I have been fortunate to have multiple careers—from working in the university setting to the buy-and-sell side of the financial industry to the product development environment. Making the transition from a technically oriented academic career to a practitioner is definitely a humbling experience in the business milieu.
Acquiring a commercial perspective was important to my career, which is why I went to business school to get my MBA, sponsored by my company. However, more than 10 years later, times have changed, and business-oriented instruction is becoming less available for technical staff, both because of constrained resources and lack of time. Numerous articles in publications like MIT Sloan Management Review and the Wall Street Journal have commented on the “commoditization” of the B-school degree, noting that companies are becoming reticent to spend dollars and time on MBA programs.
Is there a way to get what is needed within the forum of a B-school, but without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and years in school? Executive education programs, concentrating on areas as diverse as negotiation, improvement strategies, and product development, have recently been emphasized as meeting the needs of technical personnel. They provide a level of updated information that can directly and practically address key issues that face the emerging or established technical executive first-hand; moreover, the opportunity costs are relatively low, given the two to five days needed to participate. If more time is available, enrolling in more immersive programs (such as MIT Sloan’s Advanced Management Program) or completing an executive certificate can provide additional hands-on learning experiences and are viable alternatives to full- or part-time MBA programs.
At MIT Sloan Executive Education, participants can interface with professors like Roberto Rigobon and Nelson Repenning to learn and discuss macroeconomic issues and understand how to apply system dynamics to their organizations, respectively. In my own experience, one of the most valuable aspects of these programs is the ability to collaborate with and learn from executives from around the world, representing various industries. My peers at MIT Sloan were both a source of creative discussion and great sounding boards. They even became reviewers of chapters in my books.
Executive education programs, with the inherent flexibility, focus, depth, faculty, and expertise provide an excellent solution for the busy executive needing to transition toward a more general managerial or commercial role in the organization.
Bertrand Liang authored his second management book, Managing and Leading for Science Professionals: (What I Wish I'd Known while Moving Up the Management Ladder). It was recently published by Academic Press. In his previous book, The Pragmatic MBA for Scientific and Technical Executives, he interviewed many participants and faculty from the MIT Sloan Executive Education program. Liang received MIT Sloan Executive Certificates in Management and Leadership, Strategy and Management, Technology, Operations, and Value Chain Management, and as a result of taking over 25 program days, an Advanced Certificate for Executives (ACE).