Apr 262012

I like American Manufacturing.  I know that it is critical for strategic preparation for future wars in which we may unfortunately find ourselves.  I believe that it is the single most important aspect of the US economy long term.   Politicians talk a lot about about it; the media talks a lot about it; middle class America talks about it a lot.

But, you know who doesn’t talk about manufacturing a lot?… business school students and b-school professors.  Yes, I know this is broad brush with which I am painting, but I have a lot of ground to cover.  I spent two years walking the hallowed halls of Harvard Business School, trying to eschew my engineering roots and tap into the ‘real’ money.  I thought that I was going to be a rock’em sock’em investment banker.  I was a very attentive student and was fascinated by finance.  But, at the end of the day, I could not escape my love of manufacturing, American Manufacturing, a field that adds real value to the world.  (In the end, I left HBS to do something I never thought I would:  start a company and then another, and the first was all about helping American Manufacturing).

However, I was in the minority.  Most of my classmates were going into financial services or consulting.  Manufacturing is just not as cool, sexy, or financially lucrative, on average, for an MBA.  It may not even salve your soul like non-profits did for some of my HBS classmates who left to do that.  For those of you who don’t know, the HBS pedagogical model uses all REQUIRED classes the first year of the two-year program.  Former bankers are taking Finance 101 and engineers are sitting with those bankers in TOM – Technology and Operations Management.  I admit to having had a bit of schadenfreude watching many of my consulting and finance classmates squirm in TOM, which is regarded by many as the hardest and most confusing class at HBS.  But, alas, many of my financial services classmates endured TOM not really caring if they learned anything or got a “3.”  It was the last time that they would have to deal with manufacturing in their lives… well, until they started telling CEO’s of public manufacturing companies how to run their businesses 🙂

But, I am excited now, because I just saw this article posted to one of the LinkedIn groups that I belong to:

Just How Important Is Manufacturing? – Willy C. Shih – HBS Faculty – Harvard Business Review

This HBS Prof is talking boldly about US Manufacturing and its importance.  I’d like to see more of this.  And, I’d like to see career paths for sharp young MBA’s be as lucrative in manufacturing and product companies as they are in consulting and financial services.

Is that possible?  Am I just dreaming?  I’d like to hear some comments.



  3 Responses to “HBS – Starting to Promote Manufacturing Again?”

  1. MODERATOR: Adding a comment from Linked-in that did not post back
    Original Comment Here: http://www.linkedin.com/groupAnswers?viewQuestionAndAnswers=&discussionID=110803975&gid=2263672&commentID=79019336&trk=view_disc&ut=2QjQQzvNT5Mlc1

    RON FERRO • From where I stand, the MBAers are making their mark in manufacturing and product companies as well as utilities. Middle management and senior management entry require at a minimum is MBA whether it is in R&D, support services or operations. The next leg up the managerial latter regardless where you began in the organization is more education and certifications and advanced degrees in business. Looking at master programs, almost 90% have business course requirements. The big bucks earned (lower-middle and upper six figure salaries) in consulting and financial services are not as many in the manufacturing sector.

    I recall at my very first interview for my first manufacturing job, the interviewing manager said something to the effect that “if you are looking to get rich working for a company, you are better off starting your own business”. As you are probably aware, senior management like to pick from their own kind; engineering and product development companies like Siemens, GE, GM; choose engineers for top stops, chemical companies pick chemists; sales companies pick producers, and so on. Probably Harvard graduates favor other Harvard graduates than BU, NYU, etc. or those other Ivy Leaguers.

  2. […] sent me this article from the much venerated “The Economist” magazine.  Just like the Harvard Business School, the Economist is also interested in manufacturing again.  See their article […]

  3. […] Should your kids go into manufacturing – CNN says… NO. HBS – Starting to Promote Manufacturing Again? […]

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