Nov 28, 2005

Management education - Why?

I have been hearing from quite a number of people about the relevance of management education. Why is there so much of hype and attention given to MBA? Is it justified? Does it give hollow confidence to callow students? I'm going to list down my answers to these questions. The following are my personal opinions and they might contradict with others.

The world is in such a volatile state these days that unless and until you diversify, it is very difficult to survive in any industry. This volatility is very well exposed by the information technology industry's ups and downs in the past decade.

The trends are changing. Times when our parents and relatives would work for a single organization throughout their career are gone. People are looking for a change these days. The risk taking abilities of people are also flourishing. Job hopping and industry hopping are no longer alien terms. In such changing times, a management degree gives the much needed fillip for youngsters to pursue different and difficult careers.

How many youngsters are there in the country who would want to become an entrepreneur as soon as they finish their basic graduation? Very few. This is because they don't understand business. Our education system focusses more on science and technology in the school curriculum that students can't think far from medicine and engineering. Even after they pursue engineering, most of them are forced to take up post graduation courses like M.Tech or M.S. either by their parents or just by peer pressure.

According to me, unless one is interested in pursuing research after their post graduation, doing an M.Tech or M.S is a sheer waste of time, money and effort. Let's take an example. A person , say A fresh out of computer engineering joins an organization. Another person B goes to US to pursue his MS in software engineering. After two years, A has 2 years of industry experience whereas B has a post graduation degree in hand. Who would be more valuable? If I were the HR head of an organization, I would give more preference to A than B. B is as good as A 2 years before. An engineering degree or for that matter any basic degree is just a platform for a person to grow. A post graduation degree in the same technical field is not widening the platform, instead a person's technical expertise is widened a bit. It neither provides indepth technical knowledge nor it aids in identifying any specialization thereafter. All I can think of as the benefit of doing an M.S. is the exposure, nothing else. It depends on the individual to weigh his options between exposure and work experience.

Getting back to our main topic, an MBA immediately after graduation will not give enough returns. It would just be a continuum of the college education. This is where it gives hollow confidence to those young callow just-out-of-college students. When a person starts working, he gets to know his organization. Although he might not know the intricate details of how the business happens, atleast the work atmosphere triggers his thought process and he starts to question many decisions. After a work experience of 2-3 years, doing an MBA would give him good returns in terms of knowledge, networking by which he gets to understand the working model of different organizations and different industries his peers were part of and a wide variety of career options to choose thereafter. Infact, many universities abroad have imposed a restriction that only people with work experience for a minimum of 3 years can apply for MBA courses.

Domain knowledge in sales, marketing, finance and HR can be applicable in any field and in any industry. This variety would help a person to identify his forte and grow in that. Moreover, these fields are irreplaceable and industry-independent. Even if an industry dooms down in future, a person with such a qualification will be able to move over to another industry in no time. This is why an MBA is surrounded by such hype and hoopla and it is certainly justified. Anyone in India would want to have some backup plans and it is quite understandable, given the type of traditions and customs we follow.

Entrepreneurship has received the needed light, thanks to the various electives as part of MBA. People who had apprehensions on how they could go about establishing their own organization and what facts need to be kept in mind can find answers while doing an MBA. I'm sure the professors of good management institutions would be willing to share their knowledge on the different facets of entrepreneurship.

If a person is more inclined towards technology - the ifs and whys and the subtle nuances of technical know-hows interest him and he prefers to contribute in the technical line to an organization, i.e. he is employed by an employer other than himself, then he doesn't need an MBA. Also a person who would want to pursue research related to his technical interests doesn't need an MBA. These are the only two kinds of people who wouldn't need a management degree.

Before joining an MBA, M.Tech or M.S, the most important consideration is to take a few years to identify the next step and the reason behind choosing one. The best option is to work during these crucial decision making years and do the analysis.

If research and technology are the ones that interest you the most, do an M.S AND a doctorate.
If management and entrepreneurship are your passions, do an MBA.
If working under an employer keeps you happy, then gain as much as work experience as you can.

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