Practically every single day I get a couple of emails with the following query:
I am working with XYZ company as a software engineer/ BPO executive/ something-else but-fed-up-with-it. But for ABC reasons I cannot do a full time MBA. What is your opinion of part time MBA? Can you recommend a good one?
And some put it even more bluntly: Please give all the information about Mba part time and crosspondance courses
The funny bit is they write this after reading this piece written by me on precisely the same subject.
While my overall assessment of part time courses remains the same it has been close to 3 years since that was published. So here's an update for those still looking for answers. To do or not to do: the Part time Puzzle was published in Businessworld's annual 'Mega Indian Bschool Guide' earlier this year.
As readers of this blog were an important source of feedback and the guide has been out for over 6 months now, I am sharing with you my findings. Besides, I really can't reply to each of you personally - answering practically the same Qs!
To do or not to do: the Part time Puzzle
- by Rashmi Bansal
published March 2007
Why does the Leaning Tower of Pisa lean? Why is George Bush such a clown? What is the secret of eternal youth? These are mysteries which may yet remain unsolved. But there’s one puzzling question I do have some answers to.
“Should I do a part time MBA?” is a subject weighing on many minds. Assuming you can’t – or don’t wish to - give up your job to pursue a full time course, is it worth spending time, money and effort on? Given that no part-time or distance courses offers placements, will it offer a tangible boost to your career?
The answer is: it depends. Part time courses definitely lack the prestige factor of full time MBAs. But choose carefully and you will reap benefits.
When Zubin George joined JBIMS’ 3 year part time MIM (Masters in Information Management) he was a developer with Innovative Systems. He’s now moved to Citigroup’s information technology division in a management role.
And he has no regrets. “The quality and depth of learning was far greater than what I would have got from a full time course. The kind of questions raised and the quality of answers from the faculty were outstanding”. In other words, more practice than theory - direct application value. That must be why, despite the grueling after-work and weekend timings the classes had a healthy attendance statistic of 65-70%.
Managing work and studies is always the dilemma for the part-timer. The PGPSEM (Post Graduate Program in Software Enterprise Management) program offered by IIM Bangalore is no exception. 33 year old Abhinav Agarwal completed his PGPSEM in 2006. “There are students who manage to excel at work and get straight As but then something’s gotta give. Their personal life suffers”.
Classes are held on every Friday and Saturday but there are also weekly tests and of course, assignments. Is 2.5 years of this self inflicted stress worth it?
Yes, asserts Abhinav. “Over 500 of us have completed the PGPSEM program since it kicked off in 1998.” Unfortunately, no formal survey has been conducted to assess its co-relation with individual career growth. But anecdotal evidence suggests many direct and indirect benefits. “I was a product manager with Oracle,” says Abhinav. “I am now a Principal Product Manager. And yes, I do believe the PGPSEM has accelerated the process.”
There are many interesting twists that PGPSEM has introduced in some careers. Arun Narasani, also from the batch of 2006, started ‘Brain League’, an Intellectual Property services company. The company was incubated at IIM Bangalore’s NSRCEL (Nadathur S. Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning ).
Another student who was working with Oracle when he entered the PGPSEM program, joined venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins midway. He is now a VP at a mobile applications company funded by the same VC.
“Besides what you learn in class I definitely see a networkng effect,” says Abhinav. “You meet a hundred odd people from outside your company and your immediate line of work”. That’s certainly an aspect of the 18 month Executive MBA at S P Jain that Siemens engineer Rashmi Das enjoys. Interestingly, she is based in Bangalore but travels to Mumbai once every 10 weeks for the 10 days of classroom contact sessions. The rest of the time course delivery, quizzes and assignments are conducted online.
Rashmi is extremely pleased with the faculty, the quality of case studies and group work. One semester into the course she says, “Meeting people from other companies and altogether different industries has broaded my perspective.” It’s a similar story with Sunil Malik, Senior Manager Public Relations and Corrporate Communications at XIM Bhubaneshwar, after he enrolled in the broadband assisted long PGCBM (Post Graduate Certificate in Business Management) offered by his own institute.
While Sunil happens to be on the XIMB campus, other participants log in from Reliance centers in their respective cities every weekend. Assignments and quizzes are conducted online, and so are ‘endterm exams’. The highlight of the 12 month course is a 7 day campus visit during which participants meet and interact on the XIMB campus. As far as impact on career goes, the immediate effect can’t always be pin-pointed but participants are confident of a boost in the longer run.
Akhil Agarwal, a CA rankholder and a CS to boot, was part of the inaugural batch of the XIM PGCBM (2005-6). Midway through the course he switched jobs (from Reliance to ICI Paints), with a significant shift in role and salary. But this, he believes, is a break he would have got whether or not he enrolled in the XIMB course.
His classmate Shekhar Rao, however, attributes his mid-course job shift within the telecom industry to his enhanced qualification. “I am getting double the salary today and a responsibility for which ‘an MBA’ was a necessary requirement.” The XIMB name, he says, definitely helped tip the scales in his favour. “Besides, I learnt a lot from the course itself”. And additional benefit: he can refer back to professors for advice and mentorship on problems.
The verdict then is clear: a part time program from a brand name institution does have its value. Although ‘official’ placements may not be part of the deal, the informal network does contribute to a career boost.
While part time MBAs don’t command the same kind of respect as full time ones, some companies do value them more than others. Case in point: 20-25% of the 2006 PGPSEM class comprised of Wipro employees. Infosys also actively supports the program and recently helped IIMB expand it to Chennai.
Says Rashmi, “If you are working in the regional development centre of an MNC, a part time or Executive MBA may not have that much value. But it will really help you in an Indian software company, particularly product managers.” She also believes that one should have 5-6 years of experience and be extremely self-motivated to truly reap benefits.
Much also depends on the attitude of your company. Around 50% of students in part time courses like PGPSEM are sponsored. But it’s not clear how many companies are simply using their sponsorship as a retention strategy, and how many have actually chalked out a post-MBA career path for their employees.
Of course, none of these courses come cheap. While the 3 year Bajaj course sets you back by Rs 1 lakh, S P Jain’s Executive MBA costs Rs 2.65 lakhs (excluding
travel cost to Mumbai for contact sessions). XIMB’s broadband aided PGCBM is Rs 1.5 lakhs for 12 months. Similar certificate courses are also offered by XLRI, IIM K, IIFT, NMIMS etc in collaboration with VSAT provider Hughes Direcway.
In conclusion, ‘cause and effect’ are palpable but not always as tangible as in the full time program. But the very act of stretching onself, of seeking knowledge and opening up to new ideas and opportunities is what perhaps makes a difference.
Speaking of success in terms of ‘formulas’, a participant on an online MBA forum obseves, “Whenever a chemical reaction happens where A mixes with B to produce C, this catalyst helps speed up the process so that C is produced sooner... The catalyst CANNOT alter the chemical reaction to produce D instead of C”.
Given quality raw material, a good part-time MBA could be that career catalyst.
Tomorrow: The dope on Distance Learning MBAs