Little did you know it, but that engineering degree you spent 100k and 5+ years completing, fueled by cafeteria food, long nights and the occasional nervous breakdown… may actually be making you less useful, or at the very least need some flare.
In an article at Techcrunch, Vivek Wadhwa goes up against some thoughts from Guy Kawasaki on engineering knowledge versus business knowledge, and the need for each in the startup world. Wadhwa basically says, an engineering degree, by itself, isn’t good enough… hmmm, what do you think?
First, Wadhwa give Kawasaki’s point of view on engineering, MBA’s and implementation:
Kawasaki explained that his issue with MBAs is that they are “taught that the hard part is the analysis and coming up with the insightful solution”. In other words: implementation is easy and analysis is hard. “But this is the opposite of what happens in startups. Implementation is everything in a startup.” Kawasaki believes that MBAs aren’t a good fit for startups, and engineering graduates are.
Engineers are good fits for start-ups. Right on, yeah? Next, Wadhwa states where he find the conflict.
Engineering degrees can be very technical and can actually narrow one’s horizons. To innovate, you need to understand customers and markets. To build a successful product—one that actually sells and makes an impact, you need to understand distribution and finance. So even in the lower echelons of technology, a broader educational background is a plus.
Easy to pitch a brick at that. First, I think what he means to say, is that “[Only having an] Engineering degree can be very technical and can actually narrow one’s horizons.” I’d tend to agree with that in most cases. You want to be as well-rounded a graduate as possible. However, that doesn’t mean spending another 100k on a high-end MBA. Your other interests, whether it’s in business or Bugattis, can lead you toward gaining skills in the right areas, but to simply say understanding customers and markets are necessary to innovate, narrows it down a little too much. I say you have to understand a whole lot more, plus have the drive and personality to bring it all together.
Here’s the way my dad put it. Get yourself a Swiss army knife of a degree. (I kept an image of a Swiss army knife with me through college for added motivation.) Engineering was that degree. A tool you could apply to many different needs and an instrument to shape other interests and pursuits. That engineering degree lead my interest into a few MBA courses and web development projects. So it’s not that an Engineering degree by itself is useless or that they’re the best fit for startups. It’s how you use the degree(s) you have.