Included in this newsletter are alumni profiles, links of interest, and words of wisdom from the staff at Commerce Career Services. Please let us know if there is a topic you would like us to cover! If you know of an alum who would be a perfect fit for the alumni profiles, you can send me their information at email@example.com.
1. Alumni Profile
1) What were your favorite parts of the program? What were the most important things you took from your time at McIntire?
Favorite parts of the MS in MIT program: In order—
a) the ability to engage with highly-motivated students and faculty in a curriculum that is of great personal and professional interest to me.
b) the curriculum was excellent, and at the time I pursued my degree (2004 – 2005), it addressed the key issues in Information Technology better than any other program.
c) the interactive, face-to-face, case-method teaching approach made going to class something I always looked forward to.
Most important takeaways:
What I found of immeasurable value were the insights I gained from learning how others approach complex business problems. Although there is extensive published research on this topic, most of what I learned was tacit—from rolling up my sleeves and working with others. I learned that while there are some “best practices,” the approaches IT professionals follow are anything but formulaic, and that problem solving is highly iterative. Many times, through exchanging ideas from our own experiences, my classmates and I developed solutions to strategic challenges that didn’t follow the pathways anyone first supposed.
Second, because my career background is in business development, marketing and sales, I found the coursework on project and risk management particularly illuminating. Much of what I learned explained outcomes for situations I had encountered in previous jobs. In addition, the program helped me understand how executives think about risk, how it’s considered in financial analysis, and how both are applied to IT decision-making. One reason it annoys me to see the many articles that misuse financial terms such as ROI, when describing how to vet IT projects. I’ve written a few blogs about it.
2) Have you made a career change since you completed the degree? What elements of the program were helpful in making this change?
The MS in MIT program has enabled me to take on some great new projects for my consulting company, Outside Technologies, Inc. A couple of years after I graduated, I won a project to provide sales training for a large, global software developer. I traveled to five countries, including India and South Africa. The training program that my client asked me to deliver resembled the MS in MIT core outline—just very, very condensed. When I first saw it, I said, “I can do this!”
One unexpected surprise since graduating in 2005 is the visibility I’ve gained through writing and blogging. I posted my first blog in 2007, and am syndicated on a popular customer relationship management website, CustomerThink, where I am among the top-10 authors over the past five years. I find that the MS in MIT program has given me plenty to draw on when I’m covering an IT topic.
Today, marketing automation, sales enablement, and analytics are being recognized as offering great business value. Because few people in these fields have a background in direct Business-to-Business (B2B) sales, I have been able to leverage that experience, along with the knowledge I gained in McIntire’s MS in MIT program. There are some great emerging opportunities with growing companies, and I am considering a couple of them.
3) What advice/words of wisdom do you have for current or future MS in MIT students who are considering either a job change or career change now that they are working towards the MS in MIT degree?
I’m pretty bullish on the value of advanced college degrees, but my first advice is to tackle a graduate degree because you love the subject matter and enjoy the stimulating environment of being in a great program with great people. If you are driven by the expectation that an MS in MIT degree will automatically lead to a promotion or to a higher-paying job with greater responsibility in a year or two, you may be disappointed. That said, you will come out of the program more valuable. From there, it’s your job to make sure others recognize it.
2. Articles of Note
3. Career Advice 2.0 – Words of Wisdom
From Aaron Gilley, Assistant Director of Career Development, CCS
“If you are looking to make a career leap soon, you have to act as an expert on your own behalf. If you are changing industries or hoping to move to a different department, you may have questions about how you can convince a prospective manager that because of your time doing ‘A’ that you’re now the best candidate to do ‘B.’ The secret is to ‘act as if.’ You must promote your credentials and experiences as if they ARE the best reason to be hired, not that they are A reason to be hired. Take ownership of your academic and work experiences, and use the MS in MIT program to tie everything together. You are selling yourself as a candidate, so know the product well; you are the right person for the job, and it is your responsibility to say why that is. Because of your time as an engineer, you ARE the right candidate for a role in product management; because of your time working in Defense, you ARE the right candidate for a career in management consulting. Practice communicating why this is true!”
4. We’re Here to Help
Commerce Career Services had a great time presenting Rebranding to the Charlottesville section, and we look forward to presenting to the NOVA section in June. We’ll be discussing the importance of integrating new skills, knowledge, and goals into your professional identity. Please don’t hesitate to contact Kelly Eddins (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Aaron Gilley (email@example.com) with any questions you might have. Have a great April!
Assistant Director of Career Development
Commerce Career Services
University of Virginia