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:
- You are happy with your job and don’t see why you are reading this post
- You are happy, but don’t know what’s next
- You curse the day you got into this field and can’t wait to get out
- 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.
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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