The CTO and The MBA … a history of coming together!

Andrew Weaver
April 18, 2023

[Since writing this article, we have launched “The Digital MBA for Technology Leaders” which aims to help tech leaders bridge that critical gap between the technology and the business]

“The MBA has attracted some mixed press in recent years …. so how relevant is it for the modern technology leader?

The traditional MBA emerged as the USA industrialised and a rapidly expanding economy grew thirsty for leaders and managers with a deeper breadth of knowledge about business.

And whilst a traditional MBA was historically of little interest to the Chief Technology Officer that changed as the world became ever more consumed by automation and tech leaders needed to start broadening their skill set from the technical to the commercial. 

The first business school at Wharton, Pennsylvania dates back to 1881 but the classic MBA programme took off during the mid-late 20th century.

A wide range of management topics get covered by an MBA course that lasts between 11 months and two years, with everything from management accounting to company law, corporate strategy to business ethics included in a typical course.

In recent years, certainly towards the end of the 20th century, the MBA has been primarily used as a career (and salary) springboard for individuals to accelerate or pivot their career.

It is often used by people wishing to make a sharp turn in their career, such as those from the military wanting to leapfrog into business, or an accountant wanting to move into wider finance positions.

But the MBA hasn’t always had the greatest reputation as it’s often seen as a vehicle for the overtly ambitious to barge their way to the top table and often with catastrophic results. It was a roomful of MBAs that caused the Enron scandal.

So what does an MBA or at least the learning process that drives an MBA course, have to do with developers, technologists and becoming an effective tech leader?

How could an MBA fit into a CTO training plan?

Surely to become a CTO, it’s all about about the T?

Historically that might have been the case but increasingly the senior tech leaders have to be more commercially minded and often cross pollinated with other areas of the business, such as customer service and marketing. Without understanding the wider commercial structure and priorities, this becomes a more challenging hybrid of tasks to undertake.

In 2021 and beyond …. to become a truly effective CTO and achieve the best roles, tech leaders need to have at least a baseline understanding of all areas of a business, something that will often take them outside of their comfort zone.

Whilst there is and will remain a career focus on building technical skills and market reputation, there has undoubtably been a shift of emphasis towards the softer and people management skills that sort the great from the good CTOs.

Which is why executive education options like the MBA have started to form a major part of the learning and development landscape for any ambitious CTO”

Find Out More About “The Digital MBA for Technology Leaders” from CTO Academy

CTO Academy help tech leaders around the world to build the leadership skills that will enable them to achieve the career they want, and for their organisations to achieve the strategic competitive advantage they need.

Having worked and talked with tech leaders in 82 countries, we’ve brought our nuanced understanding of the leadership skills required for tech leaders into this unique Executive Online Course.

9 modules, across 9 months, with 200+ micro lectures delivered by technology and business leaders from around the world.

We launched this fantastic course in January 2022 and so far we’ve had 70 technology leaders sign up from around the world – delivering fantastic feedback on the course lectures and structure.

We launch a new cohort each month (apart from August and December) so if you think it’s a good option for you and your career (particularly vs. the very expensive elite options elsewhere) then book in a discovery call with our CEO and find out more via the link below …

Visit The Digital MBA for Technology Leaders

Download Our Free eBook!

90 Things You Need To Know To Become an Effective CTO

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