Traditionally, engineers have dominated intakes at most B-schools. The rationale for combining a management programme with an engineering degree is known to many. However, non-engineers are increasing their presence in management education, and this is not without reason. As business is becoming multi-faceted with greater integration across borders and functions, the requirement for business managers is also evolving. Let us look at what a quality management education has to offer for students and/or professionals from various streams.
Commerce / Finance
Finance is widely acknowledged as the lifeblood of a business. Efficient utilisation of capital, selection of the right investment opportunities, accurate calculation of costs for pricing, deploying surplus efficiently, and keeping adequate controls in business processes are some of the areas where finance professionals add tremendous value to the business.
Combining management education with financial skills results in holistic talent that can marry diverse but related perspectives. This is especially true for critical business management areas like strategy and even operations. The exposure helps the finance professional to imbibe the nuances of other critical business areas.
Liberal Arts and traditional areas of arts education like Sociology and the Humanities are increasingly getting the attention of the business world. One reason is that business is increasingly becoming integrated, people-driven, and complex. A growing population of business leaders acknowledges that lessons are drawn from the above areas and subjects like history help add a unique perspective to business decisions.
On the face of it, arts and business education are completely unrelated. However, it is precisely for this reason that they could be synergistic. The best proof of this comes from the fact that a growing number of CEOs come from an arts background, even in industry.
Design / Architecture
A hard skills background like design or architecture complements management education well, especially in industry segments that require such a skill set. Think of an architect in a real estate business. The architect may be extremely talented and would logically rise high functionally. However, a ceiling is hit when the job role at a senior level demands people, strategy, commercial, and operational skills. This is where a management education can help remove barriers.
Communication / Journalism
In the realm of communication and journalism, there is a growing need for depth in content. Business writing is a thriving segment within journalism, and it is clear that depth cannot come from limited knowledge of the language or just creative writing. A deeper understanding of business matters acquired through a management program helps a writer to not just delve deeper into the issue through better questioning, but also to communicate in a manner that connects with the professional reader.
The hospitality segment is one among very few which doesn’t suffer from the threat of being made redundant or rendered irrelevant. Business travel will continue as long as the business continues; tourism is not going to end. What is happening and will continue to happen is that the need for differentiation, better positioning, and more effective strategy will grow.
The need for business leaders who deeply understand the touch and feel business of hospitality combined with a sharp business mind that grapples with strategy, commercial interests, and profitability will only grow.
Another high growth area for management education is that of admitting ex-defense services personnel. The trend started a few years ago with candidates as young as in their mid-thirties and going up all the way to their mid-fifties looking for a change in career track from the services. The stint in B-Schools helped these candidates with deep operational, leadership, and stress management experience to position themselves well for roles in the industry.
The experience of recruiters has been a positive one. The hired graduates have excelled in roles in HRM, logistics, operations, and a host of other specialised areas depending on the prior qualifications of the candidates.
The benefits of a quality management program can thus extend to candidates from almost any background. This comes from thorough training in areas like innovation, teamwork, decision-making, creativity, and technology, besides specific vocational skills.
(The author is director, FORE School of Management, New Delhi)