Business Education for working professionals in the Technology industry –Relevance and options: Dinesh Singh, Sunstone Business School

logo-transparentIn late 1990s and early 2000s, the best career option for graduates was to move in technology companies in professional services, telecom, enterprise, embedded. These were technology centric roles and provided initial growth in first few years. However, technology professionals face lot of challenges in growth once they have crossed a certain stage. The relevance of business knowledge in a technology professional’s career is manifold:

  • For professionals in the software products business there is the issue of awareness of the needs of the target market, the need and importance of certain features over others, the way a feature needs to be implemented so that it is meaningful for a business user etc. There is also a need to understand the economics behind the product being developed – how to position the product, how do you price, what channels do you use to provide access to the product, what about ongoing support, what features do customers value and hence what model of pricing may be relevant. Understanding of the economics of the product lifecycle management process – when does the customer derive the maximum value from the product, when does the provide incur the maximum cost, what is the cost of upgrade to a future version for the customer and what is the cost to the vendor of continuing to provide that support and many more…
  • For technology professionals that are helping clients in the implementation of packages like ERPs and other large systems, there is a definite need to understand not only product features from a business usage perspective but also understand the fundamentals of the business process that the feature is trying to support.
  • For client engagement managers it is critical to understand the core business of the clients they support while not losing focus on the economics of their own business.

A business education program that aims to help mid-career professionals progress further must focus on the 4 Cs in the way they impart the education

  1. Coverage
  2. Contextualize
  3. Complement
  4. Coach


Coverage – For the business education program to be meaningful there has to be sufficient coverage of different functional areas that a professional needs to work through during an average day not only today but tomorrow as well. While finance seems to be a fairly common inclusion in most curriculum, the less glamorous but perhaps more important areas like Operations and People skills are often deprioritized. A good program must cater to the functional knowledge needs of not only the next role but a few levels ahead as well. Some programs tend to be overambitious and be everything to everybody and probably end up not satisfying any of the populations. A program which is intended for professional from the technology industry alone may be better placed to provide appropriate coverage. We, at Sunstone Business School, were able to tweak the curriculum only because of our targeted focus on technology professionals.

Contextualize – Adults learn best when the concept is illustrated through a real life experience that they can correlate with. A gold standard in business education for working professionals must present real life problems from the technology industry and allow for the students to try and solve them without the benefit of theoretical concepts. Once the concepts are clarified, the students must be allowed to solve the same problem again using the concept to realize the elegance in the new solution. This method allows for the concept to be internalized much better than completing a full subject starting at Chapter 1 and going all the way to chapter 11… Remember, students should connect the dots rather than collect the dots.

Complement – In order to complement the functional skills professionals must always be in the pursuit of professional skills that enable them to be successful. Basic interpersonal skills like communication of business value through storytelling, negotiations skills, ability to network and the likes. At Sunstone Business School, our negotiations and storytelling courses were considered the most valuable courses by our students. Any business education program must focus on these professional skills in addition to core functional skills around the different business functions like sales, marketing, finance, HR etc.

Coach – In deference to the age and experience of the mid-career professional the need is more for ‘coaches’ rather than ‘teachers’. The coaching ability of senior management professionals with hands on management experience in the corporate world must be preferred over the research/theory orientation of ‘professors’ in a typical management school. The hands on experience of the ‘player coach’ helps them communicate in a language that is well understood by both parties and leads to the ‘coach’ empathize with the student community way better to facilitate real learning.

In the connected world the content of business education has ceased to be a differentiator in the success of learning for the students. It is typically the ‘how they learn’ that tends to decide success vs. ‘what they learn’

Dinesh Singh is the Director, Student Experience, Sunstone Business School