* The Business of Software

A former community discussing the business of software, from the smallest shareware operation to Microsoft. A part of Joel on Software.

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Moderators:

Andy Brice
Successful Software

Doug Nebeker ("Doug")

Jonathan Matthews
Creator of DeepTrawl, CloudTrawl, and LeapDoc

Nicholas Hebb
BreezeTree Software

Bob Walsh
host, Startup Success Podcast author of The Web Startup Success Guide and Micro-ISV: From Vision To Reality

Patrick McKenzie
Bingo Card Creator

Should I get an MBA?

I have about 15 years experience as a jack of all trades techie.

Is there any value in getting an MBA for a techie in this day and age?
Mister Ed Send private email
Monday, November 09, 2015
 
 
Are you considering attending a prestigious business school or a local college ?

Do you consider your career path to be moving into management ?

Are you working for a company that cares about these things ?
koan Send private email
Monday, November 09, 2015
 
 
Someone told me this book is good:
https://sivers.org/book/PersonalMBA

Buy that and save yourself thousands of $$ (or even just read the summary).
Andy Brice Send private email
Monday, November 09, 2015
 
 
I'm totally with Andy here.

After Humanities and Gender Studies, MBA is the next most useless degree out there.

The only course that might have some real value from the whole MBA program is Accounting.

Just start whatever business you wanna start, and learn as you go.

The only case where you might really need an MBA degree is if you've got an almost guaranteed offer for a promotion that requires the degree.

In that case I'd calculate the cost of the degree including both the education fees and lost productivity hours, and the benefits I'd get as an increased salary and other company perks. Even getting a fake MBA degree would be an option I'd thoroughly consider.
Mangler Send private email
Monday, November 09, 2015
 
 
> Are you considering attending a prestigious business school or a local college ?

Local college

> Do you consider your career path to be moving into management ?

Possibly.  I would rather write code but hear that opportunities to code dry up as one ages.

> Are you working for a company that cares about these things?

Not really.  I'd have to move up three pay grades for them to care....and the odds of that happening anytime soon are close to zero.
Mister Ed Send private email
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
 
 
Brice,

I did read that book!  Good book which convinced me NOT to get an MBA.  However, I've been thinking about it again...thinking that might be the only way to break out of the rut that I am in.

BTW any relation to Brice Richard?
Mister Ed Send private email
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
 
 
Andy, sorry I meant to post Mr. Brice. :)
Mister Ed Send private email
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
 
 
Like many questions, the answer is: it depends.

Are you a permanent employee working in a company where career progression is dictated by credentials?
I've spent almost 20 years as a freelancer in investment banking and watched many employees take the MBA or Masters of Finance plunge as it was their primary leverage up the corporate ladder. If that's the case, and you're willing to forego your social life for the next two years, consider asking your employer for support.

If you're a contractor/freelancer my experience has been that many clients and agencies consider it icing on the cake and nothing more. Post-graduate credentials came a distant second to experience. "What have you done lately" always took priority over "what letter do you have after your name".

What *may* be more beneficial to increase your value is focusing more on your domain knowledge. What industries have you spent the last 15 years in. What arduous business problems can you solve using technology? Technical skills come and go faster than specific business knowledge to solve problems in a particular industry.

All the best -
Marcus from London Send private email
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
 
 
>BTW any relation to Brice Richard?

No. Brice is his first (given) name and my last (family) name.
Andy Brice Send private email
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
 
 
For such a major decision, it's probably better to look for data rather than emotional responses. The Economist is one relatively unbiased source. There are several articles, including:

http://www.economist.com/news/business/21601884-payback-time

"Cheaper, shorter MBAs around the world offer better returns. Students at HEC make enough extra money upon graduation to pay off their degrees in less than two years. Schools, such as IESE, that enroll lots of students from poor countries who then find jobs in the West also fare well."
GregT Send private email
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
 
 
"Cheaper, shorter MBAs around the world offer better returns. Students at HEC make enough extra money upon graduation to pay off their degrees in less than two years"

That's a good way to frame it, GregT.

So effectively it will take 4 years (2 years study + 2 years to recoup cost) before you show a positive ROI on the investment.

It's probably also worth comparing the opportunity cost against other alternatives (e.g. short courses, industry training, investing the time & money in a mISV).
Marcus from London Send private email
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
 
 
> No. Brice is his first (given) name and my last (family) name.

Okay.  I thought his name might be Richard Brice and he just reversed his first and last names.  Do you remember him at all?  Seemed like a pretty successful guy but liked to brag a lot.
Mister Ed Send private email
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
 
 
> Are you a permanent employee working in a company where career progression is dictated by credentials?

No, at least not unless I am promoted a few pay grades but that chances of that happening are extremely low.

> If you're a contractor/freelancer my experience has been that many clients and agencies consider it icing on the cake and nothing more. Post-graduate credentials came a distant second to experience. "What have you done lately" always took priority over "what letter do you have after your name".

I am not a freelancer but thought about going this route someday.  Perhaps freelancing on the side would be a better investment of my time?

> What *may* be more beneficial to increase your value is focusing more on your domain knowledge. What industries have you spent the last 15 years in. What arduous business problems can you solve using technology? Technical skills come and go faster than specific business knowledge to solve problems in a particular industry.

Most of the problems solved were automation of HR or back office functions.  Never heard of a degree in HR, however.
Mister Ed Send private email
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
 
 
Greg, thank you for the link.  I guess it is a crapshoot whether it is worth it or not.  Question for those of you here, of the people you know who decided to get an MBA, would they say it was worth it?
Mister Ed Send private email
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
 
 
> It's probably also worth comparing the opportunity cost against other alternatives (e.g. short courses, industry training, investing the time & money in a mISV).

Would you say that mISV is still a viable business model?  I was reading some posts on another forum from a gentleman who used to post here.  He believes that the mISV seems to have died out as a nano-trend.  In other words, this business model peaked about 10 years ago and has gone downhill since.  Would you say that this is the case or is it still possible to achieve success in this area?
Mister Ed Send private email
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
 
 
"Never heard of a degree in HR, however"

Nope, not talking about getting a degree in your domain but increasing your skills, knowledge and value in that area.

This might be through reading, short courses or certification.

For example, I work in IB, so a certificate course in derivatives or risk methodologies may be suitable.


Are mISV dead?
I don't believe so.

There are many people quietly doing very nicely thank you selling online. Many of those people happen to sell software.

Perhaps the first issue is framing. Don't consider it a mISV but a business (my poor choice of words, but I wanted to use a term that was familiar) A business that just happens to be on line. That just happens to sell software.

The second issue is solving the right problem, one for which there is a genuine demand. Erik Sink's article Winning by a Barrel of Rocks is a good start.

You're not trying to create the next Word or Google Docs. Not even the next best accounting software. But accounting software for Alpaca farmers; maybe that's a goer.

The next is marketing which most of us nerds suck at. Again reframing may help. We're not selling software. We're selling a solution to a problem that people ware willing to pay for to solve that problem. The solution just happens to be software.

Andy Brice has sold over a million (dollars?) of his application over the last decade (Andy - correct me if I'm wrong). Not enough to buy your own island, but a nice living nonetheless.
Marcus from London Send private email
Thursday, November 12, 2015
 
 
I am a software engineer with delusions of working for myself some day.  I got myself an online MBA (heavily subsidized by one of my former employers) from these folks: http://www.wgu.edu/

I have no problems with curriculum at that non-profit online-only school, but I have to say that the degree has not helped much in my career, other than I can now say I have a Masters degree (in the US defense industry, that helps - believe it or not).  Personally, I'm a programmer to the core, but I chose to pursue an MBA mostly because:

1.) I'm already self-motivated enough to learn any CS-related topics I'm interested in on my own.
2.) The ROI on an MSCS is questionable to say the least, and a PhD in CS is only useful if I wanted to go into academia (I don't).
3.) I do have some amount of interest in business matters (related to my desire to be self-employed someday).

During my MBA studies I discovered that an MBA is not relevant to someone looking to start a small business, it's really only relevant to someone looking to take on management roles in a large-ish organization. 

Probably the only useful knowledge I picked up during my MBA program were the classes on finance and accounting (and to a lesser extent, marketing).  The generic 'management' and 'leadership' knowledge I had largely already acquired from my years in the Army.

Now, having said all that, if you can get an MBA from a top-tier school (Harvard Business School, Wharton, etc.), you stand an excellent chance of moving up a socioeconomic class or two.  So in that case, it may well be worth it.
James A. Send private email
Monday, November 16, 2015
 
 

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