Should I do an MBA?

I recently completed a part-time MBA at the University of Strathclyde, with the support of my employer, Aggreko. I've since been contacted by a number of people in my network seeking my advice on whether I'd recommend it for them and how it might help to advance their career.

I won't sugar coat this - completing the MBA is one of the most challenging things I've ever done.

I have a young family and a highly demanding job in a fast moving organisation. If you decide this is the route for you then you'll be making some significant sacrifices. My first six months were an absolute killer - I was attending three-hour long evening classes, twice a week, every week. Then there are the weekend modules, the vast amount of reading and research material, assignments to submit and exams to study for. The MBA consumed every scrap of spare time. There were many occasions when I questioned myself for doing it. My wife reckoned that if we had a dog it would have bitten me based on how little time I spent at home. Be under no illusions this is a serious undertaking.

Having said all that, it has also been the most invigorating and rewarding of all my achievements. Studying for an MBA has broadened my horizons unlike anything I'd experienced before. I was exposed to strategic concepts I'd never previously considered, like Scenario Planning. I gained strong insight into subjects like Finance, Operations Management, HR, Innovation, Marketing and Game Theory. But it's not just the benefit you get from the subject matter - you build strong relationships with peers from a vast range of businesses, you get the opportunity to benchmark yourself and your organisation and to learn from others and to improve your abilities. Throughout the process you learn so much about yourself, your capabilities and what you can achieve.

As far as career trajectory is concerned, the MBA undoubtedly extends your reach. While I consider my future to be bright at Aggreko, my future aspirations are to reach a CxO position. I see the MBA, combined with my technical expertise, not only as a differentiator but also as lending additional credibility to my ability to deliver business value.

We’ve recently seen the emergence of the concept of the CIO+. This is the CIO of the future: one who is highly technical and who also understands business and can focus on business benefit. Mark V. Hurd, CEO at Oracle, articulates this point well:

 "CIOs have earned a strategic seat at the table, but now they've got to hold that seat - and the only way they can do that is to converse in the language of business value and business benefits and business outcomes that all align perfectly with the strategic agenda of the company."

The MBA altered my perspective and gave me the ability to frame solutions from the view of customers and users.  It made me focus on tangible, business benefit and to consider how technology can be applied successfully to impact the bottom line.

I received a lot of help from the company and my colleagues when completing my MBA. Aggreko is not just the world leader in its field but also a refreshingly forward-thinking employer. For me, one of the best things about working here is that Aggreko actually delivers on its promise to invest in the personal and professional development of its employees. Consequently, I’d advise you to seek sponsorship from your employer - and here’s how you can sell it to them…

If we frame this discussion from an HR viewpoint, then sponsoring talented employees to study for an MBA is a great approach to attracting, developing and retaining talent. It’s cost effective too - a three year part time MBA will cost somewhere in the region of £25K. If the employer pays 75 per cent of the costs, with a two year retention agreement, then they are building capability for the company, while effectively securing a top class, engaged and motivated resource for five years at a cost of £4K a year - a sum that pales into insignificance when you consider the time, cost and risk associated with recruiting new talent at that level.

Steve Faull, Applications Development Manager, Aggreko  

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