What's the best way for me to make use of my IT company's tuition reimbursement and get into management?
September 10, 2012 4:22 PM   Subscribe

I work in tech support for a medium-large IT company, and I'd like to move into a management position within the company. I have a bachelors degree in liberal arts. How can I best make use of my company's tuition reimbursement benefit?

Following up and altering this previous question.

I have about 3 years of tech support experience, 3 years of customer service experience, and 1.5 years of management experience in a non-tech call-center.

I have a bachelors degree in journalism but no tech certifications or tech degree, just the 3 years of experience in tech support.

My company has a tuition reimbursement program that covers $5k of tuition per year.

I like my company and would like to transition into a management position with the company.

The education options I have in mind at the moment are:

1. An MBA. The previous thread has mostly steered me away from an online MBA in IT management for which I've already been accepted, though my current understanding is that my company likes seeing a Master's degree and doesn't much care where it comes from. I could potentially do an evening MBA program elsewhere, but I am trying to keep costs down as I already have lots of student loan debt.

2. A Bachelors in IT management, again, preferably online due to my schedule but potentially in the evening in a classroom setting. Given that I've been accepted into an MBA in IT management program, I'm not sure how much sense this one makes.

3. A project management certification. Based on my reading at PMI, I would only be able to qualify for the CAPM certification based on my current experience level, and not the PMP certification. From what I gather, this is likely the easiest and quickest of the option, and perhaps the best one to pursue first. My only concern is that I'm not sure how much weight the CAPM carries when it comes to landing management roles.

4. Other certifications. Since I want to get into management and get away from providing IT support myself, I'm not sure how much technical certifications would help me at this point. Certainly there are other management certifications I could pursue, but I haven't researched these very extensively.

Given these options, which would help make me most attractive as an IT management candidate? What types of things should I be considering when evaluating them?
posted by iamisaid to Education (8 answers total)
The path in my company would be to get the project management cert (and possibly a subject matter cert), manage some projects and prove yourself, and then become a low level manager. Then you'd get an MBA and move up the ladder.
posted by gjc at 4:37 PM on September 10, 2012

If you want to go into management at your current employer, you should be asking them what they need. (You might ask someone other than your direct manager.) Companies generally like promoting from within, there's fewer unknowns. And since they have the tuition reimbursement, they'd much prefer their money went towards the things they prefer to see so they can get a bigger return on that investment.

Some companies value MBAs, some don't. Some want PMP, some don't.
posted by mendel at 5:25 PM on September 10, 2012

(You might ask someone other than your direct manager.)
After giving your immediate manager a heads up, talking to your Manager's Manager has worked will in the past for me (well, my manager's manager). Your manager is more focused on what your team needs, and unless you are a complete fuckup, that includes you. Higher level managers are more interested in ensuring that the right people are in the right roles. They often have more perspective on where roles are likely to open up, and which ones could be a good fit for you.

Learning how to find the right people to talk to about career development in your company, and then talking to them is one of the most important professional skills you can develop.
posted by b1tr0t at 5:31 PM on September 10, 2012

Another thing occurred to me: What kind of manager do you want to be? Project managers and "line" managers are pretty different roles. (To me, project managers aren't "in management", they're a distinct role).
posted by mendel at 5:34 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Almost none of the managers I've worked with (and zero of the great ones) have gotten there by getting a degree. People management is hard to teach in school. Knowing your field is important also, but I assume you've already got that.

I'm sure it varies by company, but in the companies I've worked in, it's better to just let your manager know you want to develop into management. Good companies and managers want to develop their employees. If they want to develop you, and you let them know the direction in which you want to develop, they should start looking for opportunities for you to ease into management-type tasks. As you prove yourself on those, you should progressively get bigger opportunities and more responsibility. Until suddenly, you're A Managerâ„¢.

(Or maybe they'll tell you no, you need to go get Degree X first. But then at least you know.)
posted by primethyme at 5:44 PM on September 10, 2012

The answer is that it depends on your company, and instead of coming to strangers, you should be networking with the people whose jobs you'll someday want.

For instance, in my company, the MBA is king. I have been told point blank that I get two more promotions and after that, I'll need to go to business school (or some other relevant, master's level program, like math or economics) if I want to go any further.

Without knowing the culture at your firm, this is just a very difficult question to accurately answer.
posted by downing street memo at 6:47 PM on September 10, 2012

Ugh, just realized that I kind of came off dickish in that last one. Apologies, wasn't my intention.
posted by downing street memo at 6:47 PM on September 10, 2012

I must have missed your previous Ask regarding online MBA...but wanted to reiterate that some online MBAs (and other programs) are actually worth something. Just make sure it's a reputable school with proper accreditation.

Project management certification is very specific - it will certainly get you into project management positions, but not people management. Likewise, other technical certifications will lead you into other areas where technical expertise is needed, which are all relatively low in the hierarchy.

A second bachelor's will not do anything for you. You'll need something at the masters level to move up the chain, especially if you are looking to move outside your company. While companies will overlook credentials for a quality internal candidate who has already proven themselves, they won't make the same concessions for someone new and unknown.

You could explore MBAs with a focus or track in IT management, or explore a masters strictly in IT management - either of those would provide the credentials you need to get out of providing support and into managing.

I work at a university that offers graduate degrees that might suit your needs, please MeMail me if you want to follow up in detail.
posted by trivia genius at 7:49 PM on September 10, 2012

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