Service based company or engineering management?


I have been working as a software developer for 3 years. I have worked in j2ee. I always wanted to start a start-up myself of a service based company. I have decent funding from well known business players (unfortunately non-IT).

I am looking for any tips / advices / reading recommendations. I want to finally have my own service based development unit. But was thinking of starting of as a Quality Analysis service provider initially (because I find it less risky).

At the same time, I am trying to crack GRE so I could pursue MS MIS or Engineering Management. But, I don't know how much would it actually help in developing skills meant for running a business. So, people who have done these courses, please put in your point of view.

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asked Oct 22 '09 at 18:38
26 points

5 Answers


I worked up the ranks of software management from MSEECS. From my perspective you would do better with a combination of working at hand's on technical level and taking appropriate MBA classes. The key to success in management is a lot of soft skills, self development, sales, marketing and finance. Engineering management would get you ready for civil engineering or large scale systems project, but entrepreneur is more about pure business. Given the rate of change in the industry I would not expect traditional MS-MIS to help a lot for a startup business. Also an aside, you seem overly focused on 'service' and not enough on technology. You can maximize value by developing a unique value proposition out of being an expert in some domain.

answered Oct 31 '09 at 02:26
Steve Meier
41 points


There is no substitute to 'Running' your own business. GREs and other exams are only to make sure that there is a benchmark to evaluate candidates. Once you get in to a university of your choice, if your intention is to get into business then you have to look forward to courses which will directly or indirectly help with your business.

The other aspect of taking an MS is to see where the university puts their funds into for research and see if any of those research fields could be a business opportunity down the lane.


answered Oct 22 '09 at 23:07
547 points
  • Thanks so much, this definitely gives me some kind of direction! – Akkyy 14 years ago
  • No problem, when do I get a vote :) – Anup 14 years ago


To be honest and candid, I haven't been impressed with the academic treatment of software engineering and software project management. I really think working in a startup that has the right technology leadership would serve you better. Apprentice yourself under a CTO/CIO that gets it, and you won't be able to put a price on that experience.

answered Oct 28 '09 at 02:49
263 points


You are certainly at an interesting cross-roads. I was essentially in the same position as you about 15 years ago, and have since gone on to finish a masters, work as a software engineering manager, and to work as start-up employee and founder (my current endeavor).

First, I think there can be some misconceptions about what an advanced degree will do for your career, whether your goal is to be an engineering manager or start-up founder. In particular, while many start-up founders and engineering managers have advanced degrees, the advanced degree in itself is neither a sufficient or necessary condition to ascend to or be successful in these roles. For example, without some real world experience to compliment an advanced degree, I think its unreasonable to expect a promotion into an engineering management position. Similarly, there are many successful engineering managers without an advanced degree; however, some/many large companies admittedly make this a key requirement.

Some would think ascending into an engineering management role (or start-up founder role, for that matter), will progress their career and make them happier and more successful individuals. After all, compared with being an individual contributor engineer/programmer, this is seemingly a step up in job title, responsibility, influence in a company, etc. I personally know several people who became engineering managers, but found they were absolutely miserable with the day to day responsibilities of project planning, personnel management, writing status reports, attending meetings, etc. I personally enjoy all these things, but your experience may differ.

On balance, I think "working your way up" ultimately holds more promise to becoming a successful engineering manager than an advanced degree (also see Steve Meier's answer). For me, "working your way up" meant showing a sincere interest towards management oriented tasks, even while I was still an individual contributor engineer; for example, this included writing specs, formulating estimates, helping with project planning, attending customer/marketing meetings at every opportunity, and taking on technical lead responsibilities.

Despite my comments above, I wouldn't necessarily dissuade you from pursuing an advanced degree. For me, finishing a masters has had numerous other benefits, such as becoming a better writer, increasing my ability to independently research and analyze advanced topics, and further exposing me to the academic underpinnings of software engineering. However, I don't think it has had a primary impact on my success (or lack thereof) as an engineering manager or startup founder.

answered Nov 3 '09 at 07:09
Steve Roehling
141 points


Having done my studies in the College of Engineering, getting my MSEM was very helpful in understanding the world more from the business POV.

Marketing is very important, and I was exposed to some books and authors I would never have read otherwise, who helped shape many of my thoughts on how a business should operate.

If you want to start a business, I would suggest you read The Monk and the Riddle, which was written by a VC.

The basic thought is do what you are passionate about. So, if you are not passionate about your idea, then don't go down that road, just with the idea of making money. If you are passionate then you can get other people passionate about the idea, and then you are on your way, more likely, to a successful business.

answered Oct 23 '09 at 14:47
James Black
2,642 points
  • Hey thanks for the inputs. Just a small question, at what age did you do your MSEM? And how much experience did you have then? – Akkyy 14 years ago
  • I had spent 7 yrs in the US Air Force, so I was 33 when I finished my MSEM, but I had just finished getting 2 B.S. degrees and my MSEE, so I was a full-time student all that time, working at the university. – James Black 14 years ago

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