They say it is easy to begin, a little more difficult to settle in and quite challenging to move up. A beginner can pretty much start anywhere and find a path, but once you have significant years of work experience under your belt, the question, ‘What next?’ takes on a very different dimension. It is even more challenging when that career movement also involves a career transition.
This article attempts to explore how someone with 5 to 10 years’ experience should approach MBA, what sort of a learning approach is recommended and what potential career options open up for participants with backgrounds in Marketing, Finance, Operations & Supply Chain and Information Management areas.
Approaching MBA post 5 years’ experience
Let us look at a potential student from the lens of any product or service that we may buy and consume. We seek optimum performance, price, durability, experience, and a lot more. In terms of people, we might break this into knowledge, skills and attitude, or traits. In today’s world, knowledge is easy to pick up, and is almost a given after a rigorous MBA programme. Skills take time but are clearly with managers who have years of experience before they decide it’s time to step up, leading often to the decision to study more and brush up. After this comes attitude, which covers how you respond to a range of situations and pressures of daily life and business activity, can become a differentiator. The difference between a leader and a manager, it is often said, is the attitude of the leader. This can of course take years to build, and sometimes a lifetime, to sharpen.
In management parlance, this is also described as the tripod of “knowing, doing and being”, as the former Dean of S P Jain Institute of Management & Research (SPJIMR) Dr. M L Shrikant often put it.
The one-year programmes for experienced candidates focuses on leveraging their past professional expertise and giving them a step jump in their careers. SPJIMR’s one-year Post Graduate Programme in Management (PGPM) admits candidates with relevant experience in chosen areas of specialisation, viz Finance, Marketing, Information Management and Operations & Supply Chain in order to provide accelerated growth to their careers. Participants graduating from this programme have, in the past, more or less doubled their incoming salary. This is not because of the institute brand name alone but the recruiters give a premium to the overall transformation that happens in the candidate during the one year MBA. In order to leverage their experience and turn it into an advantage, the participants need to be open to learning through a wide range of methods, and not just the conventional methods of acquiring knowledge and skills.
The T-Shaped Learning approach
As the candidates for the one-year PGPM programme come with experience in specific areas and backgrounds, this programme becomes more of a career accelerator, leveraging the skills from the specific areas they have worked in.
Even while candidates specialise in their particular areas, they are expected to have an understanding across the breadth of management topics coupled with depth in their chosen areas of specialisation. This is where the ’T-shaped’ learning approach plays an important role.
In SPJIMR for example, even though the PGPM candidates are chosen for a particular area of specialisation such as Marketing, Operations and Supply Chain, Information Management or Finance, all the candidates are taken through the three General Management (GM) phases that cover courses across all the fundamental business aspects. After completing the GM phase, candidates are then taken deeper into their chosen specialisation where they build upon their past experience.
Parallel to the programme, PGPM candidates are also introduced to business practices, industry practitioners and alumni networks to develop outside classroom skill sets specific to the roles they are passionate about. The candidates are expected to demonstrate their classroom learnings via live industry projects and in their regular interaction with top industry leaders.
Having discussed the learning styles, we now shift our focus to possible career transitions post the one-year MBA.
Career Transition Opportunities Outlook for the next three years
Based on our experience at SPJIMR’s PGPM programme for people with experience, we foresee the following opportunities emerging in terms of typical specialisations offered in MBA institutes.
Operations & Supply Chain
Participants in the Operations domain opt for careers in traditional areas of Supply Chain Management, Logistics, Procurement and Project Management, as well as in the upcoming areas of Analytics and Technology Consulting. Consulting firms have been the largest recruiters of management graduates with significant prior experience in operations. These consulting roles range from strategy consulting to process consulting and technology consulting. The prior experience of one year MBA graduates puts them at an advantage while understanding the clients’ business processes and navigating the consulting project through the organisational dynamics.
With the rise in technology driven roles across the industry, Information Management roles are expected to continue being in demand. Product Management appears to be one of the most favoured roles by participants while Technology Consulting is likely to continue to be one of the most offered roles. Firms offering such roles do look for candidates with similar domain experience in the past and some even specify specific requirements like SAP, Workday etc as part of their job description. Analytics is another big area where we expect positions to keep coming up. Traditional roles of Project management, programme leads and B2B solution sales are likely to stay in demand.
Besides the classical roles of B2B and B2C sales, participants from this specialisation are also witnessing a strong demand from the digital marketing and ecommerce companies. Roles like Digital Marketing Manager, Category Manager, Marketing Analytics Lead have seen a growth recently. What this means for candidates is that if their incoming experience does not have these skill sets, they need to utilize both in-classroom and outside classroom capabilities to succeed in these areas. At SPJIMR’s PGPM, participants are encouraged to undertake specific workshops, connected with alumni/industry leaders in these areas and supported with live projects besides specific academic courses to develop these skill-sets.
The finance batch, across campuses, typically witnesses a larger number of roles coming from corporate banking/wealth management/relationship management. Depending on incoming profiles, candidates are also considered for Equity Research, Financial Planning and Analysis, Private Equity and Investment Banking roles. Like other specialisations, Analytics has been an upcoming field even in this area. Additionally, we expect the new-age fintech companies to drive recruitment as they move on their growth trajectory.
To sum it up
It is quite clear that the world is changing. The current situation adds a complex twist to the change dynamic that was already underway with forces like Industry 4.0, signs of some retreat in globalisation and ideas of sustainability getting a new push from regulators, consumers and industry. It is difficult to paint a picture of which way businesses will evolve and what new opportunities are likely to emerge. But it is safe to say that a readiness to learn and adapt, along with a strong grounding in knowledge, skills and the right attitude will always be a winner in the marketplace.
SP Jain Institute of Management and Research (SPJIMR) is a constituent of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and is ranked amongst the top 10 business schools in India. The Post Graduate Programme in Management (PGPM) (www.spjimr.org/pgpm) is a one-year full-time residential management programme preceded by 3 months of online learning, that enables candidates with minimum 5 years of work experience and strong domain expertise, to move to expansive roles in general management. PGPM is AICTE approved, and accredited by AACSB and AMBA. The PGPM programme currently operates from Its Mumbai campus. The PGPM programme commences in October every year. The admissions timeframe for the PGPM programme is March to August.
About the Author
Mr Bhishm Chugani heads placements for SPJIMR. He has 11 years of experience in education, heading placements at ISB, Bocconi Asia and now at SPJIMR. He is a graduate from ISB and has 7 years of experience in the IT/ITES industry across project and engagement management before his career in education and placements.