Pursuing an MBA may not seem like the most obvious next-step for engineers, but many of our students come to HBS from engineering backgrounds. Engineers offer a unique perspective in our classrooms – one that’s creative, analytical, and solution-oriented. This month we checked in with a chemical engineer (Guy Kamguia MBA 2015), a biomedical engineer (Miranda Shaw MBA 2015), and a design engineer (Carol Rego MBA 2016) to get their thoughts on engineers pursuing an MBA.
So, why do engineers thrive at business school?
- They’re number crunching whiz kids
In business school, you make a lot of data driven decisions. By way of their background and training, engineers are set up to thrive in HBS’s rigorous, analytical environment.
- They bring a unique perspective to the classroom
Carol: I tend to take a different approach to team work than those with non-engineering backgrounds, especially around brainstorming and idea generation. I am also often able to be the “voice” for other functions, such as Manufacturing and R&D, during case discussions.
Guy: Being an engineer helps in several way in the classroom and at HBS in general. The engineering training gives you the tools to do complex data analysis, to have a logical and structured thought process, and to analyze the feasibility of some of your classmates’ ideas and comments.
Miranda: While at HBS, I have consistently used my engineering training. Many skills and backgrounds contribute to the classroom case discussions. As an engineer, I often answer questions from my section mates about technical product descriptions, explain manufacturing issues, or provide an engineering employee perspective during discussions on management decisions. Many MBA students are interested in technology, but they lack the skillset to evaluate the scientific merit or understand manufacturability. I am often asked to help friends understand the technology better, and evaluate the business plan.
- They gain leadership skills and a broader perspective on business
Carol: I loved my job, but it was too much in the details. My long term career goals involved doing something more strategic, so I chose to come to b-school to learn business skills that complemented my technical background. I believe that people with STEM backgrounds already have a strong foundation in critical thinking and decision making. An MBA teaches you to adjust those skills to a broader range of subjects to become a well-rounded business leader.
Guy: I came to business school because I realized that in order to be the leader I want to be, I would need to understand how businesses and organizations are run. Working as a chemical engineer was absolutely great, but I wanted to have an opportunity to have a bigger impact. Whether you are an engineer, scientist, or mathematician, at some point in your career you will have to lead people, manage a budget or analyze the financials of a project, or think about your company’s strategy. Business school will give you tools and frameworks to tackle those types of challenges.
Miranda: As a PhD engineer, I was dedicated to converting basic science into marketable products, but I lacked the skills and knowledge to take that product to market. I felt like I could only meet half of my goal. When I described my frustrations to my mentors, they encouraged me to go to business school. If I could couple my engineering skills to newly discovered business skills, I could meet 100% of my goal and bring great science to patients in need. I am now able to communicate in multiple languages. As an engineer, I am able to communicate in technical language. As an MBA, I am able to communicate in business language. This communication adaptation is invaluable to future leadership. I will be able to utilize these unique skills to achieve my goals and articulate my vision. People with STEM backgrounds are needed as managers to propel innovation forward. They are needed to communicate with technical employees to provide mentorship. They are needed to run highly technical companies and ensure consumers obtain much needed products. They are needed to be the next great leaders in the world. Business school provides the access and leadership skills to reach your full potential.