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Stick with current career path or do an MBA?

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Stick with current career path or do an MBA? [#permalink] New post 04 Mar 2012, 18:35
I have had the thought of doing an MBA at the back of my mind for a long time. Almost 5 years now. But it's stayed just there, in the back of my mind, and I haven't done anything about it. I made a brief effort last year to prepare for the MBA, and ever since, a promotion, and additional leadership responsibilities took away any free time that I had.

Background:
- M/31/Indian
- BS (CS), MS (CS) (both from fairly reputed schools, but not top tier/Ivy league)
- 8 years exp, includes leadership, all at one top tier firm
- US permanent resident.

While I enjoy what I do, and do foresee myself being able to enjoy this line of work for years to come, I am increasingly getting a feeling of isolation. My work involves little interaction with people excluding the very small set of people I work with, and I don't get the feeling that I am being challenged enough in my job.
From a financial standpoint, I make about $110K annually (bonus, stock inclusive), and expect my peak earnings to stabilize at around $130K for a while, unless I break into upper management.

The other thing is, although I am working on projects that could be termed glamorous, I don't get the feeling that I am making a big impact. Heck, I don't get the feeling that my manager, or his manager (a director), are doing anything other than routine work. This scares me. Even if I do grow at my current firm, I might be just doing routine work. In addition, the industry that I work in has grown at an unbelievable pace. The landscape is amazingly different today than it was when I started. And I feel much of the impact, direction of this industry (as well as reaping the financial rewards) was done by the business dev/product management types. I did benefit, but nearly not as much as some of these folks. That is where I want to be. Getting there seems to be the tough part!

I could do a few things:
Option1: Stay within the tech industry, and move around (startups, other companies). This will allow me to choose the opportunities, and the right roles, and maybe one day I can work my way upto a position, let's say, of influence. I could do a few certifications on the side, and maybe even a part time MBA to position myself well within the broader tech industry. The risk here is that the doors that I expect to open may never open. I might end up being an also ran techie.

Option2: The MBA option seems very tempting from this viewpoint. In particular MC seems a particularly attractive post MBA stepping stone to broader industry roles. An MBA at a top school followed by a 3 or 4 year stint in MC, followed by an exit into a decent management role in the industry seems like a very attractive proposition. It seems to me that this approach might give me a greater chance of getting into roles where I could have some real impact.

- Is option2 a pipe dream, or has my age all but ruled me out of such a path? Based on what I have seen in this forum, it seems like both top B-schools, as well as MC firms are prioritizing the mid to late 20s crowd. I will be 34 when I graduate. Will it be too late?

- What would you do if were in my shoes? Would you walk away from an almost guaranteed for the next 10 years type job with a 6 figure income for this dream?

- I could find out if I can even get into a worthwhile b-school by applying, but doing justice to the application means, dedicating almost a year's worth of free time towards this goal. Should I do that?

- I somehow feel that an MBA will be steroids for career. Could it be?

At 27 and no family I would have done this in a heart beat. But now at 31 and looking at the prospect of getting out of b school this at 35, things seem daunting.

Please chime in, and help me out.

Other relevant details: I have excellent credit and can qualify for student loans (I guess that's a nobrainer for top schools). I will also have a savings cushion of about $300K prior to joining B-school. Our (me and my wife) living expenses are $1600 per month, excluding mortgage/rent. Also, given the level of domain knowledge gained in my job, if things really don't workout with the MBA, I could (as an option of last resort) do what I am doing today, for more or less the same salary after a gap of 5 years.

I will really appreciate if I could get some of your viewpoints to help me make a decision.
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Re: Stick with current career path or do an MBA? [#permalink] New post 05 Mar 2012, 23:37
mbadilemma,

My background
- M/32, soon to be 33/Indian
- BS (EE), MS (CE) (BS from fairly reputed schools, MS from a top tier school)
- 8 years exp in aerospace and defense and looking to get out of it and into private (non-defense) sector

Reading your post was like looking in a mirror.

I too believe that I'm going to be stuck in a routine job, while the product manager and people I report to reap the benefits of my efforts.
My problem is, I cannot anymore, tolerate being given some project to work on. I would prefer to go out their and find work for myself and while working in a company this will not be possible for me. My understanding after working in industry for last 8 years is that, no matter how many companies I change, I will always be in this position. And after a while my need in the industry will saturate, so I will have to jump into upper management. My other option is to start my own engineering firm. In either case my plan is to persue part-time MBA program while working full-time.

One reason for looking into an MBA is to make contacts. While I can do this without an MBA, currently I don't have enough contacts in my address book that I can turn to. Neither do I have the foundation to dive in and start a business. I need to learn the basics first.

Its all about what you think of yourself and where you want to go in life. And going after an MBA is something that you should want for yourself and not because its a necesity. With background in CS, I can understand that for competitive reasons you attained MS in CS. I did the same thing. But now it time for a leg up. If you think you have what it takes, then you should talk to your manager and see if you can "get more responsibility". I would talk to my manager but I'm already looking to get out of my current position. Your other option in my opinion is an MBA.

With all that said, I think you should look into the application process.
Go to info sessions held by the universities you are interested in, if you already havn't done so.

The application/essays are not a big deal. You can hammer that out in few week (while carefully selecting what you want to say in your essays).
The most daunting and painful part is the GMAT. I have been preparing for a GMAT for last 5-6 months and today I gave an embarassing performance. The exam is not what the practice material makes it out to be. So I will be going back to my white board and form another strategy. The point here is that I'm not too worried about my age since its not a factor for me currently.

With 8 years of experience, have you considered starting your own company. As and electrical and comptuer engineer, I need several more years of experience before I can handle complex designs on my own which I'm not an expert at, yet. But in software industry there is plenty of support and resources avaliable so you can become your own boss....have you considered this? Your thought on this would be apprecieated.
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Re: Stick with current career path or do an MBA? [#permalink] New post 10 Mar 2012, 18:09
Clicker, great to know there's company.

Regarding the individual points you raised:

- I agree that networking is a big draw with the MBA. Particularly, with hundreds of like minded people in a typical school, who get into different industries. If you include their contacts, the reach of someone a few year out of B-school is simply phenomenal. This is a great draw. Again, it is not to suggest that I don't have contacts. I have plenty of contacts (with a linkedin profile of 500+). But the problem is that this is an assorted list of contacts. Friends, undergraduate college mates, grad school mates, and colleagues. It will help if I am looking for a job (similar to what I already have). In comparison, the network that the typical b-schooler will have will include, IBers, MCs, mid (and soon to be top) management professionals. If you include the second degree contacts including these people, you are weaving powerful career "safety net" for yourself through your B-school contacts. And to an extent B-school folks look out for one another quite well. Again this is what I think.

- Regarding a leg up by talking to manager: I am quite positive about the growth options in this job. However, I am not too enthused about either what these jobs entail. Like I said before, I am not sure if either my manager or even his manager are having the kind of "impact" that a B-schooler MC 3-4 years out school are having. And I am basing this on first hand experience.

- Regarding entrepreneurship: This is definitely a possibility. But only with the right idea, and I don't have a great idea now. Another thing is, if the entrepreneurial venture fails, I might be back to square one. Based on the limited info I am able to get, it seems like someone with an MBA and a few years out of B-school could be well positioned for entrepreneurial ventures.
Re: Stick with current career path or do an MBA?   [#permalink] 10 Mar 2012, 18:09
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