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MBA concentration choice?

Ravindra Sahu's Profile

Hi, I am a Finance IT Business Analyst in a Big Manufacturing company and have over 9 years of IT Experience delivering solutions for Finance processes related to services offered by my company. I have no formal Finance education but being in the field, I have learned a lot of things. My future aspirations is to be a Director/VP of IT Finance and subsequently CFO. My passion is to deliver solutions to customers or business units who need to save costs and manage their areas effectively using technology. I am planning for my MBA but unable to decide what concentration I choose to help me meet my future aspirations. How can I use my IT experience in Finance area as a leverage to become a Director or VP of Finance IT. Is there anything called as Director of Finance IT? Am I going at the right direction? Please advise!!

Answers

Bob Scarborough
Title: CEO
Company: Tensoft, Inc.
(CEO, Tensoft, Inc.) |

Hi Ravi,

To get into Finance you will need experience in that functional area. Systems knowledge is important in finance - but it is not enough to be on a CFO track. A few thoughts:

1) One possible entry point into Finance would be on the FP&A side - a position that combines financial reporting knowledge with budgeting and data analysis. You could look at career opportunities as well as your MBA focus to that end.
2) Executive level roles are not guaranteed - and can be a high risk / high reward endeavors. Focusing on your passion - enjoying your career - making sure you have the passion to continue to learn and grow - will be an important part of your career success. Sometimes it is best to focus on the next logical steps rather than specific ends.
3) Another way to look at your career goals would be to look at your passion (deliver solutions to customers and business units who need to save costs and manage ..) and ask what career path would best leverage the value created by your results. You may find that IT or Management Consulting are better career paths, something a MBA could also help you transition into.

Bob Scarborough
www.tensoft.com

Topic Expert
Christie Jahn
Title: CFO
Company: Prime Investments & Development
(CFO, Prime Investments & Development) |

Well said Bob. Follow your heart and your passion and you can't go wrong.

Topic Expert
Mark Richards
Title: VP of Finance & Operations
Company: RBA Consulting
(VP of Finance & Operations, RBA Consulting) |

Ravindra,

Before jumping into finance, I would recommend that you sit down with several people (both outside and inside your firm) who are in financial roles from senior analyst through finance exec (VP, CFO, etc.) in different industries.

Split up the discussions into different areas
- Culture of finance
- What does 'day-to-day' look like
- Involvement in business
- Career path

This investment in time will give you a better sense of whether or not a role in finance and/or a given industry will appeal to you and if so, where would you best fit within finance.

I would encourage you talk with 15 people at a minimum - there is such a wide variance of how finance operates within companies - that a smaller number may not give you a full sense.

Also, ask more questions on Proformative.com about how people got their roles - key skills, etc.

Hope this gives you some ideas to work on.

Regards,

Mark

David Ziska
Title: CEO
Company: Council Business Solutions
(CEO, Council Business Solutions) |

Hi Ravinda,

If your ultimate goal is to be a CFO, it would be difficult to be competitive without a CPA designation. This path would involve getting a masters degree in accounting (10 courses) and passing the CPA exam (18 months or less). Check with your state licensing board on education requirements for sitting for the exam. Some states require up to 50 hours of business courses, in addition to the accounting requirements. The CPA combined with the IT experience creates many options for you.

A less stringent path would be to do the MBA with a finance / accounting concentration. This would position you well for the VP of IT Finance, would be quicker, but falls short of the CFO scenario. You might also find that your competition for the VP spot includes CPA's with significant IT experience.

Increased specialization and competition in the business arena dictates life-long learning activities. Good luck in your pursuits.

David

Chris Holtzer
Title: Senior Manager - Strategic Analysis
Company: Sargento
(Senior Manager - Strategic Analysis, Sargento) |

Ravindra, there are some great recommendations above, but one thing I would ask, is why CFO? I know many companies are looking for their CFO to wear the hat of a CIO, but they are two very different roles and responsibilities. Sometimes it makes sense for them to be the same person, but I think companies are finding that may be an exception more than a rule. CFO's focus needs to be on the financial health of the company, while the CIO's focus should be on the technical infrastructure. Both are extremely important, and extremely time consuming to manage individually. Managing them together is no small task, even for a smaller firm.

Why do you want the "C" designation? There are lots of good reasons to want to aspire to that level, but don't let the title get in the way of enjoying your role and growing.

There is a great demand for professionals with IT and Finance skill sets combined. While there isn't a traditional "C" level job for these professionals, that doesn't mean you can't grow into a senior management role that is both highly valued, and highly compensated with that skill set.

I don't want to point you away from that goal, but it will be a difficult transition. As David points out, there are some major barriers of entry into accounting/finance that most companies don't weigh lightly. You will struggle to get your resume even read without formal accounting training, and at least a decade of hands on experience.

Not having a CPA is going to be a deal breaker for many firms (maybe most). There are several threads talking about this and whether it is a valid measure or not, but right, wrong, or indifferent, it is a standard in the market. Even for the companies that don't require it, you will be fighting an uphill battle against your peers who have the designation.

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