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roos

Game programmer with an MBA

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Hi, I'm planning to enroll at University of Chicago's MBA program starting this fall as a full-time student. Actually, what I want to do is programming (my undergrad degree was in CS), but later in life I may go into management, so I decided to get this degree over with now. (Later I'll be having too much fun developing games to go back to school!) So, fast forward 2 years. I have an CS degree and an MBA and now I'm looking for a job as an entry-level programmer. My question is, do you think the MBA will be seen favorably by employers? Here's some ideas I had, but I'm not sure if this is really how employers would view it: Pros: * I can market my ability to work in a team, and talk about the training I got in B-school, like leadership effectiveness seminars, etc. * U of Chicago is one of the top few business schools Cons: * Even though U of Chicago is well-known among companies who hire MBA's, I don't know if game development companies would know its reputation * Maybe they will see me as a "suit" and not a "developer", and question if I really have any technical skill. Thanks in advance, any input would be greatly appreciated! roos

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When hiring an entry level programmer you're generally not looking for a manager. You are looking for a good programmer. When you hire/promote an experienced programmer to a lead position then you might be looking for management ability but not with entry level positions.

An MBA isn't really going to do much to help you get a programming job. You will need strong programming/math/physics and almost certainly a good portfolio of game demos. In fact some interviewers will wonder just how much you love programming if you switched from CS to an MBA. Last thing they want from an entry level coder is a guy who is too busy looking for a way out of programming to get on and learn to actually make games.

At the end of the day it is your life and it is important to be ready for the future. If an MBA interests you then get it - you may well find that once on the course it is far more intresting to you than game development. If at the end you still want to do development (and have managed to keep up with your programming skills and create a portfolio while doing an MBA) then go for the programming job. Just don't make a big fuss about how much you know about running a business - that isn't what they are hiring you for so it wont help.

[Edited by - Obscure on June 17, 2005 12:20:22 PM]

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Thanks a lot, that answers my question :) Well in either case I definitely plan to keep up w/ my demos and portfolio, but at least now I have some idea of where I stand.

roos

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Quote:
Original post by roos
I'm planning to enroll at University of Chicago's MBA program starting this fall...fast forward 2 years. I have an CS degree and an MBA and now I'm looking for a job as an entry-level programmer. My question is, do you think the MBA will be seen favorably by employers?

I can only tell you about my experience as a Master's Level Engineer - I've got an MS, BS, and a BA. The MS and BS are in Industrial/Systems Engineering, the BA in Psychology (with a year's worth of an uncompleted Master's in counseling).

When job hunting, I initially thought that the undergrad in psych would lead others to think I was a "people person", etc... and that the MS in Engineering would help me to stand out above the rest of the competition.

What I did *not* predict is that many places would rather hire a BS over an MS for the fear that the MS will demand a higher salary. So, in 2 years, you may be marketing yourself as an entry-level programmer who went the extra mile to get the MBA. You may have seen the 2003 Game Development Salary Survey at Gamasutra; entry-level programmers are perhaps earning less than someone with an MBA. And FWIW, as a Master's student, I personally knew people with Ph.D.'s who were trying to get jobs in industry (as opposed to academics) and would not put the Ph.D. on their resume for the same reason...

I agree with the pros and cons you mentioned in your OP. But oft times in today's world, where everything seems to boil down to bean counting, organizations will want to hire you for one specific purpose and pay you accordingly, rather than employ a multi-faceted individual, especially for entry-level positions.

In spite of all this, the MBA can certainly do no harm for your personal goals and advancement. Furthermore, what you learn while getting your MBA could help with organizational and/or career advancement after you've been programming for a while.

I hope this helps to give you some insight, and thanks for reading.

-Razorguts

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The MBA degree is not recognized as much as experience when it comes to programming. If you want to do management, then I'd suggest 2 avenues: technical or marketing.

You can get into project management if you want to stay close to games development. This usually leads you into a production position. The Project Management Institute (PMI, www.pmi.org) offers several programs for becoming a PMP (Project Management Professional). There is nothing like a good project manager to keep a project on track and within budget; the best ones are worth a fortune.

If you want to do more marketing, then product management, marketing communication, or technical marketing (such as working for a HW company) would allow you to use your games programming experience in a marketing and business development. An MBA is usually needed for such positions. Many middleware and hardware companies are looking for tech guys with a nose for profits and business opportunities; again, the best ones earn lots of money.

> so I decided to get this degree over with now

MBA programs don't teach you leadership, communication, charisma or managerial skills. At best they teach you the mechanics of making money from a financial, accounting, HR, marketing, PR, organizational, and strategic perspective. I'd suggest you wait until you have a good 2 years of *managerial* experience before investing in an MBA; by *managerial* experience I mean being in a leadership position or having financial responsibilities. The PMP certification, however, can be done pretty much any time and nothing prevents you from adding an MBA later on. Choice is yours.

-cb

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