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By mfox ·
Hello All!

Thought that I would turn to a community of experienced professionals to get some ideas regarding my upcoming crossroads. Any stories or open advice would be greatly appreciated. A little history of how this all came about:

I recently turned down a NOC operations position with a top regional provider of outsourced IT services to fortune 500 companies. This was a great position with a lot of room for technical growth (LAN, SAN, WAN, NT/UNIX/LINUX, etc.), but the hours (ThFS 8PM-8AM) and the rebuttal offer that I recieved from my current firm did not warrant a change. So here is where I am at:

I have around 4.5 years of IT experience in the small business world. I began working at a small ISP as a Network Engineer (1300 clients or so, 40% business) and now work in Network Support at a CPA firm. My current role involves Network Admin duties on the firm's network (30 workstations) and network support/admin and advice for about 8 of the firms clients. These represent a broad range of industries, though there is a concentration in Service and Manufacturing firms - most of these networks are 10-25 computers.

And now the crossroads:

I have a CCNA certification and a lot of experience with the internet and small wan and lan technologies, small business practices, etc. After turning down the offer for employment I have found myself several years ahead of where I expected to be educationally. The firm that I work for has offered to let me complete my undergraduate degree in History by offering financial aid and allowing me to take classes during the day. I will start class next week and be done with the degree in May. I am quite excited as this is something that I have been working towards for 5.5 years part-time - I previously did not expect to graduate for at least two years.

I have as I see it two options for work, certification and graduate education after I finish my undergraduate degree. I can either:

1) Complete my CCNP and obtain another IT position with a larger firm, giving me several more years of experience before I enter graduate school (I have wanted to get an MBA for some time).

2) Or I can just enter an MBA program the following Spring after I graduate and complete my CCNP before this, though there will be little time to mature this skillset before I enter an 18 month MBA program.

I am a younger guy and single, so family concerns are not important at this point. Any thoughts out there? Do you think I should start preparing for the MBA now or that I should wait and get more experience before entering graduate school.

Thank you so much for any valuable insights that you may have.


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by timwalsh In reply to Crossroads

It is clear that you have some education goals in mind. What isn't clear is what your career goals are and how your educational goals complment them.

What type of work do you see your self pursuing after you get your MBA? For that matter, do you plan on pursuing the MBA full time (i.e. "dropping out of work")?

If your career and education goals are not complementary of each other, then any effort spent pursuing one will affect your ability to achieve the other.

If you have chosen IT as a career, you first need to ask yourself how a History degree will help you further your career (other than being a necessary stepping stone towards the MBA)(NOTE: I'm not putting down history; I'm a history buff myself). Have you considered a degree in some other field that is more complimentary to an IT career and maybe pursuing History as a minor ar a second major?

You may it sound as if your want to pursue the MBA full-time (vs. work during the day and take classes at night). If this is the case, 18 months can be a long time to be "out of practice." Any newly learned skill you acquire just prior to committing yourself full-time to the MBA will likely be wasted without the ability to put them into practice on a regular basis. Also with the rate that technology matures and changes, 18 months is a very long time away. You might consider continuing to work at least part-time so you can keep at least some of your skills current.

BTW, if your ultimate career goal is along the lines of company IT Manager or Corporate CIO, an MBA (especially one with an emphasis on IT) is almost manadatory.

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Goals Reply

by mfox In reply to Goals

You make some very good points. As I see it my educational and career goals are a little far apart at this point, and that is partially the reason I feel a need to continue my education beyond the degree in History and to also extend my technical ability. I started out with computers running a BBS and working on PCs - it was my intense hobby at the time. After a couple of years in school I found that computers and networks were where I wanted to be, and thus I began working/part-time school and the rest is history.

Suffice to say, my history major is probably not 'the' degree to have with IT as my career, but I would say that with my experience, technical aptitude, collegiate skills, and the business history focus of my degree, I am not in entirely to bad of a position. It is, at this point, to much of a done deal to try and steer myself in to another degree in IT or MIS. That was in part one of the reasons to pursue an MBA - most of the programs have a technical or MIS aspect to them, some a lot more than others. I am not saying that this would be a substitute for an undergraduate degree in MIS, but I believe that it could be a very strong supplement to my current level of expertise and education.

Right now the plan is to attend an MBA program full time - this is the recommended way as it is cheaper, more intense and a quicker exit than a part-time program (dropout rates for these programs are very high). Working part-time would probably be a very good option to keep my skillset a little more current as well.

The eventual goal of the MBA and CCNP track is to enter in to a management role within an organization. The entry point for someone with an MBA is considerably higher than for someone with an undergrad. As you mentioned that 18 months is a long time to be out of the loop, it may be a good idea to do the MBA first and then put myself in to some quick technical education to learn some of the new stuff that has developed while I was in the program.

What do other IT people do in these kind of situations. If they want to get an MBA and they come back I would imagine many of their skills are still relevant, though you are right in saying that there are some things you would definately need to catch up on. Not all of course, but quite a lot. Maybe it would be the case that I complete an MBA and then put myself back in school for a bit of technical education...I would at this point have the MBA with an IT focus, have been working part time to keep my skills updated and have a newer "journeyman" level certification to kind of update my skills.

Any thoughts here? Has anyone else out there done the transition from IT professional -> MBA Student -> back to IT in management/IT Sr. Position?

Thanks again!


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Career Goals

by mfox In reply to Goals

After re-reading your reply it may be better to clarify my IT Career goals. At this point I think of it in kind of a top-down way: the eventual goal is to be a top IT professional. As this is a big goal, let's make it really simple and say that I would eventually like to be in the top 15% of our field as far as skills, experience and breadth of knowledge are concerned. Being 'well-rounded' with regard to my degree in History and an MBA is not at all a bad thing I think with this goal in mind.

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