“I had a strong engineering and technology background, and didn’t want an MBA program where we studied toilet paper companies and things not relevant to my expertise,” says Tremblay, who received his MBA in 1998. “There’s a range of problems specific to how fast technology moves, whether you’re in business development or launching new products, that a classical MBA wouldn’t teach you.”
After stints at a couple of small wireless startups, Tremblay took his tech MBA to Tatara, where he helps companies such as Disney and ESPN package content for cell phone customers.
“You need to understand technology but also have the skills to work the business case,” he says. “You need to be able to tell Disney why convergence is important, how much revenue it can generate, and how it fits into their existing technology.”
From cost center to thought center
In some industries, the need for business as well as tech skills is being driven by a shift in the traditional role of technology -- from the infrastructure that supports a company’s operations into a service the company can sell.
“Most of the products financial service companies create and sell are based on information systems,” Meyer says. “Our students feel limited if they don’t understand the marketing, market development, and sales processes behind the IT-enabled services their companies are making.”
Telecommunications is another industry where IT can become a revenue center. For example, several of Cingular Wireless’s offerings had their start in back office billing systems, says Cingular CIO Thaddeus Arroyo.
“We can’t activate or sell any service in the absence of a working IT system, so IT has to be a core competence of our service offerings,” Arroyo says. “We realized there were things we could do with our billing system to create a strategic advantage over our competitors, to give our customers more choices.”
Arroyo, who went back to Southern Methodist University to earn his MBA after several years in the tech trenches, says forward-thinking companies consider IT a “thought center” where new ideas and new revenue is generated. To succeed in such an environment, however, requires a different mindset than your typical software engineer.
“When I entered the tech market, people tended to build their careers moving down one path -- such as a programming language like Cobol -- or up the technology infrastructure stack. In today’s market, with sourcing that can come from anywhere, you need a skill set more oriented toward problem solving and business management,” Arroyo says.
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Think globally, enroll locally
For Alecia Hoobling, a firmware engineer at Hewlett-Packard, a high-tech MBA program represents insurance against the migration of tech jobs offshore.