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April 18, 2008
Thoughts on career development for Engineers
Chronicle Editor @ Apr 18, 2008

(By Dr. Satinder K. Mullick, Mechanical 1958. Email: 

A real story perhaps sums it up well--When Corning Inc. was building its new Engineering Building--they hired an MIT architect. He changed the design completely--based on the concept that "Engineers shy away from communicating with others--happy to be in their cubicle". So he designed the office in a way that if you stand up--your eyes will come in contact with your neighbors someday. The design was open style with cubicles with low walls.

Engineers tend to be happy in their cubicles--not realizing to get involved with the bigger picture. I have watched at Corning Inc. the careers of engineers--those with MBA tend to rise more than those with pure degree in engineering including a PhD.

I myself did far better when I took Economics as my minor subject at Johns Hopkins University and then followed it up with MBA courses thru Syracuse University/Cornell University (never finished MBA) in Corning, NY. I attended Wharton program and Brookings Institute program to further my Economics education to become Chief Economist and later Director of Economic Planning at Corning Inc. Instead of publishing in Management Sciences--I ventured to write for Harvard Business Review and Management Accounting. The readers of HBR are top executives--"so that gets you in" to upper management ladder.

Now if you are an entrepreneur type with inventive mind—breakout from being an employee for a large corporation where you get a certificate for your invention and one dollar--Instead hold on to your invention--file it yourself--form a company. Vinod Khosla and Kanwal Rekhi and many others have reached new heights by doing that. Vikram Pandit, CEO of Citigroup is an engineer/MBA also.

In the early sixties--it was difficult--but once the new immigration bill passed in 1965--it became easier. I thought of doing it in 1974, but all of a sudden, the Chairman of Corning Inc. elevated me and gave me a greater challenge in 1975 which was exciting. I realize now that many software programs that I developed could have been a vehicle for a new company. The ideas in our article, "How to choose the Right Forecasting Technique"--best article in HBR to sell over a million copies or "Determining the Value of a company" (Silver medal from National Association Of Management Accountants) could have been the way to start a new company.

Satish Duggal (Mechanical 1970) and MBA, worked for Corning Inc. for 25 years and then took early retirement to start   in  1999, which is rated a top growth company by Entrepreneur magazine in US. He is perhaps the best example that I am trying to convey to you my fellow Engineers.

So young engineers--think about my suggestion--get an MBA. Mayor Bloomberg of NY got his BS in Electrical Engineering from Johns Hopkins Univ. in 1964--then an MBA from Harvard followed by short job at Solomon Brothers. What he learnt there--helped him start a company which made him billions. SO DREAM--but get a MBA --it won't hurt.