People once built mainframe computers and then desktop computers. They gave us laptops, voicemail, satellites, cell phones, smartphones, short message service, and social media. We received supercomputers, computer tablets, algorithms, data science, voice-tech … and evolving artificial intelligence.
It happened on a global scale.
And we went to work each day.
Bernard McSherry, founding dean of the New Jersey City University School of Business, broadly recalls his former career as a member of the New York Stock Exchange, where he was a first-hand witness to industry colleagues who “hoped” that technology would fade – that, in effect, they might get on with their lives the way they used to be.
McSherry saw that “a lot of [those] people found their careers and livelihoods swept away.”
A constant refrain is that technology today is both ever-changing and changing everything, and if we were to blink, we’d join the ranks of the underemployed or unemployed.
Appropriate skills/mindsets can keep us relevant, and the venerable MBA degree with its new specializations such as data analytics and financial technology – combined with its timeless business operations principles – can help.
Doug Miller, associate dean for MBA programs at Rutgers Business School, explains as background, “Companies are not filling the ranks of middle management; they haven’t for a long time. They don’t need certain people just in a hierarchy because otherwise they wouldn’t be able to communicate or keep track of people. We have all kinds of communication and co-working tools these days.”
He adds, “What companies need is people who are fully capable on a technical or a professional side, but are also able to develop teams, innovate and communicate across functions.”
Miller says, “The benefit of an MBA program – as opposed to some sort of certificate or professional development – is that you can upskill in [technical/professional] areas, and also work on what I call the really hard skills, which are things like persuasive public speaking, conflict resolution and the ability to synthesize information from many different sources and come to a solution.”
Miller adds, “The MBA continues to be a valuable degree in most industries, and for most sizes of business. The fact that a student may already be a doctor of pharmacy, a PhD biologist, an attorney or a certified financial analyst [means] the MBA can multiply or magnify the strengths they already have.”
People continuing their formal education in their 30s, 40s and 50s have the distinct advantages of typically already being deeply aware of their innate talents, personalities, work habits and other preferences. These insights can operate in tandem with years of insights into their professions or business in general.
With the assistance of a qualified career mentor and internet access, one can settle questions of tuition and begin to hone in on a MBA specific program at a specific higher education institution.
Prospective students must then determine the day-to-day logistics associated with pursuing an MBA while tending to family commitments and professional pressures.
NJCU’s McSherry says, “Sometimes students are drawn to very accelerated programs, but it is kind of like swimming across a bay underwater, holding your breath; you have to jump into the water and hold your breath the whole way without really coming up for air.
“I think it is important to figure out where you are in your own life, and make sure that you find a program that has the flexibility and the meeting patterns that fit your life.”
Many higher education institutions offer not only in-person courses, but also hybrid courses (a combination of online and in-person), as well as evening and weekend courses – and also accelerated hybrid courses.
Rutgers’ Miller says, “Some of our most successful students have been people who have taken several years to complete the degree, because in the meantime, they have actually been given promotions where they work and needed to give attention [to their jobs]. They may also have family issues arise.”
Jennifer Maden, assistant dean and director for graduate studies at the Rohrer College of Business at Rowan University, describes what might be termed a course load “rule of thumb”: 10 hours a week devoted to a traditional, 16-week class, for example.
Maden explains, “That’s attending class sessions, doing homework, possibly connecting with classmates or faculty to make sure you are all on the same page with assignments … or just building relationships.”
Some students feel that one or two classes are a good fit for them, with Maden adding, “There’s a small number of students who work full time and take three classes, but we actually advise against that for students who are working full time.”
Every entity – whether for-profit or nonprofit – either creates a product or offers a service, and many core business concepts are equal across these bases. And while the MBA can propel a standard worker, it also has broad appeal for those who wish to teach others as they advance toward traditional retirement age.
Maden reveals, “Another trend I am seeing is people saying that they would like to teach in the latter stages of their careers. And we have quite a few adjunct faculty members doing exactly that after they finish a graduate degree.
“We do see increased interest [among our students] in nonprofit organizations, whether it is full-time work, volunteer work, or serving on a board. While it is more so with our more mature, seasoned students, we’re starting to see that from younger students as well; not everyone is targeting the for-profit, corporate institution.”
The future labor market may be increasingly replete with automation technology, intelligent machines and fewer humans using computer keyboards/monitors in so-called
“knowledge worker” jobs. Yet, most people agree that humans will likely own, repair and otherwise interact with computers/”robots” in these environments, and that at the highest levels where algorithms intersect, human minds may have to solve problems.
The comprehensions gleaned from an MBA may help facilitate that exact purpose, while also providing a larger paycheck in the preceding years.
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