13 years, 9 months ago

Is a MBA good for an EA?

Link: http://www.biske.com/blog/?p=790

A couple of weeks ago, I asked a simple question on Twitter: Should Enterprise Architects have/get an MBA? That meme made its way to InfoQ, so I figured I should actually post my own thoughts on the subject.

First, a full disclaimer: I don’t have an MBA. I do have a MS in Computer Science from the University of Illinois (go Illini!). At the time I got my Master’s, a friend of mine took a different route and did a combined MCS (Master of Computer Science)/MBA degree. In retrospect, I wish I had taken that route. Part of my reasoning to not go that route was the whole MCS designation. Who has ever heard of that? Even from an institution like Illinois, would anyone have known what it is? For those of you wondering, it’s basically a course-only option for a Master’s degree. Getting an MS required writing a thesis. Getting an MCS did not. More importantly, however, I realize now that my interests lie more in the application of technology than in the technology itself. I had inklings of it back then, but at that time, it was far more important to be strong in technology first, rather than the domains in which it was applied.

Today, it’s a different story. There are no shortage of tech-savvy people in the business, so simply being a technology expert is not going to get you as far as it did 20 years ago. I’ve seen enough headlines that say IT departments are shrinking, meaning that some of the technology knowledge needed is being provided by people outside of IT. I don’t think this trend is going to reverse itself, so those of us that want to make a career in the application of technology will increasingly need more business-savvy.

So, should we all go back to school and get MBA’s? I view it as a tool in your toolbox. It is not a guarantee of success, but it is something that can make the path easier. Having long term career goals and a clear idea on what it will take to achieve them is probably far more important. Some companies may look highly on MBAs in making personnel decisions, others may not. Those are all factors to consider.

The other thing I wanted to comment on is the fact that many (IT) people lamented that EA isn’t part of the MBA program. I don’t agree with this at all. It’s a business degree, and like it or not, EA is still viewed as a technology discipline, not a business discipline. I do believe, however, that MBA programs should include some aspect of technology management. If an MBA prepares you to be a CEO, shouldn’t you have some idea on what your CIO and CTO should be doing?

As for me, getting an MBA is on my radar, but I haven’t yet made a decision on it. I definitely am reading more business strategy books, and for now, I think that’s the right approach for me, as frankly, I’m more concerned about paying for my kids’ education than financing continuing my own. But if I were in college today, given what I have learned about my interests in applying technology rather than building technology, I would definitely take that path, combined with a technology degree.

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