Updated: Jul 15, 2019
Exactly one year ago, I began the process of applying for graduate programs in a completely confused state of mind. I was conflicted; "should I go for a technical degree, or do something focused more towards management?". I had about 5 years of work experience in the IT industry, and felt that it was the right time to pursue an MBA, but a book by Ray Kurzeil was giving me pause.
In "Singularity is Near", Ray details that we are near the end of something he calls "Epoch 4" (focused on technology) and entering into "Epoch 5" (focused on merging human technology with human intelligence). If he was right, then I would need to be well equipped to cross over. Now, more than ever, I needed to be prepared for this revolution. If not, then I would run the risk of being left behind as new markets formed.
My name is Vikas Singh, an international student from Mumbai, and I am a 1st year student at Technology Leadership Program (TLP) at the University of Arizona. This newly launched program augurs well for me, and aligns perfectly with my career interests. As part of this cohort, I aim to finish my MBA and Masters in Management Information Sciences (MIS) in two and a half years.
Very early in my career, I began working for start-ups. Being in this type of culture meant there was no such thing as "staying within the lines of a set job description". I did everything asked of me; from coding to marketing to client acquisitions. In my very first week as an intern, I attended a meeting with the VP Operations at Vodafone India. These types of experiences during my time at PMaps Assessment helped me to discover myself and understand the type of environment where I could not only succeed, but thrive.
Haptik.inc, which won the “App of the year” award in 2014, was my next venture. While there, I worked in operations. Any fears I may have had when I first started were quickly abated as my role had me working face-to-face with clients. Over time, my confidence in these interactions increased and any fears I may have started with were lost. Since then I have been fortunate to be in many such direct client facing roles. In my very first project at TCS (a fortune 500 company) as a Database Analyst, I received an “On the Spot” award for my work under trying conditions. With this type of encouragement, my confidence grew further.
After this experience, I never looked back. A short period of time later I began to lead a team of 6 developers at ITC Infotech. It was here that I decided an advanced degree would be necessary in order for me to continue climbing the corporate latter and potentially avoid the plateau period many of us go through at various points of our careers. After some deliberation, I had a good plan on paper. First I would pursue a technical degree and then a few years later would pursue an MBA so that I could change the course and move fully into management. Deep down, I felt a calling to become an entrepreneur, and these first steps would lay the foundation I would need to build on my dream.
But being an international student meant that earning 2 degrees from universities in the United States would strain me financially. I would also have to rethink my personal timelines. This is when I started looking at the new hybrid programs with a mix of both. These programs have packed schedules, super tight timelines and are booming today. The likes of MSBA at University of Texas – Austin, MEM at Duke University, ORIE program at Cornell Tech (consortium). I applied to these schools and got in Austin and Cornell Tech. The curriculum is super cool, but everything seems to be rushed. The program at Austin is a 10-month program. Before I could get settled, a semester would have passed, and I would be playing catch-up. These accelerated programs would also require me to forego a meaningful internship experience. But the question that above all was, “Is it economically viable?”
This is when I found out about the TLP program at the University of Arizona. It is an integrated curriculum with both the technical degree and the management degree. Moreover, the option of selecting an interest-based track in MIS makes it highly flexible too. The duration of the program is such that you get 2 internships opportunities before you jump in the mud. Pursuing 2 masters also saves me a huge amount of time and helps me stick to my personal commitments. But the cherry on the cake was, they offered me a 100% tuition waiver (~ USD 61,000 annually). Just the program I was looking for, isn’t it?
Therefore, I think the advent of this TLP is the PERFECT bridge in my life, personally as well as professionally, to cross over to the new Epoch.