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Is an MBA worthwhile or worthless for tech pros?

Sharon Florentine | Jan. 28, 2014
Once seen as a valuable differentiator for career advancement, the intrinsic worth of an MBA degree is now a hotly debated subject in the enterprise.


An MBA used to be the crown jewel in a candidate's resume, but in a rapidly changing business climate driven by technology, the degree is barely considered a bauble, unless there are proven achievements, success and demonstrable real-world business acumen to back it up.

"Seeing an MBA on a resume used to mean candidates would get a de facto stamp of approval, but because of how rapidly how things change in the technology and business world today, those in positions to hire tend to look at candidates' knowledge and achievements when filling a role, and use their ability to adapt and change to suit a challenging market as a predictor of future capabilities," says Chris Duchesne, vice president of global workplace solutions,

"The way people's careers get built today, their role changes give them real-world experience and, in my opinion, greater knowledge than formal training and education do; just having an MBA won't necessarily give you an edge anymore," Duchesne says.

This isn't to say that having an MBA is a detriment. It can absolutely demonstrate your ability to commit to and achieve goals, emphasize your willingness to learn new skills, and give employers a baseline against which to gauge your knowledge, especially if you earned the degree while working, says Rona Borre, founder and CEO of IT hiring and recruiting firm Instant Technology.

Timing Is Everything
"When people get MBAs is important," Borre says. "Anyone who just comes out of college and goes straight into an MBA program will certainly have the book learning, but they don't have relative work experience in an actual business environment. But in senior leadership, if you got your MBA while working, and you are able to take the information you learned and are applying that to real life situations and learn from those experiences, that's a huge advantage," she says.

The advantage is especially great in the tech field where, oftentimes, programmers, networking pros and administrators are often pushed into senior leadership roles for lack of better candidates, Borre says.

"An MBA can set candidates apart because the market is so strapped for people, they move tech programmers and technically skilled mid-level people up into leadership roles when they may not be ready," Borre says.

"It's not really strategic to do so, but in many cases it's done so they can quickly solve problems as they arise, rather than deliver any kind of long-term strategy," Borre says.

Keeping Up Without an MBA
If you're looking to gain the kinds of knowledge and experience that would put you on par with an MBA-holding candidate, first you have to keep up with the pace of technological change within your organization, but also remember to keep networking, says Duchesne.


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