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Advice on next steps in GM career

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Advice on next steps in GM career [#permalink] New post 02 Dec 2009, 09:51
Hello everyone,

I am looking for some outside perspective on my career. Here is a little background on me:

U.S. citizen
Undergrad education: BS Mech Engineering
Pre-MBA work: 1 year at leading automotive company in Germany - design / project planning
Grad education: MBA/MS Engineering at top 25 U.S. business school
Post-MBA work: 5.5 years at large multinational technology/manufacturing company (2.5 years in leadership development program including rotation assignment in Europe, followed by 3 years as assistant to division CEO)

I'm still working as an assitant to the CEO, focused on special projects, strategy, and financial analysis. I have been in this role for three years already, so it is time for me to move on and forge my own identity. I'm interested in product development, product management, and general management and think that these roles would be natural next steps for me. My current employer is a large, well respected multinational (250,000+ employees), so I have only known the big corporate environment.

Does anyone have any thoughts on what the possible next steps could be? I like my current employer, but am not sure I want to spend the rest of my career in a big company environment. Would it be better to spend some more time in a big company and move up the ranks a little, before trying to go to a smaller company?

Thanks for any throughts or advice that you might have.
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Re: Advice on next steps in GM career [#permalink] New post 02 Dec 2009, 10:53
Sounds like you've done very well for yourself, assistant to a division CEO of a 250K employee multinational? Nice!

I guess the biggest question is, what do you want to do? Become CEO of a big company, start your own company, consult?

RF
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Re: Advice on next steps in GM career [#permalink] New post 02 Dec 2009, 11:29
Just to clarify, I work as assistant to one of the North American divisional CEOs. Our division is around $1 billion in revenue and 2,000 employees. Still a big chunk of business, but I'm not working at the absolute top.

Thanks for the encouragement. Do consulting firms hire people that are 5 years out of an MBA program? Would that make sense at this point for me?

I like the idea of doing something entrepreneurial. Maybe as part of the management team for a start-up, rather than as the founder.
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Re: Advice on next steps in GM career [#permalink] New post 02 Dec 2009, 20:21
Pioneer wrote:
Just to clarify, I work as assistant to one of the North American divisional CEOs. Our division is around $1 billion in revenue and 2,000 employees. Still a big chunk of business, but I'm not working at the absolute top.

Thanks for the encouragement. Do consulting firms hire people that are 5 years out of an MBA program? Would that make sense at this point for me?

I like the idea of doing something entrepreneurial. Maybe as part of the management team for a start-up, rather than as the founder.


From the way you've described it, it sounds like your role right now is more strategy oriented than pure general management. I don't know if you'd gain much from going into consulting as this may overlap.

Have you considered asking the Division CEO or others if there's a smaller chunk of business that you could run with full profit & loss responsibility? i.e. a $50M or $100M division where you could prove yourself? This could end up being a great experience and a good launching pad into whatever your next endeavor ends up being in your career (running a division at current company, or running one at another company).
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Re: Advice on next steps in GM career [#permalink] New post 03 Dec 2009, 14:33
Thanks for the feedback. Yes, I have thought about asking to run a small portion of the business. One of the VPs approached me about an opportunity to be in charge of a stuggling product line. His biggest concern was that I haven't spent time as a sales/applications engineer in the company. Since our company sells a highly engineered product, most of the managers come from among these ranks. This would be a perception issue among any potential direct reports of mine that I would have to overcome.

This is also one of the reasons I am considering leaving the company. The culture is to promote technical specialists, many of whom have limited training in business. The MBA is not highly valued or encouraged. As a result, the company struggles with profitability and market share growth. Since the firm is headquartered in Europe, most of the shots are called from overseas leaving the U.S. management with limited autonomy.

I guess the key question is whether it makes sense to stick it out for a while longer and try to get some real leadership and P&L responsibility, before considering an exit strategy.

Thanks again for your comments. Let me know if you have any other thoughts.
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Re: Advice on next steps in GM career [#permalink] New post 03 Dec 2009, 20:47
There are always perception and other HR-related issues with subordinates when you get promoted to run a division/department. If it is not due to your lack of technical background, it could be due to a myriad of other things. This is just part of life.

You probably need your boss (CEO) to pull some strings and make things happen for you. If he doesn't have the power to do so... you may be stuck in a tough place and it may be worth exploring outside opportunities? It doesn't hurt to take a look outside and see what's out there.
Re: Advice on next steps in GM career   [#permalink] 03 Dec 2009, 20:47
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