Why did I, a tech manager, get an MBA?

Sivan Hermon
6 min readJul 10, 2020

In this story, I’ll share with you what led me to seek an MBA program, which data I based my decision on and how I chose the structure of the program.

My background is in Software Engineering, I have spent the first 8 years of my professional life serving in an elite computer unit in the military where I went through intense software development training and then trained others. In parallel to my military service, I obtained a BSc in Computer Science.

In 2011, 3 years after embarking on an adventure relocating to New York city, I was working for a 200-employee startup, and found myself feeling intellectually unfulfilled and unhappy with my professional trajectory. To shake things up, I looked into getting a masters in business administration and to challenge myself further, I also kicked off a job search. Since going into Business school was a big decision, both financially and time-wise, I was intimidated by the prospect. Rather than giving up, I decided that the best approach was to kickstart a series of baby steps.

First, I attended a few information sessions at universities that are accessible by New York City’s subway: NYU and Columbia University — thank you NYC living. Not only did those sessions not scare me, they got me excited and curious. So I took the next step: taking the GMAT test to see if business school is even an option for me. 9 weeks, and about 63 prep classes later, my test score told me: “yes it is!”

At this point, I already had momentum, I knew the programs, and I had a reasonable GMAT score — It was time to make a huge decision — choosing the type of program that will be right for me. The options were: full time, executive, or part time.

I zeroed in on 3 goals for the desired experience:

  1. Expanding my knowledge about running a business, as I aspire to lead a company one day.
  2. Expanding my professional network, to expand my horizons and future opportunities.
  3. Branding myself with a top ranked MBA program to my resume.

Spoiler alert, I was lucky to achieve all of the goals and then some.

Moment of choice

After extensive research and comparing options (see appendix for details) I decided to go with the Executive MBA program. Why?

When Business School started I had 13 years of industry experience and 7 years of leadership experience. That meant I was the average student in terms of age and years of experience for the executive MBA track. I had a good salary so giving up on 2 years of income while paying the cost of Business School was not at all compelling. I wanted my peers to be similar to me, ideally older than 25 year old and more experienced in their respective industries. I seeked to interact with and learn from other leaders, and I had no plans nor desire to switch careers.

Program Structure

My program took place every other Friday and Saturday, 8:30–6:30pm, for 20 months. That structure not only allowed me to support myself financially, but it also let me bring real work examples to the classroom and vice versa. It allowed me to immediately apply and practice ideas, techniques and frameworks that I picked up in class at work.

Post Business School experience

During the program and after graduating I doubled down on leading engineering teams, expanded my scope and accelerated my career. I made the jump from managing a team of 8 to overseeing a group of 40 developers, in a small company. Soon after I started a job as a software manager at Google where I continued to grow my skills and scope. During the last years at Google I was leading a 100+ cross functional software organization, scaling myself through 14 engineering managers and much more. Point is, I’m convinced there is a strong correlation between the learnings I gained from Business school and my continued growth.

Afterthought

This journey was very challenging. Navigating a near-full time position and school, while trying to keep my existing social bonds and the relationships with my partner healthy was tremendously hard. Keeping all the balls up in the air will not be easy, but there is so much to learn and the rewards are incredibly worth it.

While we’ll never know how my professional journey would look like without the program, I can still point to valuable nuggets I carried with me from that unique experience. The program gave me so many things I did not expect, in addition to the obvious things like professional network and knowledge. It helped me grow my self awareness, my intuition, gave me ideas, tools, frameworks to apply at work and confidence to dare to reach higher, ask for more scope, for mentorship and even for a raise, to name a few.

In future posts, I’ll share multiple examples of what I learned and how it serves me still. I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas for areas to expand on — don’t hesitate to leave me a comment.

Appendix: Comparing MBA program structures

Full time MBA

This option caters to people who have a few years of work experience, usually without managerial experience. These are people who generally work in investment banking or consultancy companies or folks who seek to make a career switch (e.g. software developer to product manager). The average age of students in the program is between 25 and 27 years old. Since you are a full time student, you have plenty of time and opportunities to connect with your fellow classmates, build relationships and establish a strong professional network. Coming into the program students average salary is $80K and they often double their income upon graduation (source).

Part time MBA

This option was the most flexible and the least structured. Students could speed through the program in about 2 years or take 5 years to finish .Your peer students would be likely to change every semester and potentially in every course, as each student can choose their course setup, making it hard to establish long term relationships and solidify a network of peers. Lastly, students’ prior work experience is mixed, potentially diminishing ability to learn from your peers.
To be very honest, I ruled this option out early, as it felt like the worst of all worlds.

Executive MBA

The executive track caters to people who have substantial experience in the industry, ideally including a formal management role. The average student age was 32 years old, with 13 years of industry experience and 6 years of managerial experience. Given the extensive work experience, monetary ROI is harder to predict but most attendees will see a positive impact to their careers. Executive programs more-or-less accommodate your normal job schedule, taking place during weekends and evenings and offering full courses in a concentrated week of studies.

Shared elements

Cost is roughly the same across all options, but note that the full time track will require missing about 2 years of work…. and income, while the other programs enable getting a salary while earning an MBA.

Establishing a strong professional network can be challenging outside of the full time program, because you need to juggle work and school (and other elements of your life) often not leaving much time to connect with classmates.

[BTW, when looking at online MBA programs I was concerned it wouldn’t satisfy my networking goal and since it was hard to find enough word-of-mouth feedback, I did not weigh that as one of my options].

Rough side-by-side comparison

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Sivan Hermon

Leadership Coach, Speaker. ex-Google, Columbia MBA. Love helping humans through leadership, software and knowledge sharing. http://buymeacoffee.com/sivanhermon