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Career transition with a MBA

 
#1 Career transition with a MBA
13/07/2010 16:19

Tech Guy

Hi there,

I am working in industry in a technical role and, as many in a similar position, have decided to pursue a MBA to "get out" and acquire a broader view. I am taking it part-time (very very hard) and so I am not completely out of the business. However, I am aware that a new piece of paper, although from a good school, will not help, unless my MBA is supported by solid experience. And here we come to point: I want to develop in a new direction but have no experience in the field. Is a MBA enough to get a new job in the direction of the final career goal? Maybe more than one change will be needed, the question is how to the first step in the new direction. I have not completed my MBA (it will take at least two years from now), but do not watn to apply for positions close to my current one (low entrance barriers, no point of getting there if I have other career goals). Has any of you been in a similar situation? How have you manged your transition? I do not wat to end up doing the same job as now with a MBA-that I do not need for my current position-. Still I am investing a lot from the personal side, so the efforts should end in a concrete change. Any suggestions? Thanks

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#2 RE: Career transition with a MBA
13/07/2010 18:07

insight_full to Tech Guy (#1)

It would be helpful if you were to refer to the "direction" more specifically.

If you are trying to transit into strategy then maybe (read some other threads - Re recruitment from big consulting houses on INSEAD, LBS etc.. campus), if you are trying to get into finance transformation/ perf management (e.g. CFO agenda) then an MBA is pretty pointless.

Your experience and background will matter. Technical is a fairly vague term - you could be a software architect, or you could be an IT manager in a corporate (e.g. the IT crowd type) etc...

Finally, I am guessing you earn a decent living as a Tech guy (perhaps not!?) and to top that, you are investing in a very expensive degree so I presume you will be looking for a decent payback; hence a pay cut is not an option.

As an MBA graduate without relevant experience, you are probably looking at consultant/ associate level depending on the firm - perhaps C1-C2, which would not be a million miles above where you might be now.

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#3 RE: Career transition with a MBA
13/07/2010 19:09

D to insight_full (#2)

Unfortunately you have left out the pertinent information, which is:

1) Your education

2) Your work experience

3) Your business school

4) Your goals

I am afraid you are already at a disadvantage by doing the MBA part-time as full-time is typically regarded as the better option for career changers.

Otherwise, it really is impossible to comment on such a vague question

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#4 RE: Career transition with a MBA
14/07/2010 09:56

Tech Guy to D (#3)

Correct, my post was rather generic...

1) Education: PhD chem eng (the uni is in top 20 institutions worldwide), lots of published work. I am currently working in a big chemical corporation as Head of Development- & Technical Marketing for a product line worth 10% of the revenues of the Business Unit(4 direct reports, pay OK, possibility of travel and of leading international projects)

2) 6y of experience

3) MBA @ Warwick

4) Alterantive investments (clean tech, new technologies) or position in the chemical practice of a consulting company

The problem is taking off another year for full time education...with a PhD you get old without having relevant business experience and a further year may be seen quite negatively on my CV.

Has any of you gone through this track?

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#5 RE: Career transition with a MBA
15/07/2010 09:02

Tech Guy to Tech Guy (#4)

Any ideas?

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#6 RE: Career transition with a MBA
15/07/2010 09:55

someguy to Tech Guy (#5)

my 2p: If you already have a PhD, the impact of an MBA will be diminished and my view is that you should already have a network of seniors who can advise you on your "final" career goals. You're already in management, in a similar / parallel industry to your target, why not speak informally to any consulting principals working for your firm?

An MBA is useful but it isn't the magical career-changing document most people believe. If you're already "head" of something you will regret spending two years learning to suck eggs with eager beaver twenty-year-old management apprentices.

Far more useful would be attending conferences in the alternative / green industries (either on your own time or as part of your role).

I don't have an MBA, and those who do might have a different view. YMMV.

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#7 RE: Career transition with a MBA
15/07/2010 10:06

MBAer to Tech Guy (#5)

Not in your position but I'd have thought that your best bet would be alternative investments (I'm not sure which (if any) consulting houses have bit chemicals practices), and areas that would really be able to leverage your chemicals skills - this probably means VC rather than PE.

For funds that might suit, have a scan through www.pehub.com, or www.realdeals.eu.com. Getting into VC is pretty much all about networking, so find a few conferences to go to etc. etc. As a a starter for 10, http://www.whebventures.com/en/ might be of interest - one of the founders has (maybe?) a similar background to you, but no idea if they're hiring or anything.

Not sure if this helps...

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#8 RE: Career transition with a MBA
15/07/2010 10:40

D to someguy (#6)

Ok, my two cents, and apologies for the long post

You have a good solid background in terms of education and experience and should be able to write a pretty decent CV. The question then becomes what is needed to get your career move. As I see it the options are:

1) Transition out of your current role into consulting. Could happen, PhDs and industry hires are not rare in consulting firms, esp with an industry focus, but it tends to be only the top few % that make it into the McKinseys of the world. No harm in applying, unless it affects the time in which you can reapply in future. Why not make a target list of firms and apply.

2) Transition out of your current role in investments. Might be a stretch with no/limited finance / business experience

3) Complete the Warwick MBA and then apply. Traditionally, people gain full-time MBAs from top schools in order to change careers as this provides access to a network of people and opportunities that enable it to happen. And it works. The problem you have in this regard is threefold:

a) that you are part-time, and therefore do not benefit from the networking.

b) being part-time you may be perceived as hedging your bets. There are plenty of people with similar backgrounds that are taking on large debt and career risk by going full-time to top schools to gain the opportunities you seek. They may well be perceived as a better candidate in a market that is, frankly, quite small

b) While you will learn exactly the same subject matter at Warwick as at any other school, it is not on the radar of top consulting firms, and this is a big disadvantage as the amount of work you will have to do to get interviewed increases hugely, and you don't have the time as you are still working

Those three cons are more relevant to consulting that investments. An industry-specific fund may well be interested in your technical background, with any MBA being a bonus and so you may well get some traction. Again, though, do you have time to go out looking for these funds?

4) Go to a full-time top MBA. You are presumably 30ish and therefore at the top end of the range, but still well within the range. This is easily the way that is most likely to have you in your stated goal in a few years time, but is obviously a trade-off. For what it's worth, this is the route I took, coming from a similarish background some years ago, and it worked out for me. Would I do the same again? Yes, but of course I will never know what the opportunity cost of my time at business school has turned out to be

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#9 RE: Career transition with a MBA
15/07/2010 13:12

Tech Guy to D (#8)

Thanks a lot D, a lot of sensible points to take-up.

I agree that a FT MBA remains the best option. Warwick was for me the best compromise between no MBA (no option for me, due in first places to my interests in other direction than science) and FT MBA at top school (no possible due to family reasons-eg, small child). Would an EMBA /INSEAD make a difference? It would still be part-time but from a top-tier institition. I am aware Warwick does not enjoy the same reputation, but how is it generally regarded? You hear it is a good second tier. Are 100k euro worth a EMBA?

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#10 RE: Career transition with a MBA
15/07/2010 13:45

shrink to Tech Guy (#9)

Tech Guy, you've got a funny way with the language. Where are you from?

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#11 RE: Career transition with a MBA
15/07/2010 14:03

Mars A Day to Tech Guy (#1)

I don't see what value the MBA will add given that you already have a PhD. Your working experience should already have given you a hands on understanding of the sector, and the curriculum of an MBA will likely only start to dilute the very thing you would be hired for, i.e. this deep/vertical understanding. There are, frankly, enough 'strategists' on the planet as it is to more than meet demand. If your target is alternative investments you need to take steps to align yourself in that direction - either start approaching funds with a portfolio in that area, and network, or look at something like a one year Masters in Finance or similar - basically you just need something to show an interest/commitment to financial markets, and some belt n braces understanding of how financial products actually work. Combine the two and you should be building out from your course with a good network. The real value of your experience is likely to be in what you can bring to the due diligence part of the process, rather than in strategy.

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#12 RE: Career transition with a MBA
15/07/2010 15:23

Tech Guy to Mars A Day (#11)

Hi Mars A Day,

a MBA will be a generalist education and you mean that I should pursue something more specific for the direction I intend to move to: what is the difference between MSc Finance and MBA Finance in the curriculum? Sorry for the stupid question ! Will my previsou experience be a hindrance? Scientists are employed in alternative investments (also ex uni colleagues), a few have done a MBA, other CFA, other nothing. I am not a investment professional today, and being interested without a serious committment/further educatuion is not enough, due to high level of good people out there... Thank you

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#13 RE: Career transition with a MBA
15/07/2010 16:38

MBAer to Tech Guy (#12)

Agree with shrink - I'd understood that you've already started an MBA. If not, then why not LBS EMBA? Or even LBS part-time masters in finance? Or, if you're a bit older, what about Cranfield?

Masters in Finance are shorter courses, and are only focused on getting you into a job in finance - so it's a narrower education but with more depth in a particular field.

But given you have a phD and fairly specific and deep experience I'm not sure what an MBA would add - you're more likely to get hired on the back of your phD than e.g. any corporate finance courses you've done. I'd agree with Mars a Day - go to conferences, network, etc. etc. and try to get in that way...

it's probably better to go to as many conferences as you can and get in that way. Plus your goals at the moment are pretty broad,

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#14 RE: Career transition with a MBA
16/07/2010 08:15

Mars A Day to Tech Guy (#12)

Tech Guy you need to start your networking intelligently - look for alumni from your PhD university, or make contact with those who have already made the move, and when you are contacting people try to have a couple of investment ideas - they might be deeply flawed in reality (no one will expect you to have a clear idea of what would work given you don't have a finance background) but the very fact you have a couple to talk about will convince people you are serious, interesting, and at least worth the time for a coffee...

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#15 RE: Career transition with a MBA
22/07/2010 09:56

Tech Guy to Mars A Day (#14)

Thanks everybody. I agree that my goals are still to borad to develop an effective get-out strategy from my current technical position. The MBA, however, is helping me get a better understanding about how an organization works (out of my tech-focused perspective) and this is not bad. Doing the MBA and applying for new positions tur out to be too difficult, as I cannot meet the deadlines I have set (eg., sending a certain # of applications each week). The previous posts outline an interesting view: a MBA dilutes the past experience and would not increase my value as a candidate. I personally approached the MBA as the opportunity to learn the "business language" and to be able to interact to a broader audience than Operations/Technical Marketing people.

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#16 RE: Career transition with a MBA
22/07/2010 13:20

D to Tech Guy (#15)

A couple more points from me

In response to my earlier post you replied that a full-time MBA was not possible due to family reasons. While that may very well be the case in your particular situation I would say that plenty of people in my year had families, or started families during their time at business school. And the problem is that no recruiter at a top consulting firm will be interested in the family / personal reasons - in their eyes, rightly or wrongly, it would convey a lack of dedication in terms of sacrificing the next three years of your life to their firm, and a lack of ambition in terms of maximising your chances of getting there, irrespective of other sacrifices. Therefore the bottom line is: if your family and that lifestyle matter a lot to you then forget the top-tier consulting firm option and stay in industry as you will be much happier

A couple of people have mentioned that they don't see the value of the MBA given that you already have a PhD. I think this is missing the point. You don't really go to business school to learn stuff - you can get finance and business language etc etc out of books or from the Open University if that is your goal. You go to business school to have fun and meet people and ultimately to open doors that would otherwise have remained closed. Without wishing to sound like a completely pretentious prick, getting into a top school lays down a marker in terms of a degree of quality and ambition and dedication - consulting firms recruit at a handful of top schools as they know exactly what they will get, and it is cost-effective. Time and time again I see people justifying attending lesser schools for perfectly acceptable reasons, such as their family, but they then should not be surprised when they don't get the job at McKinsey or Goldman Sachs, because to get those jobs you have to play the game, not hedge your bets...

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#17 RE: Career transition with a MBA
22/07/2010 13:32

D to D (#16)

And finally, in an attempt to post something useful rather than negative, if I was in your shoes I would

1) Forget consulting unless I could find a nice niche firm that offered a lifestyle

2) Actively go looking for investment funds

3) Try and utilise the pt MBA to move into a business role in industry

4) Only go to a top business school if top-tier consulting really is the goal

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#18 RE: Career transition with a MBA
23/07/2010 09:42

Tech Guy to D (#17)

D, what do you think about Insead EMBA? How would it be regarded by MBB recruiters?

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#19 RE: Career transition with a MBA
23/07/2010 09:56

MBAer to Tech Guy (#18)

Tech Guy,

I'm pretty confused - are you doing the Warwich EMBA right now or not? If so, why is it relevant to ask about alternative schools? If not, then same advice for MBAs as ever - INSEAD, LBS, IESE are the European top tier and are what MBBB are interested in.

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#20 RE: Career transition with a MBA
23/07/2010 12:28

D to MBAer (#19)

INSEAD is a great school. I don't know anything about the part-time MBA though. For all I know they have a separate recruiting system. What happens if McKinsey come to campus to interview on a Wednesday, and you are at work that day?

Therefore, as already stated, the INSEAD full time option is a much better bet if you are targeting the top consulting firms.

If the argument for a pt MBA is financial, then that doesn't wash as there are plenty of loans available.

If the argument for a pt MBA is that you have a family that you want to spend time with, then that doesn't wash either as you will spend no time with them at all should you end up in a MBB - type company

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#21 RE: Career transition with a MBA
29/03/2013 20:58

munror01 to Tech Guy (#1)

Hi Tech Guy - I noticed your post which in a way is a little similar to the one I would have posted.

I am looking to move out of "industry" into MC, but focussing very deliberately on growth and innovation and utilising my industry experience...

Curious to know how your transition strategy worked -

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#22 RE: Career transition with a MBA
29/03/2013 20:59

munror01 to Tech Guy (#1)

Hi Tech Guy - I noticed your post which in a way is a little similar to the one I would have posted.

I am looking to move out of "industry" into MC, but focussing very deliberately on growth and innovation and utilising my industry experience...

Curious to know how your transition strategy worked -

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