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Career: how to get where I want to be?
Old 08-24-2005, 11:08 PM   #1
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Career: how to get where I want to be?

I'm 23, graduated from college last year with a major in business/finance and started working for a megacorp as a financial analyst. I have been working 6-month assignments in our various businesses and in another year, I'll finish this training program and take a regular full-time job with the company. I still have a ways to go before I get to ER, so I want to get on a job track that I enjoy...hopefully will make the time go faster.

Of course, I need to know what I want to do before I can answer any questions. At this point, I know that I like finance and I like technology (hardware, software, network applications, etc.) and I REALLY like the intersection of these two. The Energy segments I've worked for have been fine, but I don't wake up excited in the morning thinking about gas turbines. But I don't know if I would be happier as a finance manager for a technology company, or as a finance/IT project manager for a non-technology company.

In either case, I want to have as many options as possible...I'm thinking about my "5-year plan" which encompasses a few questions:

- What kind of job do I want to get off-program with megacorp in a year? It will be finance related, but it could be...general accounting, profit and loss management, IT finance systems, commercial finance, etc. What area helps move me towards my goal? Should I try to get specialized experience with a software package like Oracle ERP or SAP? Does the size of the segment I work for matter?

- What kind of educational plans should I start making? I want to get my extra schooling out of the way before marriage/kids. Is an MBA the obvious choice here? I also think about a CPA, but it may be too limiting. On the other hand, having detailed technical knowledge with detailed accounting knowledge could be a potent combination in a technology startup. Is there another option I haven't considered?

- How long should I stay with the megacorp (which is well known and well respected, good for the resume) before looking for greener pastures? Right now I am thinking 4-6 years (unless something much better comes along out of the blue) which would be 1 more year on-program and then 2-4 years in "regular" jobs. It's likely that I can get employer tuition support for a part-time MBA or masters in accounting, so another reason to stick around for a few years.

Does anyone have some wisdom that they'd like to share?
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?
Old 08-25-2005, 12:01 AM   #2
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?

Well, I think you are asking at least some of the right questions and that may be the most important thing. Its good to ask yourself just what is it that you want. Is it more $$, a stable envirenment, reasonable work hours, support for education?
I remember 30+ years ago signing on to a civilian job with the Navy at Great Lakes, IL. I had this questioneer which asked what I wanted. (I'm not sure if it would have made a difference what I wrote.) But I reflected on it and put down education and travel. And you know, in this the Navy (and later NASA) came through. I got plenty of travel and education including overseas postings and grad school at several good places while I moved to other jobs.
Now I suppose that if I put down pay as the primary element I would have either left of been less satisfied with my career.
And things can change with time. My sister is a very successful lawyer and initially she worked crazy hours but wanted to learn and move up. Now she wants more free time. She has always been clear about her priorities and things seem to work out.
So I can't answer what you can expect in your field, others may have some insight, but at least you will be starting with a sense of where you want to go.
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?
Old 08-25-2005, 12:29 AM   #3
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?

Idle thoughts in no particular order...


Don't know a thing about finance, but I work for mega-IT-corp and I can tell you that the tech sector isn't much fun right now -- and not likely to be fun anytime soon.

Best advice I ever got was to know the difference between a line job and a staff job, and go for the line positions. These were more enjoyable to me as I was right in the middle of the company's business rather than off in a supporting role somewhere, and I had better opportunities for advancement too, both inside and outside the company. Depends on what you like, though.

I'd certainly stick with mega-corp long enough to get help with the MBA -- I did mine without that help and it was very, very tough at times. But I'd get out as soon after that as possible.

I've worked for start-ups and mid-level companies until my last company was bought up by megadeath... er... ah... megaCORP. I spend a good EIGHTY percent of my time now navigating the maze of regulations and procedures. I learned more in 1 year in a line position at a small company, where I had cradle-to-grave product responsibility, than I'll ever learn here with the Borg.

Final thought -- have you considered a law degree instead of an MBA? Business is rife with legal issues -- if you really do want to go back to school and have a mind for it, you might at least consider that route.

FWIW,
Caroline





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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?
Old 08-25-2005, 01:08 AM   #4
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?

I'm running low on wisdom, but here's some food for thought. You know there is a trend towards outsourcing, right? It is unstoppable. The two classes of jobs easiest to outsource are technology and finance. During corporate mergers, finance is the first department to get consolidated. Pick a career path that is defensible.
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?
Old 08-25-2005, 01:19 AM   #5
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?

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. . . *The two classes of jobs easiest to outsource are technology and finance.* *. . .
Manufacturing is outsourced even earlier.
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?
Old 08-25-2005, 06:55 AM   #6
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?

I think sticking around with megacorp to get the MBA would be a reasonable choice but be warned: Working FT and going to school PT sucks. I've nevver been more exhausted and drained for so many years at a time. You definately get the best return by doing this, but it will cost you in blood sweat and tears.

I think that the smartest thing anyone can do earlyon in their career is to make sure you have credentials and training that are adaptable to a wide variety of jobs, situations, etc. Things change rapidly enough that you will almost certainly have to reinvent yourself several times over the course of your career. As such, make sure you are not overly specialized, and try to angle toward things that will always be needed.

- Along those lines, a CPA is valuable because there are so many fields in which it is useful, plus it is pretty much universally recognized. An MBA is also useful for the same reasons.

- I would look for a job at megacorp that will allow you to learn skills that are apllicable to a wide variety of jobs, industries, situations. Specialized stuff in a particular software package is NOT what I would be looking at at your age. Accounting and finance arre likely to be a lot more portable and enduring. Sarb-Ox is is huge waste of resources, but it has been very good for accountants ad finance people.

- Stay with megacorp as long as it is still worth your while. If you arre still getting valuable experience on the job, good pay, tuition benefits, etc. that are at least competitive with the market, then stay. But keep an ear to the ground so that opportunities do not pass you by.
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?
Old 08-25-2005, 08:56 AM   #7
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Caroline
Idle thoughts in no particular order...


Don't know a thing about finance, but I work for mega-IT-corp and I can tell you that the tech sector isn't much fun right now -- and not likely to be fun anytime soon.
Care to elaborate? seems to me based on casual readings that things (hiring) seem to be picking up quite a bit in the IT areana, no?
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?
Old 08-25-2005, 09:51 AM   #8
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?

If I think about what I want right now, I'd like to be a finance manager for a technology company (or a division of the company). I'd like to have some accounting skills, but I don't want to be the guy making journal entries for payroll accruals or filing the tax returns. I want to be closely involved with marketing so that I can understand how the industry is affecting our results...not just a scorekeeper that uses the carrot/stick to make people adhere to their budgets. I want to work for a smaller company, or a small division within a larger company...my last assignment with Megacorp was for a $500MM international profit and loss, and at that level I found it really difficult to analyze anything but the largest trends. There were so many small factors, some of which would cancel each other out, and it was hard to identify the truly important ones. The fact that it was in an engineering-centric industry I knew nothing about didn't help either. I think a P&L in the range of $50-$100MM is a better size for me...large enough that it still matters but small enought that you can get a good grasp on the details.

Also, I want to do this in Texas and not have to move around the country every 2 years just to keep my career on track. Maybe I'm asking for too much.
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?
Old 08-25-2005, 10:08 AM   #9
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?

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Originally Posted by soupcxan
If I think about what I want right now, I'd like to be a finance manager for a technology company (or a division of the company). I'd like to have some accounting skills, but I don't want to be the guy making journal entries for payroll accruals or filing the tax returns. I want to be closely involved with marketing so that I can understand how the industry is affecting our results...not just a scorekeeper that uses the carrot/stick to make people adhere to their budgets. I want to work for a smaller company, or a small division within a larger company...my last assignment with Megacorp was for a $500MM international profit and loss, and at that level I found it really difficult to analyze anything but the largest trends. There were so many small factors, some of which would cancel each other out, and it was hard to identify the truly important ones. The fact that it was in an engineering-centric industry I knew nothing about didn't help either. I think a P&L in the range of $50-$100MM is a better size for me...large enough that it still matters but small enought that you can get a good grasp on the details.

Also, I want to do this in Texas and not have to move around the country every 2 years just to keep my career on track. Maybe I'm asking for too much.
Well there you go: a concise statement of what you actually want. Go get it!

FWIW, DW and I have decided that we are happy living where we are for the forseeable future. With a toddler running around, we are both very adverse to moving (harrd on kids). Therefore, I am not willing to move for a job. Not for any job. Yeah, if someone offered to pay me millions a year, I would take the job, but I would be commuting home on the weekends (for a year, then FIRE). If that means I need to be creative about job opportunities, turn down offers, start my own business, etc. then so be it. Thus far it hasn't been an issue, although I do have a long commute.
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?
Old 08-25-2005, 10:16 AM   #10
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?

Quote:
Care to elaborate? seems to me based on casual readings that things (hiring) seem to be picking up quite a bit in the IT areana, no?
mebbe so, farmerEd - I have no scientific data to go with. *Just observations:

My company, "I've Been Mauled" just laid off 13,000 worldwide. *This is common knowledge. A little-known additional fact is that they HIRED 14,000 more back -- in India. *If you're Indian, high-tech is a GREAT place to be right now.

My compadres, laid off in the past few years, have been out of work for months or years at a time, and when they do go back to work, it's at lower pay and with fewer benefits. *I'd move to a smaller and more nimble company in a heartbeat if I could find one that paid anywhere near the salary I've worked up to over the years.

For those of us who have been left after the exodus, work is very trying. *Twice as much work, half as many people, and half as much budget to make anything happen. *We're also re-orged regularly as management tries to cover more bases with fewer live bodies. *

The one good thing -- there's the knowledge that you could be out the door at any minute -- GREAT incentive to LBYM and RE.

FWIW,
Caroline

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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?
Old 08-25-2005, 10:28 AM   #11
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Caroline
mebbe so, farmerEd - I have no scientific data to go with. *Just observations:

My company, "I've Been Mauled" just laid off 13,000 worldwide. *This is common knowledge.* A little-known additional fact is that they HIRED 14,000 more back -- in India. *If you're Indian, high-tech is a GREAT place to be right now.

My compadres, laid off in the past few years, have been out of work for months or years at a time, and when they do go back to work, it's at lower pay and with fewer benefits. *I'd move to a smaller and more nimble company in a heartbeat if I could find one that paid anywhere near the salary I've worked up to over the years.

For those of us who have been left after the exodus, work is very trying. *Twice as much work, half as many people, and half as much budget to make anything happen. *We're also re-orged regularly as management tries to cover more bases with fewer live bodies. *

The one good thing -- there's the knowledge that you could be out the door at any minute -- GREAT incentive to LBYM and RE.

FWIW,
Caroline

I echo every word Caroline wrote here.* I have experienced the same thing with my current employer.* The trend is: outsource to India or China.* .* This trend will continue as those of us who were software developers will most likely morph into system analyst jobs, integrators or technical project managers.
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?
Old 08-25-2005, 10:39 AM   #12
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?

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Well there you go: a concise statement of what you actually want.* Go get it!
Agreed, but what is the shortest path to get there? If the energy sector isn't where I want to be, should I start making plans to leave as soon as it's feasible? Even if that means getting an MBA on my own nickel? Or be content to bide my time until the perfect opportunity presents itself?

As for outsourcing and other IT issues...I'm a finance guy who likes technology, not a techie who likes finance.
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?
Old 08-25-2005, 11:04 AM   #13
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?

I think it is incredibly important nowadays to fill a niche whether it be as a business owner or employee. Go where few people are and obtain specialized skills that make you hard to replace. Once you get in, learn every damn thing about the job/industry and always pursue new training/designations. Kind of a generic answer but I think it applies to anyone our age.
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?
Old 08-25-2005, 11:06 AM   #14
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?

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Originally Posted by soupcxan
Agreed, but what is the shortest path to get there? If the energy sector isn't where I want to be, should I start making plans to leave as soon as it's feasible? Even if that means getting an MBA on my own nickel? Or be content to bide my time until the perfect opportunity presents itself?

As for outsourcing and other IT issues...I'm a finance guy who likes technology, not a techie who likes finance.
It is rare to find employers that are willing to pay for your education, so I would probably stick around until I had the degree.
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?
Old 08-25-2005, 11:08 AM   #15
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?

I have to warn you like I do everyone else. An MBA is not a bad thing but make sure you want it for the right reasons. If that is the case it will add value to your career and educational background.
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?
Old 08-25-2005, 11:11 AM   #16
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?

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I have to warn you like I do everyone else.* An MBA is not a bad thing but make sure you want it for the right reasons.* If that is the case it will add value to your career and educational background.
Can you expand on what these reasons are? I already know that I'm interested in the subject matter, so my reasons would be: added technical skills, networking, three more letters to put after my name to qualify me for management positions.
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?
Old 08-25-2005, 11:22 AM   #17
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?

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Originally Posted by soupcxan
Can you expand on what these reasons are? I already know that I'm interested in the subject matter, so my reasons would be: added technical skills, networking, three more letters to put after my name to qualify me for management positions.
I have to be really honest here (coming from many years in IT). In order to obtain a management position in IT for large corporations, you need to have real world technical skills and in-depth understanding of legacy systems and emerging technologies. Getting an MBA will not guarentee an automatic management slot in a fortune 500 company. Having the depth and breadth in the IT field will. The only way to obtain this is experience.

This is just my opinion, FWIW, based on my experience with the many CIO's, VP's and Senior Directors that I've worked with in the past.
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?
Old 08-25-2005, 11:22 AM   #18
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?

I hate to bust your bubble, but having an MBA is not a sure road to managment success. *It all depends on your field of interest. *Mine has been Quality for over 30 years and experience, not an MBA is what gets you up the ladder. *In finance, Marketing, and Corp. management, an MBA would even be "required" in many levels. *

It is nice to add to your other tools for work but don't count on it being as useful as some would have you believe.

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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?
Old 08-25-2005, 11:59 AM   #19
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?

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Can you expand on what these reasons are? I already know that I'm interested in the subject matter, so my reasons would be: added technical skills, networking, three more letters to put after my name to qualify me for management positions.
Don't just go because you are not happy with your job. Too many people wind in b-school that don't know what they want to do other than avoid work. So first know exactly what you want to do. You may be able to enter other markets with a certification. Could save you a lot of $$.

Be, as you said, interested in the material b/c there is a lot of "fluff" and theory. Not always relevant to how it works on the job.

Tech skills? I assume you mean being able to build wizard like spreadsheets on Excel? I would be a master in the tech area that applies to finance and not worry about much else.

3 letters after your name thing may look good but it doesn't take long to expose a fake. I see a lot of people that don't know jack about business but will end up with the 3 letters. So I reco you look beyond the books/lectures/tests of an MBA program.
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?
Old 08-25-2005, 04:48 PM   #20
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Re: Career: how to get where I want to be?

Quote:
Originally Posted by cube_rat
I have to be really honest here (coming from many years in IT).* In order to obtain a management position in IT for large corporations, you need to have real world technical skills and in-depth understanding of legacy systems and emerging technologies.* Getting an MBA will not guarentee an automatic management slot in a fortune 500 company.* Having the depth and breadth in the IT field will.* The only way to obtain this is experience.*

This is just my opinion, FWIW, based on my experience with the many CIO's, VP's and Senior Directors that I've worked with in the past.
I'll also expand this to certifications as well as educational degrees. Real life experience, quality of work, and business partner satisfaction skills are more important than any paper you aquire.
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