Should you get an MBA?

It takes a monumental commitment, both financially and personally, but an MBA could be the fastest ticket to business proficiency.

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Leadership skills are similarly glossed over in most MBA programs, Glen says. "Leadership is about understanding the emotions of people. MBA programs don't teach that well. Most MBA programs are far more focused on rational thought. They try to teach you how to think like a rationalistic CEO, but then you go back in the workforce and you're not a CEO. You're a manager, and you know how CEOs are supposed to approach problems, but you don't know more about managing people."

However, you do know more about how others think, says Weis.

"The biggest thing it has done is connect me to the financial, marketing, sales and operations issues. I see the business better through my peers' eyes," he says. Also invaluable, Weis says, is the deep knowledge of finance he acquired in business school. This has served him especially well in managing a large portfolio of competing projects and in negotiating with IT vendors.

"One skill I developed that was a surprise to me was negotiation," Weis says. Fifty percent of IT spending is with IT vendors, but CIOs rarely get training in how to negotiate deals, he says. Prior to earning his MBA, he says he'd squeeze a vendor for maybe 30% and think that he had done a good job. "I'd argue that what I learned about negotiating at Wharton has paid for my MBA degree 20 times over," he says.

John Seral, CIO at GE Infrastructure, returned to school to earn an MBA at DeVry University's Keller Graduate School of Management in Chicago three years after joining GE and six years after earning an undergraduate degree in computer science at the University of Illinois.

"Three years into the job at GE Capital, I realized I had a gap trying to understand cash flow and the language of the business. There were a lot of things I didn't understand. I asked a lot of questions," he recalls. "My background was very typical -- light on business courses, as I had pictured myself in math, technology and computer science."

Today, what he learned as an MBA student directly impacts how he finances and manages technology at GE Infrastructure. "Going deeper into accounting and understanding how costs are managed gives you different ideas about how to finance your projects and sell them internally," he says. "You earn credibility, and you have a lot more confidence selling your ideas."

Jim Marascio, chief technology officer at 11Giraffes in Charlotte, N.C., admits to being somewhat myopic in his approach to decision-making before earning an MBA at the University of Maine. He returned to school to earn an MBA after working a few years in a more engineering-oriented role as a technical liaison, which he landed after earning an undergraduate degree in computer science.

"One reason I went back for an MBA is that I wanted to be in a business leadership role rather than in the trenches in a development role," he says.

He says that having earned an MBA, he has a much better understanding of the views and opinions of everyone on the management team, which is invaluable because "if I can't understand why the CFO is positioning something a certain way, I'm not going to be successful working with the CFO."

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