Worst of MBA perception

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Being an MBA student in the heart of the high-tech industry is not easy. Being an engineer studying for an MBA degree is even worse. Getting positive recognition from engineers with the label "MBA" inscribed on your forehead is basically impossible.

Recently, an MBA friend of mine volunteered for the Stanford/Berkeley Innovation challenge. His job was to lead jurors around the exhibition, where each exhibition table showcased some recent Stanford or Berkeley innovation. The jurors were to judge the innovation and a prize would be given to the best innovation. My friend handled two jurors, one of which was a famous Silicon Valley innovator. With my friend close by, this entrepreneur said: "Smells like MBAs here."

Generally speaking, engineers seem to dislike MBAs, primarily because engineers think MBAs are clueless when it comes to technology. This is probably a correct assessment, at least statistically speaking, but it is not clear why from this such a strong rejection of MBAs follows. After all, I don't expect my grandmother, my gardener, or my dentist to understand anything about software development nor do I expect them to understand much about investment banking.

But it does not stop with engineers. Today I was at a recruiting event of a major software development corporation. The MBA recruiter, herself a GSB graduate, told us about the product management jobs they were offering. For this company, strangely enough, product management is primarily a marketing function. I inquired whether they have jobs closer to technology, and she told me about the program managment jobs they have. To qualify for these, I had to be visionary about a product, have detailed technical understanding of software and software development, and bring in business skills to match the product with a market.

"Sounds like a perfect match with my skills," I said: "I've worked in research and have strong opinions about where the industry is going, have been the architect of substantial software products, and have gained significant business skills over the last years." To which she answered: "No, you are an MBA, you don't have these skills."

Time to call it a day and go to bed.

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