Five elite US engineering schools got really nice press Tuesday in the Financial Times for their Master’s in Engineering Management program. With a little digging, it was clear they have a website and a “consortium.”
The FT article puts the best case forward:
Joseph Helble, dean of the Thayer School, says Mem programmes are “for engineering grads who know they don’t want to spend their entire careers in design or in a lab. They want to do broader, systems-based engineering, by identifying promising new product lines. They want to create a vision for the technology in the broadest business sense.”As someone who once thought he would teach in engineering management, I’m all in favor of having more such programs.
Many engineering students have taken my technology strategy class, but without a business core, they get glimpses of insights, not the way to build upon a firm footing in accounting, finance, marketing and organizations. So an integrated master’s degree combining technical and business topics is a great way to address this.
However, when looking at the MEM consortium, I’m not quite clear what makes these five schools different. Do they have explicit standards? Is it the shared “MEM” brand? Or are they a members-only club? For example, the list excludes two of the top engineering schools in the country: Berkeley has a top-flight interdisciplinary Management of Technology program, while MIT has its System Design and Management program, jointly run by Engineering and the Sloan School.
And then there’s the question of how much any school prepares an engineer to be an entrepreneur. Plenty of engineers became entrepreneurs without formal preparation and did quite well. (Hewlett & Packard, Bose, Jacobs & Viterbi, and the list goes on...)
I don’t think a class or a business plan competition is going to help a 23-year-old engineering student create the next HP. Interning with a young company (as I did) would help, as would working for a top-flight company in the same industry. But nothing beats going to work in Silicon Valley, Boston or one of the other regions where you are immersed entrepreneurship, venture capital, startup infrastructure and a startup culture.