How does MBA help an Electronics Engineer?

As I look back at my two years of MBA, I feel nostalgic about the time spent there, which not only changed me professionally but also made me a different person. I feel satisfied with myself for having taken the right decision of doing an MBA. These two years at B-school gave me ample opportunities to assess my strengths and weaknesses.

The various business issues I was exposed to and the technique used to assess each issue made me appreciate the importance of teamwork. We would brainstorm for hours together on various issues and systematically discuss the merits and demerits of each argument presented and eventually come to a conclusion. The amount of research we used to conduct for each of these sessions was phenomenal. As a team, we could see how synergies would be created. It made us come to terms with the fact that each one of us had certain limitations, which could be overcome, only to an extent. This was our real introduction to core competency. During the entire program, often we were made aware of the value being derived from past exposure and began to understand the importance of a relevant graduation degree and work experience in shaping our futures. I being an electronics engineer, looked closely at the skill sets I acquired in engineering and this is how I figured what I wanted to do most…

Some students believe in ‘Apply to as many Institutes as Possible’ or to those which advertise loudly in the newspapers. This philosophy, is supposed to minimise risk and maximise chances of selection. However, if you think it’s a wise idea to squander huge sums of money in applying indiscriminately to all and sundry, I reserve my comments. For example, if we apply to about 20 institutes, we end up spending close to Rs.40,000!!!

Electronics Engineering Course:

The basic structure of an engineering course is such that it provides adequate cross-functional exposure to an individual in the first year, which forms the basic foundation of one’s professional career. Subjects like engineering mechanics, electrical engineering, engineering mathematics, physics, chemistry etc give a balanced foundation to students, preparing them to work in different functional domains while also developing the competence to flow between different functional areas. With this basic skill in almost every engineering domain, one moves on to the second year, where specialisations are introduced. And the next two years are spent in in-depth theoretical and practical learning over various areas related to one’s specialisation. In electronics and electrical engineering, such as, subjects like control systems, linear integrated circuits, digital electronics, electrical drives, power electronics etc. are worked on. All these subjects create a level of ease in understanding technology at the grass root level. The practicals for each of those subjects and projects prepare every engineering student to develop a basic working knowledge in each of these areas. The threshold time for a student to adapt to the organisation that he joins after engineering is thus narrowed down.

Having understood the typical skill sets developed during an MBA as well as electronics and electrical engineering course, let’s now figure out the “fitment” of the two skill sets.

An MBA as we have just discussed provides a platform to develop a broader perspective by sensitizing an individual to the real world of business and consciously developing the ability to work in a team and create synergies. A cross-functional exposure to technical skills acquired in an engineering course develops an analytical mind. Supplemented by a clear understanding of the micro and macro environment of business, this enables an individual to correctly assess every issue he faces, on both technical and business merits.

Let us find out the opportunities available to an electronics and electrical engineer in the following areas of specialisation…

Marketing

Increasingly, corporates visiting B-schools are looking for students with a basic understanding of their area of business. In the field of marketing, the degree to which the student can relate to the product or service is a critical factor in marketing it. From sales to brand management to product development, a technical background relevant to the business segment of the organisation is an advantage that is irrefutable. A point to be noted here is the fact that with increasing dynamism in recruiting and training policies in corporates of today, it is NOT a rigid pre-requisite. Moreover, with the surplus of prospective employees available, the degree of preference for such a combination is a natural manifestation of return on investment that corporates today expect.

With Indian software firms, slowly but surely trudging along the route to embedded technology, requirement for technical know-how is an implied need. Wipro, Tata Elxsi, Mistral Software, Ittiam Systems, HCL, Hughes Software, Mindtree Consulting etc are a few organisations where an electronics engineer with a marketing specialization, can not only get best of both the worlds of software and hardware but also find a platform to exercise his marketing and managerial skills! All consumer electronics and white goods majors like LG, Videocon, Whirlpool, Philips, and Sony are also examples where electronics and electrical engineers with marketing specialisation can make a bright career.

Finance

An engineer with a finance specialization at the out set seems improbable but this is one of the most sought after combinations in B-schools today. The analytical ability and quantitative skills of an engineer find immense application in the field of finance. The fundamental subjects in management like operations research, econometrics, forecasting models, as well as financial management subjects like corporate finance, portfolio theory, risk management, derivatives etc are areas where a mathematical mind is essential. And when these subjects are applied in real life cases, the understanding of processes is also required. This is where the exposure to technical areas and competency in cross-functional fundamentals of engineering prove to be invaluable. For profiles such as project finance, strategy advisory, investment banking etc engineers are preferred over CA’s! So this disproves the notion that MBA in finance is only suited for people with B.Com and CA background. There is a definite advantage for those with a commerce background, when it comes to accounting etc, but finance specialisation is different from pure accounting is an axiom one has to be absolutely clear about.

Project finance profiles at L&T, Gammon etc; investment bankers like HSBC Securities, Kotak Capital Company, SBI Investment Bank, ICICI Securities (I-Sec); rating agencies like CRISIL, ICRA and CARE etc are some of the organisations offering lucrative careers to such candidates. Consultancies like Mc Kinsey & Co., Ernst & Young, Price Waterhouse Coopers, Cap Gemini E &Y, IBM etc are also the dream companies for such a combination.

Software majors are also increasingly looking at electronics and electrical engineers with an MBA in Finance. For IT consulting, understanding the client’s business objectives and aligning the software requirements of the client to its business objectives are critical initial steps towards providing an IT solution. Model adopted by IT companies was to familiarise electronics, electrical, computer science engineers with the client’s business processes. But recently this has changed. IT majors like Infosys, Wipro, TCS etc are realising that functional domain knowledge is critical for proper implementation of any software solution.

Hence MBA’s from B- schools with functional knowledge of finance are being hired and trained with necessary technical skills so that the client’s in banking, insurance and other allied finance fields have their requirements accurately mapped thus ensuring their maximum return on investment in IT implementation projects. This is a step towards the solution of the biggest problem faced by organisations, a glimpse of which can be had from the estimate: “Out of every 10 large IT project implementations carried out by corporate India, only 3-4 have delivered.” The ROI (return on investment) issue has thus assumed great significance and hence the increased requirement for domain knowledge.

Today, working as a consultant in one of the leading multinational consultancies, I feel that the decision I made proved to be right only because it was well thought out. So I would suggest that you too spend some time exploring and follow your instincts while chalking out your career blueprint. If you are sure and sincere about what you want to do in life, success will surely be yours.

All the best!!