Saturday, December 19, 2009

Back to (Grad) School

This week marks an exciting milestone for me.  I am down to one single class next spring standing between me and a masters degree.  For over two years I have been spending at least 2 nights a week attending classes at Clark University's COPACE.  My degree with be a masters of science in information technology (MSIT).  I noticed several billboards announcing the creation of the Clark University Southborough campus, and their MBA program.  I felt it was timely to share my experiences with Clark and their satellite campus as others may be interested in going back to school.

I spent a lot of time in 2007 looking for the best options for a degree program.  I was concerned about cost, reputation of the school, and actually learning something from the program.  Since I work in Cambridge I had two options; grad school in the city or a satellite school in or around the Boroughs.  After lots of evaluations, which would take at least three blogs worth of babble, I decided Clark was the best option for me.

When I began classes the Clark extension campus was located next to the Sheraton Framingham at the junction of I90 and RT9.  I spent a lot of time talking with people trying to determine the right degree for me.  Most managers automatically get an MBA.  I didn't think it fit what I did.  I manage some of the sharpest technical people around, I just didn't think refining my skills in finance and marketing would directly translate to work imporvments.  I wanted to stay focused on technology and I was lucky that Clark has a great program for this.  I restarted my education in the Clark Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) program.  The focus of this degree is to further develop leadership skills while maintaining some depth of understanding in technology.

I can't lie and say every class taught me something earth-shatteringly new.  After 13 plus years managing technical engineers I have come across a lot of things and learned a ton, but the program at Clark did enhance what I knew.  It built on my experiences and at times reminded me of some things I had long since forgotten.  For example one class was Systems Analysis and Design.  At this point in my career I often assign that task out, but the class forced me to go back and remember all the best practices I used to use.  Now certain things are fresher in my head and I know this has helped professionally.  This class was taught by the Director of the MSIT program Dennis Wadsworth.  Getting to know him and see his passion for technology and the multiple generations of leaders in technology has been a great experience.

Another more transparent example is my recent New Media Technologies class.  Under the direction of Charles Kronauer, Senior Offerings Manager at EMC, I decided to start a blog...any here you are reading it.  I know a blog is not difficult technology, but combining it with twitter, Facebook, and other media sites, as helped me build an audience and allowed me to promote and review something I am passionate about, local businesses.  As I am emceeing the Taste of the Boroughs event in March, I have been using a lot of this newly acquired knowledge to create videos and other media for the event.  I am even working on a video right now for Tavolino based on my experiences and their involvement in the 2010 event.  I will link to it from the blog once I am done.  Overall I am impressed with the Clark program and I am proud to have been able to continue my education this many years after the partying and fun I remember from CMU.

Unfortunately the satellite campus in Framingham is now closed but the new campus in Southborough is about to open.  The building has a lot to offer that originally wasn't available in Framingham and better yet it is right here in the Boroughs.  Now this campus is going to offer the MBA program.  I don't have as much personal experience with the MBA program or their professors, but I know the university is committed to maintaining the same standard of education Clark is known for.

For those worried that they have the time...the Clark programs are easier to fit into a schedule then you would think.  I would leave work from Cambridge right at 5 on class days, and arrive in the Boroughs by 6:10  Classes started at 6:15.  Not much extra time, but like most professional programs Clark understands that many of us have full time jobs, and an occasional late is tolerated.  It meant that I didn't tuck my kids into bed one or two nights a week for a semester.  My kids are still young, I doubt they will even remember, but more then that I want them to always want to learn and have the desire to continue their education even after they are working professionally and become somewhat stable.  If I want them to have that drive, I better have it myself.

And just because the MBA wasn't right for me doesn't mean it isn't a great program.   Based on all I have learned I know it is a great program.  In fact I have actually be considering getting my MBA as well, those three letters mean a lot to many companies.  We'll see how that works out.  I wish MSIT or some sort of MTA (MTA is kinda my term, Masters of Technology Administration, at least I think it is my term, I haven't found it elsewhere yet) becomes a standard going forward.  Technical managers are more and more prevalent in the interconnected world we all live in.

MSIT program is not being offer in Southborough at this time, you have to drive to Worcester.  I do have some inside information that Clark is working on some new options for the MSIT program and ways that it would be offered but if that all comes to fruition it won't be until mid 2010.  I'll keep everyone posted.  Till then I am excited to have Clark in the Boroughs and I encourage anyone considering going back to school to look into Clark for this option.

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