More info from Carl--I will jump in where I feel like it.
Thanks for the really good feedback in your Cincinnati Kid article ( http://askunclebill.typepad.com/my_weblog/2006/08/bill_congratula.html). I appreciate the time you spent on it, and the unbiased advice. And I think that I owe you some additional input in response to your article. (You also indicated that you might want to weigh in on the pros and cons, so I thought I might get started by adding my own pros and cons).
So, let me take your comments one by one, as well as add some background.
"Second reason--money tends to slide around and accommodate change"
I agree. Currently – we (long-term girlfriend and myself), are very good about sticking to our budgets. We don't eat out or shop nearly as much as we could, and the money saved here goes toward investments, and the "long-weekend" vacations that we take (taking long-weekends keeps me from having to take vacation days at work). Now, vacations are a great way to burn though money; but that being said, all of our vacations have the dual purpose of also being in places that we're considering living after we get married (Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, etc.). Since we're currently able to take the trips, I want to get a feel for different areas, and long-weekends are a nice (albeit expensive) way to do it.
Don't worry about the expenses involved with looking around at places to live. These are start-up costs and well worth the investment. They will go away once you move.
"Carl needs to get where he can become a manager, not a guy. That is what Carl is talking about, I think. If he is not, he should be."
So now I'm going to take the other side here, and instead of talking about the pros, let me address the cons… Being a "career manager" makes me nervous. It's not the responsibility, or having a new focus either. In fact, your response here was a bit of a surprise, so let me explain... The other career advice that I've solicited from people who are either late in their careers, or retired… and all of which I consider to be successful both in monetary terms, and in career terms, have said something different. When asked about their careers, and what they might have done differently they've all said: "Stay technical for as long as you can; find a way to get paid a premium for your trade, and only move into a management role when you've reached a certain financial state and can afford to risk losing your technical skills".
Ah, ha. Now we are getting to the crux of the matter. Cruxs (cruxi ?) usually revolve around that old issue--what do I want to be when I grow up? Also, Carl brings up a really important issue--do I want to be management or do I want to be labor?
The key phrase here is the advice Carl is getting from other sources--"Stay technical for a s long as you can; find a way to get paid a premium for your trade..." Let's take that one first. I look at that as a lone gun for hire. I don't want that for me. I always wanted to be part of a team, actually leader of a team, that was committed to making an enterprise work in the long run. Couple this with the fact that I had absolutely no technical skills of any kind and I really had no choice. I was good around a balance sheet or foreign exchange but I didn't know a mainframe from a bread machine.
I also figured out that I wanted to set, or at least help set, the rules. I don't like being dictated to and I figured out that managers set the rules.
Managers also set compensation. They will pay x plus benefits for techies but no more. They will pay car allowances, stock options, bonuses, supplementary pension plans, retirement health care, travel, and any other thing they can get past the compensation committee for themselves.
Plus I always want to do different stuff. As a manager you do different stuff from hiring and firing to travelling around all over the place doing...different stuff.
Finally, if you are going to going to work every day, you might as well run the place.
So the reasoning here is that with technical skills (being an IT guy), I can get a job almost anywhere. Say the company I work for goes bust; I get laid off, etc… I can go down the street, or half-way around the world, and find another job in my field. I know middle-managers, in their early 40's with families and real responsibilities that've been laid off and out of work… I don't want to be in that situation. I also realize that I can't remain an IT guy forever; but might not 4-years out of college be too early to make the transition?
Guess what, I just met a 40 year old IT guy yesterday that was out of work. Maybe he wasn't any good but I don't think so. I view technology as a commodity. Look at prices of the stuff. This guy was at Sabre and it was "I need 10 tech guys tomorrow." When the project was over, those 10 techies were on the street. Sounds like day laborers.
Everyone is in danger, all the time, of being out of work. That is why I made it a practice to have the best job I could, paying management wages with all the bennies and then saving like crazy so I could say Screw You when the time came. That is the secret to success.
I'm not sure there is a need for a 'transition.' I think the goal is to think vertically, rather than horizontally. (Is that spelled right?) Well, you get the picture. If you think flat you say what job can I jump to at the same level and survive. If you think vertically, you are saying what can I do now that will help me up the ladder.
Which leads to Do You Want To Go Up The Ladder. The ladder has taken a lot of knocks, believe me, I grew up in the sixties. The strange thing is the higher up the ladder I got, the more interesting the people. Maybe not always nicer but usually and smarter as well. Plus the pay was better.
The other side of the coin is, as Groucho Marx put it, "I wouldn't join any club that would have me as a member." It's your decision.
So, moving on to your comments about the options…
2) Start a business where I'm at, serving a market that I anticipate
being successful in.
Carl is a go-getter. That is good and I feel he will be successful at whatever he does. But, and there is always a but, he may learn a lot from a stint at a big company. These people aren't stupid--you have to be smart to succeed. You can learn a lot in a big company if you pay attention.
I think that working for a big company would give me a different, and valuable perspective. But in my mind, I keep going back to a quote I remember… "Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly." (Robert F. Kennedy). And in thinking about the profiles of other successful people… Richard Branson - started with writing magazine in his parent's basement and built Virgin. Bill Gates, we all know his story… right now, I'm young with few responsibilities, I'm more capable of taking risk now then I might ever be.
So… if I go to work for a big company, I'll probably learn some things that will give me a new perspective on starting a business. But, I might have too many commitments by that point (family, mortgage, etc.) to justify the risk Or, I start a business now, put down really deep roots, and possibly get "stuck" in a niche that might disappear in time.
This is the issue. But first some words on greatness. Bobby Kennedy had a way with words (not as good as his older brother but not bad) and he also had a lot of money so he could "fail greatly." Also, don't think Bill Gates was eating dog food. I hate to go up against Bobby but my strategy was always "Bet but don't bet the farm. Don't take so much risk that you can never recover. Take calculated risks."
The comment on big companies was as a place to learn, not necessarily sign on for a life term. Also, they might pay for an MBA. Or you may figure out that the people running the thing are so stupid that you could do it better and make a fortune. I think that is what Bill Gates did with IBM. Not sure he worked there but he sure took advantage of them.
3) Go back and get an MBA (possibly part-time while I work) and use
the MBA to transition into a new role.
Alas, a business reality. If you really want to be a manager in a big company, you have to get an MBA. Sorry. But Carl already knows this or he wouldn't mention the part time thing. Go for it, Carl. Find a company that will pay your way, grit your teeth and slog on.
My currently employer will probably pay part of my way – they've hinted at it during past reviews – but it's not certain. In that case, I'll have to do it part time though (which some people think is a bad idea – though I can't seem to figure out why). The previously mentioned advice that I've gotten from successful late-career people is NOT to get the MBA. They don't think it's valuable… though they also question the value of moving into management until later in my career.
While I haven't made a final decision yet, your advice has been on my mind over the past few days. Since it wasn't exactly what I expected, it has really challenged me to start re-thinking the options. If you are interested in weighing in on the pros and cons of the three options (1. Big company, 2. Start a business, 3. Get an MBA) that would be great! I'd be especially interested in your take on full-time MBA, vs. part-time MBA. But in any case, I do appreciate your existing feedback.
As far as the MBA goes, I was stating the reality. Big companies give the best jobs to people with MBA's. Sorry, not my rules, their rules. If you want to get to be a brand manager at Pepsico, you better have a MBA. Or Colgate. Or P&G. Or Coke. Again, not my rules.
As far as successful people without MBA's...yeah, there are tons of them. Thomas Edison didn't finish high school and look at him. Again, the reality is that big companies require MBAs for the best jobs. If you want to get on the train, you have to get your ticket punched. Just depends on which train you want to get on.
As far as part time vs. full time, this has generated a bit of mail that I will go into later. For now, I have no problem with part time given the school is worth it. When I was in Chicago a fair number of my co-workers went to Northwestern or UC. And the company paid for it, all of it. The attendees paid for it too as they dragged themselves to work each day.
Full time or part time doesn't matter to me. Again, I'm just saying that an MBA is a hoop that traditional companies make you jump through.
Enough about MBA's.
And back to Yogi--When you come to fork in the road, take it. What Yogi was really saying is Do Something. I don't worry about Carl. He will and is. He's thinking about it, he's looking at his options, he's travelling and seeing what is out there. He's also talking it over with his girl friend. He will make the Decision. Right or wrong? Who knows? Who cares?
The people I worry about are the ones I view as paralysed. They have too many options or too few or no chances or too many or they are victims or they don't know what to do or don't know how to do it. So they do nothing. Nothing leads to nothing. Doing something is a risk. A greater risk is doing nothing. Enough preaching.
One final note. I loved The Devil Wears Prada. Actually, I hated it at the beginning because I remembered I had a boss that made Meryl Streep look like Mother Theresa. But I loved it when the newbie went to the gay guy and said, basically, make me one of them. She committed. A lot of people view this as getting in bed with the enemy. I viewed it as a movie that finally had a bit of reality to it. And she learned what she really want to do. To be successful, to find out what you really want to do in the long run, you have to commit.