says the recruiter works with "fast-growth digital businesses" where possessing an MBA has a marginal effect on the selection of a CIO.


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