Technologists in transition: What happens to technical employees who take an MBA?

Torben Andersen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


The very much debated topic of MBA-students loyalty towards their own career, rather than the companies sponsoring their education, has in only very few situations been empirically tested. It seems as if the debate is very emotional and rather seldom based on facts – i.e. leaving it to the individual managers to consult their gut feeling in the decision whether or not the younger manager or employee is to participate in an MBA-program. The present study provides data on the motives behind, experiences during and outcomes afterwards an MBA-program. The study is based on a survey carried out in the early autumn 2007 of 108 graduates from the executive MBA-program at the Technical University of Denmark. 108 out of a total of 176 graduates during the last 7 years (about 25 students in average on each class), providing a reply rate of 61 %. The students were to a large degree situated in the technical world – being either earlier graduates from technical universities or holding technical position in their companies. The study reveals, that 56 % of the students join the program in order to qualify them to jobs based on increasing influence on the companies business development; 43 % join in order to increase their market value, and 33 % to stimulate their intellectual curiosity. It is in other words both internal as well as external career considerations and not to forget – less prosaic elements like curiosity, which are the drivers for acquiring the degree. Technical employees and managers join MBA-programs for several different reasons, and not just for increasing their external market value. Looking at the outcome of the programme, 69 % of the graduates claim that they – as a consequence of the MBA - have received more job offers (often 3-5 offers). In a situation with a very tight labour market, the opportunities to change jobs have been very good for technical employees and managers, 41 % of the graduates have stayed at the same employer during the last 7 years the program has been running. This is, in comparison to other Danish data, a high degree of behavioral commitment, and it seems to be caused by a major change in work contents: 67 % of the participants are now working with business development; 66 % with strategy and 56 % with change management and finally 48 % with innovation and technology management - while functional specialisms like marketing, sales, operations, supply chain and HR is much lower (3-19 %). The changes in tasks and focus seems to be an evolutionary process stretching over several phases, and the individuals are to large degree going though a sort of “technologist in transition to management” (see Badawy 1995, p. 106). This is based on the data showing a high loyalty to the organization and the fact that the individual has a strong managerial motivation. This way the MBA-program works as a company external mechanism providing technologists with the necessary guidance, support, terminology, methods and personal insights about competences to move into managerial positions with a relatively high level of understanding of technical issues.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTrack 20. Management of Technology for the Knowledge Economy : Education for the Creation of KE
Publication date2008
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Event17th International Conference on Management of technology: Creating and Managing a Knowledge Economy - Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Duration: 6 Apr 200810 Apr 2008
Conference number: 17


Conference17th International Conference on Management of technology
Country/TerritoryUnited Arab Emirates


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