The Joint Masters Experience: MBA + Computer Science

I have always been fascinated by computers. You press a button, and magical things can happen. For example, you can submit an application to business school 5,000 miles away (of course, then you realize there was a typo on your resume… unfortunately, human error is still a factor and time traveling back to fix it is still something computers can’t do). People who could actually write code were like gods to me. At the same time, I never had enough focus to become one myself—instead, I embarked on a business path, getting degrees in economics and financial management, and later working in consulting. And, although I had tried to teach myself to code, without direction and a real goal to work towards, I had never gone beyond the basics. But the passion has never gone away.

During my first quarter at Booth, I decided to switch careers and pursue opportunities in the technology industry. This is not an easy thing to do, especially for an international student with no relevant experience or previous education in the field whatsoever. Once again I was regretting my life choices, when an email from Interim Dean Skinner came that began, “Dear students: I am pleased to announce the creation of a joint degree allowing students to earn both an MBA and an MS in Computer Science.” A degree that would allow me to fulfill my childhood dreams, and at the same time make my job search easier? Yes, please!

MBA/MPCS life is not easy. First of all, even to get there, one needs to pass not one, but two admissions processes, and get accepted into both programs. Then, the fun part begins: you have to pass Discrete Math and Algorithms. Oh, those sleepless nights spent contemplating life choices between doing homeworks and preparing for quizzes. Being a dual degree student and recruiting at the same time requires juggling your priorities and multitasking so hard it makes you want to add it to your resume under work experience.

But it all pays off in the end. First, you get to do really cool things. While your Booth friends were reading another 30-page-long Harvard case, you were building a functional computer game, with alien invaders and explosions. Or designing and deploying a SQL database of Pokemon. Or making your own version of IMDB. You will experience the ultimate satisfaction of making your program work after hours of miserable debugging. You will laugh when your friends complain about their accounting homework.

However, the dual degree is not for everyone. If business school is an emotional rollercoaster, MBA/MPCS is twice that. It will take you to greater ups and downs compared to the average Boothie (if there is such a thing), so it can be a little overwhelming at times. Personally, I loved my experience with the program, not least because I like to challenge myself. And, of course, there are practical implications—for a career switcher with no technical background, this program sure helped my resume stand out from the competition for the coveted tech Product Management roles.

At this point you are probably asking if I have social life at all, and the answer is yes! In fact, I am a co-chair of AudioBooth, and I play drums with a Booth rock band called Beluga Fails. I love to hang out with other Boothies, enjoying my last days in Chicago before I move on to California for my new job. It’s at a company that makes computer games—you know, the ones with alien invaders and explosions.

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