Random Ramblings about stuff I see going on in biotech, internet and the stuff I read.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Technical people in management

Some links for this post.

Joel Splosky, who you should read all of at all times, but this post in general talking about management of tech companies. He is talking about computers, but just do a find a replace for biotech and you will get my feelings on the matter.

This book, which is what the above post by Joel is the intro to. The site is fine, but go read the book.

All of these things point toward something I am seeing a lot of. Basically, highly technical folks who have made the jump to other careers in tech companies have it easier than the folks who don't have that background. I see both types, and both CAN be succesfull, and both can be complete and utter failures, but I think the tech people get to cheat.

My own view -> I can sit in the R+D meetings and smell BS. For the non-tech people, they may not smell the BS directly. They have to rely more on reading the people presenting. I do that as well, but I also have an added filter. People who are not confident of what they are presenting, won't be beleived as well as those who are confident, but you have to factor in there that the person may just be a big dork and shy and hate sunshine. They could be presenting nobel prize level work, and they would still be that way. For the non-tech person it is harder to smell that than for the tech person. When you are making big money bets, you have to be able to tell the difference.

So, you the reader might say, "Your saying ALL management should have Ph.D.'s. You have one, so you say everyone should."


I am not at all saying that. I work for a guy who doesn't have one, has huge responsibility, and is probably the most on top of it person around. He has different skills than me, and relys on a lot of the rest of us that DO have them in order to make some of the key decisions. Also, and this may come as a shock to you, but many scientist's at the bench really don't have a lot of commone sense, so you shouldn't put them in a business setting. They would make some very dumb "scientist" errors. They can't go straight from the lab to management. They shouldn't. It is why MANY start-ups fail. The scientist thinks that becuase they came up with the idea in the lab that "I must be smart" and "I ran a lab real well", so they make the assumption that they can run a company. They rush out, flail around, and go home. This happens a lot. MANY MANY Ph.D.'s are not at all suited for working in management/business roles. The converse is also true. MANY MANY Non-Ph.D.'s are suited for working in Tech management. Many also aren't.

The non-tech people find other ways to work, and probably have more experience (you know they didn't spend 4-7 years in lab getting a degree, they spent that time in the real world doing work...) so they get stuff done and make decisions. The good people are good, whatever they are doing. The bad people are bad no matter what degree you give them.

No one with a Ph.D. can, with a straight face, say that everyone who has one actually deserved it. Everyone has the story of the person whom the school just "graduated" in order to get them out of there. Those people shouldn't automatically be put in management of companies.

Summary :

Ph.D. - helpfull for understanding, and a usefull tool for cheating and understanding when BS is being presented.

MBA/Other - much experience in getting through life without a Ph.D. AND longer track record of doing it in business. Also probably picked up a large whack of a tech education through the years of working

...have to admit I am thinking of getting my MBA at night school, but haven't figured out if it will help me at all.


Suhit Anantula said...


Good stuff.

I am the non-tech guy you are talking about.

Your blog is really good in that sense. it gives me a practitioners perspective of what the job is all about.

As you rightly said, good people are good and bad people are bad no matter the background and the job.


yes said...



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A small comparision:
When you are really hungry and if some one offers you a delicious south Indian meal ;-)..I am having the same feeling, reading your views..
Thanks a million..sorry if the comparision is bad :-)