Career change options after MBA for software engineers

When reputed publications like Bloomberg start proclaiming that software engineering careers are dying and Indian IT companies continue to deal with the swaying moods (and H1B / L1 visa policies) of their client countries, it’s bound to generate some level of stress among the huge pool of IT professionals in India.

The number of software engineers looking at a career change has been rising. And so has the number of MBA applicants from this demography.

Getting a career change is a good trigger, but what next? Not knowing where to go next can be equally confusing.

If you are a software professional, one of the following scenarios could be panning out for you:

  1. You are happy with your job and don’t see why you are reading this post
  2. You are happy, but don’t know what’s next
  3. You curse the day you got into this field and can’t wait to get out
  4. You are 30+ and are insecure on where your career is headed

Barring the first scenario (which may change sooner than you expect), you’ve come to the right place. Assuming you’ve read Sameer’s book, Beyond The MBA Hype, and have still decided to pursue an MBA, we lay out here for you in this post, the ‘typical’ options that you can explore.
 

Career Change after MBA: Options for IT (Software) Engineers

 

1. IT Consulting

This is also known as Functional Consultant or Business Analyst depending on which company you refer to. In essence, the role is what a management consultant would do within an IT framework.

You would be going in a client situation where the client may or may not know what’s plaguing their business. After defining the problem and its boundaries, you will then devise the right solution.

Depending on where you work, the solution might be technology platform agnostic or may assume a certain technology solution to begin with. Next, you may or may not actually get the solution implemented – depending on how the client engagement has been defined/sold.

The core skills needed for this career are your analytical skills and business savvy. There are of course quite a few others though we won’t go into the details here for the sake of brevity.

Statistically speaking (you say this typically when you don’t have an actual statistic), this is the most common post-MBA career with professionals having an IT background.

It is a bit of a generalization when I say ‘IT background’ but there is a reason for it which I will come to towards the end of this post.
 

2. Product Management

The Indian unicorns (startups valued at over $1 Billion) have popularized this term though the role has been around since the time of Google/Amazon. In this role, in essence, you are the CEO of the product you manage.

That does sound fancy and you don’t obviously get there right out of school, but if you are good, you get there eventually. Being a CEO means doing everything it takes to bring the product to market and make it grow.

For the uninitiated, there is another way to think of this. What Marketing is for FMCG, Product Management is for IT Products firm. A bit of a crude analogy this, but not a bad one.

You don’t really need to be an IT professional to get into this arena. What you do need is the creativity of a marketer and the discipline of an operations guy.

Not for nothing has Google toppled the charts of most sought after recruiters, taking the crown from McKinsey for many years now. This is the current superstar when it comes to career options – irrespective of your pre-MBA background.

Learn more about Product Management careers.
 

3. Business Development

The commonplace name for this profile is sales. But for reasons unknown, the IT world rarely uses that word though ‘pre-sales’ is very commonly used. This is also known as Account Management/Relationship Management depending on the firm we are talking about.

The word sales by itself should sum it up. Not for the faint-hearted (since you are chasing ‘targets’ everyday), the profile is one that is filled with glamour as typically, this tends to be on-site.

In the IT world, more often than not, that means outside the country. This aspect alone is the clincher for several professionals but the novelty of it wears off so don’t make that the only deciding factor.

This is a more recent option for MBA grads since traditionally, sales is not a skill an MBA provides you necessarily with – that is why you don’t have bschools offering a specialization in sales. But it is fast becoming the forte of MBA grads.

Learn more about the typical Business Development Job Description.
 

4. Industry

What industry you ask? Well, the answer I am afraid is, it depends. The list of industries is huge and almost every single one is dependent on IT systems to keep their wheels turning. Each one needs its share of generalists and specialists.

Since this is a wide-subject, it is difficult to put one firm answer here. Some transitions are easier than others and a lot also depends on what kind of things you’ve done in your IT career.

Whether you should make such a transition is contingent on whether you really dislike your industry (read IT) or if you are super passionate (and knowledge) about your intended industry.

But think twice before you move in this direction as many have failed in this wild goose chase.
 

Which career option is best for me?

The answer to this would change from person to person. It would be incorrect for anyone to suggest one common solution without knowing you and more importantly, understanding what you’ve done so far.

There are some pitfalls to watch out for while making the choice.

1. Knowing about the options is one thing, but choosing the right one requires more work. Not all these roles are apt for every software professional.

2. There are other aspects to consider such as capability/aptitude, interest as well as personality traits. The interplay between these can be complex.

3. While presenting this in the MBA goals essays, what you’ve done so far and the skills you’ve already gained would also matter. Also keep in mind the economic and cultural dynamics of the country you’d be graduating in.

The intention of this post was not to answer this question but to open you up to the world of possibilities out there.

With the right research, you should be able to figure it out the details yourself. If you need some hand-holding, we’d be happy to help. We have two services worth checking out, the MBA MAP (which is more MBA application oriented) and the Career MAP (if you are looking for a more general career change strategy).


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MG (Manish Gupta) //
MG (Manish Gupta)
Chief Consulting Officer at MBA Crystal Ball, ex-McKinsey, IIT & ISB topper. MG can help you get into the top B-schools. Read more about this top MBA admissions consultant. Connect with MG on Linkedin or Email: mcb [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com

32 Comments

  1. Soumya says:

    Hi Manish,

    I recently took my GMAT and got a score of 630(Q 44, V 33).
    Experience – 4 years in TCS , working in business intelligence and analytics field. Worked on development of data warehouse,worked on automation of MIS reports, worked as a module lead in the project. Knowledge of statistical programming language R.

    Class 10 – 86.5%(CBSE)
    Class 12 – 80.4%(CBSE)
    B.Tech – CGPA 8.2 out of 10

    I am looking for an MBA with concentration in MIS, BusinessAnalytics or Information systems or MS in analytics or data scicence.
    Because of some personal problem I wont be able to join a B school before fall 2017. Considering that will I be able to join a decent business school with this profile or should I retake gmat ?
    After 1 year my total experience will be 5 years. With this profile can I get a call for XLRI GMP after 1 year ?

  2. Prachi says:

    Hi Manish

    The post is really helpful. I have 1.5 years of experience working in an IT company. Now I will be starting preparing for post-graduation. I am a bit confused whether to go for GRE or GMAT. Actually I was trained on Japanese language by the company then was put on Java training. But the project which I was assigned is Java based ERP system, I was looking after maintenance of the product no hands on coding experience I have. I have gained basic Finance knowledge from the project. So now I have to choose between GRE and GMAT.I am bit confused which way to choose because experience wise I am not good at particular. Can you please help me out finding a way?
    And will my Japanese language skill help me during MS for placements?

    Regards
    Prachi Andhare

  3. Sarvesh Peddi says:

    Hi Manish,

    I am a aspirant of MBA and I would like to pursue MBA in abroad. Right now I am working in INFOSYS at Hyderabad as Test Engineer. I have joined Infosys in feb9 2015. I am fresher and passed out in 2014. I have did my B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering with CGPA of 7.42. Right now I am in 1 year bond period with Infosys. So what would you suggest to me for below questions.

    When shall I pursue MBA course, whether after getting 1 year experience or 3 years which one would be most preferable. Suggest me the most preferable way so that I can get a descent admit from universities..??

    Which one is preferable to pursue MBA in abroad or in India by comparing the all the aspects??

    Right now I am an Test Engineer in IT firm so which field is preferable to pursue MBA?

    what would be the financial aid there are any chances to get scholar ship for MBA program?

    Is it good to do distant MBA or it will be good to do complete 2 years MBA program?

    Please send me the financial aspect like how much it costs to pursue full time MBA program in abroad and also living expenses.

    my email ID:-chowdary.sarvesh@gmail.com

    Thanks for your suggestions.

  4. NN says:

    Hi Manish,
    I’m in the Defence with 21 yrs service (Infantry), age 43 yrs, education qualifications BA from JNU and MSc in Defence and Strategic Studies from Chennai University. Served in all four corners of the country including with the UN in Africa. I am planning to do MBA and am preparing for GMAT. I want to find out what all options (apart from HR) do I have after doing MBA. Thanks.

    • A pretty wide topic that one NN – can’t really dish out advice without knowing your preferences/attitude. Even before that though, make sure you’ve done your ground-work here. You will find yourself in thin (read 1-2) company if you are talking about the regular full-time courses.

  5. Prashant Sah says:

    Hi Sir,
    I am final year computer science student and after investing time in computer science field ,i am certainly aware about that this field doesn’t suits my profile so i have planned to do masters in management but i am still in confusion state to select MBA or Master’s in Management in different field as MBA requires a better work experience but i want to move with in 1 or 1.5 years of work experience ,and i have selected the country of my choice is Australia or Canada. So can you help me to analyse a better situation to select a good Management college in mentioned country with the best majors among the two streams.
    thank you Sir.

  6. Vijay says:

    Hi,

    I am an IT professional with 5+ years of experience, with 2+ years in Singapore. Although I am doing quite well in my current job, and drawing a decent salary, I am missing the much-needed ‘kick’ in my profession. I do not intend to spend my entire life negotiating my employer for petty salary hikes.

    I see MBA as an option for me to move out of the stagnancy I have pushed myself into. I am quite keen to shift my profile from being an IT guy to a sales & marketing guy (not expecting MBA to miraculously change things overnight for me). Overall, my academics are quite respectable, although nothing extraordinary there which stands out.

    Few questions which I would like to request your help upon –
    1. What are the best possible ways for me to complete MBA with zero tuition fees? – While I am keen to pursue an MBA, I cannot let it take a big hit on my pockets

    To put it more precisely – which schools should I target (in India/Aus/NZ/US/UK/Europe), and what would be the approximate GMAT score needed for those?

    2. Could you please share some success stories people with profiles similar to mine, who pursued MBA from top schools, and the ROI they derived from it?

    Thanks and Best Regards,
    Vijay

    *name changed to Vijay to maintain anonymity

  7. venu says:

    Hi Manish,

    I am a aspirant of MBA and I would like to pursue MBA in abroad for September intake 2016.I have decided to get my MBA degree from Canada .Right now I am working in Business Intelligence & Analytics field as associate software developer. I have completed my BE in Electronics & Communication with CG PA of 7.15. As I have started my career in BI tool so hereby i need to grow in this field with an proper mba specialization,Please let me know the answers for following questions-

    1)Which are the universities best in canada for mba?which do not require gmat scores?
    2)Would like to know the courses in MBA offered, which will help me to get the manager role in my field?
    3)Is MBA in International Business suitable for my profession?
    4)As I came to know that there is something like Major & Minor courses or subjects which we need to choose,Would you please comment on that?

    Please guide me ASAP on opting the correct MBA Course

    • Venu, let me address your queries specifically:
      1. Don’t really have a list of schools/programs that do not require GMAT. But in general, the programs that don’t need a GMAT, won’t be good. The usual suspects in Canada (the good ones i mean) – Rotman/Ivey/Queens/Schulich to name a few. Nothing you can’t get from a quick google search.
      2. This can vary from school to school Venu. And will require a much deeper research rather than a high level answer I am afraid.
      3. International Business is a pretty vague term. You need to spend a LOT of time on school websites, interact with their community to get a better handle on courses offered and whether they will help you. A lot of MBA programs have started offering specialization/major in Business Analytics. (This also addresses your #4).

      So in short, do a lot more ground work and research to get answers specific to your requirements.

  8. anurag says:

    Hi Manish,
    A very encouraging post.
    I have an MBA in marketing from a deemed university , and a 2 years experience in software testing, could you please suggest possible career options for me where i can optimize the use of my MBA knowledge.

    Thanks
    Anurag

  9. harish says:

    HI..SIR,
    This is harish..i have completed my mba in the year 2015.with aggregate 62%.and am from commerce background…but am interesting in software..like web designing…
    so i want learn web technologies..
    my question is..is the web designing help me to build my carreer in better way?
    is it has future? if not which course is better for me to go for software field.?
    would you plz help me
    i hope u wil respond to my message…
    thank you

    • Harish, software is a HUGE field. But since you’ve done your MBA, you should ideally consider one of the roles outlined in this blog. Otherwise it’ll be a bit of waste of your education and you’ll be starting from scratch. ‘better’ is a relative word – so I can’t really comment on that without knowing your profile/experiences/achievements/aptitude in-depth; something we do as part of our Career MAP service: http://www.mbacrystalball.com/career-counselling

  10. Tharun says:

    Hi Manish

    I am a software developer with two years of work experience in Data warehousing and Business Intelligence. I have good analytical skills. I want to join a product based company rather than IT. What kind of jobs or opportunities will be offered for this type of background? And also kind of companies?

    • Tharun, it depends on your current organization. A lot of IT firms these days work in product related areas. That should be your first line of attack. Post that, you have to look for Analytics/BI based startups that will be willing to consider you. This however is contingent on your networking skills too.

  11. Kavitha says:

    Hi,
    I have done my MBA in international Management and have 2 years of work experience in marketing and as an education consultant.I got married in 2013 and quit my job.Now I wanted to go for a job in IT field.is it possible?if yes,then I don’t know where to start.Should I undergo any software certification course?please advice and thanks in advance.P.S. I am 30+ person.

    • Kavitha, IT is a pretty broad field. Given your MBA qualification, it is unlikely that you can take up a technical course. Depending on the pedigree of your course, IT firms may be willing to consider you for one of the roles mentioned above. If not, you’ll have to consider a second MBA potentially from a reputed institute.

      A certificate alone rarely ever gets you a job. Some specialized ones say in Python/Django ‘might’, but those are pretty technical and may not be appropriate for you.

  12. Kavitha says:

    Thank you sir.

  13. Sunil says:

    Hi Manish sir this is Sunil… I did PGDM and I have one year experience in production and manufacturing company. Here I’m handling marketing department. And even I did. B.TECH [IT]. Actually I just wanna software sales its like complete software field so please suggest me which path is good

  14. Sunil says:

    Manish sir actually I wanna go software side, suggest me any course.

  15. Mohammad Ufaq Khan says:

    Hello Manish,
    I am Software Test Engineer having 3.7 years of experience in IT sector. I want to boost my career and want to be in managerial position as soon as possible. I want to do MBA but there are lot of programs i could see (for example executive MBA) . Could you please let me know which MBA program and from which branch is good for me to achieve my goals.

  16. Ravishankar says:

    Hello Manish,

    Hope you are doing great. Iam an IT professional with 3 years of experience, from Hyderabad.

    Given my experience, which would be suitable for me?- MBA?PGDM?MS in Business Analytics? or MIM?

    I have no clear picture of my short term or long term goals, as I was completely into technical work all these three years.

    I would like to be associated with giants such as Google,Microsoft or even Accenture, preferably in a mid level management role, so that I can identify my calling steadily and move up the ladder.

    Please advise, as Iam planning to apply this year and join by next fall.

    P.S. I would be giving my GMAT in a month or two and aiming a score of 700 +

    Thanks and Regards,

    Ravishankar Nagarajan

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