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MBA for devs: creating opportunities to practice practical programming


This is part 4 of a series on why a software engineer should consider getting an MBA.

One thing you will learn in the MBA program early and have reinforced over and over again is that people in business positions solve nearly every problem using Excel. If you can resist the temptation to do the same, you will find that the MBA program offers a low-pressure opportunity to create lots and lots of software.

I took a finance concentration, which meant a lot of math. Much of this is typically done with template-style Excel sheets that you download and use, or are given by the professor. Instead, I created my own programs to calculate risks and profit, and used languages that were new to me in order to keep my interest. By doing this I got more comfortable in new languages (R, I think, and Python) and actually improved my understanding of the material by requiring myself to restate everything and get at the guts of how everything worked.

If your interest is in frontend stuff, try writing everything in JavaScript and make a nice UI for it, using a new library you’ve been meaning to try out. Or try optimizing your code and finding faster algorithms, or just take all your notes down as a Prolog knowledgebase. Whatever your thing is, you can shoehorn it into whatever boring class you can’t seem to get into and find yourself interested again, like magic.

One last thing I’ll say in favor of this approach is that it requires you to connect the material in the MBA to the practice of software development, in a way that will be very valuable to you and to the people you work for. Translating business requirements into working software requirements is apparently one of the more difficult aspects of our profession, but one which is made a lot easier through both practice and insight.