Saturday, October 12

Career Brakes: Should This Engineer Get An MBA?


Question: I am 31 years old, working for a major brake supplier. I’m trying to decide if getting an MBA would be good for my career.

Brian Hagman: Getting an MBA is really dependent on many factors. What are your career goals? Do you figure to rise through the ranks as an engineer? Or do you aspire to be in the C-suite of a company, or start your own?

If you envision being a chief operating officer or even a CEO or want to lead a start-up, then an MBA from a good university could be a good idea. The value of an MBA is greatly enhanced if your company is going to pay for it, or half of it. If you don’t want to fall off the ladder at your current employer, then definitely consider taking a part-time MBA program that meets on Saturdays. The part-time programs, however, are typically not as rich an experience as a full-time program in terms of the overall student experience. So, there are tradeoffs.

There are jobs at OEs and tier one, and tier two brake suppliers that are vital, such as supply chain and logistics, that require special training. Some of the leading MBA programs, like those at the University of Michigan Stephen M. Ross Business School, or the Eli Brod School of Business at Michigan State University, have first-class MBAs with a supply-chain management concentrations that are very worthwhile. In those programs, you get exposed to supply chain studies of many different companies in different industries that will make you valuable.

People who successfully leave their swimlanes to be a C-Suite manager generally have a degree of specialty like engineering, plus an MBA, plus an extroverted, inclusive personality that talent chiefs and recruiters view as a “triple threat.”

If you are an engineer, though, and you feel you want to stay in your lane as an engineer and rise to be a senior technology team member, then having a masters in engineering or other post-grad programs will be more valuable to your career. An MBA is going to be of limited value.

Consult with a manager you respect at your company for input, as well as the Chief Talent Officer for an opinion. But in the end, it’s your career, and you’ll be able to tell after some due diligence if an MBA makes sense for you.

Have a question about managing your career within the brake industry? What about attracting and hiring the best talent in the marketplace? Send Brian a note at [email protected].

About Author

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Brian Hagman is President of Hagman Search Group and Founder/Publisher of The BRAKE Report, an online media platform dedicated to the automotive and commercial vehicle brake segments. Brian’s mission is to inform, engage and connect the most avid members of the brake community.