From Engineer to MBA: How to Transform your Resume
The pool of MBA applicants is filled with all sorts of diverse backgrounds: doctors, lawyers, bankers, entrepreneurs, teachers, writers…and of course we cannot forget the engineers. Many bloggers, including Rock of Gibralter and Juggler, are members of the tech world, and they represent the high volume in the applicant pool. Muskblog reported that 25% of his class had an engineering background. A quick look at some other schools:
Stern: 9% of the class of ’08 worked in Technology
Haas: 13% of the class of ’08 worked in Technology, 29% majored in engineering
Tuck: 16% of the class of ’08 worked in Technology, 18% majored in Engineering
Fuqua: 28% of the class of ’08 majored in Engneering
Translating engineering experience and lingo into a language that is both understood by and relevant to the admissions committee can be a challenge. This is an important hurdle to overcome, as it will touch most aspects of your application. Here is a look at how to rethink a basic business document – your resume.
On a typical engineering resume, you might find a line such as this one: “Synthesized an 8-bit ALU chip which could perform logic operations such as AND, OR and XOR.” Although I do not doubt that this is an interesting and impressive accomplishment in the engineering world, I have no idea what this means and am guessing that many admissions committee members do not either. When I see something like this, I will ask an applicant to translate it into MBA speak – what does this mean? What did you really do when “synthesizing”?
Often, on a second draft, I see a line that I can more easily understand. “Led the design and development of X.” Now this is something that I can understand. Led, design, development…the technical jargion has been translated. However, this resume still has a long way to go. It’s interesting how difficult it can be to really break down and describe the work that you do every single day. Yet this is what you need to do.
I ask, “when you are developing X, what are the steps you take, what are the skills you use?”
Think about the smaller steps:
Who did you manage, either directly or cross functionally?
What processes did you manage?
What kind of analysis did you run?
How did you structure communications?
Did you develop or improve upon any processes?
Developing X is a big accomplishment, and it took a lot of little steps to get there. To understand what you really did, you need to think about the smaller steps, and how they can be repurposed in a business role – how did you communicate, collaborate, manage, lead and more? Also important, think about your results. If you developed X, why is X so great? What was the impact of what you did? Did it save time, cut costs, increase revenue? Quantify results to the extent possible so a reviewer can understand the impact.
To appeal to an MBA audience, an applicant must think beyond technical tasks. He or she must identify what lies behind those tasks that might reveal an effective business leader. Going through this exercise can be painful, but it is a necessary step and something that will serve an applicant well throughout the entire application process.
If you are struggling with this important document, our consultants can help you think through how to translate your accomplishments into business lingo. Contact us to learn more.