Transitioning Vets – MBA or Tech Qualled?

I first learned about Tech Qualled at the Savannah SACC. I was immediately impressed by the incredible opportunity that Tech Qualled gives to transitioning vets and are considering transitioning vetstechnology sales. My background, USCGA 88′, Duke MBA, and 12 years as an MBA admissions director, gives me some insights into helping you pick your best path if you are deciding between an MBA or Sales.

First, getting out of the service is scary, because no one is going to tell you where to go and what to do next in your career. This apprehension is even higher for people who attend service academies because we basically ‘grew up’ in the military and almost all of our closest friends are in the service. We lack a large network of friends in the business world who can give advice and act as examples. There are so many career fields and companies to consider – it can be bewildering.

Due to this apprehension, going back to school is a comfortable path – You likely have the GI Bill. You’re good at standardized tests(GMAT, GRE, LSAT). You know you get good grades in school. Your friends and family will be impressed that you are going to a great school. Your business school is going to help you find a job. You know that school without uniforms, a huge book of regulations and Reveille will be a lot of fun!

Boom! Done! Easy Choice.

Before going to school know your options. There are career paths for which the MBA is practically essential for a transitioning service member to enter; Investment Banking, Consulting, and Brand Marketing. However, if you want to do high-level technology sales, a full-time MBA program is not a good path to get there for the following reasons:

•   Traditional two-year Full-time MBA Programs are very expensive.   Tuition + Opportunity cost (lost salary) = can be over $300K

•   Upon graduating with an MBA you will have two fewer years of civilian work experience than if you did not go to school.

•   MBA Programs teach a lot of business skills. Very few MBA programs teach sales skills. MBA programs rarely teach anything about new and developing technology.

•   Having an MBA without sales experience can preclude you from getting a job in sales. Sales managers might perceive you as a very smart and capable person, an analyst type, who should be back in the office, not in front of customers. They will likely not take a chance on you.

•   If you skip the full-time MBA format and go straight into sales, an MBA might still be in your future. Salespeople moving into leadership roles will often enroll in a part-time or executive MBA with company support. Also, with new online education formats developing, like Udacity, you will have options for continued business education besides a total MBA program. Giving you the right tools at the right time.

Since I want my fellow veterans to do well and have great opportunities, I’m very pleased that Tech Qualled has been created to help veterans enter technology sales. If you like technology and think that being in front of customers is something you will enjoy, this is a tremendous opportunity. Technology sales can be a very lucrative career path. As technology is changing so rapidly and has high complexity, it is an intellectually rich area for a sales professional. You will have to be a life-long learner to stay current and competitive.

I would expect that the vast majority of people that do well in technology sales will never change career fields. However, If after you are in technology sales for a few years, and you would like to move into marketing, operations, or some other field, those paths can still be open to you. Though you will likely make less money moving out of sales, sales skills and understanding customers have value throughout organizations. An MBA is always still possible if you want to get the degree later in your career. The average age for good Executive MBA for programs is 37 and many students are in their 40’s. I even admitted one student in his 60’s. He was also a combat veteran and the most accomplished student I ever admitted. Because he wants to, he is still working now in his early 70’s.

A good MBA program gives you three things – training, career assistance, and an alumni network. Tech Qualled provides you training to get started and career assistance to help you land your initial position after the training. While Tech Qualled is new and lacks an extensive alumni network, I can envision that as it continues it will develop an alumni network which will assist those in the program in getting hired and program alumni will be a strong network during their careers.

You also already have a strong network – your fellow veterans who will be glad to assist you. Veterans will take your call. I’ll take your call too. If you want to chat with me – connect with me on LinkedIn and send me an email at

Thanks for your service – I wish you well in your career,

Patrick Foran


MBA Note – The Duke MBA Program was a great experience and it gave me the opportunity to start a career in marketing. It was a good choice for my path.

Law School Note – The things that are true about business school are more true about law school. Do not go to law school because you are not sure what you want to do and being in law school impresses people.  Going to law school is great. The law is a fascinating thing to study. Being a lawyer is often not so great. Talk to a lot of ex-military practicing lawyers before you go down this path.