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Is getting an MBA helpful for a software engineer who wants to start their own company later on?

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Anonymous User at Taro Community8 months ago

Background: I completed my engineering degree from a tier 3 college in India and have been working as a software engineer in an early-stage startup in the UAE for the past 7 years.

I have always had a desire to start my own company, and though I attempted it twice in the past, unfortunately, those endeavors didn't succeed.

I neither have worked for a renowned company nor attended a prestigious college. Consequently, I also lack a strong professional network. This makes me wonder if pursuing an MBA from a reputable college would be beneficial for my entrepreneurial aspirations.

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(5 comments)
  • 11
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    Head of Engineering at Capgemini
    8 months ago

    Before considering a costly move such as an MBA (see prior response here on why), I would do a thorough assessment of what the issue(s) with the previous two ventures are. Running your own business is the most direct way of learning how to do exactly that. Although having some strong brands and a deep network are great enablers to building your business (largely depends on the type of business as well), they are usually not the deciding factors separating success vs. failure.

    I came from a business background and grew up around several family-owned small businesses. What I got from the business degree did not help as much in running my own company compared to performing well in a corporate job.

    The knowledge gained from a business degree / MBA can all be learned at an accelerated pace online or through much cheaper alternatives.

    There are also more effective and cheaper ways to build out your network (my network actually grew the most from activities outside of my job/school such as putting content out there and participating in communities such as here on Taro).

    Final note: if your ultimate goal is to be an entrepreneur, don't get hung up on "signalling value" such as X company brand name, or Y tier company/school. Those are usually proxies that recruiters use to screen candidates for a job and usually not worth the effort to obtain since there are better alternatives to get what you want (customers, funding, partnerships, etc.)

  • 6
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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    8 months ago

    I don't think an MBA will help if your goal is to do a high-growth software company. In fact, if you ever plan to come to Silicon Valley (you mentioned you're in the UAE), there's a general disdain for folks with an MBA.

    However, the MBA is not without redeeming qualities. The main advice I tell anyone who wants to start a venture is to (1) find a good cofounder and (2) surround yourself with people who can inspire you and give you ideas. An MBA is one possible way to do that, although quite an expensive one.

    You might have better luck building your network in a high-growth tech company, and you actually get paid!

  • 8
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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    8 months ago

    Two other things worth mentioning:

    • An MBA could be valuable if you use it as an immigration tool -- if you get admission into a top US program, for example, that could be a compelling reason to do it.
    • From the people I've heard doing an MBA, the coursework is not really valuable. And I can say from running Taro that effectively none of the MBA curriculum would be relevant to my day-to-day life.

    Things like accounting or financial projections are completely irrelevant for me right now. We're just trying to keep the lights on :) I'm sure those skills are helpful for a larger company, but I don't see how they help in the early days of a software business.

  • 7
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    8 months ago

    Similar to school in most other cases in tech (Master's in CS and even undergrad) - I don't think pursuing more formal education is that helpful. For startups, it's even less helpful.

    Startups, especially tech startups, break all the rules. We were told this all the time in Y Combinator (YC). There's a lot of things with startups (e.g. "Do things that don't scale" and "Do sales and marketing yourself before reaching PMF") that aren't intuitive. YC tells all of its startups these principles and so many YC founders still mess it up. Making a startup is something that is inherently hard to learn through traditional methods (e.g. reading books, taking classes) because of this.

    If you want to maximize your chances of making a successful startup:

    • Get real world experience - Either start building side projects, working for a hyper-growth early stage startup (Series B or earlier), or both. To learn how to build effective side projects, check out our curated playlist here: [Taro Top 10] Building Impressive Side Projects
    • Build your network - Startup success is largely a factor of who you know and the relationships you have with them. Fundraising is the most famous example here, but more importantly, a higher-quality and more expansive network boosts your chances of finding a great cofounder. An MBA can help with this, but I personally feel like Taro or even just posting regularly on social media like LinkedIn can do a similar job at a way lower cost.

    We recently made a playlist about how to effectively start a startup as well! Check it out here: [Taro Top 10] Entrepreneurship And Tech Startups

  • 2
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    Founder/CEO & Deep Learning Scientist at Stealth Startup
    3 months ago

    Having dived into this myself recently and been on the edge of a few different thoughts here I'd love to add. I listened to YCombinator's Startup School a lot, the Competitive series by Michael E. Porter, finding very experienced partners that I can work with, and even starting a Board of Directors education program that has me gaining lots of education quickly. Then when I go about making the business decisions, I'm still acting very methodical. Most choices like a pitch deck and technical due diligence will go through review with the proper colleagues before we even start working on the problem and we're also very specific about where we put the business to get the best tax advantages we can.