What I learned in my Ms in IT Management?!
It has been almost an year and a half since I started my journey to advance my education and, therefore my career. All started when I decided to take a second Masters degree (I already have an MBA) in the U.S., back in 2018. However, this is a story for another article. Here I would love to share my experience throughout this journey and all I've learned from it.
This is not a guide nor an article with tips or "this is what you should or shouldn't do", it is my experience that you may relate to. All I want is that you enjoy the reading and perhaps share your experience as well. So, let's get to it :)
A Bit of Background…
I have almost 20 years of professional experience, being 15+ as a program manager and 3+ as an entrepreneur and consultant. I've always been on the business side of projects and although technical discussions have never been a great mystery to me, my feeling sometimes were like: "this developer is fooling me with this explanation" or "that cannot be the issue we're facing with this server". Adding to that, it became clear to me when I was looking for the best solution to my consulting clients that I was missing the technical aspect of it, making it harder to figure out the best product or service — you eventually do, but requires a bit more of effort, reaching out to people and deeper research. The combination of those two factors that sparked me the will to advance my education in the technical field, but I did not want to become "the tech guy".
All I wanted was to learn more about the technical aspect of the solutions, to better discuss topics with a developer or a server admin and also to figure out solutions to my clients by myself. Hence, the reasonable step was to jump into a Masters degree in IT Management, where I would learn the technical aspects but always making the bridge with the business side.
I am now wrapping up my Masters degree at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, graduating this coming April.
Am I a Technical Person Now?
Yes and no! SDLC, APIs, SQL, noSQL, Hacks, Servers, Hadoop, Python and so on are now familiar stuff that I can easily navigate. Can I run a SQL query? I can, but they are not very complex. Can I understand how to build an API? I can, but can't integrate systems by myself. Can I code something in Python? Yep, but won't be pretty haha.
The most important thing is that now I know when, how and why to use MongoDb instead of mySQL. Why to use API and integrate systems and how important is security and privacy for IoT devices. Now I feel empowered to discuss technical issues with a developer or a server admin — being sure when they are fooling me!
However, this is not even close to be the best I learned in this Masters program. Let me elaborate on that.
Time Management + Going Further
As a program manager, time management is a fundamental skill/area of knowledge. But we are talking about on how to proper schedule, sequence and organize tasks that is limited to that specific program one is managing. The time management in question here is what I call "Life Time Management". In a Masters degree you read a lot, write a lot, create presentations, join a bunch of classes and group assignments. Some people even do that while working full-time, having a family and trying to figure out a time to relax. I did that too.
I had a part-time job (and still do) at the university, concurrently to managing my consulting company from afar — I am eternally grateful for my business partner's support though. I was a member of the Project Management Club for few months and I am currently the VP of Community Involvement at the SGA (Student Government Association)…oh, and I did volunteer at the PMI San Francisco Bay Area Chapter for few months as well. I never dropped the ball.
You may be thinking, what about the grades? Hmmm, pretty good ones! What I realized is that I was able to juggle all that, manifest the energy to manage my deliverables and the courage to bring more responsibility in that I believed could help me somehow. When you realized this potential, you learn that you can push your limits a bit further. I am not romanticizing the "study or work while they sleep" (as I need at least 8h of a good sleep to be functional!), I am saying that this degree helped me master my "Life Time Management", allowing me to go further.
Big Picture x Focus
The key questions is: "How did I make it?". It was a good balance between seeing the big picture, that comes from having a clear goal and a plan, with focus on what is important and urgent now.
I knew it was a lot to do, but it was clear why I had to do them all. It has never been only about getting the degree, it was also about connecting to people, experience the culture and the environment, expanding my skills while mastering what I already have. Joining the Project Management club at the University and the PMI Chapter were clear examples of such. Being an SGA associate now helps me to expand my leadership experience in a different setting, with a different audience. The key was to connect this to may daily routine, making clear yet sustainable deliveries.
With that clear view, it became easier to plan my day in a level that I could figure out what were the priorities in line with the urgent deliverables. Could I postpone a course assignment to deliver that email blast for the PMI Chapter event taking place the next week? Could I have back to back client meetings in the same day I would have a 2.5 hours class in the evening? Can I commit to support this SGA event while working on my Capstone project? Sometimes the answer was yes and sometimes was no. The point was that I developed the ability to read the situation so I could make decisions on a single day that would positively impact the big picture, the bigger plan I was working towards to.
Defining the Future
This current Masters program helped me connecting everything that I had done so far in my life — in an educational and working perspectives— to what I want to do in the near future. Even my bachelors degree in History came into play as it was the bridge with people I met when discussing ancient civilization's cerimonies that they still perform. My program management skills was instrumental in managing all this fun, crazy adventure.
Learning more technical tools, concepts and skills, solidified the vision I had that I am not a technical person. My heart doesn't beat faster when the SQL query runs without any issue. So it makes sense to continue developing my career focusing on the business side of the game, but now empowered by the gained technical knowledge.
It helped shaping my job hunting. I am no longer concerned of loosing a good job opportunity if I foresee not being happy there. It is clear that all I've done in my previous experiences as well as during this Masters degree, has defined what I want to do next in my life.
I am working towards landing a full-time job. My goal is to show any potential employer that throughout this Masters program, I developed new and improved exceptional soft skills, that sometimes is extremely hard to teach someone — we all know that it's easier to learn how to code than how to manage people :)
When the full-time job comes, I feel confident about my ability to connecting the company's mission to my role. That I can keep focused on my daily activities while delivering value to the team. What about joining this extra activity or a process improvement side project? Sure, I mastered my time management. And that the company can invest in me as I know where I want to be in the next 5 or 10 years. Thanks to all I learned in my Ms in IT Management.
How about you? What have you learned in one of your endeavors?