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.


Sumant Sarkar said...

Anu, almost all the advantages of MBA
you have listed seem to be for the
individual. I think the point
Professor Mintzberg was making was
that the advantages to *industry* is questionable.

Anonymous said...

I agree to the fact that it is a nice idea to work for a while and then decide what to study later.

MS or work-ex - is debatable. Depends on what the industry exactly wants. Let me tell you that even while studying MS, you can experience almost everything you do as an employee of a company - from project management, coding, to office politics.

Anyways, all these is strongly driven by economics - whichever pays more, people *study* that!

Karthikeyan Chellappa said...

A very informative article.

In my opinion, comparing MS Grads to Exp. Professionals is like 'comparing apples to oranges'. (is this the right quote? I heard it somewhere) As pointed out in the previous comments, everything depends on which provides more value to the industry/employer.

ck said...


I disagree with the part when you said 2 years of work experience is better than 2 years of Masters Degree.

That might be the case if you are forced to do Masters because you couldn't find a good job with your BE. But if you consider Masters degree in US,its not just academics. You have you to do lot other things like projects, assistantships, part-time job et., you learn things like Time management, working under pressure, writting and interpersonal skills. This in addition to your Masters Degree.

I might be biased since I did Masters in US. Based on my personal experience this is what I think.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anu,
I'm Aravind, a classmate of your hubby during his college days! I happened to come to your blog from Gandhi's and have been reading your articles and your hubby's for quite sometime now. Some of your articles are very stimulating to the mind, good work! I'm usually quite happy to just read, but thought I would drop my 2 cents to this debate, as I’ve experienced it first hand..

All I'm trying here is presenting my scenario to the topic.. (the case that CK mentioned, about not being able to get a good job with my BE)

I'm pretty sure you were one of the best in your college and ended up in Oracle, as was the case with Chells and Gandhi. While, I (you can confirm this with your hubby) wasted my bachelors degree away quite carelessly, for various reasons.. My second and third year marks were the worst in my academic pursuits and my knowledge of the subject was weak at the best (though I was keen on computer networks, but I digress).

What happened was, when I was done with Uni, I had a pretty bad repertoire of skills and bad marks to show for it (though the last year was nothing more than a saving grace) and with that sort of knowledge (or the lack of it) and marks, I couldn’t possibly land myself a proper job. Even if I did, it would be the sort that got nowhere fast.

My past caught up with me, I regretted my actions and wanted a second chance.. and someone suggested that a masters degree would bring its marks to the fore and would make my bachelor’s degree redundant (almost). So, I came to Australia, did a Masters by coursework, worked hard at it, scored good enough marks to land me my current job, which I should say is an excellent start for any network engineer wannabe.

My job is beside the point, what I’m trying to say is, for people like me, even though going abroad on a bank loan was an expensive affair and a bit of a knee jerk reaction, it gave me a second chance to overwrite my history.. During the course of my masters, I gained a lot of knowledge that I should have obtained during my bachelors… apart from technical know how I was trained in project management, office ethics, case studies, business alignment et al in real life situations. I know 5 other people here who have been through very similar circumstances and this Masters degree, has given us all a fresh lease in life!

When you look at things from an intelligent person’s point of view (yours in this case) I suppose doing a masters wouldn’t add much and can’t replace good old work experience. But looking at a broader demographic and for someone thick in the head like me, who needs a second dose of the same given from a different point of view, I think a Masters is an excellent option albeit an expensive one!

Sorry about the longggg comment!! Btw, I never got to wish you two properly! Congrats on getting married you two! May God bless you with all the good things in life! Karthik might be fuming because I didn’t post in his blog first, but rest assured, when I believe I can contribute, I will.

Hope to see more "Sevikku unnavu" or should I say, "Arrivukku unnavu", my regards to Chellamana Chells!! Hahaha!

Karthikeyan Chellappa said...

Hey Aravind, its great to hear from you. Looks like you posted your life story here. :-)

I'm very happy that things are working for you. If you ever should come by Bangalore, please get in touch with us.

And yeah, I'm fuming. ;-) But its like this - "Courage is not the ignorance of Fear, but the acknowledgement that something is more important than Fear." Same way, I'm more happy to hear from you, regardless of which blog you posted first. (ok, I'll stop now)

Anuradha Sridharan said...

Hey Aravind, Glad to hear from you. Very descriptive comment. Thanks for your wishes. Hoping to get more such comments from you :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks you two for welcoming me so warmly! Yes Chells, its my life history and I'm proud of it, hey if a baptism of fire was in order, then so be it!!
Anyways, I'll comment in your blog sometime soon man, its just that you don't blog as often! Also, was just curious to know if you had received the greetings that I sent you for your wedding!! I know, I know, it was a longgg time ago, but just curious is all!

Thanks Anu, for being kind and polite by making a "Very descriptive comment" out of my usually incorrigible rant! I was never famous for my skills of summarization, but hey being descriptive works like crazy for my job!

Also Chells, one of my plans was to come to Bangalore during my visit to Chennai to see Gandhi, you and another friend of mine, but that never came to fruitition! When I come this time, I'll make it an agenda to come visit you two!

Sumant Sarkar said...

couldn't pass this up:

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