While surfing the Web you check your inbox and notice an e-mail from your favorite online retail store. You click a link and take advantage of a hot sale. Next, you visit another favorite Web site to check out some news or what’s going on in the local music scene. The site just so happens to be polluted with advertisements that seem perfectly tailored to your interests. Finally, you log in to a social networking site and find suggestions for you to “like” pages that are geared toward your interests.
Like most things that appear effortless, these Internet synchronicities involve quite a bit of behind-the-scenes planning, coordination and follow-through.
Who are the people leading the charge of this influential dance? Professionals with an MBA in e-Commerce.
Tom Ahart, the Dean of Graduate Studies at DeVry University’s Keller Graduate School of Management underscores how the e-Commerce MBA differs from traditional MBA's.
“This degree includes all of the traditional elements of the MBA course of study, but there’s a focus on how the Internet plays into business and marketing. That may be through online retailing, ads popping up in your inbox or creating business and product awareness in other ways online. There’s almost a triangle in this major. There’s marketing, design, and technology. It’s important to end up with a working knowledge of all three. While you may not be doing the web design or programming yourself, you need to know how to direct those people who are.”
Ahart says that many of the e-Commerce MBA students have a background in at least one of the prongs before starting a program.
“For example, someone may have a Marketing background and know a lot about strategy,but then they still need the technology piece. Many people get this degree so that they can better manage subcontractors who are handling the Web site design or database administration.”
Students really intrigued with the technology piece of this field may want to learn more about what an MBA in Technology has to offer.
Devon Perry, the CEO of Wine Lovers, LLC, and GoBYO, a Web site that helps people find BYO restaurants in several metropolitan areas, has her MBA from Drexel University in Philadelphia, and echoes this point.
“It’s important to have the vocabulary to deal with people who have Computer Science backgrounds. You have to know exactly what you want before you commission it. Not only will that save you time and money, it will help your subcontractors meet your business needs. Getting the MBA really helps with that thought process.”
If you’re considering this degree, Ahart states that it’s a good idea to have an undergrad degree in Business or a related field, such as Accounting or Marketing. Strong skill sets in writing and math are also important.He points out that many of DeVry’s students are already small-business owners who are looking to increase their knowledge base to run their ventures more successfully. Ahart and Perry both underscore the importance of finding a school that keeps up with the latest trends in the business marketplace.
“Meet with a few of the professors before you apply. You want to make sure that they’re not just teaching from a book and that they’re not afraid of shifts in the industry. A few years ago, the e-Commerce concentration didn’t even exist and now that it does, there are sometimes rapid changes. You want to see a school that is showing an investment in keeping up with those shifts. You can tell that by speaking with alumni, looking at the speakers they invite to the school and scholarships they offer.”
“You want to find professors who are out there in the business world doing this work. We’re constantly re-evaluating to make sure that our courses are current.” He also cautions not to shop on price alone and to examine the course structure with a critical eye. “Take a look at what the courses cover and ask about the reasoning behind the curriculum. You want to make sure that the school isn’t teaching things that are 20 years old.”
So where are you going to end up after graduation? Ahart says that many of their graduates go on to open their own businesses or to grow their existing businesses. Many students also often go on to work in web marketing or operations for larger companies.
Perry relates how the degree helped in growing her own business.
“Everyone wants to be first to market. But what do you do when there’s over-saturation? Getting my MBA helped me identify creative solutions. For example, we saw what our competitors were doing – which, in some cases, was trying to be everything to everyone. Instead, we went the opposite way and decided to specialize and become narrower to appeal to a niche audience.”
Still unsure if this is the degree for you? Ahart offers some advice:
“No graduate degree and/or concentration is a magic bullet. It will only help you if you have a well-reasoned idea of what you want. So you have to ask yourself, ‘What do I envision for myself? Why do I want this?’ Ultimately, that can solidify your decision.”
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