Engineering to MBA: 8 Problems to Solve
As an engineer, you can bring problem solving ability to business, breaking down challenges, identifying root cause issues and developing innovative solutions.
Often engineers and others with technical backgrounds look at an MBA to grow into management or leverage their technical skills to transition to another industry or function within their current industry.
Problem #1: Why MBA?
First, why you want an MBA? Do you want to leave your technical role and enter another part of the same business or industry? Do you want to grow in your technical role with a better understanding of business functions to take on a leadership role in the future? Or do you have an idea and are looking for the skills and team members to start your own business? Make sure you explain where you want to go and how an MBA will help get you there.
Problem #2: Articulate your post-MBA plan
MBA admissions committees want to have a clear picture of your post-MBA plans. Identify an ideal post-MBA role and find a job description for that position. If you are planning to change industries, identify skills from your background that will serve you well in your new position.
For instance, if you are shifting to banking or consulting, you could leverage your technical knowledge by working on the technical side of the industry. If you want to grow in a technical field, what skills do you need to grow within the industry? If you want to be an entrepreneur, do you plan to work in industry before you start your own business? Or will you look for partners at school to start your business while you are there?
Problem #3: Assess your gaps
Now reverse-engineer to identify what skills you need to reach your goal. Articulate what gaps an MBA will fill for you to be successful. While analytical and quantitative skills are often less of a concern for engineers, think about what type of cross-functional team building or global exposure you might gain from an MBA. Do you want to be able to speak both technical and business languages to help serve as a bridge between the groups? Do you want to learn how to build high performing technical teams? Or do you want to understand enough of each part of a small business to start your own?
Problem #4: Find the right school
Once you’ve identified what you need from an MBA, RESEARCH! If you are looking to change from engineering to another function, reach out and connect with current students that have made a similar transition. Leverage your undergraduate engineering alumni network to find others who have transitioned to business.
If you want to stay in technology and grow within a technical company, reach out to technology clubs and find like-minded students or identify individuals within your organization that have also earned their MBA. And if you want to start your own business, connect with the entrepreneurial clubs. Identify case or business plan competitions that you could take advantage of pitching and learning about the start-up process. If you are staying technical in nature, look for strong partnerships between the business and engineering programs. Perhaps you might consider a joint degree?
Problem #5: Choose your recommenders wisely
In many technical functions, it is less common to obtain an MBA. Think about who would go to bat for you and call you out as best in your peer group. It might not be possible to ask a direct supervisor, as it may hinder your career options. In this case, choose an indirect supervisor or someone a level above you with whom you have worked closely. It is important to help recommenders understand this is not a performance review, but advocating for your candidacy. Provide your recommenders with examples of your work, essays, goals and resume.
Problem #6: Balance technical with personal
When writing about your accomplishments in your essays, make sure you have someone who doesn’t know your work read it over. Beware of getting caught up in company or technical terms to define what you have done. Make sure to highlight cross-functional and international work that you have done.
Problem #7: Outside activities
Talk about your outside activities and show that you are not just a high Q score on your GMAT. Show how you have leveraged your skills and expertise to help others (Tutoring in STEM classes in your local school? Engineers without Borders? Habitat for Humanity?)
Problem#8: EQ? What does it mean? Why is it important? How do you demonstrate you have it?
Engineers are notoriously stereotyped as being introverts who can’t engage with others. Show that you are a team player and that you understand and care about others. Have you mentored an intern or new associate? Can you talk about a team experience where you brought individuals together to overcome a challenging task? Help the Admissions Committee see the personal side of you.
When applying to business school, use your engineering skills by taking a structured approach: Identify the problem (how to get into school?), break it down (School selection, test preparation, essay writing) and solve each part of the problem as you go.
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