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Argument: MBA teaches essential business language

Issue Report: MBA

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Thomas MacKay. “10 reasons why you should get an MBA.” CIO.com. July 5th, 2007: “4. You will communicate better with your business colleagues.

IT professionals use a lot of jargon as shorthand when we’re communicating among ourselves: RFID and WEP, access points and ACLs, object code, executables and DLLs. Each of the business functions (such as sales, marketing, accounting, auditing, risk management and human resources) has its own jargon, which represents equally complex ideas or processes. In business school, you learn the distinct languages of those functions. You learn, for example, the difference between cash-based accounting and the accrual method, earned value and net present value, suspect and prospect, guerilla marketing and viral marketing, and situational interviews versus behavioral interviews.

When the CFO of Christopher Newport University discusses with me the cost of switching from a cash-based accounting method to an accrual method, I know she’s referring to the large write-off associated with booking expenses and income when they are incurred as opposed to when money changes hands. I understand that this one-time expense occurs because we’d have to book a bunch of expenses in the current year that normally don’t get booked until the next year. And I know this because I learned in business school what the terms mean as well as the implications of each approach. My knowledge of different accounting methods allows me to be an active participant in business conversations. The CFO doesn’t have to explain things to me. Even better, I don’t have to nod my head as if I understand what the CFO is saying, only to Google the terms later. More importantly, I can use the business function’s own terminology to explain to my business colleagues the impact of technology. Using a language with which they are comfortable makes it easier for me to explain technical details to them and to get their support.

Finally, the MBA experience will change the language you use in conversation with business people. Before I got my MBA I’d enter a conversation by asking, “How can we solve this problem with technology?” Now I start by saying, “How does it make sense to solve this problem?” because technology isn’t the solution to every problem.”