I’m sighing here, because I’ve just heard from an another very good IT professional who has decided their career will be immeasurably enhanced by doing a higher degree.
I’m sighing not because I don’t think there is value in higher degrees from an academic perspective, but because this individual thinks that anyone cares about the higher degree when it comes to what makes someone’s career take off.
There is this false expectation that “if I just get this MBA, I can get to the next level”.
Tied in with this false expectation is the thought that anyone in IT is going to get their career managed for them by their employers.
I have news. You will not have a boss long enough in IT for them to manage your career for you in any substantive way, and most large organisations are rubbish at long term talent management anyway. The fact is, long term IT professionals who don’t change jobs frequently enough get painted into a corner where their skills devalue over time. And IT organisations are full of people who know this, and who therefore move every few years, making long term talent management pretty impossible.
Now, considering that a higher degree is going to take a few years to get, and everyone on the playing field who matters (and stopping you progressing) will be gone in a few years, how is the new piece of paper going to make any difference at all, really?
When people look at CVs, they don’t usually care all that much about the education, so long as there are signs there is some. They only care about what you’ve already done in your career to that point. Anyone can get a degree, after all, even a higher one.
But not everyone is able to make things happen. That’s especially true in IT, where we have optimised ourselves to make sure that change can only happen in extreme circumstances. “Protecting live service” – which is very laudable of course – has ultimately had the effect of making sure that only those with the largest sticks can make any difference.
A new degree does not give you a large stick. Hierarchical position is a large stick, or control of a budget is a large stick or the ear of someone important is a large stick. You get such sticks by doing stuff, not by having an advanced degree. People who can hand out sticks do so because the have worked out it is OK to trust you.
Really, there are only two times it makes sense to get further degrees, with all the attendant cost and time commitments.
The first is if you’re new to work, and you have no career history. Then, having that advanced degree is a nice CV stuffer that can help differentiate, but I do wonder if the personal ROI on maybe getting selected for a few extra interviews is really worth the extra years of study.
The second reason – really the only reason I think – is you’re interested in the content.
So often, good people with good jobs in IT go and get that extra degree, but not for either of these reasons. That’s why I sigh. Its such a waste for most people.
They’d be far better off cultivating people who can give them big sticks instead.