Why should engineers study an MBA? - QS

Published on: 20 Jan 2016

Why should engineers study an MBA?

An engineering background provides a solid technical skillset, by definition. However, what it does not necessarily prepare one for is a management career – be it within the engineering sector or in a different capacity. For those who wish to progress beyond a technical role on the frontline, the challenges posed by a career change or progressing into a management role can be considerable.

An MBA can help bridge this gap, with many programs offering a focus into technical areas as well as providing hard and soft management skills for those looking to make a career change.

The opportunities for those with the right skills are plentiful. Technology has been one of the standout sectors in the last few editions of the QS TopMBA.com Jobs & Salary Trends Report. On the other side of the equation, the QS TopMBA.com Applicant Survey shows that more and more applicants come from a technology background.

At the Grand Connaught Rooms in London this Saturday from 12-4pm, QS Connect 1-2-1 will give candidates a unique and exclusive opportunity to schedule 30 min one-on-one meetings with some of the world’s top MBA schools – perfect for those considering a career change. Very rarely are such a collection of top ranked business schools in one room at a time. After you sign up to attend, an experienced team of QS MBA advisors with MBA admissions experience will consult with you on your needs and then match you with the attending schools to tailor a personalized schedule of meetings.

Just some for the many schools taking part are: IE, Imperial College, HEC Paris, IMD, Chicago Booth, Manchester, Cass, ESADE

From individual to team success

Elaine Chen, a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, reflects, “STEM teams need to be managed by people who have a technical background, because individual contributors in these types of teams tend to relate best to a leader who speaks their language. Since they already have the vocabulary and framework from business school, they would have a head start helping their staff understand the rationale behind decisions, which may not make sense from a purely technical standpoint, but which are absolutely necessary to meet business needs.”

The challenges presented by moving into a management career for someone who has chiefly proved themselves in a technical capacity, says Chen, are largely down to no longer retaining full control over one’s work. “A lot of first-time STEM managers are promoted from individual contributor roles due to their technical brilliance. However, leading and inspiring a team taps into substantially different skills than individual contributor work.  A new manager must learn to delegate and trust their staff to do their work; they must work hard to foster cross-team communications and collaborations.  His or her success is no longer measured by their own output, but by the blended output of his or her team.”

This is echoed by the experiences of Avinash Bajaj, who graduated from Imperial College London Business School in 2011 after working for Bosch as an engineer, as well on several tech startups. “As an engineer and entrepreneur, your natural tendency is to solve all problems yourself, but in a managerial position it becomes important to recognise what piece of work requires your attention most, against what can be well handled by someone else.”

Engineer Andrew Selves was led to think about innovation, and how it could be encouraged and facilitated by leadership. He also chose to study an MBA at Imperial, “Imperial College Business School’s MBA is quite strong on how you exploit good science and engineering ideas and actually adapt them to a real marketplace so they are effective and adopted: How to turn a bit of science that has no commercial prospect into something that is a commercial attractive proposition, can make a return on investment, and therefore have an impact in the real world?”

He naturally managed to get his hands dirty while at Imperial College Business School, getting together with a patent lawyer and a PhD to develop a technology idea which could radically improve life for those suffering with oxygen-related conditions, called saturation driven oxygen therapy (sdot). He was driven by a desire to see what the public sector – in this case the UK’s National Health Service – was like as an adopter of innovative technologies. They also managed to get another business plan competition win under their belts, as well as the Royal Academy of Engineering Prize for Innovation.

Imperial College as well as a host of other top Business schools will be taking part in the renowned QS TopMBA Connect121 event in London this Saturday 23rd Jan from 12-4pm at the Grand Connaught Rooms – sign up for free here