Having graduated from a top engineering school, I know the vernacular is different in the tech world. Often, engineers wake up one day after graduation and several years on the job realizing they have been speaking this tech language exclusively and now that they have the inkling to go back to business school, they fear failure in the admissions process for lack of “socialization” with the real world such as their fellow applicants from other industries may have.
While it’s true a winsome personality and savvy people skills can help in a business school interview, you must first get to that interview and HEY! by the way, who says engineers don’t have a personality or people skills? Certainly there is a stereotype engineer out there who wears unfashionable glasses and keeps more than several pens in their breast pockets, but the engineers who decide to pursue business school often by the phenomenon of natural selection, generally have broken out of this stereotype in the first place.
If you fall into the former category, the best thing you can do to prepare for business school is to spend the next year or so interacting with non-engineers. Leverage that Facebook account to have lunch with your friends or acquaintances in banking or sales and make sure you can fit into that crowd—as much as 40% of your incoming classmates in b-school will hail from it.
If you come from the latter category, where you are looking to break out of the engineering world in part because you feel you have that “extra something” your co-workers don’t have (and therefore feel you will be able to successfully manage them vs. work beside them for the balance of your career), you should take a few tips to heart as you prepare to apply to b-school.
Firstly, you need to abandon any and all concerns that you lack the kind of business experience you perceive the “average” b-school applicant has. The truth is, b-schools love engineers and know they come with a can-do attitude, a knack for practical problem solving and natural quantitative and analytical skills. The two areas they will scrutinize based on their experience interviewing engineers is your leadership potential and your teamwork experience. Certain fields within engineering are more conducive to teamwork and in fact many disciplines in the high tech world provide some of the best team project work of any industry.
For those of you in that camp, you will have no trouble relating anecdotal examples of how you play well in the sandbox with others. If you are in IT or computer engineering and find your daily duties revolve around you, your coffee mug and your flatscreen, you might want to branch out and seek some team projects in the few months you have left before application season hits in full swing.
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Scott Bryant has over 25 years of professional post undergraduate experience in the entertainment industry as well as on Wall Street with Goldman Sachs. He served on the admissions committee at the Fuqua School of Business where he received his MBA and now works part time in retirement for a top tier business school. He has been consulting with Veritas Prep clients for the past six admissions seasons.