Sramana Mitra: Engineering schools wanting to teach entrepreneurship is a different trend. What’s driving that trend is that engineering students and engineering graduates are the best equipped to start companies – especially when it comes to the whole IT kind of entrepreneurship which is the most prevalent form of entrepreneurship all over the world right now. These are people who can actually build stuff. It’s a lot easier to bootstrap the business and get something off the ground and launched if you can build something yourself as opposed to having to hire people to do it, which requires capital.
Sher Downing: The other part of it is that digital business is now striding across so many different things. For people to try to determine what they’re going to be and what they’re going to do when they get out of engineering school, it’s very difficult because they have the opportunity to really touch a variety of areas in any kind of business. I think what we’re seeing is students who want more opportunities. They want to be able to pick and choose a little more what they do once they get out. They’re more interested in working on projects that have more vested long term interest and providing services and abilities to people as opposed to working in firms that have very distinct and specific models of what they will be doing in the long term.
Sramana Mitra: Anything else you want to discuss in this interview?
Sher Downing: The one other thing that has become very interesting is how people are returning to school. In business schools, it’s traditionally been you’re on a career path and you’re moving forward. I think what we’re seeing now is a mixture of people. We’re also seeing entrepreneurship lead into all these areas. We’re seeing students who want to get into more management processes. For our Masters of Science and Information Management program, the students have been working either in IT or in IS type of area. Maybe, they’ve been working with data or working with business analytics. What they’re missing is the management portion. How do they convey that material? How do they manage people? How do they manage a project? Not in the sense of a traditional project manager but how they attend to all of the variable in all the multi-tasking that goes with making something really run at a faster clip than a normal project would.
We’re really seeing an interest in people who want to be diversified when they get done with school. They want to have an opportunity to have exposure to many different things so that they have a lot more choices when they’re out and when they’re done. What we’re seeing now in our Masters in Science and Business Analytics program is people saying, “Okay, there’s a new niche out there in analytics. Everyone’s starting to look at Big Data and starting to look at disruptions. How do we fit into that and contribute to it? We still have our traditional students who want to go through an MBA because they want to be diversified in the traditional sense but they want to take electives in some of these areas. It’s a fascinating time now to see people who are opening themselves to having a lot of different experiences and opening their mindset to, “I don’t know where my career is going and I have a lot of choices and opportunities if I just take advantage of what’s in front of me.”
Sramana Mitra: Awesome. It was nice talking to you.
This segment is part 7 in the series : Thought Leaders in Online Education: Sher Downing, Executive Director of Online Academic Services at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University
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