Saturday, May 07, 2005

Non-Poker: Plug for an MSCIS Program

I think a lot of the people in the social club I belong to are IT professionals, so I'd like to put in a plug (love letter) for my alma mater for anyone considering a Master's Degree.

Stop reading now if you're looking for poker tidbits.

I did this program between 2001 and 2003, spending two gruelling weeks on campus each year, followed by 5 months of on-line coursework. Two years on, and I'm very happy to have done the program.

* The program was essentially aimed at technology managers and technology strategists. We did not learn specific programming languages or technologies in detail, so the material that we covered does not grow obsolete the way some other Master's in Technology might.

* If you contrast an MSCIS with an MBA, I think this is a much better program for anybody in the high-tech fields. If you want to be a better project manager, or aspire to be a CIO, this is the program for you!

* I really got to know my cohort well, and had a lot of fun with them. When you spend 60 hours over 7 days together in a windowless room, you really want to cut loose by the end of the week, and we had some fine times together. Knowing everybody in person also allowed for more lee-way in the on-line discussions too.

* I learned a few things along the way, and got numerous chances to work on leadership skills that I didn't otherwise have a chance to develop. Frankly speaking, I discovered a big chunk of my personality that was otherwise dormant; I will let you decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

* I really do see a lot of the case study material in real life professional situations. I was involved in a failed project last year, and it was a textbook study in why projects fail. It made it a little easier for me to get past the shame and the pain associated with that.

* On that same theme of life imitating case studies, I recently came up against a client with a super-tight auditing department, and their IT department threatened to shut down our project twice. I think the skills I picked up really helped me to get past the initial bluster and figure out what it was that was really causing the road block. (Their IT dept. never clarified why they had threatened the shutdowns, but after an hour of talking in spirals, curlicues and circles, they finally admitted that their IT Audit Dept. is vicious, and anytime we even look at their computers, we have to document the simplest of actions. For this client, we have to go the extra mile and document the meaningless as well as the significant movements.

*On that same theme, I'm better at second guessing my project manager, and stepping in when leadership is faltering. I try not to leap-frog anybody, but I refuse to let the client hang because there's not forward momentum.

* The cost of the shingle was less than $20 K, including air fare and on-campus expenses. My employer picked up half of that, so it was a bargain basement dollar investment, but I did invest two years of my life, with no regrets there.

* This university does have a good rep in the mid-west, although it may not be as well known on the coasts.

* In the meantime, SMSU is changing it's name to MSU, which probably makes the shingle even more prestigious.

* Anytime I write an official document to the clients, I just love signing off with Name, MSCIS, as it gives so much more value to what I have to say.

Not convinced yet? Drop me a line, or ask me about it the next time you see me.

Frank Nagai Jr. , MSCIS

PS: If I help talk you into it, please mention my name when you apply. I'd really love to get my referral fee of a sharp-looking coffee mug!