An MBA Can Bridge Business and Technology Careers

An MBA graduate talks about his decision to pursue an MBA degree as a bridge between business and technology careers.

Daniele Gianni is a 2016 graduate from the Full-Time MBA programme of Frankfurt School of Finance & Management. Currently, he is a consultant at EUMETSAT, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites. Daniele first became interested in the MBA after a life-changing experience in the US during his PhD. At that time, he felt he was destined to remain in academia. With prestigious opportunities materialising in the UK and the Netherlands, he never doubted this direction. But, in 2013, Daniele “landed” in Frankfurt am Main for his consultancy job, and during this time of close encounters with the world of business, he crossed paths with the MBA again — this time permanently — as one of the FSFM cohorts.

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA degree at Frankfurt School of Finance & Management?

It was a rather fortunate encounter, at the right time and at the right place, when I realised I lacked the acumen to connect technical solutions to the business context. I needed to develop this ability, which had become critical for all technical people working at the edge of business.

I was living in Frankfurt am Main and since I wanted to advance in my career, the first step was to look at the solutions available in the vicinity. I found out that Frankfurt School of Finance & Management was just starting its first edition of the MBA. The idea (and privilege) of becoming a student once more was rather exciting. From the school’s ranking in the Financial Times and a personal meeting with the director of the programme, I gained a good impression of the overall faculty quality. Frankfurt itself is a nice area to live in and, coupled with its importance as a financial and industrial hub, the idea of settling down there became more and more appealing.

What did you end up doing after you graduated?

Currently, I am continuing in my pre-MBA role of Requirements Engineering consultant at EUMETSAT, where I support the requirements management activities of a range of European space programmes with the definition of tools and processes. I am confident that that there will be new developments in the future, sometime, somewhere. Patience and perseverance can be virtues at times. In highly technological international organisations, it is rather unusual that you can immediately capitalise on this type of study for several reasons: the complex socio-technical understanding required in leadership positions, the seniority culture (sometimes), and, last but not least, the stability of the organisation.

How has the MBA degree helped you succeed in this highly technological field?

Much depends on your own definition of success. Currently, my definition falls between “being effective in mobilising others towards an organisational goal, which I possibly co-define” and “helping others to discover their talent and to grow to achieve their potential”. Achieving this definition of success requires many skills. Coming from years of applied research, I had already developed sharp technical problem-solving and analytical skills, which can be key to reaching that definition of success. However, when you deal with people, the “technical versions” of these skills need to be extended to include the emotional and social sides of а problem.

The MBA has helped me broaden these skills to cover business and social aspects. For example, now when I define a new process, I also tend to assess its impact on human resources to determine whether the best process in terms of technical definition is also the best process in terms of human implementation in the organisational context. I also consider other aspects, including the need for the implementation of change management activities.

In addition, the MBA offered me a unique social laboratory opportunity in which experimenting and failing were relatively safe — a rare privilege that cannot generally be afforded in normal circumstances. This marked the continuation of a self-discovery journey (i.e. understanding how you are perceived in your daily life) that I had already started. However, it was also the beginning of a self-regulation journey (i.e. controlling how you react to events) and a social awareness journey (i.e. understanding the organisational culture). Experts say that your progress in these “journeys” is a key prerequisite for effective leadership, and – for me – starting or continuing them is the basis for reaching success.

Have you tried measuring the ROI given that you don’t necessarily deal with business now?

This is a legitimate question, but I think it has its limits. As you learn in the MBA, financial indicators are only one out of the four (or five) dimensions used in the performance management of an organisation: as your own entrepreneur, why should you restrict yourself to financial indicators alone? I encourage people to look beyond the ROI and to consider instead the Return on Investment in Human Capital — if you wish to stick to numbers. Better yet, one should look at the Return in Happiness (RiH), if you wish to be more qualitative and to see the MBA as a personal transformation experience along the three journeys I have mentioned above. Personally, when I made the decision to enrol in the MBA programme, I mainly considered the RiH. I looked at what I wanted to achieve, what I was missing in terms of knowledge and soft skills, and pondered the options to fill this gap. One option was to move to a different context, such as a private industrial organisation or a consulting company. In my case, that appeared to be a move that would have involved an average risk, uncertain development, and less comprehensive experience in terms of personal growth (the three journeys). As I mentioned earlier, social experimentation cannot always be afforded in normal professional life. The other option was to enrol in an MBA. For me, that was a more encompassing growth experience, a better way to prepare for the future, and it involved less risk. There was certainly a financial difference, but considering that time is unredeemable and that, to me, how you get there (in terms of career) matters as much as where you’re heading to, I had few doubts about which option I should pursue.

Check out: Measuring ROI

Do you feel satisfied with your choice of postgraduate education in light of your current career path?

Overall, I am satisfied with what I have acquired and discovered during the MBA. And I know it is up to me to take it from there and capitalise on this opportunity to steer my career from a technical role to a role at “the edge of business”. Often, large organisations tend to outsource part of the implementation activities. As a consequence, traditional technical roles have often evolved towards positions that require business acumen and managerial abilities to coordinate internal or external human resources or to guide the identification of solutions to business problems. Having acquired formal education in business and management, I can offer tangible credentials about my “hard” managerial knowledge. However, I feel that staying on the path of the three journeys will make me much more effective in that role.

What would your advice be to candidates who aspire to work in fields other than business?

I would recommend not restricting the application of MBA lessons to business alone. There are many lessons that can be re-applied to oneself to gain an advantage in a career outside business. In my view, one important and relevant lesson concerns the awareness of the perceived risk of an “unusual” professional profile with respect to the risk appetite of the organisation you wish to work for. Finding an alignment between these two risks may still be necessary, after the MBA, for your way forward.

Check out: What an MBA Degree Can and Can’t Do for You

One warning: if you have an unusual professional profile, be aware that your definition of success might be different from that of more conventional MBA candidates and graduates. Be aware of that and, more importantly, be comfortable with it.

This article is original content produced by Advent Group and included in the 2016-2017 annual Access MBA, EMBA and Masters Guide under the title “My Cosmic Journey Through the MBA”. The digital guide file will soon be available for download.

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