When I was 24 or 25, one of my mentors at the time gave me an unforgettable piece of advice.
I was just starting to get interested in career development and achieved my certification as a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE). I had been beating myself up and running ragged trying to figure out what to do to advance in the technology space. But, like most young people out of college, I was making a lot of mistakes:
- I focused on the wrong things in the job like the perks of being a manager
- I didn’t network with others to learn about their roles and contributions to the company
- I didn’t share what I was doing in a way to help me have a positive image in the company
Until one day, my mentor said to me:
“Do you want to be the person doing the work, or do you want to be the person telling that person what to do? If you want to tell people what to do then get your MBA.”
That day, my whole life changed.
When I started I was a systems analyst with an electrical engineering degree. I learned to code and was deep into back-office software and systems. However, those folks didn’t make decisions and didn’t make as much money as the people who were the managers and directors of the company (and they didn’t get invited to the pro basketball games and other fun events).
When I got that advice, I immediately enrolled in an MBA program and started seeking management jobs. That decision helped broaden my perspective and helped me advance my career.
Now I own my own company and that advice has been with me for many years. It boils down to what you really want to do. There is nothing wrong with being a technician, engineer, or individual contributor. But at the same time, you have to be honest with yourself and if you want more you may have to do things differently to get there.
I’m not saying that everyone should get an MBA but for me, it was the right decision that opened doors for the rest of my life.