Why would a Programmer get their MBA?

I was an Information Systems major at the CU Boulder Business School when I taught myself some HTML and took programming classes like C and VB alongside stats, accounting, principles of database design and marketing, circa 1996.  Since then my life as a professional Programmer seems to have come to an end and the next chapter is beginning.

For the past 2 years I’ve worked as a “Product Owner” for PR Newswire.  A Product Owner bridges Product Management and Software Development, understanding the business, customer and market as well as the code, deployments and infrastruture (see Agile).  I love this job and it’s perfect for me.  My 10 years as a Programmer gave me the foundation for building great software, however I felt weaknesses in my business knowledge, specifically as I work more and more with the corporate enterprise (budgets, financial statements, etc).

So, I’ve decided to get my MBA.

The Executive MBA program from the University of Colorado is right down the street from my office in downtown Denver, the class is full of experienced colleagues from a variety of industries and I’m really digging this so far.  The program meets one day a week, alternating Fri and Sat.  We take 2 classes at once, currently Leadership and Financial Accounting.

My observations after the first 2 weeks:

  • I can now easily read and understand Financial Statements: 10k, 10q, 8k, Balance Sheet, Income Statement, Cash Flow and Shareholder’s Equity
  • I spend every other day throughout the week with an Auditor, Bond Trader, Marketer and Product Manager, my Class Group for the next 2 years and my new best friends.  It’s a wonderfully new perspective and I’m enjoying sharing it with this group.
  • CU is 5 years behind the technology curve.  I have heavy textbooks, lots of paper and everything is Powerpoint, jump drives and, no joke, overhead projectors (think: Jr High science class).  This has been a bummer given my current MacBook Air, global distributed team and cloud based tooling for every single aspect of my life.
  • Spending 1 day a week thinking about business finance/accounting and leadership is incredibly refreshing and energizes me for my daily life at PR Newswire.  It’s like having an offsite once/week.
  • 2 big resources for me already have been MBA Mondays and Finance Fridays

Several of my Business Heroes advised me against getting my MBA but gave me tons of support applying.  I really appreciate that and think about their opinions weekly.  I’ve loved comparing my MBA experience with their advice “F the MBA, if you really want to learn about business go work for a startup!”  I want them to know that in the past week I’ve cited TechStars, Do More Faster and the Boulder, NYC tech scene almost every time I’ve opened my mouth to say something about financing, executing or kicking ass in general, Thank you.

Back to studying!



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